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  • L5-S1 Severe Herniated Disc

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    Old 10-11-2021, 10:23 AM   #1
    backtolivin
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    Lightbulb L5-S1 Severe Herniated Disc

    I hope this story helps you!

    I am currently a 41 year old male. After a fierce battle with a L5-S1 herniated disk when I was 40, I feel compelled to share my story with others.

    At 40 years old, I was an otherwise happy, healthy husband and father of 2. I have always taken pride at being in pretty descent shape for my age but in the Winter of 2009....all that was about to change....

    Here is my story and timeline:

    On February 15, 2009
    I was skiing at Crystal Mountain in Michigan. I was shooting down a black diamond and didn't see another skier coming from my right side near the base of the hill. We converged quickly and collided at near full-speed. We both hopped to our feet--apparently unhurt. At the time, I remember thinking to myself...."wow!! I must be in pretty good shape if I can absorb a hit like that and bounce right back up"....little did I know!!! It was VERY irresponsible of me to be skiing that fast near the base of the mountain by the way.

    Between February 15, 2009 and March 18,2009
    I lived normally. I went to work everyday and did my normal workout regiment of running 3 miles on a treadmill at about 7.2 mph 3 times per week. I also caught some virus and had this HORRIBLE, persistent cough that would not go away.

    On or around March 18, 2009
    I was walking around a GM assembly plant at work (coughing and feeling generally lousy). All of a sudden, I noticed a sharp pain that originated in my buttocks and traveled all the way south down my right leg to the nub of my ankle. It was so bad that I had to sit down.

    Between March 18, 2009 and April 21, 2009....
    I am kind of the stubborn type and figured whatever this was, it would eventually correct itself. My wife told me that this sounded like sciatic nerve pain and I should see a doctor. I resisted and proceeded to go to work every day, run on the treadmill 5 more times, and even drive to Orlando, Florida for Spring Break. I remember being so miserable walking thru those theme parks. I was popping ibuprofen like it was candy and stopping to sit down every few minutes. This pain really made the entire trip miserable for everyone. My mind raced as to what could possibly have initiated this incredible pain. Did that terrible cough trigger some problem in my back or spine??

    April 21, 2009
    I finally decided to go see my primary care physician regarding this issue. He asked me a series of questions...car accident? fall at home or on the job? sleeping awkwardly? any other trauma to the back? All I could come up with was that horrible cough. He prescribed me a series of pain pills and an x-ray. He said (due to insurance rules) we had to get x-rays taken and go thru some required waiting period before the insurance company would consider funding an MRI on my behalf.

    April 21, 2009 thru May 18, 2009
    The original pain meds didn't help at all. I went back to the doctor and he prescribed muscle relaxants and higher strength pain meds. The muscle relaxants did nothing to help. The higher strength pain meds maybe took 10% of the edge off but nothing more. I continued to struggle living a normal life. In stores, I could not wait in line without sitting down off to the side. I was the coach of my son's baseball team and had to sit on the bench. Getting dressed was an increasing struggle--especially putting socks on and tieing shoes. For whatever reason, standing in the shower with the hot water streaming down on my back was traumatic. I would be taking 2 or 3 minute showers and moaning continuously until I got out and immediately layed down on the bed.....Privately I wondered if I was permanently damaged and if I would ever live a normal life again. I was quickly losing my spirit for life. I was half a person.

    Sometime during this period I had an "ah hah" moment. I remembered the ski accident and, without a doubt, knew instantly that is where and how I became injured.

    May 18, 2009
    The insurance company finally allowed me to get an MRI. The results came back about a week later and showed 3 herniated disks!! The worst one at L5-S1 was causing all my sciatic pain down my right leg. I was referred to a Pain Management Clinic.

    May 18, 2009 thru June 4, 2009
    I researched and learned all I could about herniated disks. I realized that coughing and running were absolutely making my problem worse....the last time I ran was April 15, 2009. I struggled constantly to find a comfortable position when standing, sitting, or lying down. I could never really find a "go to" position that achieved 100% relief. There was always pain--just different degrees.

    June 4, 2009--AM
    I finally was able to get an appointment at the Pain Management Clinic. The anesthesiologist gave me a steroid injection at the troubled L5-S1 site in my spine. The injection was similar to the epideral injection women get while giving birth. During the injection, I was only given local anesthetic and actually saw the image of the needle entering my spine on the TV monitor that served to assist the surgeon with injection placement. It was a mistake for me to see that...I wished I would have closed my eyes.

    June 4, 2009--PM
    I felt 100% better!! I walked out of that clinic and felt on top of the world--like a normal person again. It was short-lived!! The only reason I felt so good was because the local anesthetic completely masked my sciatic pain at the spinal site. When it wore off, the sciatic pain returned but it was significantly improved.

