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Herniated Disc and Sciatica (Read 1219 times)


Former runner

    So 8 weeks and 4 doctors later I still haven't been able to run but managed to start riding my bike a bit. I'm just wondering what other have done with herniated discs and if they have managed to continue running at some point. My options at this point are cortisone shots or surgery to remove the disc fragments. I'm not sure what I'm going to do but hope that at some point I can get my leg back to normal.

     

    Any words of wisdom or inspiration?

    Ross

      All I can give you is sympathy. I have had some minor lower back pain that comes and goes. Now all of a sudden I have pain in my right butt cheek (don't want to hear any jokes) and running down the side of my leg. It doesn't bother me during runs but hurts like hell a few hours later and when I wake up the next day. 

       

      Doctor took X-Rays and saw abnormalities with two of the discs in my lower back. So he ordered an MRI. Please keep me posted on your progress.  I've already began to reduce miles. Hoping I don't have to shut it down all together. But I fear I'm headed in that direction.

      Fall  2013 Goals: Doable sub 22:00 5k; Challenging Sub 21:00 5k; Unlikely Sub 20:00 5k.

        I can relate to your situation in that I've had what the docs have variously called 'herniated', 'dessicated' and 'arthritic' discs in my lumbar vertebra since I was about 18 years old.  In response to particularly bad episodes I just always had to stop running/excercising until it felt better.

         

         There is hope, though.  At least in my case, I can tell you that as I've gotten older and increased my running (or actually my fitness) and dropped weight I rarely, if ever,  have lower back episodes anymore.  I'm very glad I decided against surgery when I was younger, I also never had cortisone injections though both options were offered to me.  I did have one episode that was bad enough for a medrol dose pack which helped immensely.  Other than that, it was always a muscle relaxant and/or anti-inflammatories.

         

        Another thing is that bike riding absolutely exacerbates any lower back stiffness or soreness I might be having.  I used to ride a lot but have cut back on the riding to no more than once a week, if I didn't love mountain biking so much I'd never get on a bicycle again.


        just a simple cat

          When I had a bulging disc pressing on my sciatic nerve, I got an epideral (sp?) injection, some kind of anti-inflammatory right near the disc site.   It was instant relief by the next day, and I was good to run with only a minor flareup 6 years later. 

           

          Running is stupid

          JML


            I herniated a disc (L5-S1) about 9 years ago and it was a LONG road to recovery.  Despite having a nasty looking MRI and a surgeon who wanted to cut out the bulge (microdiscectomy), I worked with another Doctor to develop a more conservative / non-surgical approach.  After an 18 month cycle consisting of Physical Therapy, Deep Tissue massage and accupuncture, I managed to emerge from the pain cycle relatively unscathed.   Like you, I had shooting pains down my leg for much of this time.   I also had many setbacks as figuring out the treatment plan was a bit of a trial and error process.

             

            I did not try to run during this time and confined my 'cardio' work to walking and cycling.    Since recovery, I have rediscovered running and have kept the back problems at bay by being religious about core work (planks are my friend).  Good luck in your journey to resolve your back issues.  My only advice is to be prepared to try a number of different approaches until you find what works for you.  I hope that you have a speedy recovery.

             

            Jon

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


            Former runner

              I herniated a disc (L5-S1) about 9 years ago and it was a LONG road to recovery.  Despite having a nasty looking MRI and a surgeon who wanted to cut out the bulge (microdiscectomy), I worked with another Doctor to develop a more conservative / non-surgical approach.  After an 18 month cycle consisting of Physical Therapy, Deep Tissue massage and accupuncture, I managed to emerge from the pain cycle relatively unscathed.   Like you, I had shooting pains down my leg for much of this time.   I also had many setbacks as figuring out the treatment plan was a bit of a trial and error process.

               

              Yeah it's my L5-S1 disc and the MRI report makes it sound bad. The ironic thing is that I don't have much pain in my back. I think the surgeon was recommending the microdiscetomy. I saw a pain specialist and he does the anti-inflammatory epidurals. I'll probably try that first and see if it helps. They also had some sort of traction device that's supposed to help but said most insurance companies didn't cover the cost.

               

              Thanks

              Ross

              JML


                FWIW - I know three other people who have had microdiscectomy and all of them wish that they had not done it.  One of them cannot walk for more than 5 minutes at a time and the other two still experience pain.    That being said, there are situations where surgery is mandated if the nerve impingement is so severe that you are risking permanent damage.  Consult your Doctor(s) and figure out what is best for you.

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

                  I had sciatica back in late 2006 and it turned out to be caused by bulging discs in my L4-L5 and L5-S1.  I did lots of physical therapy.  The theory is that if you strengthen your core muscles, they'll hold your spine in a better position so the discs would not agitate your nerves as much.  I think it's a life long condition that can be managed but never cured.

                   

                  One thing I found to be very helpful was and still is, is an inversion table.  The physical therapist did traction on me and I told her that I noticed a difference.  She said I can try using the inversion table on my own.  I started out with partial inversion (30-45 degrees), and then went full inversion.  About a month after I started using it on a daily basis, I noticed I was no longer in pain every day.  I hang upside down for about 2 consecutive minutes once a day.  It allowed me to go back to running and even PR'ed in a marathon.  Obviously, you should consult with your medical professionals to see if it's a good option for you.

