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48 replies

BackPainMisery · 25/01/2024 12:32

I’m pretty sure I have a slipped disc at l5/s1. Seeing the GP to confirm.

I have lower back pain, a tingling bum and sciatica in my left leg.

looking for positive stories from those who have had similar. What helped, what didn’t. Should I be avoiding anything? How should I sleep? Sitting is the worst thing I think.

also has anyone else had the tingling bum? That’s bilateral. Can’t see this is normal with what I have going on?

OP posts:
crunchymom · 25/01/2024 23:22

I have the same except the bilateral tingling. You should definitely mention this they will probably want to check that your ?herniated disk isn’t pressing on your cauda equina pretty quickly as this can be bad but is very rare. If you have any bowel or urinary changes also mention these.

i sleep on back with pillow under knees or on side with pillow between knees, this seems to be the most comfortable and recommended.

avoid doing anything that makes the pain worse but do try to do some light exercise and physio. There are some good physio videos on YouTube if you search L5S1. Strengthening pelvic floor is supposed to help too.

good luck, I know your pain

mistrals · 25/01/2024 23:44

A friend of mine had IDD therapy, wasn't cheap but she describes it as life changing as her sciatica was so painful. I don't remember her having the tingling that you describe though.
Hope you find something that helps.

Aroundthewaygirl · 25/01/2024 23:49

I had so much pain from my slipped disc that sometimes I couldn’t stand for longer than 5 mins. I could feel The sciatica pain all the way into my calf . Finally I had to get an injection. I get one about once a year and it works miracles for me. Therapy didn’t help much, actually sometimes it made it worse. I also bought an ergonomic chair that I sit in most of the day and it really helps.

PriOn1 · 25/01/2024 23:57

I have the tingling bum, though it’s usually positional now and not there all the time. I did reach a point when a hemi-laminectomy was discussed but I really didn’t want surgery.

I had sciatica and disc problems for years, but now have it under control using core muscle exercises (currently pilates).

Stretches are good too, once the early pain is wearing off a bit. I worked hard with a physio for a while, learning about core strength, which makes all the difference for me.

Hmmmbetterchangethis · 26/01/2024 00:00

I had a ruptured disc and a partial discectomy operation sorted it.

Prior to having the op I couldn’t stand upright and was in agony all the time.

Had the injection which didn’t help at all.

I still have to be careful and do Pilates to protect my back now.

araiwa · 26/01/2024 00:26

I had an MRI, the doctor looked at it, spoke to physio department, 3 months of physio, for an hour, three times a week cured it completely.

I'd tried all sorts before that and it didn't help and possibly made it worse. MRI is the way forward and only way to a proper diagnosis and treatment

Caerulea · 26/01/2024 01:36

Seconding the pillow between the knees, even a lay down in the day on your side with one between the knees, it makes the world of difference, even if just for a while.

For me, being on my back for any length of time is an absolute no when my back is really playing up. The following is what I do when it's mind-blowingly, panic inducing painful.

Don't sit on soft things & don't do anything quickly. You might be able to get into a position, or move a certain way just fine then find you can't get back - at all!

If you're able, lay on your belly on the ground and push your upper body away from it very carefully.

All fours & arch/drop your back up & down slowly.

Both these can help mine loosen just enough to be bearable for a bit. I often do them in the middle of the night when I've woken up in agony.

If possible, don't let anyone help you if you get stuck!! Not unless they know exactly how to get you out of the position you're in, they will absolutely and accidentally do something that means the weight is wrong & you're in agony. It's better to take your time & work out how to move yourself.

Do everything slowly & carefully - no surprises! Don't stay still for too long.

HollaHolla · 26/01/2024 01:54

You’ve mentioned the tingling in your bum. You must be very vigilant for red flag symptoms - either numbness between your legs, or lack of control of bowels/bladder (that includes not being able to go, or stop.) These constitute a clinical emergency - called cauda equina - and there’s only 24-48 hours to have surgery, or else it can become permanent.

I’ve had 4 spinal surgeries, including a spinal fusion the last time (because I developed cauda equina, and I’d already had three microdiscectomies, laminectomies, and nerve root decompression - and the nerve root blocker injections were by working any more). Surgeon says that there’s no way he’s doing any more, unless it’s ‘pretty catastrophic’.

I’ve been super vigilant with all of the exercises, Pilates daily, swimming 3 or 4 times a week, physio every week, for 7 years. I am someone who has a shitty back. Don’t sit, stand, or lie for too long. Set yourself a timer for every 30 mins if you can, and change position/walk around the room/have a wee stretch. Obviously, sleeping is ok!! But keep the muscles active.

