Ruptured Disc Advice Please

So I get sporadic lower back pain from time to time. Nothing serious. Just horrendous pain for a few days, a tight left leg and then a slow easing back to normality.
I’ve had this thing on and off for years now. Whiskey helps.

So I figure I’m a bit bored with it as it blows up again recently and affects my work for a few days. It started again after I raced a thirteen year old girl around a track because she challenged me.
I should know better really. I’m an old 35 years old now and feeling all my gripes. Besides, I’m not as tough as most thirteen year old girls, and I know it.
The next day my back was fucked again and again, a few days later, eased off a bit.

I finally went to a hospital to get checked out. I don’t do clinics these days. Most have shown me their absolute quack side over the years and I don’t trust them as much as larger institutions. I digress.

I had an X-ray and of course nothing shows up.
I was sent for an MRI and then quite a lot showed up.
It turns out my buttocks are quite firm, but I’m off topic once more.

After being distracted with the super clear picture of my neat, tidy buttocks it was brought to my attention that one of my lower discs is basically exploded into my nerve tract.
It doesn’t look that pretty, that’s for certain. I’m not a doctor, but if my car had a floor pan which looked anything like it, then I’d scrap it at an instant. It looks like someone removed it with a twelve guage.

I’ve looked at a few comparisons online, and mine seems much worse, and I’ve seen three specialists up until this point. Each one basically looks at it, then looks shocked, then asks me why I’m not writhing around in agony, and carries on telling me exactly what the last one said, which I don’t want to hear. “We have to take your entire disc out!”

Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t want my disc taken out! Its just not good enough!
It doesn’t even make any sense to me at this point! Its not quite like my car after all. Once I scrap it, I can’t just pop down to the local dealership and pick up a new one. Its the only one I have.
The fact that it doesn’t always work doesn’t mean to me at this point, that I absolutely have to get rid of it.

I get the fact that it can place pressure on the central nerve system and can later result in numbness, permanent nerve damage and perhaps a spot of paralysis.
But if I have an operation, they tell me I can’t go weight lifting any more, ride mountain bikes and bonk like a rabbit.

I like all those things, and I’m not choosing to go for an operation, when I’m not suffering all the time, and when I’m reasonably fit. What happens when like my crappy dentist, they take out a minor item like my wisdom teeth and end up removing most of my nerves in the process, so that one side of my mouth is permanently numb?
If they can screw up, then surely I should allow myself the opportunity to do the screwing up by myself first, shouldn’t I?

Has anyone ever faced this dilemma?

Its an awkward one for me. Basically because I’m adamant at this point that I’m not giving up sports and other stuff for anyone unless I just stop working all of a sudden.

All ideas and advice welcomed. :notworthy:

I am beginning to be aware of some options such as disc replacement prosthetics and something like a bio-disc, ir whatever that is. Some sort of recent attempt at building a man-made disc comprised of some gelatinous compound which substitutes the disc’s inner material. I don’t know availability and studies regarding its success are still in their infancy it seems.

tried traction: hanging upside down on a tilt table?

I have the same in my neck, and it is a right pain in pretty much everywhere. getting an aritficial joint inserted soon.

once the disc has ruptured, there’s not much they can do surgically to fix it: the center of the fibrous sac that is the outer casing of the disc is jelly and is not able to be moved back into place surgically. removing the offending disc material makes for less pressure on the nerves , but they have to space the vertebrae back out to the correct distance using a plug of artificial material or your own hip bone, and essentially fuse the adjoining vertebrae together with the correct spacing.

there are several artificial replacement disc options out there, but they cost a lot and are not covered by national health insurance (the surgery itself is, though, in Taiwan).

maybe I should add that if you’re still working well enough with it, then live with it unless it worsens significantly. take decent pain meds, specifically anti-inflammatories like Voltaren, no more than 250 mg per day. Available OTC at proper pharmacists.

the next step for you that would most likely benefit your condition is decompression exercises: a regular routine to decompress the disc, and maybe the body will clean it up if the pressure on the disc is relieved for long enough each day, hence the hanging upside down tilt table thing. Cheap ones cost 200 bucks, and are not that much worse than a 500 dollar expensive one.

reverse the forward hunch that got you this way by bending the back in the opposite direction from toe-touches. the yoga pose Snake will help too. Don’t do any twisting yoga motions, though, or you’ll probably damage the nerves more. And lift carefully, with a straight back and looking forwards and up. crawling around under cars is not doing you any favours either.

