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L5 S1 Woes

Hi everyone. I’ve been reading a lot regarding similar problems I’ve been having. I’ll give you all some background. 

I’m 35, and up until this past February I have had no issues of back trouble. 

I am an active person, was an avid mountain biker, jogger, outdoor enthusiast. Always on the move. This past Feb I was working out early mornings at my house, light free weights, and I use a Bowflex Maxtrainer when it’s too cold outside here in CT.  I felt a lot of leg stiffness post workouts, and had thought I wasn’t stretching out enough. The next few days go by and the tightness in my legs starts radiating down my foot which was going numb. My leg was so stiff it felt like I had a peg leg. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there. 

So, end of February I begin to see a chiropractor, and he said I had a textbook case of a pinched nerve so he gave me stretches, lightly massaged my lower back. This went on about a month with no improvement. I was referred to a pain management doctor who specializes in back pain. He ordered an mri which revealed a herniated disc in my L5/S1 region. Also prescribed me some 750mg ibuprofen which I’d take here and there but usually once I took one, the inflammation went down enough it was tolerable. I hate taking medication  

He referred me to a physical therapist for 2 months, that did absolutely nothing. Next step was a cortisone injection which I’ve only had 1, but that also did nothing.  He referred me to an orthopedic specialist who took one look at my mri and said microdisectomy.  Scared at the thought of surgery, I figured I’d try another avenue.

I began to see a Naturopath who set me on a good diet, and was doing acupuncture twice a week on me. By golly, I actually felt some improvement.  I was doing ok, with very mild pain, and only trouble walking long distances, but I haven’t had an ibuprofen in a couple months. 

Then just last week everything came crashing down. Out of nowhere, I’m experiencing pain like I never have before. I literally cannot stand for more than 5 minutes, can’t lie comfortably, and sitting in a car is almost impossible. I was having spasms so bad I was screaming in pain, it was that intolerable. It feels like my whole left leg down to my knee is tensing up, and the outside of my foot has now gone numb once again. I pretty much have to drag my leg in order to get around. I figured I’d rest and give it a couple days. I was desperate so back to the pain doc, and he put me on a prednisone dose pak, an 800mg Ibuprofen, and a muscle relaxer. 

The scary part is, I’m 2 days into this medicine and I still cannot stand more than 5 mins, cannot lie comfortably, or sit in a car. Basically the only improvement I had was the excruciating spasms have subsided, I have pain once I lie down but it is more discomfort now. 

I know I hear mixed stories about surgery, and everyone says give this time. Well, I’ve had this issue since Feb, and here we are in December and I’m flat out in bed. I’m about to pull the trigger and call the surgeon on Monday if this doesn’t improve by then. 

Am I being too impatient? I can’t operate at my job, or do anything currently for that matter, I don’t want to think I'm making a drastic decision but my career, and life in general lies in the balance. 

Thanks for reading, this has been a tough road. I find I encounter people who say do the surgery, others know a guy who knew a guy that surgery did nothing. I’m just not sure what to do. 



  • I’d be going to the ER but that’s just me. Numbness to me is more scary than bad pain. 

    I would google the name of the surgeon (don’t post it here as it’s against forum rules) and see his track record. 

    Rate MDs dot com is a site I look to see what reviews doctors have.

    If he’s got excellent reviews across the board then I would consider that he didn’t say surgery just to line his pockets but because he saw something to justify surgery ASAP.

    Good luck and please keep us posted.

  • challengercchallenger Posts: 1,236
    edited 07/09/2019 - 10:18 AM

    You have to decide what is the right step for you, I can guarantee if you talk to enough people you can find people with so-called bad outcomes and they seem to talk the most but you can find some very positive outcomes as well, if you search this site you will find many. If you decide surgery get your head straight and go into it saying it will be O.K. and believe it then do what the doctors say and take care of yourself during recovery. Surgery is no cakewalk and it requires patience lots of patience during recovery. I don't know if this helps but I hope so. Hope you feel better soon 

    Veritas-Health Moderator

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  • I recently went through back surgery for two hernatied discs. I’m active and 26 years old. Went through the same hoops of physical therapy, meds, and so on with no improvement and then saw a neurosurgeon who looked at my MRI and said you need surgery, PT ain’t going to fix this. Even at that point I kept thinking no fricken way I need surgery. But I did. Like others have said it is no one decision but your own but I do want to provide a few things I learned. 

