As a fellow back pain sufferer and founder of this site, I wanted to share my own herniated disc story with all of you. I encourage you to learn from my mistakes and to share your own story on our herniated disc forum. Your words may just provide some valuable lessons that may help others to find a lasting cure for their pain.
In order to fully appreciate this story, you might want to learn more about the technical aspects of disc pathologies in our easy herniated disc guide.
It should be noted when reading my herniated disc story that I am a person who is not afraid of pain. I have 4 black belts in various styles of martial arts and have injured virtually every part of my body. I have never stopped training, even through the worst of my pain, and consider myself disciplined to the extreme. However, none of this prepared me for the immense suffering I endured for decades due to my chronic lower back pain.
My back pain saga began at the age of 16. I started to feel tightness and significant lower back ache very suddenly. I did not do anything to injure my back and had never suffered any type of back pain before.
I did not mention my suffering for about 3 weeks until the pain became so severe that I could barely move. It felt as if there was a wire connecting my lower back to my neck and when I moved my head down (chin to chest), it pulled terribly in my lower back. I could not sit or walk properly and was really getting worried.
I eventually told my mother what was wrong and she brought me to a chiropractor. He looked at me and took some x-rays. His diagnosis was grim: Scoliosis in the lower back, muscle imbalances and degenerative disc disease in the L4/L5 and L5/S1 vertebral levels.
I was shocked and felt as if I was going to faint. How could I have all these problems at only 16 years old? What was degenerative disc disease? That sounded really bad. I had raised more than one red flag during routine scoliosis testing at school, but was never diagnosed by a doctor.
The chiropractor began performing spinal adjustments on me right away.
I went to him every day for about 3 weeks, then less frequently:
3 times a week for a few months.
2 times a week for a few months.
Finally, once a week.
During this time, my back pain did get better, but never completely went away. It came and went and I had periods when it would simply hurt really badly. I stayed under the care of this chiropractor for several years as his fees got progressively more expensive. I was paying out of pocket this whole time and eventually, he simply phased me out due to my inability to keep up with his ridiculous fee increases.
I found a new chiropractor and saw my first orthopedic surgeon after some particularly vicious low back pain attacks in my early 20s. The new chiropractor took up right where the old one left off with regular adjustments. However, he also used TENS treatments and massage therapy to add to the package. The orthopedic surgeon told me he wanted to take some x-rays and also confirmed I had DDD in the lower back. He had no advice for me and told me to come see him in a year. Thanks for nothing.
During this time, I had regular acute bouts of pain which came and went. In between painful attacks, I was completely functional and never really suffered constant symptoms. However, there was always a lingering dull ache and the fear factor to deal with on a daily basis.
Within a couple of years I had the worst episode of back pain to date. I was teaching a martial arts class and suffered completely debilitating lower back pain. I could not walk, stand, sit or lie down comfortably. It was a nightmare! I went to my trusted chiropractor who sent me for an MRI. The MRI confirmed that I had DDD in several lumbar levels, as well as 2 herniated discs at L4/L5 and L5/S1. I felt faint again.
My mother had suffered from a herniated disc when she was young and I was always told of her agonizing experiences when I was a child. She had disc surgery which left a huge scar, but never cured her pain. In fact, she continued to be troubled by her back until the day she died. I later learned about the link between heredity and herniated discs.
My chiropractor expanded his office and he handed me off to a newly licensed doctor who joined the practice. He was very enthusiastic and sought to design a program of chiropractic adjustments for me. He began doing specific spinal manipulations directly on the most painful part of my back. It was excruciating, but I hung in there.
This doctor kept me on a regular program of adjustments, TENS and massage. Each adjustment was really horrible to endure, but I hoped it might cure my pain. Well, the acute episode eventually came to an end, several months later and I slowly began to resume full activity. However, the fear inside me was growing day-by-day, as I did not think I could go through that type of pain again. It had really affected my job and my overall functionality.
I continued to get chiropractic adjustments 2 times a week and eventually gave up on the TENS, since it was super annoying and did nothing at all to help my pain. In addition, sitting to receive the treatment for an hour hurt horribly, being that I still could not sit comfortably.
I lasted like this for a few years and during this time switched chiropractors again. I also consulted several orthopedic surgeons and was told different things by each. Some wanted to do surgery, some did not. None had any other useful advice except to come back and see them if the pain grew worse. Once again, I found this treatment to be completely worthless and frustrating.
I became involved in full time spinal research after working to increase my knowledge of back and neck pain over the past several years. The more I learned, the worse I felt, since it seemed that back pain was a tremendous problem in the healthcare sector and rarely responded well to treatment. I became ever more fearful for my future.
By the time I was in my late 20s, I was working four jobs and was moving up in the world. Life was good, but very busy, and my back was always bad. While spending a rare leisurely Sunday afternoon at home, I suddenly developed amazingly acute back pain which quickly escalated into a full out attack. I called my chiropractor at home and he treated me right away. That adjustment was the single most painful event of my life. I mean blindingly painful!
I could barely get off his table afterwards and remember being in a haze driving home. I managed to get inside for a few minutes before my family took me to the hospital. I was not able to do anything except barely contain myself from the constant gut wrenching spasms. I waited in the emergency room for hours, then waited more in the triage area. Doctors came and went and remarked that they had never seen such an acute case of back pain ever. Great, just what I needed...
I was in the hospital for a full day and they pumped me full of all kinds of drugs. 3 shots of Demerol later and I was still spasming and in unbelievable pain. My head was foggy, but my pain receptors were crystal clear. My chiropractor even came to the hospital to see how I was. I did not hold this against him even though it seemed painfully obvious that his treatment landed me there. I was eventually released from the hospital and told to follow-up with a new orthopedist.
