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Herniated disc: Can't walk let alone run. Any hope? (Read 154 times)

Reebokabec


    I've been running for 5 years now with no injuries until now. The herniated disc causes pain in my left leg rather than my back. I am completely unable to use he leg and have to rely on crutches. Has anyone ever been through this? I worry that even after I've gotten the ability to walk back, I may not be able to get back into running. I expect it will take weeks, maybe months to recover from this. Is there any hope? Will future running be completely out of the question? Thanks!


    A Dance with Monkeys

      I've been running for 5 years now with no injuries until now. The herniated disc causes pain in my left leg rather than my back. I am completely unable to use he leg and have to rely on crutches. Has anyone ever been through this? I worry that even after I've gotten the ability to walk back, I may not be able to get back into running. I expect it will take weeks, maybe months to recover from this. Is there any hope? Will future running be completely out of the question? Thanks!

       

      I had the exact same problem when I was 15 (so, almost 2 decades ago now) - herniated disc, which irritated my left sciatic nerve. Kept me almost exclusively on my back for more than an entire summer. Still have issues with it more often than I would like.

       

      Forget about running for now, and focus solely on whatever your doctor/chiropractor advises for getting healed (hopefully you won't end up needing back surgery!). Once you're all better, and can at least come close to touching your toes again without screaming agony, then you'll be able to start thinking about small, slow mileage.

       

      The good news - it can get better. Smile Mine does still hurt from time to time, but never to the point anymore that I can't run on it. When it happened to me, I was not at all a runner, so I can't give you any kind of estimate on what you might be looking at for immediate recovery time, but I can say that, if all goes well, you will eventually run again. Smile

       

      Good luck!

      2014 goals:

      1. Run a minimum of 1.5 miles every single day of the year

      2. Run 1500 miles in 2014

      3. Get my weekly mileage above 40

      4. Brown belt in Shaolin Kempo

      5. First Half (Oregon Wine Country HM?)

      6. PRs: Sub-21 5k, Sub-45 10k, Sub-45 Spartan Sprint, Sub 1:55 HM (Oregon Wine Country HM)

      JML


        I herniated l5-s1 about 10 years ago and was told that I was a surgical candidate.  I had similar symptoms (shooting pain, numbness) and could barely consider walking at the time.  I wasn't a runner then but was somewhat active and fairly healthy otherwise.  My doctor agreed to let me try a less invasive / non-surgical path and it ultimately worked.    In my experience, it can get better but it took about 18 months of treatment before I started to feel OK again.  FWIW - my advice:

         

        - Find a Doctor that you can trust and really discuss the treatment options and potential outcomes

        - Whatever option you choose, be prepared for a potentially long road to wellness.

        - Be prepared for setbacks.  I re-aggravated mine multiple times on my journey to wellness by trying too much to soon.

        - When it does recover, keeping your core strong is a good idea to keep it from flaring again.,  Planks are my best friend.

        - Going forward, if someone asks you for help moving heavy objects, offer to help them find a mover.

         

         

        All that said, mine did get better.  I actually started running again after a multi-decade break and I am enjoying pain free miles.

         

        Good luck

         2014 goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...


        A Saucy Wench

          This is something to tackle with doctors and a good physical therapist.  Good luck!

          I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

           

          "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7


          Hip Hip Hooray

            Four herniated discs here.   If you have a specific question, I probably have either done it, tried it, or read up on it.  Roll eyes

             

            Yes, it gets better.  But it takes time.   Usually 2-3 months before the body resorbs the material causing the irritation, if it will (sometimes it doesn't get resorbed).  The order of things to try, moving on if the one above doesn't work:

             

            - Physical therapy

            - Cortisone shot

            - Surgery

             

            PT and rest for most cases will resolve things close to 100%.  Your disc will never regain the cushioning material that it lost though, so you will want to consider back-friendly life style changes.  I use a standing desk now, for example, and try to limit my sitting - and watch my posture.

