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Severe L5/S1 Prolapse Disc with sciatica - my thoughts & aiming to help & be positive

I thought I would start this thread because I'm suffering as per the title and have read so many of these threads which have helped me understand my problem, however I have noticed that there are so many people suffering as I am, but yet many feel lost with no direction and are desperate need for help. My aim is to keep this thread positive as possible because many threads unfortunately aren't because we are all suffering and desperate for that help. There clearly is no short term fix but a methodical approach may just help?

I'm 47 years old, always been very active, gym, running, biking, DIY and 10 years ago I herniated a disc and was diagnosed with DDD. It repaired itself and I was told by a specialist I need to get on with life, don't treat my back like a China plate but ease up.

Anyway 6 months ago I started suffering with Sciatica which I had never suffered with before, so now I will tell you about what has happened since then and what I have learnt, but please don't think this is medical advice. I'm by no means fixed but learning as I go which I wish to share, because I habe turned a corner and the positive effect is helping.

Firstly I consulted my doctor which is what I recommended everyone to do in the first instance. Get advice, don't try and live with the pain. My first mistake was that I did not push my issue with him to get further help, however he gave me anti-inflammatories which aided well but you need to take these as prescribed unlike painkillers you take as and when you need them. The anti-inflammatories aim to reduce any swelling to fix the issue. Pain killers just mask it.

My next issue was I didn't push for an MRI, if I had, I would of found out how bad my issue was, so if you have not had a scan, get one so you can look to fix the root cause rather than live with it which only delays for your fix.

I went for physio before my MRI, and whilst this aided me to get my sciatica better I didn't realise that I was at the point of a major prolapse , hence you maybe trying the wrong thing to fix the issue. If I had known this I probably wouldn't of done physio.

A quick point on Sciatica, I have read so much now I am learning as I go but what I didn't realise is that the lower in the leg the pain gets the worse you are getting, which may mean that what ever you are doing isn't helping so stop, if the pain goes back up the leg to the back, it means it's getting better so continue what you are doing. Again if it's getting lower get advise. If you are suffering with numbness in your legs and or growing with pins and needles, seek emergency help without fail as you could be causing damage to your nerves.

Now, i was in so much pain, that I just laid flat on the floor even though it eased the pain, it wasn't helping. I found that after a few days getting up walking around very gently, loosened up my body and has eased my pain. But don't over do it. Typically pain is more prominent in the morning , I think that's because you stiffen up in bed, so aim to get up and get moving, but slowly and gently. By the end of the day I feel better, however like many of you, after 4-5 hours of sleep at most, I wake up in major pain, there are recommendations to lay flat on a pillow under your tummy, lay on your back with a towel under your lower back, or on your side with back straight and a pillow between your knees, my advise is these are all good, but there is no magical solution so please don't hope they are but they will assist. you may need to keep moving until you find the best position for you and this may change nightly. A hint though, when I lay on my side with a pillow between my legs it hurts bad with throbbing pain, however if I move my right foot just a fraction lower (sciatica in my right leg) then the pain is still there initially but it's different, in fact it still ispainful but is consistent and almost calming which is better than throbbing and if I stick with it, it goes away in about 30 minutes so my advice is, sometimes a slight tweak can make all the difference. Just keep tweaking each position your in.

Next, I spoke with a friend who had also suffered badly as I am, he advised a book called "treat your own back by Mckenzie," again no magic solution but keep reading about your issue and it educates you which I have found has kept me positive so I know what to expect and how I can look after myself whilst I go through this. This chat also helped because he had the same as me, he had the steroid injections, he started Pilates, he worked his core himself and whilst it took over a year he has come through and gave me a great motivational conversation.

My next advise is talk to someone, I have found this draining at first and emotional, however talking to someone who had gone through this or is going through this has helped me, it's ok to cry and tell someone how you feel. I broke down about two weeks ago and all of a sudden the issue didn't feel so emotionally draining.

Think what you are doing day to day, even with this, when your doing thing such as brushing your teeth or shaving (for the guys) don't lean forward in to the mirror as we do, this puts pressure on your back, it won't help and will make things worse.

