Exactly one year ago, I developed sciatica. I’ve now overcome it, with no shots, no surgery. As a health care practitioner, I already knew quite a bit about sciatica, but it turned out I still had more to learn. Since I have many connections, and know what questions to ask, my knowledge of discs and sciatica expanded exponentially. I learned so much that I decided to write a series all about sciatica and discs.
Part I – Getting it Diagnosed and Avoid Surgery at All Costs
Many people think that Western Medicine should be able to get them out of pain as soon as possible, even if it means surgery. But when it comes to a disc, that is not always the best idea. Yes, there are certain situations where you might need surgery, which I will mention. However, any invasion of the body is just that, an invasion, and usually creates scar tissue where your body would not if it healed on its own. If things can be cleaned up a little with minimal invasion, that’s better, but still not ideal. And the only surgery they have for a ruptured disc these days is spinal fusion, (take special note of the risks!) which you really don’t want. Opinions and even data vary, but the surgery success rate is not always great, and your body will eventually do a great job all on its own, thank you very much, it just takes time.
The first thing I learned is that if the sciatica doesn’t go away easily with some stretching and acupuncture, it’s very important to get a good diagnosis at least, and possibly some imaging. This may seem obvious, but sometimes doctors don’t want to do it unless pushed. Sciatica can come from many possible sources. Even imaging may not pinpoint the source, but it can help quite a bit in many instances. It’s especially important to know if there is a disc involved, and if so, if it is just bulging, or actually ruptured. Both bulging and ruptured discs can heal on their own. It’s also important to know if there are any bone spurs or bone growth at the openings where nerves come out, called stenosis. An MRI might be necessary for this. If bone growths are involved, a few months of herbs can sometimes rescue them, but if not there’s not much other recourse, they need to be removed. A bulging disc, if cared for properly, can usually heal in 3-6 months. If it has ruptured, the fluid will come out, but the casing of the disc will still heal and your body can adjust. This just takes time, 6-8 months minimum, and the area will continue to heal for 1-3 years. That said, while you do have to curtail your activities, you don’t have to be in a lot of pain during that time although it can be very up and down.
At the beginning, I was told I had a bulging disc. I didn’t do imaging because I didn’t think it would matter, I knew I didn’t want surgery. Now I wish I had done imaging. When I finally got an x-ray 6 months later, we found that I actually had a ruptured disc that was already healing, and a vertebrae that was slipping forward. This knowledge could have helped me earlier in a number of ways. Thinking it was only bulging a little, I over did some activities. The x-ray showed my disc and vertebral ligaments had been injured in an accident. I had been blaming myself for my posture.
In any case, my disc has healed and I am out of pain, even though it was ruptured, and once again, without surgery and no shots. It did change my life for a while, but I was willing to do it to avoid the risk and invasion of surgery.
Next in this series: Part II – What To Do to Avoid Surgery with a Herniated Disc