             

            IF the herniation is causing so much nerve pressure that you are at risk of long term nerve issues, they will suggest a microdiscectomy surgery sooner rather than later to remove the piece of the disc.  If you have been on crutches for a while, I would probably move surgery up on my list above.

             

            I have diminished feeling in my right foot, but it doesn't impact my ability to do most things, so I haven't considered surgery at all (in my case, it would be a fusion situation, which is not nearly as successful as the discectomy in terms of long term prognosis, from what I've seen).

             

            I do still run, but low mileage and little speed work.   My case may be extreme though but even so, I can still run.

             

              I wanted to present my experience and also options and risks as you don't want to go into this without that.

              Someone would want to avoid surgery as the "last resort", and attempt to remedy this per Oski -- (1) physical therapy & core strengthening; (2) epidural or cortisone; and (3) surgery. I have had two herniated discs (L4/L5 a laminectomy 18 yrs ago) and L5/S1 (a microdiscectomy 7 yrs ago). 18 years ago I was playing water polo and could feel significant pain in my hamstring and when I got on land it felt like a knife was in my hamstring (along w/left big toe and some other parts of my leg going numb). I was at the stage where I could not really use my leg and was advised (correctly so) to get the surgery. It was about 6 weeks from the time of these symptoms to surgery. Upon waking post-surgery I had regrained all of the feeling in my foot and toes (100% successful and full recovery).

              If your already on crutches your ability to live has already been compromised and your going to need to make a decision pretty quickly. For example, does your MRI show how severe the herniation is (some believe this is not a good indicator because some people can have a severe herniation and not feel anything). In the US they usually will move one quicker to surgery as they say that the longer the nerve is compromised, the less likely that it will regenerate. However, in Europe they generally wait 6-9 months opting for PT/core and epidural, evaluate improvement, before sending someone to surgery (but generally not in your situation if your already on crutches and unable to use the leg).

              In my second surgery, I had the classic sharp shooting (sciatic pain in my upper right leg and butt every time I got up from a seated position). PT & epidurals (had two) did not work (the epidurals are cortisone shot into the disc to help your body absorb the disc material). Note that the epidurals are a risk -- remember that Massachusetts compounding company that  distributed tainted (fungus infected) medicine -- I believe they were among the country's largest distributors of cortisone for epidurals.

              After 6-8 months w/no relief, I opted for surgery with initially a disastrous result. Within two days I was in such excruciating pain that I could only lie flat in a hospital bed (w/the surgeon, his practice and the hospital staff not believing me, trying to send me home, and then trying to force me back into surgery). After moving myself to another location, having several experts in the field being unable to tell me what was going on, and being confined to a hospital bed for six months, made a "miraculous" recovery  You don't want to rely on a miraculous recovery. The surgical outcome (in terms of whether the operation is a success) is usually a function of the level of pain your in, your ability to the use the leg as well as sometimes the severity of the herniation. As of '07 the success rate of this surgery was being reported at 97% (no pain w/one day) and 99+% in terms of success (no pain after a week). These statistics are misleading in the US because more people are pushed to surgery (it was that way thru the 2000's and remember that surgeons and hospitals are incented to do this), so there are more people in the numerator that don't have the severity of your symptoms (so in your situation the success rate is likely to be less than what listed above).

              In my situation, I was in a very atrophied state after those six months confined to a bed, and started walking (took 6 weeks before I could step up a sidewalk curb, 3 months before I could walk up stairs), and about a year later tried to run, to now where average 40-60 miles p week w/out any back pain (when not having a quad or foot injury). This was accomplished via core strengthening (and many of the exercises were not around 8 years ago which may have helped me avoid surgery at that time).

              Rob


              Hip Hip Hooray

                Wow, Rob.  What a story!   I'm glad you're doing better!

