Medical Questions > Conditions and Diseases > Back Pain Forum

Small central disc protrusion at L5-S1

Hey everyone, I've joined this forum because everything else has failed and I hope that I can get some advice on this matter. I will attempt to recollect my memories of everything that has happened in the past 8 months in the best detail that I can.

SYMPTOMS: Just pain in the very lower back, not shooting down in the legs as it would with most people with this kind of problem. I suppose I get what you call a "muscle spasm" whenever I quickly bend over. This would happen whenever I picked up tennis balls or when I used to go to the gym and would quickly pick up the dumbbells on my sides and put them on the rack. Pain would be 9/10, and I even once used an inversion table after it and consequently could barely even walk for a while.

I'm a 17 year old male, (though 16 at the time of the snowboarding accident) and fell snowboarding December 24th, 2011.
At first, I thought this was just some soreness that would go away. I had no idea how bad it was. I just presumed that the outdoor hot tub would help. But of course, it did not. When I returned home from the trip, I began applying an ice pack many times.

The pain persisted, so in February I finally convinced my parents to take me to my first chiropractor. This chiropractor was not good at all, as he would spend under 5 minutes with me just popping my back a couple times, charge $30, then say he'll see me again. He took an x-ray on a side note, which did not show the root of the problem of course. We went only 3 times because of this and I had absolutely zero improvement.

In March I went to see the pediatrician who recommended that I simply refrain from playing tennis or doing anything else for 2 weeks while I took muscle spasm pills and painkillers. At the time, we did not know the cause of the low back pain and she suggested that if the problem were inflammatory, it would go away. Again, no improvement.

In April, I went to see a physical therapist, showed her the x-ray, and I had been consistently doing the prescribed back exercises up until June. But of course, no improvement again. Perhaps it would have been better if she had known that I had a bulging disc, I don't know.

In June, I went to my second chiropractor. He would actually spend time addressing the problem and attempted to educate us on my problem. To his surprise, I did not have any pain shooting down in the legs or anywhere else. The pain is restricted only to my lower back. He adjusted me a couple times, took an x-ray, adjusted me a few more times, and was confounded as to why I was not having any improvement. He claimed that I was part of the "two or three percent" that hasn't improved.

Much to our dismay, he told us to get an MRI, which we finally did in August. He told us to not say we had insurance, so the MRI would only be $400 and not $1000+. We never meet our deductible, so that is why. My mom was worried if I would need surgery, because then we would have to pay a fortune for the surgery since they would presume we didn't have insurance because of the MRI cost. The chiropractor reassured us that I would not need surgery.

After finding out that I have a bulging disc, he told me to use the inversion table which we already had at home everyday at a 45 degree angle. He told me to start at 5 minutes then work my way up to 15, which I did.

This is the part where the 2nd chiropractor became corrupt, because in the beginning he seemed understanding of the financial aspect of repeatedly coming back and not getting any improvement. He said, "We're not here to just take your money and ask you to keep coming back. No. That's not how we work here." Funny thing is, after the MRI, he had a 3 month plan for me to keep coming back for the usual adjustments! He had claimed that the inversion table and decompression machine provide the same results. He didn't have a decompression machine, though.

Then at the end of August, my mom decided to take me to a third chiropractor for the traction decompression machine anyway. He has told me to stop going to the gym and to stop playing tennis so as to not reverse the decompression. I've used the machine 6 times so far, and apparently am supposed to use it another 6 times as part of the plan. Absolutely ZERO improvement so far, even after increasing the weight it pulls me from 40 to 45 pounds.

I already know what he's going to say when we're done with the traction therapy. He's going to tell me to keep coming back for more adjustments, which is not going to happen.

This is pretty much what has happened up until now. My parents and I don't know what to do after the traction therapy is done, so I thought that I'd see if anyone can tell me anything that might cure my perpetual back pain.

To anyone who has actually taken the time to read all of this, THANK YOU. I appreciate anyone who reads my story and replies to this. I hope, I sincerely hope that somebody can offer an answer which can cure this problem that has plagued me and made me miserable for over 8 months.
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replied September 9th, 2012
Active User, very eHealthy
Just pain in the very lower back, not shooting down in the legs

A bulging disc can be painful even if it is not bulging far enough to hit as nerve. You won't have leg symptoms unless it hits a nerve to your legs.
I suppose I get what you call a "muscle spasm" whenever I quickly bend over.

Discs usually bulge towards the rear. So when you bend forward, the disc bulges MORE towards the back. The muscles tighten as a response to try and protect the damaged disc (ligaments which hold the bones in place).
After finding out that I have a bulging disc, he told me to use the inversion table

Inversion can be helpful but is only a PART of the treatment that you need to get better. One side of your disc is weak. The other side is normal strength. Some of your muscles are tight, some are weak. So if you just pull straight on your back, you can rip it apart more because of these imbalances.
You can better "decompress" your back by stretching out the tight side and leave the weak side alone.