Keep your mind active, it might seem hard, but I have found watching something really intense on TV, talking on business calls, listen to great music or just reading intently when my pain is worse takes my mind of the pain, again it doesn't fix it but remember your body and mind is capable of blocking out pain at times.

So where am I up to now, well after my MRI scan, my orthopaedic consultant has said I have a severe prolapse at L5/S1 and the disc us posing the sciatic nerve hence my whole world of pain. Today I went for my first spinal steroid injection to ease things, it was painful but hopefull enough to reduce the inflammation and allow me to gently get mobile and work on repairing myself.

I have also been focusing on my core, make sure you do this at all times without fail. If you move around, I.e. Going up stairs getting out of bed, pull in your lower stomach and engage the core. This will aim to take the pressure of your tightened back muscles, and again no magical fix but a step in the right direction. Even when you are laying flat, there are some easy low intense core exercises you can do.

So finally right now whilst I type I am in a spare bed in my house, not my usual one with my wife, I write that because I am trying to say change things to find what is easier for you. I tried lying in bpmy usual bed but couldn't turn in the night as I needed because I didn't want wake her and didn't allow me to get in the positions I needed to frequently throughout the night, now I get some sleep, not as much as I would like but more than I did, and if I awake and I can't sleep, well I either read, watch TV and before you know it, it takes my mind if the pain and I'm back to sleep without waking her, and she is being a saint.

I have my next review with my consultant in 4 weeks so more to come, but I really hope whoever reads this, it may help.....


  • sherrygirlssherrygirl ontario canadaPosts: 162
    I am being patient myself for neck issues but I do have lower back issues have off an on for years. I am working with physiotherapy. Their another book out from Dr Hamilton Hall about backs. I am doing everything to avoid surgery an recover. Are static says only 30% have surgery an non surgical treatment is very effective.
  • Sherrygirl, its interesting as I think everyone is different, I have heard of some great surgery success stories but as you say, trying to avoid this if I can. I personally think the body can heal itself if your patient and treat it right, and I have also been advised that surgery is temporary, it fixes the issue but could cause other problems later on, once again I am not a doctor/surgeon but unless its very necessary, then a proactive approach is a great idea. I will take a look at the book too, thanks!
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  • Another comment I didn't add but I was also reading on other posts, if you are suffering getting in and out of bed, your car etc, always think "core." For example when getting in to a car, pull in your tummy as though you are aiming to touch your spine, which engages your deep core muscles. Put your bum in first, and then together bring your legs in to the car, not one by one, stops you twisting badly. When getting out, engage your core again, lift both legs out and then you can pull and use your legs not your back to stand. Same for the bed, roll on to one side, swing both legs out together to stand, but always engaging your core. Hope people will find this helpful.
  • sherrygirlssherrygirl ontario canadaPosts: 162
    I was talking to my cousin last night and he did was lots and lots of physiotherapy an he doing okay. Me in ontario I have to do alternative treatments cause of our cut backs the only time they do surgery if gets really bad. I am interested of how you are recovering with non surgery treatments. I let you know how I am doing so far with physiotherapy on my neck I have no neck pain just arm pain and my lower back today doing okay I just get mild feeling in my feet. Think I am progressing pretty good.
  • hi again, so its slow but getting better. My current approach which is helping is that I am still taking diclofenic (NSAID) & paracetamol, I now have a regular sleep pattern, bed at 10.30pm up at 7am, so by the time I go to bed I am tired (I still wake at night with some pain but easier to get to sleep) I sleep on my back, with pillows under my legs, I use a cold pack on my back about every 1-2 hours during the day. I am also doing the basic exercises in the McKenzie book & some basic exercise found the UK NHS website for Sciatica for a prolapsed disc. I 'm now able to stand about an hour to two at a time and then relax either face down or on my back for half an hour. Its not a great but its definitely improving. I think the steroid drug helped but not as much as I hoped. I look back at where I was about 3 weeks ago ans whilst not fully mobile, I am in a better place.
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  • So some lessons learnt - I use just cold pack on my back as heat aggravates it, but I read that people prefer one or other or both. Laying down for too long is not good for you, as your muscles don't get to support you or strengthen. I do the exercises 3 to 4 times a day regularly and log them to keep a record. If I find something particular makes things worse, i.e. laying or an exercise (i.e. I walked 10 minutes on our treadmill but found this made things worse) then I stop doing it and after a period of time I go back to feeling better again. So basically be active but take things slowly and listen to your body... is there anything as such that your doing to make things better?
  • sherrygirlssherrygirl ontario canadaPosts: 162
    I find using slow physiotherapy excerise been a help I also log everything I do and triggers I take it easy. I only need advil once an awhile I eat healthy and give myself the odd treat once an awhile I also drink lots of water an take calcium magnesium with vitamin D and thinking of trying some protein shakes. I use creams like A535 and also got robax heat wrap works for 16 hours for longest time I could only use ice therapy so far using heat has help too now.  I always change positions and get up move around so not sitting long periods of time I had MRI Nov 18th I get results Dec 1st I am interested to see if physiotherapy change anything over last 6 weeks. I saw on tv this therapy called Fascial stretch therapy I am going talk to my doctor and physiotherapist about it an to see if it's safe. Since this started in the summer their been changes for my neck and lower back. Still working on correcting my posture at all times. It's good your progressing more. We have to be patient with ourselves. 
  • sherrygirlssherrygirl ontario canadaPosts: 162
    edited 11/28/2016 - 2:04 PM
    I called doctor to get my MRI results before go physiotherapy and the nurse talk to the doctor an nurse said small degenerative changes in L4 an L5 an mentioned C5 an C6 what difference from my xray of my neck which was moderate to severe and forminal stenosis biltral. I get more details on Dec 1st from my doctor I almost wonder if physiotherapy change anything. Hope you are still progress still with therapy 
  • hi again.. how did you get on, on the 1st? Did they give you any insight, although some of your comments sounds like you are making progress?