So, this isn’t a tale of my woes, but a warning that you can do EVERYTHING right, and it still go wrong. But equally - it might go away in a few weeks! They reckon 8-12 weeks is the time for most herniations/bulges to resolve. So please please, if you get the cauda equina symptoms, take yourself straight to A&E, if you’ve not already got a neurosurgeon. (And all the medic friends/colleagues I worked with said don’t let an orthopaedic surgeon do it - insist on a neuro surgeon!)

Good Luck. It’s fucking grim, and utterly relentless pain. Get the doctor to prescribe you a decent nerve painkiller too. It can really help.

BackPainMisery · 27/01/2024 11:01

Thank you. I’ve been red flag assessed for CES by physio and GP, they aren’t concerned at the moment (although I am constantly assessing myself as so worried about it)

appreciate all of your experiences. It’s really scary how much surgery / injections seems to be needed. I was really hopeful it would improve on its own. Very scared and down about it at the moment.

OP posts:
Gymmum82 · 27/01/2024 11:16

I had the same thing a few years ago now. The sciatic pain went down to my calves on both legs. I had an MRI which confirmed a herniated disc.
I saw a physio who recommended stretches to do and also walking. I walked and walked every single day 20,000 steps. It was explained that sitting and ‘resting’ was the worst thing to do. After a few weeks of walking and intensive physio I was given the ok to go back to exercising. So then I set about building up my core muscles to stabilise my spine. I got a PT who gave me a programme of core and back muscle building exercises which I started alongside the work the physio had given me to do.
Now roughly 3 years on my back is pretty much ok. I still have to be careful with spinal loading (no squats) and sometimes it can get stiff especially in the morning. But I’m glad I avoided surgery

ChiefEverythingOfficer · 27/01/2024 11:39


I have 2 large disc herniations (>12mm) with severe compression on one side, moderate compression on the other.

I have nerve damage and footfall accompanied by excruciating (10 x worse than labour) pain nearly 24 x 7 - no pain in my back, just in my leg running from my bottom to my toe. It is the most painful thing I have ever experienced, often leaving me weeping.

I am having a second spinal op next week - discectomy after a micro-disectomy 2.5 years ago.

A few thoughts:

Disc herniation/bulge is enormously common. Most people recover by taking it easy and avoiding high impact exercises, pushing chores (sweeping, vaccing, mopping), limiting bending and lifting. It really does require you to be very careful, then when fit enough ensure you focus on building core strength. Can't stress this enough. I used a Serola Belt to stabilise - this helps in the acute phase.

For me the best first line medication is voltaren 25mg x 2 with a nexium (to protect the gut) and 2 panadol plus a heatpack. I am now on Lyrica, Morphine and standard paracetamol as those first line drugs don't work. I am also bed bound 24/7.

Doctor will generally only offer physio, home exercises, heat and other treatments for the first six weeks. If it lasts longer than 6 weeks injections are possible and can be very helpful.

A disc herniation with compression of root nerves and neuropathy can only be diagnosed with MRI or CT. MRI is gold standard.

My best advice is to ensure you focus on core strength and avoid sitting for long periods / running if have a diagnosed disc issue.

Good luck.

Mxflamingnoravera · 27/01/2024 15:18

If the dr or physio have not referred you for an mri it's worth paying private if you can afford it (approx £400).

I have herniation at l5s4 and also at L4 and other issues in my cervical vertibrae. I had a microdiscectomy in Nov 2019 which left me with nerve pain and numbness in my foot. I now have sciatica in my left leg and was assessed for CES two weeks ago (finger up the bum).

I live on gabapentin, diazepam, paracetamol and codiene. I feel sick and dizzy a lot.

I swim a mile three times a week, I live alone so I cannot avoid lifting, pushing etc. I'm terrified that I'll end up in surgery for CES.

My gp dishes out painkillers, my surgeon says there's nothing he can do because it's not bad enough for more surgery. It feels like no one is managing my care. I'm fed up, in pain and feel like shit. I can't have an orgasm (the gabapentin affects sexual function), cannot walk very far because my foot is too painful and now I've developed an allergy to the swimming pool water. Apart from all that I'm managing to work 4 days a week and a fairly normal life.

Back pain (sciatica) is the worst. I wish you all the best.

