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Slipped disc diary

Slipped disc diary tracks what happens at the level of the tissue, and in the life of a lower back pain sufferer.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 18th April, 2019.

The normal disc showing the position of the spinal cord and a nerve root.

I'm pretty cheesed off with Brain today; he doesn't realise how much it affects the other body parts when he gets into a fit of stupidity. Just how many times must poor Heel get those nasty painful cracks, all because he is too lazy to put on socks and use a little arnica oil when he's wearing his wellies?

Then there's a knock on effect because Body starts limping, and that really upsets my apple cart. The nucleus pulposis is swinging wildly to the side and pressing on that sore spot in the annulus fibrosis that tore so badly three years ago.

Brain is an idiot; doesn't he know that he's responsible for all of us? I'll give him a jolt of pain, and perhaps that'll bring him to his senses.

It's the weekend, and tomorrow is Day 1; then Brain'll get a shock. We've all been gardening today and I must say I too find it quite relaxing.

At least he takes Body down on his hands and knees when he's weeding, but Fingers are complaining about that; they'll be cursing tomorrow. Serve him right for not using a trowel.

Body has been shoveling a few spades of compost for the worm farm, but at least he's being careful. Brain obviously still hasn't entirely forgotten that pain three years ago. But that limp is gonna get us sooner or later.

The lower back's a bit stiff tonight, but nothing much more than usual, I guess.

Slipped disc diary

Slipped disc diary looks at the inner workings of the lower back when things go awry.

  • Lower back and leg pain

It's Day 1, or some might call it D-day, but it has nothing to do with Normandy. P-day really would be better. P is for pain, right? Do you seriously want to avoid failed back surgery?

Day 1

Brain has instructed Body to do some exercises before getting out of  bed, and I'm enjoying it; things are tense in there and any little stupidity is going to spell trouble. That rolling action of the pelvis really oils the facet joints nicely; it gets the synovial fluid sloshing about.

But any bending and twisting this morning, or a bout of coughing or shower of sneezes and, bingo, we'll have a bent axle. Please be sensible, Brain.

Oh dear, Brain has taken us straight to the computer; he knows that too much sitting is problematic. We'll survive, but it will mean things tighten up again; I was just getting a little optimistic after those exercises.

And now Stomach is rumbling; I know what that means. Brain is going to take us down the garden to pick leeks and Swiss chard for Body's favourite meal; eggs Florentine. I like it too because it's full of magnesium, which is great for the worn joint cartilage in some of my discs.

Oh dear, Heel is still making us limp; that really does spell trouble if Brain gives Body the wrong instructions.

He's picked up the garden fork and is heading for the leek patch. I'll be needing a leak, and wetting his pants if he bends and twists.

Oh, damn, he won't go down on his knee because it'll get muddy, and now he's bending and twisting with that ruddy fork; ouch, Nucleus Pulposis is pressing right on that weak spot in Annulus where he tore three years ago. Quick, I must send Brain a message.

Too late, I am undone; a disc with a torn annulus. Brain is going to cry.

Tongue has uttered a few choice words that I can't repeat in public, and Body is hobbling back to the house and his bed. The good wife is bringing an ice pack, and I can hear Brain dialing the chiropractor. He's a twit; none of this need have occurred but shit happens, I guess.

Oops, the chiropractor is concerned; Body is already looking like the leaning tower of Pisa. I am bulging lateral to the nerve root, and so he's bending away from the pain.

The first night is miserable with every turn in bed painful, and oddly some tingling in the opposite, right foot. Even if Body clears his throat it hurts; that's known as a Valsalva in orthopaedic jargon.

Antalgic posture

Here's a woman with the same problem. She has left lower back pain, and leans to the opposite side. An antalgic posture is a temporary list, to starboard in this case; it's usually extremely painful and leg pain sciatica looms if you don't stop; or the femoral nerve. It's a common feature in a slipped disc diary; perhaps a third of them.

Bed rest is vital in my book because you cannot stand for long and sitting is not allowed.

A woman standing in an antalgic posture, leaning to the right, from the posterior.

Day 2

Day 2 doesn't start well. Body can't sit up, and the only way to get out of bed is to roll out, onto his knees. Pressing on his knees, he manages to step upright, but is aware he is still looking like a question mark; an antalgic posture is often the prelude to the start of leg pain. The shower is difficult, and there's no question of clean feet, and the boss is called to put on his shoes and socks; they feel about three miles away.

The chiropractor is pleased that the Slump test for sciatica is still negative, but when she asks Body to bear down, it hurts down yonder; a positive valsalva manoever. No doubt about it, another slipped disc, but this time at L5-S1.

This time she adjusts me lying on one side only, there a little click, and hey presto I feel much better. I'm standing up straight.

Brain is frightened stiff; he's got the message and sulkily admitted to a quiet day. He should be on Ritalin! He doesn't know how to take his foot off the gas.

Night two is much better; turning isn't nearly so painful and there are no tingles in our right foot.

Day 3

Things are looking up; after the gentle exercises, Body doesn't need to roll out of bed and, looking in the mirror, Eye tells him that he's standing up straight. But he still needs help putting his shoes on.

I can confirm it. That gentle little click yesterday sucked the bulging disc back into my nucleus pulposis where it belongs.

It's time for some freshly squeezed orange juice, with all the pulp; OJ in a carton has only one third of the vitamin C that Disc needs to heal.

The calories in orange juice will give me a lift too; with a GI of 45 Body doesn't need to be concerned about his waist line.

There's still quite a lot of pain down in the sacroiliac joint and, for the first time, Chiro puts me on my tum and adjusts the SIJ using Thompson drops. As soon as I stand up, I know it's better. Now I can manoeuvre my legs and get my shoes off. I have at least 50 percent less pain.

Chiro has warned Brain; 50 percent less pain is the dangerous time. But in three days there's only perhaps 5% healing of my torn annulus.

Night three is really quite good.

Day 4

There's no chiropractic consultation today, and Brain is still shit-scared, so it's another quiet day. Some sitting at the computer to type up this slipped disc diary is allowed and Body goes for a walk every hour down the garden after doing my lower back exercises. Whew, do they feel good, or do they feel good?

Lower back and leg pain exercises are a must in my book.

Shoes and socks are no problem today. Every now and again if Body starts to do too much bending or sitting, though, I can feel myself bulging and irritating that nerve root. It's more of a chemical irritation from the torn Annulus Fibrosis than frank pinching of the nerve. Brain recognises it for what it is; a stern warning that all is still not well in the State of Denmark. And won't be for six weeks.

Day 5

I'm doing quite well this morning. Annulus isn't complaining too much and Nucleus only gives warning signs if Body feels like a good sneeze. Rolling in bed wasn't sore last night. But there's still quite a lot of tingling, and a numb feeling under the outer side of Left Foot. That's the S1 dermatome.

But right next door SacroIliac Joint is complaining this morning. I can feel he's all locked up. I hope the Chiro finds that fixation, because it's affecting me too.

Ah, good, Chiro is happy because the pain is so much less, and the Slump test for sciatica is negative; ah, she's warning brain about the numb feeling in the foot. You don't want the surgeon to get all excited; it's stuff in the leg that pays the whole bill for his family's next skiing trip in the Alps. Yes, it also contributes to Chiro's holiday, but in rather more modest amounts.

Chiro did find that fixation in left SacroIliac Joint. The Thompson drops have sorted that out, and Body's walking so much better; even Heel is happy since the wellies have been banned.

Gardeners can't go without wellies long term though, so Heel has to accept a compromise; a sock stuffed in the bottom of the shoe works almost as well.

Day 8

Stupid Brain demanded that Body dig some potatoes yesterday and stupid Back ac; there was a bit more tingling down in that foot during the night, but all seems well this morning. The walk down to see the chicken tractor and the worm farm was fine; no pain and I can move pretty freely.

Green chili sauce recipe

This green chili sauce recipe is loaded with good anti inflammatory stuff. The Prestons had friends to lunch yesterday and Bernie had to BBQ two free range chickens, and used a few of the bones for a bouillon.

Along with a few roasted jalapenos, he's made a delicious green chili sauce recipe to go with today's lunch.

Those chicken bones also contain the cartilage needed for the healing of my annulus fibrosis; the bouillon tastes great in any case.

