Prolapsed disc - how long to wait for treatment?

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I have been suffering with a prolapsed disc (L3/4) since Christmas, and my GP is recommending a 'watch and wait' approach to management. However, due to the pain and impact on my quality of life, I am keen to start considering further treatment. I'd be interested to know from other sufferers if they have had a spontaneous recovery (what my GP is hoping for), and if so how long it took, or if not, how long it was before they were referred to a specialist for advice.

Many thanks

sad :cry:

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  • Posted

    i have two prolapsed discs. (L3/4 and S1/5) one bi lateral so pain etc with both legs. first disc went 20 months ago and i think second 11 months ago. i waited 3 months for mri and was advised to let it settle (not severe enought for an operation). I have been unable to work since due to not being able to sit for very long. It is a very slow improvement. I still lie on the floor a lot. I take tramadol which helps a little, but not with the leg pain. I am not very good with anti-inflams. If I do too much I am back to feeling like an 80 year old, not 47!
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  • Posted

    Hi,

    As I understand it, the wait and see approach usually lasts for 12 weeks or so, because it is true a lot of disc problems do get better on their own. And it is usually within three months, if it is going to happen. After then, what you get offered will depend on how hard you press for it. You could suggest that your GP refers you to a local hospital for physio. It will take many weeks for the appointment to come through, but at least you will be in \"the system\", because one thing of which you can be sure \"the system\" is not going to come looking for you!!!!! Then if things do get better on their own you can always cancel the appointment. But at least in the meantime you will have a plan!

    If you read through the posts here you will see that the recurrent theme is that people generally have to bang on many doors in order to get meaningful help. It shouldn't be that way but generally for most people it is. Hopefully a physio can get you on the right tracks. If not then further down the line you may need an MRI scan to really see what is going on. If things get worse suddenly then you should see that as a red flag and get help straight away. It is quite unusual for a lower spine prolapse at L3/L4 - it is usually L4/L5 or L5/S1 that goes, or if you are really unlucky.... both!!! If you have severe nerve compression, beyond the pain the damage causes numbness/burning etc and if I were you I would use that to accelerate your pathway to proper care. In some ways it may seem better having numbness/burning rather than pain, but long term it will put you in a much worse position.

    The good news is that very few people need an operation. But however the problem gets sorted it is a horrible condition to have to tolerate.

    Let us know how it all progresses for you.

    Best wishes

    TFU

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  • Posted

    You have to push to get treatment - I totally agree. I've learned this from my experience of the last year and a half. My prolapse is L5, with all the numbness, burning, inability to stand, walk, unable to work, do normal daily activities.

    Initially my GP adopted the wait and see approach. After 3 months she referred me to the orthopaedic specialist. After a further 3 months of waiting I was seen by the consultant and referred for an MRI, which took another 3 months.

    I waited to be called back to orthopaedics to review the MRI - this took 6 months. I was referred then to a further specialist - another 3 months - he said he needed a repeat MRI as the first MRI was so long ago!

    At this stage I'd had enough and we paid £400 to have the MRI done privately. We sent the film to the consultant, who then rang me to advise me that the disc was so large there was a significant risk of nerve damage to the bladder and bowel and that he was putting me on the 'urgent' list for surgery. I'm now waiting for the call to go for the operation.

    In the meantime the symptoms are the same. I'm taking co-codamol and using a tens machine. Sort of numbs the pain but numbs the brain aswell. I use a pillow between my legs and lie on my side in bed.

    I would advise anyone with a suspected prolapse just to go ahead and pay at a private clinic for an MRI. It's the price of a weekend away or a PS3. At least you'll know what the exact problem is and you can drive the process rather than waiting around.

    I've been a qualified nurse for 20 years and I expected more of the NHS than this. If I could pay to have the whole thing done privately I would have had this sorted in less than 3 months.

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  • Posted

    Hi,

    What a horrible experience. As I'm sure you have found out the system sux! And it seems as though you have certainly been kept waiting way too long. So much for the new 18 weeks pathway for treatment, eh??? Not worth the paper that the dumb rules are printed on.