I had exactly the same thing as you in my second year in Taiwan, Sulavaca. The disc was partially shattered and impacting the nerve that served my right leg. I was in unbelievable agony (the pain was in my leg, not so much my back). Went to five different neurologists and had loads of scans. They all told me the same thing: I can wait for the pain to subside and perchance it won’t reoccur (5% chance) or I can have surgery to remove the part of the disc that was impacting. Physiotherapy would only make matters worse, and so would any straining.

They also told me that if I had the procedure, I had a 0.5% chance of permanent quadriplegia and a 10% chance of permanently losing bowel and urinary control. :astonished: I also wouldn’t be able to play contact sport anymore.

Due to the fact that I was writhing on the floor shrieking in pain all day and wasn’t EARNING, I decided to take my chances.

The session of neurosurgery took 8 hours. I awoke from the anesthesia to a very tired-looking brain surgeon prodding at my toes and asking me if I could feel anything. I told him “Yessir! The pain in my leg is just as bad as before!” He looked perplexed and told the nurse to give me more morphine.

After this jolly old jaunt, my boss carried me out of the hospital and took me to see the “best” neurosurgeon “in the whole of the world”. There was a queue running halfway around the block, so I had to writhe for four hours before I saw The Great Man. The withered old bloke hunched up in his chair looked at my scans and told me that the only way to alleviate the suffering was to have the whole disc removed. And he wasn’t going to do it. Best that I return to my original doc, as he knows what he’s done before. Sage advice, really, and I agreed with him.

So, back to the hospital, slithering like a decapitated eel, for my sweet four hours of nopainmorphine.

Spoke to the doc again. He said that yep, a second opinion is good,and yes, I need to have the whole disc removed. I said, “Take that damn thing outta me, like NOW!” He said, “Oh, but with a second operation so close to the last time, there’s a 60% higher chance of getting a horrible infection. And your balls will rot off.” (Not EXACTLY sure what he said). Jimi was, like, “Take the fucking thing out IMMEDIATELY!”

Right. Another six hours of surgery. Came out of it with the nice chap banging on my toes. “Can you feel anything?” This time, all the pain was gone. I said, “No, no pain, because I cant feel my leg.” Once again he looked perplexed. I must confess that I lied that my back hurt in order to garner another few shots of morphine, though.

Anyway, to cut a long story (novella?) short, my leg is now partially paralyzed. I can’t feel my toes and walk with a slight limp. But no real pain anymore. It niggles a bit when I over-exert myself, but that rarely happens. I occasionally play a bit of cricket and as much golf as I can, but alas, old jimi will never feature for the Springboks nor the Dallas Cowboys. I still shag like a young rabbit, though.

Thing is, young Sulavaca, you need to think about long-tern benefits and disadvantages. I reconciled myself with the fact that I’m never going to be a Great Outdoorsman. I’m also not going to be picking up engine blocks and shoving them into cars. My suggestion is that you ride your luck and hope that it all turns out well. I wish you the best, Sir!

I mean, who REALLY needs a colostomy bag?

I also had a very bad rupture of a disc in my lower back. I didn’t have surgery but I couldn’t walk for three months. I just lied on the floor. It worked. After about 12 week I could stand up with only mild pain. The pain gradually subsided over the next 4 weeks. So it was 16 weeks in total. I followed a strict exercise routine for my back, but only after the pain had completely gone away to avoid making it worse. It has been good for years, and just started playing up about a month ago after thinking I could go for a run. I couldn’t. Now i can’t even ride my bike, but I’ll wait. The chances of recovery from doing nothing but lying down are supposedly as good if not better than surgery. In England, they won’t do surgery for 12 weeks apparently. I don’t know if that is true, but it’s what I’ve heard. That might simply have to do with the hospital system, but I believe they think it’s good practice too.

Thank you so much guys. As horrible as it sounds, Its great to actually realise I’m not the only one and can receive some advice from actual people on the receiving end and not just surgeons.

