Bulging disc at L5-S1. Pain now down both legs ??!!!

Hi, I've been put on the waiting list for a microdiscectomy. I'm waiting to get a 2nd mri done though as the pain has now moved into my left leg as well as my right. Tried 3 different physios, the last one was bupa. She finally conceded that I wasn't improving so surgery was probably the next option. The meeting with the consultant was very brief so although I know the surgery is probably for the best, I feel a bit left in the dark. I have young kids (3 year old twins) and work as a mechanic so I need to get back to full health as quick as I can. Any advice, comments or shared similar experiances would really be appreciated. Thanks

9 Replies

  • If you have sciatic type pain down both legs, then I believe it is highly unlikely its just due to a disc problem (even though you may also have a herniated disc). Sciatic type pain in both buttocks that alternates is actually one of the diagnostic features of spondyloarthritis (inflammatory spinal arthritis) - I'd be wanting to ask for a rheumatology referral to rule out inflammatory spinal arthritis. If you want to check out the signs of "inflammatory back pain" then there is a good list somewhere in the getting your diagnosis section of the nass.co.uk website.

  • I had back surgery which also failed and would never have any kind of back surgery unless there were no other choices and the pain was too much, I agree with Earthwitch completely...

  • I got my discs L3 -5, S1 all manipulated back into place by a chiro. Took about 6 months with weekly appts then monthly appts. Never looked back. Sorted a few other issues too.

    Now I top up with a sports physio every 3 months or so, I have a vertical twist on my sacrum, which needs manipulating back into place all the time. 3 months is about as much distortion I can stand :). I could have a metal plate attached which would prevent it turning, but as the sacrum is where all the nerves are exposed over the bone, Too risky for multiple nerve damage.

    I've never been keen on surgery and would be the very very last thing I try, I'm working my way through the alt therapy crowd. So knowledgeable and keen to help. Just couldn't cope with making myself worse if I was one of the unlucky failures. Try and discuss the failures with the con, why they happened, how it affects the people, how likely is it to happen to you. Don't need to discuss successes, we know they have a happy ending :).

  • Hi chocospine,

    I had horrendous sciatic pain down my left leg which got progressively worse over time. I ended up unable to stand or walk for more than 2 minutes without having to lie down. My pain was due to a herniated disc at L5/S1. I tried all of the conservative methods but nothing helped and eventually my pain management consultant agreed that I needed to see a neurosurgeon. I saw the surgeon and he agreed that surgery was the best option for me and gave me a 70 to 80% chance of improving my symptoms. Compared to zero chance of getting better I jumped at the chance.

    I had a microdiscectomy on 15th April this year. As soon as I woke from the anaesthetic I knew the operation was a success. For the first time in a very long time there was no pain in my leg. I was up and walking around later that day and 2 days later was able to walk and stand longer than I had been able to for months. I am now 12 weeks post surgery and doing very well. I returned to work last week and am in a six week phased return to work. I had been off work for six months so I'm building up my working time gradually. I know that surgery is not for everyone but in my case it was necessary. My surgeon told me that he was taken by surprise at the size of the disc bulge which was much bigger than the MRI scan indicated. He told me the disc was squashing my nerve.

    After surgery I had some numbness in my foot which has now gone. I have occasional niggling pain at the side of my knee but it is an annoyance more than anything else. I do have some tailbone pain which should settle over time but I have been offered injections should that not happen. All of this is preferable to the pain I had prior to surgery. I wouldn't say to anyone that they should have surgery. In fact I only considered it as a last resort but for me it was a lifesaver. I hope it all works out for you too.

    Good luck!

  • Hi, thanks for letting me know your story. Good to hear from someone positive. Glad that you're on the mend. I really need to get back to full fitness asap so surgery is probably the quickest option. All the best.

  • Hi, I've suffered for years with back pain but nothing as bad as this, my first mri scan shown l5/s1 protruding and my second mri only 4 months later shows its progressively larger, last Monday I stood up out of bed and just collapsed with the pain to the floor, the pain starts in my back and goes down my right bum cheek down the back of my thigh and calf, and got numbness in my foot and calf, I was told by my back specialist not to go a&e there's nothing they can do, but it's been 7 days I've been stuck in bed can't sit up or stand cause the pain is so horrendous, I'm going stir crazy and don't know what to do, sorry for the long winded reply, just wondered if you had any advise to help me get back on my feet? Just waiting for an appointment with a surgeon to come through, but if I can't get up how do I get to my appointment, thank you for taking the time to read this

    Zan x

  • A very good friend of mine had it done on three discs and never looked back, recovery time 12 weeks to return to work,has had no problems since and was a female of a certain age, over weight,not active and a nurse ! All things which should have gone against her, I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery.

  • Hi, thanks for your reply. Always good to hear a positive story. Hope your friend is still doing well. All the best.

  • I have a small tear and central disc bulge at L5/S1, I have pain on sitting mostly. It doesn't affect me as much as a cervical disc bulge does. But every case is different.

    Just to try and put your mind at rest, my dad and mother in law had surgery at this exact same level...weird hey?!?! But both did well after surgery, mother in law did 50 years of hard core gardening after her fusion. I also know a lady who teaches pilates, she had surgery at L4 L5 and is far more supple and fit than me! How annoying! LOL She is in her 50's, an inspiration really. Millions of people have back surgery, some don't have the same benefits, but I think they are in the minority.

    Stay positive, keep fit and healthy, and follow every instruction to the letter after surgery. Keep active, but also take it easy. Staying positive will probably be the main thing that will get you through, and know it can take weeks to months to really feel better from what I have been told. I imagine that feels like a lifetime when it is you, I know I would have surgery in a heart beat after trying everything else...but I bet I would be a little impatient.

    I do wish you all the best of luck in the world, and hope your surgery gives you the results you desire. No one should live in pain when surgery can give you a better quality of life.

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