                   

                  From what I heard, patients that underwent back surgery are in no less pain 2 years after the operation than people that did not do surgery.  You should definitely go the physical therapy route first and only consider surgery if you have no other option.  Spine problems take a long time to heal and they're life time problems.  However, they can be controlled with daily exercises.  Good luck!

                  BOWSER


                    Long time lower back pain sufferer (bulged degenerated discs (one torn), bone spurs, closing fiscet joints, etc). I've tried a bunch of medical and PT stuff to relieve my pain (up to cortisone shots but not surgery). The only thing 2 things that has really helped me to manage shortening the time it takes between bulged disc/ sciatica episodes is from a book called (I think) The Better Back Book.

                     

                    First, lay down face down, flat, on a hard floor for 5 minutes, then slowly work up to your elbows, and finally to your hands with arms extended (I've never made it to this last move, but only to the elbows). When first laying down flat or moving up to your elbows, the book explains that you may feel discomfort or pain. This is due to your back muscles splinting. The splinting however pushes the bulged disc back into its non-bulged position. Sounds crazy, but it totally helps me.

                     

                    Second, lay on your back, knees up and feet flat on the floor. Place a yoga ball or balled up pillow between your legs and slowly, softly squeeze your knees together. I guess the key is to not do this too hard as it activates the "wrong" muscles for this to work. Any how, this is supposed to help the lower back muscles release, not sure how, but I've had good success with it. 

                     

                    Good luck.

                      First, lay down face down, flat, on a hard floor for 5 minutes, then slowly work up to your elbows, and finally to your hands with arms extended (I've never made it to this last move, but only to the elbows). When first laying down flat or moving up to your elbows, the book explains that you may feel discomfort or pain. This is due to your back muscles splinting. The splinting however pushes the bulged disc back into its non-bulged position. Sounds crazy, but it totally helps me.

                       

                      The first part sounds like the plank position, which is a PT exercise.  I don't know the name for the second part.  You should always consult your doctor/PT before doing these exercises because they can worsen your condition if not done correctly or if your back is too weak for these exercises.

                       

                      There are plenty of things you can do.  From what I understand, the discs don't receive much blood flow so the injury takes time to heal.  Hydration supposedly can affect your discomfort level.  If the discs are hydrated, then they can push your vertebrae farther apart, which would then reduce the pressure on the nerves and thus lessen the pain.  Movement is one way to keep the discs hydrated.  You'll learn which exercises are safe for your back and how to do them correctly.  Until then, consult with your PT.

                        I have a long history with back problems, mostly with my L4/L5 disc. Three ruptures in 25 years, and the last time (December 2011) was especially nasty -- a close brush with cauda equina syndrome. So I know exactly how you feel.

                         

                        My advice is, first, work with a doctor who believes in taking the most conservative possible approach to treatment. This time around, I went with a course of oral prednisone and physical therapy; over time, my body re-absorbed the ejected disc material and the sciatica/saddle anaesthesia resolved itself.

                         

                        As others here have pointed out, surgery is just as likely to cause problems as it is to fix them. The surgery can also introduce other complications -- possible painkiller dependency, loss of fitness -- that create a vicious cycle. Except in a true medical crisis (i.e. cauda equina syndrome) it's not worth the risk IMO.

                         

                        Second, work with a doctor who is totally committed to getting you back to normal activity, including running. My current orthopedist's attitude is that if I CAN run, then I SHOULD be running. As a result, I was back on the treadmill about 10 days after the height of my last back episode, and back to full mileage not long after that.

                         

                        I also have some signs of spinal arthritis. A previous doctor insisted that running would aggravate this and turn me into a cripple. There's absolutely no scientific evidence to support that, and it was my cue to find a competent orthopedist.

                         

                        One more thing: work with a physical therapist and stay with a regimen of good core-strengthening exercises. Also pay attention to your running form, especially using proper arm movement to avoid upper-body rotation.

                          I agree with a conservative approach, including PT to guide your exercise-based recovery.

                           

                          A mechanical approach to disc issues can be very helpful. 

                          We use this book in our clinic:

                           

                          http://www.amazon.com/dp/0987650408/?tag=hyprod-20&hvadid=15473565099&hvpos=1o2&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4144160601910233530&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&ref=asc_df_0987650408

                           

                          based on the McKenzie approach to back pain (esp effective for that caused by disc hernations).

                          The book is great, but an individual evaluation is much better, to see what you need (there are very few generic exercises that work for everyone).  If I were to give out generic advice: avoid slouching, bending forward, and twisting. Try lying flat on your belly, but only if it doesn't send further pain down your leg.  Jackalope and Bowser have good ideas, too, with the belly-lying progressing to elbows, and with traction or inversion.

                           

                          Anecdotal evidence: I herniated my own disc at the end of June, was in a world of pain, and used a short dose of steroids and a mechanical rehab approach to get back to running.  Doing great, no pain while running, only when I sit too long.