    It seems that quite a few people finally just give up waiting for some NHS care and get the scans done privately. Waiting six months to get back the results of your original scan is shameful. There was one person who wrote on this site who was told it would take months to get an appointment with a Consultant on the NHS so she paid to see him privately (the very same person she had been referred to as her NHS Consultant) and have an MRI, all done in a couple of days, the Consultant having seen her privately, then based on that meeting fast tracked her to the top of his NHS waiting list!!! There is something very wrong with all this. Last time I looked nurses such as yourself weren't paid a king's ransom each month, but when you are in agony month in month out what on earth are you supposed to do??? It is good that you got the scan done privately, it's a shame that you can't find a way of getting the costs repaid to you. Have you thought about putting in a complaint to the hospital and sending them the bill? Maybe the Consultant could support that?

    I hope that your operation goes well and that you can move back towards normality soon afterwards. It's quite scary though isn't it knowing that you have been just left to get on with it for months on end, with nobody listening or acting, whilst all the time there was a serious problem requiring surgery. I think that the NHS is playing a very dangerous game with our health. Personally I found although I was very angry it was also coupled with a sense of helpnessless. My lowest point was being in so much pain one day I was locked in a never ending cycle of panic and hyperventilating and I was taken by the police to a mental hospital under a Section 136. I will never forget that for as long as I live. Everybody has there own defining moment in their prolapsed disc journey and that was mine!

    And trying to get any meaningful information from the medical profession was hopeless. In fact I found that knowledge was power and it was only when I had educated myself sufficiently to be able to ask challenging questions that I got anywhere. I guess at least as a nurse you were a step ahead because you understand the system. And boy do they like to keep the rules of the \"process\" a close guarded secret. I have learned so much on this journey.

    Best wishes

    TFU

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  • Posted

    I can totally empathise with you, I tend to suffer generally with back pain and a litlle pain in the left leg, but this is bearable and controlled with medication and 6 monthly epidurals at the pain clinic. On the 7th of Feb for no reason the back pain became more severe and it wasnt the normal pain, I decided to wait and see what would happen, after 3 days the pain began to go down the left leg to the foot from the buttock, this pain was very intense but the back pain was minimal, at this point I went to see my GP who decided to manage the pain and see if it settled, he did refer me to the consultant at the hospital. On 16th Mach, I was sent into hospital by my GP as I had been unable to pee for 24hrs, I was catheterisedd which sorted one problem, I had an mri which showed a prolapse L4/5, I have a prolapse of L5/6 in 2002 also. Taking into account that the pain in the leg is terrible, I am unable to walk I am all crocked and any walking is crippling, consultant said that he would operate if i was still in this situation in 3 = 4 months, I expressed to him how bad the pain was and how poor my quality of life was at 42 yrs old but he was uninterested. I think its disgusting how people with prolapsed discs who have pain from the prolapse are lead along a very long and winding road, of medication, waiting, medication, waiting, if my cat or dog was as disabled as I am right now and in this horrific pain, I would not lead them down a long and winding road, I would take it to the vet, who would without doubt take effective action. I have asked my GP to refer me to another hospital within the county for a second oppinion, I have asked for a private appointment as I cant bear this for much longer, my GP has requested that my notes and mri resullts are sent to him, I just hope when I see this Dr that he has a more human side.

    I have worked within the health care profession all my adult life and know that you should always challenge your GP or consultant if you feel that they are fobbing you off or not giving you a good service, at the end of the day, we pay our taxes and NI so that GPs can receive their massive salaries. GPs are only trained to understand and diagnose general conditions, thus they send you to a consultant who is a specialisst in this area.

