Healing a Disc prolapse without surgery

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I started feeling a deep, biting pain in my hip four months ago while attending an intensive language course where I was sitting for many many hours a day and night. I would wake up with this pain in the morning but it would go away. I knew that I had run my body down a bit in the past three years through a stressful relationship and generally not doing all the healthy things I used to do for my back.

I had a spinal fusion in my lumbar four years ago after suffering a spinal fracture--I was nearly paralyzed and the surgery saved me. I am therefore very upset that I now have what has been diagnosed as a prolapsed disc at age 26 having already had one spinal surgery and knowing very well I possibly have a long life ahead of me and want to be fit to have children and do many things.

The pain really came out two months ago when I took some homeopathic remedies to treats several physical symptoms relating to the stress and general decline in my health which I mentioned above. I started having a muscle spasm and my spine became crooked. It was agony. I kept working through it, moving around restlessly. It became very bad after sleeping on a hard back and thankfully I met a very good acupuncturist/Chinese healer, who relieved some of the nerve pain with acupuncture and clicked my sacrum back into place--apparently it had been off, causing my hip to be slightly out of joint as well. However, this did not remove the pain and I was told I would have to stretch it out over time.

I situation declined over three or so weeks of stress. I live and work on a busy farm where courses are held and at the time we had 30 students here. I had very little support and even worse, was treated almost like I was being lazy until it was completely apparent that I was in agony. I drove myself to the hospital and acupuncturist several times--finally I woke someone up one early morning before dawn when I couldn't take it anymore and went to the emergency room for the third time. Finally, I was given pain killers that actually worked and a referral to a local specialist (I don't know the area that well and my funds were so limited I didn't know where to start without wasting my money).

The specialist ordered a Cat scan (MRI being out of the question due to the metal in my back) and started treating me on the spot for a prolapsed disc through oral prednisone tablets. I have been on the tablets about two and a half weeks now and while my spine is straight, save for the odd bad morning when it slightly curves again, and some of the worst pain down my leg is gone, I still do have some pain and am reliant upon prescription pain killers to help. At least these are not opiate-based, like the ones I had to take after my previous fusion, and allow me to function normally. However, I know that at some point in the not to distant future I will have to stop taking them before they damage other parts of my body.

After my fusion, I did a lot of research on nutrition and natural healing and have a strong belief that you can support your body in many cases to heal itself. Therefore, I'm strongly opposed to having surgery, especially because I've already had a traumatic one before and am still very young. The doctor told me today that after the prednisone is finished in another 3-4 days, the only option he can provide is surgery.

However, when I told him that I am strongly opposed to it and since I'm not in complete agony--I am walking about and with the exception of the mornings feel mostly well, especially if I have adequate pain relief--I would prefer to see if I can get well on my own. He encouraged me and said I'm not losing anything by it, and also said he had a good friend who went without surgery and gradually over a period of about 6 months the condition improved and finally went away. He said it's not impossible and I certainly don't have one of the worst prolapses he's seen.

After reading a few articles and online forum posts this afternoon after visiting my doctor, I feel that most people opt for surgery. I'm therefore looking for success stories from people who made it through this problem and healed without surgery. Any advice in addition would be helpful and i would be most grateful.

At the moment, the pain is worse in the morning. I often wake to it after only 5 hours of sleep, and have to get up and move around, painfully. The curve of my spine is mostly gone, but some mornings it returns slightly. I often walk around and make a hot water bottle and go back to sleep for another two or so hours. I was feeling pretty tired in the past couple weeks so I have been catching up on rest, but my energy varies a lot--sometimes I'm tired and other times I feel good and am very productive with my energy. I try to listen to my body. Right now I'm working from home so if I need to sleep during the day and end up doing work on my laptop from bed in the evening or at night, it doesn't really matter. But mostly my schedule is starting to even out.

I have been swimming every other day, which seems beneficial, and as I feel stronger I may do every day. I'm taking a painkiller and ibuprofen for the pain, and am also going to visit my homeopath this week, who feels confident in helping the symptoms.

I bought myself a very good elastic mattress pad that fits over my mattress, and makes it soft, relieving some pressure on the nerve when I sleep. I do not sit down at all if possible throughout the day, but have been standing, walking or lying down.

I have another month where things are really quiet here and I can be productive at my own pace. After that, I'm thinking to go stay with my parents who are very supportive, until I can get well. I will probably continue some light work at first, but will not be under pressure to have a steady job and be financially independent, so I think this sounds like a good option, although you never know as it improves I will keep myself busy, and even recently as long as I have painkillers I am keeping busy, and that helps too through the worst of the pain to distract me. The only downside i can really see is that I will be leaving the summer in the southern hemisphere to go deal with this problem in the cold weather of the northern hemisphere.

Any other thoughts or suggestions would be most welcome. I really want to heal this naturally due to my previous traumatic surgery and as I learned previously, having a strong mind and positive attitude are one of the best tools for healing, so I do feel pretty positive about this. Please tell me it can be done and that someone out there is the proof.

