My Experience with Acupuncture and Physiotherapy for a Slipped Disc

Updated on March 30, 2018
WalterPoon profile image

My struggle with a herniated disc began in 1995. Below are my firsthand accounts of trying various treatment methods.

It all started in late 1995 with a numbness above the outer ankle of my left leg. I was helping a colleague take a rusty typewriter table downstairs for disposal when the numbness suddenly appeared. I thought it would go away after a few days, but it didn't—it became worse.

The company that I was working for had been taken over by one of its suppliers after it could not repay its debts. I had resigned after the new management gave me an offer that was very much less than what I had been getting. This is against Malaysian law, but I knew that it would be pointless to fight the case, so I decided to leave.

I applied for a few jobs, but by the time I went in for the interviews, sciatica had set in, and I could hardly walk. The pain was now radiating from below my left knee. Even so, I made it through the interviews after taking two tablets of Ponstan, a very potent painkiller. However, I didn't get any of the jobs after they noticed how I walked.

A slipped disc is a medical condition whereby the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc ruptures and allows the soft, central portion to bulge out, pressing against the spinal cord and triggering a sensation of pain
A slipped disc is a medical condition whereby the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc ruptures and allows the soft, central portion to bulge out, pressing against the spinal cord and triggering a sensation of pain | Source

Possible Causes of My Slipped Disc

I first discovered that I had a slipped disc when I went for a medical checkup, a requirement to enroll for a Master's degree program at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati, Philippines. I didn't even realize that I had a slipped disc, but the doctor said that I had failed my medical test because of it. He said it was amazing that I didn't feel any pain, given that my condition was really bad and my spine had curved so dramatically.

I don't know the exact cause of my slipped disc. I fell off a bicycle in my childhood days when going downhill and knocking against a fence. That could have been a possible cause, as I had lost my voice for a brief moment after falling. But a more likely cause would be a masseuse falling off while stepping on my back. I felt a pain on the left side of my waist a few days after.

Why I Chose Not to Have Orthopedic Surgery

I finally decided to see an orthopedic doctor. He requested me to take a CAT scan, and when he reviewed the results, he recommended immediate surgery, as I had a very bad slipped disc at L4-L5. The intervertebral disc between my fourth and my fifth lumbar vertebra had ruptured, and its jelly-like contents were putting considerable pressure on my spinal cord.

I asked the doctor whether there were any other alternatives and he just made a joke out of it, and as if he was speaking to some idiot, he said "I knew you'd ask that. What's the big deal about an operation?"

I didn't like his attitude, so I went to see a different orthopedic doctor. This one did some tests, reviewed my CAT scan, and confirmed that surgery was required. When I asked the same question I had asked the other doctor, he replied "Your case is pretty bad. As you can see, you can't even lift up your left leg by more than 3 inches while lying flat." After getting two similar opinions, I was finally convinced that surgery was inevitable.

Since anything involving the backbone is considered a major surgery with high risk, my sister advised me to go to Singapore for the surgery. A colleague who had undergone a similar operation brought me to the National University Hospital in Singapore, where I met Dr. Dasday. He advised me against undergoing the surgery unless I really had no choice. He said "If painkillers can help you, delay the operation as long as possible. Surgery is invasive and cuts into your tendons, meaning that it will weaken your entire spine. When this happens, a second surgery, either above or below your present afflicted vertebra, may be required in the future, for example, if you have a fall or accident."

With this advice, I left and had another appointment the following month to monitor the situation. When I arrived for the second appointment, I met another orthopedic doctor, as I was told that Dr. Dasday had retired. This doctor merely reviewed my reports, and without doing any tests, said that I needed immediate surgery.

I was jobless then, and with three orthopedic doctors saying the same thing, I had wanted to undergo surgery and resolve the problem once and for all. My mother and my sister, however, were against the idea and advised me to follow Dr. Dasday's advice to delay the operation as long as possible, just in case something miraculous happened, or an alternative solution presented itself. In the meantime, they said they would help me out financially if I required it.

Some two months later, another sister of mine told me to see an acupuncturist, after her colleague told her that she had a slipped disc and was healed after one treatment. This colleague was washing clothes, and when she stood up to lift the basin to pour the water away, she felt a sharp pain in her waist and could not walk after that.

Acupuncture Didn't Help My Slipped Disc

I went to see the acupuncturist that my sister suggested. He studied my CAT scan but advised me to get an X-ray instead.

After my X-ray was taken, he placed three needles on my intervertebral disc between L4 and L5 and then burned it with moxa, a process called moxibustion. I told the acupuncturist that my pain was along my left leg, not my spine. The acupuncturist said he wouldn't be treating my leg because that was not the symptom that was caused by what was happening to my L4-L5 intervertebral disc. In any case, I did not feel any noticeable improvement after my first visit. I was then told to come every alternate day to allow sufficient time for my intervertebral disc to heal before the next treatment.

