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Back Problems board


Hi All,

I'm 37 years old with a moderate size central disc herniation at L5-S1, disc material extending into the epidural space and no compression of the thecal sac or nerve roots. I also have some problems at L4-L5, but it's the L5-S1 herniation that appears to be ruining my life right now.

I've had severe pain in my lower back and legs (mostly one leg) for three months now. The orthopod had me lie in bed for 4 weeks with my legs up, but that didn't help. Then I had 3 epidurals over 8 weeks, which helped some but not in any lasting way. I have also been in PT for about 8 weeks, which gives me some relief, albeit temporary. I am using Lidoderm patches on my back and one leg, but had a bad side effect when I used three at once. I take an NSAID or Tylenol for the pain during the day and a Vicoden 7.5 as soon as work ends.

I have a desk job, and sitting has been out of the question the past 8 weeks. Taking Vicoden or Percocet at work is also out of the question because I am too fuzzy to concentrate. I have been standing much of the time, got an ergonomic chair (which doesn't help), and do a lot of stretching daily. I use ice a couple times a day, a very hot shower in the morning to get going, and mostly just try to bear the pain.

I need to see the Pain doc again very soon and I know he wants to send me for a surgical consult. I think he thinks a microdiscectomy might help. My physical therapist thinks it's a bad idea, and that I should stand all the time while I am working on getting better, but she's not the one standing in place for 8-10 hours a day -- it's exhausting and it still doesn't make the pain in my leg go away enough. After my 3rd epidural, the PT had me exercising two days later and the pain has been non-stop since then, unless I am lying down with my legs up and an ice pack. She then told me that she probably had me exercising too soon after the shot. Mostly I walk on a treadmill for 1/2 hour at a time.

No stranger to surgery (I had a C5-C7 fusion 7 years ago), I am terrified of having another one. My neck is mostly better now, but it took over a year post-surgery for my neck to feel better. I realize that microdiscectomies are much simpler than fusions with bone and hardware, but I've read the horror stories on this board about failed back surgeries and am afraid.

Sorry for the long preamble, but my question is this -- did anyone try anything after epidural steroids that helped? (I want to avoid opiates as much as possible because I lived on them for years with my neck and it wasn't pretty. Plus, the pain doctor I am seeing now is stingy with opiates.) What can I expect the doc to recommend if the ESI didn't help? Injections of nerve blocks? My MRI from November didn't show spinal cord compression, but something is causing all the leg pain. Sometimes it's so bad I want to chew my leg off. Did anyone ever have a microdiscectomy and feel good afterwards?

Note that I postponed my neck surgery for a year trying alternative methods and needed it anyway because I had nerve damage. I'm trying to do the right thing to help myself, but I don't know what it is. I'm a pretty active person and feel like I have the spine of an 80 year old.

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Schragie