Herniated Disc. Surgery or Self Therapy?

Here are my MRI notes. I have a slipped disc with pinched nerves. Can’t really afford surgery. Is it necessary?

Also looked up surgery details are there any pros/cons to it asides from price. Like I’ve hear you’ll lose range of motion…

I’m trying to figure out if surgery is the best option for me… I have numbness in hands and atrophy on my right pec, trap, arm. Please help me figure this out

You need expert advice, nobody on here can really help. If there is a way to fix it without surgery that would be great, but the longer the nerves are pinched the more they will get damaged. You could try to contact Stuart McGill, that’s probably your best bet.


McGill would probably advocate for a non surgical approach first. Surgical outcomes aren’t very consistent long term but McGill’s work has helped many people with life devastating kinda back pains so is worth a go. He has a couple of books that are written to guide to lay person in self management which can be purchased or pirated online if ur naughty.

Surgery is never the first option and MRI is not considered a strong indicator for recovery or level of symptoms

Find a physio/physical therapist, chiropractor, or exercise physiologist.

If you absolutely have to self-manage, at the very least purchase and read Stuart McGill’s “Ultimate back fitness and performance”

I would avoid surgery at all costs. You only have mild to moderate herniations. Only elect to undergo as a last resort due to the fact that most people report less than satisfactory results post-op for back injuries. Seek out a sports PT if at all possible - they will review your problem and rehab you back to pre-injury status. I have a PT I go to a lot that is a powerlifter and has torn nearly every muscle you can imagine. He has rehabbed me numerous times, even from a herniated disc.

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Is there a known cause?
You will be given some form of traction device as a first step anyway, not surgery. Most of the time these actually go away on their own with stretching and traction. Depending on the cause of course. Mine was caused by hyperparathyroidism and disappeared with surgery. got blood work?

Can’t tell anything from that, it doesn’t look too suspicious. Definitely see a PT or something along those lines. At the least they can set you up with a traction device. It hooks onto the top of a door, and uses two pulleys to connect a head harness to a bag you put water into to adjust the weight. They might give you some stretches to do as well.

Thanks for checking out my levels. And I got one of those and an inversion table. Also some real light bands for behind my head to “tuck chin” against if you will

You definitely should seek professional help, but as someone who herniated 2 discs and had completely numb feet after 10 minutes of standing for a couple years after I got out of the military, I can give you some general advice (I now have minimal to no pain and can deadlift comfortably).

Do not try to ‘fix’ everything all the time. That includes too much time on the inversion table. And DO NOT start stretching your back all the time, that can make it MUCH worse. I found supermans (back extensions lying on the ground) and ab work that doesn’t give you pain to be instrumental in fixing this, plus strengthening the hip flexors. Again - less is more, you can mess yourself up trying to do things all the time.

Past that there’s not much I can say without going outside the realm of what is acceptable to tell somebody on the internet. Just know that as others said, you want to do everything possible to avoid surgery, ESPECIALLY spinal fusion. Most people I’ve talked to with spinal fusion are still in pain and have no hope of ever properly fixing it anymore. People fix themselves after full multiple herniations and worse injuries all the time. A good sports physio is right up your alley right now. Good luck!

Wow thanks flap! I’ll take that to heart

Just to lend another voice, I have also had it twice, both times fairly significant (the second time had me essentially crippled for a month). Most of what flap said resonates with my experience as well. The back extensions can be done with arms in pushup position where you sink your hips down to the floor while keeping your head up and works best if you can somehow relax your body in that position. There are bunches of simple exercise you can look up, but it will take time to heal, can be months or even years.

And while nobody here is likely qualified to give you medical advice, I think one thing is clear: Any doctor who recommends surgery as an early option - except when there is a clear and urgent risk of permanent and serious injury, which does not sound at all like your case - is an actual quack and you should get as far away as possible. Surgery is a last resort, as none of the upsides are better than just healing it naturally, and the potential downsides are very serious.

Oh, and if you ask nicely, your doctor might be able to give you cortisol or some other kind of steroidal based injection near the injured area. It can help with any swelling of tissue (not the disc) around the area in question, which is often the actual cause of much of the pain. In any case, I got it both times I had the injury, and it absolutely helped.

Senior (66), lifetime athletics, contact sports, weightlifting, etc. Now. Partially handicap/disabled.
Degenerative Discs, multi level stenosis, surgery lower back, cervical fusion.
Cervical fusion due to disc rupture and collapse resulting in paralysis. 2 year recover and regained use of left arm and neck. Chronic low level pain and limited ROM.
Lower spine surgery due to disc rupture and severe nerve impingement resulting in left leg paralysis and wasting, disability. 3 year tough recovery. Chronic low level pain, limited ROM.
Overall, vulnerable to spasms, pain and disabling flareups with over activity.
Weight bearing limitations and movement limitations.

Suggestion: Seek a team of spine doctors, neurologists, sports docs, etc, that can be your advocate (not quick visit docs), real MD’s, not Chiropractors, etc.
Have them review your MRI’s. Do repeat MRI’s and scans because the condition changes over the months as you go to rehab and PT.
Be careful of PT because not all protocols might be fit for you. Here, pain is not something to push through but to avoid so you don’t further damage things.
Realize that discs do not heal per se, but do take a very very long time to “recover”. Get a huge education on vertebral structures and the progression of disc damage and how it “heals”. Think of a crack in a jelly donut. The inside is highly acidic. When it leaks out it irritates nerves and causes inflammation. When you rest the crack solidifies a bit, the leaked out jelly get’s absorbed, you feel better. Then lift weights or do dumb things, and then it’s like stepping on that broken jelly donut again.
So, the correct rehab protocol and monitoring needs to be personalized to you by someone that works (usually the best people) with post spine surgery people or spine problem folks.
You may need to go outside of the standard 12 visit PT insurance coverage to get the care you need. You may need to push for the docs you need outside of your primary care doc roladex. The point here is you really need to take charge of this and get very educated on your condition because everyone is different. And, generic advice from forums and such is helpful, but not necessarily exactly for you.
Again, avoid chiropractic adjustments that might put you into the ER for now.
Self Therapy is fine if it is part of a comprehensive long term strategy put together with the help of a medical team of MD’s. But, I’ve known many, including myself, that have gone the trial and error route with all of the books and forums available. Do yourself a favor and find a medical spine center with real MD’s that specialize in spine injury recover. Think. . . 25 million dollar NFL player with a smashed disc. Who does he get for diagnosis and therapy? Do that.

In the meantime, stay off the weights! Until you get diagnosed better and formulate a plan. Also, for now, no surgery!

And, see a sports MD for pain management and rehab. Something to control spasms and inflammation. Not just pain killers. Rotate ice and heat. Rest. Light stretching and activity. Get in the water and move around (huge!!!). Aqua therapy is not weight bearing.

Hope this helps.
Lot’s of ways to do these things and so many different experiences.