While I was undergoing treatment from this acupuncturist, I was also scouting for other acupuncturists in town, as I did not like the long, several-hour wait for a 20-minute treatment. The acupuncturist did not have an assistant, so appointments were a first-come-first-serve basis where patients had to agree among themselves as to who came first.

Every acupuncturist I visited had a different approach. Some placed as many as 10 needles along my left leg where the pain was without a single needle on the spine.

None of these treatments worked.

When I became more acquainted with my first acupuncturist, he would sometimes talk to me about his experiences. It was then that he told me that the method he used to treat me was not based on acupuncture theory but was learned from a professor in Beijing. According to him, the concept is very simple: "You burn the intervertebral disc to make it smaller so that when the disc does not exert pressure on the nerve, the pain caused by your slipped disc disappears. It's as simple as that! Many think that I'm using acupuncture merely because I use acupuncture needles" he had said.

The process took five months of daily treatment. I felt the numbness subside downwards from my knee to my ankle with each treatment. The feeling was as if I was standing in a bathtub with the water being drained. The area (not the intensity) of my leg that was numb became less and less. I projected that the numbness would continue to fall until one day it disappeared altogether, but that was not to be.

When the extent of my numbness reached my ankle and failed to go down any further, I decided to seek other means of treatment.

Physiotherapy: Success!

I then went to a physiotherapist and had a few types of treatment, finally opting for only traction to cut cost (to the chagrin of the chief physiotherapist). With 10 further self-determined treatments (I had refused medical supervision, also to cut cost), I did not see any noticeable improvement in my condition until the 7th treatment.

In the 7th treatment, something happened. I couldn't lie down flat, as my left leg hurt so much. I decided to twist my body until it didn't hurt. Since my bed was surrounded by curtains, the nurses did not see what I was doing, as I had been advised time and again to keep my body straight at all times. After the 20 minutes of treatment, I stood up and I felt perfectly normal again. The numbness at my ankle miraculously disappeared!

Cervical traction machine used in physiotherapy
Cervical traction machine used in physiotherapy | Source

Relapsing and Trying Acupuncture Once More

I had a relapse nine years later when a masseuse used her elbow to grind my left buttock. It was very painful, and when I told her to stop, she told me that she felt something not quite right there and assured me that I would feel much better after she worked on it. Instead, I suffered a relapse of my slipped disc and sciatica the next day.

I went back to the acupuncturist, but after three months of treatment, I saw practically no improvement. I found another acupuncturist who could give me instant pain relief the moment he placed a needle that would send an electric current. It was frightening, but at the same time, it was very effective. He could not solve my slipped disc problem, but the sciatica would eventually disappear on its own, or so it seemed.

I'm still feeling numbness on the outer edge of my left foot, but since I can live with it, I didn't seek further treatment. In any case, an orthopedic doctor told me that nine years without a relapse was indeed an excellent track record.

An MRI scan of my slip disc relapse, taken on March 30, 2006
An MRI scan of my slip disc relapse, taken on March 30, 2006

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    • profile image

      Kalpesh04 

      13 months ago

      sir my L 5 disc was demigod gap is 9.7 mm, previous it was 11 mm , my foot no work properly and heavy pain in lower back, kindly advices to solves this problem, i am not going for Surgery. pls suggest...

    • profile image

      Pillai TS 

      15 months ago

      Left leg not walking nd L5 problem

      Acupuncture points need

    • profile image

      CATHRINA 

      2 years ago

      Hi sir! Are you from philippines? If so, could i get the information about your acupunturist? We really need help for my father's slipped disc. Thank you so much. :)

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Bdn9385, thank you for taking the trouble to find the link. I will read it carefully and get back to you. Will be out of town tomorrow until end of the month.

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      In case you cannot access the manually typed link above from my smartphone. Need to login to PC to accurately paste the link.

      http://my.chriskresser.com/wp-content/uploads/memb...

      Thanks!

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      I believe this is the link to 9 steps to perfect health. This is also good reading. Sorry it took a while.

      Http://my.chriskresser.com/wp-content/uploads/membership-files/free/9-Steps-To-Perfect-Health.pdf

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Bdn9385, thank you very much for taking the trouble. I appreciate your kindness. That cmd water... I didn't realize it cost a bomb for a bottle but I will give it a try. It's only through direct experience that one learns and becomes convinced. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      I'll email you the pdf file post your mail account. I think you need to register something b4 you can download it. You might think im crazy but I mean immortality on it's most literal context. There is a prophecy that says man is gonna achieve it on the last days. But not all man. Only some few chosen well refined individuals who are worthy before God. Those who have overcome themselves and the wiles of the devil. Funny isn't? Lol. Funny indeed. But also amazing?! This is the gospel of Christ. Let's not argue over this one and let the jury of time test it. Lol...

