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31 M in decent shape L5S1 bulge/herniation

Hey everyone, I tried to hang something by myself that I shouldnt have, and I ended up injuring a disk 4 months ago. I knew I hurt something at the time, but I just didnt know what. Kept on about my business.  About 2 weeks later I noticed that I had pain when trying to touch toes and started walking with a limp. Fast forward about a month later and I am limping around work pretty bad (bartender). There was also 10/10 pain when going from standing to sitting or sitting to standing. I do research and think to try getting at the piriformis. I ask my brother (massage therapist) to dig in and "give it everything he's got". Bad idea. Couldnt walk for 3 days. Everything barking. After rest, ice, tens, and stretching I get back to being able to hobble around, but its at the point where I cannot stand/walk for longer than about 30 minutes (whereas pre massage I could walk around for hours at a time albeit with a limp). It's been diagnosed by PT and MD that it is either a bulge or herniation to the left.

I have NO back pain. I have NO pain while laying down. I have NO pain while sitting, but I do notice that standing/walking afterwards is particularly bad. I do however have really bad pain when I stand or walk for too long, and I have to go back to laying down. This is obviously some kind of issue with spinal compression since I only get symptoms while standing. Prednisone helped a ton, but it seems inflammation has come back. I have the "tight" hamstring, and a lot of pain in buttock. Ive been out of work for about 2 months now, and im supposed to go back tomorrow. Pretty nervous and I dont know if I can do it. Ibuprofen doesnt touch it. The gabapentin made me a zombie and it didnt touch it. I do not want to take hydrocodone or anything like that. 

I dont have insurance and cant afford an MRI. 

Im mostly confused because if the nerve root is being pinched to the point that it causes as bad as sciatica as it does, id assume id be in pain all the time. Im thankful im not, but I need to get back to work as im going both crazy and broke. Also, its strange that I no longer have any pain going from sitting to standing, but almost constant pain after about 5 minutes of walking around. It's like they switched places.

Im 4 months into this, and id prefer a non surgical route. Based on the info ive given, does anyone have a similar story to provide guidance on? I really appreciate it.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,385
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  • xponchoxxxponchox Posts: 5
    edited 07/21/2016 - 5:42 PM
    Just some advice from my own personal experience. It certainly sounds like a disc herniation or disc bulge but without an MRI you can't be 100% sure. Disc bulge would be preferable and much faster to heal then a herniation.

    I started with a disc bulge left side L5-S1. I'm also 31 and pretty fit male. I found my pain would move around in early stages. Initially it sounded very similar to you. I tried to push through it like you did. Walking was still ok at first and it was only transitioning from sitting to standing and vice versa that was difficult. My issue became worse from trying to push through it and it progressed to a full blown herniation\rupture. As the issue got worse the pain changed and I started to lose the ability to walk for more then a couple of minute and eventually even walking 10m was nearly impossible. The only way to relieve the pain was to lie down.

    I am lucky that I work in IT and was able to work from home and rest my injury but if your herniation is bad - its a slow road to recovery. Its going to be difficult to heal if you aren't able to give your body time to rest and recuperate.  I ended up going through physio, chiro and getting epidural injections to help with the pain. These initially only had limited effect with me but I would definitely recommend you try these to identify any clear structural issues you have that may have caused this and create a regime to stengthen and stretch your back.

    I did that with limited success at first - I only noticed dramatic improvements when I also made changes related to getting adequate rest and cleaning up my diet. I had recently been through a very stressful period with work/relationships and was feeling very run down, lethargic when this issue hit me. I cleaned up my diet - cut out fast and processed foods. reduced alcohol. Made sure I was getting adequate amounts of sunshine (vitamin D) I concentrated on getting adequate sleep and rest and then added some supplements targeted at adrenal fatigue (which has been known to cause back issue). I found these coupled with the physio excercises massively improved my feeling of well being and energy and my back issues suddenly improved dramatically. Two supplements I used which had a big effect for me where Licorice root and Ashwaganda. Both targeted at helping with adrenal fatigue. 

    I would recommend looking at specific exercises for your back but also coupling them with improvements to your every day lifestyle.
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  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 449
    I wish you success in finding non-surgical relief!  I second xponchox's recommendations, although I'm not familiar with the supplements targeting adrenal fatigue - I will certainly be investigating that one!  I discovered aquacise at the worst of my painful season.  It was the only time I could be nearly pain-free, and I could even get decent exercise in a 45 minute class.  I found that just being able to DO SOMETHING good for my body was a huge boost to my morale, and it goes a long way.  I ended up with discectomy surgery, after a 9 month battle with waiting lists (for diagnostics, consults and surgery date post-ponements), but after an acceptable time of recovery I was urged to get back in the pool and it has been so helpful.  My muscle spasms are eased if I am able to exercise somewhat.
    I have read that alcohol dehydrates discs, and that simply eliminating that from diet made a difference.  
    I sought out an osteopathic therapist for relief initially, before I had a diagnosis confirmed by MRI.  I highly recommend to everyone with issues!  I am very leery of chiropractic adjustments, having had more than the average person in my lifetime, but to each his own.  
    I would urge you to start saving/planning for an MRI, as that is really where you'll have to start for a diagnosis.  You may get a reprieve for a time, but be prepared that you may be dealing with this again and be kind to your back!
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