Almost Over the Hill Hikers
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    #106691 - 11/19/08 08:23 AM Herniated Lumbar Disc
    DJ2 Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/06/02
    Posts: 1347
    Loc: Seattle, WA
    A herniated lumbar disc has caused me enough pain in my upper right leg to keep me on crutches for the last month.

    Is there anyone out there who has had this problem and successfully returned 100% to backpacking? I'm 64

    DJ2

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    #106692 - 11/19/08 08:41 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    dkramalc Offline
    member

    Registered: 09/19/03
    Posts: 1070
    Loc: California
    DJ2, sorry to hear you are in that situation but I think I can provide some hope for you.

    My significant other had the same problem many years ago (17?) and has returned to backpacking with no problems. The initial recovery period was quite painful for him, and he mostly lay around on his back, sometimes with the knees up. I was visiting him at the time (he lived across the country) and remember tieing his shoes for him, etc. He started walking as soon as he was able (short walks at first, building up to a few miles), and actually found that it was the most pain-free thing he could do (better than standing, sitting, or lying down, and the relief lasted for a while after the walk). For several years after that, he would periodically get a muscle spasm in his back that may or may have not been related to the earlier disc problem, but even that has gotten pretty rare.

    He found right away that going to a chiropractor made his disc problem worse, and that what helped was starting to do back exercises once he was able to do that - situps/crunches, back arching, etc. He still does them religiously.

    I will also say that my father herniated a lumbar disc when I was younger (also made worse by a chiropractor), and he was told by an orthopedist not to have surgery unless it was a last resort. He also did the exercises (I remember lying next to him on the living room floor and copying him) and was able to return to normalcy. In the worst part of it, he had a hospital bed in our house with a pelvic traction girdle hooked up to sandbags! As his orthopedist explained, the material that squishes out of the disc presses on the nerves needs to be re-absorbed by the body before you can get rid of the pain, then the back muscles need to be strengthened to prevent re-injury. Or that's how I recall it, anyway. You also need to be aware, if you aren't already, of what sorts of movements tend to injure backs (twisting while lifting, lifting with arms or back rather than using leg muscles, etc.).

    I wish you the best of luck - if you want to talk to my SO, shoot me a PM and I'll get you in touch with him. Take care -
    dk

    P.S. Don't mean to sound like I'm dissing chiropractors in general, I understand a lot of people feel relief from them for many things, but in my limited experience here seems like their manipulations might not be good for things like a herniated disc.

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    #106693 - 11/19/08 08:45 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    scottyb Offline
    member

    Registered: 05/28/08
    Posts: 278
    Loc: Texas Hill Country
    In '93 I had a herniated L5 and suffered permanent nerve damage. Now, when they check my reflexes in my right heel, nada. My right calf muscle atrophied to a noticeable point and I had very little strength in it. I resisted surgery and elected to go with epidural injections, which seemingly got me over the hump. With exception of the nerve damage, everything returned to normal. I would give the epidurals a shot before surgery.

    I have had a few lesser incidences since then and for me, the best thing I found was physical therapy. It not only helps the immediate issues but teaches you how to manage it in the event it happens again. The epidural treatments are not a cure-all and the PT is only a management tool, but they have kept me off the operating table up to now.
    _________________________
    Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.... Pericles (430 B.C)

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    #106694 - 11/20/08 02:56 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    tpdwr Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/04/02
    Posts: 45
    Loc: So. California - Murrieta
    I ijured myself in afall while climbing. I had back spasms, right leg pain and numbness on the sole of my right foot with some weakness in the ankle.
    I missed 2 months of work and started doing the stomach excercises. Single leg lifts and crunches as wellas back arching.
    It took a long time, nearly a year, before I really felt comfortabe. That was in 1988. I've had relapses since then, but I still do the excercises and believe that's the key.
    I'm also 64 and hiked a 19 mile out and back yesterday in our desert mountains.
    Good luck!

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    #106695 - 11/21/08 05:24 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    photohiker Offline
    member

    Registered: 04/20/02
    Posts: 147
    Loc: NC Pa.
    Maybe I am fortunate. I'm almost 63 now, 10 years ago I was diagnosed with a herninated disc after a fall with a packfull of camera gear. Two trips to the chiropractor & I was 90%.
    I continue with numness in the left thigh & heel. However I do several hundred stomach crunches per week & a stretch which pulls the right knee to left side of chest & so with the other side. I backpack with no problem at all. It is when leaning forward at a table for a minute that some pain surfaces, so I don't lean forward at tables very much.

