Disc Herniation, Take 2!

I know I have mentioned my herniated disc before, but for those not following along, here’s the story:

March 28, 2011 – I was deadlifting over 100lbs.  I came up wrong on the lift, felt a pop in my back, dropped the bar, and thought I was going to pass right out.  I could barely move, but luckily one of the trainers was nearby and helped me sit down. I couldn’t breathe very well and I was deathly pale, which made them think that my blood sugar dropped the minute the injury hit. One of the owners sat with me and iced my back for I am not sure how long.  Eventually, with the help of everyone and a very big stick they loaned me, I was able to drive myself home.  I had to re-ice my back just to get up the stairs to my apartment.  I have no idea how I did that because by the time I landed in bed, I could barely move.

Most of that week was an awful experience and the pain wasn’t something I’d ever felt before.  I am lucky that my friends are helpful and a couple of them came by those first few days to help with the cat, get meds, get food, etc. Not so lucky that it hurt so much to move that I almost passed out any time I had to get out of bed.

I was able to get along better as the week went on (I remember rejoicing when I could sleep on my side again), but it took a long time for the doctor to send me for my MRI.  I didn’t get that until part way through April of last year and then the appointment with the physiatrist didn’t take place until May.  By that point, I had made quite a bit of progress on my own, but still used a cane to walk at times to help me feel more stable on my feet with the leg pain and residual back pain I was experiencing.

L5-S1 herniated disc

From my MRI: To my untrained eye, this certainly looks like a disc popping out...

During the appointment with the physiatrist, she explained that I had a disc herniation at the L5-S1 (which is in your lower back).  The disc was pressing on a nerve, which was causing the sciatica in my leg, so she prescribed me a medication to help with that.  I was told about my options, which included an epidural steroid injection and physical therapy.  I chose to go with PT for the time being and only do the injection if it didn’t work.

Physical therapy started in June. I’ve been at it ever since with varying amounts of attendance. The main focus has been to develop my core muscles so that they could support my low back. I started back into the gym at some point and that’s when I started running due to lack of other possible activity (read: no heavy lifting).  I’ve been pretty regular in my activity level for the past couple of months. I finally felt like I was out of the woods and almost wondered why I was still in PT every other week.

Fast forward to two days ago. I had gone on a short run, come back and started to stretch.  I was about to go into one of the yoga poses that I do during stretching and that’s when it hit. I tried to stretch it out with things from PT. I applied ice pretty quickly and that seemed to help, but I could no longer stand up straight and the pain was intensifying.  I tried to call and talk to my physical therapist, but he was out of the office until Tuesday (incidentally when my next appointment with him is) and so they referred me to the orthopedic urgent care that they have.

I went in as soon as I realized that I wasn’t going to make it better on my own and that the pain was not subsiding. They asked some questions, did some quick tests, and told me that I had re-flared the disc. “Oh, yeah. This can just happen at any time now.  There might not seem to be any reason for it,” they said.  Great news, right? They did a thing on my legs that indicated that my nerve was being pushed on again.  I was given a prescription for steroids to help get the inflammation to go down, but I was told I could wait to use them since I could maybe wake up in the morning and feel better. They also gave me a muscle relaxer and told me not to return to work until Monday and to not do any heavy lifting.  I have to have a follow up with my physiatrist in a couple weeks and keep my PT appointment.

I am back to being friends with my cane.  My leg pain has only gotten worse in the last day, but I started the steroids yesterday morning. The back pain is nowhere near what it was the first time around and I’m thankful for that. My mobility really isn’t that bad and I can do most things, just uncomfortably. Yesterday was a big friend gathering and I had to leave not very far in because my leg pain was only getting worse and I couldn’t get comfortable. Ice and rest seem to be the biggest help and I’m hoping that the steroids will start working fast. I’m going to spend pretty much all day today resting so tomorrow at work won’t be a bad experience. I am anxiously awaiting my PT appointment to see what else I can be doing and I’m sure that I will get more info about the whys and hows of relapse.

Here’s to hoping this is the only relapse there is.

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