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Bdn9385, can you post the link to the 9 steps to perfect health?

      http://my.chriskresser.com/?s=+9+steps+to+perfect+...

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Ohhh, I thought you need to literally scoop the cmd from Utah!!! Okay, I got it and I will definitely give it a try. Thanks also for your great advice on prayer. I aspire not for immortality. Shih Huang Ti aspired for immortality but failed. If, by immortality, you mean that we still remember him, well, does it really matter when you are gone?

      http://revellglobal.com/product_info.php?uid=60101...

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      You did not google cmd yet. It can be bought in bottles anywhere in the world. Once you google it it explains itself so i need not explain to you how it works. I think it can help your cause. Also the chriskresser thing i told you will help a lot.

      Now when you said maybe one day i will! That's good. Its called Hope. Pack Faith with it and you increase its power. Add Love to it and you just immortalized it. Now i have a simple tip for you on how to accelerate the power of your prayer. Pray not for your own good but for the good of your love ones. Eliminate yourself in the process no matter how hard your situation is. You pray not for yourself but for the wellness of people you care. You are so simple to not understand that God is already providing you what you just need to grow you into a person he wants to be. Until you are able to realize that God designed the nature to become altruistic and not egotistic you will never be able to sync with the great circle of life. You will never be able to truly live. Immortality is the object of humanity. How do you think that can be achieved? Now i just gave you an assignment. Lol!

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Bdn9385, well said!!! But where can I get Utah cmd in Malaysia, LOL. A strong sense of purpose... you are right. I have tried prayer but have yet to feel the strong vibrations within my body. Maybe one day, I will!

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      By the way the scripture says:

      A joyful heart is the health of the body but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.

      Pleasing words are a honeycomb sweet to the taste and healthful to the body.

      Honor your father and mother that thy days may be long.

      In addition i personally think that what prolong the life of a person is a strong sense of purpose. As long as you see yourself as someone who has purpose in life that needs to be delivered you will not die. Nobody can take your life away from you as long as you have that strong sense of needing it yet. It will only be taken away from you once you have given up to fight. Dying is inevitable but not until you were able to deliver the goods you were entrusted to do. Now too much desire towards earthly things make someone as good as he is dead. On the other hand too much desire for the well being of the others will transform you into a different person.

      The power of prayer is such that if it is truly genuine, you can feel the strong vibrations within your body just like being electrecuted by small amount of electricity reenergizing your cells. If your heart is truly contrite then you have won half the battle. The rest depends on you. Thanks and God Bless! Recover soon...

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      I am not from utah but have witnessed myself the miracle of this supplement. God work in a number of ways you know. You may try it if you have time. Try also this website. My.chriskresser.com and download the 9 steps to perfect health. Thanks!

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Thank you, bdn9385. Are you from Utah? I don't know whether cmd and prayer works but I joined 3 sessions of qigong and "saw" the qi trying to push through a section of my lumbar vertebral column where the slip disc occurred. The slip disc caused some of my toes to curl up and the toe nails were grey and in bad health. My sister was amazed when she noticed my toes last Friday and told me that the nails are now in good shape. However, my toes were still curling up when she saw them but now, they have straightened (vertically)!!! Still slightly bent horizontally although the numbness in my left foot has reduced. Will report the progress to you, once the numbness disappears, hopefully after another few qigong sessions.

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 

      4 years ago

      Try to drink - cell mineral drops (cmd) from the great salt lake of Utah. Just google it. And of course, prayer works, you know.

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Travmaj, thanks for dropping by. The thing I found about acupuncture is that different acupuncturist uses different styles. The average acupuncturist uses "textbook methods", while the really good ones have something more to offer, e.g. the one who could treat acute pain instantly is amazing. I went to so many others, but not even one can do like him. Painkiller jabs, on the other hand, are, for the most part, ineffective, when slip disc is concerned.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 

      5 years ago from australia

      That is a painful story - I hope all is going to plan now.

      I have acupuncture when necessary and really like the treatment - it is recommended for many problems. I don't have anything like a slip disc - that is complex .

      For stress relief or similar neuralgia etc, acupuncture. seems very favourable.

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Billybuc, that colleague that I mentioned had the operation and was advised never to carry anything more than 5 kg. He cannot sit on the rear seat of a car and have to sit in front. Even so, he has to slide in, like a rigid doll. I'm happy to hear that you never had a problem after your operation. You are the first case I heard that has no problem. Some complained of backache in an aircon room because of the stainless steel plates supporting the spine. America must be great because here, we occasionally hear of "clipped nerves"... patients being paralyzed from the waist down, after an op. A Penang lawyer suffered a clipped nerve just prior to my slipped disc and my sister got very worried because of that.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I had the same thing happen back in 1989. I had it operated on and have never had a problem with it since. I am lucky!

      It never occurred to me to try acupuncture. Very interesting read my friend. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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