Herniated Discs:Who's had 'em?

Michael_K_Sr

Screenwriter
Joined
Aug 14, 2005
Messages
1,368
Location
Chicago 'burbs
Real Name
MichaelK
Was finishing up a nice workout yesterday doing my cooling down stretches when I felt a sharp twinge in my right lower back. I knew right away I had a problem, so I stopped and headed home. Throughout the day, my back got tighter and my leg was sore. Last night I woke up a half-dozen times during the night because of sharp, cramp-like pain in the back of my right leg. Took a couple Tylenol, but it did little good.

This morning I got up and was surprised the back wasn't more sore. The leg was still a problem though. The pain seemed to dissipate quite a bit in the shower. On the train ride into work I was pretty uncomfortable, but the pain was intense when I got up to get off. Curiously, walking at a brisk pace doesn't seem to be a problem. At the office I had to spend much of the time standing, since sitting down causes a lot of pain...particularly to the back of my right leg. I had a previously scheduled doctor's appointment at lunchtime. The doctor did a number of things to test what was wrong with the back...prone leg lifts, knee lifts, positive resistance, etc. He seems to think it's probably a herniated disc impinging on my sciatic nerve.

For the time being, he's having me take Motrin to see if reduced inflammation makes a big difference. He also gave me some papers with stretching exercises. Maybe it takes a while for Motrin to kick in, but the train ride home was miserable again. So for other people that have had to deal with this...how did you manage it? Is there ANY way to relive pressure on the disc or nerve when sitting down? I can't stand up all of the time. What's the best way to sleep and avoid being wracked by pain? Should I be using anything like a heating pad to help loosen things up? Any advice is appreciated. This sucks.
 

MarkHastings

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Messages
12,013
I feel for you. I had a herniated disc (that actually ruptured) in '94 and had to have it operated on because the stuff that came out, hardened and was crushed my sciatic nerve so bad that it would have done a lot worse damage if left untreated. Around '97 I herniated another disc, but it wasn't bad enough to operate on. Now I mostly deal with muscle spasms which are worse than the actual herniation. I kid you not, this has got to be the worst pain anyone could ever be in. It feels like my spine shattered.

The best thing to do is to stop aggravating it. Bed rest is usually the best. Unfortunately sitting is not the best thing for it and there's no other way to avoid the pain.

Once the inflammation goes down, you should be able to start therapy. Keeping the muscles strong will help the pain. Other than that, they say that hot or cold is good for the back. Usually I go with cold because heating pads are useless without moisture.

The thing you may find too is the pain will come and go. The herniation is not what usually gives people the pain, it's the rubbing of the nerve that gives people pain. They say that some people have been known to herniate discs and never know it if it never touches the nerve.

I find that a few days of bed rest will calm the muscles down to where I can walk again, but even then, you gotta be careful to keep you back at rest or they can flare up again.

Of course, everyone is different, so I don't know if my advice is perfect for you. Good luck with everything though.
 

Doug Miller

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 26, 1999
Messages
712
Real Name
Doug Miller
The big needle in my back really helped mine. Since the needle, I've had flare ups, but overall it's been OK. The main thing is that I watch my limitations more now -- I took a variety of steroids and painkillers for a year or so before the needle. I was happy to avoid surgery.

Funny thing, when I was with one of the doctors I asked him what would happen if my disc would actually rupture -- after explaining the differences between rupturing and what the disc actually does, he said, in these words "You'll feel a really sharp pain, and probably piss your pants." No joke.


Doug
 

drobbins

Screenwriter
Joined
Dec 2, 2004
Messages
1,873
Real Name
Dave
The first night back from my honeymoon, my wife asked fro a drink of water in the middle of the night. So I went to get it for her. On the top of the stairs, stepped on the cat and did an excellent imitation of the cartoons when they bounce down the steps with their butt hitting each one. I got a herniated disc.
I dealt with the lower back pain, and on bad days the pain down the left leg, for about 4 years. Mostly I laid flat on my back on the floor to ease the pain. Then my HMO at work started to cover a chiropractor and I gave it a try. This guy could have been a football player. After the twisting and stretching I came out feeling inches taller. At first I went 3 times a week, then 2 and so on. After a year or so I rarely had any pain and stopped going. My back has loosened up enough that I can crack it myself. It has been 14 years now since I stopped the chiropractor. Except for maybe once a year, I don't have any pain.
 

