Berkeley Parents Network >
Health & Medical >
I have had ongoing pain, weakness, and numbness in my right arm for several
months. The pain and numbness have cost me time at work and have affected my
quality of life. After an MRI, a nerve conduction test, and several x-rays, I finally
found that my C6/C7 discs are extremely herniated and are therefore blocking the
nerves from passing through. So much time has passed without the condition
healing itself that I consulted with an orthopedic surgeon. He suggested anterior
cervical decompression and fusion surgery (this is neck surgery). Is there anyone
out there who has had this surgery? If so, how were the results? And, has anyone
found any alternative therapies? I would do almost anything not to go through this
surgery, but at this point, my livelihood is at stake and I have lost nearly all the
strength in my right arm. And, yes, I have ongoing chronic pain, but I can live with
I'm asking for any advice, alternatives, stories, doctors' names... anything. Thank
you so much.
These surgeries, done without fusion, are done quite
successfully by neurosurgeons who do spinal surgeries. So you
might want to get a second opinion from a neurosurgeon about the
anterior decompression of C6/C7. If you are a Kaiser patient,
the place to get this surgery done by a neurosurgeon is Redwood City.
The anterior decompression leaves a very tiny scar, and some
people are helped so much by it that they feel great very
quickly. Other people may need post-op follow-up.
On the other hand, as a chiropractor, I think people benefit
from either physical therapy, or other alternative therapies,
leading up to the surgery. It's important that there be deep
muscle massage as a part of this regimen, because there's a
muscular reaction to any spinal surgery. This can lead to a
better surgical outcome. (As long as there are no other previous
complicating factors in your medical history.)
Have you been to a chiropractor? PLEASE don't agree to surgery
untill you've been assessed by a chiropractor. As a massage
therapist who works with 2 chiropractors I have seen MANY MANY
people in your situation be helped tremendously with
chiropractic and massage(or just chiro sometimes).
I work with Dr. Bruce Rizzo,and Dr. Elon Bartlett, office
number is 843-1234. Both are excellent.We are on Milvia between
Blake and Dwight way in Bkly. I Also highly recommend Dr.
Charlie Prins on Solano avenue in Albany 526-6243.
I would also suggest Pilates exercise as a means to keeping
your situation under maintenance. I can recommend Synergy
Fitness Pilates studio on Solano ave in Albany.
Hope this helps.There is no need to live with pain and numbness
nor is there need to fuse your vertebrae before trying other
non-invasive alternatives first. Good luck to you.
Check out Integrative Chiropractic in Oakland across from the Grand Lake Theater,
they use a non-force method called NSA and I have found much deeper results with
them than any other kind of chiropractor. You could call them and set up a
consultation with Dr. Aaron, and then see what you think. 510-444-4443.
I wrote the following info. Sounds like it may be of use to you.
"Alternative to Cervical Spinal Fusion Surgery"
HI-my husband has been suffering from severe chronic lower back
pain for over a year and is considering surgery. His MRIs show
slight bulging discs, but nothing more. He has seen several
doctors, been on major pain meds for months, has endured 3
cortizone shots, has tried everything else under the sun from
acupuncture to Cognitive behavior therapy. He is not getting
better and is a shadow of his old self and we are so worried.
Surgery seems like the only option and $$ is not an issue
anymore. Can anyone recommend a good neurosurgeon who specializes
in lower back issues? Or better yet, share a success story or
two. I know this is not an uncommon issue.
Patients with back trouble who have back pain as their major symptom
(without radiating pain into the legs, motor or sensory loss in the
legs/feet, etc.), do not usually respond well to surgery. I would
recommend a ''second opinion'' from an academic-type neurosurgeon,
including Dr. Brian Andrews in San Francisco and Drs. Christopher Ames
and Phillip Weinstein at UCSF.
Hi, a family member just had laparoscopic (spelling?) surgery on her
back and is doing sooo well. She is an MD and used the leading edge in
non-invasive (or traditional) surgery, Dr. Dickinson and Dr. Randall of
Pacific Spine Center in Castro Valley. They are the very best, and you
will have to fight for an appointment. :) They have a website. Plus,
and this is unusual for neurosurgeons, they are really nice guys. Good
luck to you and your husband
While not specifically responding to the neurosurgeon question, like
your husband I had extremely painful lower back problems, would even
drop unexpectedly to the ground. As a classical musician, I sit for
hours practicing and teaching. I went everywhere -- M.D.'s, physical
therapy, rolfing, massage, Feldenkrais, everything under the sun.
Nothing worked. I was almost completely disabled for 10 years. What
has finally worked is working with Laura Klein and the Alexander
Technique. It's based on the fact that over time we learn to constrict
our muscles and use our bodies in ways that contribute to pain and
misuse. The Alexander Technique gave me immediate pain-free relief,
most of the time. I've been going long enough now - 6 months - to
learn how to relieve the pain myself and relearn how to use, or rather
not-use, my body in ways that contribute to the discomfort. Laura is
in North Berkeley. Her website is: http://www.lauraklein.net/
Please think long and hard before your husband has surgery!! Once
surgery is done, anatomy is changed and there is no going back. It
usually leads to more surgery down the road as we are still learning
about spine surgery. I would very highly recommend that your husband
visit the St. Mary's Spine Center in San Francisco before doing
anything. I talked to one of the surgeons who works there who referred
me to his colleague who is a pain management specialist. She then
referred me to a physical therapist and put me on a non-narcotic pain
medication. My quality of life has improved significantly. The staff
and physicians at the St. Mary's Spine Center are truly top notch and
are worth the drive to S.F!!! Please, please, please go see them before
you do anything else!!!
