This is a special episode in which the advocate of self-help for lower back pain and sciatica, Clinical Director of Active X Backs and Edinburgh Osteopath Gavin Routledge interviews Suzie Weigert, who had 3 lumbar disc surgeries over a period of 14 years.

Suzie’s is a story of great challenges and a lot of pain. But her positive outlook and the support of others helped to see her through. Along with some very effective surgery.

Despite being told by one surgeon that she had “a large prolapse, a big nerve, and a narrow spinal canal”, Suzie did outstandingly well.

If you want much more personalised help – and to join thousands of others getting relief and prevention of low back pain and sciatica – you can start right now by getting a free online assessment.

If you haven’t listened to Episodes 1-6 – our foundation episodes – please go back and start at the beginning! It will lay the foundation for you to make a long-term, sustainable recovery. And if you’d like a free online assessment of lower back pain / sciatica, just click the link. It will provide you with a guide as to whether you need to see a doctor or not, which exercises are most likely to relieve your particular pain, and a whole load more tips on recovering from and preventing lower back pain / sciatica.

Speaker 1: (00:00)
This is the active ex back show from Edinburgh, Scotland, vibrant capital hosted by award-winning registered osteopath author and all round pain guru, Gavin Rockledge, if you want relief or prevention of lower back pain or sciatica, and you want to be healthier, keep listening. The following program should not be taken as medical advice, but for informational purposes only

Active extra. This is a cracking episode for you. In this episode, I’m interviewing Susie Weigert, who, as you can probably tell from the title has had three successful lumber disc surgeries over a spanning a period of about 14 years. I’ve known her through the length of that time and helped her through that journey. But this is Susie story. And if you’re considering lumber surgery yourself, or indeed any kind of disc surgery, and this is well worth a listen, she has lots of practical tips as well as hope. Um, because if you’re considering surgery, you may feel a little bit hopeless at times, but Susie is a beacon of hope. So I commend this episode to you. Please listen to the whole thing because there’s volume, right? The way to the very end and, enjoy. So I’ll hand you over to my interview with Susie Weigert

I think that you can bring into considering surgery. Perhaps we could start with you just if you’re happy to do so, just give a brief overview of who you are and how you know, how we met.

Well, who I am. I thought this is a very odd thing to have to summarize, but I tried to do it and came up with my working life has been all about people, languages, Scotland, and whiskey. So for over 30 years, I’ve worked as a tour guide, a blue bunch tour guide, taking people around Scotland and also around Edinburgh a lot. And for many of those years, I also taught at Stevenson college on the Scottish tourism and languages course. And I also had the best hobby job in the world in that I did conducted whiskey tastings for the scotch malt whiskey society, many in Edinburgh, but not all in Edinburgh. So I traveled with that as well. And it was absolutely brilliant. So I’ve had a really interesting and varied working life for the past three decades

And the, and the languages element Suzy.

Well, I did an interpreting and translating course at Harriet what, and just when the course finished, which was in 1984, it was a notice on the student notice board that said people wanted to take visitors around Scotland in German and French. And I thought, oh, I could do that. And so I did and loved it. And then as I was doing it for the year, cause the coach drivers told me, they said, yeah, man, you’re a training Felish. And so I found out about the blue badge course and did that the following year, one of the coach drivers put in a word for me cause he told me

Speaker 3: (03:44)
Very good. So in essence, you’ve helped French and German speakers are predominantly German speakers. It predominantly

Speaker 4: (03:51)
German speakers because that’s my background in a way, although I wasn’t worked up speaking German, I, I, um, did do the interpreting translating course.

Speaker 3: (04:00)
Right. So you help help them drink whiskey.

Speaker 4: (04:04)
Yeah. I’ve helped lots of Germans drink whiskey and Austrians and the Swiss. Good,

Speaker 3: (04:08)
Good, good. That’s great. Thanks Susie. Um, always helps if people understand just roughly who you are. Um, but more perhaps in more personal, how did we meet?

Speaker 4: (04:23)
We met because I was at the hairdressers across the road from when you were in the Westport. And I was talking to the hairdresser about my back stuff. And he said, have you tried the guy over there? Rouge? No, but things are hellish. Nobody else has been able to do anything. And this will be my one last try. If this doesn’t work, I have no idea at what I will do. And so I just crossed the

Speaker 3: (04:54)
Road. I, I ever knew that I had forgotten that part of our story.

Speaker 4: (04:59)
Yeah. And, uh, you, you looked at my MRI scan, which I had already had done cause the problems that actually started eight months before, and you read fi prolapse, this, I think even herniated discs actually one was severe and two were moderate and I, you just stood there and looked very concerned and read it several times. And I had said, can you help me? And you said, I don’t know, but I can try. So that’s how we met.

Speaker 3: (05:36)
Okay. All right. And how long ago was that?

Speaker 4: (05:40)
That was, uh, nearly 15 years ago. It is actually

Speaker 3: (05:44)
Pretty much 15 years. Yeah. And, uh, cause I know we’ve got a lot to get into in terms of if is possible, if you think it’s possible. Can, can you just give us a summary of what’s happened over those 50 years? The highs and the lows? Yeah.

Speaker 4: (06:05)
The absolute summary form is I had three surgeries on three different desks, all were successful. Absolutely all were successful. I never looked back after the surgery. Is that wasn’t the whole story. The story was I considered long and hard before every surgery with great trepidation. I went into these things and I had massive help. And you were a big part of that massive help. And the other thing is I learnt a lot. If I go back 15 years, I was under informed and I look no at what I have accumulated in knowledge. And it’s huge. So three things come up that year. Um, three big things. So the surgery is your health and what I did.