    Throughout the entire process all the doctors and physical therapists were very interested in knowing if I had numbness is my foot or leg and I was warned if I ever did to considering heading to the ER. The reason being is that numbness can be an indicator of nerve damage which is something that may not be easily fixed. 

    I was also told the longer I went on fighting through the pain, the more susceptible I was to nerve damage. 

    Bottom line it is your decision to make. My pain was ruining my ability to function in everyday life. It was ruining my social life and affecting my job. At that point I was ready to do anything to feel better. I know you are concerned about the risk of an unsuccessful surgery which I too question. But it eventually came down to doing nothing was no longer an option and I did my research, found a reputable neurosurgeon that had done the procedure more times than I could count, and trusted that the advancements of modern medicine and skilled professionals would put me in a better spot than I was in before. And it worked. 

  • HOTSHOT-Glad your surgery was a success, please remember to take care of your back from now on because I didn't and I pay for it every day. I agree with you when the pain gets bad enough and it affects your whole life surgery is not a very hard decision. Good luck with your new back

    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Brandon, surgery is definitely a tough decision, as has been said is a decision only you can make. I've endured 3 but not without jumping through all the hoops you have and still I resisted until I just couldn't stand anymore. My issues are in the same area as yours and I understand it is the area that supports most of our weight and movement. Long story short, after my first laminectomy/decompression in 2005 I was told I needed a fusion to stabilize my back and relieve the pressure on the nerve. I absolutely refused until last May when I got desperate again. I couldn't walk and the pain and numbness were unbearable. As a result, I have nerve damage because that nerve was crushed so long. As has been said, surgery is no picnic but you are young and if you decide to go ahead, you have a great chance to live a active life again. 

    If you decide to go ahead, find the best neurosurgeon and ask lots of questions. I'll be praying for your decision in the next few days. 

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  • Thank you all for your input. I am going in for a cortisone injection this week to hopefully just relieve some of this horrid pain. 

    I am going to be putting a call into my orthopedic surgeon tomorrow and discuss my current situation. There’s a good chance he is going to want a new MRI to see if imy situation has gotten worse. 

  • I don't want to make a new thread but i'm in same boat as you kinda . 39 been almost a year. all the shots,  nerve tests, PT, you name it and i'm looking at 360 fusion (L5-S1) in february.  didn't want to start a new thread so thanks (not that u had a choice haha) for letting me say hey on yours.   saves me some typing.  you're almost on same time line as me.   I say if nothing has helped and it's been this long it's time for surgery 

  • Hey Brandon! 

    I am in the exact same boat as you.  I decided on the surgery ultimately for the same reasons Hotshot mentioned.  My surgery is scheduled for this Friday.  Yes I’m extremely nervous. But I’m also extremely tired of the pain, not being able to do my job and not feeling like I’m being the best mom and wife that I know I can be.  

    Hopefully the injection gave some relief! Let us know how you are doing. 

  • Thank you everyone for the replies. I began slowly getting myself back to work, hoping being more mobile would help me. Unfortunately, it’s not the case, as the day progresses I am ending up in more pain. 

    Thankfully my spasms haven’t returned, but I am still unable to stand or walk for more than 5 minutes without taking a rest. I’ll tell you what, that takes a lot out of you. End of the day I’m finding myself completely exhausted. 

    There is hopefully an end in sight. I have scheduled my Microdiscectomy for the 23rd of this month. If I told you I’m not nervous, I’d only be kidding myself. But, I look at myself now, and cannot honestly see going on any longer like this. 

    Thanks for everyone’s input, I’ll follow up in a couple weeks. 

  • I'm struggling with the surgery question do it or not to. My physical therapy starts tomorrow. Not sure how I'm going to do. I'm scared of more pain than I'm already in. I can't sit in the car either. I drive 1 1/2 miles to work and that's even too much for me to handle. I hope you get some relief soon!!! Keep us posted!!!

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