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Discussion Starter #1
Anyone out there dealt with this problem? It has ruined all of my winter fun and threatening to do the same with my spring/summer. I am refusing to have surgery until all other options are gone. Anyone had success rehabbing this injury and how did it effect your paddling? Please respond if you have dealt with this successfully. I have heard enough negative bs so if you can't help please stay off this thread.
 

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I've got the exact same Herniated Disc, L-5 S-1, and also have some problems with my L-4. Mine was caused from the Army from jumping out of planes, 2 deployments, and humping a shit ton of weight. (82d Airborne; Infantry: 2001-2005)

Before getting out, they reccommeneded that I get surgery done on my back. I REFUSED, and didn't get the surgery. (I'm not suggesting for you to refuse the surgery, as I do not know the full extent of your injury.) But for me, here's my success experiences:

Since then, I have hiked 14'ers, 13'ers, and some other smaller foothills (~10-12,000ft) as well as the common day hikes, done some backpacking, skiing, continued to hit the gym, play sports, run, other strenuous activites, as well as KAYAK and Raft guiding. This is my 3rd season kayaking; I haven't run the crazy class V gnar/ huge drops and huge waterfalls yet, but I don't think it'll cause too much of a problem. Guess we'll eventually see.

AS for ME, It has not affected my paddling at all as of yet. Be sure to stretch your back some and do some range of motion exercises before getting in your boat. I am able to sit in my boat (Jackson Hero, and a 420) for however long the trip is, pop off a few rolls, portage where needed, do a bit of hiking, and get out at the take out w/o any problems. (I am 27 years old, maybe age plays a factor???)

REHAB: I did not go through a specific rehab specialist. I just did the rehab on my own w/o any guidance. Just continued to work out at the gym, started off slow and small weights for the back exercises. When I was getting my back "healthy" and stronger again, I'd only use, 15 Lbs- 100 Lbs. I personally don't think that there is any real, beneficial reason to exceed 60 Lbs max when rehabbing the back. You, and you alone will be the only one to determine your specific limitations on what you can and cannot do. (Lifting and Activities; Kayaking, etc.)

* After getting out of the Army, I had the VA Hospital check me out too. They told me that I should NOT be doing all the activities that I am still doing today. Screw 'em, I'm not gonna let my injuries prevent me from doing the things that I love, and continue to live an active lifestyle. *

*The Negative* Okay, I know you said that you don't really want to hear it. But here goes anyway, I just think it's important to know.:
- On rare, rare, random occasions, My back will flair up for no reason at all. Just wake up one morning, and I can't even sit up. It becomes almost paralyzing to the point where I can't even stand up or walk w/o having to hold myself up by bracing on furniture or something. Maybe you've already experienced days like this?

I don't take any medications for it nor for the pain. I am determined to not let this injury affect my active lifestyle, and I am sure that there are people out there with worse injuries that have chosen to 'Drive On' and continue to hit life full on.

***I am in no way, a specialist with dealing with this injury; just giving you my opinions, and sharing experiences of what has worked for me.

GOOD LUCK with the Recovery! Just stay motivated and determined!

- Alex
 

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My boss had a severe herniation at this time last year. He couldn't walk without extreme pain for about three months. He did rehab with a specialty place and he is currently on a three day golf vacation and is back to actively and agressively skiing. I have an email into him to find out the details on the place and will share it when he replies.

Good Luck.
 

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Big Tuna,
Here's what I can share with you. Myself and another kayaking friend have each had the same issue. We both ended up having surgery and are living regularly athletic lives. Like you, I wanted to avoid surgery if at all possible. It was not. I was unable to live a productive life in the misery I was experiencing. For over a year and a half I tried everything the experts could attempt. Prior to surgery my legs were consumed by an incredibly intense high-voltage, on fire, agony and inability to control my feet (foot flop). Vicaden was my main appetite. Surgery was instant relief.
The good news is that, although I no longer aspire to pursue rodeo status, I kayak class V without physical limitations. I even most enjoy places like the UTB and Embudo where you have to hike in and out with your boat. I also ski, mtn bike, and dirt bike as aggressive as ever. So does my friend who had the same operation.
So, what little advise I can offer is that to drink lots of water, stretch, and keep the core strong. Strong abs are what holds the back in line. Of course, kayaking is one of the best ways to keep the core strong.

However, if surgery is essential then don't be afraid of it. Yes, you will not be whole again, they remove some bone to make room for the nerves and it will probably always feels a tiny bit weak and vulnerable, but you should be able to return to normal life. Trust me, my friend and I are two guys that are now almost 50 years old and charging just as hard as we did in our 20s.

Best wishes,

Ken
 

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This is the program he used. As an outsider, his success has been incredible. I'm sure their has to be something similar near you.

Egoscue
 

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Bummer about your back. I had a problem with a bulging disc last spring that was relieved with an acupuncture and rehab program- don't know how that would work for a full on herniated disc, but I'm doing some work for the acupuncturist and I'll ask her opinion today.
td
 

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I got nothin but negativity. Just get fixed before Grant gets old enough and I have start paddling with him!

