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Anyone have bulging disks? Update w/ Questions Post 17

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  • Anyone have bulging disks? Update w/ Questions Post 17

    I was just diagnosed with having 2 bulging disks (L4/L5 and L5/S1) in my lumbar area. Initially I was told that they were pretty severely bulging but upon evaluation by a neurosurgeon he said the MRI didn't show anything nearly as bad as I was originally told. Said that my MRI shouldn't look that bad since I'm only 19 years old but that he would have expected to see much worse after reading the MRI report. Neurosurgeon was listed as one of the top surgeons in 2007 and 2010 so I trust his opinion.

    Flare-ups cause intense pain, some soreness a couple days after and then after that I feel fine. Unfortunately I'm in ROTC which involves carrying heavy rucksacks and people, and I work at a barn which obviously involves daily lifting of haybales, grain sacks, manure, etc. Dr said that at 19 years old he's not going to tell me to stop my life and be a couch potato. He said that it will most likely get worse over the years and eventually there is a chance that the disks may rupture which could require surgery, but that right now I can continue to work and do ROTC as long as I take precautions and understand the risks of doing so. ROTC is the most important thing I have right now. It's my life. My job is my second most important thing I have. I'm considering giving up riding because I'm afraid that if I fall off I will risk further damaging my back and since riding is not one of my priorities, its something I'm willing to give up if it means I can continue with the other two. My horse is 18 and I wouldn't feel bad for retiring him.

    So does anyone have bulging disks and if so what kind of precautions do you take for farm work and riding?
    Last edited by Milocalwinnings; Aug. 11, 2011, 08:14 PM.
    "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"

  • #2
    Yes, although I am a good bit older and my back has had a lot of wear and tear over the years. My back flared up last year and I was literally unable to walk more than a couple of hundred feet without major pain. After an MRI, my doctor set me up with an appt. for a neurosurgeon immediately, but I was able to resolve almost all my back issues through exercise and improving my posture.

    Edited to add: I am back in the saddle and my back is fine for 90-minute trail rides and lessons with plenty of posting trot and some canter work. Haven't tried more than a few strides of sitting trot yet, horse and I are just getting back to work now that spring is here.

    Bulging discs can be resolved, they are more of a warning sign that you are about to have major problems if something doesn't change. I highly recommend asking your doctor or physical therapist about the "McKenzie Exercises" and/or buying the book "7 Steps to a Pain Free Life" by Robin McKenzie. These exercises really work for a lot of back problems, and they are not difficult and require no special equipment. Just do a web search and you can get a lot of information online.

    Good luck, back pain is definitely no fun.


    • #3
      I've had bulging disks my entire adult life. Combination of hard work as a child and genetics. I have a great chiropractor. Not all chiros are created equal so you must research.

      While my lower back rarely bothers me these days (I'm 51). I had an MRI done on my neck last year and have 3 bulging discs. GAH! My chiro had worked with me for 3 years with little relief so I started seeing a PT and she helped me develop an exercise program.

      I'm pretty good now. Not perfect but functional. I never stopped doing anything in all those years. I did change the way I did things but did them nonetheless.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        I was thrown from a horse at age 12 and ended up with 3 ruptured disks (L3, 4, 5) That summer I was bedridden. I eventually resumed normal activities but my lower back lacks mobility. Every 10 years I'd have a major episode of excruciating sciatica & was hospitalized once for several days. Now I can tell when I "tweak" my back and start to get crooked & can stave off an episode. There is an interesting theory by Dr. John Sarno that lots of people have degenerative disk disease but not everyone suffers symptoms. I read his book (Healing Back Pain) and FWIW have not had any problems since. I have run 8 marathons, countless shorter races and triathlons, and ride horses at least 6 days a week without any back pain or sciatica.
        I think there are lots of options for disks these days & would not do surgery unless as a last resort. Once you remove a disk you affect the rest of the spine. My opinion.
        Good luck!