Bryan X

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2003
Messages
3,469
Real Name
Bryan
I'll second the chiropractor. I had a herniated disc and went to the chiropractor instead of an MD. Worked wonders for me.
 

Chris Lanni

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Aug 1, 2002
Messages
134
Real Name
Christopher
So long comfortable! Most miserable time of my life was a herniated disk. Twinged my back one day, don't even remember what I was doing. After a couple of weeks I got a job at a grocery store and worked there for about four months. I did not know it till I had to quit, but the whole time I worked there I made it much, much worse. It used to hurt so bad I would take repeated bathroom breaks just to break down in private. Looking back, I was so stupid to keep working somewhere with heavy lifting, but my doctors were worthless at the time. I chose the surgery. Really there was no choice, I could not have handled the pain for the rest of my life. After the doctor removed the herniated part, he told me it was bigger than the mri showed.

Best advise: Get your doctor to give you an MRI. Anything else is a waste of your comfort time. My father was with an HMO at the time and they have a quota as to what and how many of certain things they can prescribe. So I had to go through so many stupid, waste of time, "fixes", when a simple MRI and a reading from a back specialist told me everything. Sleep on your side with a pillow between you legs, see if this helps.

Good luck!
chris
 

Brian W. Ralston

Supporting Actor
Joined
Apr 4, 1999
Messages
605
Location
Los Angeles, CA
Real Name
Brian W. Ralston
Yep...been there, done that with the herniated disc. It happend while moving furniture in the house. Yes...I was bending my knees.

I was 31 when it happened and it seemed like everyone did not really believe I was in so much pain. (How could I be when I was in good shape at a young age??). It was the pain down the back of the left leg that was the worst. I literally had a limp and could not walk standing straight up. I looked and felt like an old man. It was not until the orthopedic surgeon ordered an MRI that proved the disc was herniated, that everyone around me really started to believe that I was in a lot of pain and was not just faking it. I was so young (they said), they just believed that I would bounce back from this with some advil and a day in bed. Nope. Vicodin was the drug of choice for a couple weeks.

What ultimately fixed it for me was the steroid shot (long needle) injected directly into the spinal chord region of the herniation, guided by multiple MRIs in a few minutes.

Within 24 hours of that $1300 steroid injection right into the spine...the pain was almost gone and I no longer had a limp. Within 4 days, I was back to normal...of course...wth instructions to strengthen my stomach and back muscles with exercises to prevent future injury.
 

John Alvarez

Screenwriter
Joined
Sep 3, 2004
Messages
1,129
I'll third the Chiropractor. I herniated a disc in my neck. I had a muscle spasm that turned my head quickly that caused it. I went to 2 doctors who did MRI's and X-ray's. They all wanted to do surgery. I went to a Chiro. on a reccomendation from a friend. I went 3 times a week for a month then 2 times a week for a month then 1 time a week for a month. I go once a month now and 7 years no problem. I still don't have complete feeling in my right thumb but hay it's better than surgery at this point.
 

Michael_K_Sr

Screenwriter
Joined
Aug 14, 2005
Messages
1,368
Location
Chicago 'burbs
Real Name
MichaelK
Another restless night. After not getting much sleep the night before, I was so tired yesterday that I went to bed at 8:00. Rested for about 2 1/2 hours before the leg pain got me out of bed. Then two hours, then one hour... By the end of the night, I had to get up every 20 minutes to try and walk off the pain and tingling in my right calf. I could live with the back pain, which right now is just a dull ache, but the leg pain (which feels like a sharp leg cramp) is intense. It comes back whenever I sit or lie down. If I could have gotten any rest staying home from work, I would have done just that. But if I'm unable to sit in a chair or lay out in bed there's not much point in staying home. I only save myself the train trip (which is quite uncomfortable) back and forth between home and the office.

This Motrin doesn't seem to be helping any. I'll try doing a few of the stretches tonight that the doctor recommends. If it's not feeling better by Thursday I'm calling him back. I'm pretty conservative when it comes to treating regular aches and pains. I never take pain relievers for headaches or request antibiotics for a cold. But I can't continue living with this kind of discomfort. If I'm not getting rest at night I'm going to wind up leaving myself vulnerable to some other bug like the flu or strep throat.
 

MarkHastings

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Messages
12,013
Michael, did he prescribe muscle relaxers?

