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Name: Charlie
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Re: Herniated Disc... advice would help. - December 2nd 2019, 06:03 AM

I haven't had a herniated disc before, but I have spent the past year dealing with a bulging disc (which was made a lot worse by an initial misdiagnosis by my GP) so hopefully I can offer some suggestions.

First, exhaust all other options before opting for injections or surgery. There are unfortunately plenty of doctors out there who will recommend more extreme options as some kind of easy fix when in the vast majority of cases it's possible to heal from an injury like this without surgical intervention. If your doctor is really pushing for injections or surgery you're well within your rights to get a second opinion. Your physio should be able to recommend some exercises that will help, which will likely include a lot of low-impact activity like gentle walks, swimming, careful stretches, etc; as you start to heal you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of these, with your physio's guidance.

Unfortunately, there isn't really a way to go through the recovery process without some measure of pain. If your pain meds aren't doing anything then you should definitely talk to your doctor about it and see if they can prescribe something stronger or at least different, but with a serious injury like this it's impossible to avoid pain altogether. The thing to remember is that being in pain doesn't mean it's getting worse, and I found some comfort in being able to recognise whether I was in pain because I'd done something to worsen the injury or whether it was just because I was doing something new/challenging. Above all, listen to your body, and base your pain management on that. Some people find heat or ice helpful, and you might find some relief in having a warm bath (be careful with that, though; I found that I had to reach a certain level of healing before having a bath was actually beneficial). There are also some pain relief creams that you can put on the area as a temporary measure, but I'd recommend talking those through with your GP if you're taking medications as well as there can be some reactions there.

Try not to stay still for too long. When you're in that much pain (and believe me, I've been there) it can be tempting to stay in bed all day because moving is unbearable, but that can actually make things a lot worse and slow down the healing process. It's important to do the stretches and exercise your physio recommends so you can begin to regain some functionality in your spine, but be aware of any warning signs that might mean you'd need further medical attention (e.g. weakness in your legs). It will likely be hard at first but it will get easier the further into recovery you get, so sticking with it is vital. It's also usually better to do things in short, frequent bouts rather than trying to do everything at once. When I was recovering I would stretch several times a day for a couple of minutes each time, which was enough to ease the pain without pushing my body beyond its limits. Try to avoid sitting down or lifting heavy objects as well, for obvious reasons.

There are also certain positions you can try when lying down/sleeping. You could try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with a pillow between your knees to take some of the pressure off your back. Longer term, you could look into lumbar supports for when you need to sit down, as they can help keep your spine in the right alignment and reduce the chance of future injury. These won't provide instant relief, but I would also recommend looking into magnesium or turmeric supplements, which can (among other things) aid in bone strength and help ease inflammation. Also try to avoid anything that could make the condition worse, such as drinking or smoking. Give your body the time it needs to heal properly.

Ultimately it likely is going to be a painful process, but recovery is definitely possible and it can help to remind yourself that you won't always be in this amount of pain. Everything I said above is just my input based on my own experience and the people I've spoken to because of it, but I'm not a medical professional and you should definitely talk to your doctor and/or physio before making any decisions or altering your recovery routine. Those are all just some bits of advice I picked up while I was healing, and hopefully they can give you a bit of a starting point - as well as some assurance that being in this much pain doesn't mean you're not going to get better. It sucks now but it's possible to recover, and I really hope your recovery goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

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