For more than 15 years I have experienced back pain and the odd bout of sciatica, but in 2012 my life changed dramatically. I was at home when I bent over slightly and experienced excruciating pain. I collapsed to the floor and was unable to walk. I had a terrible burning pain in my lower back and I could not sit down. I could hardly control my right leg from hip to ankle and saw an emergency doctor who confirmed that I had lost the reflexes in both heels.
Previously I had worked in a physical rehabilitation unit alongside physiotherapists so I knew something significant had happened to my back. I could hardly walk for a few metres and the pain was unbearable. The emergency GP reassured me that I didn’t have any pain going right down my legs and said it should settle down with painkillers and some physiotherapy. But I knew that early assessment and intervention by a physiotherapist would be a good idea.
The problem was eventually diagnosed as prolapsed discs in both the left and right side of my back. These discs are cushioning between the lower segments of the spine, and when they prolapse, you will commonly hear this referred to as a ‘slipped discs’. The physiotherapist provided me with an exercise plan. I had appointments twice a week to monitor my progress, but it was crucial I remained active and kept up with the exercises given.
Eventually after 3 months I had an MRI which confirmed my worst fears. I had a large prolapse in my back (major slipped disk) and had crushed nerves, which meant I was put on the list for surgery.
However, I remained undeterred by this diagnosis and whilst waiting for my operation continued my rehabilitation under the guidance of my physiotherapist. I was exercising and stretching for an hour a day in addition to going to the gym to undertake a prescribed set of exercises. The improvements were very slow at first, but significant enough that I no longer needed surgery. I returned to work 4 months after injury and am now in the gym on a regular basis.
Exercise and a commitment to keeping active has been the key part of my rehabilitation. Now 18 months later, I still see my physiotherapist every few weeks and continue my rehab programme 3 times a week at the gym and at home on a daily basis.
To this day I am still continuing to improve my function and strength. Whilst I have to be careful about what I do and how I do it, life is much better than I imagined it would be.