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L5-S1 Microdiscectomy now at 5 months - updated

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone - Just wanted to ask you folks if think I am on the right track or not. Here is a copy of my first update at 4 weeks post-op:
The leg pain is 90% gone, with the exception of first thing in the morning and random jolts of pain. Pre-surgery, the pain was in the back of my leg, into the upper calf and sometimes down to my foot. The pain was constant and got worse with movement. The effected leg also was substantially weaker than the other, and also had some numbness and pins and needles.

Since the surgery, the pain has mostly subsided, but the pins and needles has actually gotten worse, and the weakness is still there too. My doc says it can take several weeks for the nerve to recover, but I have also heard of some cases where the symptoms are gone completely after surgery. Is this normal? When should I realistically expect these symptoms to subside? Will they ever?

OK, so here I am at 8 weeks and I am now in physical therapy doing very mild core exercises, but still no bending or real strengthening work yet. I have just finished the 2nd (and possibly last) course of Diclofenac Potassium and from time time time will still pop a hydrocodone (maybe 2-3 times per week mainly at night). My leg pain is mostly gone, but will still flare up from sitting too long or may just radiate down the leg for no apparent reason. My pins and needles is mostly gone and leg strength seems to be coming back too. I am a little concerned that the leg pain I am experiencing is worse than it has been in the last 4 weeks of recovery. Is that normal? I would still expect some back pain, but I figured the leg pain would be gone by now. What are your thoughts on that? Thanks, Tony



  • Im 7 weeks post-op and i still have leg pain. My NS told me the nerves can take a long time to recover from it all and to be patient. I take Lyrica and Cymbalta and it helps. Takes quite a bit to kick in, but once the meds do I feel a whole lot better. Its hard for me to be patient, but its one day at a time. Good luck to you!
  • On the degree to which your nerve was impinged upon before your surgery. I had a micro last December. Immediately after surgery, the pain in my back was gone, but the pain down my leg persisted for about two months - gradually coming up from almost all the way down my leg to the back of my knee and then just my hip, and then it went away. At six months after surgery, I started having horrible problems again, which is why I'm having a fusion on Wednesday. I hope you have a better outcome than I did.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Thanks for the feedback. The nerve recovery is very frustrating since some days are good and then all of a sudden for no apparent reason, the pain or numbness comes back. Linda, how did you reinjure yourself at 6 months? Sorry to hear that.
  • Hi Tony, Don't get too discouraged your not alone. I had my L5/S1 discectomy on 8-7-08 and I'm still experiencing numbness in my two outer toes and in the ball of my foot. Been doing PT since 6 weeks post-op and things have improved but not to the point I have hoped. Doc says it could take 6 mo - 1 year. I only hope I can one day run and mountain bike without restrictions.

    A little background - I'm 47yo active and fit. I was racing off-road motorcycles and mountain bikes. In December 2007 I fell on an icy driveway resulting in a bulging disc. In July 2008 I ruptured the disc lifting something the wrong way. Doc told me it was "as big of rupture as I've seen in 20 years"....great!

    Stumbled upon this thread looking for folks in a similar situation. I'm remaining patient and diligent in my PT but am getting discouraged at times. Keep in mind you mostly hear about the failures and not the successes.

  • It can take two years for the nerve to completely heal just from my experience. After my first microD most of the pain went away in about 6 months but I did have lingering calf pain and tightness and pain upon first waking up and foot pain. I got this off and on and I did notice at about a year most of it went away but I still had foot numbness. In two years time all of my symptoms went away completely.

    Now my second microD on the same disc I'm at about 6 months and most of the time I am pain free but do get minor twinges now and then and my calf is tight upon first getting up. Just from my experience last time and the progress I am making that is just like last time it does take quite a while for the nerve to completely recover. So if after say 6 months you still have minor symptoms don't worry too much that doesn't mean it's not going to to away. Give it more like a year.

