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Discussion Starter #1
So I have a herniated disk in my lower back at the L5 S1 vertebrae. It is pinching my S1 nerve root. I am currently participating in some physical therapy and other treatments. However, I am not fixed. Next step would be an epidural injection of corticosteroids at the offending site. Last step would be a surgery to trim the disk and free up the nerve that is pinched. I am posting to inquire about the experiences others have had in this area. You hear a alot of horror stories regarding back surgeries and of course I would love to avoid surgery myself. I would like to be pain free and back to good working order even more than I would like to avoid surgery though. So....?
 

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Yeah, I've been there and done that.

L5-S1 herniation 10mm . Left side. PAIN and PAIN back, glute (butt) and entire back leg and foot. Awful. My physician had me wait 3 weeks to see if it would resolve a bit. I did have a reduction in pain, but I had some bad symptoms, random flashing pain, foot weakness, and some bad nights. The sciatic nerve being pinched can cause all kinds of unpleasantness.

I finally demanded a resolution, and got in to see an orthopedic surgeon. MRI, X-Rays, physical tests. The MRI revealed where and how big the herniation actually was. I opted for surgery. So almost 8 weeks after the injury I went into a surgical center , and 6 hours later I was out. Outpatient back surgery.. There actually was some relief following the surgery. I was still having pain, but tolerable.

2 weeks out of work, then back , no lifting, no twisting, etc.
4 weeks post surgery started physical therapy 3 times a week for an hour. Many different types of exercises to strengthen the core and back without stressing the spine and discs. Planks,leg lifts, half wall squats with weight balls.
8 weeks after surgery I was done with physical therapy and about as good as it would get.
They really will harp on you to lose weight if you are bit overweight. I guess a herniated disc doesn't like carrying around extra weight!!!


I started mountain biking again the following spring 2014. I haven't re-injured the back yet, but I know I am pushing my luck, sometimes after a two hour bike ride, my left leg is PISSED at me. I think it's my form. And I know it's the damn herniation and sciatica. A bit disgusted that it will never be 100% (maybe it never was, I have hurt my back several time over the years since my teens).

If I had to do it over, I would do a lot of physical therapy before finally getting the surgery. Sometimes you have NO choice if you are being tormented by constant pain. Can't time travel though.

The back surgery is called a micro discectomy. and they also perform a procedure called a laminectomy as well to expose the sciatic nerve root where it exits between the spinal column vertebrae. They trim some of the bone "wing" from the vertebrate (lamina), Then the move the sciatic nerve out of the way to expose the herniated section of disc. This is then nibbled out and removed. Think of a jelly donut, the exterior is a very tough fibrous membrane which tears, and the interior firm but cushiony disc material pokes through and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve causing all the pain.

The disc itself has almost no nerves or blood supply, so things will take time to heal in there after the removal of the herniation. It will scar over in time, but it can be re-herniated. There are some videos on YouTube of course showing the surgery. Most people have great success. Make sure your doctor is experienced if you decide to go through with it. My doctor had been doing these procedures for about 20 years.
 

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I have been there too. Also L5 S1, i have no idea how bug the herniation was but i had nerve pain from my hip all the way to the tips of my toes on my left leg and it was constant. It was absolutely brutal, i could barely function as a human. The only place i could find any respite from the pain was to go ride my Ducati, for some reason the seating position took the pressure off the nerve and i felt better.

I put up with this for ~2 months. Tried Pt, having the therapist stretch me helped me move a little better for a couple hours but then i was back in the same pain. Doctor gave me gabapentin and it did nothing but give me side effects. I'm told by a doctor friend of mine that it is the only thing that can help the nerve pain. All it did to me was make my vision blurry and made me jittery. Avoid that stuff at all costs.

I finally got an MRI and was sent to a neurosurgeon. The first thing the doctor asked me when he saw my MRI was " where is your wheelchair", he was shocked when i told him i waked from my office which is a 15 min walk away from his office. He told me he was shocked i could muster up the will to walk given the pain i was in and the state of my disc. After the exam he told me i had zero reflex left in my heel and almost none in my knee. I was risking nerve damage and potentially the ability to walk. I was bad enough that the only option for me was surgery and i needed it ASAP it could not wait.

So literally 3 days later i was in for surgery. I felt better instantly and all i wanted to do was be on my feet. I was sent home the next day and i actually had my girlfriend take me to the mall of all places since it was December and i just wanted to walk around. That might be the only time i have ever enjoyed going to a mall. For me sleeping was a little tough, i ended up sleeping in a recliner for a few days and i occasionally had muscle spazams in my back at the incision site, those sucked. After a week i felt pretty normal and wanted to do normal stuff depsite being on light duty. I did a base gasket job on my TW( probably not smart) and then almost dumped it riding in a snowstorm on the post wrench test ride( even dumber move). Also got in a car wreck when some idiot backed into me. I came out of that fine. All told i was out of work for 6 weeks. I was ready to go back in 4 but the doctor told me to get a couple of weeks of PT under my belt before i went back. It was good advice.

