Herniated disc timeline wanted.
September 30, 2017 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I've just slipped a lumbar disc. If you've experienced this: what can I expect in terms of recovery time and ability level over the next little while?

Dr. Internet says to rest and NSAID for the first little bit, and then start being more active as soon as possible. I plan to call my actual doctor on Monday.

I have a meeting Monday morning. It is incredibly important that it not be pushed out, and that I be there. Will I be able to walk to and from the car? Will I be able to get up from the chair after an hour?

I have a kiddo going to a school too far to walk. Will I be able to drive in, say, 3 days? The internet says recovery generally takes 1-3 months, but about how long until I'm mostly functional, if not, say, lifting things?

Thanks.
posted by moira to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I am about a month into my recovery from the same issue, have a herniated disk that was causing some nerve pain in my lower back. I was able to sit for maybe a half hour without extreme pain for the first two weeks. Now I'm up to being able to sit for about an hour and a half without being uncomfortable. I am now allowed to lift up to 35 pounds. I could barely walk after working for a few half days after my injury and couldn't lift my arms above my head for a few days as well. It was difficult to get myself dressed and do household chores. Don't assume you can do what you normally can. I've been out of work for a month and am hopefully going to get cleared to go back to work next week. I feel almost 80% better but it's definitely still there. Twisting and bending isn't great any more.

Start physical therapy as soon as possible. There are specific exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles around the injured area and relieve the pressure on the disk. Don't try and do it yourself. My first doctor told me to look up stretched and exercises on the internet to try and "loosen up the area" and managed to actually make my injury a lot worse. Even if you just go to a few appointments to get an idea of what you're supposed to do, you'll learn how to not screw uourself up while trying to get better.
posted by shesaysgo at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2017


i would absolutely not drive in 3 days. you have no idea how badly pain can impact your reaction time, it's terrifying.

really though it depends on your current pain level. how mobile are you right now?
posted by poffin boffin at 5:53 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


how mobile are you right now?

I'm pretty much not, but this just happened.
posted by moira at 6:04 PM on September 30, 2017


(My husband will be driving on Monday, if I can do the meeting.)
posted by moira at 6:07 PM on September 30, 2017


IME the acute phase usually lasts a week or two, which matches what I was told by a physical therapist. Massage (by, like, a PT or someone else who understands the injury) can help speed up the recovery a bit.

The times I’ve put my back out my impairment has ranged from a slight limp to having to walk in short mincing steps and being in extreme pain when going from sitting to standing.
posted by asterix at 6:21 PM on September 30, 2017


I have had herniated disks. Several. I have had fusions in my lower back and neck.

Each patient is different. Some recover quicker than others. Some never recover with rest. Early in my back troubles, I tried bed rest. Actually spent 2 weeks in traction once. I would find a doctor you trust, and then trust them when they give you advice.

In terms of being able to do things, that is strictly a function of your pain and your ability and willingness to not be deterred by the pain. I flew 15 hours or so to China 2.5 weeks after surgery once. If the meeting is critical, rest as much as you can up to the meeting, take a hot shower and some NSAIDs or more potent and go. The real issue will not be at the meeting, but, rather, afterwards.

I agree with the above answerer that the acute phase is usually 1 to 2 weeks. Again, for some it is days for some weeks.
posted by AugustWest at 6:33 PM on September 30, 2017


Will I be able to get up from the chair after an hour?

check late tomorrow if you're in any less pain standing than sitting. if so, don't risk it, don't sit down. or if you do, don't be afraid to call attention to yourself by standing up when your back tells you you have to get up NOW.

I spent about two years of my life saying "I have a back injury so I can't sit down, no, I'm not just saying that to be polite because there aren't enough chairs, no, please don't offer me your chair, I am sorry to appear rude but I am the Standing Woman and your confused glances will not induce me to sit down, please just start the meeting and don't worry about me." after five or six meetings I was able to shorten that to just an apologetic smile, as people became accustomed to my antipathy to chairs. it felt very awkward but I mean, sitting down fucking hurt and was dangerous. and nobody held it against me although they did think it was weird.

if you don't feel safe/stable walking or standing unsupported, can you get one of those four-legged walkers at short notice? I don't know what they're officially called but they're much more stable to collapse onto than a regular cane. you may scream but will not fall all the way to the ground.

if this all sounds useless or impossible, stay in bed and let someone know before Monday that you've had a serious injury and have to participate from home via conference call. some serious pain meds might get you through it just this once but it sounds like you won't have time to see your doctor until later in the day. and if you can't walk, you can't walk. crawling from room to room is ok at home but deeply embarrassing at work. at least that was my experience.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:04 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Thanks so much; your answers have helped me plot out the next few days. I can now walk without too much pain if I am careful and keep the appropriate muscles full-on engaged. I plan to push through the meeting (standing) but wait until the acute phase is past to start driving. Which is going to be a pain in the ass, but it is what it is. It's nice to know I could be doing well enough to cook tasty things for the holidays.
posted by moira at 8:38 AM on October 1, 2017


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