                           

                          Good luck.

                          -Jenn

                          Keep building the base.

                          2012 goals: Under 30 minutes 5K, over 20 miles/week


                          Ostrich runner

                            I'm a disability lawyer, so by nature I see things when they go badly. That said, I see too many people with bad results from diskectomy to alloy me to consider it as anything other than a last option. 

                            http://www.runningahead.com/groups/Indy/forum

                            Poppypbr


                              So 8 weeks and 4 doctors later I still haven't been able to run but managed to start riding my bike a bit. I'm just wondering what other have done with herniated discs and if they have managed to continue running at some point. My options at this point are cortisone shots or surgery to remove the disc fragments. I'm not sure what I'm going to do but hope that at some point I can get my leg back to normal.

                               

                              Any words of wisdom or inspiration?

                               My father-in-law had surgery done in the sixties. Then several years later, when opening the garage door, he"slipped" another disc (they don't "slip" by the way but they do herniate...leak fluid). So he had surgery again because at that time, people did not question their doctors. With two discs and two vertebra removed, his 6'5" height was now down to 6'1". Then, he "slipped" a third disc. When he went to the doctor the third time, he was told there was nothing they could do...that removing another disc and vertebra would compress his internal organs too much and was likely to cause such serious problems that they could not operate further...that to do so would constitute malpractice. So they set him on a course of treatment to deal with the disc problem. You can imagine his anger...he was put through surgery twice and the recovery and outcome was not pleasant and the final result is that it did no good and the resulting physical weakness from all the recovery is probably what precipitated the rather rare leaking of a third disc.

                               

                              When his son ran into the same problem in his thirties, he went to see an orthopedic surgeon who had also been to school for physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. Huge difference: advised no surgery whatsoever except as an absolute last resort when there was no other option. He put my brother-in-law through physical therapy, home exercises, bed rest for several weeks, special chair from his employer, and extra time off for healing. Its been 25 years and the disc has healed and although he has to be careful and exercise regularly, he lives a normal life. Guess what he does to keep his back in tip-top condition: he runs every day, something he never did before he had back trouble, on a treadmill that his medical insurance picked up a portion of the cost.

                               

                              The cortisone shots will "melt"connective tissue. Although there is the chance that there "might" be some scar tissue, the cortisone shots will melt ALL connective tissue and make the general area weaker than it was before. Without a complete explanation as to why this is suggested, how it will work, what it will do, and what guarantees there are for a positive outcome, I suggest you refuse that treatment.

                               

                              Remove disc fragments? I'd run out of that office. You need to understand that some people just have this problem of periodic disc leakage and that it will heal but it takes a lot of time, proper rest during the acute phase and proper exercises to strengthen and bolster the area. I also recommend that you supplement your diet with 1500 mg glucosamine and 1200 mg chondroitin along with a good multiviamin with multimineral and make sure you are getting 100+% of manganese and large dosages of vitamin C. All four must be present for the body to be able to produce connective tissue. There are those that will argue that you should just take care of it through your diet (which apparently, however, hasn't worked so well for you) which you can do if you eat like our ancestors: that means eating all of the gristle, sinew and tough connective parts in meat, eating the ends of the chicken drumsticks including the soft ends of the bones.

                               

                              I'm 64 and I work out every day. I take the above TWICE a day (ALWAYS WITH A MEAL SO THEY WILL WORK!!!) 5 out of seven days a week. The abdominal hernia and two thoracic hernias I have are well on their way to healing on their own (with some concentrated moderate exercises for the areas involved) which is the way things were done in past centuries before there was anesthesia and operating rooms. People had disc problems prior to the twentieth century...they dealt with the problem by resting during the acute phase, then physical therapy, exercise and nutrition. You should consider that your diet is probably not giving you what you need to keep your connective tissues strong and healthy and you should make appropriate changes to compensate.

                               

                              Wisdom from my father: "Always remember that Doctors have a license to practice medicine. Just don't let them practice it on you!" He was diabetic as a young adult and refused to take insulin, dealt with his sugar issues by adjusting his diet dramatically and outlived 3 of his 4 doctors. He passed away in his 80's. If he were alive today, he would supplement his diet with cinnamon and chromium.

                               

                              Two exercise items to consider for your problem: a magnetic resistance exercise bike (indoor) or a"cross country skier". The skier has the advantage of being very gentle and also full body. Both are no impact and should not aggravate your back any more than standing or sitting does. They could help you.

                                If you have an open mind to the possibility that your pain could be stress related you might check out Dr Sarno's book. I went from having to use a wheelchair in the grocery store due to severe sciatica and low back pain to having no pain at all after a weekend of reading the book. I had MRIs showing multiple severe disk herniations and a long term history of back issues (congenital defects including partially fused sacrum, fused l4-l5, scoliosis, etc). The navy looked at my back wouldn't let me in when I was 18 (43 now), in spite of scoring well on their tests. Not long after getting through the book I deadlifted 600 lbs and squatted over 500. I haven't had any significant issues in the years since and when some pain flares up I make a point to take inventory of the stressors in my life.

                                 

                                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.

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