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  • Phalanx
    Post count: 1

    I will be having surgery to remove what had started as a bulged disk, but has now become a disk explosion over the past 6 months, where the disk is now creeping into the L4 area. The initial pain had started about 5 years ago while in active duty, but nothing was ever really done except for medicines to help me deal with the pain. Now, that my insurance, and doctor care, are better, I am finding out my L5 is arthritic and breaking down at an advanced rate. I have gone through the bad back spells, extreme sciatica where my leg would be in constant pain or only move in certain aspects.

    That background was a lead up to my actual question. Before the injury, I was an avid athlete, primarily in golf, baseball, and softball. My fear is, that I will no longer be able to participate in these sports, but I haven’t gotten a real good answer. I have asked everyone from chiropractors (medical snake-oil salesmen), physical therapists, family docs, orthopedics, and many many more. All answers have either been gray, or it is a 50/50 split as to yes, I will be able to, or no, my sports career is finished. I have also tried to do my fair share of online research, but again, no real answers.

    In essence, is this an injury I can come back from, and if so, what do I need to do to make it happen?

    Donald Corenman, MD, DC
    Post count: 8507

    Your information is somewhat confusing. The disc levels are named for the vertebra they attach to. The lowest disc is the L5-S1 disc and the one right above it is L4-5. The disc at “L5” I assume is the L5-S1 disc as it is the most common disc to degenerate in a male.

    You note both “back spells” and sciatica, These are caused by separate but related problems. Back pain is normally caused by the disc itself but occasionally can be caused by the facets and a condition called stenosis (see web site). Leg pain normally is caused by compression of the nerve root by a herniation, collapse of the foramen or bone spur. A condition that causes both back and leg pain may have both components.

    Sports can be played with both conditions but it depends upon the sports involved and how “in depth” you like to participate. For example, if you had a herniation compressing the nerve and played baseball, fielding grounders and playing the position of catcher would not work for you without an epidural injection or a microdiscetomy. If you were a marathoner and had a painful degenerative disc that failed treatment, your career would probably be over without surgery. However, there are many sports that can be participated in with degenerative disc disease and some that can be with modifications.

    With proper management, the game of golf generally is within reach of most back patients.

    Dr. Corenman

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