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Thread: Herniated disk recovery...?

  1. #1
    Senior Member ^MtnMike^'s Avatar
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    Unhappy Herniated disk recovery...?

    After about 4 days of barely being able to walk (much less hike!) an MRI has shown 2 herniated disks in my lower back. Still waiting to get an appointment with the specialist to find out what my treatment options are, but has anyone else had problems with a herniated disk (or disks)? Are the treatments generally quick and effective (i.e. will I likely to be hiking again in the near future?)

    Mike
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    Pictures! (updated 7/22/10)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    I am recovering from a similar (but not identical) condition: spinal stenosis. It has been a long journey, a mix of smooth sailing and rough spots.

    Initial attack (March 2003) had me home-bound for several weeks, until I got an injection of steroids in the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the spinal cord (epidural steroid injection). It eventually controlled the pain.

    Over the next few years the pain came and went, whenever it was severe I would have another epidural steroid shot (you can have up to three a year, I averaged three every two years).

    In my case surgery did not appear to be indicated, partly due to the difficulty of dealing with the lesion I had, and partly due to my good response to non-surgical treatment.

    Eventually the lesion started compressing the motor nerves (those that move the muscles) and suddenly my left quad was very weak (almost paralyzed). Surgery with excellent post-surgical physical therapy has me on the road to recovery, see The end of a long journey.

    Your mileage will (not may) vary.
    Last edited by Mohamed Ellozy; 08-22-2009 at 07:10 AM. Reason: Corrected frequency of epidurals ... 3 every 2 years, not 2 every 3 years as initially posted

  3. #3
    Member HikingBryan's Avatar
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    I suffer from degenerative disc disease. Over the past few years my back has gotten worse and worse...

    I have three herniated discs, two in the lumbar region. This causes sciatica and much local pain. I find if I stretch regularly, keep loose, and don't abuse my back, I can avoid flare-ups. When I do get flare-ups, I have to rest (bed-rest, no hiking, no exercise) until the acute pain resolves and then slowly rehab with stretching and core exercise.

    Over the past two years the situation has become increasingly worse, with flare-ups happening more frequently and being more severe.

    I've seen several orthopedic docs/surgeons, and they all have the same advice. They first prescribe PT to loosen muscles and to strengthen core muscles to stabilize the spine and protect the site of injury. This is what they call "conservative" treatment. Once PT becomes insufficient to remedy the problem, the next course of action is steroid injections in the spine, as mentioned above. They help some people more than others, but the fix is not permanent. Once the injections fail to work you are left with fewer options.... Pain management (opiates etc etc) or surgery. In the disc compresses motor neurons to the point of muscle atrophy, surgery is often mandatory.

    I am currently struggling with the thought of a discectomy, but would like to avoid it if possible. All my family are against surgery and are VERY vocal about it. That said, my condition will tends to get worse with time (degenerative disc disease), and I fell that surgery is inevitable for me. I have an apt for steroid injections early next month. Hopefully they will help long enough for me to do some strengthening and to avoid or at least delay the discectomy for a few more years...

    I have a few friends who have had discectomy and they benefit, but they all have had a LONG road to recovery and some will probably never get back to where they once were. A lot depends on the physical condition you are in before you go through with surgery...

    I should also mention that I beat the hell out of my back during all 4 seasons, am very stubborn, and don't listen too closely to what I am told. Soooo, my case may be worse than the average persons.
    A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

  4. #4
    Senior Member J.Dub's Avatar
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    Herniated disk? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

    At the tender age of 28, no less!

    Through a combination of chiropractic manipulation (Dr. Snap-Crackle-Pop), electrical stimulation and, most importantly, back exercises, I recovered and have been back-trouble-free for a dozen years, so keep your chin up.

    IIRC, it was a several-month recovery (and I wasn't hiking/climbing at that point in my life), but, barring any complications, you should be able to resume your outdoor pursuits once you're on the mend.

    PM me if you have specific questions.
    "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."

    ADK46: 25/46 W5
    NH48: 26/48 W8

  5. #5
    Senior Member daxs's Avatar
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    Studies have shown in the long run people who ahve conservative tx; Pt and injections do as well as people who have surgery. Surgical folks do better initially but everythng equals in the long run. there is always a chance of scar tissue and pain with surgery. With degenerative disc disc disease, fusion may be indicated in the long run
    Carol

  6. #6
    Senior Member Stash's Avatar
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    I herniated L5 (or L3?) with a slip on a wet rock coming down Rocky Branch Trail. Initial hip pain was followed a week later by the loss control of certain muscles causing "slap foot. Stand on your heel with the foot tilted up so the ball of your foot is off the ground. With slap foot you can't. Walking down any sort of a hill gets really difficult with this and it's quite easy to twist an ankle because the whole foot feels weak.

    PT and stretching brought things back to 90%. I still get a bit of numbness if I overdo it but the stretching brings things right back in a day or so. I find the best stretch for me is a push-up with my hips staying on the ground causing as much of an arch as possible in the back. It's also helpful to keep your core muscles as toned as possible.

    I was never totally out of comission and found that bicycling (road) helped with the stretching. It took a few months to get the foot working right with a gradual return to hiking with a supported ankle in a few months.

    One thing I got from reading on the subject, and speaking with others and Orth surgeons - Avoid surgery is at all possible. Success rates are low and follow-on limitations are many.
    Last edited by Stash; 08-24-2009 at 06:04 AM.
    Stash

    What matters is what I do. Not what they do.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member marty's Avatar
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    Mike,

    My wife fell on the ice and suffered from a herniated disc. She tried the PT and injections route first. Did not work. She finally opted for the surgery and in her situation, it worked very well. She occasionally gets back pain, but it always goes away in a day or two. It is usually caused by her working out to hard at the gym.

    She had the surgery done at Mass General in Boston. Her surgeon was outstanding! Please PM me if you would like the name.

    Good luck,
    Marty
    So when you reach the bottom line
    The only thing to do is climb
    Pick yourself up off the floor
    Anything ya want is yours


    Song: Bottom Line
    Artist: Big Audio Dynamite
    Album: This is Big Audio Dynamite
    Year: 1985

  8. #8
    Senior Member ^MtnMike^'s Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Thanks to everyone for the great information. My mind tends to go to the worse case scenario, and after almost a week of very limited mobility I was really starting to worry. It was encouraging to read that others have had this issue and come out OK. I certainly have a new found appreciation for how much abuse those little disks take.

    I'm sorry to hear about all the trouble you've had with your back HikingBryan and I hope you can avoid the discectomy for as long as possible.

    I'm still young (31) so that should work in my favor. I got a specialist referal today, and my primary doctor said the MRI shows "relatively minor" disk herniation
    (it certainly doesn't feel minor! I'd hate to experience a major hernia).

    Hopefully my recovery will be quick and complication free.
    Keeping my fingers crossed!

    Mike
    ----------------------------------
    Pictures! (updated 7/22/10)

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ^MtnMike^ View Post
    Hopefully my recovery will be quick and complication free.
    Keeping my fingers crossed!
    Best of luck, Mike!!

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