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    #106696 - 11/21/08 10:22 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: photohiker]
    Earthling Offline
    member

    Registered: 02/22/03
    Posts: 3228
    Loc: USA
    Do Not get the epidural shots as the cortisone wears off way too quickly and you can only get so many before the cortisone causes further deterition of the joint area <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />.

    Be very careful with the chiro care IMO <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />.

    Do not have surgery unless you are flat on your back and unable to help yourslef. It'll lay you out for a few weeks and the pain is unreal after the morphine wears off <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" /> I got talked into the surgery route before I should've and it's not reversable, nor permanent help <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> I have good and bad days, and have gotten out but it's something always on my mind to be careful out there. The only redeeming thing is the wicked cool scar <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
    _________________________
    PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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    #106697 - 11/22/08 11:55 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    goatpacker Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/22/05
    Posts: 86
    Loc: Eastern Washington
    You might want to try one of these:

    http://www.amazon.com/Digital-TENS-Unit-...&sr=8-1

    For demo/info: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JTVnia5QD8

    My wife uses it for cronic lower back pain. It's not a cure but along with exercise, has seemed to help a lot.


    Edited by goatpacker (11/27/08 01:09 PM)

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    #106698 - 11/24/08 08:25 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: Earthling]
    scottyb Offline
    member

    Registered: 05/28/08
    Posts: 278
    Loc: Texas Hill Country
    Quote:
    Do Not get the epidural shots as the cortisone wears off way too quickly and you can only get so many before the cortisone causes further deterition of the joint area <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />.

    Be very careful with the chiro care IMO <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />.

    Do not have surgery unless you are flat on your back and unable to help yourslef. It'll lay you out for a few weeks and the pain is unreal after the morphine wears off <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" /> I got talked into the surgery route before I should've and it's not reversable, nor permanent help <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> I have good and bad days, and have gotten out but it's something always on my mind to be careful out there. The only redeeming thing is the wicked cool scar <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />


    I 100% disagree. Yes cortisone can be harmful if repeated on a regular basis. However, in my case and with many others, it provides the necessary relief and anti-inflamation to get you over the hump. I had a series of 3 shots in '93, when they wanted to "cut on me", and 1 more in "01, after another episode. A total of 4 shots in 15 years. I stand behind the EDI's 100%, as a potential non-surgical solution.. Anything that haults the permanent nerve damage and prevents surgery, is worth a shot (NPI) in my book. Your mileage may vary.

    OTOH, I do agree to stay off the operating table if possible. I just spent 4 days on a boat with a friend that is a doctor, and his opinion is that 25% have successful results, 50% have little to no change, and in 25% the problem worsens. Those odds are not what I would call favorable.
    _________________________
    Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.... Pericles (430 B.C)

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    #106699 - 11/27/08 10:41 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    DJ2 Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/06/02
    Posts: 1347
    Loc: Seattle, WA
    Thanks for the replies. They were encouraging. Looks like there are a lot of ways to work through this and keep hiking.

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    #154359 - 09/06/11 02:37 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    gladyshawthorne Offline
    newbie

    Registered: 05/26/11
    Posts: 8
    Loc: Portland OR
    Hi, I have had a herniated lumbar disc for a number of years. I have found that hiking and backpacking and walking around town, too, help it the most of anything. I don't like to take pain medications, so exercise is what has been the most beneficial strategy for me. I also do some partial sit ups. I have tried a couple sessions of pilates and felt miraculously better after just the two times. I plan on starting to do pilates on a more regular basis after camping season. Gladys

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    #154363 - 09/06/11 04:09 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    JPete Offline
    member

    Registered: 05/28/09
    Posts: 304
    Loc: Eastern Ontario
    DJ2,

    My experience was a bit different.

    Mine turned me into a pretzel, couldn't stand up or sit down and could only lie down in some strange positions. The doctors gave me what the nurse described as "the biggest dose of Demerol I've ever given"-- two shots in each arm. Then sent me to tests which even with the Demerol were horrible. They had me in surgery first thing next morning.

    I had , I think, three days of recovery in hospital with very little discomfort. I started walking the hallway (with my iv) the second day, and continued walking right through about three weeks of recovery at home.

    The surgeon said the operation would be good for about 20 years if I followed the physio therapist's instructions. That was in 1981, and I haven't felt so much as a twinge since (there is a very small amount of permanent nerve damage around the big toe of my left foot). The surgeon did tell me (when I asked him) to sell my parachute (and I haven't jumped since). But I have thru-hiked the AT twice, plus a whole lot of other trail miles, and p0ortaged canoes often (though I have dropped down to a 14 ft. Kevlar).

