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Herniated Disc and Sciatica (Read 1218 times)

    I do realize many will consider this quacky and unbelievable (including my brother who has now had 2 surgeries for disk herniations and is chronically on pain meds and has to constantly baby his back). I can only say that it really did work for me and that I know a few others with similar stories.

     

    It's not nearly as quacky and unbelievable as a doctor who'll push back surgery as anything other than an absolute last resort.

     

    Also, I'll second that recc for the "Treat Your Own Back" book in the Amazon link above. I have used the McKenzie protocol, and I found it to be very helpful.

      It's not nearly as quacky and unbelievable as a doctor who'll push back surgery as anything other than an absolute last resort.

       

      When all you've got is a hammer everything's a nail?


      Former runner

        Update. Today was supposed to be my first marathon but that didn’t exactly happen. Fortunately I don’t have any back pain and my leg issues are pretty minor. Currently I have some numbness in my toes and my hamstring is a bit stiff. But otherwise I can get around without any problems and managed to put a few miles on the bike over the past couple months. I started seeing a physical therapist last week. The plan is to work on core strength and see if that helps resolve the remaining issues.

        I did decide to try the epidural without much luck. Well I guess I was pretty lucky that the doctor didn’t receive tainted meds. They didn’t tell me where they got them but it wasn’t one of the batches linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak.

        I guess at this point it’s just one day at a time. Maybe someday I can get back to running. If not I’ll just have to stick to the bike. Thanks for all the comments. It's been helpful.

        Ross

        gusS


          spam


          Needs more cowbell!

            Thanks to the spammer for bumping this post, as it's sorta timely info. for me.

             

            Can I ask at what age most of you developed lower back stuff?  Had you had low back pain/weakness for a long while or frequently in the past?

             

            Almost 3 weeks ago I landed myself with some miserable lower back/butt/hip pain for nearly 2 weeks.  It's MUCH better today, but I credit that with taking it really easy for a couple of weeks and doing plenty of yoga stretching and resuming consistent core work.  My back had felt achey/stiff/weak for months and I sorta ignored it, knowing that I could probably improve things by doing 3-2 days/week of core workouts.  I learned the hard way that ignoring little things can make them very big.  The tipping point seemed to be a cyclocross race 3 weeks ago.  The long uphills and lots of rough, rooty terrain irritated the hell out of me and had me popping NSAIDS several times/day for about a week.

             

            My lower back is still not perfect and I suspect I'm dealing with some mild sciatica.  Riding in the car for long has me needing to move and stretch.  I did a 5k race yesterday (not all-out race pace.  My kid did his first 5k and I was along for the ride.  I'm undertrained and wanted to save something for today) and a CX race today.  I opted to ride my mountain bike, instead of my CX bike, since the course had some really rough areas and I figured the bigger, squishier tires and front suspension would give my back a bit of a break.

             

            The odd thing is that I am nearly 40 and this is my first real bout with lower-back hell.  My dad has always had bouts with lower-back issues, but he doesn't do anything to strengthen his back/core.  I also have a really anterior-rotated pelvis (aka swayback), which I'm sure doesn't help.  After reading more about that it's a wonder that I've been lucky for so long (aside from struggling to find bike saddles that aren't uncomfortable).  That's another thing that can be improved by having stronger/shorter abdominal muscles, which pull the pelvis into better alignment.

            I shoot pretty things! ~

            '14 Goals:

            • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

            • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

            JML


               

              Can I ask at what age most of you developed lower back stuff?  Had you had low back pain/weakness for a long while or frequently in the past?

               

               

               

              My trouble started in my early 30s (I am 44 now) and was largely out of the blue.  I had a couple of back flareups before that due to poor choices (lifting absurdly heavy things, playing contact sports etc) but nothing like the sustained malaise of a herniated disk.   It sounds like you have found things that work for your issue to help it behave.  I have also found that keeping my core strong and flexible has been very helpful in keeping my lower back issues at bay.  In particular, yoga and regular sets of both front and side planks does the trick for me.

               

              Good luck!

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


              Needs more cowbell!

                Thanks, JML!  I tell ya', after this experience I REALLY feel for people who deal with that pain a lot.  400mg of Advil ever 4 hours was hardly touching it.  I get how people can develop addictions to pain meds, even though I hate the side-effects of narcotics.  Had things not eased-up on their own I was thisclose to calling my doctor just to have some quick pain relief in the form of REAL pain meds and/or muscle relaxers.  I was having trouble sleeping for at least a week, since I couldn't get comfortable and stay that way.  That sort of pain really starts to mess with a person and greatly reduce quality of life, especially since it limited my doing the very things I enjoy doing most.