    Your GP can refer patients for MRIs, getting a referral to the consultant is one thing, this will normally be a clerking excercise, as referrals must be seen in Northampton within 11 weeks, so you go along to this appointment, consultant says you need an MRI, you then go on the waiting list for this, then you go on the waiting list to see the consultant again, 6 months could easily pass. My advice would be to press your GP for and MRI referral and ask you GP to expidite your consultant appointment, lay it on with a trowel, otherwise, those who stay quiet are the ones most likely to be ignored, whereas someone who is bombarding their GP or consultant will get the attention quicker.

    Another option open to us is to ask your GP to refer you out of the county, your GP will be able to log on to the national database, I would suggest doing this during a GP appointment, he will be able to tell you how long the waiting list is at other hospitals and you can choose where you want to go.

    So my main advice would be get a 2nd opinion, research your consultant you may find forums that discuss certain consultants who are more humane and are commited in patient care.

    I hope things look up for you and me both, this is driving me round the twist, I havent slept in my bed with my husband for 9wks and 2 days! I would also be interested to hear from anyone who knows the secret to reducing this pain and disabilitY.

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  • Posted

    My back \"went\" as I stretched on February 14th. I was unable to move for 3 days and the pain in my back, thigh and knee was excrutiating. I then began to get numbnes in my left leg, from half way down my thight to just below my knee. I was sent to the hospital by my GP on the third day and they referred me to a specialist. I have since had an MRI Scan, and am awaitging the results. I feel as though I have faired well compared to some of your experiences. I am still have numbness around the knee, which feels as though it is in a tight bandage all the time and is painfull to move. I am unable to walk very far and find it takes me twice as long to do anything. I play badminton and do a lot of walking, or at least I did, and am desperate to get back to normal. What I find the most frustrating is that I have been given no guidance as to what I could be doing in the meantime to help my recovery. I have kept moving as much as possibe. Is there anybody else who has had similar symptoms and if so, what was the outcome?
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  • Posted

    Hello,

    I hate hearing of anyone else suffering this as i have been suffering with 2 prolapsed disc's and spinal stenoss for the last 6 yrs, i am now 34 yrs of age. it took 5 yrs of fighting to get my spinal operation which was a failure as the damage to my nerves was already too bad, according to my surgeon then i called him a few unsavory names for keeping me waiting. to which he replied \"its not his fault, its the politicians\"

    I had my Op on the 19th April 08 and have been unable to walk unaided since, i had a cortisone epidural 3 weeks ago and have had no relief at all from that. as stated by some one else i go and see my GP and he throughs another script for Oxycodone at me. i'm taking oxycodone, tramadol, gabapentin, solpadol, and lorazpepam( for sleeping) and i'm still in agony all day everyday.

    I just hope that your pain goes soon and forever.

    Glynn

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  • Posted

    Hi All,

    I've just looked at this site as I'm (hopefully) well on my way to a good recovery and was interested in other peoples experiences. My problem started with excruciating pains in my lower back with a muscle spasm that was pulling my spine way off centre, I could hardly move and at the same time was suffering with a tickly cough that obviously sent jolts of pain through me every time I coughed which was made worse as I knew it was going to happen and probably tensed up even more as a result waiting for it.

    I've always moaned about the high cost of subsribing to medical insurance but I do pay in to Bupa and my timetable was as follows.

    March 17th first sign of a back problem, I gave it a week to see if it would improve but it didn't, in fact it got much worse. I 'phoned Bupa who told me to see my GP and ask for a refferal letter, this done I attended for 'physio 5 days later to be followed up by another session 1 week later, during the week my condition worsened and when I saw my physio the following Thursday he reffered me to a cosultant in the same building who I saw on the Friday morning, that lunch time saw me having an MRI with a follow up appointment with the consultant arranged for the Monday. I saw him as planned on the Monday at 2.00pm with the results of the MRI resulting in immediate (same day) admission for day care and an epidural injection, it took a week for the pain to subside and I've now just attended my second \"rehab\" physio session with which we're all extremely pleased. I'm working on a planned \"rehab\"programme which has given me a direction for (hopefully) a near full recovery. This isn't an advert for Bupa by the way but it certainly shows the difference between being insured or relying on \"the system\". I wish all of you a speedy recovery.

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