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24 years old - L4/L5/S1 Disc Herniation + Sciatica

A bit about me: I'm a (m) 24 years old recent Dentistry School graduate and I'm really glad I found this forum.

My Pain History:

-Ever since I was a kid I had a difficulty being flexible or crossing my legs soundly even though I was very athletic and acrobatic (as my mother used to say)

-When I was in highschool I fell from a high platform landing flat on my feet, this initially triggered a shooting pain all through my leg (can't remember which one) which relieved itself within a couple of days.

-Throughout my life, I had never been overweight, my BMI usually borderlines normal.

-Shortly after I turned 23, I decided to shape up and join a gym, aiming for a healthier and even more fit lifestyle. During the first few gym sessions, I have carried out some lifting procedures that really focused on my lower back (Squats & Deadlifts). This let to a bout of pain after waking up the next day, which took me 2-3mins to stand up or sit down. After taking Arcoxia referred by my doctor, the pain disappeared within 30mins.

-Ever since, the pain that I had, was infrequent, occurring only during the morning when I stand up and disappears within hours.

-I have since then kept going to the gym religiously, however staying away from anything that could affect my lower back. Month after month, the pain just kept increasing, and the medication wasn't as effective.

-However, the scale was about (1-2) and it completely disappears whenever I'm at the gym.

The Health Perspective:

-I've started visiting an Orthopedic Surgeon and a Physiatrist 3 months ago to relieve the disc pain. I took an MRI revealing 3 bulging discs and a slightly malpositioned vertebra. To my "comfort", only ONE of the discs was of actual concern. The orthopedic surgeon prescribed Arcoxia once more, and the pain kept increasing anyways.

-I decided that I needed a better approach to handling this situation. The doctor then recommended a lumbar Cortisone injection assuring me that I should feel better 2-3 days after administration. I took the injection. Immediately after the injection, I started feeling discomfort and nausea (I know this might be within normal limits). However, within the next week the pain was UNBEARABLE. I had shooting pain from my left thigh all the way down to my left toes (only confined to the backside). This happened whenever I stood up or sat down. Moreover, whenever I was standing or sitting, the pain would persist as a throbbing pain. The scale went from a 1-2 to 8-9 pain level.

-The doctor had me on medications such as Arcoxia, Lyrica, Tamadol, and Cataflam. All of which did nothing to relieve the pain. He also mentioned that I should use heatpacks on the site. PT should be also avoided during the time I had pain.

-I kept visiting my doctor every week mentioning to him that the pain keeps increasing and limiting my daily activities. For most of the day (seeing that I just graduated and still don't work) I used to sit down on the PC for 15-30mins before I had to lie down flat on a sofa to relieve the pain for twice the duration.

-My doctor referred me for another MRI to see if there are new findings since the previous one and listed my choices. (This is a month after I had the cortisone injection)

My choices: (Bear with me, the namings might not be as accurate) [going from most conservative to most invasive]

1. Wait and see if there will be any relief: not the best option for me seeing that I want to work soon and this limiting pain won't allow me to follow my dream of working as a Dentist where I'd have to sit for long hours with my back possibly in an awkward position (even though I practice ergonomics as much as I can!).

2. Increase medication: At one point I was taking 5 medications without them yielding any positive results. I ran out of medications a couple of days ago and have since experience more pain (9). Besides, I want a solution since I worried about permanent nerve damage.

3. ANOTHER CORTISONE INJECTION: I contemplated that idea so many times, my first experience was what got me in this state. The doctor didn't mention a risk of increased pain. I wonder if that would increase my pain even further. I have received multiple responses for cortisone injections, the majority denouncing them.

4. Hydrostatic Discectomy: a minimally invasive approach where a thick needle is placed lateral to the spinal cord up to the disc's center and absorbs some of the fluid withing the disc, ultimately leading to shrinkage of the disc, relieving the nerve

5. Partial Discectomy: I have read a lot about this procedure and its risks of recurrence and success rates.

6. Fusion: Ultimately the removal of a disc and the fusion of the vertebrae would solve both my (very mild) back problems and (severe) sciatica, however, the downfall is that pressure may be induced on the adjacent vertebrae, possibly causing a future herniation within another one.

