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L5/S1 Herniated Disc nonsurgical recovery - severe pain in mornings but not evenings

I herniated my L5/S1 disc early January 2019, and I developed left-side only sciatica pain, which ranges from my lower back to my butt cheek/hip/top of thigh. I was referred to have a miscodiskectomy, but I wanted to try nonsurgical options first. I've received (2) Epidural Steroid Injections, the 2nd on 5/2/19, and I've also been going to physical therapy twice a week since 3/25. I am looking to see if anyone has any experience similar to mine, because I'm beginning to lose hope. I experience severe sciatic pain in the mornings, but I'm usually 90% constant pain-free by the end of the day. I bought a new mattress after I started having back issues, so I don't think it's that. In the mornings, I'll still be stiff (finger tips barely to the top of my knees when bending forward) and periodically experience a stab of pain with certain movements, but it's tolerable and only lasts a few seconds. I'm not seeing any more progress with my mornings. I sleep on my right side with a pillow between my legs or on my back with a pillow under my knees. I don't stretch in the mornings, because it's too painful. I stretch at night, and my PT agreed that was a good idea. When my butt cheek/hip/top of thigh hurts badly, laying flat on my stomach on the floor is the only thing that helps. When this first started, I couldn't lay on my stomach, because it was too painful. My pain level and range is down significantly since this mess started in January, but I can't take much more of the mornings. My back/butt cheek were cramping up so badly on my commute this morning, I had to pull over twice and I ended up calling in sick and going home. As I'm sitting home now 6 hours later, I'm a stiff but that's all. Does anyone have a similar experience and if so, how long did your recovery last? Did you end up having surgery? What helps?

Here's an example of my typical day, if it'll help.

6 AM - wake up - pain 2 - 3 and really stiff. Sometimes an quick stab, pain 4 - 5, when first standing upright. I can only touch my fingertips to mid-thigh when bending forward.

6:00 - 7:30 - morning routine (shower, time with dog, very light stretching, breakfast) pain usually a 2 - 3. Some mornings it's a constant, burning hurt, other days, it's an occasional stab/cramp. A trick that sometimes works is my boyfriend will pick me up (squats, hugs me low, then stands up straight) and the hanging sensation helps. My toes tingle a little when he sets me down, but it goes away and usually the pain does too. It doesn't work all the time though.

7:30 AM - driving to work - getting into car absolutely sucks - pain is usually a constant burning feeling in my butt cheek/hip/top of thigh, like a pulled muscle, but a 2 - 3 on a pain scale. Some days it's a constant stab in a golf-ball sized spot on my lower back and it causes my butt cheek/hip/top of thigh to cramp - 5 - 7 on a pain scale. These mornings, I turn around and go home, because I can't make the commute sitting. 

8:30 AM - at work - really stiff getting out of car and usually hunched forward and to the right slightly. Usually a sharp stab, 8 - 9 on pain scale, in my lower back and it cramps up to where I can't walk for a few seconds. I take the stairs up to the 3rd floor as long as the stab is gone when I do make it into the building. If it's still stabbing, I take the elevator.

8:30 AM - 11:00 AM - usually stiff. Hamstring will feel very tight and quick or sudden movements cause a stabbing pain in my lower back. I sometimes shut my office door and lie on the floor for a few minutes if the pain flares up, but I have a standing desk and that helps. Pain ranges from 2 - 3 on a scale to basically nothing - it depends how bad the morning leading up to me getting to work was.

Noon - 5:00 PM - usually stiff, but I feel almost normal for the most part. I try to walk 1 mile on my lunch break everyday, and I stand at my desk at least 6 of the 8 hours I'm there each day. Occasionally, picking up things too heavy or twisting too exaggerated hurt, but if I'm careful, my pain is usually minimal and only lasts a few seconds when it does flare. Even if the morning was brutal, I'm usually fine by end of day.

5:00 PM - commute home - I feel fine getting into my car. Occasionally, I'll get a quick stab to my lower back, but that's normally it. Some days, towards the last 15 minutes of my commute, my butt cheek/hip/top of thigh start to get a burning pain feeling, but it's tolerable. Maybe a 2 - 3 on the scale.

6:00 PM home - getting out of the car - pain is usually a 7 - 9 on the pain scale. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can't move so I just stand and hang on my car door for a minute while the cramping subsides. Some days are worse than others where I have to basically crawl up my front steps. Other days the cramping ends and I'm fine again within a few minutes.

6:00 - 9:30 PM - night routine (dinner, clean-up, 1 - 2 mile walk with dog, PT exercises) no constant pain. Some movements cause a quick stab, but it's a 1 - 2 on the scale. I can usually touch my fingertips to mid-shin bending forward.

9:30 - 10 PM - bed. No constant or quick stabbing pains.




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Comments

  • challengercchallenger Posts: 1,206
    edited 07/18/2019 - 2:45 PM

    joolie567

    Welcome to the Veritas Health Forum

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    Take care and keep us posted on your progress

    Chip
  • June 2017 sciatica reared it's ugly head. I had 2 esi and did pilates on a regular basis. I delt with sciatic nerve pain to some degree but it got better over time. Now in my case I was always told I didn't need a surgery my pain wasn't bad enough l. In March of this year I needed an emergency laminectomy due to cauda equina syndrome. So in my case my sciatica is gone but I have saddle numbness and a lot of challenges in the bathroom department. 

    I saw an orthopedic surgeon and didn't seek out a second opinion because surgery scared me. Looking back I feel like I should have gotten a second opinion... a more minimal procedure may have prevented my current condition. 

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  • Hey you're not alone. I'm 29 years old and I have a "mild" central L5 S1 disc protrusion. I injured my back about a year ago and have been dealing with lower back pain ever since. 

    When I first injured my back, it felt like something was stabbing me in my lower back and could feel it in my left leg. I even had this lightning pain shoot into the back of my thighs. It was horrendous. After that pain went away, my lower back now feels like I can't stretch something or feels heavy most of the time if I'm standing for too long. Some days I feel normal others are bad.

    Do you have medicine you could take for the pain? I carry Advil and Tylenol everywhere now.

    If you have doctors that are monitoring your condition than you are blessed. Some of us don't even have that. 

    Anyway good luck. Peace be with you.

  • Sciatica is late night/morning beast. That's when she eats you up.

  • Ugh!  Your story is so similar to mine.  I dread going to bed at night knowing when I wake up in the morning that I'll have to stand on my right leg sending horrendous pain through my lower back.  My MRI showed significant L4-L5 multileven degenerative changes with a broad based disc bulge and severe right lateral recess narrowing with compression of the descending right L5 nerve root (meaning along with the pain, my leg goes numb!).  I've been doing PT without fail and have become so discouraged.  I'm taking Advil and Tylenol mostly.  Prescribed Gabapentin but I've not found it helpful (except to make me drowsy so I can sleep at night).  Anyway, my heart goes out to you.  I just wish "they" could FIX us!

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