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Feeling numbness while stretching legs. MRI show slightly herniated L5. Suggestions

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Spine Surgeon
Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 322 Questions
My husband had an incident two weeks ago. He is 26 years old, healthy and marathon runner. He works as a personal trainer and is in great shape.

He was stretching (maybe for an hour - a long stretch session) and all of a sudden, he felt numbness radiating through his legs. He thought he was paralyzed. This followed by what he assumed was a panic attack. He thought he was dying, was hyperventilating. He called me and then 911. 911 Operators took his heart rate and said he was not having a heart attack, but took him to the ER for a "back injury XXXXXXX When I arrived I could see he could move his legs and was not paralyzed. His face was in agony, but he said he didn't feel pain, but numbness. Hours later, he had a small dosage of muscle relaxers which made him feel better an MRI and results of a slightly herniated L5. That night he showed me a huge circular bruise he had on his thigh with a light colored circle. I asked him if that's where he was stretching and he said no. He has been taking it easy but continuing to light exercises and moving around, trying not to move in certain ways for his back and feel slightly better. The major thing he noticed was lack of mobility. He could not move as he had before.

Almost two weeks later and he wakes up and something is wrong with his thumb/wrist. Lack of movement and numbness. Later that afternoon, below his thumb was purple and he couldn't completely move it. He put on a brace. He agan noticed a bruise on his forearm and remarked about it. This was last night.

This morning, he shows me the bruise on his thigh again and it is still there, but much darker and bigger. He texted me and said that when he pushed the unbruised center of the bruise he felt numbness radiate down his leg into his toes. He was weirded out and almost cancelled work. He decided not to.

Now, my husband doesn't have insurance. We both work privately and he was excluded from insurance because he went to see a psychologist after his dad died and was billed under depression. He won't be able to get insurance until the new laws go into effect at the end of this year. We'd like to go to a doctor in case there is something systematically wrong with him, but want it to be fruitful. Is this just coincidence? Why would numbness radiate down his leg when he touched the bruise (the bruise itself is not numb), is this just sciatica? Does this sound like any other problem where we would benefit from seeing a doctor? Perhaps, the herniated disc was just coincidence as my husband is such a runner and it was a slight injury (not even referred for physical therapy or surgery) and not the reason for his symptoms during the first incident. I would appreciate thoughts if possible.

I am googling different things and am having trouble finding keywords. If we pay out of pocket for a doctor, we want it to be as fruitful as possible. We will already be paying thousands of dollars for his 911 call and MRI.

My husband also told me he ran 40 minutes today, first time running since the incident. He ran/walked 2 miles yesterday, but not as much. Could this be sciatica?
Posted Wed, 29 May 2013 in Back Pain
Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 1 hour later
Thanks for the detailed information.
Minimal disc herniation wont cause numbness in leg. I think he is not suffering from sciatica. Also pressing on bruise causing numbness along the whole leg is unlikely. Sciatica wont cause any bruise on the leg.
Bruise on the thigh and forearm may be due to self inflicting wounds. As muscle stretching due to over exertion unlikely to cause such bruises. Finally you are saying he was able to run 40 minutes after the incident which is very contradictory.
I am more worried about the mental health because causing harm to our own body is very XXXXXXX I would suggest to get a consult with psychiatrist. Thanks.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Feeling numbness while stretching legs. MRI show slightly herniated L5. Suggestions 42 minutes later
Thank you for your response. We are looking at several symptoms and trying to figure out if there is a connection. We aren't too concerned about the bruises by themselves, as they are minor. If they were connected to a diagnosis of nerve damage or something like that it would be a different story.

My husband had an MRI and we saw damage to the L5, this was not imaginary. We have a disc with images provided by the technician. He is a person who typically runs 40-90 minutes 4-5x a week. He was starting to feel better after his incident, so almost two weeks later tried to go for a run (something very natural in his world.)

My question is why the ER staff would attribute numbness to a herniated disc if there is no relation.

This was off the Cedar-Sinai hospital website.

WWW.WWWW.WW "Although injury to the outer covering of a disc can cause pain, often a herniated disc by itself does not cause any discomfort. Pain occurs when pressure from the herniated disc is put on the nerve roots or spinal cord. Pain or numbness may occur in the area of the body affected by the nerve. For example, a herniated disc that presses on one of the nerve roots of the large nerve that extends from the lower back down the back of the leg may cause pain and numbness in the leg (a condition called sciatica)."

From what I can tell sciatica and nerve herniation is in fact related.

Your professional opinion would be that the bruises and numbness are not related?

Would you be concerned that one arm is cooler than the other?

His hurt arm is not very cold, but when touching the two, you can tell that it is not warm like the other.

Also, they prescribed him pain medication and muscle relaxers which he has not been taking. They were prescribed on an "as needed" basis. He tends to like to feel his pain so he doesn't overexert, but would you recommend just filling the prescriptions and using as needed. Right now, we haven't even filled them yet.

My husband has a degree in exercise physiology and worked as a physical therapy aide before personal training for many years.
Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 1 hour later
I got your point. Disc herniation is definitely related to sciatica however as you were saying that minimal disc herniation on mri. I wonder if that herniation will press on his nerves and cause numbness.
If possible please upload mri report and images to tell you the severity of the disc prolapse.
Bruise usually happened due to external injury and it can cause local numbness around the area but not in the whole leg.
Check the numbness area if it is changing all the time.
Regarding arm problem, it is difficult to explain why one is cooler than the other. Does he have any numbness in arm as well ?
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Feeling numbness while stretching legs. MRI show slightly herniated L5. Suggestions 4 hours later
I will get more information on the arm tomorrow. He is not experiencing constant radiating numbness, it seems to come sporadically and in episodes. He seemed to have another incident last night, he now also thinks him pushing the bruise and feeling the numbness were just coincidental, as he continued to have weird sensation and numbness most of the night.

He was trying to describe it, saying his joints feel disconnected and when the numbness happens he can't clearly feel his lower body (that's why he thought he was paralyzed the first time). I have to admit, he isn't the best at describing what's going on. He's trying though. I'll get images off the disc tomorrow (as it's the middle of the night here and i have to ask my husband to locate them for me.)

Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 46 minutes later
No worries. Will discuss tomarroe
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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