Fast forward 3 years and im mostly normal. I have lost a little strength on the left side and im told its never going to come back. I also don't have the greatest of control over my left foot but i make do and it does not effect me in daily life or on the bike. As far as the back goes I have my good days and bad days but mostly good. This at all slowed me down. I still ride a ton, hike, camp in a tent, work around my house etc with mostly no ill effects. If i over do it sometimes i pay the price the next day but i also suspect getting older isn't helping that either.

If there is one lesson i learned along the way, its this. Core strength is everything when it comes to keeping this at bay. Its something i learned to work on in PT and i continue to work on it all the time.

My girlfriend also has a touch of this and for her she has done the shots and they were a short term fix for her. She has done PT, she does yoga and keeps up with her core. For her the best thing we did was get an inversion table. Since she started using that the has been pain free for 3 years and no more shots. Prior she was getting one every year or so for a few years. She was told she was not a candidate for surgery and the shots would help, they did but short term. The table has seemingly fixed it. For me surgery was my only option. I still use the table every day too and if i can tell the difference in my overall body when i dont.

Good luck and keep us posted on how things go. If you have any more questions feel free to ask.
 

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I went to a chiropractor. When I went I couldn't walk 10' without having to stop, lean hands on knees and then another 10'. I don't remember the exact issue with mine but the only time of relief was laying on the floor with feet up on the couch. Non-flexion exercises are the best if you have ever had any back issues. The big exercise ball, when in pain, I layed on my stomach and just slowly moved around. Something about that sometimes will stretch and relieve some pain. I am now pain free and if I do something heavy I wear a back belt. My back is just my weak link so I have to treat it as such. Exercise machines etc instead of free weights.
 

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L5 S1 :wave: Had surgery in 2000 and the guy fixed me. I believe it was called a Laminectomy. I tried everything before that
 

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Avoid surgery if you can but if you start to lose motor power, it's time to visit the surgeon. Microdiscestomy has come a long way and many people go home same day. If your MRI shows a large disc fragment on the side of your pain, the odds of surgical success are high. Also, every pound you lose is insurance against your back wearing out.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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A herniated disc is a sot of blowout of a back inner tube. Sometimes pain can be relieved by fusing a couple of vertebra together.
spinal fusion is the nuclear option, its really a measure of last resort if everything else fails.
 

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Dealing with sciatica now and for about 2.5 months. Aside from a little fuzziness in my foot the main problem is it hurts my butt to sit, even in a recliner. Both sides hurt. It looks like Moab is out of the question. I don't think I can handle driving 11-12 hrs each way. I've been doing the recommended exercises. I've found on the web, the McKenzie stretch being the most important it seems. Core is definitely getting stronger but no improvement yet on the butt pain. Have any of you guys had the butt pain on both sides?
 

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Mine was all on the left side. For me sitting was not terrible, I was in pain but tolerable as long as I was in the right chair, anything with poor lumbar support and I was in agony. I had to start bringing a lumbar support on the train and I could not be in my girlfriends car. I would bet the inversion table might help you too.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for all the replies. Helps just to know that others have been there before. I have a 7mm protrusion and no visible disc fragment. Been dealing with this back problem since I was 16. This is the first time that material escaped the disc itself. Difference between a bulge and a herniation I suppose. Anyhow, I am getting better, just not fixed yet. Good lord though, that initial sciatica was extremely hellish. Wild amount of pain down that left leg. CONSTANT with very few positions that provided any relief. New respect for my father after this experience. I grew up watching him deal with sciatica on a few occasions (same exact problem as mine,) and now I know that he is an even tougher old goat than I had thought. Whew, wouldn't wish this on anyone but my worst enemies.
 

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Hmmm. Or maybe I will start using it in curses. Like...

"Piss off Kaepernick. I hope you get sciatica." or
"Hope you live a long life with sciatica Bob Ferguson."

I like it. New meanest thing I can think to say to somebody. Only a few will appreciate the depth of meaning.
 

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A disc bulge and herniation are essentially the same thing. The inner material doesn't break free, it protrudes out and presses the sciatic nerve against the lamina (wingy bone part of vertebrae). This sends messages to the brain "OW F%CK, my ass, my leg, my foot!!! OW OW!!" Actually, nothing is wrong with the ass,leg, or foot at all. The pressure on the nerve and where the herniation is will determine how the brain interprets it. Different herniation, different pain. But the person suffering doesn't really care at that point. They want relief!! GIVE ME MY MEDS STAT!!! LOL....


If you can stand to watch, this is damn interesting as the surgeon describes the laminectomy. The are different versions as well, either partial, or full, depends on where the disc herniation is located.

 

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Thanks, Toolman! Good video! JB, I do have an inversion table that I have been using some but I wasn't sure if it was recommended for sciatica. One note, I didn't like hanging by my feet so I devised a belt where I can now hang by my hips. Way more comfortable. I also just had TKR of my right knee and didn't think it was a good idea to hang from my feet because of that. I haven't talked yet to any DR. or Therapist about the hip belt so I'm not sure how differently that might affect the hanging. My G.P. was supposed to call in referral for me to see a back Dr. but it, along with other things they were supposed to do, never happened so now I'm looking for a new G.P.. Meanwhile I'll just keep exercising.
 

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Having experienced both, I think the only thing I could compare the pain of a herniated disc to would be a kidney stone. That was worse, but for a shorter period of time.
 
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