-Happy St Mary's Spine Center patient
I passed this question on to my boyfriend, who just scheduled back surgery
after having a partial herniation for a couple of years that suddenly
worsened last week (and is now a complete herniation -- ouch!). I hope we
have a success story for you soon! He's researched most of the docs around
and this is what he said:
Hi Alex, here's a site with sensible info on back pain:
The site goes into what it takes to find a qualified surgeon, what to watch
out for, questions to ask, etc.
That said, after my research I've found an excellent doctor in San Francisco
at St. Mary's hospital. Dr. James Zucherman. He's an orthopedic surgeon but
he specializes in the spine. Mostly what you want is someone who only does
spine, and not one of the plethora of neuro and orthopedic surgeons who do
spine and backs because it's lucrative. Make sure who ever you choose is a
member of either the NASS or one of the other national spine specialties
Here's a search tool from the NASS site:
Hope that helps!
Also, it's worth mentioning that our chiropractor and two other personal
friends who are chiro's ALL recommended St. Mary's for this procedure. Best
wishes for a full recovery!
Dr. Dickinson of the Pacific Spine Center in Castro Valley performed my
ruptured disc surgury at Kaisar. He is a brilliant neurosurgeon who is also
extremely kind and down to earth.
I look young, so the Kaisar Orthopedic/neurosurgeons didn't believe my
problem was that serious. They kept telling me that the ruptured disc liquid
matter would ''go back'' into the disc after two MRIs and loads of meds (I
developed a morphine addiction). I was in pain for months and there was a
long surgury list. My extreme pain prompted them to let me see Dr. Dickenson
who was hired to help them get through their lumbar-spine injury case load.
After ONE SIMPLE XRAY he announced that surgury was my only option (I had
told the Kaisar doctors that already! I was getting WORSE by the DAY). He
scheduled me for surgury for the next time he was at Kaisar. He worked there
one day per month, so I saw him again one month later in surgury. I could
not walk before surgury. I walked the next day. He warned me that this
problem would not go away, but told me what to do to keep it at Bay (I have
an atypical case of degenerative disc disease, and its strangness is part of
why it was hard to diagnose me). Everything he said was true, and I have kept
it at bay by following his advice.
Good Doctor = Happy Back
After a year of trying every alternative to surgery I am still coping with the
pain of a ruptured disc. I am having a discectomy to remove the
ruptured portion of the L5/S1 disc which is compressing nerves and
causing me pain. I am curious if anyone out there has had any
experience with Dr. Philip Weinstein a neurosurgeon at UCSF and also
if any one has any words of wisdom about going into this experience.
I work at UCSF and Philip Weinstein has a great reputation. One
of the doctors I work with there had his surgery with
Weinstein, which says a lot.
I have been diagnosed with a badly ruptured lumbar disc. I have had
sciatic pain for 6 months now and have tried many alternatives so as to
avoid surgery. Surgery is being recommended now. I am interested in
getting a second opinion as well as a recommendation for someone
great to do the surgery.
I can relate to your troubles! After months of intense sciatic
leg pain and 3 months of missed work, my husband had a
microdiskectomy at Stanford (Dr. Carragee was the surgeon) in
early May (we have a PPO). A couple of weeks after surgery
(which was an outpatient procedure, under general anesthesia) he
was mostly pain free, and by the suggested recovery time of 4-6
weeks, the pain was GONE, he felt great, and was back to work.
This was his second ruptured disk, and with the first one he
just waited it out, no surgery, and it took months and months,
but finally did get better. He decided this time that he didn't
want to be miserable for so long, and surgery appears to have
been the right decision. Good luck, and I hope that you feel
a grateful wife
I have been ''diagnosed'' with degenerative disc disease by my
well-thought-of orthopedic dr. I have had significant lower
back pain for ages, and it has increased a lot in the last 6
mo.s - 1 year. I have had xrays and most recently an MRI. So
far the treatments have been neurontin, ibuprofin, facet joint
injections (which were very uncomfortable, almost really
painful, and after one day of no pain brought no lasting
relief). I have no disc or pad between two of my lower
vertabrae, and there is a lot of inflammation and stuff going on
that is now affecting my mobility and ''quality of life''. In the
mornings especially I am extremely achy and very stiff and feel
like my back is going ''give out'' at any minute. My dr. has now
prescribed hydrocodone, which helps a bit esp. at night, but
does not seem to be a long term solution. Any thoughts on long
term improvement in this? I am a single mom, work full time as
a teacher, and time for things like regular yoga or other
exercise is limited to say the least. Dr. has mentioned surgery
as an option, but has not gone into details about procedure or
recuperation. Anyone who has similar back issues and has
resolved them to any significant degree? Any thoughts on
surgery? recuperation times? chances for improvement? I am only
41 and I feel like I am over the hill physically due to this.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
My mother was also diagnosed with degenerative disc disease
about 18 months ago. She was 58 the time, and was in great and
almost constant pain. After all the usual pain pills and shots
from her doctor, she finally took my brother up on his advice to
see his chiropractor. This is a woman who utterly pooh-poohs ANY
form of alternative anything.
The result? She's a changed woman. The chiro managed to re-align
her spine in such a way as to relieve the pain, and has made her
a total convert to the merits of alternative possibilities. The
weekly massages she gets from his staff don't hurt, either.