Speaker 3: (07:09)
Okay. Well that’s um, surgeries. Um, the knowledge I did was that the

Speaker 4: (07:17)
Three that is the three problems. Yeah,

Speaker 3: (07:21)
Probably that gives us three legs of the stool that we can look at. Each one,

Speaker 4: (07:26)
We have definitely three legs of the stool. Which one do you want first?

Speaker 3: (07:30)
Uh, well, we’ll avoid the auction because probably one of the motivations for people sort of listening to this, it’s probably that they may very well be considering surgery. So why don’t we start with the big one?

Speaker 4: (07:47)
Well, the big one was I, first of all, I think we have to go back to how it happened and what happened as it happened. So I was setting off the Stevenson college and it was, it’s going to be a terrible day because I was going to have one of the worst working days ever. I co-taught with a friend and she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. And I had to tell with my boss, all the students, we co-taught. So that was my starting point. If you talk, if you know, stress can motivate B the final thing, that was the most awful thing. And I coughed and suddenly I couldn’t move, I couldn’t move my leg. I could not move my leg. I pooled with my trousers, my leg along. I thought, well, I could get to the car, see if I can get in it, drive out.

Speaker 4: (08:35)
And I had to pull myself along the railing and pull my leg. And several people said, are you all right? I said, think so. And I got to the car and I could move the pedals. And it was okay. And I’ve always been able to sit. I can sit for Scotland. That is no problem. And I managed to dry. I know, I know lot of your patients count, but for some reason that’s okay for me. So I drove out and had the most Harun, the several hours talking to people in college left, went to the doctors. I could hardly get out of the car. They looked at me, sign me off work. I managed to get home and a neighbor was there and I said, you get futon out. Could you roll out a futon for me? Um, cause I thought the bed was too squashy and I just lay on the futon on the floor.

Speaker 4: (09:29)
And that was the beginning of really quite a horror story. And it just didn’t get better. I had a lot of help. Another neighbor said you need physiotherapy. The best physios are the sports injuries clinic at the plantains. I thought, okay, I got to, I thought it would because I’d had on and off the bat problems for about 20 years before that, but only low level. And I thought, okay, and a taxi came to pick me up. This shows you how bad it was. The taxi driver took one. Look at me and put out his arm.

Speaker 4: (10:07)
I had separate pieces. So the taxi got in, he took me on his arm, up the ramp to the door. I thought, this is what it’s like when you’re 95. And then the people in reception said, oh, it’s Sue along the corridor double doors on your eight. I thought I can’t go along the corridor. I can’t open double doors. So I just said that. And two physios came and virtually lifted me through. So in the first physiotherapy session, which was hugely valuable, this lovely woman who was very pregnant, she spent so much time with me. She actually got other patients in at the same time, but she said, I can’t let you go home late. And I had tears running down my face. I didn’t even know I was crying cause I didn’t feel I was crying, but it was so painful. My face was wet.

Speaker 4: (11:01)
Oh God, it’s hard to know. It was just all it was in my back. It was in probably a lot within the muscles in my back. But I also have to say that my, because as you may gather with the taxi driver pointing his hand, I couldn’t stand straight. I was, I was bent over like an old, old car. You know, I will use the word croon, but it’s a, not a good word. It’s not very flattering. And also I might back as, as that’s, when I was signed off work, I was straight from my legs to my heads. And then I went over sideways from my hips and it was a big angle sideways. So I was side bent sideways. I’m bent forward. It was not nice. So that’s the background to surgery. So if the nurse next and I had the MRI and in those days it was five months, wait for an MRI scan.

Speaker 4: (11:58)
It was a long time, but it was quite, I felt that was okay because it, let me think if I I’m going to get better. Well, you know, it’s fine. And I, I did see another osteopath and I was not, it was not for me. And I saw another person and they were also [inaudible] and anyway, I just thought Roquet and I did the right from the word go. I started doing the exercises, this lovely physiotherapist said very helpful things. Actually. She said, if you do this, what I’m telling you to do every day for four months, you will have a strong core. And I couldn’t do anything. I’d been signed off work. I could hardly walk through the house and I thought this is something I can do. Cause I like doing things

Speaker 3: (12:49)
With something I could do.

Speaker 4: (12:52)
They no, they didn’t. They didn’t. Yeah. I was lucky with that. So, um, the first surgery I can, I think maybe we could group together the surgeons comments because you know, one, two and three, they’re all pretty much of a muchness. It was those Cedars had gone in the beginning that the, the severe one first and then the moderate ones took a turn for the worst. If we could see that, um, with little provocation, it has to be said to that, that what the surgeon said really made me think and realize I couldn’t get out of this in any other way. I’m actually about to burst into tears. And though, because it’s such an emotional thing, I mean, my life had stopped. It had gone. It’s gone. So the first surgeon, this was a comment on the MRI scan said, we hardly ever see them as bad as this. We never see them any worse than this. And then he said, you’re right at the end of the scale. So that made me think for some ridiculous reason, I’m an optimist. And I thought, well, that means they can help me. If they get rid of that problem, they’ve gotten rid of a big crop.

Speaker 4: (14:16)
And that contrast with the second one. So there was a different surgeon and it was somebody who was about to retire in a few weeks time. And he said, he looked at the MRI and he said, there are three things. He said, there is this switch prolapse easily. There’s a narrow spinal canal. And there are thick nerves. He said, you can get away with one, maybe get away with two, but you can’t get away with three and you’ve got three. So again, what I was being told was you have a problem that you can’t change. I can’t do anything about a narrow spinal canal. That’s how I’m born. There’s back problems in my family. And I thought that makes sense. This was prolapse easily. Same thing in, in, uh, you know, also family link thickness, probably the same. And I thought, well, what I can do is become stronger. That’s a one thing.