How you ever gonna rehab if your always in too much pain to do anything?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for all the quick replies. I was basically not able to do anything active for 2 1/2 months. I tried chiropractic, accupuncture, massage, pt, and medications. Nothing worked. Finally I got a steroid cortozone injection that has relieved the excruciating pain that shot all the way down my leg. Now the pain is centralized in my low back and glute. I am much more functional but wondering when I am going to be able to function pain free. I am 37 and my body feels much older. Thanks for all of the advice, keep it coming. I am looking for a rehab program to get that disc to go back in place. Everyone of the experts tell me time will heal it and to hold on, but I am not the kind of person to sit around and wait.
 

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Tuna,

I had a ruptured disc and syptoms similar to Vanatta at 16 from a wrestling injury. The last thing they wanted to do was operate on a 16 year old. I tried everything including 3 cortizone shots before they finally relented. I was told no contact sports again but I lived life as I would have. I wrestled through college and still have very few problems with my back. I've had a couple bad flare ups over the years but it isn't persistent pain. The surgery was much more invasive 15+ years ago. I also had instant relief once I had surgery. I have a friend who is in his 40's and had surgery a year ago on a ruptured disc L4/L5 and was back to playing basketball (lightly) in six weeks. This next season may be a little slow for you, but I'd get the surgery done if it's to that point.
 

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I went though this starting at about age 22 with a destroyed L4. My solution ended up being the steroid/cortisone injections followed by a very hefty ibuprofen regimen--800 milligrams 3 times a day (yes, 2400 mill total per day). This was about 10 years ago now, but the doctor I hooked up with was Dr. Shih in Denver. At the time, he dealt with this injury a lot with the sports medicine team for the Broncos (this is a common football injury). The idea is to reduce the swelling enough to take the pressure off the sciatic (and other) nerves so the body can actually begin to heal itself. This, combined with months of physical therapy, got me back to where I can usually touch my toes, and for the most part I feel like I can do what I want, although I definitely am not as flexible as I used to be.

One thing I can definitely tell you is NOT to use chiropractic for this type of injury--I was going to a chiropractor at first and finally he was honest enough to tell me that he was making me much worse (I had always been a fan of chiropractic, but there are some injuries that rehab better with PT).

Now I am 33 though and have been snowboarding and kayaking for some time now comfortably.

Another tip--pick up this thing called the Sacro-Wedgie. It is cheap and offers immediate pain relief--I still use mine when my back acts up once or twice a year.

I understand your excruciating pain though--I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!




Thanks for all the quick replies. I was basically not able to do anything active for 2 1/2 months. I tried chiropractic, accupuncture, massage, pt, and medications. Nothing worked. Finally I got a steroid cortozone injection that has relieved the excruciating pain that shot all the way down my leg. Now the pain is centralized in my low back and glute. I am much more functional but wondering when I am going to be able to function pain free. I am 37 and my body feels much older. Thanks for all of the advice, keep it coming. I am looking for a rehab program to get that disc to go back in place. Everyone of the experts tell me time will heal it and to hold on, but I am not the kind of person to sit around and wait.
 

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I had a similar injury in my early thirties; two herniated disks with the typical pain shooting down both legs. Just getting up to take a leak brought tears to my eyes. Went to the Chiro and he worked on my neck, offered a long-term plan that made no sense so I ditched that. Went to the med doc and he prescribed Motrin as an anti-inflammatory and pain killer along with a truss brace. I am not much for taking drugs so that did not last long but the truss helped support my spine as I rehabbed and that was of good value. Home Depot use to sell a decent truss for $40. The hands-down best fix I found was a combination of ice three times a day and a weekly visit to a massage therapist who specialized in reflexology for 2 months. Good to go at age 55; no surgery then.
 

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Big Tuna,

Sounds familiar. I did all that too. Except three Cortozone shots never did anything for me. You're right about time healing. It is probably two to ten years, though. That is if your good about it and aren't at risk of the nerves dying. Mine were so strangulated that they were expected to die soon if the pressure wasn't relieved. That would have meant permanent loss of some leg and foot control, but with continued back pain. I actually have two bad discs. They only treated one and the other is hoped to heal with time. It probably still inflicts a little pressure on nerves, but so far I feel pretty functional. I think it has slightly improved and will avoid needing surgery. My suregry involved two procedures. I forget the exact names, but I think it was a discectomy(sp?) and Lapondectomy (sp?), or something like that. Basically, cutting the disc bulge off and removing a section of the S1 bone. I had to be gentle for a while to allow the disc to heal and not squeeze back out where it was cut and the vertibrae is no longer a solid continuous mass. Nevertheless, I have returned to a fully functional life. My back is only one of my many injuries and pains after a lifetime of sports. I guess what I am saying is, do all you can and don't fear surgery if all else fails (I can recommend Dr. Bhatti at the Colo Spgs Neurological Associates. I think he's done about 10,000 of them). This won't stop you in life. Take care and do what is necessary. Your going to get better.