HollaHolla · 27/01/2024 16:57

Sorry if any of what I said has worried you, OP. It wasn’t meant. Just wanted you to be aware of what to look out for.
Like others say, if you can avoid surgery, I really would. It’s not the easy option, and if it was ‘just’ pain, I wouldn’t do it again. I’m in chronic pain, 24/7, but I had functional issues (foot drop, then cauda equina) which meant it had to be done. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Do everything you can to try and resolve it conservatively. If you can afford to throw some money at it, then do it. I’d probably get a nerve root block injection, to calm things down, and make the exercise easier. Then intensive physio, and some 1:1 Pilates with an amazing teacher. (If you’re in central Scotland, I can recommend one.) You might well find that all does the trick. Honestly, it feels relentless, but hopefully you will be pain free soon.

HollaHolla · 27/01/2024 16:59

Ps. Also get the MRI. If I knew then what I know now, I would have paid for one. It took 8 months to get a referral, because I was ‘too functional - it can’t possibly be a disc issue’. It was, and I was left too long, hence the mess that had to be unpicked.

DollyTubb · 27/01/2024 17:09

I slipped a disc (now called herniated disc) about 40 years ago and it has never really gone away, and I'm in discomfort from it most days. But for me the sciatica and back pain, when it gets worse, is much improved with specific physio and yoga exercises. My physio also suggested when sitting use a higher based chair, if possible, with a small pillow (a McKenzie pillow) in the base of my spine. She also suggested sleeping with a large towel round my waist and knotted at the back to keep me sleeping on my side and stopping me rolling onto my back. It sounds very odd and 'sumo wrestler' but it worked for me.

ChiefEverythingOfficer · 27/01/2024 19:49

Ah the good old CES assessment. I give you a digital exam and raise you with a pin prick test. One of the least dignified tests I have ever endured.

Lol - @BackPainMisery second the MRI advice. At least you will know will know what you are dealing with.

Feel free to PM with any questions.

HollaHolla · 27/01/2024 20:31

Oh the old greasy finger. Sends a shudder. 😫
The night I was admitted with CES, I was seen by the GP, then A&E, then a transfer to the specialist hospital, where I was examined again. I think I had more fingers in places that night than I’ve ever had in my life. 😬😬😬
The phrase ‘good anal tone’ isn’t necessarily one you want to hear?! 🤣

rickyrickygrimes · 27/01/2024 20:57

I have four bulging discs, not quite herniated.
it comes and goes. I’ve had 2-3 major bad episodes, mostly 7-8 years apart. But like pps have said, it never completely goes away. Top tips

Sleeping: I vary between on my back with pillows under my knee, and on my side with pillows between my knee and under my tummy / chest.

exercises: I am not disciplined to do the every day but when it’s playing up I do a lot of knee-to-chest , and cat/ cow stretches.

drugs: tried many over the years. The only one that ‘worked’ was prednisone - oral steroids. Had two steroid injections, neither with were successful. Tried naproxen, diazepam, tramadol etc - none of them worked really. I’m in France where they are very very reluctant to prescribe co-codamol type pain relief. An intense but short course of Prednisone did the job in the end. Tbh I would go straight to that if it really flares up again.

i do find the posture is important, as odd staying at a normal weight. I cycle a lot - I find those stretches my spine a bit without the downward impact that really does aggravate it. Long walks do tend to lead to a flare up, and running is not an option.

Ishouldgodostuff · 27/01/2024 23:43

I have had sciatica pain now for just over 8 weeks. I dont think I have a herniated disc but my GP never mentioned this & I cannot recall that being noted on my x-rays taken soon after my injury (lifting groceries into my car)

Ive had radiating pain down my left thigh with a lot of tenderness in the hip area - & so am continuing to see an Osteo but am here to recommend you to also consider an Acupunturist. Im the worst sceptic for alternative health options (no offence intended for anyone, this is me) but Ive been now about 4 times & it has really started to help. Time could well have been progressing this anyway but its another option to consider.

My Osteo sent me this link the other day for a stretching exercise too which Im finding good.

PS - Ive had sciatica before in my other leg, couldnt sit comfortably at all then - this time Ive really found standing & walking much more difficult. Also we will all experience this nerve issue differently - all of our physiologies are different & our responses to pain too. All the best Flowers

Femoral Nerve Stretch 5

Lie on your side, and bring your top leg behind you. Try to reach for your foot and bend your foot towards your bottom. Let your hip extend behind you to cre...