Speaker 3: (15:17)
Can I pause you there, Suzanne? Just, just for me to clarify for people listening, what we look for on an MRI typically is what’s called this policeman. So you can have a prolapse, but if the prolapse doesn’t displace that nerve, then you may not actually have any symptoms. And this is very common in the normal population. If you can have prolapses, herniations and so on, but they don’t have any pin. But if that nerve is displeased by the disc bulging out and especially if it’s essentially trapped the disc and the bone behind it, then you are highly likely to have people radiating down the length of that nerve. And what Susie saying is for she had a significant size disc prolapse. She had a narrow space, uh, and she had a big nerve. So really it was inevitable of that nerve would be causing a lot of repeat as indeed. I remember it was although, as vividly as I’m sure you remember

Speaker 4: (16:28)
Exactly it was pain, but it was also I’m getting discharged from the surgeon said, but just to add in it was pain, but it was also the most demonic pins and needles sounds friendly. This was not friendly. This was barbed wire round my legs being tightened. It was just overwhelming and it didn’t go away. It wouldn’t go. Anyway. The good thing was, the surgery was positive. And when I went for a checkup, because this is now 10 years ago and the word checkups, then the word for the third one, I stood up. I was called through. I stood up and the surgeon said, you can tell, as soon as people stand up, which ones you’ve been able to help. I thought that was very positive. And then he also said to me, they said, it wasn’t very big. I think that much pain. It wasn’t very big. And then he said something which I thought was really good for people who have MRI scans and they’re red. He said it doesn’t have to be big. It was in the wrong place. And I said, it was in the wrong place. And he went, it was in the wrong place. So, you know, quite emphatically, he really wanted me to know

Speaker 3: (17:48)
That obviously compressing the nerve against the boon. Just nowhere, nowhere for the nerve to go. Yeah. Yep.

Speaker 4: (17:56)
Yep. Do you want number three? This was the, this was the surgeon coming to the bedside. So for this one, the intention had been to give me, um, the, one of the very few female neurosurgeons who I was told was she’s international standing. Anyway. I’m laying there with all the people in their green robes and she tells me that she’s not going to do the surgery. And I would anyway, I was, I, the surgeon, the surgeon who came to my bedside had only done half the surgery because it was so difficult. The female neuro surgeon was called through to finish. So it, again, it was bad. And the tone of his voice, as he said, these words was just remarkable. He was almost, it was almost like he, he, he was overpowered by what you were saying. He said your nerve was raw. It was red. It was red raw. And that the nerve sensations with that one, they were the most horrendous. And it, they were even worse than the, than, than the barbed wire. It was more like eating, eating animals, eating me, but it was, it just flooded through. And I only had to clue. I could only walk two steps before it happened. I could only walk two steps. I couldn’t cross

Speaker 3: (19:33)
Her. And just while we’re on that. So given how red roll a nerve was, uh, I think anybody listening who’s considering surgery would be really intrigued to know post surgery. How soon did you feel better? How long did the whole process of recovery tick?

Speaker 4: (19:53)
Well, in all three cases, recovery was incredibly quick, although there was more lasting stuff for the red row nerve one, the third one. So

Speaker 3: (20:04)
Can you quantify how incredibly quick is incredibly quick,

Speaker 4: (20:11)
Right. Surgery, number one, bang. Really incredible. Incredible. Just instantly. I mean, you’re on drugs obviously. So instantly is drug induced instantly, but you’re not given morphine. They don’t like to give you morphine for later. You have to know the name of the cream and all sorts or who’s prime minister. But anyway, they they’re not into that. So I just got better and better and better. You have to observe what you’re told, which is, you know, be careful. So 20 minutes down, 20 minutes laid down and, um, I was vigilant and absolutely spot on boat. And I had a huge help, um, to only do what I could do. So I never did more than I could do. And therefore, I didn’t have any yo-yoing if you like, I was

Speaker 3: (21:07)
Straight in there. I can’t, I’m going to try and pin you down on this one in terms of, let’s say three days after surgery, if you could put a percentage of less pain on it, are we talking like 50%, less pain?

Speaker 4: (21:27)
Oh, easy.

Speaker 3: (21:30)
More, more, more, more,

Speaker 4: (21:32)
More, more, yeah. Particularly with the first two, the first two were very, very, um, as well. I think also one thing is you’re laying in bed a lot of the time for those first days. So you’re, you’re not marching around the place and you’re not making demands on yourself. So you get up for your 20 minutes and they say only do that three times a day and sit, you know, sit for meals, but meals and three 20 minute walks a day. And the rest of the time I felt absolutely fine. We’d kind of rigged up the bed so that I had a laying down part and a propped up part. So I could shuffle between the two. And the other really interesting thing I think is for all three surgeries, I had a view of trees. So at who we have a view of trees and also amazingly in the beds, I managed to get a tree in. And I recently was at a book festival talk actually with Gavin Francis. Who’s the didn’t and it was an audience question. And it was about this. It was about how we’re influenced by our surroundings and getting better. And somebody somewhere has done some sort of survey and shown that people who have a view of trees need a third

Speaker 3: (23:00)
Quickly. Yeah.

