Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Experiencing a Herniated Disc in My Lower Back -- at age 46 and 54

In February 2018, I wrote in this blog about injuring my back in 2011. At age 46, I had become the first person to complete a solo 506-mile, 17-day run across the Mojave Desert and the price I paid was two herniated discs in my lower back. Physical therapy got me back into shape and I enjoyed 8 years of no lumbar disc issues -- until this past weekend.

I recently herniated the same disc that I injured in 2011 during the Mojave run. I am temporarily using a cane to assist me in getting around. It will take time for the disc to heal and I'll have to be very careful about lifting things until my back is in shape again. It's actually more of a nuisance than anything. Regardless, for one reason or another God felt it was time to slow me down a bit and this herniated disc has definitely done that.

A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back and leg pain; however it can also occur in the cervical and thoracic spine. Herniated discs usually happen in the lower part of the spine and occur more often in people aged 35 to 55 years. It is more common in men than in women.

A herniation occurs when the outer part of the disc, the annulus, becomes weak and tears. Several factors can contribute to disc-weakening, including: aging and degeneration; excessive weight; or, a sudden strain from improper lifting or from twisting violently.

In many cases, pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated disc resolve with time and self-care measures. Symptoms often go away within six to eight weeks and there are several ways to ease discomfort. Rest, applying heat and/or ice to the area, and taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen -- if needed. If you have muscle spasms, taking a muscle relaxant can also be useful.

Most people with a herniated disc never get to the point that they need to see a specialist or have advanced testing. Back symptoms usually go away on their own. Even for those who do need treatment, only a small minority have lingering chronic pain that doesn't resolve over time.

I've only needed to miss one day of work at the office, and I get up and take a stroll (with my cane) every 30 minutes or so. I'm sure I'll be better soon and I'm looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso