Residual pain after healed disk herniation L5-S1
Hello. I found this page while searching "tilt to one side after healed disc".
I am a 43 yo mom of many, working in the horticulture trade, guilty of years of bending at the waist. Aprox 4 years ago my intermittent low back pain began to worsen. I had an MRI, noting slight spinal stenosis, and the L5S1 disk looked black, it said slight bulge.
Fast forward to December 2012. I had some slight pain in my upper back and numbing in my left arm, doc gave me a round of prednisone, and I was fine. This was odd b/c I never have upper back pain.
Then on Christmas Eve I helped someone move a lot of plants, bending, lifting, carrying long distances....
Let me add I was incredibly stressed, depressed and nearly of of touch due to divorce and other issues.
Over the next two weeks this got very bad, numbness in my left leg, a forced limp, shooting pains. I went back to work after break and tried to drag a chair around the large nursery! Looking back, that was so ridiculous! It didn't occur to me right away something much worse had happened, as there wasn't one "ow! I've just snapped my spine!" moment.
Doc sent me for a second MRI. I mentioned the MRI tech, I hoped they could see what was wrong, and he replied: don't worry...let's just say if a picture is worth 1,000 words, yours is worth 10,000. I've attached an image of that MRI. Apparently I had had herniated the disk, with the disk material squishing out and pressing on my sciatic nerve! And more spinal stenosis. Ah ha! That explained it! I was off work a couple months waiting for a cortisone shot, which worked great!!!! Completely FINE for about 3 months.
Then it all crept back, even the numbness, but not as bad. The one major difference was that IT SWITCHED SIDES. As it got worse I went off work again, while waiting for another shot. This time it was injected more to the right side of my lower back, where it did NOTHING. I was sent to surgeon who said he was 90% sure he could fix the issue, but noted 90% of these resolve on their own within a year.....so, I waited, thought about it and by November it has abated enough I went back to work.
Fast forward again about a year, to now. I still favor my left side most of the time and try to not tilt when I walk. Pretty much all sciatica is gone, but I do get (quite intense at times) pain deep in the middle of the butt cheek, and in the hip bones, but I can usually go almost all day without pain. While I think walking all day at work helps, by evening I'm ready to park it!
I am wondering: Does the disk material just get reabsorbed? Does that mean it's all healed up in there? Why did it switch sides and end up leaving early still feeling more pain with the right side? (not the original side). What should I be doing now, and finally do I have this poster medial disk herniation possibly? Thank you for your time, these questions I have been wondering...
Hello Plant Mum,
You've had a torrid time.
That scan isn't indeed great; can you see also that whiteness in the bone? It's called a modic effect meaning that fluid has seeped into the bone. Pain.
Yes, disc material is reabsorbed if you can wait it out.
You are coming up against two different philosophies of back pain; one sees this as an inflammation that needs to be treated with anti inflammatories. Ours is that that there was a physical defect that needs to be approached with either a manual or surgical procedure.
Vital now is that you start doing our lower back exercises every single morning before getting out of bed. Don't ever miss; the initial ones take less than a minute, progressing with the core exercises to perhaps two minutes.
Secondly get yourself some of those pads that strap on the knees, and work on ONE knee, rather than bending at the waist.
Thirdly, accept that your days of heavy lifting are over; if this happens again you'll probably be quite severely disabled.
Sometimes a short leg is part of the problem; if so, an inexpensive insert in the shoe can make a big difference.
The medial disc does occasionally swap sides. It sounds like you've been going into what's called an antalgia; leaning to the side to reduce the pain.
At this stage I'd be hesitant to start with frank manipulation; in the acute phase, yes, but now that you are half way okay, it could stir things up. Some decompressive traction may help, but sometimes aggravates the medial disc.
Lie down periodically where you garden and do the exercises; no more heavy stuff. On ONE KNEE when you need to bend.