Speaker 4: (23:03)
Struggled that one though. Quickly. I thought, yeah, I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it. That’s exactly how I felt. And I mean, I mean, I, I was able to look out of the window and see things which gave me joy. And also I had huge support, which also brought me joy and I was surrounded by good will and kindness and helpfulness, just people being absolutely gorgeous and wonderful. So I had a lot of good and I think all of

Speaker 3: (23:38)
Them just staying on that point, the support of others. So not just the actual surgery, which is very successful, but all the rankings support from friends, family loved ones. Can you quantify how valuable that is?

Speaker 4: (24:00)
Oh, 10 out of 10. I mean that you could, that’s what you need. I mean, in a sense, what you’ve done to yourself is a wounding. You’ve got a rude, it’s only a little wound actually, but you’ve, you’ve mentally been pretty scarred. And I only had the surgeries after a year of awfulness in the first one, it was well over a year of awfulness. And so you got an accumulation of awfulness in your system. And when that is translated into freedom of the pain, the strong belief you’ve done the right thing, which you never know till you’re through it and to have all these lovely people being so wonderful and caring and kind and generous and all of that. Yeah. I mean, that has to be a 10 because you going from a huge, deep, horrible place. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (24:59)
Yeah. Definitely from a distance observed a number of people having disc surgery over the years and other surgeries say or recommend to people that make sure you have a support network before you go into this, because you think that surgery is just going to fix it. Everything will be fine a week or two weeks after surgery. Then think again, you will need a benefit simply from emotional and physical support. Um, and yeah, I mean, I saw a young black man just yesterday as a very substantial disc problem in the sense that he will have a huge amount of pain. He was very agitated by his pain and he’s considering surgery. My concern for him is he’s so young. He might just think that he’s gonna, he’s going to have the surgery and everything will be fine. Uh, I think he, you know, he really, he needs support, um, build up and beyond surgery, still make sure that you’re talking to your loved ones and that they get it. Hopefully they’ll get wait, but you know, it can be hard for people if they’ve not lived through what you’re looking through.

Speaker 4: (26:18)
I think as with absolutely everything, unless you’ve been there, you don’t know that’s about every single thing that ever happens to us. I mean, childbirth is the clearest example of it, but you know, there were many other things, but yeah, you just don’t know and people can pick up your messaging, but I would agree with what you’re saying,

Speaker 3: (26:47)
Um, that these are the things that you have surprised you about surgery or the things that you would not warn people, but highlight to people that they should be thinking about it if they’re considering surgery.

Speaker 4: (27:06)
Well, I know nothing huge as such, I would say stick absolutely rigorously to the amount of exercise you do building up, do not overdo things just don’t. And if you say, well, I can’t, somebody’s got to hang the washing up. Well, open the door and ask the passer-by just say, excuse me, could you help with the washing? People will peep coronavirus times, but people actually want to be helpful. So I would say don’t be scared to ask for help. And if you, yeah, just, you know, enlist and less helpful people. The other thing that happened with the second surgery and I wasn’t going to mention this, but I think I will in terms of it’s actually. All right. So when you sign a disclaimer thing, before you go in and you’re warned about a percentage chance, I think it was 1% of, um, uh, a loss of cerebral spinal fluid.

Speaker 4: (28:13)
And this happened to me. So I came out of surgery and the surgery had taken twice as long as it was meant to cause it was meant to be however long. And yet when I came out and I looked at the first clock, it was way on in the day. And, uh, so yeah, and I was told, don’t sit up, you’ve got LifeFlight on your back for 24 hours. So I was looking at the ceiling for 24 hours. Yep. And, but what I would see is that was fine. And I was told, um, if you sit up, you’ll get the mother of all headaches. And, but it does, it builds up over whatever it was. And it was mapped. It was on the 24 hours on the 24 hours somebody came in and

Speaker 3: (28:58)
You didn’t get the mother of all headaches. I didn’t get the mother of all headaches at all. Nope. And I haven’t met people who have, I believe they are truly horrendous.

Speaker 4: (29:16)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So for me, yeah. Well, okay. You’ve had a different experience. Fortunately, nothing went wrong. Yes, yes. Yeah. I think because of the nerve damage that happened, I just talk about the recovery from the third one, because the first two were very, very quick recoveries, I think. And there weren’t any blips really. I mean, you get niggly bits, but I could usually trace that to what I done or not done. Or, but with a third one, I think Matt or Andrew or nerve wasn’t going to heal quickly. And I got a lot of, um, almost like if anybody remembers before they had Velcro, remember cycle clips that are metal, it felt like psycho clips around your legs. And, uh, there was colleg clumps, and also tingling. The tingling took a long time months actually to die back and I would get it underneath the sole of my foot and that wasn’t nice.

Speaker 4: (30:28)
And I had, I had different strategies for all of these things. And one thing, if I could recommend some of the things I did, if this is a good moment, Gavin, but recommend some of the things that I did to get through that. I use walking pools. So the ski pole type idea, and they are very kind to you and they spread the load of you on your joints. And I mean, it’s just an easy thing to do. And if you don’t need them, then you can carry them. And if you do need them, then they’re there. And I also was extraordinarily lucky. I don’t know why this was, I had had no pain cycling either before the surgery is or after, although I took a while to get back on my bike, obviously. But I was thinking I was fortunate in that and I would also use my bike as a frame. I could walk beside it. I probably was twisting a wee bit, but at least I could get my legs moving. And I kind of just took my bike for a walk,

Speaker 3: (31:32)
Almost like a Zimmer or a Walker or it was there.