    There is also another proceedure that involves injecting something akin to Oscar's Meat Tenderizer that is supposed to have about the same success rate as the surgery. My surgeon estimated that he gets fully effective long term results from the surgery about 85 percent of the time.

    Not too surprisingly, I recommend the surgery.

    Best, jcp



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    #156265 - 10/24/11 11:02 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    DJ2 Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/06/02
    Posts: 1347
    Loc: Seattle, WA
    I forgot about this post and don't frequent this site much anymore.

    It's been almost three years since the post. I've been back to normal for a year or two and am backpacking as much as I did before the herniated disc. Time and physical therapy were sufficient to mend things.

    Every day I do the exercises taught me by the physical therapist, and will continue to do them for the rest of my life.(new religion?) I'm also much more thoughtful about how I move, lift things, etc.

    So I, like some of the posters who helped me, can encourage others to hang in there and get better.




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    #156481 - 10/30/11 12:42 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    ppine Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/10/10
    Posts: 184
    Loc: Minden, Nevada
    DJ2,
    I empathize with all those who are struggling with spinal maladies. Do not allow yourselves to get depressed or give up.

    After tangling with a hornet's nest I got bucked off a large mule in 2007, I just missed a rock pile and landed on my neck. Neurapathy and tingling in the guts and extremeties for a year and a half. I agree with physical therapy, traction, weight training, and general fitness as the best remedy. I feel blessed not to be in a wheel chair, and can only thank my middle school gymnatics training for making it out of that wreck in one piece. Subsequent to that experience I broke my femur in 3 places after tangling with a mountain lion. I gave up equines and have returned to backpacking now with some bionic parts. The first year was bleak. After 2 years walking in the woods was okay if not too steep. After 4 years I close tto normal for age 61.

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    #156656 - 11/02/11 07:38 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    Lynn Offline
    newbie

    Registered: 08/16/10
    Posts: 2
    I'm not back 100% yet, but I'm much improved after getting a herniated lumbar disk 3 months ago. I had pain and numbness from my hip to the bottom of my foot. Both the spine specialist and physical therapist recommended walking plus *gentle* stretching and strengthening exercises which have helped a lot. The big thing is don't overdo it and re-injure yourself.

    Lynn

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    #156739 - 11/04/11 12:57 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: Lynn]
    ppine Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/10/10
    Posts: 184
    Loc: Minden, Nevada
    Lynn,

    Way to go. Coming back from those injuries is tough. A back brace really helps for heavy work. Inactivity is a real problem for people with bad back injuries.

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    #156964 - 11/07/11 10:31 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: ppine]
    DJ2 Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/06/02
    Posts: 1347
    Loc: Seattle, WA
    ppine,

    Would you say more about the cougar encounter? I'm fascinated by cougars but in 50 years of backpacking I've never seen one.

    dj2

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    #156981 - 11/08/11 11:29 AM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    ppine Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/10/10
    Posts: 184
    Loc: Minden, Nevada
    DJ2,

    Greetings to Seattle. My family settled in Kalama in 1889, and I am a third generation Husky.

    As for mountain lions. They are definitely out there, but my encounters can only be described as fleeting. In 2007 at Steens Mountain, OR I only saw a flash of tawny yellow fur, before my sorrel mule Badger started to snort in the dirt and pitch me skyward. A few weeks ago, driving back to Lake Davis, CA I got a much better look from the truck window in the early sun's rays of morning. The big cat ran across the road at a lope and disappeared into the ponderosa pines.

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    #156998 - 11/08/11 04:13 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: ppine]
    DJ2 Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/06/02
    Posts: 1347
    Loc: Seattle, WA
    I've seen the "cougar spooking horse or mule" thing in movies but now know that it actually happens sometimes.

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    #157070 - 11/09/11 02:18 PM Re: Herniated Lumbar Disc [Re: DJ2]
    ppine Offline
    member

    Registered: 01/10/10
    Posts: 184
    Loc: Minden, Nevada
    Equines as prey animals are afraid of lots of things like bears, 2 foot rocks, charred tree stumps, backpackers especially if they are uphill, llamas, loud wind noises, gunshots, etc. "All equines are time bombs just waiting to go off." (Lee Roeser, 2nd generation packer).

    This is their fatal flaw that makes horses, mules, and donkeys in descending order of flight response dangerous. They aren't afraid of being hurt, they are afraid of being killed. I would still love to go on a long hiking trip sometime with two good donkeys, and lead them from the ground.


    Edited by ppine (11/09/11 02:19 PM)

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