I had the leg pain and I'm not sure if you understand it, but the herniated disc is probably protruding and hitting the sciatic nerve. That's what causes the leg pain.

I know people (and Dr's) like to avoid surgery (for good reason), but I have to bring up my case again just as an FYI...

I had the leg pain and it was really bad. What happened was, the disc ruptured and the goo inside came out. The body doesn't like that goo in the body and attacks it. Once attacked, it turns into a hard rock. Once this happened with me, I had a lot of pain and they gave me 3 rounds of epidural shots.

They worked really well to reduce the swelling and they were hoping that my body would naturally dissolve the "rock" - but what happened was, the epidural relaxed the muscles so much that this 'rock' dropped and got logged in the hole in my hip bone (where the sciatic nerves go trough) - this caused it to really crush the hell out of my nerve. The pain was INSANE!

Finally the Dr. decided to operate because I was just too miserable. After the operation, he said that I was lucky to have gotten that 'rock' out because any longer and it would have done more damage to the nerve. He said the nerve heals 1 inch per year and since the nerve runs the length of my leg, it may never fully heal. If it had caused any more damage, he said I might have had a hard time walking. So thank god they operated when they did.

I know my case is abnormal, but just wanted to give the pro-surgery perspective.
 

Karl_Luph

Supporting Actor
Joined
Apr 5, 2002
Messages
974
I can totally relate to this. My disc(L2-L3) has degenerated so far over the years that the MRI shows there's a chunk of disc detached.I've had pain off and on for 30 years,but the last 2 years have been so bad I actually had to have 3 cortosteroid injections into the spine per year. For awhile all the pain is gone,but it slowly comes back usually within a few weeks. For the next 7 or 8 months the pain is not so bad,it's the last 3 months where you find yourself looking forward to getting your shots again or having surgery. Before I tried the injections,the ortho doctor wanted to do a fusion on me,yikes!!!! Not looking forward to that,ugh!!!!
 

John Alvarez

Screenwriter
Joined
Sep 3, 2004
Messages
1,129

I would agree to surgery in your case. You had a foreign body causing a problem. They wanted to fuse my vertabre.
 

JonZ

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 28, 1998
Messages
7,799
I was doing military presses years ago. Everything felt fine until I tried to standup and was all crooked. I went home immediately. I couldnt even sit up in bed I had to slide off the bed on my ass, onto the floor and stand up. I knocked something out of place on my right trap.

Went to the Chiropractor and he fixed me right up.I was so out of whack he was laughing at me. After years of abusing my body -installing carpet,training to wrestle, labor jobs,etc - I'd never had adjustment prior to that. Never been a problem since.

"I had the leg pain and I'm not sure if you understand it, but the herniated disc is probably protruding and hitting the sciatic nerve"

My G/Fs bed hates me and I often wake up from her bed with back pains, sometimes going down my leg. I just take some aspirin and it will usually go away after a couple days.

A friend of mine hurt his back lifting weights, knocking a disc out of place, and it took him years to fully recover from it.


"wth instructions to strengthen my stomach and back muscles with exercises to prevent future injury."

For years I had lower back pain from a car accident in my teens. I cured it with weight lifting and a job I had that required me to bend down and pick up 40 pounds boxes for hours during the day. Completely cured a cronic problem I had fromthe late teens through early 20s.
 

Michael_K_Sr

Screenwriter
Joined
Aug 14, 2005
Messages
1,368
Location
Chicago 'burbs
Real Name
MichaelK

I think the body is a lot more forgiving in your teens and 20's when it comes to healing these sorts of things. I'm in my late 30's.

Any surgical option would carry the added complication of a cyst that I have on my lower back. We've left it alone because it isn't harming anything and the recovery from their removal carries a higher than average infection risk. Any surgery for disc removal I assume would mean the cyst would need to be removed first. As I've mentioned before, I've always been conservative when it comes to treating problems I have. I'll definitely try therapy or steroid injections (if offered) before agreeing to go under the knife.

Have a message into my doctor to see what the next step is if this Motrin and stretching exercises don't work. Thanks for all of the tips and testimonials so far.
 

Wes T

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Apr 11, 2000
Messages
55
Sorry to hear about your problem Michael. I have had two herniated discs. The pain is horrible. I have had lamenectomy surgeries on both discs. Day after tomorrow I have a seven hour fusion surgery scheduled to fix my back for good. It is not that my back really hurts that bad. The pain in my legs and the cramps are what is the most unbearable. Laying down and sitting are the worst.