Speaker 4: (31:41)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was, it was basically allowing you to move your legs, but with help, that’s the thing. And I had lots of little at most from you actually having hot tips on how to do things. Um, and then those little things, if, if you, you know, everyone’s a little thing, so what to the midline and when you’re standing, cause standing was my book bag, bring your heels together. And that activates your bum muscles. That’s really useful. And how you stand tall with your fingers on your hips and your cage and you breathe in and hold and then you breathe in again and hold that. If you add together all those little things, it makes a big thing. So all those wee things, um,

Speaker 3: (32:31)
You had so much experience with three significant disc problems that you had the opportunity to. All of those little things make a difference. My experience is people are often understandably because they’re in a lot of people, they’re in a hurry. They want everything now. Um, but it’s confusing because sometimes the pain is really bad. Sometimes it’s not quite as bad and it’s difficult to know what’s making it. What’s, what’s making it better. And you can only really learn that over time.

Speaker 4: (33:06)
I agree with that. I absolutely agree with it. So yeah, everything went wrong. I mean, I’ll give a year, cause it’s easier. It was um, Easter 2006 and that’s a long time from then till 2020. And I think I’ve learned new things all the way along. And because at the beginning it was so horrific. I was almost starting from ground zero. That was the big one that, you know, it was right at the end of the scale. And so I had an opportunity to feed in things little by little and this was good and this was not good.

Speaker 3: (33:49)
But I think that the time aspect, because I remember earlier this year in early stage of lockdown, I did a telecom consultation or consultation with a guy in the north of England who had, as far as we could tell a significant disc nerve pain down his leg. And I gave him a fair bit of advice first meeting. Um, and then we met again, like video link could be clutter and if anything, it was worse. Uh, so I was trying to, and he started telling me all these different exercises, YouTube was desperate. So he was basically all the information on this subject. You’ve got comments on the value of looking for lots of information from different sources. I would say, don’t look anything up after midnight. I said,

Speaker 4: (34:52)
But I also think too to think about what you’re actually doing to your body, because if you’re confusing your body, that’s not going to help you. And you’re probably better with some things that work and with lots of tryouts, that’s what I would say. But I think it’s very easily easy. If you’re in that situation, do you want, you want help and help is available at a click and you know, or you believe it to be available at a click and

Speaker 3: (35:31)
You can, you can go down the wrong direction. Let’s maybe dig into how to get some relief because we have a stool with three legs and we’ve explored the surgical. We’ve still got the knowledge and I guess plead, um, and the two are probably very closely interrelated. I would imagine you would have had knowledge from other sources given I’ve watched you over those years.

Speaker 4: (36:04)
Yes. Yes. Well, as you know, I had different incarnations coming into you of different things. Um, and I also came in, I will start by saying one of the useful things that you said when I said, how long will it take me to get over the surgery? Cause niggles did come in the course of a month, but is it true as it probably would be if your back was okay? And I remember you saying, it will take a year. And that was really helpful to know. And if it’s any use to anybody, I would say it gets better in the year after that. So in the second year, until everything went wrong, of course I was back to for the next disc being a problem. But so the various, are you wanting what you did govern or what the things you said for me?

Speaker 3: (37:07)
So if you’re listening to this, you might be acquainted with a cliff of pain metaphor. I’m sure shoes that I have used for many years. And I like to think of this journey relievers. So things that you can do that will get you some relief and then prevent who have, how do we minimize the risk of this ongoing bombing of long term? And to some extent I would put surgery in the kind of preventive category, arguably that may not be accurate from a what’s that word, Susie, the etymology or sniffing perspective. But I mean, surgery is just intervention. It’s, you know, solving this problem at least for now, but yeah, I guess what was done to you or what did she do that you found afforded relief while drink surgery?

Speaker 4: (38:06)
All right. Um, I’ll do the things that help just anyway, and then I’ll move on to the specifics. So the things that I could do that were not to do with an exercise regime, I looked it’s it’s um, the Leonard Cohen thing, it’s, it’s the cracks where the light get in. I look for the cracks where the light gets in and I found it in what I see, but I think we’ve all got sensory when we can’t do anything. We’ve got sensory that we can harness. And we’re lucky that way, if we can see if we can hear, we can touch, if we can smell, we are lucky people and you can develop these senses. I mean, whiskey tasting taught me that you really can develop a sense of smell. It’s incredible really, really, truly, but we can all do that. And for me, I think I’ve got a high visual sense and I find it easy to find moments of beauty, but in all, I think artists really look and musicians really listen, but I’m sure all of us can do better than we do normally in day-to-day life.

Speaker 4: (39:18)
And it’s very enriching. It’s a huge enrichment. And I think it’s very calming as well. So I’ll link that in with another thing which didn’t suit me, which are all these mindfulness things didn’t suit me at all. I would get, I think, the equivalent of that or semi equivalent of that by just being peaceable and you know, how you breathe in you, you know, I know how to breathe well and just looking, just looking and these things I found incredible. I mean, my dad was in a care home. I don’t necessarily want to be my dad into this, but, um, the staff was saying they were all grumbling about what a rubbish day. It was, you know, a miserable day in the winter. And my dad said, but the trees are beautiful and they are. And it’s about seeing moments of beauty. And I used to pack as many moments of beauty as I could into a day that really got me through an awful lot.