She goes for an adjustment every other week, and her pain is
largely gone, she says, although it returns if she abuses her
back in any way, such as lifting heavy things, etc.
She also takes a mineral - carbon? - that has made her feel very
much less stiff overall. Email me and I'll find out exactly what
it is she takes - her massage therapist turned her onto it.
This route worked wonders for my mom - it might work for you as
well. Good luck - I know what back pain is like.
I went through a bout of severe back pain myself about 5 years ago in
my late 20s, so I understand how devastating it can be to both mind and
psyche. I went through the whole round of Western medical ''diagnosis''
and was ultimately found to have a severly herniated disc at L5/S1.
Thankfully, I was resistent to invasive ''treatments'' -- yes, I put this in
quotes for a reason, namely that Western med really has no proof of the
causal relation between structural back peculiarities and pain -- and
ended up seeing an acupuncturist for the pain. The acupuncture
lessoned the pain symptoms somewhat, but the truly invaluable gift the
doc gave me was a book recommendation HEALING BACK PAIN by
John Sarno, MD. All I can say is, this book will change your life. It is very
rare for (1) a structural back issue to cause pain; and (2) for it not to heal
on its own. Orthopedists, neurosurgeons and physical therapists won't
tell you this because it just isn't in their realm of possibility. Read the
book. Be open to Sarno's method. Google him and find hundreds of
stories and case studies online. You'll see yourself in every word. I have
recommended this book to several dozen people with chronic back pain
and its corollary illnesses (carpal tunnel, tendonitis, fibromyalgia, ad
infinitim) and nearly every one has found it to be helpful if not downright
life-altering. Good luck to you!
The book MIND OVER BACK PAIN by Sarno can give you a good
overview of your options. He specifically addresses ''diagnoses''
of ''degenerative back pain'' and gives statistics about the
(extremely low) success rate of surgery. He gives guidelines
for general back care that maximize the back you have to work
with. And if nothing else, the book is a good springboard for
further questions you might want to ask.
I bet you're in much better shape than you think.
I hesitated to respond to your post at first because I have
almost too much to say on the topic of chronic back pain, but I
can't resist the opportunity to (hopefully) help a fellow back
pain sufferer (I'll try not to go on for toooo long).
I first started suffering from chronic back pain when I was in
my late 30s. I quickly learned that traditional MDs are worse
than useless when it comes to back pain -- they know virtually
nothing about it, but they also don't know that they don't know
(and I say that as a person who is mostly a believer in Western
medicine). Their entire back treatment repetoire consists of
pain pills and surgery, neither of which tend to be very
effective (back surgery has almost as much potential to make
things worse as better). If those don't work, they shake their
head and tell you you'll ''just have to live with it'', and treat
you like a whiny 3 year old if you object. Thankfully, I
decided to ignore their opinion that my back pain was a life
sentence (many health insurance plans won't even cover
treatments for back pain if you've had it for 6 months, since
they then consider it ''chronic'', and therefore incurable!).
I should mention that I too was given a ''diagnosis'' of
degenerative disc disease. This sounds incredibly scary, but
it's really a non-diagnosis. Studies have shown that a very
large percentage of the population (something like 70%) have
degenerated discs -- it's a normal part of the aging process for
discs to compress and become less flexible or somewhat misshapen
as we age -- but the vast majority of people with ''degenerated''
discs suffer no pain whatsoever. Take me for example -- I'm
sure that my discs are as ''degenerated'' as ever (probably more
so), and yet, at the age of 44, I have now been pain free for
I began to explore alternative treatments. I found that I only
got temporary relief from chiropractic. I'll ''cut to the chase''
and say that, of all the things I tried, what helped me the most
was cranial sacral manipulations by an osteopath, and yoga. The
osteopath I went to was Hennie Sholars, who I highly recommend
-- she's in SF (don't have the number handy but you can find her
through information). I found the type of manipulations she did
to be at once more subtle, more powerful and, most importantly,
led to more long-lasting improvement for me than chiropractic.
Briefly, some other treatments I tried that were helpful were
acupuncture, deep tissue massage and, believe it or not, Rolfing
(I went to Georgette Delvaux, in Berkeley) -- I recommend you
wait till your back is more recovered before you try Rolfing,
but it definitely made lasting structural changes which have put
my body into better alignment.
Yoga has also made a huge difference, in fact it's the only
thing I'm doing now to maintain a healthy back -- I suffered a
significant relapse a few years ago when I started slacking off
on my yoga practice, so I now do it religiously. I know what
you mean about not having time -- I'm a single mom too -- but
ask yourself how much time and energy you lose by being in
constant pain. Wouldn't it be worth a few hours a week of your
time to be pain free? I highly recommend finding the time to do
yoga long enough to at least see if it works for you -- make a
commitment to do it 2-3 times a week for at least 8-10 weeks --
I bet you'll see an improvement long before that time is up, but
don't expect it to be an instant cure -- it took your back 41
years to get into the condition it's in now -- expect it to take
at least a few months to get better.
Anyway, I could go on, but I won't. If you'd like to talk with
me about this more, please email me.
My parting thought is this please don't accept your ''diagnosis''
as a life sentence -- it's not. Explore alternative treatments,
give yoga a try, and eventually your back will get better!
