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Back Problems

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > Back Problems



Surgery for disc fusion

Nov 2007

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 that. I'm asking for any advice, alternatives, stories, doctors' names... anything. Thank you so much. Sue


Dear Sue, 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.) Robert
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. June K.
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. anon
Hi- I wrote the following info. Sounds like it may be of use to you. "Alternative to Cervical Spinal Fusion Surgery" http://www.johnmuirhealth.com/index.php/publications110.html Good luck! back

Neurosurgeon for chronic back pain

Nov 2007

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. alex


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. Robert
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 anon
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/ classical pianist
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: http://www.burtonreport.com/InfSpine/InformSpineHomePage.htm

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 societies.

Here's a search tool from the NASS site: https://webportal.spine.org/BuyersGuide/ProfessionalSearch.aspx

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! Tara


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


Neurosurgeon for ruptured disc

Jan 2004

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. Thanks


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. alice
July 2003

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. Thanks, Elyse


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 better soon! a grateful wife

Degenerative Disc Disease

May 2003

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. mb


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. Julie T.


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! kim
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. Anonymous
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 several years.

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!

Good luck! Diane


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. anon


Should I have back surgery?

May 2003

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.* carol


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. Good luck!
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 worse.

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 alternative possibility.

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. June


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

http//www.ucsf.edu/orthopaedics/patientserv/spine.html

please feel free to email me if you need any more information pj


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. mack

Injured my back carrying the carseat

July 2003

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 be helpful! Thanks! anon


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... David
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 the pain.

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 soon. Mike


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 acupuncture. peggy
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. 5. Swimming

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. Hilary


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.... heidi
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. ender
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 about this. Elyse
[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 spine.

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. Leslie
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. Laurie
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 really helps. Best wishes, Lori
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 needles... elizabeth
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 again. Good luck! anon
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. Good luck 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. Lori
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. nancy

Back surgery for torn L5-S1 disk?

May 2002

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 find anything.

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. adele
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 weight down.

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. Good luck! Sarah


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! sabrina


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. debbie

IDET back surgery

Oct 2002

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
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