As horrible as the sight in my back seems to me, I was still wondering whether they got the scans mixed up with someone elses. The damage looks horrendous, yet my pain is manageable and I don’t actually have any pain 90 percent of the time. That’s why I can still go the the gym and not notice. I do know however than I can’t bend over forwards for long and especially with any weight. Other than that, I’m fairly strong I reckon.

The surgeon today said that he would recommend at least giving physiotherapy a chance. I could manage at least that much, and it certainly sounds better than plan B at this point.

Hang on though. Doesn’t that require fewer toilet trips?

Fox, I’m of the same feeling, and I have also heard the same things. According to my American friend’s father who’s a GP in the states, the studies seem to show that after a year, both those that went with surgery and those who chose not to were at the same point in recovery. I don’t know why that would be, but a surgeon here also said he had heard the same thing.

I’m only having surgery because 8 months of conservative treatment (drugs and manipulation/exercise/physiotherapy) have done nothing. Wait a long time before the surgery thing if you can.

good luck! with good management and care of your lifestyle you can get better, in most cases.

[quote=“urodacus”]I’m only having surgery because 8 months of conservative treatment (drugs and manipulation/exercise/physiotherapy) have done nothing. Wait a long time before the surgery thing if you can.

good luck! with good management and care of your lifestyle you can get better, in most cases.[/quote]

With fingers crossed, I’m hoping the same thing. I have already adjusted my gym routine to alleviate all downward stresses onto the spine. I am starting to concentrate on relieving weight from it. I will soon be starting some physio classes at the local hospital as per doctors orders.

A possible reason why you don’t always feel pain is that what is left of the disc is protruding into the cavity that carries the nerve; however, for what ever reason it is not always touching on the nerve. This probably means the local inflammation from the initial rupture isn’t as bad as in some cases. That doesn’t mean it won’t get worse with aggravation. The number one thing to avoid is degenerative nerve damage. Therefore it is important to give time for all the inflammation to subside. For the most part what’s left of the disc and the nerve can coexist in the cavity if there is enough space. It sounds like in your case there is, because you don’t feel it all the time. However, you really do need to give it time to recover or it won’t and you could do irreversible damage that leads to a degenerative process. My sister has this. She is in constant pain and very limited in what she can do. She had surgery twice.

It all sounds terrible. Best of luck to all of you guys.

I just wanted to second uradacus’ advice to prolong surgey as long as possible and try all more moderate potential remedies first.

My dad has had neck and back problems for the past 50 years and has had one seriously intrusive surgery after another, over that 50 year period, in the hopes of fixing it (though they never did figure out what “it” is) and stopping the pain. Discs fused together, more discs fused, metal inserted, metal removed, other metal inserted, slow-timed morphine drips installed under the skin, and removed, etc. I’ve seen him wearing plastic neck collar when I was a kid, or sitting in the doorway with a traction device hooked to a pulley in the doorframe, and him staying in the hospital for the various surgeries, and making countless other visits to doctors to analyze, examine, perform tests, warn of potential consequences of surgery, follow up after surgery, etc.

The only very clear conclusion that I gained from all of his extensive experiences, and I’m fairly certain he feels the same way, is he did WAY too much and now his spine is permanently screwed up, stiff and achy, and the muscles, nerves and tendons surrounding it are permanently clenched up, twisted, stunted, and deformed, due to the countless incisions, insertions, interferences and thorougly unnatural mucking about inside of his body. His spine is like one of those freaks who are obsessive about cosmetic surgery and get nosejob, chinjob, eyejob, cheekjob, lipjob, etc., etc, until they’re a hideous, scarred up, plastic mess that can never go back to anything approaching normalcy.

I recognize that the pain must be excruciating at times and goddamned it you’d do anything to make the mutherfucker just stop, stop, stop. I can imagine how terrible that must be. It would certainly drive me to drink and drugs (not that I need much excuse anyway). But all I can say is be cautious about undergoing any surgery or, more seriously, embarking on a path of repeated surgeries.