Speaker 4: (40:18)
Um, the bike cause us before surgery, I’d also eat to come to you. I couldn’t have walked to you new way. And it’s only what, 15 minute walks. I mean, I couldn’t have walked, but I could cycle. Um, there’s enough. The phrase that an artist puts on tails with a picture of a bike, only a cycle ride away from a good mood. And that was, that was me. So I could get, I, I just, you know, two rounds of the pedals I can feel great and that might not work for everybody, but it was about trying to pack as much good stuff into a day to keep the rubbish stuff as far away from you, as you possibly can. I mean, you can’t because it’s there, but to try and somehow put in input. Good input. Good. So the other thing which, um, was hugely helpful was obviously coming to you, which I could do on a bike.

Speaker 4: (41:19)
And I remember cause I, what we haven’t mentioned is that the middle of all this, well, not even in the middle, possibly near the beginning, I also managed to get three prolapsed discs in my neck, which was also proven an MRI scan. So at one point I have three Dunn lumber spine, but my neck, I mean, it really, it was grim, grim, grim. And you said at that point I’ve got one other things that I can offer you. And it was, and you’ll know in a few sessions, whether or not it’s going to work and it was cranial osteopathy. And then it worked amazingly well, amazingly well for pain reduction. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I think I’ve said that amazing too many times, but it’s true. And then you added in acupuncture at the same time. So I had for anybody who’s listening. So I booked a double appointment with Gavin and you did, first of all, you did the normal

Speaker 3: (42:22)
Stuff. And I think I took you through

Speaker 4: (42:25)
Your entire range. Cause you said that at one point, uh, but also it was followed by the needles going in and the cranial stuff. And that was incredible. And I think one of the reasons I’ve been left reasonably unscarred by the past 15 years, I know, I know I’ve affected by it. I’m much more careful, much more cautious than I used to be. And I can see warning lights where I never used to see warning lights, but I think one of the things was I had relief. I could sit, I could ride a bike, I could sleep. And I came to see you. And I think if you put that into a package there’s good in there. And you saw me through the bleakest of bleak times.

Speaker 3: (43:17)
I have to say that, and I add this for anybody listening. And you made the point right in the beginning of our chat that I did say at the beginning, I don’t know whether I can help or not, but I’m certainly happy to try. I think if you are sitting as a listener, they’re contemplating surgery, you have not managed to find anybody to help you, but you are desperately looking for someone. If you have a confirmed disc prolapse that looks like it is causing the symptoms that you’re experiencing, then be weary of people offering you cures. Um, cause as soon as Suzy story says there isn’t a cure, you know, there’s, there’s um, there are things that we can do that hopefully will help short, medium and longterm, but, uh, anybody that says to you or don’t worry I can fix for you. Um, I would be very weary.

Speaker 3: (44:18)
Um, but equally from petitioner, it’s a fine line. I don’t want to be awkward with them by any means. Um, I desperately want to offer hope and encouragement, but I do that, um, without some kind of grant for offering hope. Um, so yeah, that would be my comment on that. One is going, if you can get released from some kind of treatment and for Suzy, as you said, that combination of craniosacral and acupuncture seemed to work at treat, at least in the short term, make me life tolerable for awhile. Um, but isn’t the case for everyone. Cause I have tried with others, um, those kinds of combinations of techniques, but keep trying, you know, explore, you know, for some people I keep on trying, I have sent a few people to an acupuncturist here in Edinburgh. I described the, he put in a fighting acupuncturist.

Speaker 3: (45:17)
I’m Amelia in osteopathy uses acupuncture techniques. Whereas, um, making Chen is, uh, you know, Chinese acupuncturist extremely, very, very experienced. And I would say at least in one case she afforded one gentleman, an enormous domain of relief, which I couldn’t really understand and not just relief for a few days, but in better terms winter week over that period of two days, two weeks. So keep trying, but have a dose of, I think, I think you mentioned Suzy, you saw maybe a couple of people that you just didn’t, you just didn’t click it didn’t work for you. So listen to your intuition. What have we not covered Suzy? Um, tell me about

Speaker 4: (46:08)
Doing these exercises every day. So once they, we’ve not covered, I think, I think that’s the one. Well, what I would say for that is make friends with it, make friends with whatever you get as a next size routine. So for me, right at the beginning, when the physio said, if you do this every day, you’ll have a strong core in four months. I thought I can do that. And yeah, it worked when I went to the athlete Ainslie, cause I was referred on by you to the pain clinic, which took me then to the athlete Ainslie. They’re very brilliant. I thought chartered physiotherapists said, we’re going to lengthen your sciatic nerve. I thought that makes sense because then it won’t pull the time on where it’s jammed. And I thought I had no idea you could do. So if something’s a good idea, go with it.

Speaker 4: (47:09)
And the other thing that I, the re the routine I now have is all lying flat. So supine as you call it, but lying flat on my back and I feel much safer doing that. And that’s probably with the history that I have, but I need to feel safe and that makes me feel safe so I can do it. And I would say that repetitive exercises are not my idea of a great fun time. I love activity. I love being out on my bike. I love exploring. I love going being out there for hours and hours and hours moving through space, if you like, but the idea of doing repetition, it’s just, I don’t find interesting at all. So I have made friends with it and I also don’t question it. I, I teach, treat it as toothbrushing, the same, same frame. And I know it takes more time than toothbrushing, which is, I think a bit of a clincher for many people, because you don’t have the time.

Speaker 4: (48:13)
And I think at certain stages of your life, you have less time than other stages of your life. I should mention. I’m no 67 maybe. And on nearly 67 got a couple of weeks ago. And, um, so yeah, I can understand when people say they just can’t fit it in, but I think even if you do 10 minutes or five minutes or some minutes, if you add them together, it will help. Because what you’re really trying to do is you’re trying to use your body better. And I know the word ergonomic actually is meant to apply to workplace situations, but I think it can, you could probably use the word just to apply to how you move yourself through your life. And if you can make yourself, have, you can build your own Lycra. Basically you can, one of the helpful things you said govern was front back and sides.

