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l5,S1 (8mm herniation) L4,L5 (3mm herniation) healing time and advice?

To make a very long story short about 13 weeks ago while finishing up my dental school board exams I had a bout of left side sciatica that set in very quickly (from a little pain 1 week to excruciating pain the next). I managed to walk OK in extreme pain for about 2 and a half weeks and then I have been using crutches to walk and keep the weight off my back ever since. I was finally after 3 weeks able to get an MRI showing 8mm L5, S1 herniation and L4,L5 3mm herniation as well as only 2mm of joint space in my left hip. I am a pretty young guy (37) so this all came on as a surprise and suddenly. I spent almost 2 months mostly on my back due to the pain and that was even while taking 3-4 Norco 7.5s a day. I finally was able to get an epidural spinal injection about 5 weeks ago that took the pain down slightly and a second one last thursday that seemed to do a lot more than the first. I still can't stand for very long though without using my crutches and can only walk short distances. I the pain has truly made my life miserable and definitely the lowest point thus far in my life. I try to stay positive and have hope that this will end but the longer it goes on the harder it is to have much hope. My GP doctor usually only spends a couple of minutes talking with me and has yet to give me any kind of definitive diagnosis and still won't refer me to a neurologist so I can get some better answers. It has been extremely frustrating. He finally agreed to refer me to for PT and I am hoping that will work, but my life has pretty much been "on hold" since this started and I don't know how much longer my wife, my kids, and I can handle this emotionally or financially. The main symptoms I have are pretty classic. unrelenting pain originating in my hip and down my left leg most of the way down my calf. Recently my left small toes have started to burn which I don't know if it is a sign that my condition is getting worse or better. The pain has changed from constant deep pain to more of an electrical burning pain. once again I don't know if it is a good sign or a bad sign.
Sorry for the long intro but this is my main question. Does anyone have any advice or experience on how long or if they had a similar situation and how long did it take to heal and were they able to do it without surgery. I know for me and my career I have to have a solid back or I am done before I start. If surgery is what I need then I have no problem getting surgery. If time will heal a condition like mine without surgery obviously that is better but how long should I give this before I start to consider other options (like I said it has been 13 weeks already and the improvement I feel is mostly after epidural injections with only very slight improvement every few weeks)? I just don't want to cause more damage by waiting too long but if waiting is what I should do then I will just suck it up and keep trying my best to make it one day at a time. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I just am hoping there is a pathway out of this nightmare and if not I need to find a way to deal with it and not lose hope, Thank you in advance for any help you can offer,
JB
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Comments

  • LizLiz Posts: 9,664

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • When the symptoms continue to increase, or become new, such as nerve pain, it is time to see a surgeon for a consult. This does not mean that you necessarily need surgery, but he is the doctor in the best position to properly evaluate your symptoms, spine images and help you to come up with the right treatment options.
    Seeing your primary doctor in the beginning is the right thing but when there are herniations or impingement of the nerves, it is time to see the right doctor for the best treatment options.

    http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/diagnostic-tests/getting-accurate-back-pain-diagnosis

    http://www.spine-health.com/forum/pain/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-treatment-step-step
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  • 30 year old male with a moderate L5/S1 herniation. It took me 1.5 years, and some serious PT to get back to "normal" without surgery. By normal I mean I was able to live a normal life (work,home,gym,social, ect) albeit with some pain. I haven't been 100% since the initial injury 2 years ago. Ever. But it did get A LOT more bearable over time. The pain has started to return somewhat because I've slacked on the PT. I'm sure if your dedicated enough, you can get back to a reasonable state
  • Encouraging to read y'all's stories. 27 y/o male with 8mm L5/S1 herniation and 3mm L4-L5. Sciatic pain is not unbearable but persistent. Had 1 injection, may have another. Not wanting surgery but considering microdiscectomy in long term if no improvement.

    @Hutson - Can you share any more about what PT (or otherwise) you did in the 1.5 years to get back to normal?

    Thanks!
    hutson797 said:
    30 year old male with a moderate L5/S1 herniation. It took me 1.5 years, and some serious PT to get back to "normal" without surgery. By normal I mean I was able to live a normal life (work,home,gym,social, ect) albeit with some pain. I haven't been 100% since the initial injury 2 years ago. Ever. But it did get A LOT more bearable over time. The pain has started to return somewhat because I've slacked on the PT. I'm sure if your dedicated enough, you can get back to a reasonable state
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,385
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Sue
    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
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    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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