The new orthopedic doctor had a cool attitude about my pain. He was straight forward and said there was not much that could be done. He said surgery basically often makes matters worse and he did not recommend it for me. That was odd coming from an orthopedic surgeon; but at least he was honest.
The results of the latest MRI showed a ruptured disc at L5/S1, but otherwise everything else was the same. He told me I could keep going to the chiropractor, do more exercise or whatever, but I was unlikely to get better. I thanked him for his openness and felt myself begin to wake up.
For the first time I began to study back pain from a different point of view. I had been researching the topic for many years now, hoping to find the answer to my prayers. Now, I began to look into alternate herniated disc treatments and explanations for why so many patients just like me never seemed to get better.
I was amazed that I recovered quite fast from this worst episode. Within weeks, I was up and running again and even teaching my martial srts classes. My pain changed after this event. I had chronic pain and sciatica every minute of every day, but fewer acute flare ups. I felt the emotional stress of the condition more than ever; since I would rather have died than go through the pain of that last episode all over again.
Years passed, hopes came and went and I continued to suffer. I traveled all over consulting with doctors and therapists to no avail. Finally I found my salvation and met the man who would do the most to relieve my pain. Want to know who he is?
It was me.
Among the many alternate treatments I researched was one called knowledge therapy. This technique was the brainchild of a doctor who practiced right here in New York City, my home town. I was intrigued by this concept and bought every book by Dr. John Sarno. His work at The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine / NYU Medical Center was world renowned.
I read his books and immediately recognized the validity of his concepts. He explained back pain in a way which made perfect sense and inspired the greatest confidence in me. I read his book Healing Back Pain every day for weeks. I loved it and actually felt better by the day. My back pain went away in a few weeks and I knew I had found something amazing. I also was relieved to find that my long standing battle with stomach sensitivity resolved, as well.
However, the doubter in me and the voices of all my doctors urged me that I still needed medical treatment, even though I was ready to give it all up cold turkey. I knew I would not find peace until I saw Dr. Sarno himself and have him examine me, to be sure that I actually fit his theories. I spoke to his office on the phone and received a call from him later that same day. I made an appointment and went to meet with this wonderful man in person.
The examination was very, very expensive, but I figured it would be worthwhile if it could mean an end to my pain, especially when compared to the literally tens of thousands of dollars I had paid over the past 2 decades on ineffective and completely infuriating back care.
I saw Dr Sarno and he told me I had a relatively normal spine. He said my disc conditions and spinal structure were not to blame for my pain. He confirmed what I had thought since reading his books. I had a condition called tension myositis syndrome and was told to continue reading his books and was prescribed a lecture.
By the time the lecture came around, I was completely healed 100%. It was not even necessary. The 18 years of unbearable suffering were gone in a matter of weeks with no medical treatment whatsoever.
I know what some of you are thinking, but I assure you, I am not crazy. I learned that I was responsible for causing my own pain due to repressed subconscious issues which created, worsened and perpetuated my physical symptoms.
I learned that psychosomatic pain was completely real and causes havoc in virtually every human being to one extent or another. I learned some of the other common expressions of the same causative process included headaches, ulcers, stomach problems, bodily pains anywhere in the anatomy, depression, anxiety and a wide range of other psychological and physical complaints. These conditions seemed to describe everyone I knew. I soon realized the complete and total extent of the mindbody interactions we live with every day.
I changed my back pain study to incorporate this new found knowledge. I put all the time I had spent studying back pain to really good use, by writing a self-help book on the topic. My back pain ebook has been a joy for me since I receive letters from fellow patients everyday, telling me how it helped them to find relief. It is a great feeling. Eventually the book grew into a comprehensive pain relief program that has earned respect from care providers around the world.
I knew I had to give something back, after all the time I spent suffering. This is why I also developed the Cure-Back-Pain.Org website. I wanted to provide an honest and open environment for patients to learn about back pain. The site is free and will always remain that way. I do not let commercial interests get in the way of knowledge.
Most of all; I wanted to shatter the myths of back pain and subsequent treatment choices to make things much easier for patients to find good information on a host of painful conditions.
This website, Herniated-Disc-Pain.Org is the one of the latest additions to my back pain crusade, since the vast number of chronic herniated disc pain patients is still an epidemic worldwide problem. There are now a total of 5 sites in The Cure Back Pain Network.
Recently, I had some MRI/MRA testing for some vertigo I had been experiencing in my head. The test did not solve the vertigo condition, but did discover 6 herniated cervical discs in my neck. I never had a real history of any significant neck pain or upper body issues, yet every single disc in my cervical spine is bulging! C2/C3, C3/C4, C4/C5, C5/C6, C6/C7 and C7/T1. One of the herniations was found to be applying considerable pressure to my spinal cord. While I found this to be shocking, I was not surprised. It just goes to prove that most herniations are not problematic, since I have no extensive history of neck pain or related symptoms and it seems that these disc conditions have been there for a long time.
The latest MRI shows four additional herniated discs at T1/T2, T2/T3. T3/T4 and T4/T5. This brings the running total up to 12 at this point. Simply unreal.
There was the possibility of a spinal syrinx located at T8, but this seems to be a nonissue according to my neurologist, since it did not show itself on a follow up scan a year later.
Check out our new page detailing simple herniated disc tips to prevent you from making many of the same mistakes I made early in my diagnosis and treatment efforts.