Speaker 4: (49:05)
You need to meet your front, strong, your back, strong on your side strong. And that makes sense, because you’ve got all these bones stucked up. He want to enclose them in something that’s a firm deal. And if you can build that, it’s a great thing. And it’s not hard. That’s the other big thing I was going to say, it’s really total, total win-win because you put in a little effort and you get colossal results. So as long as you keep at it, you do, but by the same token, you can build up very quickly, but your muscles will also build them very quickly. So even when you think you’re, oh, right, actually I’ll just skip it. I don’t think that’s a good move. So for me, I just, I don’t know if you want me to do mine, but I always have breakfast because I need calories. Then I will have a bath and then I will do the floor

Speaker 3: (49:58)
Exercises and that’s my

Speaker 4: (50:01)
Routine. And if it means getting up early, I get up early and the other way, 20 minutes, you could probably do to them in two, lots of 10, but I’d rather just do it at the beginning of the day and get it. And that way I don’t get any, I get no niggles through the day. If I do that, if I do it in a different order, which you do, if you’re staying somewhere or, you know, you’re not in your own home, then I may well get niggles. But if I do the right thing and for me, what I’ve worked out is the right way. I don’t, I mean, actually is that good?

Speaker 3: (50:35)
Which is a story when you think that I came out because sushi and I spent a fair bit of time going through exercises and modifying them and experimenting, I guess I would say to anyone listening, you, there are probably some good principles. One of my number one rule is this, use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it one. And it was really important with Susie that we found exercises that she felt safe to do because otherwise the apprehension levels creeps up and that’s just not good for your pain levels. Um, and ultimately we don’t know a hundred percent for sure which exercises are right for Susie. And so you just have to experiment and try things and listen to them back and do it. Don’t let a therapist tell you this. These are the exercises we give for lumbar disc prolapses. You know, your lumbar spine is going to be different to Susie.

Speaker 3: (51:39)
As Susie said, you know, she, she was actually very comfortable sitting through the worst of her nightmares. Um, and that isn’t that common. So, you know, everybody’s disc problem is unique and you need exercises that are tailored to you. Not just, these are the ones that we give. I wholeheartedly endorse all the posts because this might other little bits that we haven’t covered. Suzy again, come coming back to my cliff of pain metaphor. I talk about triggers and frustrated. Always the cough knocked you off that cliff of pain way back in 2006. Um, but the risk factors, and I think the surgeon to some extent has mentioned them. I mean, you you’ve had three significant lumbar disc prolapses and three. So local disc prolapse are genetically predisposed to disc problems. I mean, I don’t beat that any other way, because you know, again, your past work history, it wasn’t like ever done the roots, the thing, or were involved in of your manual labor or trauma.

Speaker 3: (52:53)
So you’ve, you’ve been very lucky to have. So for anyone listening, who’s had their first thinking, oh, Christ I’m in big trouble. If I, if I ended up seeing was this woman, uh, you know, Susie goes, I’ve said this to Susie over the years. She’s very unusual. Um, I had 30 years of practice. I haven’t seen many people or I’ll put it this week, I’ve seen two or three, who’ve had multiple disc problems. The vast majority of people have a disc problem that is managed and keeps recurring. But to have this problems at six different levels is not quite so in terms of risk factors, I think there’s some kind of poor connective tissue in there. And then of course, you’ve got this narrow spinal column, which again is just something it grew up with two together. Those are two very substantial risk factors for sciatic pain originating in your lumbar spine, but maybe some other risk factors in there.

Speaker 3: (53:59)
And if you’re interested with those, go back and listen to episodes one to six with my podcast, because I cover all that stuff there. Um, I was really interested in you’re talking money of other senses and the importance of what you can see and what you can touch and what you can hear and smell and so on. And for me, and I don’t know if you’ve listened to much of the stuff I’ve published in the last year or so Susie, but I have this pain equation that I refer to. One of the variables is attention. So focus enjoyable, then just buying, you know, just the nature. He don’t experience as much peop um, and that might seem a bit eerie theory, but Susie, I think is a great, you know, she’s giving you a great example of that. You know, whether it be the outside or something that pleases, you just takes you away from the harsh reality of that pig.

Speaker 4: (55:05)
Yeah. Again, I would wholeheartedly endorse that, although there is the fact that you can’t live in your unreality, if ever you have to come back to, to, you know, doing the dishes or something and, you know, to pack as much of that stuff in as you possibly can

Speaker 3: (55:27)
Paint. And the blank, you know, one of the variables in my equation is movement with they paid. So I guess that’s what you were doing on your bike for you, for other people that might be getting in a pool and walking up and down might be just lying on their back, gently wasteland in the leg from site to site. But you can do that. It doesn’t increase your payments worth doing now, again, anyone listening into this for the first time, I have got a podcast episode where we ask who’s a spinal neurosurgeon here in Edinburgh. So if you’re interested in the, kind of the surgeon’s perspective on this, and I think you’ve listened to Ave Suzy recently, and I think he is balanced, you know, he’s, you know, I’ve been practicing for 20 years. First came to Edinburgh, the best known spinal surgeon and what not for obvious reasons, but was a pretty awful character who, you know, if you weren’t a surgery candidate for surgery and pretty much told it was nothing wrong with you, um, you know, did not have a great bedside manner. And I would say Mr. Free us as the opposite of that, he’s very collaborative. Um, as indeed I suspect the vast majority of surgeons nowadays. So talk to your surgeon, you know, listen to what they have to say, because you know, they’ve seen an awful lot of people in a similar situation. Yes. I