It seems a bit odd to me that no one has mentioned Chinese (style) medicine yet. My experience went like this:

Started weight lifting with some serious body builders and was way out of my league. Noticed after awhile that shooting pain down my right leg accompanied by back spasms. Tried this allegedly famous Chinese doctor who felt my pulse, stuck needles in me, and gave me some vile medicine to eat. Tried that for a month. ABSOLUTELY USELESS.

Went to a Western-style clinic. Doctor said, “You’re young, basically healthy, and you can’t raise your leg more than a couple inches off the table. You have a herniated disk. The only options are complete bed rest plus physical therapy, or surgery.”

Checked into a major hospital for 2 weeks. Got daily physio. The doctors there did the x-ray, then MRI routine. They showed me the disk and its proximity to the sciatic nerve. The doc said, “We need to operate and remove the disk, but there’s a chance we’ll hit the nerve and paralyze you. Hahaha!”

The “hahaha” is the thing many Asians do when they’re nervous. I didn’t see any humor in the situation. After 2 weeks in the hospital I could lift my leg off the table to a bit more than 45 degrees.

Got out of the hospital and tried a Chinese doctor (now deceased), who said, “Sure I can fix you. Come here twice a week for 2 months.” He used a menthol-based rub and massaged the disk area, put on the suction cup, then placed another menthol-type compress over the area which would last for an hour or two. In about 10 weeks, all pain was gone. Full use of my leg and back. That was over 20 years ago with no recurrence.

I am very careful about my posture when sitting at the computer. I took up swimming (kicking especially) to strengthen the muscles. The past few years I started lifting moderate weights and jogging over 10km. No back/disk problems.

(my) Western physio involved first putting a hot pad on the area, then traction. I think the heat is to relax the muscles, but it could also be to bring blood to the area. The Chinese method also caused blood to be brought into the disk area, through menthol & moxa rather than heat. I would think any therapy which increases circulation in the disk area while relaxing the muscles would be beneficial.

Good luck.

I recently hurt my back. I get a twinge maybe once or twice a year if I am not careful. Been to the physiothrapist In Australia for it before and fixed things up until my “next twinge”. The previous time I got it was back in February while on vacation for a month. Thought it was just a stiff back from sleeping too much… And it subsided after a couple of weeks.

Sometime around the 13th of August, I woke after doing a twist turn thingy I do in bed while sleeping sometimes and I remember saying to myself that I hope I didn’t hurt my back with that. But when I woke up it was a little sore, but didn’t think it was too bad. I still went to work and still went to the gym as usual. All was fine, taking it easy until I got to my incline sit-ups and I could feel the strain in the back so I stopped, but I guess that would have been the turning point to noticing that is was quite sore, but still not the sorest I have had, but noticeable uncomfortable and I knew I had to be careful.

Then, the weekend of August 21 and 22, something happened and I could bearly walk when I woke up. I couldn’t straighten my body and had to make small shuffling steps when I walked. I was stuck on the sofa practically all weekend. But magically by Monday morning, I could get up and walk again, though could still feel the twinge in the back and down the front of the thigh, too, I was noticing at this stage. It was a little tough to lower myself to sit and I had to take a deep breath and use my right leg a lot to stand.

For the next three weeks, I just put up with it thinking it would come right as it has always done before. I continued working and going to the gym, though backing off a little. I went to see a Chinese Medicine Doctor, told how thing had happened to which she said it sounded more like a Hip Flexor injury than a back injury. So she gave me some accupunture and I got some manipulation done. WOW!!! my back cracked, just like I had been trying to do with my own stretching routine, but couldn’t. That felt much better, but the back was still sore on the left side and down the front thigh. September 12 was the Sun Moon Lake 3.3km swimming event. I wasn’t sure if i would go in it, I would see how I felt on Sunday morning, and while I could still feel the twinge, it seemed not too bad. I swam the event well, no problems while swimming, but after completing the swim and after cooling down, the pain started throbbing back.