        • #5
          Pilates and chiropractic (find a good one) have helped me manage my bulging disks for decades. listen to your body. learn what it is telling you.

          ice and traction have also helped during flareups. please only consider surgery as an absolute last resort.
          A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


          • #6
            Radio Frequency ablation

            Bad injury at 17.. late 30s now and its a mess.
            The radio frequency done by a Pain center has done wonders. It doesnt solve the underlying problem, just keeps it from hurting. Kind of like nerving.


            • #7
              Quite a few posts on this topic, so a search should give you lots of information.
              That said, you can't go wrong by ICING the area. I had to do it for a year, and hated it, but my discs no longer give me much grief.
              I've also had spinal decompression treatments for the past two years, coupled with chiro adjustments with a dr. who follows the Pettibone System.
              I wobble a lot and use molding foams to ease the pressure off my discs (same ones as you!).
              As a bonus, I think I've grown by about 1/2 an inch [in my mid-40s ]
              Good luck, and Happy Icing!!!


              • #8
                I have bulging discs at C4-5-6 and L3-4-5 with spinal stenosis. After starting PT for the first time recently, I have found out that some of my pain is musculature and caused by my body scrunching up to protect the spine (literally, my rib cage is about 5 inches above where it should be). I never would have considered PT if it weren't for my new MD. Tried epidurals with no relief. New MD also will give me a shot of Torodal occassionally to reduce inflamation. Another thing that is incredibly helpful is a chiro with a traction table....you will literally feel the discs pop back into place. Not a long term fix but will provide short term relief. Try to lift with your legs and "work smart not hard"...
                Ridge Farm Inc.-full care retirement


                • #9
                  I am currently recovering from a spontaneous burst disc in the L5/S1 area and on MRI there are 3 more discs at the above lumbar levels ( L4/L5, L3/L4 and L2/L3) that are badly bulging, as well there is demonstrated stenosis, bone spurs and ridging from osteoarthritis at all levels. I was lucky enough to have two parents both with spinal arthritis, so got the genetics from both sides. Yay. They told me at 20 that I would be lucky not to be wheelchair bound by age 50. I am over that and was doing pretty well until 2 months ago.

                  I have now been advised by 2 GP's, a trauma specialist, a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic specialist not to risk riding ever again. I spent 3 weeks in bed unable to move due to severe neuropathic pain/sciatica in February and also had the calf muscles on that side paralyzed with troublesome numbness in my foot- raised a huge blister between my toes just by walking and didn't even notice until I saw it! Finally got the pain under control with Lyrica- good medicine but the side effects were big, at least the pain is taken care of now. Sensation is starting to come back to my foot, but still pretty weak and walking with a limp. Traction table made my condition much worse. Icing made no difference, but I did it anyway for several weeks as I cannot take any anti-inflammatory medications. My spinal alignment is excellent and my core and back muscles are strong and I have no back pain, but if I lift anything more than 10 lbs, I get a sickening feeling in my spine and legs that immediately makes me drop it.

                  Talked with some of my riding friends this weekend, and 2 of them had burst the same disc and were also told not to ride, but both of them are daily riders again.

                  It sure is a quality of life issue. Not riding, and never riding again are pretty much the most depressing thing I could think of... I believe that the reason I was able to continue walking and running for 33 years after compressing 2 lumbar vertebrae was because of the daily riding, pilates, yoga, walking, running and physiotherapy I did to keep me in the saddle. Now I feel pretty useless- can't lift anything more than 10 lbs, so no bales of hay, no buckets of water, not even lifting a saddle.

                  What the docs have said to me scares me so much I do not know if I will ever be brave enough to ride again..

                  "life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste"
                  "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                  • #10
                    I also have back issues from a car accident about 5 years ago, was t-boned by some stupid kid who was late for work

                    I have herniations at L4 L5 S1, and the trauma was so great it actually tore one of the discs. I have good days and bad days, and have recently begun working a few hours a day (first time since accident yay!) and am hoping I can hold up to it.

                    I got almost no relief from chiro (went to 3 different ones) but did get some relief from acupuncture. I have found that going to the gym and getting in better shape, and focusing on core strength has really helped. I also find lots of stretching and lying on the floor at the end of the day is very helpful. Also, I have learned to embrace icing lol


                    • #11
                      >2 bulging disks (L4/L5 and L5/S1)

                      Hey, me too. And I've never had my upper back/shoulder/neck MRI'ed, but I'm sure they're not pretty, either. *sigh* I'm sitting at my desk at work with an ice pack on my lower back right now, in fact. As I do every day. I keep two ice packs in the freezer in the lunch room and rotate them when one gets too warm.