Chiropractic is great for degenerative disc disease. it can keep
it from getting worse , keep the joints moving , even help to
reverse it in some cases.
i have a great dc in Fremont, Dr. Nichols . he's on Mowry. his
number is 510-593-7743
May I add to advice that was given, but which might
be going off on a tangent? Someone recommended yoga
for back problems. While I also have practiced yoga and
love it, I have been injured/reinjured three or four times while
practicing it. The most recent time was while taking a yoga
class from the movement instructor from my chiropractor's
office! She was aware of my particular problem, yet even
she with her years of experience was not able to guide me
so that I didn't aggravate my problem. I just assumed that
since she had vast experience with back problems that the
yoga postures she was teaching me would be fine. Wrong!
What I'm trying to say is that yoga can actually aggravate an
existing back problem or cause a new one if you do a pose
incorrectly or one which puts additional strain on a sensitive
area. Ideally, if you want to go the yoga route, you should
find an instructor who is familiar with back problems. Even
then there aren't any guarantees. I'm sadly stearing clear of
yoga for now because I don't trust that the instructors have
enough knowledge to prevent injuries among their students.
Does anyone have advice on whether I should consider the
disc-ectomy that my doctor has proposed as an option for my
chronic pain? Anyone have experience, good and bad, with this
procedure? Or alternative treatment that has been successful?
I've had back trouble ranging from total debilitation to constant
but low grade pain for over a year now.
I had sciatic pain through the latter half of my pregnancy and
then after the birth via c-section, my back ''went out'',
incredible pain and numbness down to the foot. I've seen doctors
at Kaiser and the MRI showed a disc bulge. They say the numbness
may be permanent, but surgery should stop the pain in my hip.
It seemed to be getting better after one year and a lot of
accupuncture. This week has been a real set back, though, and I
am feeling depressed. I'd like to be able to do normal things
again. I'm hesitant to go under the knife again since I lost a
lot of blood from the c-section and it took a very long time to
recover physically from the birth, also recovery seems daunting
with 1 year old.*
I'm sorry that you are in so much pain. I have done evidence
based reviews in the literature for chronic pain for my job and
have the following to say. I would definitely get a second
opinion since it sounds like you're wary of surgery. Sometimes
(and I say this knowing NOTHING of your medical situation)
people with chronic pain can be sent down a fruitless path of
surgeries. If you are a northern CA Kaiser patient, ask your
doctor to refer you to the chronic pain program (I believe you
use the CRES referral system - I'll check that). You will get a
multidisciplinary evaluation - very thorough and you will also
receive a multidisciplinary treatment plan. This is done by
three (or four?) different specialists in pain medicine. Now,
they may end up telling you the same thing you know now, but at
least you'll have more thorough info. The key principles in
chronic pain management include having a multimodal treatment
plan (meaning using different treatments at the same time for
greater benefits - e.g., medication, physical therapy,
relaxation exercises) and playing an active role in your
treatment. If you're feeling depressed, you should know that's
incredibly common for people with chronic pain and you can and
should ask for help with that. Kaiser has a great pain program,
with classes and experts. There's good evidence for the use of
various pain meds, physical therapy, graded exercise, pain
management classes, acupuncture (short term) and massage.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not agree to back surgery untill you
have seen a good chiropractor. Bulging discs are serious and can
make you miserable but with the proper chiropractic care and a
maintenance exercise program you can live your life pain free.
As a massage therapist who works with chiropractors I have seen
MANY types of back problems from chronic to acute be
helped with chiropractic care.
I, myself have disc problems in my neck. I get numbness and
tingling in my hands (why, is a long story). Through proper neck
exercises, chiropractic care and home care (I do 10 minutes of
traction on my neck every night to relieve pressure on my discs
and re-educate the musculature around my cervical spine) my neck
stays in pretty good shape even with the work I do. With my
maintenance routine it is not likely that my situation will get
Chiropractors are spine specialists, whereas MD's are usually
not. Some MD's will refer their patients in your situation to
chiropractors, but unfortunately more often they will prescribe
meds, surgery and tell patients to live with their problem that
nothing can be done....NOT TRUE.
So often there are further problems after back surgery (not
always, but often) and recovery can be long and difficult
especially if you don't have the proper physical therapy.
Surgery may be what you need, but it may not and it would be
tragic to put yourself through that before checking out another
A good chiropractor will also recognize that surgery may be
helpful for you if their care is not helping your situation.
I'd like to recommend 2 really good chiropractors to you.
Dr. Bruce Rizzo, at 843-1234 is at 2509 Milvia. I work with
Bruce and aside from being a wonderfully great person, he is a
very skilled, competant and caring doctor.
Also Dr. Charlie Prins on Solano ave in Berkeley (his number is
in the phone book, sorry I don't have it right now) is really
great. Very experienced, kind, compassionate guy.
I see both chiropractors for different issues and recommend them
both very highly.
I imagine you'll get a lot of feedback on your post from people
feeling similarly to me. I do hope you'll consider seeing a
chiropractor before deciding on surgery. Good luck to you.
If you are unsure about surgery, I would highly recommend
checking out the Spine Center at UCSF for the new minimally
invasive laproscopic discectomy. My husband had this surgery
for his sciatica last December and it has been a lifesaver for
us. He was in the hospital only one night, and experienced a
huge reduction in his pain only two weeks after the surgery with
Dr. Berven. He was back to his pre-injury routines six weeks
after the surgery, and now experiences only occasionaly, mild
soreness after strenuous activity.