    June 18, 2009 and July 2, 2009
    I had 2 similar steroid injections at L5-S1. The biggest improvement I noticed was after injection #2. I was feeling about 80% better after the 3 injections but privately wondered if I was permanently "handicapped" and whether or not I would ever be pain-free again. Whether I would be able to play with my kids like normal, run, play golf, ski, etc, etc, etc.

    July 2, 2009 thru September 1, 2009
    I continued to function at about 80% pain free. My wife was to begin a fulltime job as a teacher for the 2009-10 school year on September 1, 2009. Her benefits were significantly better than mine so I was biding time for her benefits to begin before starting any sort of physical therapy.

    September 1, 2009 thru October 1, 2009
    I started one month of physical therapy. The therapist went over strategies for standing up, sitting down, and moving to minimize pain. He gave me a series of exercises designed to facilitate absorption of the disk material in the body and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. The first two weeks were great!! I really felt like the PT was helping. Week 3 was a different story. The sciatic pain slowly started creeping back into my life. By October 1st I cut off the PT and contacted the pain clinic again.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009 AM
    I was able to get an appointment at the pain clinic on this day. The anesthesiologist wanted to do one more injection (although they usually only do 3 in a 6-month period). He performed the injection and I went home. I felt pretty good but was extremely tired. I decided against going to work and slept. When I woke at about 4pm (with the local anesthetic wore off), my sciatic pain was UNBEARABLE down my right leg. My wife returned from work to me moaning, crying, and pretty much ready to die. My daughter couldn't believe her eyes when she returned from school to see her dad like this. My wife said "%$%^$ this...we are going to emergency!!"

    I can only guess that the injection needle aggravated the nerve by nudging the disc material to a position that added more pressure to the sciatic trigger of the spine.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009 PM
    Once at the emergency room, I was in such discomfort that I walked/scurried around screaming, swearing, bending over, and generally making an *** of myself in front of the entire waiting area. I have never been in such pain before. Upon admittance, I felt like I was in an episode of "Saving Private Ryan". They had me on an IV while stabbing my thigh with injections for pain. My dad was there and all we could do was laugh at each other since this pain was so ridiculous. I remember him saying...."Jeff--this isn't a laughing matter!!". Honestly, none of these drugs relieved my pain completely--just partially. I remember one of the drugs making me feel so out of it that I couldn't "realize" there was pain but I could tell it was still there...if that makes sense. I had morphine, dilaudid, vicodin, Darvocet, and other pain meds that I've never heard of. The dilaudid was especially nasty psychologically.

    October 8, 2009 thru October 16, 2009
    I was in the hospital during this time. Taking a shower or going to the bathroom seemed to be a task I had to get psyched up for. I was so drugged up I couldn't remember what happened 5 minutes prior. Many doctors visited me including an orthopedic and neuro-surgeon. The orthopedic surgeon educated me on a procedure called a microdiscectomy in which they scrape out the disc material to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord that is causing the sciatic pain.

    He also noted that--based on the MRI--I should have been in the hospital 6 months prior!! My wife and I agreed to the surgery and, on October 12, the surgeon performed the microdiscectomy on my back.

    The disc material for someone my age looks like crab meat.

    After surgery, I was on my feet that evening with the nursing staff helping me out. I was actually walking down the hall by myself within hours post-op. I did have some numbness in my last two toes but that went aways within weeks of surgery (thank goodness).

    October 16, 2009 thru January 17, 2010
    My rehab included walking and not lifting anything over 15 lbs. I was very protective of my back and STRICTLY followed the doctor's orders for a successful recovery. I really just took it pretty easy and had lots of support from my family and work.

    January 17, 2010
    I ran again (successfully) for the first time since 4/15/2009. That was a milestone of sorts.

    January 17, 2010 to June 21, 2010 (current)
    I feel great. My back feels normal, I have no pain or numbness down my leg, and I feel strong. I have been skiing, golfing, playing with my kids, and running like normal. I have been lifting things carefully and never overdo it. Sometimes I can tell if I'm overdoing it when I feel some slight tingling in my toes. If that occurs, I just back off. It has taken some work to get my right calf and hamstring back conditioned for running but they feel good now.

    In general, I completely have my life back and feel like a normal human being again!! In fact, I am going to run a 5k this coming weekend!!

    I hope this helps you out. I will NEVER EVER question anyone's pain again. I believe I am a better, more empathetic person after living thru this.

     
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    Old 10-11-2021, 12:17 PM   #2
    Dado2
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    Re: L5-S1 Severe Herniated Disc

    So are you now 10 years out? How have you been since? I'm glad you did so well with the microdiscectomy!

     
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    Old 10-11-2021, 01:36 PM   #3
    backtolivin
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    Re: L5-S1 Severe Herniated Disc

    I'm nearly 12 years out and still no issues!! Best operation I could have done. Helped me get back to a normal life in every way possible.

     
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    herniated disc, l5-s1, microdiscectomy, sciatic pain



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