Speaker 4: (56:58)
Would say the other one is don’t rush into it, particularly if you think, but I have to do whatever it is and I must get better. Cause I felt exactly like that. I felt exactly like I didn’t want to give up my life, which I effectively had to for a long time, lots of bits of it. And that it’s still a mistake. It’s still a mistake to rush into it because you just might be able to, you know, through all the nice non-invasive ways of doing it, it may just get better. As you have explained on many of your podcasts,

Speaker 3: (57:36)
You didn’t rush into any of them. My shortest time span between flare up and surgery, but it, but it was what nine months. Yeah. Probably longer before you into surgery. So yeah, they do, there are studies demonstrating this many disc problems, Canon resolve as it were a spontaneous that, which is basically a body healing that didn’t happen for Susie, but it can happen. And I’ve seen that happen many times. So yeah, as soon as he says, don’t rush into it. Um, okay. So our other, I was keen to learn. I think there are, but after you got any thoughts on,

Speaker 4: (58:26)
Has there been a silver lining? Yes. I think mostly there are silver linings. This one, well, several really well, one thing that I think probably everybody relates to is I think you might, I might be aging better, cause I’m know in my well, nearly 67 it’s, you know, I certainly don’t think it’s oh, my dad was walking till he was 104 and yeah. And he w he was extraordinary. He was extraordinary. And he had back problems though, despite being brought up in the alley, spending a lifetime walking, he still had that problem. So this is maybe with the inherited, but, but I would say that, um, I, I don’t know how to phrase it, but you, you learn how to live differently and how to make yourself strong and how to meet yourself supple and how to not do too much. And you learn to recognize things.

Speaker 4: (59:29)
And I think all of that is hugely valuable. And I also regarded almost like tools in the toolbox. I feel that I can open the toolbox and think, right. You know, either these exercises or this particular approach or, or, but it feels like a security to feel that I have these things that I have now learned and even learning about the anatomy. I feel that it’s a learned thing and I wouldn’t have learned it without this happening. This led me there to that a huge amount of learning about backs and learning about yourself as well. Um, one of the things I’ve always had as a phrase, even before this happened is the art of the possible what’s holding you back. What is the, what can you do? Uh, but this was a whole new version of it, but it’s nice to think of what you can do rather than what you can’t do. And I think that’s led me more into that than, than before. So yeah, definite silver linings. I know I’ve met some lovely people along the way and really helpful. I’ve experienced a lot of kindness, a huge amount of kindness and collaboration

Speaker 3: (01:00:49)
Today, you know, before you ever had a disc problem. You’re I think you’re a resilient person. You’re certainly someone, as you say, who looks for the cracks, uh, and that is enormously important when you’re facing this kind of essentially city, you know, these difficulties pain level for that length of time, as a hard thing to live through. And if you are someone whose glass is always half empty, it’s a lot harder. So if you are, if you’re sitting listening to this and think that’s me, then look for some support with that. You know, I mean, easy. I don’t think you ever went as a word down. I’m sure that Penn clinic had an element of sort of psychology on offer. But from what I remember, it was never really anything of value. You didn’t just didn’t need it. What are tell

Speaker 4: (01:01:46)
You what happened, Gavin? Um, you probably didn’t have the full thing of the plain clinic. The first one was I was given along with the group in a group situation, a tens machine, which I began hugely helpful. And the two dials on the tens machine was set by the nurse there. And that I think was helpful because she knew how to set them rather than just reading the instructions. And then I was sent to the athletes because they did groups. You know, you, you join a group and it’s a 12 week session or something. And I said, and when does the next group start? And it was a one a half hour, um, talk with Liz chartered physiotherapist before anything happened. And when I asked which group we’re in he’s instant reply was you’re above the group. He said, there are people who are above the group, and there are people who below the group and the pool, the group down, and he says, I’ll give you your, you said you lead a few one-to-one sessions with me and then you should be okay. And that was incredibly helpful. And I think the only reason, the only reason I think it was something to do with being, looking for the cracks where the light

Speaker 3: (01:02:56)
Gets in, I think to some extent, positive versus, um, I always struggled to remember this word and not because I don’t know them, but it just vanishes when I go to get it basically means sort of chewing over, um, your problems. Um, but, uh, yeah, if you, if you choose over your problems, if you want to lose people, who’s constantly worrying about himself, then that’s not good. Um, and certainly we know from a research perspective, the outcomes for people who are like that tend to be much, much poorer than people who, you know, kind of get on with it and, you know, empower themselves to, to find ways of just feeling better at the moment tomorrow. Day-to-day so great. Well, thank you Suzy, before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to throw in there?

I think we’ve covered it. There’s nothing else that I can think of right now that says, haven’t mentioned that. So thank you. I am feeling, I was quite nervous before doing this because I was thinking I’m going to have to go through and see some really, really bad times that I had over the last oh many years, but it’s been really good. So thank you for asking and, um, thank you for letting me share this story with whoever it is that wants to listen.

I’m delighted to have provided you some insights into the world of lumbar disc surgery and what it’s like as a patient. Don’t forget. You can get a free assessment to start you on whatever journey you’re on or maybe you’re already well into that journey. You can get a free assessment of back pain and sciatica.com. If you’d like to consult me in person and you happen to be in the Edinburgh area in Scotland, then active hyphen x.co.uk. But as I say, great place to start is get that free [email protected] And that will open up a whole world of help for you.

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