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L5/S1 disc bulge with nerve root compression - What can I do?

msij280mmsij280 Posts: 5

I am 22 years old and was diagnosed with multiple disc bulges but primarily a broad based disc bulge at L5/S1 with nerve root compression 1 month and a half ago. I went to see a doctor and was taking pain killers (Ibuprofen then Voltaren) and seeing a PT twice a week. It was going well and the pain was decreasing and I was able to do most things. I still wasn't lifting weights or training hard.

All of a sudden, 5 days ago my sciatica started getting unbearably painful to the point where I could not sit down and walking was painful. I had an MRI and it says I only have the disc bulge at L5/S1 now and still have nerve root compression. I didn't change anything for it to become worse, which is confusing me. I am waiting to see a specialist now but I have to wait for the appointment.

Since 5 days ago, I have been waking up in my sleep because of the pain. I can't sit down because the pain becomes unbearable and walking is incredibly uncomfortable. I have been in bed all week and it sucks.

Does anyone know what I can do to help relieve the pain and improve the healing process? I am on stronger NSAIDs now and I have 2 hot water baths a day, heat pack every couple of hours.

Any help is appreciated. This pain is debilitating and is killing my life.


  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • msij280mmsij280 Posts: 5
    edited 11/30/2014 - 5:56 AM
    The pain has gotten to a point where it is painful to walk, I can't sit down and lying down settles the pain eventually. Everything I've read has said that I should avoid bed rest for long periods of time. But I'm not sure what to do.

    If i try walk I'm in quite a bit of pain, so I can't go to work. I am still going to the physio twice a week and it helps for a few hours before getting painful again. I'm still waiting to see the specialist.

    If anyone can give me some advice in the mean time on the best way to rest my back I would be most grateful. This has put my out of action for a week and it's starting to make me feel like EDITED
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  • hoggsterhhoggster ScotlandPosts: 51
    You sound like I was in the start, do nothing read my post , if your doc sais do nothing and rest I was told I cant get physio so ive not for once ive done as im told as its a serious condtion ,if you are that worried go back to doc or hospital and seek advice try and stay positive I know its hard good luck
  • Typically if you are being treated and something changes (for the worse), a PT will send you back to the doctor.
    Did they suggest heat? I'm only asking b/c in my experience heat adds to inflammation and I found more relief with icing.
    Did they suggest anything for when you are in bed? Like putting a pillow under you knees if you are on your back?

    Did you do anything to aggravate your back? Sounds like you used to lift weights and may have been feeling well - if you felt well and over did some repetitive activity (even gardening, or sweeping) you may have annoyed your back to cause inflammation.

    Sounds like you will want to talk to your doctor.
  • So the pain has ever so slightly decreased over the last 2.5 weeks (from a 9/10 to a 7/10).

    Heat tends to help more than ice for me. The doc and PT said that it's because the muscles around the disc are relaxing under the heat and the area is more oxygenated.

    Yep, I rotate between my side and my back.

    I am still in no position to walk very far (more than 20 min) or sit for very long (more than 3-5 min).

    I saw the neurosurgeon today and he basically gave me 2 options. Get and epidural injection and see how it goes for the next few weeks or to get a microdiscectomy ASAP.

    He said that after 6 weeks the chances of conservative recovery tends to fall and closer to 3 months is even less likely. Based on the fact that I've been in some sort of pain for the last 2.5 months, he gave me those to options and told me to consider it carefuly. He said that surgery is a last resort but if the pain is unbearable and you've seen little sign of improvement then start to consider surgery as a possible option.

    I just wanted to get the opinion of any one of you guys. Surgery or Injection? Why? Anyone who picked injection and has gotten better or had to have surgery anyway.

    Thanks for the support. It helps! :)
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  • I had the injection first. I'm not sure it did anything and I needed surgery BUT I wanted to try the conservative measures before going under the knife. I had a l5s1 bulge pressing on the nerve that I left undiagnosed for about 18 months. I only investigated it after sitting down became an issue. From diagnosis to surgery was just under a year for me.

    I know people who've had success with the injection & others that have had success with a discectomy.

    Good luck,
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
    Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014
  • Have had epidermal for the debilitating lower back pain! Only last a few weeks, only thing that eases a little is laying flat! Have resorted to walker for getting around! I have bulging disk in lower back! I also have a bone spur with mild arthritis in upper back left rib cage , with pressure hurts in my right front side! Not made connection medically yet, but with both issues it's painful! Any suggestions! Thanks
  • I did a lot of research on sciatica before going in to see an ortho doc. In our discussion, he confirmed my research that the disc bulge/nerve compression doesn't cause pain directly. The nerve compression merely blocks blood flow and prevents your nerves from expelling byproducts and prevents them from breathing. With the irritation that comes from a nerve compression, comes inflammation, comes hypersensitivity, comes more pain.

    So what does this mean for you? The untreated disc bulge slowly caused your nerves to dysfunction and cause you pain.

    Good luck.
  • shez1325sshez1325 Posts: 49
    edited 12/28/2014 - 1:07 AM
    Hey I had Injection first then Surgery. My pain slowly got worse, ended up doing physio, got a little relief then it got worse to the point I could hardly walk. I chose surgery as Cortisone ( injection) is a good drug and I had no relief from it, My Physio and GP both thought I needed surgery, and I believed my body was not going to be able to fix this on its own plus I had been told the longer you leave it the more likely you can end up with permanent nerve damage.

    My physio has said she has had patients who have had success with both injections alone and surgery.

    Good luck. Keep asking questions.
  • if the nerve root is compressed or impinged, then the injections can not do anything to relieve that compression/impingement.
    Staying in bed, is the worst thing you can do for back pain.......resting a bit is okay, staying in bed, is not. Walking is the best thing, limiting sitting and standing in one place for no more than 15 minutes at a time is usually the recommendation.
    Some insurances require that you at least try an injection to see if it will relieve the pain, and trying one isn't a bad idea.......but depending on how badly the nerve is impinged, usually determines what the surgeon recommends.
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