My first lamenectomy was successful. It relieved my problems for a few good years. Then I got over confident and started acting like I was superman and I ruptured the second disc. My second did not go as well. Once they take a portion of the disc out, your spine settles a little. Unfortunately for me, it settled too much and the bones are actually touching now.

I did pain management for a year and a half and did pretty good with that. Then I just got to a point where my quality of life was just not there anymore. Now here I am.

My best advice is to do what the docs tell you. Take your anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers and try to take it easy for a while. Therapy is good if you can get it. If you can get through it, do your excersizes to strengthen all those muscles. DO NOT let yourself get fat like I did. That will give you nothing but a long road of misery. Learn proper lifting techniques. All I did was simply bend over to pick up a case and I felt the disc let go. I cannot stress enough take care of your back....it is the only one you get!

-Wes
 

Michael_K_Sr

Screenwriter
Joined
Aug 14, 2005
Messages
1,368
Location
Chicago 'burbs
Real Name
MichaelK

Unfortunately I'm already there, Wes. About 50 pounds overweight, which is not going to help matters. I actually had already dropped 50 pounds this year (yes...I had been a whopping 100 pounds overweight) and was hoping to drop the other 50 by the end of next year, but now this is going to muck things up if I can't work out regularly.

By the way, my doctor got back to me yesterday, phoning in a prescription for Vicodin. Tried to go to sleep without it last night and woke up two hours later with pain. Took the Vicodin and the stuff was only effective for 2/12 hours.
I wouldn't take another because a.) I think it made me a bit nauseous and b.) I don't want to become dependent on this stuff. If no improvement by tomorrow, I'm calling and demanding that some imaging tests be done. If he won't order them, I'll find an orthopedist that will.
 

MarkHastings

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Messages
12,013
You're just going to have to change your methods to coincide with your back. I dropped 45 pounds after my orthopedic doctor told me that he no longer wanted to see me (for my back problems) if I didn't lose any weight. I did it by eating better and walking every night. There are ways to do it without a massive workout.
 

Karl_Luph

Supporting Actor
Joined
Apr 5, 2002
Messages
974
Mark makes a good point here about walking and trying to lose weight. I've found that when I use the elliptical machine at the gym for an hour,that the pain in my back ,right hip and thigh is reduced,plus I don't wake up the next morning with so much pain. I had to give up jogging 2 years ago( I really__ miss it because to me,after an hour run,I felt like I had really more out of it than an hour on the elliptical machine.) I'm probably like most people out there, if I lost 15 lbs.,I'd be much better off.
 

Wes T

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Apr 11, 2000
Messages
55
I think that it is awesome that you have lost 50 pounds! Can you imagine how bad it would be if you were still 100 pounds overweight? (I am). According to my orthopedic surgeon the magic number is to keep your weight under 250 pounds. Anything after that causes bad skeletal problems. So 50 pounds is not that bad.

It is hard as hell to lose weight when you are sedentary! The primary reason I am still big. I guess if I ate lettuce and celery every day I could lose weight. The times I have been successful at losing weight were always done with A) walking and B) portion control. When your back hurts and you are only sitting around all day it is very hard to lose any weight. I tend to eat when I am bored. That doesn't help.

If you can walk at all through the pain, do as much as you can. BTW you have to take a LOT of vicodin for weeks before you get dependent on it. If you can deal with the nausea it really does help. For sleep, see if you can get Flexeril or Soma. These both will help knock you out for a while. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees is also good advice. Takes the pressure off.

It sounds like your symptoms are bad to the point of extremely debilitating. I have been there and it is no fun. Get your MRI done as soon as you can. That will tell a lot about what is going on.

I will be out for the next week or two. Best of luck to you Michael. -Wes

BTW it is good to see you again Karl.
 

Randy Tennison

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 5, 1999
Messages
1,099
Real Name
Randy
What's funny is I was in the best shape I had been in since my 20's when I herniated my back. I had lost weight, was working out, walking, feeling great. Then, I was moving a load of decorative river rock from my front yard to the back, and bammo!

What got me through was those stupid exercises, and 3x weekly to a physical therapist, which included heat treatements and ultrasonic treatements.

I still get some pain occasionally, but nothing I can't handle.
 

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
344,879
Messages
4,723,242
Members
141,348
Latest member
kaywess