Ibizafun · 27/01/2024 23:44

I had a slipped disc 20 years ago. After the some time when the pain was manageable unless I stood too long, I started gentle weight bearing exercises which built up the supporting muscles. I now have no problem at all, it isn't even a weak spot anymore.

EvelynKatie · 27/01/2024 23:50

I had L5S1 herniate nearly 5 years ago now. Left leg became weak, went to GP who was concerned about it including the fact I’d lost my ankle reflex. Had MRI, NHS basically said yes it’s herniated do some physio. The physio also was surprised at loss of ankle reflex and said it won’t ever come back.

I still have a weaker leg/glute to this day. I also kept getting cramps particularly in the calf muscle, it actually seems to be easing off on that front 5 years on.
I love exercise and usually do 5 workouts a week including core but often get flare ups which is frustrating. Just learning to live with it really.

darumafan · 28/01/2024 08:24

Hi Op, I had a herniated disc at L5/S1 about 6 or 7 years ago.
I ended up having an interspinous device filled to keep the discs apart.
They also did a couple of other things as part of the same operation.
I had roughly 3 years of being pain free but the sciatica has left me with a dropped left foot and permanent nerve damage.
Due to a lot of pain issues over the last 3 years, I've had some pain killing injections into my spine which then led to radio frequency ablation, this kills the nerve endings but unfortunately they do regenerate so I'm back on the waiting list for the procedure to be done again.
As other posters have said, be aware of CES symptoms. I find that not staying in the same position for too long helps reduce the pain.
I don't sit with my legs crossed because it makes my pain worse.
Have you got access to a TENS machine? That can be useful instead of taking painkillers.

BlueEyesUltimateDragon · 28/01/2024 08:51

Hello! I slipped L5-S1 twice in 5 months and it's now totally degenerate, just a dry, semi useless thing! The disc itself was pressing on my sciatic nerve as well.
Mine was all very dramatic, both times it slipped, I, all of a sudden, couldn't walk or lift that leg off the ground so I was dragging my leg, on crutches for 3 weeks each time and a long recovery in the end. I had some other symptoms and NHS weren't interested so I went private which is how I got the MRI to confirm, otherwise the NHS said they would have only done an xray and my x-ray showed nothing. I went to NHS physio for over 1 years with not much improvement (he would only give me the same few exercises and then massage the stiff area but that actually aggravated it further) and eventually they agreed to send me to rehabilitation which was an absolutely life saver and my therapist there worked wonders, starting me on a slow strength training programme, adapted every 1-2 months to progress and which finally had me discharged last August with minimal pain and back to starting to run again.
I do have regular back ache, no sciatic pain for over 1 year now though, but I just know I've done too much so have a couple of easier days (still plenty of movement but less bending etc). Things that help are a pillow between knees for sleeping - I use a V pillow from dunelm, pillows on the sofa so I'm sat more upright (I can slouch but I'll pay for it later), hot water bottles/patches/hot baths, ibuprofen/naproxen for the back pain, nortiptaline for the nerve pain and regular exercise when able to. Also no side bags, backpack style only, lift with the knees and basically work on strengthening all the muscles around the spine as and when you can but only do this with medical advice.
I hope you feel better soon, this injury had me see some very dark days but there was light at the end of the tunnel, it just took a few years for me.

P.S. if you get prescribed medicine for the nerve pain, it'll probably be amiltriptaline but it made me utterly ill, like a zombie all the time. Nortriptaline is basically the same but had none of the drowsy, sleepy side effects

Katkincake · 28/01/2024 09:30

my sympathies OP.

I am currently sat in an attractive gown and hat waiting on my second discectomy operation (last one 13yrs ago), whiling the time away on Mumsnet so a timely post to comment on😆

I finally gave up of 3 yrs of awful numb / pain in legs at night and frequent bouts of sciatica to go to GP to ask for a referral. It’s taken about 18mths to get to today with 2 MRIs and multiple chats with consultants.

my life saver for sleep is codeine. I was on amiltryptaline but they won’t prescribe it for nerve pain anymore and like @BlueEyesUltimateDragon says it made me zombie like if I took it too late in evening.

I found the angry cat / happy cow position on all fours helpful when sciatica played up. As well as lying down on stomach to watch TV. Also working on building my core at the gym (well I will do when I can return)

good luck in getting it sorted

peanutbutterkid · 28/01/2024 09:37

You will get better.
Main thing is preventing recurrence. I try hard to watch my posture. Others I know, do specific exercises vigiliantly. I suppose I should give Pilates a try although I imagine finding it so boring.

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