Brace yourself...sorry, this is a long one! I guess I needed to talk about this or something. :)
About two years ago, I ran a full marathon and was definitely in the best shape of my life. A few months later, I ruptured two discs in my back while helping my Mom put away her Christmas decorations. I didn't have insurance and didn't even know exactly how badly I was injured, but I was in extremely severe pain and could even get up to use the restroom for days. The pain radiated from my back and down throughout my right leg like a constant flow of lava inside my skin. I looked-up my symptoms online and saw a number of people talking about their (somewhat similar) symptoms online and that they got better after a little while without surgery. I tried to "tough it out" for as long as I could. I saw a chiropractor a few times and also got a few cortisone injections from a spine specialist, but nothing relieved the pain or seemed to truly help my condition improve. I had to quit my job and live at home since I could hardly walk, let alone drive or go about normal activities.
After a few weeks, the pain gradually dulled, but over the course of those six weeks, I noticed that my right leg was becoming increasing difficult to move. It was basically completely paralyzed, and our spinal specialist said that he knew it was very serious and not going to get better on its own. He referred me to a local surgeon, and I had an MRI. Once the surgeon saw the results of the MRI, he was honestly in complete shock at what he saw. I had two ruptured discs (I think the L3/L4 and L4/L5), and they were severely pinching both the sciatic and the femoral nerves. He said that just by looking at the MRI images, he could tell that what I experienced would have been excruciatingly painful. He couldn't believe that I didn't get rushed to the hospital right when it happened. (I should have...hindsight...20/20...) So he scheduled me for an emergency surgery for the very next day since he said my nerves were extremely damaged and likely close to being dead. This surgeon usually is booked for at least 3 months, so for him to change everyone else's surgery schedules in order to make mine a priority showed that he was worried about my nerves.
Okay...long story, I know... The surgery, from what I heard from the surgeon, went well. He removed a large portion of the disc tissue that was pinching my nerves, and he said that my nerves were just barely "clinging to life." I know that I still have lasting nerve damage. My leg still feels very strange to the touch, and the sensations it feels is very different than what is normal. Also, my right leg is still much, much weaker than my left leg. It doesn't "obey my brain's commands" all the time, and I can't always lift it as well as I'd like at times. Recovery has been a long road, and I'm definitely not there yet.
So, I am wondering about running. I asked my surgeon about it, and he said that at about 12 months after surgery (if all went well) that I could start running again. He said there is no predicting when another disc rupture might happen, that I should try to be careful, but I should continue doing the things I enjoy. I'd LOVE to run more, but it is so much more difficult to get back into it. I am obviously not in "running condition" anymore, but it is beyond that. I don't think I've ever necessarily felt much back pain while running, perhaps a little sore afterward. But I do notice that my right leg is sometimes a bit weak and makes it a challenge. My back is always sore and tight, so it is hard for me to know if running is a cause or not. I just have the feeling that my back will always bother me at least a little, so I'd like to run because it is one exercise that I am able to get passionate about and absorbed by it. Everything else tends to bore me or doesn't feel like authentic exercise to me. I really miss running, but I also don't want to put my back at great risk of serious injury again. I do NOT want to experience all of that again, it was awful.
What do you suggest? Am I crazy to be running again? Oh...I better mention that I am 28, a female, and I could stand to lose a few of the pounds that I have put on since the injury/surgery. But overall I am quite healthy...I know that running would be a wonderful boost to my fitness, but I would like to feel more mentally at peace with asking that of my body again. I have tried other cardio exercises, and I enjoy some of them, but none gives me quite as much of a "rush" as running has given me.
Sorry for the SUPER long "question," but I felt like I needed to explain the situation as best as I could. I appreciate you (whoever you are!) for reading this and for taking the time to respond. I really want to get back into being as healthy and fit as possible, whatever that means for me.
* Sorry, one more thing! My chiropractor took an x-ray of my spine and told me that the lower section completely lacked the curvature it should naturally have. It was 100% straight up and down. What in the world causes that to happen? Did I make that happen? Can it be reversed? If so, how?
What are the risks of having a straight lower spine? What is the purpose/benefit of having curvature there?
I meant to say that I could NOT even get up to use the restroom for days...I meant to say, the injury was serious. I was silly not to take it more seriously, but I couldn't stand being a financial burden to anyone! :/
Okay...I'm officially annoying, but I just thought I'd also mention that I'd like to know what others are doing to manage their back pain? I still have nearly constant back pain, definitely worse at some times to the point of temporarily "re-paralyzing" my right leg. My back easily gets "stuck" after just a few minutes of being in one position. For example, often after playing the piano for just 10-15 minutes while sitting up straight on a piano bench, it takes me a little while to be able to stand normally again with being a little bit bent and in pain. I'm too dang young to be having such issues, right?! :( I'd like to manage this pain because it makes simple things much less enjoyable...I've gotten to a point where I'm used to feeling at least some pain all the time, but I'd like to know if I don't have to settle for a life like this.
What have others tried for their pain? What has truly worked for you? In an ideal world I could take a percocet now and then, but I did my best to get off of that as soon as I could stand it after the surgery. But I know many people who still take it (or similar pain medications) for years after their surgeries. I can understand why. So...what are some other solutions? Do they exist, or do I just have to deal with the pain...even though I'm only 28 and (hopefully) have many, many more years ahead that I'd rather not live this way if it can be avoided.
Well, the suggested activities are best discussed with your treating orthopedician depending on the precise nature of the surgery and the progress made so far. It is typically not advised to put undue stress on the spine, if not well tolerated. Spinal curvature may be altered with inflammations/ muscles spasms or due to structural issues. You could discuss this with your treating orthopedician as well.
Mild-moderate backache can be managed with rest and OTC NSAID medication, while moderate-sever cases may require prescription medication or other modes of pain management. I would suggest seeing your orthopedician or a pain management specialist for an evaluation and suggestion of an appropriate management plan.
Hope this is helpful.
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