L4/5 disc bulge

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Hi everyone.

I've had back pain/sciatica since the end of July. As soon as the pain started I went to see a physio. After lots of sessions, I was advised to go to my GP as the pain was getting worse. The GP I saw was useless, if I'm honest - he didn't examine me at all and just said that he'd refer me to a musculoskeletal department. After a couple of weeks of not hearing anything about an appointment and with the pain being absolutely excruciating, I went to my local minor injuries unit as it had got to the point where I could barely sit or stand or sleep. I was told at the MIU that as much as they wanted to, they weren't able to xray my back there. Instead they got me a same-day emergency appointment with a different GP. He was much more helpful - he gave me co-codamol 30/500 to help with the pain; referred me for a MRI and also to the musculoskeletal department (it turned out that the original GP hadn't referred me at all).

Two weeks later, my mum took me to A&E as even with the very strong co-codamol, I was on the floor screaming in pain. The nurse I saw there examined me and at the end of it, said that basically she thought I wasn't as in as much pain as I'd said I was, and there was nothing wrong with me and sent me home. This was really upsetting for me, and stupidly, I started to doubt my own pain.

Three weeks later, I went to see the musculoskeletal doctor, who sent me for an xray straight away. I had the MRI scan the day after too.

I got the results back three days ago - the xray showed scoliosis of my spine convex to the left. And the MRI showed a 'moderate large central disc bulge at L4/5 level which is causing severe compression of the nerve root at L5'.

I have now been referred to a Spinal team. I'm so relieved to finally have a diagnosis as the pain has been completely debilitating - I can't sit down at all, standing is only possible when I'm completely dosed up on co-codamol and Naproxen and walking is incredibly difficult. I'm only 19 and it's been horrible to not be able to do anything I used to.

Anyway, now that I've been referred to the Spinal team, I was just wondering what, from other people's experiences, they are likely to say?

I'm guessing that they're either going to offer a steroid injection or surgery, as I've had the problem for while and nothing else has helped it. But, I just wanted other peoples advice on what to expect.

Thanks,

Nikki

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6 Replies

  • Posted

    Poor you Nikki,what dreadful treatment from your doctor,thank goodness you have had a MRI scan.

    This time last year I was bedridden with pain,it was so bad that the doctor was giving me home visits to inject anti-inflamatory drugs in my back,which did nothing to relieve the pain.By this time I was on all the highest pain killers that he could give me bar morphine(which I asked him for but he could not give that to me)

    My appointment to the hospital was bought forward where I saw the top specialst who immediately called me in for an operation.

    I had a cyst growing on my sciatic nerve!hence the increasing pain.

    The relief was immediate and after physio I am well and truely up and running back on the tennis court and in the gym.

    When I asked my GP why he did not look at the actual scan (where even my self could see the cyst)he replied it would of cost £50.00,I told heim that I would of payed £500.00 to have a pain free Christmas.

    Check that your GP has actually seen the scan and push for an operation if all else fails.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    Jacquie

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  • Posted

    Hi Nikki

    I've been through a very similar thing to you so I feel for you (until last week I wasn't able to stand/walk pain free for most of the year and at other times sitting and lying down were painful too - at times it was so bad I couldn't sleep for days at a time).  I would suggest asking your GP about seeing a specialist pain clinic.  Hopefully you have one nearby and you can get in to see them soon.  You need to make sure that your GP appreciates how much pain you're in.   If you're not happy with the GP you've seen ask to see another one.   I really struggled to get on to the right medicines to allow me to cope with my pain and the GP switched me between all sorts of variations (you name it I've probably tried it) and they never really got the right mix.  A specialist pain clinic should be better equipped to do this. With time my pain improved but unfortunately every time my back improved it went again a few weeks later.  In the end I had a microdiscectomy (last week) that I'm currently recovering from.  So far so good (pain free) but I still need to fully understand how much disc was removed to understand what I can and can't do going forward (I see the surgeon again next week).  

    Surgery is the last option so try to get on top of the pain to get back to leading a normal life.  

    Also, I spent over a thousand pounds on chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists and while they helped alleviate the pain they never fixed it so be careful what they promise.

    I hope this helps,  John.

     

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  • Posted

    Woah, wait a minute Nikki, hold the operation. Your only 19. Any discectomy will weaken the spine above the level of prolapse, as your relatively young a long life awaits you. Its better that your spine remains strong. Mother nature will help in the interim, even if it takes months, your symptoms WILL begin to ease. Keep mobile, even if in pain, you can get through this, an operation should be a last resort, physio, injections and acupuncture are all better alternatives. For your information i've had an l1 burst fracture, subsequent vertebroplasty with t12 to l2 stabilization,bars removed after 18 months. This coupled with l4/5 bulge and l5/s1 left-sided prolapse. My sciatica has gradually eased, even after 18 months. I thought the pain would never ease but it has so trust your young, healthy body and the very best of luck.
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  • Posted

    Firstly, I'm still only a medical student, so please double check everything I say and do not base any serious decisions on my advice. 

    I really feel for you as I have seen from my placements just how bad spinal pain can be. I have also seen the surgery for this condition first hand on a few occasions and I have sat in on a number of consultations. The operation required to treat a disc bulge involves removing a small portion of the vertebra in the spine (called a laminectomy). This removal of bone allows the surgeon to then remove the bulging bit of disc that is pressing on nerves and causing your pain. The problem is, however, that removing that section of bone can cause you to have worsened back pain. As a result, most surgeons I have spoken to will only recommend discectomy for patients whose leg pain is worse than their back pain. 

    Often, the doctors would refer you to a pain specialist and try to treat you with drugs, rather than operating, as the success rate does not always eclipse the risks of further back pain. 

    I hope this helps.

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  • Posted

    Hi

    Have just read your story and appear to be sharing your experiences , In short I have a slipped disc no 5 I am told , I too saw mmy GP and was referred to a spinal clinic the spent 15 minutes with me said time will heal it , I have the condition now for 16 months unfortunately I am not one foe sitting and perhaps carrying on with lifting is not helping. when in pain I simply apply a hot water bottle and it helps but taking medication just does not help although I do take Nurefen and they help me. In respect to an operation would not advise it my brother had it and has left him with a drop foot. Epidural I hear I does not work. Not sure what the answer is but I hope you are better and if you have found amagic cure share it with me.

    David

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