                      Chiropractic didn't help me. PT and doing daily exercises has helped quite a bit, but I'm slowly starting to admit to myself that maybe I need to talk with a neurosurgeon (De Nile is a lovely place to visit, in the meantime). I pretty much always have sciatica on my right side. I know I'm toast when it also goes upward into my right elbow, and upper back and my neck. Which it is doing right now. And I am further toast when the nerve keeps on pinching and gives me sciatica down my LEFT leg (top of left thigh, and then I can't lift my leg; BTDT, don't recommend anyone else trying it), and into my LEFT elbow, as well. Have I mentioned De Nile yet? In addition to sitting down being a killer, my back damage affects me rotationally, meaning any activity where you need to open/use your hips and rotate your upper body -- that would be horseback riding (sitting trot, oww), bicycle riding, sitting on the back of a motorcycle, sometimes trying to take big steps up tall stairs or a flight of bleachers... etc. The dismounting from a horse/bike/motorcycle is the hardest range of motion for me, because I have really limited flexibility on my right side to bend and rotate my back and hip. And yep, that means I bend badly around 15m and 10m circles on my horse, as well. But I will keep riding until I can't. *Not* stretching or moving around actually hurts me worse. So, the ongoing goal is to find the right balance to strike between rest and movement.

                      Get a good neurosurgeon is my advice (which I may follow myself someday soon). And do NOT have actual back surgery. Ice, PT, ibuprofen and stretching exercises are all your friends. I'm starting to get information about some of the newer, nonsurgical options, as well.

                      There are a lot of us here!
                      Visit the County Island, home of Whiskey the ranch horse: http://countyisland.wordpress.com
                      Visit him on Facebook:


                      • #12
                        Bulging discs at C4,5,6,7 and T3. Have herniated discs at L4/5 and L5/S1. No idea what rest of my spine is doing. That part hasn't had an MRI (yet.) No advice to offer since my body is falling apart around me because of other issues. I just wanted to say I have probably been living with the cervical bulges for years and never knew it though. I am a huge fan of ice and traction. I love traction. Find a good physical therapist and ice, ice, ice. Oh, and the McKenzie book is great too. Good luck!
                        "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
                        you have a right to be here." ~ Desiderata by Max Ehrmann


                        • #13
                          I have a lot of bulging disks. Dr. said unless they were pressing on a nerve or nerve root it was better to leave them alone. I have had 2 bac k surgeries for herniated disks that affected (mostly) the sciatic nerve and a couple others I forget. First one was easy, second one (almost 2 weeks ago) was horrible. But the thing had to be taken off the nerve root, the pain was just incredible.
                          Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                          Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                          • #14
                            Bulding disc c4-5, had it for years, been in pain for years, been riding and (hopefully) will continue for years.

                            I have a physical job, 2 horses at home looked after soley by me (so I do all the heavy work).

                            Gonna go get a steroid shot as I have shooting pain in my back and arm. If it works great, if it doesn't I still plan on doing everything I do.

                            So its not the end of the world, you can learn to manage it and the pain, or try surgery or PT, lots of options.
                            I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.


                            • #15
                              I ended up with bulging disks and some hairline fractures after a fall from the mare my folks got me for my 13th b-day.(Anybody want to start a thread on trainers that tranq horses they are showing to young girls?)

                              My L2-5 are all bulging. Repeat after me:The chiropractor is my friend!

                              Like everybody else has said, it makes a huge difference to have good chiro work done. I took Vioxx for awhile, until they discovered it can screw with you rliver. Get one of those ice pack belt thingsl. That is great for after riding. Mine have held up for almost 20 years. Through 10 years of galloping racehorses, sometimes getting on over 14 horses a day, barn chores and 2 pregnancies.

                              Core strength is imperative, as is listening to your body. If something hurts, don't do it.

