Hello, I am new to this forum and am excited to get some advice from you all! I am a 21 year old male who has been in excellent health, until I suffered a herniated disc on the L5-S1 level. I am not 100 percent sure what caused the herniation but I do suspect the work as being the culprit, frequent heavy lifts and twisting. The most unfortunate part of my story is that I am also a full-time student and the job I plan on getting once I graduate requires you to be in tip-top shape. The surgery option, much like most of us, was my last resort. I tried PT for a month which was no help and also received several injections that only relieved pain for a day. After living with the low back pain and sciatica for a year, I decided to discuss a micro with my neurologist. I ended up having the surgery just after finals last semester in December. Pain after the surgery was okay, the only area that I felt a ton of pain in was where he went in. The follow up was one month after the surgery and by then I felt great, little to no sciatica pain down my right leg and the back pain was eliminated. He cleared me to go back to work without having physical therapy which I felt was odd. He said "your very young and are not having too many issues, take an easy for the first couple of weeks back into work and do not lift like a power-lifter and you should be fine". After returning to work I would occasionally have days where I felt like I must of re-herniated my disc, but the symptoms would sub-side and I would be fine again. About two weeks after my surgery, I started doing my own stretches at home, started very easy and now I am at a point where I stretch twice a day everyday. However, I am having some issues. I still can not bend over and touch my toes, before my disc herniation I could place my palms on the floor no problem. Currently, the farthest I can go forward is my to me knees, my body just simply stops at that point. I also can not sit at 90 degree angle, by right leg won't stay straight. I still experience some pain from my nerve when I stretch. For an example, If get on all fours and arc my back up and pull my head to my chest my nerve immediately lights up and sends pain down my leg. The weird thing is that I can do straight leg raises from a laying position, nearly to a 90 degree. Before surgery, the best I could do is around 30 degrees. It has been almost three months since my surgery. I am typically a very positive person and have tried to stay very positive, but I cant help but to question my abilities after going through this.
Here are my questions
Will I ever be able to touch my toes again? If not, I have wasted three years of my life going to college to get my dream job. Touching your toes is a basic physical assessment.
Have any of you had any success in re-gaining your flexibility? If so, how long did it take and what stretches/exercises helped?
Lastly, should I just go see a private physical therapist to stretch me out or maybe visit my doctor again?
Thanks to all that have taken the time out of their day to read my post!