                I shoot pretty things! ~

                '14 Goals:

                • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

                • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                Feeling the growl again

                  I started developing piriformis/sciatic issues intermittently about 6 years ago, at 28.  About three years ago I started somehow injuring my back with seemingly minor errors in form with objects of very moderate weight about 2X per year, resulting in ~1 week of pain and not able to do much.  The last time, about 10 months ago, I was simply holding a gallon jug of water out to the side to dump it out, reached out so my spine was just a little bent, and BANG, I'm on the floor, crawling back into the house in severe pain.

                   

                  I've not had it looked into but the impact on my running has been significant the last 6 months.  A few weeks ago just doing some bending yard work...nothing major...it ended up sore.  I rested it for a week then tried to run my goal 50-miler.  I came up to 32 miles feeling good and running a very nice pace and my back was getting more and more sore....then BANG, I went from ~7min pace to barely being able to keep myself upright and walk in just a few strides.  DNF.

                   

                  For now I'm taking the core strength route, and trying to run far enough to push it to its limits as often as I can (trying to challenge it to get stronger).  In my case I think I have an underlying, older problem, complicated by sitting too much and work and a weak core allowing me to run with some sort of bad hitch in my form that I didn't used to have.

                  "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                   

                    Can I ask at what age most of you developed lower back stuff?  Had you had low back pain/weakness for a long while or frequently in the past?

                     

                    My first major problem was age 19. Then again at age 25, age 34 and finally late last year (age 43). I'm a lot like Spaniel in that it's usually some random, totally innocuous thing that sets me off. Last time -- a potentially dangerous central herniation -- I was bending over to turn off a lamp. The time before that it was picking up a laundry basket.

                     

                    Over the last 8 months I have paid a lot more attention to consistent core strengthening exercises. I hope it pays off.

                     

                    Running actually helps when I'm having a flare-up. I'm not sure why, but it's a good thing.


                    Needs more cowbell!

                      Running actually helps when I'm having a flare-up. I'm not sure why, but it's a good thing.

                       

                      I found this to be true when my back was buggin'.  It was when I was not running that it bothered me most.  Being on the bike was OK, too, as long as I kept cadence high and stayed on flats.  Uphills were hurty.  Today uphills didn't cause much, if any, discomfort...which made me really happy.  I still didn't push as hard as I might have otherwise.

                       

                      Those random and seemingly out-of-the-blue bad spasms is the sort of thing my dad has had.  My back was mildly weak and irritated for months before it really became an issue--I had LOTS of warning.  The issues my dad has had were things that came on sudden, AFAIK.  I should ask him if he ever had any sorts of weakness or discomfort before he had bad spasms that landed him in bed on muscle relaxers.  He's an electrician and does some appliance delivery work, so those things always kept him from being able to work for a day or two.

                      I shoot pretty things! ~

                      '14 Goals:

                      • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

                      • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                      Feeling the growl again

                         

                         Running actually helps when I'm having a flare-up. I'm not sure why, but it's a good thing.

                         

                        +1, although in moderation in both volume and max length of run.

                        "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                         


                        Former runner

                          Can I ask at what age most of you developed lower back stuff?  Had you had low back pain/weakness for a long while or frequently in the past?

                           

                          In hind sight I'd have to say mine started a couple years ago at age 40. Not that I knew it at the time. I didn't have much in the way of back pain but the bulging disc was probably causing the pain in my butt and hamstring. At the time I just thought it was the result of overtraining. Very rarely has my back pain been the result of lifting something. I think my sciatica is the result of using a shovel in the garden on the hard clay soil. Once my back started hurting I took the week off from running. The next time I went for a run I followed it with 6 hours in a car traveling to a wedding. That's when I noticed the pain shooting down my leg.

                           

                          Out of all the specialists I've seen in the past few months I'd say the physical therapist has helped me the most. The neurosurgeon and pain specialist seemed to focus more on the MRI report than what I was telling them. The PT didn't even ask to see the MRI. He actually evaluated my problems by examining me and listened to what I had to say. Over the course of half a dozen visits we came up with a variety of core strength training exercises for me to do on a daily basis. It started with just a few but now it takes me a good hour to complete them all. I have noticed difference in my core and it seems to be helping with the weakness in my one leg. Hard to say when I might get back to running but that's lower on the priority list at this point.

                           

                          This stuff definitely messes with your quality of life when you are used to being active.

                          Ross


                          Needs more cowbell!

                            This stuff definitely messes with your quality of life when you are used to being active.

                             

                            So true.  I really feel for folks who deal with this a lot after having a relatively small taste of back stuff.  Sucks.  Getting old is stupid.