    What caused me to have to have surgery again and my disc to reherniate you are thinking. I had abdominal surgery and they dropped me upon lifting me from one bed to another that contributed to it and I also was yanking on something really super hard to the point it was like lifting something really heavy since I had to pull so hard. Just be careful about lifting always.
  • I hear ya Mike. I can't wait to get back to my active lifestyle. I know I won't have a free pass to do whatever I want, but If I could run, exercise and play some recreational hockey, I will ask for nothing else! Its amazing how you could ride offroad motorcycles and mountain bikes, but have the biggest trouble in the driveway. I have heard so many stories like that. And Mchell6789 - I hope you had a good lawyer after that hospital bed drop! That is some rough luck. I hope you're doing better. Thanks for the input you guys.
  • I think that removing just that one little piece of disc cause my others to settle into a new painful position. I have three torn discs (torn left to right, clear through). They took out a piece that was pressing on my sciatic nerve and I felt good, was walking 5 miles a day, but my right leg began to buckle out from under me as I walked. Then it got painful -- jolts of horrible pain. Further tests show I have more disc ooze starting to affect other nerves, so they're going to clean it all out and put some spacers in there and get it all to fuse together. I'm terribley nervous, but looking forward to some eventual relief.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • My PT has told me that you can expect healing up to 2-4 years after the compression is relieved. For the sciatic nerve (longest in the body), it takes a long time to heal.

    Her philosophy is "if you aren't getting worse, you are getting better" (since the healing can be subtle, but still occurring slowly.

    In my case, I wasn't properly diagnosed for a long time, and so I may end up with some degree of permanent numbness if my foot (but I guess I'll know better a couple years from now). I had a micro-d in May, and like you most of the leg numbness is gone. It took many months for the pain in the lower back (surgery site) to subside, but that has gotten much better. I still have some foot pain and numbness, but I attribute that to the long time my nerve was squashed.

    Best wishes on your healing. Hope you have a successful outcome!
  • Just an update for those who care. I'm finished with physical therapy and back to working out at the gym with some alyptical (sp?) cardio, light weights and core strengthening. I also started skating again and playing around with the hockey puck. I'm not skating too hard and I'm just working on my passing and stick handling, no shooting. My doc says I should be able to play again at 6 months, but I'm going to give more time than that. (its not like I'm getting paid to play).

    I still have some nerve healing issues, and I think its good actually. Otherwise, I would have no pain or discomfort and probably overdo it. My leg still feels a little "heavier" and has some unexplained pains from time to time. Its also still a touch weaker than my unaffected leg. I can sit through a 2 hour movie, no problem, but I try to get up at the halfway point just to stretch and walk for a minute. I havn't seen anything that good lately to prevent me from taking a break, so it works out just fine.

    I am off all meds, but still take some ibuprofin as needed. All in all, I'm pretty happy with my progress. Just wanted to keep everone posted.
  • Hi Tony,

    I think your going to turn out OK. The L5-S1 recieves less shearing force than the L4-5. Keeping active is key. I walk alot, but being an active big guy, my surgical area gets annoyed and has kicked of some siatic pain from time to time. I drive for a living. In the morning, I have all my sensations back in the foot and leg. After a days work, sometimes my foot feels like there is pressure on top and the thigh siatic burns a little. I guess I'm still heqling too. I'm 4.5 months out of surgery and hope everything heals up like everyone else. But, sometimes it drives me crazy having this stuff come and go. As per your healing, are you a young or older guy.

  • I am glad to hear you are doing well Tony.

    Continue on with your recovery, it takes time but is worth it!


  • Hi Tony,

    I was wondering how your actual back feels. Since we around the same time since similar surgeries, how does it feel? I get some pain from getting in and out of the car and some spasms after being at work. it actually feels like a pulled muscle and burns.

    Any feedback,

  • Hello,

    I was diagnosed with herniated disc at two locations L4-L5 and L5-S1 after 7 months ago. I took painkiller in the first few months and doing PT. My pain has improved a little but still bother me a lot. I can't do my routine exercise and sport like jogging and golfing. I can only walk and stand for a short while. Doctor asked me to consider surgery but I'm still considering. I'm afraid that surgery will cause more harm.

    I would like to get some feedback to see if this surgery can really help? What is the drawback? Any side effect? Does it make the condition worst?

    Lastly, I would like to know what to expect on the same day after the surgery? Are you able to walk or stand? Can you even go toilet by yourself?

