For what it's worth, here is my spine saga! I was a stay at home mom for 11 years (three LARGE boys I toted around!) and then went to nursing school
at 33. I am average weight (size 8), have never smoked or drank to excess and exercised--both cardio and weights--regularly since I was a teenager. After nursing school, I went to work full time in L&D. I had spasms in my neck and lower back since childhood really. At 35 after practicing for only a few months, I ended up with a fusion and discectomy at C6-7. The nerve injury was so bad that I didn't even feel the needles or the shock go in for the EMG. Great surgeon--ortho, but cuts only the spine and quite regularly. I had a complete recovery. I have no permanent weakness or pain, but some hot/cold deficits. I have a couple other herniations in my neck that I baby a bit and have some symptoms when the weather changes or it gets real damp. Since I live in Southern CA that doesn't happen all that much!
Anyway, last year after having been back at work part time and per diem for almost three years, I started having that hip pain the other poster was talking about. I also had the sciatica and numbness described--all down the left side. Went back for MRI and EMG. Got started in PT right away--even before test results or surgical consult. Back on my valium and naproxen. 1cm L5-S1 bulge to left with spinal cord compression. Scared the crap out of me!! I didn't stop working because I only work per diem and was waiting for the surgical consult. With three and a half weeks of PT while waiting for the consult, my pain had pretty much resolved. The numbness and tingling were still strong, though, and I was concerned about caudal equina because of the severity of the bulge. I went back to my original surgeon and he reviewed the MRI and my symptoms and told me that the surgery was riskier than the chance of caudal equina or foot drop (my biggest fears!). I continued with PT for another month or so. The numbness and tingling have gone away over time.
Are you in PT?? You should be. It's really amazing what stretching and core-strengthening can do for you. I am a believer. I still take a valium here and there--maybe 2-3 a month for the spasms. I had a spell when the weather went damp/cold quickly last month where I took it around the clock for a few days.
My biggest advice would be to keep moving. I had more than one MD tell me that staying home from work is more a personal choice as you can blow out a disc by coughing really hard on your couch at home (maybe you need a flu shot?). I work about 6-8 12 hour shifts a month and I walk 3-4 miles at a time 3-4 times a week and keep busy. I also went back to school for an MSN to teach at nursing school because I know my body isn't going to make it on the floor for 20 more years! It is hard not to panic, and it really changes your outlook on life to be disabled in a way. I have tried to not let it control my life, but I have been pretty lucky in not having chronic pain issues.
I know this was long--I hope it helped. Good luck and PM me if you want.