My Bulging Disc and Sciatica- Was it the cause?

Sciatica Surgery

When my GP sent me to the Spine Center in my area they wanted to be sure what they were dealing with and recommended a CT Scan to perhaps find the cause. I’m asked a lot what kind of doctor treats sciatica nerve pain and for me there were many but at the Spine Center, it was an Osteopath. I had crazy anxiety just at the idea of having a CT scan because that meant I had to lay on my back without moving for a while and with the horrible pain I had I could not do that. On the other hand I was happy my doctor was being proactive about my pain.

Funny story time: at my first appointment with the spine specialist it was hard to sit and wait and I shuffled here and there ready to choke someone if I didn’t get the attention my pain deserved. I practiced in my head how I would literally beg for help. That’s called “violent pain” ya’ll ok? Lol. When the nurse came in to take my vitals and ask me some questions I was literally shaking in pain. She was really sympathetic and kind. After that, she called in the doctor to see me and as soon as he walked in I started sobbing like I never have in my life. The poor doctor looked terrified but I just couldn’t stop myself. I guess I was thinking if this doesn’t work what will?? Can this guy be “the guy” that finally helps me? But he was super nice and asked me where it hurt and immediately ordered the CT scan to be done as soon as possible. They were very good at that.

CT Scan Finding for my Sciatica Pain Down My Leg

Below you will see the findings from my CT Scan report, all I did was copy and paste.

Here’s my doctor’s report for the CT Scan of the lumbar spine I had done:

At L3-4, there is minimal disc bulging and facet hypertrophy without significant central canal encroachment. There is mild narrowing of the
left L3 foramen. There is mild encroachment on the lateral recesses.

At L4-5, there is mild disc bulging and moderate right and mild left facet hypertrophy with minimal lateral recess and foraminal encroachment.

At L5-S1, a small, broad-based right central disc protrusion is noted with underlying mild diffuse disc bulging. There is minimal facet hypertrophy.
There is severe right lateral recess encroachment and moderate right L5 foraminal encroachment.

What does a Slipped, Herniated, Bulging, Protruded Disc Mean? (So many names!)

I’m not sure what it all meant at the time but I could tell that the S1 area, or the sacrum, was the area that hurt the most and where things started I believe. I wondered if the herniated or slipped disc was the cause of the nerve pain down my leg.

As I researched these new findings I found some rather interesting information at The National Center for Biotechnology Information, better known as the NCBI websiteOpens in a new tab., that said and I quote:

“A slipped disk can be very unpleasant. But the good news is that the symptoms usually go away on their own within less than six weeks in most people with this problem. But not everybody who has a slipped disk will have symptoms.”

The first sentence just irritating, second is NOT my case at all but the last sentence was a shock to me. I’ve never heard of people with a bulging disc to have no symptoms. But they are correct!

It went on to say how this research was performed and what the results were:

“This can be seen in studies in which adults who didn’t have back pain were examined using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). More than 50 out of 100 people who were examined had a bulging disk. In about 20 out of 100 of them, the core of the disk had already broken through several layers of its casing or had even entered the surrounding tissue, but without causing any noticeable symptoms.”

Obviously, I had to be one of the “special” chosen ones with screaming pain. But it does cast some doubt, doesn’t it? I mean if some have pain and others don’t with the same findings, is that really the cause? Made no sense to me at all.

CT Scans and MRIs for Diagnosing Sciatica- is it needed?

I’m not a doctor, therapist, or spine specialist, just a plain ol’ person with big pain and someone with angry desperation to find answers. Every time I had a diagnostic test done I thought I would find answers but it wasn’t like that at all, unfortunately.

I had considered in my mind that the CT scan was going to be the best of the best and that it would be that last diagnostic test I would take. What’s better than a CT scan?

In my 2 year experience with this terrible affliction I can say that for ME it was two-fold, I was happy to have a “diagnosis”, but in the end, it got me nowhere.

That being said I can see how it would help people that have something terribly wrong like a piece of disc coming off and compressing the nerve. What I had was a bulging disc that was intact compressing the nerve.

Could it be possible to put a herniated disc back into place?

The possibilities would run wild in my mind as I’d hunker down at night to get my little spurts of sleep. Of course, in my very awkward position which I had grown accustomed to being in. I’d think; Is it possible to get this herniated disc back into place? At my next appointment to discuss the findings with the doctor he was convinced it was the problem. I immediately leaned in a bit closer to him and asked him “forget I’m your patient, what would YOU do in my situation?”. Do you know what he said? “Lose weight and strengthen your core.” But went on to suggest going to the surgeon for a consultation. Maybe it’s protocol but I’m desperate. I’ve had surgery before and when they tell me recovery is 6 weeks that means 12 weeks for me. It’s always double for me for some reason. I am allergic to pain medications, opioids especially


Surgery for Sciatic Radiating Pain

But would surgery help? Off we went to yet another appointment to see the surgeon. This man was as cold as ice and simply asked when I would like to book the surgery. I asked him if there was any other way. All he said, “you could try but you’ll be back, your disc is so out of place it’s almost completely choking the nerve”.

You have no idea how sad I was as I left the office. But I had a little bit of fight in me left and said I’d call his office to set it up and I just needed to check on a few more things before making the jump.

With my limp and shuffle I left, my husband helped me into the car and we discussed on the way back home what we should do about the possibility of surgery. We weighed the pros and cons, no matter what I did my husband would certainly support me but he knew well I didn’t want to go through another surgery.

Maybe physical therapy? Something I hadn’t done yet but certainly my doctor would approve, we did discuss it as one other thing to try out.

In my next article, I will discuss how it went!

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