So, I had the mornings off for the next week, which I thought would be good to get some recovery going. It did seem easier to sit and stand during this week, though I could still feel the twinge, which was still kind of strong. I thought it was making progress. We had a typhoon over the weekend so I thought here was another chance to get some recovery in and it felt not too bad on Saturday and I was feeling a bit better about that. I stayed up pretty late on Saturday night/ Sunday morning and finally went to bed around 4am. It was a little difficult to lie down and get in a compfortable position. I had been suffereing this way while sleeping for a while now during this sore back period. But maybe an hour later I suddenly woke up in excruciating pain with the muscles in the left side of my lower back going into a spasm. I didn’t know which way to turn, roll or move. I kind of had to just take it until it relaxed. I lay awake for a while after that and then dozed back to sleep only to wake again about an hour and a half after the first spasm, to have another spasm. It was one of the most painful things that I have experienced. It took me a long time to stand up from getting out of bed as I could feel the muscles wanting to contract forcefully if I went into a certain position while trying to stand. After standing, I could feel a noticeable throbbing in my left side lower back and left front thigh. I lay down again a short while later only to have it spasm again after an hour of sleeping. I tried to get out of bed, it took me nearly 30 minutes with one time upon nearly standing all the way up, the muscles went into a spasm again forcing me to fall back down on the bed again not knowing which way to move or turn to stop the pain.

So I went to see a Dr David W. Hang in Shilin. I saw him a few years ago when I rehurt the ligaments in my knee. My Taiwanese friend who had lived in the states for a few years found him for me. He is a member of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons and a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery from UCLA. So he checked me out just as well as any physio has done before I would say and he found the sore spots, said my muscles in that area are tight and in a spasm, he gave me a steriod shot in that area. Gave me a weeks supply of steriod tablets, muscle relaxants and anti- inflamatories. I scheduled an appointment for some physio treatment for the next day with the physios that work with him. But, already by the evening, my back was feeling 100 times better… And if it hadn’t made significant improvement by the end of the week, he said he would take further action. But I feel it has made significant improvement already. Feeling much happier now.

Went to my physio appointment at the Orthopedic Sports Medicine Institute which works inconjunction with Dr Wang. I did some bends and stretches for the physio so she could check out my range of mobility. Seems so strange that only 6 weeks ago I could bend over and put my fists on the floor without bending my knees (never been able to put my hands flat on the floor). Now, I could bearly touch my knees, which is still better than the day before the steriod shot, but this is how I was when I was 16 when I first started TaeKwonDo training. Then the treatment. First some ultrsound on the sore area, kind of felt weird after a while, then some massage treatment . Then some stretches. Anyways. I gotta do a stretching and strenthening routine every day and to take it easy for about 6 weeks, slowly getting back into the gym.

So, his service wasn’t covered under the Health Insurance. His consultation, steriod shot and other mediacation cost me NT$1,900. The Physio treatment cost me NT$1,200. Even without the Health Insurance, I thought this was OK as compared to Australia which would only cover this if you had private Health Insurance. But some of his services are covered by Health Insurance, like last time I saw him about my knee, he sent me up to the hospital to get an MRI and that was covered and then when he was telling me about the knee reconstruction he could do, he gave me the price I would need to pay and said it was a little expensive as I needed 3 pins and the health insurance only covers 2. But still NT$30,000 for a knee reconstruction I thought was good as an arthriscope in Australia cost me AUS$1,800 about 15 years ago when done privately as I couldn’t stand being on the public health waitlist.

So back to the Disc Problem, some of my friends were warning me about that problem and I was a little scared about that. I guess that would have been the docs next search if it hadn’t improveed by the end of the week, which, today, Friday, I am amazed at how much better it is after the spasm attacks of last Sunday morning.

Maybe you want to check out this Doc, I can PM you his address and number if you want. Good luck.

I had an MRI and discovered that I have three bulging discs, and a crushed and dislocated vertabrae. The best treatment I have found is this:

Suck in your gut and stick out your happiness.

You absolutley want to flatten out your lower back because the curve is squishing the disc out. There are a few excersises for this too but I’d recomend seeing a physiotherapist to tell you exactly what to do.

I am sticking to that and losing weight. Was about 84, now 75 and aiming at 70 or even 65. Where I felt just pain and numbness I am beginning to feel strength.

Oh, one question, how many of you guys have had that bend the shit out your back Chinese tui na? My disc first bust after one of those.

Sorry to hear of your pain TS. I will ask you for that if you don’t mind as all information is good knowing what’s wrong with me now.