    I have been back to my consultant on Friday, he was surprised at my progress. Down to just the two anti-inflammatory tablets a day and pain killers when needed. Very much like you, I try to keep active, only lay down when I have the pain to relieve. I'm no walking, 45 minutes time, twice a day, and then walk around the house, always keeping right posture, tummy in, head up, chest out and keep natural back curve but not excessive. Can now sit, no slouching! I am on Vit B & C, also Ginger root. I used to have protein shakes for my gym work but Im not as trying to get protein through natural diet, eggs, chicken etc. Also bathing alternate days with Epson Salts. Also trying to sleep about an hour less than I naturally need. That way at night, Im so tired I am now on occasions sleeping through. I also I noticed I have 2-3 good days and then a bad one, I am realising by the 3rd good day I may over do things, which causes my bad day. Then the consultant advised that this is typical of people, you take 2-3 steps forward and one back. I would say the steroid injection is working and apparently will continue to improve and then  at some stage atop maybe required. 

    I am very interested in your physio, when sciatica first started it really helped me over 6 weeks to get back to normal, but then I fully prolapsed my disc. Consultant now suggests physio in about 2 weeks time, his advice was unless you are mobile/flexible enough you can't benefit from it.

    Finally still using the cold pads and finding too much heat aggravates things, but again I see you are good with that. Am learning my body is advising me as I go.

  • sherrygirlssherrygirl ontario canadaPosts: 162
    The nurse on the phone read the MRI wrong. I have in lumbra L4 L5 mild protusion with spinal stenosis Biltral mild I been doing physiotherapy daily and use ice an Advil joint an muscle I take vitamins C an also calcium and magnesium with vitamin D and drink lots of water and try keep good posture. I am reading new book called healing your neck an back pain from Lisa morrone she physiotherapist an took McKenzie course. My neck MRI is way worse. But never been in huge amount of pain I notice some improvements to my neck. I do have bad days shopping yesterday was abit tough.
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