Thank you : )


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  • Posted

    I just wanted to add something which might help others suffering from this condition. My homeopath has talked a lot about the emotional basis of trauma and illness, and I have also read some books about this in the past couple of years. Illnesses like cancer can often lead back to emotions that are not dealt with and are suppressed for long periods of time. The spine is a particularly susceptible part of the body when it comes to emotional trauma.

    As I understand it, the stress and emotional pain of my marriage and separation over the past three years have probably led to the prolapsed disc I now have. At the time the pain initially came on, my body was very worn down and my back was not strong, but I was very busy and could not stop for a couple of months to deal with my emotional grief......however I think what the homeopathics did was draw this grief out quickly, and perhaps that's why the pain came on suddenly......I have since been dealing with all of my emotions surrounding my failed marriage and that is why I feel positive about healing--I want to focus on this and am not hiding from myself. If you are experiencing severe back pain and you are in any position to find support and deal with any lingering emotional issues, I think it helps your condition greatly.......

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  • Posted

    Hi Sakinah

    I'm sorry to hear that you are now having further probems with your back. It is true that a prolapsed disc can cause all sorts of other problems with your back, due to poor posture and muscles not been correctly used and losing their strength. My prolapsed disc caused me to also have sacro-iliac joint syndrome, a tilted pelvis and one leg longer than the other!!! I agree that it is important to do all you can to keep in good shape physically, but please remember that pain is your friend. It is your body's way of letting you know that something is wrong and whilst we all want to take pain killers to \"shut it up\" and so we can get on with our lifes, I am a big believer that we should listen more. So please be careful, if you are exercising and your body is in pain, it is basically teling you it has had enough for that day.

    I too am a very firm believer that stress pays a very big part on body pain. As does past trauma. There is an excellent book written by Bessel Van der Kolk, called \"The Body Keeps the Score\". Maybe you have read it. There has been much research done on the subject, mainly in Holland, by psychotherapists specialising in helping people that have gone through horrific experiences either as an adult or a child and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I really hope that your disc prolapse does settle down. It does for a lot of people but on the other hand I think that you need to be realistic too because generally people that have had previous back surgery are always going to be at risk of suffering further problems in the future than people that have never had the surgery at all. I have had two surgeries, about a year ago now and I now have two new herniations. They aren't bad enough to need operating on and hopefully they may repair themselves and \"pop back in\" I certainly hope so. Like you the last thing I would ever want to do is have another surgery, but I am keeping an open mind about it. I have been off work for the last two months with stress and I really don't need this hanging over me. I don't believe that stress can cause a prolapsed disc, any more than it can cause a broken arm because the act of the disc prolapsing is purely mechanical. But I do believe that stress can cause you to be tense and that doesn't help the muscles which in turn has a knock on effect, and also think that the way that we accept and perceive pain is affected by our current emotional state and our past traumatic history.

    I hope that your employer becomes a little kinder to you over your back issues. However, this really is one of those conditions where you have to have direct experience in order to understand and I'm guessing that your employer has never had a back problems!!!!

    Good wishes for a speedy recovery


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  • Posted

    Thanks TFU for sharing your experience and advice. I would agree with most of what you said and I am being conservative in my actions. My body is telling me when it's tired and also when it's in pain. Swimming is actually very relieving, not only do I not feel pain but I can relax, and I can stretch out my muscles which would be too painful under gravity. I find that I am in less pain when I swim--I am only swimming light to moderate laps, nothing strenuous, just what feels good. I'm still of a strong mind that I can get through this and will continue to rest and seek natural assistance unless it becomes very clear that surgery is necessary. I am also going to be leaving my work and resting at my family's home in the next month, so hopefully having the emotional support will help. I hope your back improves and I hope that you are able to return to your work and everything else you are used to doing. take care.


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  • Posted

    Hi Sakinah

    I certainly hope that you can get plenty of rest over the next few weeks and getting away from a main stressor, i.e. work, will certainly help I'm sure. It does for me. I work in an office and it isn't always easy to do what I need to do to help my back. I do get up and walk around a lot, but sometimes if I am very busy I just sort of forget. I find that it is easier to tend to a small nagging pain when I notice it rather than wait for it to be a huge problem, which then becomes quite disabling. That applies more to my back though, because my leg is mainly burning pain, which although permanent is sort of easier to deal with now.

    I am totally with you on not wanting another op. I actually have PTSD now from the botched (first) op and everything that followed. With two new herniations I know that there is a very good chance of needing another op, but right now I have too many bad memories of what happened previously to ever let anybody near me again. People who claim that they would do it all again, tend to be the ones that went in for planned surgery and had a straightforward recovery. For me right now another operation isn't an option because of the serious psychological problems I have arising from it all. In fact I wouldn't even agree to an epidural injection in my back recently. I am instead going to have an IV Ketamine infusion, which I understand you can have in your arm. But my back is a no go area now. So now I try to take good care of myself and do the right thing and keep my fingers crossed!!!

    I need to start swimming again, because you are right it is excellent exercise, but the problem is that I can't stand the cold water, particularly in the winter. The hospital recently suggested pilates and I am going to try that after Christmas when the classes start again. I walk a lot, which I love, but that hurts my toes, which are all locked up from the nerve damage. Right now I just take each day as it comes, every day is a different cocktail of symptoms/problems.

    Best wishes


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