UCSF is currently in the middle of study of herniated disc
treatment, basically comparing the results of those who choose to
have surgery and those who dont. As part of the study, they
have a videotape that explains all the treatment options and
outcomes, and interviews with people on both sides of the
fence. They will give you the video even if you dont want to
participate in the study. Dr. Berven and both of the nurse
practioners are excellent, though the office staff is incredibly
disorganized. Here is their website
please feel free to email me if you need any more information
My husband recently had his second bout in a 4 yr period with a
bulged disk. Last time he avoided surgery and it eventually got
better. This time he was in extreme sciatic pain, and the drs
were predicting 8 mos for recovery without surgery. After doing
much research, he decided to opt for a microdiskectomy at
Stanford. It was a godsend! He will be back to work (at a
physical job) after 9 weeks of recovery, and the pain is totally
gone. My understanding is that most people recover on their own,
it's just that surgery causes recovery to happen faster. The
procedure he had done was an outpatient procedure, and he felt
quite a bit better already after only a couple of days. Good
luck! Also, someone in an earlier post recommended
chiropractors. Beware! My husband tried that last time before he
realized that he had a bulged disk, and he is convinced that the
manipulation actually aggrevated the condition.
I have recently injured my back carrying my 4 month old's car
seat. I could barely walk for about a month. My back is a bit
better but still not 100%. It seems to be stiff all the time and
I think I might have a pinched nerve because my right leg and
toes are partially numb. It seems that my body has become a
wreck since having a baby!
I was wondering if someone could let me know what type of Dr. I
should see about this problem? Do I see a chiropractor?
Accupuncturist? or any other type of Dr?? Has anyone else had
this type of problem? If so, what helped cure it?
This type of problem is new to me so any recommendations would
I've had back pain off and on for over 20 years, definitely made
worse by carrying children around. I've tried chiropractic,
physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and various kinds of
bodywork. Some were useless but most had some positive
benefit. However the two modalities that really worked best for
me were Feldenkrais, a form of bodywork, and a book
called ''Healing Back Pain'' by John Sarno. You'll need an open
mind for the book as it is a radical approach.
Forget the doc. I experienced the same problems. Join a gym
and focus on leg and stomach exercises...
I saw an orthopedist. I've lost two seperate 5-6 month periods
in my life due to chronic, lower-back pain. I couldn't do
ANYTHING. Rest, rest, and more rest is the first step to
healing. IMO, I wouldn't see a chiropractor right now. What
your back joints and muscles need right now is rest and
inactivity. I know, not easy with a toddler, work, etc. Only
after your back feels 100% better (I made the mistake of
returning to regular activity too soon), you need to begin a
routine of stretching and strenghtening excercises to ensure you
don't re-injure yourself. A good doctor can point you in the
right direction, as well as prescribe medication to help with
As much as possible, have others lift things for you. Hold your
child while seated. Don't stand for long periods. My doctor
gave me several pamphlets with good advice for caring for an
injured back and what excercises to do after I've recovered.
Just my experience. What you are going through sounds similar
to what I've endured. It takes time and patience for a back to
heal. And it's depressing too, because you can't do anything
without pain. Also, this is obvious (and even I don't always do
this), but if you must lift something, injured or not, remember
to use your knees. Good luck. I hope you are feeling better
st. mary's spine center in san francisco is a great place! they
have everything under one roof - osteopath, acupuncture,
physical therapy, surgery. they're conservative and avoid
surgery if at all possible. husband has a herniated disc and
was able to avoid surgery by going there. good luck! i've had
good results for lesser pain with gentle chiropractic and
I am currently getting over the worst back problem I have ever
had as well. I have an almost five year old and a nineteen month
old who I used to carry a lot on my hips. What has worked for me
1. Changing my body mechanics. My friend lent me a book called
''How to Raise Children without Breaking Your Back'' by Alex Pirie
and Hollis Herman. Very helpful in that regard.
2. My mother is a physical therapist so she has been working on
me. Some deep myofacial work, some cranio-sacral therapy. And
some other stuff I'm not sure about. It helps immensely. IN
fact, when I first hurt my back, she went on vacation, then I
went on vacation right when she returned, and I didn't see her
for about a month. I was not doing well at all. Now that she
has been seeing me again, its made a huge difference.
3. Walking and doing the exercises/stretches she has told me to do.
4. Ice and heat both, and trying to stay off my feet and lie down
as much as is possible.
I am slowly healing and have to change some things about my life
so that this does not happen again. Its too brutal. But PT has
worked really well for me.
I'm sorry that you're having back pain. It's the worst. I've had chronic
lower back pain on and off since I was 15 after being in a car accident.
I've been to chiropractors but for me, they seemed to make my back
worse. Accupuncture helped, but what really helped was pilates. I used
to do it at the pilates studio on Grand Ave. in Oakland. Private sessions
aren't cheap ($60), but I did group classes, which were great for $10/
class. My back has been fine (knock wood) for the past year so I've been
lazy and haven't been keeping up with it, but if it starts to hurt again, I'll
go back. I also tried bikram yoga, which helped, but was a bit more
aggressive than pilates. I like the kinder, gentler method of relief.
Good luck, hang in there....
The pain on one leg and toe numbness sounds like a nerve injury
of some sort. I don't know what insurance you have, but see
whomever you need to see who can order an MRI(ask for a
Neurology referral if you primary won't order the MRI). This
will help determine if there is spinal and/or disk involvement.
