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I'm confused with my condition (herniated disc L4L5 L5S1)

Age: 28

Sex: Male

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 79kg

Race: Asian

English isn't my first language so I might use wrong terms, I'm sorry.

So, around May last year I went to S.Korea, one morning I just took my clothes after a shower and got an intense lower back pain. It was to bad I couldn't walk properly for 2 days. Then I went to a doctor there, took an X-ray but the Doc didn't see any out of place (he's not good at English at all though so we didn't really understand each others). He gave me some pain killer and that was it.

When I was back home (Vietnam) the pain didn't come back so I thought he was right and it was just some muscle pain. However, around this Jan the pain came back, not intense at all but rather like "fatigue". The fatigue went from my right buttcheek and down my right leg (the right part of my calf). I got worried and went to a hospital. There I got another X-ray and MRI.

The result (MRI below): I'm trying to translate, hopefully it makes sense

  • L3/4 dics extrude to the back, push slightly the nerve cluster
  • L4/5 dics extrude to the back #6mm, spread the middle line edge (right), push the front of the right L5 nerve
  • L5/S1 dics extrude to the back #4mm, spread the middle line edge (right), push slightly the front of the right S1 nerve

Now the doc instantly said I need to take a surgery. He said it will remove the pain and help me recover faster. He said that many people wait until it was too late and at that time the operation can be too costly and they will never fully recover anyway. However, since I'm terrified, I asked for some time to think. I think the spine is very delicate and important that I shouldn't take any risk involving it.

After a week with some medicine from the doc and exercise (mainly swimming and "physiotherapy" video I found on youtube), the pain faded a bit and I revisited the hospital. This time I met a different doctor.

He said what I have isn't that serious and physiotherapy can get me back to normal months/years. And I must not have any surgery until the pain becomes unbearable.

Therefore, I'm extremely confused. Both of them suppose to be qualified docs, they work in the same hospital but they are contradicting themselves. Then I got to 2 PTs, one is from the hospital, and one is from another clinic (ACC VN - American Chiropractic Clinic). The PT from the hospital freaked out when she saw my MRI, and advised me to take the surgery. The one from ACC said my "bulge" is quite large for someone my age, but no need for surgery.

So now, my mind is in mud. I'm doing planks and bird-dog everyday now, each sessions around 2-3 minutes. Got the red lamp and spine decompression machine treatment from the hospital. 

To be honest, my back pain is long gone. Now it's just the pain in my calf. And it's very light, almost unnoticeable. Had I not gone to the hospital and known of my discs, I could've been playing football, that's how light it is.

Today, my right upper thigh hurts a bit, but so does my whole body. I think the exercise is getting to my muscles but I'm not sure. After sitting (I don't sit more than 30 minutes now, every now and then I stand up, move around and do some light stretches) my right leg goes numb for 5-10 seconds, the numbness that you can still feel your leg but it feels like tiny ants were crawling on it. After a swim, it completely went away.

Now I'm very confused and scared. I want to know the answers to some questions:

1. How serious is my discs? Why am I not experiencing excruciating pain if it is "large" and "need a surgery right away"?

2. Do I really need a surgery?

3. How to know if my condition is getting better or worse? What are some indications that say "ok you messed up now get to ER!"? I have to go to a business trip to China later this month. With how I am now I don't see why I can't, but I don't know. I really don't.

4. I found out a lot of articles about herniated discs getting reabsorbed with decent lifestyle and exercise. Anyone had experience on it? How long between MRIs must I wait? I really wish to get another one to see how those discs are, so at least I can decide what to do.

I'm very sorry. I read a lot of post about this and I see most people are experiencing crazy pain. What I feel right now would seems dreamy to them and my panic really sounds (edit). But I'm really scared. I don't know what is going on inside my body right now. And a life where I don't feel much hurt but have to watch every tiny movement just because of the unknown is driving me insane.

Thank you very much for reading.




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