It's been nearly 6 months since I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. During that time I have had to make some lifestyle changes, but looking back, the adjustments haven't been as drastic as I might have feared initially. Or perhaps I am now just used to dealing with the condition.
When I was in the throes of the torturous pain, all I could think of was that my life as I knew it had ended. There would no longer be any running, no motorcycle rides, no hiking and no getting in and out of the car without the excruciating pain. Fast forward 6 months and those dramatic changes I was afraid of didn't quite materialize. There has been some changes to be sure. No lifting of heavy objects, no fast running, and occasional pain in the lower back and down the leg to contend with. But with daily exercises, sleeping on a hard surface, and avoiding long periods of sitting, I have been able to reclaim some of the freedom I used to enjoy.
Thankfully, so far I have been able to avoid steroids shots or more drastic measures like surgery. I have done quite a bit of research during this time and realize that many people aren't as fortunate as I have been, but at the same time many others live normal lives with their herniated discs.
As far as I can tell and as explained by my doctor, the herniated mass has probably shrunk with time, relieving the pressure on the spinal cord and affording me more freedom of movement. That is not to say that I am completely pain-free. There are occasional bouts with pain and discomfort which I manage with patience and a few doses of pain killers. But generally, I have resumed a relatively normal life. The prospect of another attack is on my mind every day, but I try not to let it rule over my life.
My approach to my condition has been not to succumb to a state of hopelessness. It's difficult not to, but after accepting the situation, I decided that the best way to manage it was to continue with my activities the best I could. Ditching the bed for a thin pad on the floor has helped. So have daily back exercises and conditioning. As much as I wanted to continue with my running routine, I initially down-shifted to walking. Even that was painful at first, but as time passed I was able to slowly incorporate some jogging in my daily walks until I was ready to completely switch over to jogging. On good days, I would increase the distance to 4 or 5 miles. Currently I'm on alternate days of jogging and walking and that has been relatively steady. I have also learned not push it too far. When there's pain during a jog, I heed my body and slow down to a walk. There's no reason to be stubborn and risk paying a big penalty later on.
The point is that if you are an active person who has suddenly been struck with a herniated disc don't lose hope and wallow in grief too long. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. There's always a middle ground. Accept what has happened and then make the right adjustments to battle your way back. You may never be the same as before, but concentrate on what you can salvage rather than fussing over what has been lost.
*UPDATE: Herniated Disc - 4 Years on - Mar. 2012