                            I shoot pretty things! ~

                            '14 Goals:

                            • 6 duathlons (1 Olympic distance)

                            • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                              Wow, this thread hits home. 

                               

                              I ruptured my L4/L5 disc in late July/early August of this year.  My last run was Aug 5.  I still haven't been able to run since then, though I'm getting *really* close now.  Before this, I ran a LOT.  Completed my third Hardrock Hundred in July and have done other hard 100 mile mountain races, etc.  To go from one of the hardest ultras on the planet to nothing in 4 weeks completely sucked. My pain was a 100 out of 10 for about 3 weeks.  Opiate painkillers didn't help *at all*.

                               

                              I think a desk job + weak core and glutes + terribly tight hip flexors and hamstrings + hours of standing bent at the waist pulling weeds in my garden were what finally broke the camel's back, so to speak.  (that position puts a TON of strain on the low back... enough that my PTs said "this is a position you are never allowed to do again").

                               

                              My herniation/rupture is quite severe... about as bad as you can get w/o cauda equina syndrome. Full rupture with the material displaced down the spinal canal (though not a full sequestration).  A couple of PTs said "surgery" a couple of surgeons said "surgery".  Thankfully, I found some great PTs that work with a lot of athletes and they said "well, this is one of the worst MRIs we've ever seen, and it may need surgical intervention, but let's give it a try".  I do believe we may actually get through this w/o surgery (or even an injection).  They have been brilliant.

                               

                              Things that helped/are helping:

                              - Find a PT that is GREAT and doesn't just follow a pre-printed protocol for an injury.  My PTs constantly re-eval and change things up, often on the fly.  Don't settle for an average PT.  One that specializes in Functional Movement screening is highly recommended.

                              - Dry needling (especially with e-stim on the needles)  This was key to getting the muscle guarding to relax so I could actually start doing some work on the weaknesses.

                              - McKenzies help for mild herniations, but with my displaced rupture, the didn't do much.  There's no way to mechanically force an L shaped chunk back in place.  Great for most herniations though.

                              - walking, especially uphill (causes 'nerve gliding')

                              - working on the posterior chain muscles, especially the glutes.  Runners have notoriously weak glutes. 

                              - hamstring stretching (carefully, as it's easy to mess up the back if you do it wrong)

                              - hip flexor streatching

                              - psoas release (this hurts like hell, but helps a LOT because the psoas (a hip flexor) attaches directly to the lumbar vertebrae and if tight, can pull it into abnormal flexion)

                              - Stand for 2-3 hours after waking. Do NOT sit or bend over during this period.  The discs absorb fluid as we sleep and re-herniation is *much* more common in the morning

                              - Standing workstation (this was KEY for me... I have a desk job, which was the likely major culprit for me)

                              - Recently, I've started using a traction table.  I tried it very early on, but was way too acute to tolerate it.  Now it seems to help quite a bit. An inversion table would do the same, I just had free access to a traction table (wife is a PT), plus the traction table takes up a lot less room.

                              - Functional Movement Screening - an in-depth look at WHY this happened in the first place and a plan of action to correct the deficits.  THIS IS KEY OR IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!  Runners tend to have horrid movement patterns.  We go full bore in the saggital plane and have messed up hips, weak cores, tight hamstrings, no mobility, poor stabilization, terrible rotation, etc, etc, etc. 

                               

                              And last but not least:

                              - Sometimes an epidural steroid injection helps.  About 50% of the time it works.  It obviously carries it's own risks, but less than surgery. 

                              - Sometimes surgery really is the answer.  Loss of bowel and/or bladder control is a medical emergency and requires surgery.  Foot drop requires surgery (if you want to run again).   I think it's worth trying the conservative approach for many reasons:  surgery can cause problems, it's expensive, you're out for 6-12 weeks post-op, by trying a conservative approach you can correct a lot of problems that will then make surgery more successful, etc... but sometimes it's required.

                              - If you need surgery, in general (but not always) it's best to find a great neurosurgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon. 

                              - The minimally-invasive microdiscectomy is the way to go (vs standard microdiscectomy).  The success rate is very high, post-op pain is significantly less, and the time to return to running is quite a bit shorter.

                              - NOTE: This procedure DOES NOT remove the entire disc, just the piece sticking into the spinal canal.  A lot of people confuse it with a full discectomy with laminectomy and lumbar fusion.  A fusion is a whole nuther can of worms... to be avoided at all costs.  Fusions *are not* very successful... and are often the horror stories you hear of in spinal surgeries. 

                               

                              Anyway, my $0.02.  I got in Hardrock in 2013 and I'm planning to run it... so here's hoping PT keeps working.  Wink

                                Oh, and I was 38 when this happened, zoom-zoom. 

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