Back and Neck Injury/Herniated Disc
I'm a 59 year old healthy male, but have had a herniated disc in my lower back for 2 years. It presses against my sciatic nerve which causes pain down my right leg. Two nerve blocks have kept me pretty much pain free, but now it's back. Not sure what to do. Do I try acupuncture, physical therapy, etc.? I don't see how they can keep the disc away from the nerve. I don't want to waste time or live on pain pills. Should I have surgery? No guarantees there either. Doctor said it will heal itself eventually, but could be years. I can barely walk somedays. Please advise
Please see this page for clarity on herniated discs: http://somatics.com/back_pain_terms.htm
In my opinion, you're right to avoid surgery, if possible. Acupuncture will do nothing for the underlying cause, muscular contractions of the back muscles, and the physical therapy practices, strengthening, stretching, and traction, are ineffectual, and strengthening efforts, downright dangerous, as they tend to increase the state of contraction that is the problem to begin with. Pain pills may dull pain but do nothing to protect you from the underlying cause and ongoing effects of muscular contractions on the discs.
Sciatica is a secondary effect. Please see this page on sciatica: http://somatics.com/sciaticasymptoms-piriformissyndrome.htm
and this page on back pain, which is relevant: http://somatics.com/chronic_back_pain.htm
Disc herniations exist at a range of severity involving degree of muscular contraction and disc degeneration. At the extreme, disc rupture is possible. At the midrange, the discs are in more or less delicate condition and, without addressing the underlying cause, likely to get worse, rather than heal. Hence, the recommendation in my articles.
Somatic exercises cause relaxation of contracted (hypertonic) muscles, but with a herniation, should be approached cautiously and under supervision, for reasons stated, above. Of all exercises, these are the safest, gentlest, and most effective.
Lastly, please acquaint yourself with the process of somatic education. See this page: http://somatics.com/HSEdescription.htm