                 

                The Mc


                  Sorry to hear about everyone's tales of woe.  I was just diagnosed with a hernaited disc in my neck, c6/c7.  Awful pain and huge loss of sensation in my left hand.  I was expressly told not to run, tried PT and the cortisone to no avail.  Just trying to rest it these days.

                  Papa don't take no mess.


                  Hip Hip Hooray

                    Sorry to hear about everyone's tales of woe.  I was just diagnosed with a hernaited disc in my neck, c6/c7.  Awful pain and huge loss of sensation in my left hand.  I was expressly told not to run, tried PT and the cortisone to no avail.  Just trying to rest it these days.

                     

                    From my research (again, not a doctor), neck surgery is much less problematic then the low back because they can get access via the front of the neck.

                     

                    I was given an at-home traction device to help with nerve compression - have they tried that with you?  That helped a lot.

                     

                    The Mc


                      The PT has been doing manual traction, if that is what you clal it.  They have been talking about surgery, though I am hoping that it doesn't get to that point.

                      Papa don't take no mess.


                      Hip Hip Hooray

                        The PT has been doing manual traction, if that is what you clal it.  They have been talking about surgery, though I am hoping that it doesn't get to that point.

                         

                        The machine looks like this:  Link

                         

                          The Mc -- give traction, massage, pt, meds a good 3-5 months.  I forgot to mention the herniated disc in my neck! The intial symptoms (fr 13 years ago) was burning pain (as if immersed in acid) and numbness in my left arm. After 3 months of PT pain subsided where I was left (and still have) numbness along the inside of my left forefinger and one of my rotator cuffs in left shoulder is ~30% numb (if I swim backstroke I can't feel the stroke w/my left hand but I can feel the stroke for freestyle/fly/breastroke, and I can incline bench more than I can regular bench now). I did not opt for the surgery because the spaces are so much smaller in the neck and thus the margin of error is small.

                          For those considering the surgery -- your discs are like spongy crab meat, and when the surgeon goes in they basically remove the disc matter that is entrapping the nerve (for lumbar surgery they go fr the back, for the neck the incision is from the front). However, once disc matter is removed you have to remember you now have less of it remaining (so if you have a lumbar disc surgery and you do not have a positive result and go back, the surgeon merely removes more of what is left assuming there is enough there to begin with). In the neck, there is not much disc to begin with so you can be in a situation where after surgery you could now have other complications -- such as nerve pain because the discs are sitting on top of each other and this becomes serious & lead to fusion surgery (your range of motion and activities will be severely limited). Fusion surgery is "major surgery". I have not had (I'm not a Dr) but fusion is major major surgery -- the incision is from the abdomen, lasts several hours, they have to move things inside your body (organs, arteries, etc.) to get to your lumbar so this creates scar tissue where your at a high risk if you ever have to internal surgery or if the fusion fails to take and you consider another fusion. I believe fusion is still considered the gold standard in the US. In Europe they have more experience with artificial disc replacement (which unfortunately involves the same procedure as fusion).

                          Rob

                          Reebokabec


                            Wow! thanks for the replies. Some of this sounds pretty frightening. I am going for a shot on Monday and will be doing PT. My Ortho doc doesn't think I need surgery, but who knows? I will have an appointment with him after I get the shot and I will be able to get more information at that time.

                             

                            It is encouraging to see that people have been able to get back to a more active lifestyle after something like this. Obviously it's going to take time. I definitely wouldn't want to re-aggravate anything.


                            Hip Hip Hooray

                              Wow! thanks for the replies. Some of this sounds pretty frightening. I am going for a shot on Monday and will be doing PT. My Ortho doc doesn't think I need surgery, but who knows? I will have an appointment with him after I get the shot and I will be able to get more information at that time.

                               

                              It is encouraging to see that people have been able to get back to a more active lifestyle after something like this. Obviously it's going to take time. I definitely wouldn't want to re-aggravate anything.

                               

                              And get second and third opinions, if you are considering surgery.

                               

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