Getting onto an anti inflammatory diet is important not just for your slipped disc diary, but for your blood vessels too; think coloured vegetables and free range eggs for their omega-3 and choline. 

Day 10

Hyperactive Brain is driving far too hard; today he made Body lift that chicken tractor, and move it to a new piece of ground; the chooks will root out the weeds and left overs of the leaks. They'll also clean up any cutworms and other bugs that are lurking. Helen is getting ready to plant out her winter garden.

This afternoon we have another consult with Chiro. I have to admit Body is trying to be careful; the tractor has two handles so there's not too much bending when moving it. We're still doing the exercises faithfully.

Chiro is happy and basically I am too, except I keep sending Brain messages that it's very weak down here. He's not allowed to ask Body to bend.

Day 14

There's no pain now. Chiro has managed to get most of my gel back into the annulus fibrosis, but there's still some residual tingling and a numb feeling under the foot.

There's at least four weeks to go before I can give Body the all clear. We're still in the dangerous time.

I'm a little anxious today. Brain wants Body to install a diode and new wiring to the solar panel at the gate. A diode prevents the current reversing; at night the panel can drain the battery.

Phew, a few anxious moments, especially when Body had to dig a small trench for the conduit, but I have to give it to Brain; he's being very careful. All the connections were done without much bending; it still feels very weak down there.

I can see that hole in Annulus healing quite nicely, but it's a long way before Body can do anything significant.

Day 17

Finally they dreadful weak feeling in the small of the back is going; like the disc is about to pop out if Body does "anything". Body and She who must be obeyed were even intimate last night for the first time in this slipped disc diary, and all went well.

Body even did some work on the new balustrade he's making. Those planks were quite heavy, but he was careful; he knows his limits and does very little bending still. Rather Brain gives instructions to go down on one knee.

And thank goodness he's still doing the lower back and leg pain exercises quite religiously; a very faithful man, if I say so myself. It comes from a holy terror of that pain we had.

Four weeks

Four weeks have passed since this slipped disc diary began and Body has at least another ten days before he can start to do the ordinary things of life. There's a call from friends who are coming to visit from Holland. Could we climb the Rhino at 10,050 feet? I doubt it, but tell them we'll give it our best shot.

My friend Dick and I almost reach the top but ran out of time. The nine hour hike was a majestic challenge in the slipped disc diary; it was lack of air in the end at altitude rather than the lower back that was the limiting factor.

Interestingly, since this long and very testing hike, Back can now do anything in the garden. Yesterday was spent opening a compost pile and spreading the humus along two fences for the winter green peas. It was hard work with no pain, the weak feeling is completely over and no discomfort the next day.

But the lower back exercises go on, done daily. Prevention is better than a cure.

It takes about six weeks for a disc to heal with chiropractic. Even doctors have to go through the discipline of exercise and waiting out the healing process, or a relapse is certain.

Rhino peak in the southern Drakensberg.

Three months

It's now three months since the start of this slipped disc diary; I'm happy to report that all is well in the state of Denmark. Hard physical work in the garden and two hours in the clinic treating chiropractic patients is the norm; virtually zero pain, but the exercises every morning before arising continue unabated. I never miss.

Everything was dependent on being mindful of that 50 percent less pain rule; that's the dangerous time.

Three years

Three years have passed since the beginning of this slipped disc diary, and I'm happy to report all is well in the state of Denmark; yesterday he began the race to end waste, an unpleasant passion, then went gliding; half an hour at 6000 feet kept up only by hot air rising is a wonder to be experienced. Both moving waste and the worm farms, and heavy gliders is hard physical work. Not even a grunt to add to the slipped disc diary.

Are you willing to stop long enough, go for chiropractic care and faithfully do your exercises so that you too can again enjoy life in your fast lane? If not, it's probably the knife, and for many that's the end of all joys such as these.

Slipped disc diary

Not every slipped disc diary ends as well as this one; the key is to stop if you go antalgic, and do the exercises for life, same as you brush your teeth; it's now three years and I've just done them prior to lifting the mighty pen; mightier than the sword wrote someone; ah, Edward Bulwer-Lytton; alas long forgotten Englishman, but his words live on for ever. Double alas, kings and presidents still send out our sons to die gloriously on the battlefields. 


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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.



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Interesting questions from visitors

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