- What my Orthopedic Surgeon concluded in the end is that I have a back of a 50 year old and any treatment we will carry out won't solve the problem 100%, but instead prolong the need for invasive surgery as much as possible seeing that I am "young" and surgeries are not recommended for young adults as often.

My Thoughts:

- I desperately want a solution that would cater to my needs, seeing that I want to work soon and carry out my life.

- I do not worry about surgery being an option, I'm very open for that choice.

- Recently I've been depressed more than ever, seeing that I ditched my physically active lifestyle to a more sedentary and dull one. Being limited to actions as simple as sitting or standing, and laying idle for long periods of time around the house, seeing that this was my only form of relief (and even that is starting to be painful)

- Choices #1 and #2 are out of the questions seeing that they would take forever and possibly pointless.

- Choices #3, 4, and 5 sound more appealing.

What I optimistically hope for:

- A solution that would relieve my pain as soon and as effective as possible (before the chance of manifesting as permanent nerve damage)

- Reassuring feedback with regards to resuming normal activities post post-treatment.

Once again, feedback, similar stories, words of encouragement are always appreciated seeing that I'm currently in the saddest state I've ever been and desperately looking for a way to fight this.


  • LizLiz Posts: 9,699
    edited 04/03/2013 - 10:01 PM
    i am sure that you will find your time on spine-health very rewarding. this site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    here are just some of the highlights:

    - detailed medical libraries of articles and videos that address almost every spinal conditions and treatment

    - the wellness section contains articles, tips and videos to help patients after surgery and also to help people avoid surgery.

    - under the resource tab, there is a section doctor advice health center which can be invaluable.

    - as a bonus, spine-health provides these patient forums. here is where you can meet thousands of other people who understand and can relate to your situation. you will soon become part of the spiney family who provide comfort and the advantages of a support system. you are now part of this family that is approximately 20,600 international members and growing daily.

    - it is very important to understand the forum rules to make sure all of your posts do not violate any of the rules.

    - as a new member, it is helpful to understand the 'makeup' of these forums, how to make posts, tips on adding images and much more. you should read forum faq

    if you have any questions or need assistance, you can use the private message facility to contact any one of the moderators on my team:
    dilauro , tamtam or liz


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • ben_indianabben_indiana Posts: 287
    edited 04/05/2013 - 3:05 AM
    Well, it seems like you have an excellent grasp on you situation and your options. Understanding of those things is a huge step that many people do not have even months into treatment. So you are def on the right track there! The choice is ultimatly going to be yours along with whatever docs you choose to go with. There are pros & cons with every choice. I would say that fusion would only be a last resort. And my thoughts on the hydrostatic discectomy are that pulling the fluid out of the disc seem like a risky proposition long term. But these are just opinions. Whichever choices you make are going to have long term effects. Even minimally invasive back surgery can lead to many months of recovery if not more. Conservative choices are great if they work and if you can deal with the pain.

    As for the depression, so many on these forums including myself can relate very well. And again whichever choices you make will likely have some depressing aspects. Living with the pain is very depressing. Esp when conservative tactics are not working. Recovery from surgery is very depressing too. You want to get better, and fast. But the body may have different ideas and timeframes than what you want.

    So all of that may not help much, but on the brightside once you make a decision and have a roadmap to recovery it is much more digestable than it is while floating in the wind. I am now 7 mo post-op microD. I am not 100%. It has been a long road with ups & downs. Many setbacks & flareups. But I am dramatically better than I was pre-op. And there is alot of joy in that. It will get better. I dealt with severe sciatica for over a year before even having ESIs and it was 2 years by the time I had surgery. So I understand the place you are in now. And although there is depression still in recovery it does not comapare to the way I felt when dealing with severe sciatica all day every day week in & week out.

    Everyone is different and this is not an endorsement for any paticular choice, just a short view into my exp. Understanding your problem is a huge first step in the right direction. You can & will get to where you need to be!

    Good Luck!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
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  • Thanks Ben for the supporting statements. It has sure been a while since I've felt a bit optimistic on what has yet to come. It's just taking time for me to realize that this might be a lifelong thing I need to be concerned about and it's not easy, especially when I'm in pain.