FIRST, relax the muscles in your lower back:
1) "Static back 90-90 position" (Do a Google search)

NEXT, try one of these 2 exercises:
NOTE: Discs move 1mm in 3 minutes. So you may need to hold these for at least that long for the disc to move back into place.

2a) "Static extension on elbows" (Do a Google search)
- To get your shoulders pulled back as well, pinch your shoulders together.
--- or ---
2b) "Static back 90-90 position" as above EXCEPT:
- Put a rolled up towel of 2 soft foam balls under your lower back just below your beltline.

Let me know if these help and I can suggest some other exercises.
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replied September 10th, 2012
Hey, thank you for the reply.

How do I know which side of my disc is weak? I don't surmise an x-ray would show it, but would the MRI show it? The paper of the MRI doesn't seem to indicate a weak side.

Honestly, I didn't even know there was a weak side. I just assumed that it bulged outward through the center. I'll ask my 3rd chiropractor, who is currently putting me on traction, if he can determine which side is weak.

Do you think this is why the traction machine hasn't provided any improvement after 7 times now?

Thanks, I'll do exercise 1 and 2a. Not sure how to picture 2b with a "rolled up towel of 2 soft foam balls."

By the way, you said to hold exercise 1 for 3 minutes. But what about 2a? A few minutes should be enough I presume?

One more question; I'm wondering how these exercises would be focusing on the tight side, because they appear to be for the back in general?
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replied September 11th, 2012
Active User, very eHealthy
How do I know which side of my disc is weak? I don't surmise an x-ray would show it, but would the MRI show it?

An MRI will show the shape of the disc, and x-ray can only guess by seeing that the bones have moved closer together.
You said you have pain when bending forward to pick up a tennis ball. Bending forward pushes the disc nucleus (the liquid gel center) towards the BACK. This puts pressure on the back side (posterior wall) of the disc.
So the guess is the back side of your disc is weak from continued bending forwards. That is why "Static extension" is better than decompression. It takes the pressure off the back side of the disc and moves the nucleus back towards the center.
If you had leg symptoms (and it was known to be DISC related vs. bone spur, tumor etc.) then the disc would also be bulging towards the right or left. Depending on which leg is affected.
Do you think this is why the traction machine hasn't provided any improvement after 7 times now?

By the way, you said to hold exercise 1 for 3 minutes. But what about 2a? A few minutes should be enough I presume?

Hold exercise 1 until the lower back muscles relax. May be 1 minute. Could be 20 minutes. 3 minutes is a good starting point.
For exercise 2a or 2b, listen to your body. If more than 3 minutes helps, keep going until you don't feel any better from holding it more.
2a is tougher because you have to use your shoulders and they can get tired. So 2b can be better since you are just passively lying on your back.
Not sure how to picture 2b with a "rolled up towel of 2 soft foam balls."

Sorry, that was a typo. It's a "rolled up towel -OR- 2 soft foam balls". Does that make sense?
I personally use 2 balls. One larger diameter than the other. This is because I have more arch in my left lower back than my right. So I put the larger ball (actually same size ball but blocked up on a book) under my RIGHT side to increase the arch on the right side/ untwist my hips.

Good Luck!!!
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replied October 27th, 2012
Hi Mate,
I started having this problem lately. My gp suggested for a ct scan and told me that i have sciatica in my right lower back. He referred me to a physio. 3 visits so far in 3 weeks. he advised me not to sit for a long time and told me to do few stretches every 3 hrs. i feel a lot of improvements.... yoga stretch,,,bhujang asana...
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replied March 6th, 2013
L5 S1 pain
Hey, I read about your situation and i am going through the same thing right now. In previous years ive had a herniated disc on L4-5. I barely could move, at that time when decompression tables just came out in the year 2000 i was fortuanately able to get on one and it fixed me up like brand new for 12 years, recently iv'e had some issues with lower back pain in the last two months. I decided to get on a decompression table again because i thought it was the same problem as years ago. Ten times later iv'e had no good results. I decided to pay the 400 for the MRI and the report says ( L5 transitional S1: posterior central protrusion results in mild central stenosis, with contact of the anteromedial aspect of the intrathecal right S1 nerve root. Mild left foraminal narrowing secondary to facet hypertrophy) After numerous consults with this info My original chiro called back after he read the report and told me that this is basically the lowest disc is just kind of Swelled with no tissue tear and its all just protruding into the center of the vertibral and pushing on the S1 nerve a little and making my right Butt painful as well as low back pain. He also said that the decompression tables aren't the best for this condition. They work real well if the disc is protruding out the side or internal hernination which i can contest to.I'm sure glad he one of the few honest docs out there. He suggested for me to use some steroid inflamatories and the pills don't work try a central steroid injection. It may just do the trick, i hope to start that this week sometime. Good luck bye J73
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