It is most likely something that can be fixed
with the right combination of
exercise, manual treatment (Physical Therapy or chiropractor,
depending on what is causing your symptoms) and specific muscle
reeducation and training( postural muscles). Those infant car
seats are great but are horrible on your muscle and spinal
alignment! I wouldn't run
to a chiropractor without knowing what the cause is(ie if you
have partially or fully herniated a disk, a chiropractor could
be dangerous... although a good chiropractor wouldn't treat you
if they suspected that.
I have never had this experience myself, but I am a Physical
Therapist and have treated many people with back injuries.
Get it diagnosed by someone you feel confident in... then
explore treatment options. Good luck and feel free to email me
if you'd like more information.
There are many types of people to see. I am responding as a person
who has been dealing with back and leg pain for the first time in my life.
I think that each individual responds to different kinds of therapy. I have
had success with cranio-sacral massage therapy and physical therapy.
It is a very confusing issue because there are so many different
approaches. Feel free to contact me. I would be happy to talk with you
[See recommendations for Back in Action and Charlie Prins]
Acupuncture is great too, but in my opinion will not fix your
misaligned spine or pinched nerve. It may help relieve your pain
and enhance your energy to promote healing (I admit I don't
fully understand how it works), but I believe you need manual
manipulation to truely help your condition, as well as rest,
possibly heat, or ice, and certain stretching and strengthening
exercises as you heal.
Good luck finding the help you need.
June Kamerling NCTMB
I have been dealing with back problems like yours for the past 5 years,
and have been finally figureing it out. I am also a Licensed
Acupuncturist. That this happended soon after pregnancy is telling me
you might have the same problem as I did, but you have to get it
checked out by a good chiropractor. Kaiser or other mainstream med
systems will only give you ibuprofen or other stonger pain killers, maybe
send you to physical therapy, or want to inject you with steriods! While
you may need some pain killers for now, DON'T let them inject you with
prednisone. Its efficacy is 50/50, and the side effects aren't worth it.
There are better ways. It is extremely common for women, especially
soon after pregnancy, to get a sacro-iliac joint dislocation. The sacrum
and the hip are connected by tendons and ligaments, and the hormones
of pregnancy make this connection looser. It is easy for it to get a little
out of place. Even a fraction of an inch can cause major problems.. It
also puts stress on the lower back. A Chiropractor can diagnose if this is
going on and put it back in place. Acupuncture can help with the pain
and help it heal. Nutritional supplements can add to this. Yoga then
helps you build the muscles that are weak and stretch the ones that are
too tight, and correct posture, to prevent it from happening again. Mine
kept going out every six months. At first, I didn't know what was
happening. Chiropractic and Acupuncture helped it heal very quickly,
but it kept coming back. Finally, about 2 years ago, it went out really
bad. I was down for a couple weeks, decided to try a regular doctor, but
didn't get anywhere. Finally went back to a chiropractor, and as soon as
he put it back in place, it started to get much better. This time, I
determined to keep it from happening again. Over the last 2 years, I've
experimented, and found that with Yoga, I prevent to root of the problem.
Now, I can even feel if it's starting to go out a little, and self adjust with
the right stretches. I would be happy to recommend a chiropractor is
you don't know one, and can also give you acupuncture and nutritional
consultation/coordinate your care if you so desire. Feel free to give me
a call/drop me a line with any questions. (510) 306-0067
Rhoda Climenhaga, L.Ac.
I got a badly herneated disc from moving our 2 year old in a
very very bad lifting position (always lift with your back
straight, blah blah).
I tried accupunture but to tell you the truth -- they're kind of
kooky and they don't want you talking with doctors. There's the
whole conspiracy theory going on there that they are the
unrecognized field of medical insight.
I also tried accupuncture and it gives great short term relief.
But nothing more. And my schedule and job cannot accomodate that
over the long term (much less my PPO insurance!)
Alas, I went to the Stanford Spine Clinic -- they screen you on
the way in and by that time my toe and top of my right foot was
numb, so they though I was worth seeing. They are the spine
specialists and know the bones and spine very very well.
The MRI showed the material squeezed to the wrong location and
pinching on the nerve clusters behind the spine. In the end I
had a microdiscectomy, and it helped initially 80%, then less
so, but now with regular stretching, exercises and swimming I'm
back to, basically, pre-injury health. The microdiscecomy is a
small incesion (1.5 to 2 inches) in the back and they go in with
a microscope to remove the material sqeezed and impinging the
The Spine clinic answered all my questions too, although I guess
no one knows exactly how nerves will behave, so that was one
area I just did not have a clear estimate as to pros and cons of
surgery. That makes me think you may want to also see a
neurologist specializing in nervous system.
Happy with Microdisectomy
A good accupuncturist might help you (Dr. Robert Zeiger,
Berkeley, CA is highly recommended).
If that does not help, I would see my internist and get
referred. You have been injured for too long.
I have various reoccuring back problems many of which are
resolved with a trip to my massage therapist. I highly
recommend you give it a try.
I had the same type of pain and limited movement from something
I did when the girls were babies. From past experience, I'm a
believer in gentle chiropractic. [See recommendations for Sandra Waggener]
After you're ''fixed'', the best advice is to exercise daily - at
least walk and stretch. It's tough to find the time but it
Two pregnancies with back labor (one was twins) damaged my back.
Eventually I had trouble walking and went to the emergency room.
