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Help!

Hi all,

I'm really confused and overwhelmed by information and decisions (and pain) and thought I'd find a place like this to connect with people who 'get it' and understand what's going on.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with a slightly bulging disc and I couldn't stand for a few days and had heaps of pain, but got over it. It's been giving me ongoing pain since then...intermittently at first, and the the last couple of years there's always been a dull and and sciatic pain with an increasing number of flare ups where it's really hard to function.

Last week I really hit the wall though. I've been in excruciating pain - can't sit or stand/walk for very long and only really feel ok-ish when I'm laying down with my legs raised. I've tried anti-inflammatories, ice, heat, stretching, light walking but nothing has seemed to ease the pain. It's hardcore sciatic pain right down my leg/front of thigh and that weird ants-crawling-up-my-leg feeling (which has been creeping higher over the past week).

Managed to get to the doctor (yeah...that was fun) who sent me for a CT and then MRI (yeah...getting to those was fun too) and apparently I have a L5/S1 extrusion. Luckily got into a specialist quickly, who said I needed a discectomy, straight off the bat. I asked about a physical therapy option, but he said it was too far gone.

Just to be sure, I managed to get in to see a spinal physio who recommended that I try physical therapy for 2-3 months first and if it doesn't work, to go for the surgery.

Ideally, I'd like to avoid surgery. I mean, if I get this bit cut off, and it happens again, and again, and again, eventually I'll have no disc and I'll need a fusion. I want to avoid that. But I don't think I can wait 2-3 months for this pain to go - I've already missed 2 weeks of work and can't afford to stay on sick leave just to do physical therapy and wait to feel better (and my job isn't the best, in terms of back health, so that'll be changing too).

So, for people who've been in this position, I have some questions:
1) Do you think surgery is the way to go?
2) Do you have *any* suggestions for pain relief? At the moment a Dolased/Voltaren combo kinda zonks me out and takes a *slight* edge off, but nothing else is working (not even Panadeine Forte). Ice works sometimes, but I think only because I give the area frostbite :P
3) What's the longest stint of back pain you've had? I've never been off work for two weeks in my life, and it just feels like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Normally I can work through it or have 1/2 days off, but this time it's just ridiculous.
4) Can anyone give a definitive answer on management? I tried to reduce inflammation over the first 48 hours then went into stretching/light walking but it really has been tough going. The stretching is causing fewer issues than when I first started, but walking is still a killer after about a minute or so (crawly ant feeling first, then searing pain). Different doctors gave different advice on this - the specialist said to avoid anything that hurts, the physio says to stretch/stand/move, as does Google University.

I just feel a bit lost, in terms of decision making. I hope that there are some fellow back pain sufferers who can help me learn from their experiences or offer some useful advice. I'm going nuts, and nobody around me really "gets" it :(
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Comments

  • You need to start by getting a second opinion. If the second doctor tells you the disc is too far gone and you need the disectomy, then you have your answer.... but it is also possible for the second opinion to have more conservative treatment to try.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • AllMetal said:
    You need to start by getting a second opinion. If the second doctor tells you the disc is too far gone and you need the disectomy, then you have your answer.... but it is also possible for the second opinion to have more conservative treatment to try.
    Initially I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Should I be seeing a neurosurgeon? Some people in Google University are saying that disc/nerve issues are the domain of neurosurgeons, not orthopaedic surgeons. Confused :(
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  • I'd suggest you see both before making a decission about surgery. Certain conditions are better for either the neuro or the ortho, but lots an lots of spine conditions can be either/or so to speak. Why not make an appointment with a neurosurgeon an see what they have to say? Then you can decide which treatment you are most comfortable with as well as which surgeon.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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