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herniated disc, chronic pain, and question for doctor
amske posted:
10 years ago I was diagnosed with a herniated L5-S1 disc that was compressing my sciatic nerve. I did not opt for surgery because I had a newborn and the orthopedic surgeon said the pain would be cyclical (so at some point may go away for awhile).. I did have a couple of years that were nearly pain-free, but for the past 4 or 5 years my pain has been getting worse and worse, and extends a bit higher in my back, through both of my hips (sometimes both at once, sometimes just one or the other), and in my joints. I also have pain down my leg but not as bad as the original sciatica. I have special pillows for sleeping and do what I can to not strain my back, but it's now even hard to sit in the one chair in the house that used to be comfortable for me. It doesn't matter if I'm sitting or standing or lying down - it's just getting worse and worse. Everything I've read leads me to believe that 90% of people with degenerated or ruptured discs get better over time, but as time goes on my pain is getting worse, not better. I am afraid of steroid shots and surgery and am also afraid more of my discs have ruptured (the original MRI showed lots of black spots in the other discs showing the fluid was dissipating). My question is, is there some other disease or something that would cause this? How come the pain is getting worse after nearly a decade rather than better?? Thanks for any advice & help you can provide!! This constant pain affects my mood and is so depressing and is also affecting my work and ability to drive and walk and just live in general.
bj1208 responded:
hi and welcome to the support group -

I wanted to give you this website to review and research DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease) and ruptured disc -

Spine Universe is a great with lots of informative information -

Degenerative Disc Disease, even though as slated for 'older' people does affect younger people - even as young as in the teens -

Cigarette smoking is bad for back problems often causing more pains etc.

I'm not sure what you were reading that shows 90% of people who have DDD or ruptured discs get better over the years, once DDD does start in a disc the disc normally does not 'heal' on it's own and do tend to get worse as months/years go by. Ruptured discs (herniated disc) also tend to not heal themselves either. With this the disc has splintered or ruptured meaning the gel-like substance is leaking out - there is also family history to consider too - my mom's side of the family has a history of bad backs - so I have inherited the bad backs -

There are numerous people walking around with ruptured (herniated) discs that don't know they have it as they do not have any pains - however there are others where the pain is horrible.

There are other diseases that can cause back pains/problems but in order to properly diagnose you need to be seen by either an Orthopedic Spine Specialist or a Neurosurgeon Spine Specialist to have current MRI/CT Scans done - this does not mean that you need surgery but they are the best at reading the results and will give you the best treatment options.

Just an FYI - I had both DDD and ruptured disc (L5-S1) my disc had splintered - mostly pressing on the left S1 nerve root with a little pressing on the right S1 nerve root - I went thru all treatment options BEFORE deciding surgery - and this was done after all treatment options did not work - there are lots of different options and the surgeon will go over these with you - those could include injections/physical therapy/chiropractic care etc.

Please do see a spine specialist soon as you should have this checked out to see if there are other damages -

please keep us posted - take care - Joy
Ari Ben-Yishay, MD responded:
You have a very common problem. At least 10-20% of people with symptomatic disc herniations go on to have chronic low back and/or leg pain. An updated MRI would be helpful to check things out. Your fear of injections and surgery will not be helpful in going over your options with a spinal specialist. All thats left would be physical therapy, medications and living with the discomfort. Surgery is your last resort but in the right situation can be a big success. Good luck.

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