Please be aware that some programs and video content are temporarily unavailable, as the CEMM transitions to a new website. This content will be available soon but if you have any questions or concerns please contact us here

Real Patient: Herniated Disc


I suspect that I had an injury to my back roughly about four-and-a-half to five years ago. That was in my first career field, which was air transportation.

In that career field, it’s very stressful on my body because of the amount of manual labor that has to get done. What we do is we upload cargo and download cargo from the aircrafts. A lot of the times you’re using fork lifts, but the majority of it is pushing the pallets on and off the aircraft, which does create a lot of stress on my body. Which irritated a lot, which started my back problem.

The doctor stated that it’s probably from the sciatic nerve that was in my lower back because there was a little bit of arthritis that built up back there from the amount of work that I had done in the past. So I did roughly about two months of physical therapy, and he put me on some pain medication to help deal with the calming the nerve down. So it was a nerve medication that he prescribed.

Just wasn’t getting any better at that point. So I went back in to see the PCM to see what else we might be able to do. And he suggested that we get an MRI done and x-rays just to look at the spine and see what all was going, what all was happening with the nerves and the discs that are back there.

So the MRI’s and the x-ray showed that I had a herniated disc in my L5-S1. It’s kind of like a, if you look at a jelly donut, it has the jelly that’s in the inside of the donut, and what had happened is if you press on that jelly donut, the jelly will actually come out of the side wall of the donut. So if you look at that as like your disc, inside of your disc you have that gel, it’s almost like a gel. And when that comes out and protrudes from that disc, that irritates the nerve and pushes on the nerve. Which creates the pain down the leg on the sciatic nerve.

So the next process that I went through was the radio frequency ablation. Which is where they take the needle and they find where the nerve is at, they put the needle there, and then it’s kind of like burning the nerves. So, the nerve will not send the signal to the brain that there is pain. So I had six injections with the radio frequency ablation. Three on the left side and three on the right side. And with the amount of disc, the amount of less disc that was there, it kind of helped out for about six months.

I went in the day of my surgery for the open discectomy. I had my IV injections, I was laying in the bed, and the doctor actually came in and mentioned to me that he had been thinking about my case all weekend. And right at the last minute, he was suggesting that instead of doing the open discectomy, because of the amount of scar tissue that was already back there, that this open discectomy might not resolve a lot of my issues. So then he kind of gave me a second option of a lumbar spinal fusion.

Now with a lumbar spinal fusion would actually create two rods and then a spacer that would go in place of my disc that would lift up, lift up my spine a little bit to create that, create that disc for the most part. It would actually fuse the disc together so that I wouldn’t have a lot of the compression on the nerves anymore.

The effect on my wife was very stressful for her. Knowing with everyday activities that we do with our children and with everything, with cooking breakfast, to getting the kids ready, to taking care of them, to feeding the babies, it was a lot on her. And I’m very thankful that she stayed positive, and we both were able to work through this. And knew there was going to be a positive outcome.

You know, after surgery I got right up. They wanted you to walk around, I started walking around. I’m doing everyday, every normal everyday activities. I just had my appointment yesterday, which he cleared me for, you know, going back to swimming that I’m trying to do to build up my cardio. To you know, he said I could start a lot more walking and maybe try a little bit of running.

Everyday life from fitness to my health, you know, all that has to change because, you know, especially with nutrition. Whatever you take in your body, it’s what you’re going to be putting out. So you want to make sure you put in the healthy foods and you’re exercising. And for me being able to recover and go back to my normal, I would say normal life, has been a great help and the surgery has done numerous things for me and has uplifted me spiritually and positively.

I feel optimistic about the future in every aspect of my life. In my career, my family, my education, just because now not dealing with the pain that I’m going, that I was going through. And now have that clear mind to be able to push forward is definitely positive for me.

Stay consistent with your primary care manager. Work hand-in-hand with them. Go in when you notice something is wrong early rather than putting it off. Understand that you have to take care of yourself is going to be priority because you can’t accomplish the mission if you can’t take care of yourself.