                              Stress in your life can also target the weakest place in your body.

                              I didn't find acupuncture to be as beneficial, but when the pain is bad, a massage after an adjustment really helps to relax the muscles so they don't pull you back out of alignment.

                              Good luck
                              Originally posted by The Saddle
                              Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.


                              • Original Poster


                                Hey all. So I saw my GP in May for my back issues and he sent me to PT for the summer. My back was doing pretty well, and felt like it was getting stronger. It would still occasionally flare up, however the flareups were not as bad and not as frequent.

                                Fast forward to 3 weeks ago and I start having pain issues again. Flare ups, although not bad, occurred several days a week sending a sharp shooting pain through my lower back. This usually occurred at night. Then, last week, my back got really bad. It wasn't flaring up in the usual sense, but my spine was incredibly sore and felt bruised. My PT did TENS on it and palpated it (which she has done in the past and generally it has felt fine after). It was significantly more sore afterwards and that night I was in a lot of pain to the point that after taking 800mg Ibuprofen and 500mg Naproxen, I finally took a hydrocodone (10/500) because the pain was so bad that it kept me awake for hours. The next day it was still significantly sore but better than the night before. Saturday was ok. Sunday after walking around DC for half a day, my lower back was killing me. Monday, same thing. Since then, my spine has been sore but not as bad as it was last week. Today was much better, but still sore. My PT did the TENS again on it and after it was much more sore than when I walked in. She also did ultrasound on it afterwards.

                                I have an appt. tomorrow with a spine specialist to see about getting an injection to at least help for a little while, as I start physical training back up again in a couple weeks and this year is the big important year for me. Anyone have experience with any of the injection options? Or with anything else?

                                The thing that worries me is that my disk problems were L4/L5/S1... and the part on my spine that is most sore is around the T12/L1 area. So I'm not sure if something else has happened to cause problems in that area or if it's just radiating up there or what.
                                "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"


                                • #17
                                  Good luck. I hope the injection takes care of it.
                                  Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                                  Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                                  • #18
                                    After 20 years of back pain, I eventually got a job with good health insurance, got an MRI found the bulging discs, try PT with no relief, so had two lots of injections 6 months apart. That was 7 years ago now and I have never had (frantically touches wood) a return to the previous pain. I still have regular chiropractic adjustment when I feel the need, but have never had a day that has left me unable to get out of bed.

                                    Good luck, I hope you get the same relief that I did
                                    I'm not sure if I grew out of stupid or ran out of brave.

                                    Practicing Member of the Not too Klassy for Boxed Wine Clique


                                    • #19
                                      It's hard to tell. But what might be happening is that you are guarding and putting more stress on other parts of your back, trying to alleviate discomfort.

                                      I've got debilitating pain in the same area as you. It wasn't the discs causing the pain. It was the facet joints. I've found the facet joint pain to be more severe than disc pain. And more disabling. What happens is that the QL muscles take up the load of your spine. So you get constant lower back pain, this pain/inflammation/spasm cycle starts, and it can be impossible to get under control.

                                      If you find out the pain is coming from the facets, (a dr can perform a nerve block or steroid injection to determine that) you can have the nerves ablated. This can provide almost total pain relief, so you can really get to work exercising so that your spine supports the musculature, and not vice versa.

                                      I had another ablation performed yesterday. On the left side. L3,4,5,and S1.
                                      This morning I woke up pain free. Just some minor soreness from the needles.

                                      If at all possible, decline surgery until you have exhausted other options. I had back surgery and don't regret it, but things like fusions are permanent. And if it doesn't work.....there is not much that can be done.

                                      I hope you get relief from the injections.
                                      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                      -Rudyard Kipling


                                      • #20
                                        OP, I admire you for wanting to serve your country, with the ROTC and probably subsequent tour of duty in the military. However, considering how much trouble you are having physically at such a young age, I think it would be smart for you to consider other ways you can serve your country. Take a look at www.usajobs.com and look at the many government agencies that need intelligent, dedicated people. That includes the State Department, FBI, CIA, and of course Department of Defense needs a lot of civilians too, not just active duty military. Good luck and keep us posted!
                                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.