    Hope to hear from you. Thanks.
  • Hi Backman - Thanks for your response to my post. I am 40 years old, pretty active and consider myself to be in pretty good shape (6'4"-200lb). I do sit a lot for work, but when I'm not working I enjoy playing Hockey and working out. I don't have any pain at the site of the surgery, but strangely enough, I do have some tightness above my "problem" disc, slightly below mid back. I only notice it when I do certain stretches (cat/camel)in particular, but it doesn't bother me otherwise. Wierd. I also have some minor leg symtoms first thing in the morning, but they usually go away after a few minutes. Getting in and out of the car was tough for a long time. I can't say I noticed the day it stopped being a problem for me, but all of a sudden I stopped the intentional sit and swivel of the butt and legs, and just hopped in like a normal person. Its only been a few weeks at the most, so I'm sure you're close.
    Sounds like you're doing just fine in your recovery. Tony
  • Hey Reddog - I tried working through my herniated disc for about a 10 months before getting surgery. I did two courses of physical therapy, steroid injections, oral steroids, and prescription anti-inflammatories. Are you familiar with the McKenzie technique? The moment my doc said its time for surgery was when this particular stretch caused more pain instead of relieving the pain as it normally does in disc herniations. My condition continued to worsen throughout my last course of pyhsical therapy and I had to decide if I had the time to try and work through this, with no guarantee I wasn't eventually going to need sugery anyhow.

    I still have plenty of know it alls tell me I could have healed it non-surgically with lots of time and patience, but thats easy for them to say. They don't feel the pain and discomfort we have, and its not THEIR time or patience.

    In my case, surgery really helped. Pain was immediately relieved, though not completely eliminated at first. Its a long healing process, but not an uncomfortable one. You just really have to be careful not to overdo it as reinjury to the disc is a possibility during the healing months. And yes, you can walk and use the bathroom the day of surgery. My surgery was at 7am and I was home by 6pm, granted with a crap load of pain killers and meds. Do your research and you will eventually feel good about whatever decision you make. Good luck.
  • My son is 21 and is having this surgery on Wednesday Feb. 25, 2009. He herniated this disc on Oct. 17, 2008 during a wake boarding accident that broke his left tibia and fibula in 4 places. We did not realize the disc problem happen until after 6 weeks of laying on his back, no weight baring for the broken leg (he has missing bone). He was complaining how bad his back hurt and there was a lump the size of a golf ball in the lower left lumbar area of his back. So after months of chiropractor's and physical therapy his doc orders a MRI. He and his spine surgeon believe this is the route to go. He has live with sever pain for 4 months now. He has all the problems with the sciatic nerve, tingling, numbness, radiating down his left leg into the ball of his foot. Now is affecting his right leg.
    I have researched this surgery. But still as a Mother I am so frightened. You know second surgeries etc. Did I mention my son is a semi-pro wakeboarder and works at Sea World in the ski show? This is his passion, I pray he will be ok and will continue to do what he loves.
    I am following every one's post on here but would like to see at what age are the patients. As youth usually has a long term over all better out come. (this not meant to offend anyone it is fact, I'm 51 and know I would I heal differently than a 21 yr. old)
    So any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated.

  • I am 19 years old and I just had my first microdiscectomy as of February 12th. I'm feeling great right now and would gladly keep you posted if you like.
  • I just had Micro for L5-S1 5 days ago. i am 26 and cant wait to get back to my job as a firefighter.. Youth has its advantages but reality shows that certain problems such as DDD, stenosis annd other problems dont discriminate by age. I can tell you that after 3 days post op i was off all pain meds already walking almost a mile as of yesterday and feel great. The hardest part with the pain being nearly all gone is remembering i am still hurt and have to take it easy and it will be a long road to full recovery. I hope that my current position is of some comfort. I have read almost every post on this site and results post op are not the same for everyone but i do believe that the odds are greatly in your sons favor.. Keep him positive and he will make it. I will be going back to my job which is extremely demnding at times. He WILL be back to what he loves.
  • Thank you for your comments and re-assurance. Please keep your updates coming I will be watching and praying for ya'll also.
    Tomorrow is the big day.
  • surgery was 3/31/09, strength in leg returned within hours but 2 days ago, for no reason my entire leg went numb from hip to toes. i sat down and the feeling in the leg returned but it scared me beyond words of course. i have had occasional pains which are sttributed to nerve root healing. my gut tells me the sudden numbness is not a good thing, it is memorial day weekend and i been out of work since a few days before surgery, standing for more than 10-15 minutes is difficult at best but walking is OK. should i be worried ?
  • 5 months and 8 days ago was day of surgery. Its been very up and down.... a little down at the moment. two weeks ago I felt great....almost as good as new. Now I feel like I've taken a clear step backward. Not alarming leg pain or anything, but low back pain for sure. uncomfortable virtually all of the time. I'll take Advil and a muscle relaxer at night that does seem to help. I know this is a process and that some pain my never go away....but I am frustrated at the moment and am losing my sense of humor.

    I want to be "normal" again!!

    Happy New Year!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,715
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    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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