They wanted to know what the big emergency was -- sent me home
with a bunch of pain killers and said I should just go see my
regular doctor. My regular doctor said lots of people have back
pain, gave me some excercises to do and sent me to a physical
therapist. More exercises. I went to a chiropractor who seemed
to help some. I finally ended up seeing Mark Fischer (925) 708-
2499. He has a masters in oriental medicine. A combination of
more excercises, improved diet, chinese herbs and massage
therapy has finally done the trick. I HIGHLY recommend him. He
does accupuncture too, but I just can't stand the idea of
Having a baby is hard on the body! I ended up with tendonitis in
both sholders and wrists and a sore back. Here are my thougts
1) I always worry when I see people carrying those removable car
seats. It really twists your back to hold that kind of weight
away from your body. We never even started with this habit.
Holding the baby in your arms close to your body is much more
stable and protective of your back. We learned how to easily
remove our sleeping baby from the car seat without waking him,
you can figure it out with a little practice. Also, carying the
baby in a sling or snugglie is better for your back. It may seem
like a hastle, but after a little while, it becomes second
nature. 2) I went to see Susan Shreier 510-482-2276, an
alexander technique practitioner who specializes in helping new
mothers. I brought my baby with me to the sessions and she
watched me lift, carry and breastfeed my baby and helped me to
do it in a much more relaxed and aligned fashion. 3) Definitely
get some chiropractic and massage and find some time for
stretching. I made a habit of stretching each afternoon on the
floor with my baby. He would do a little stretching too. 4)
After I stopped breastfeeding (when my son was 2) and once he
was old enough to walk a lot, not wanting to be carried around
as much, my body finally felt like it could heal and get strong
I did not read your original post but got an idea from reading
the other responses. After 2 preganacies (one with twins) I
have been having sciatic and lower back/hip pains since the
birth of my third son 8 months ago. It really started to
bother me when I started running regularly to get back into
shape. There are two things that I have done that have really
given me some relief. One was to buy a little support called
the sacro wedgy. I got a massage from a lady who recommended
it to me. www.sacrowedgy.com is the address I believe. I
found it by typing ''sacro wedgy'' into my search engine. It is
a little triangular shaped rubber support that you are supposed
to lay on and there have been a couple of nights where this has
saved me! The other thing I did was to visit a rolfer. I
aactually have a friend who does it and he really helped me
out. Before going to him I really did not know what rolfing
was but it was just what my body wanted. It is a deep tissue
massage therapy and reallignment of your body. I have heard
that some people have had painful experiences with rolfing but
my friend said that that may have been an old school approach
or just a bad rolfer. I did not experience any pain and it
really helped me out. I wish I could recommend my friend but
he lives in Hawaii so that wouldn't be much use.
less in pain
When I had problems after childbirth, my husband suggested a
chiropracter named Daniel Karan on Piedmont Ave. Worked great
after just a few visits. My husband's job involves heavy
lifting, and he and his partner send any of their employees that
have hurt their back to him for help.
Doing fine now
I can also highly recommend Dr Charlie Prins on Solano avenue in
Albany. I see Charlie for nutritional/allergy issues and find
him to be also a really nice guy, very competant and
knowledgable and gentle. His number is 526-6243. June
I had the same type of pain and limited movement from something
I did when the girls were babies. From past experience, I'm a
believer in gentle chiropractic.
I found a recommendation from
this list for Dr. Sandra Waggener in Albany and now I see her
regularly (every 2-3 months). She is a massage therapist first,
then a chiropractor. She works your muscles to identify where
the problems are, does isometrics and massage to get your
muscles out of the knots they're in supporting your injury.
Then, the last measure is the adjustment, which she does
extremely gently and without force. You may need to see her once
a week for a few weeks to get back to normal and then taper
off. You might check if your insurance will reimburse you.
i can strongly recommend chiropractor Paul Walton in Orinda, 925-
253-9446. He is knowledgeable, careful, thoughtful, and
receptive. And doesn't extend the treatment period any longer
than is needed for the problem. I have gone to him for both
chronic and acute pain, and have benefited every time. he's also
a nice person. good luck.
I have just been diagnosed with a torn L5-S1 disk, and I
searched the web site looking for info on this and didn't
I would like to hear from anyone else with L5-S1 disk problems.
Has anybody been able to successfully heal this disk without
surgery? Has anybody had back surgery, either the IDET
procedure or fusion? Did the procedure work? Has anybody
had a cortisone shot? Did that work?
I would like to heal my torn disk, but the message I am
getting from health practitioners is ''You will have to learn
how to live with your limitations for the rest of your life.''
No playing with the kids, no lifting, no traveling, no sitting
except in special devices... it doesn't seem very appealing.
My daughter was just crying because I couldn't crawl into the
tent she just made, and my son was crying this morning because
I wouldn't pick him up.
Has anybody successfully healed a damaged disk?
Thanks for any help or advice!
About 20 years ago I herniated my L5-S1disk. It gave me trouble off and on
(primarily sciatica, but sometimes worse). At times it
was bad enough so that I couldn't do anything except lie down. None of the
doctors I saw ever helped---the only thing that ever
helped me was chiropractic care. I saw a chirpractor when I had flare-ups and
it helped enormously. I also strengthened my
abdominal muscles and did stretching exercises, but I was not terribly
disciplined about it (don't tell my chiro!). Since I stopped
working behind a desk three years ago (I used to sit for hours every day) my
back problems have all but disappeared. I think it's
a combination of chiropractic, exercise, and not sitting as much that made the
difference for me. I do pay attention to my back
(no bungee jumping for me!) but I haven't had a flare-up in years.