I have been to four doctors now who are all wondering why I’m not writhing around on the floor in agony due to the disk which has exploded. I can only presume that because mine has shot out to such a distance, out and up the back of my spine, that perhaps it has thinned out to the extent that there isn’t enough in one area to be constantly causing enough pain.
Still, early days though and I’m fully aware that it could get worse over time.
I have changed my gym routine to leave out all exercises which cause top-down compression. I have also limited exercises which cause severe bending of the back. I practice back muscle exercises by hanging only and pulling up on the bar. This actually seems to help slightly too.
I now do stomach crunches, but only flat on my back bringing only my shoulders off the floor. My back stays flat all the time.
After some basic adjustments, I seem to have much less of a problem and am about 99% free of any discomfort.

I did go to a hospital appointment to check my nervous response times. They use electric impulses to trigger muscle reactions, and then measure the speed of reactions with a computer. I hate to say that I cancelled the procedure after the first minute. I couldn’t stand that feeling of progressively strong shocks being sent into muscles which I had no control over. WEIRD!

Hey man,

It looked like you said that you are adamant about not quitting sports and stuff. You might want to reconsider that.

In college I was 200 lbs of solid muscle, I looked almost like a Van Damme, but I have a bad back genetically and I hurt it a few times on top of that.

Now I’m hyper aware of my posture, walking surfaces, my shoes, how many flights of stairs I have to go up (only about 2 now where before 16 was nice), and I don’t do ANY impacting moves. I used to be extremely flexible and in karate, not any more. Now I WON’T jump even half a meter down into water, I DON’T run unless it’s extremely necessary and I bring an inflatable pillow everywhere I go so as to allow for lumbar support on the horribly designed chairs in all the trains and movie theaters and such. I don’t lift heavy things even though for my arms and legs 15 liters of water is a fucking joke. For my back it’s not.

Good luck man, there might be an emotional roller coaster in your future too, as your personality adjusts to your body.

I’m sorry that you’re going through so much pain. I’ve had some lumbar pain but I’ve relieved it in the gym. They’ve got a Nautilus machine named lower back and I use it for 30 minutes a day. My lumbar feels great now and has grown some muscle. Also, I’m losing my pot belly. You are a weight lifter. If you can find this machine, you should try it.


That screaming sound is not me: it’s your spine. SIT-UPS DO LITTLE FOR YOUR ABDOMINAL MUSCLES and “they place devastating loads on the disks” according to many sources.

Here’s one from NY Times, “Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back?”

Or listen to a guy with pretty nice abs, [quote]Sit-ups are not a recommended exercise for abs—they’re one of the most common causes of lower back injury when training abs, and they’re not even very effective for developing your abs anyway. [/quote]

Looking at the posts in this thread and in the wider world, we can see that back pain doesn’t have a single solution. Each of us has to work it out for ourselves.

Sit up straight. No slouching. Good luck.

JP, get a tilt table, like 'dac said. Really. It’s sort of “accelerated lying on the floor”.

Have you tried Mckenzie exercises for your back pain/disc problem?
I too have some long standing disc problems (including bulging discs), and after using these exercises for a few months a couple of years ago, I now hardly have any trouble apart from sometimes a little pain and stiffness when I first get up in the morning. (I suppose I still ought to be doing these exercises everyday, but I found I didn’t really need to, but then I also go to the gym and do some back strengthening and flexibility exercises there most days).

There is a book by Robin Mckenize himself which covers the exercises:

The exercise I found most useful involved lying face down on the floor and then pushing your upper body up with your arms, like doing a push-up, but bending backwards at your waist, and keeping your legs flat down on the floor. You gradually work up to quite a bend. I still do this one if I really feel pain in the lower back or upper leg area, usually if I’ve been sitting in one position or driving for a long period, and it seems to reduce or clear the pain very quickly.

It’s probably wise to find a physiotherapist who knows the Mckenzie exercises and can take a look at your MRI before taking you through the best ones for you.

Good luck!

I recently resolved the issue with the pain by basically doing some work and have stopped sitting at the computer for too long. I have stopped all sittups to instead work on a small beer gut. Its was coming along nicely, but then the summer sort of stopped and now its gone down again. Oh well. Pain free though, which is great. Doing a lot of work on my car has helped.