    I was just wondering if there's a chance for me to at least return to 80% of my activities such as going to the gym, etc. once this pain subsides.
  • Hey Phlush,

    You are not alone brother, I am 28 years old and I have a major herniation L3-L4 and a bulging Disc at L4-L5. Both of these injuries have caused major nerve compression and associated pain and numbness down left and right legs. Like you, I also injured my body with squats and deadlifts.

    Recently, I was told I may have to switch careers due to my occupations cause of significant back problems. This is not what I wanted to hear, the pain has caused me to become a recluse, I know bed rest is not advised but I seriously don't enjoy doing anything else. I think depression is defenitley the worst part of having back problems.

    Things will get better, it's going to take time, I hurt my back like 5 weeks ago and I have been told it's going to take me months to recover. As for returning to activities, Absolutely! But I wouldn't be trying to do dead lifts or Squats at all, anymore. Advice from friends, family and other people that workout is to stay away from the heavy olympic weights and focus on things that I can maintain over my lifetime, like cardio, and lighter weights or using weight machines instead. Personally, I would much rather be happy and healthy, than jacked and paralyzed from doing heavy weight lifting. keep your head up, it will get better!
  • I feel you man. I sincerely hope that things get better for the both of us and anyone that has this similar scenario. I know how much of a hell this can be. And yeah, I'm not going back to deadlifts/squats/etc. ever, I'll focus on the softer side of exercise.

    On a lighter note, I have taken another MRI. Even though it shows that my herniation has gotten slightly worse (hence the increased pain I'm feeling), I have discussed with my orthopedic surgeon my options and finally concluded to opt for a Hydrodiscectomy procedure. He explained it as a procedure where a needle would be laterally inserted into the disc itself and absorb some of the nuclues, ultimately leading to disc shrinkage and relief. He also mentioned (and I've researched online) that immediate relief is frequent after this non-invasive surgery.

    This gives me hope if any that things will get better, It's something I can look forward to for the next couple of weeks or less.

    About the depression, I'm getting more and more used to the situation and realized that the best way to cope with that is to always have a goal ahead. Also, more often I tend to joke about my situation when I'm around family and friends pretending I'm an old lady whenever I need help with something. Proved to be an effective way to erase those "pity" stares. :)

    Things indeed will get better Joe, take care.

    P.S. If anyone has more info/experience about Hydrodiscectomy, please share.
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  • joe_pilot148jjoe_pilot148 Posts: 25
    edited 04/11/2013 - 2:28 PM
    Cool man, you have a plan thats is good, how long you waiting for the surgery?. Curious, what were you doing that made the herniation worse? Whatever that is I'm going to avoid that like the plague!
  • PhlushPPhlush Posts: 5
    edited 04/12/2013 - 2:20 AM
    I'm gonna be having the surgery later next week, good thing there was an opening in the schedule.

    As for what made things worse, it was the epidural cortisone injection I took. It was HORRIBLE. I took it thinking that it would either help reduce the pain or do nothing, boy was I wrong. It increased the pain by 200-300%.

    After I took it, I researched online and asked friends and relatives about it (should've done that beforehand). 90% of the stories I heard of is that it WORSENED the situation. I explained this to my doctor and he denies that it's a frequent incident and tells me about patients that benefited greatly from it.

    If one of my friends or relatives plans on taking one, I'll shout at the top of my lungs "DON'T, JUST DON'T"
  • joe_pilot148jjoe_pilot148 Posts: 25
    edited 04/12/2013 - 11:14 AM
    Lol, I asked for an epidural today, denied! Guess, I should be saying thank you to them for that. I will note that advice for the future. Congrats on the surgery that is quick. I'm sill waiting on my neurosurgeon appointment. good luck!
  • Hi there I am with you on most of that although I have bypassed Injections as there really is no good feedback on long term cure and one of the things you have mentioned I have never heard of here in UK ! Hydrostatic Discectomy ???
    Anyway ben_indiana has said all of which I would say and sum , could never have out it that well in a million years!!
    Anyway I am having a Discectomy next Wednesday so fingers crossed I'm on the right path :-)
  • I so enjoyed reading your response it's all I would want to say to phlush and sum!!! My ops Wednesday and I'm getting nervous but looking forward to the other side.
    I hope you are dong well and arch ya on here soon x
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