Best wishes,
Ken
 

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I herniated L5-S1 when putting my bike in the back of the truck in 2002. Simple as that.

My symptoms were mid-intensity pain (5 or 6 on my scale) sciatica of the left leg. No numbness, no loss of strength (if you have those, you're in serious shit, as others have said, because it can kill the nerve). So my doctor's took a very "wait and see" approach, because a majority of herniations repair themselves over 6 to 9 months.

Well, rehab was too expensive and didn't produce much relief.
Cortasone shots didn't work for me (but for some, they're miracles).
And I ended up spending about 9 months on vicodin and muscle relaxers.

Now, vicodin is terrific (except for the constipation), but that's no damn way to live. My exercising came to a screeching halt because it aggravated my pain to the point I had to go to an ER.

After 9 months, I had the lamenectomy. And after that, it was 6 months before I was back in the gym, and a year before I was bike riding again. But, after about the first year, I was 100 percent, and still am. I can't mountain bike the way I used to, though (bike riding is extremely hard on L5-S1).

My recommendations would be:
1) Stay off narcotics because they become a crutch (or perhaps that's just me). If the pain is that bad that you need narcotics, well, you have a big problem and perhaps shouldn't say surgery's out of the question.

2) Work on rehab type exercises on your own as often as you can. They do help some.

3) Seek out a good doctor to explore cortisone shots, and I recommend Dr. Bainebridge down in the Tech Center area. Dr. Bainebridge worked on me after I herniated cervical disc C7-T1 (which was injured in June kayaking), and one cortizone injection made me good as new (but I can't do standard situps anymore and probably never will again, which hurts my yaking prep a bit). I've since heard Bainebridge has an exceptional reputation among sport & spine specialists. PM me if interested and I'll give you his office phone.

I certainly understand hesitation about surgery, but the only 'horror stories' that I've heard are from people who really didn't take care of themselves before or after injury and surgery.
 

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Large Tuna,
Just take those things out,man. You don't need em. They're overrated. I take mine out when its time to get down to bizness. Its an old trick my friend Chuck Norris taught me. Perhaps you've heard of him....
 

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Medical technology is impressive these days. If you have good insurance then get some more opinions and if the consensus is surgery then you should probably do it if you want to lead an athletic life.

I had spinal surgery on my neck 3 years ago and I've got a stiff neck but it works well enough and I do what I want to with no restrictions except that I can't scout by peeking over my shoulder anymore (can't see behind me :) )
 

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There is plenty of recent lit. out there on this; educate yourself before surgery. One of the major news networks had a write-up on this a couple of weeks ago. Summing that up from my sometimes cloudy recollection.

Surgery is necessary in less than 5% of cases.
Most folks with disc herniations on MRI are asymptomatic.
Surgery is often unsuccessful. Any fusion will stress adjacent levels.

Arm yourself with knowledge; this area of medicine has been based on voo-doo rather than evidence for some time.
 

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There is plenty of recent lit. out there on this; educate yourself before surgery. One of the major news networks had a write-up on this a couple of weeks ago. Summing that up from my sometimes cloudy recollection.

Surgery is necessary in less than 5% of cases.
Most folks with disc herniations on MRI are asymptomatic.
Surgery is often unsuccessful. Any fusion will stress adjacent levels.

Arm yourself with knowledge; this area of medicine has been based on voo-doo rather than evidence for some time.
I totally agree with getting the info but I would get most of it from my doctor. I think there is an eagerness in the public to exaggerate problems with medicine. It isn't voodoo. Modern medicine is amazing technology and it gets better and better with time. I choose to listen to my Drs.

I'm really, really glad that when I broke my neck it was the year 2006. They fixed that thang up good. In about 30 minutes I'm going to my Jiu Jitsu school where I am going to roll at full speed for an hour and I'll probably get guillotined and choked out plenty. Tomorrow I'm going to go crack some Muay Thai pads. Can't wait for kayaking season to start again.

Don't be afraid of surgery if that is what your Dr. says you need. Get some second opinions from Drs. who are athletes. One of my neurosurgeons is a climber and he said he knows what kayakers do: they float down the creek upside down with their head bouncing off the bottom. When he said I was good to go with my bolted up neck I was stoked.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks again for all of the info. RP hillarious!! I will talk to my Uncle and get some info on the card.

So far no numbness or foot fall. Just pain and hopefully it continues to trend in the right direction. I just hate thinking of the long healing time involved with this. I like to run and it is killing me not to be able to do that. Hopefully soon.

Scary thing for me when it comes to kayaking is that I can't do a traditional sit up without alot of pain. I have no idea how to tuck and roll. I will try to spend some time in the pool this sping and see if I can do it.

Thanks again for the advice, but I am still gonna hold off on surgery unless there are no other options.
 
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