Please get a second opinion on your back. I am rather sorry to
hear you are getting such disheartening messages rather than
encouraging ones, because you have more control than you think.
In my mid-twenties I had a torn disk at the same location. I am
now 45 years-old and have had given birth to two children and
lead a normal life. I feel very fortunate that at the time of
my injury I went to see a physical therapist who got me into the
gym exercising 3-4 times a week. (I was closely supervised and
did not do anything without consultation until I got better.) I
am convinced that this regimen made all the difference in the
world. I stayed with this program for about two and a half
years and then I moved to a new area where it was not very easy
for me to get to the gym. My preferred form of exercise now is
power walking, which I do a few times a week, and I keep my
I think once you have an injury like this, in addition to having
flare-ups, you can be susceptible to other injuries. But I also
think most are avoidable if you are in good shape. I have done
a lot of reading on back problems over the years and one of the
best books I read was based upon conversations with people who
had experienced all kinds of back pain. (Unfortunately someone
borrowed it from me and I never got it back and I can't remember
the title.) The interesting thing was that most of these folks
got better over time without doing anything. Although I am not
physically the same as I was before I hurt my back, I still do
everything I used to do. I just have to be very careful how I
do certain activities, and I may not be able to do them for very
long (gardening is a good example). I don't do heavy lifting,
and if I have a big gardening project at home, I hire someone to
help me. I try to manage my ups and downs as best I can,
lifting carefully and resting when I get a flare-up. I am now
lucky to be able to afford to have someone do my heavy housework
once a week.
Don't lose heart. Hang in there. Get a good physical therapist
(Dawn Loretz at Sports and Orthopedics on Telegraph Ave. in
Berkeley is wonderful) or chiropractor and learn how to best
exercise to keep yourself strong. While it may change your life
to a certain extent, I am somewhat grateful that I got an early
warning signal. I think I am in much better shape than a lot of
other women my age, and more aware of health issues. (I could
still be in better shape and should probably be doing more to
strengthen my abdominals!) I still ski (my knees actually
bother me more than my back these days!), and enjoy the things I
pretty much always have. I have never stopped traveling and
have done about 12 trips to Europe since I damaged my back. Let
your children know that you are not feeling well now, but plan
to get better. They may feel comforted knowing that you will
not always be in pain.
Oh please don't listen to that bad advice about your back! I
have had back problems off and on for ten yesrs -- including one
bout of not being able to sit for MONTHS. The following is the
advice I have gotten from doctors:
(1) ''You'll never be able to run/bike/play tennis/do
aerobics/ski/hike etc. again. EVER. Get over it.''
(2) ''You will have to learn to teach lying on your back. (!!!)
Get over it.''
(3) ''You are just going to have to live like this -- maybe
forever. Get over it.''
Each time I was being told I could never again lead a normal
life nor would I ever be able to do the things I loved again and
yet always they were unsympathetic to what this might feel
like. Somehow, they seemed angry that I wanted more out of
life! More than once I left the office in tears!
However, I can tell you that a do lead a normal life, do all the
things above plus travel to europe, etc, without any
difficulty. As previous people have said, you do have to watch
things and learn to be careful and learn new ways to lift, but I
don't believe your problem is insoluable. At least, I wouldn't
take the word of most doctors on that.
Get access to a physical therapist. I have known several people
completely *crippled* by back problems, myself included, who
were helped GREATLY by physical therapy plus learning certain
exercises to do on their own. You might also try some people in
sports medicine -- where the attitude is much more ''how do we
get you moving again?'' rather than the above.
Be wary of back surgery if possible -- it's really worth trying
other means. Most people who have back surgery have to have it
again and again over the years. Of course, for some it is
necessary -- but I'd get several opinions before jumping in, and
I'd particularly get the opinion of someone who can help you
find other techniques (even steroids -- which can be a mini-
miracle)first and who really see back problems as solvable.
Best of luck! Don't lose heart!
Read ''Healing Back Pain'' by Robert Sarno. It helped me
and several people I know - one was laid up in bed
pre-Sarno. My 47 year old brother in law read it five or so
years ago after an injury that caused years of pain and
inactivity, and he quickly got back to doing mountain bike
trials. Besides doing away with my back pain, Sarno's
principles also helped me with knee pain from running.
Check out the reviews at amazon.com.
As a mom of two small children, I have had gradually increasing
lower back pain for over three years. About six months ago it
was finally diagnosed as a bulging lumbar disc with a large
annular tear. I have been trying most of the standard
conservative treatments without relief. Actually the pain is
constant and getting worse. I can't sit down on the floor with
my kids, I can't lift my son; I can't even push his stroller
without my back flaring up.
My doctor is now recommending IDET back surgery (Intradiscal
Electrothermal Annuloplasty). Is there anyone out there who
either has had this procedure and is willing to talk with me,
or knows someone who has? I'm especially interested in hearing
about long-term results (over 2 years).
Thank you very much for your help!
Back surgery is serious stuff! Have you explored alternative
options such as back strengthening? I also had great back pain
after the births of my kids, which got worse as they got
older/heavier. This was complicated by my scoliosis (curvature
of the spine) and the extra baby weight. I started doing pilates
in an effort to strengthen my lower back and stomach muscles,
and although I'm still stiff some days, the severe pain has
disappeared. It's definitely worth a try, especially before
going under the knife. And see what a good chiroprator has to
say as well. Good luck
No more aching back Mom
this page was last updated: Nov 29, 2008
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network