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Have to make a decision about L5-S1 microdiscectomy by the end of today....

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey all,

I'm new here because I really need some help deciding on whether or not I need surgery. I just found the site and it looks really helpful...

I'm 19 years old and I herniated my L5-S1 and L4-L5 discs in september but apparantely my L5-S1 is the only disc bad enough to require surgery. For the first few months, I had so much pain I could barely function and I had no feeling in the side of my foot. I had originally scheduled surgery for December but I felt like I was improving (regained foot feeling back, etc.) so I cancelled it and moved it to february.

Well now it's getting close to surgery time again and I haven't gotten drastically better since December but I am unsure what to do. Here is my situation....

I get sharp leg pain whenever I move around in bed, get out of bed, or bend over but other than that I have very little pain. I still can't play sports however.

I also can't stand entirely straight without leg pain kicking in, however most of the time my legpain only goes half way to my knee (it isn't as bad as it originally was)

I can sit for about an hour and a half before I start to feel twinges of pain and if I don't lie down soon after that I get very stiff and the pain increases.

I can't raise either of my legs high enough to successfully stretch my hamstring before pain shoots down the right leg. (Left leg raise included)

Other than the problems listed above, I can live my life fairly normally. I can attend all of my classes, go out on weekends, I just need to sit down more often. The only thing that bothers me is how I can't play sports or run at all and the fact that I need to lie down every two hours to calm the pain down.

I need to decide by tommorow whether or not to have surgery because the secretary is threatening to take me off the list since I have already deferred it once. What do you guys think? Part of me is afraid of the microdiscectomy, but part of me just wants this leg pain to be over.


  • I had a microdiscectomy last Feb, and it helped a lot. I was able to return to a very active lifestyle (I am a runner) within 12 weeks. I had zero pain in my leg or back. A micro is a very minimally invasive surgery, by far the most conservative. It was my last resort, as I tried physical therapy ect. for over 6 months with no results. Usually once it is herniated and pushing on a nerve, it isn't going to go away on its own. Since you are so young, I would recommend it, so that you can get on and enjoy your life without always having to deal with your back! Hope it works out for you!
  • Need more backstory.
    Have you had a MRI w/ contrast?
    Have you had a discogram or any tests?
    Have you exhausted all conservative treatments?

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I have not had a discogram but yes I did have an MRI with contrasts. I have showed it to my neuro surgeon and he seemed to think I needed surgery as long as it stopped improving. I have been to physio for 5 months and have taken all sorts of anti flammatories but I have not visited a pain clinic as the wait is huge over here.
  • Honestly, it really sounds wayyyyy too soon for surgery of any kind. The MINIMUM is generally 6 months, and that's when there are more serious issues going on. Pain like that really doesn't warrant surgery right away. Physical therapy isn't your only treatment option. You could also try ultrasound therapy, TENS, Aquatic therapy, Chiropractic, steroid injections, local anesthetic injections, etc.... You should really rule all those out before having any surgery. It really seems like your surgeon is seriously jumping the gun for surgery. Many people have herniated discs in situations like that and within a year or so are back to their normal day to day. Just a few months is kind of unrealistic... Most people have had back pain for YEARS before surgery was even considered. Unless your nerve is severely impinged and you have foot drop and quite a bit of numbness, I really, really think you should be trying all the other conservative methods first.... A surgeon that is THAT quick to shove you under the knife really isn't looking out for your best interests, but for their OWN best interests. Especially being young, you have a great chance for the herniated disc to heal on it's own. You don't want to mess with your disc and end up doing more damage and needing a major surgery like fusion, all because you rushed into surgery too soon. It happens... Trust me, it happens.

    Whatever you decide is obviously up to you, but I think it's pretty unrealistic to expect everything to heal that fast & without doing everything possible, and to skip all the way to surgery. I don't know everything you've tried so far, but to go from herniation to surgery in less than 6 months is outrageous to me, when it isn't debilitating you or preventing you from living a normal life. Very few people here are able to play sports, so many times, it comes with the territory. There is no saying that if you had the surgery the pain would be totally gone and you'd be able to play sports again.... That is just a shot in the dark, really. So why risk it? It's not necessary, so put it off until it is, and you probably won't even end up needing to do it at all. Just make sure not to do anything to aggravate the nerve... Don't test out what hurts. Do only the stretches and exercises your doctor has instructed you to do, and don't overexert yourself. If you follow their orders and chill out for a while, then it should heal up on it's own. If you continue to exacerbate the issue, then it may blow up into something a LOT bigger than it needed to be. Ya know?

    I had a MicroD and I was WORSE afterwards, and ended up with an anterior/posterior fusion 4 months later after foot drop & a useless right foot. Thankfully there is no permanent nerve damage as far as we can tell, no numbness or foot drop anymore, but my nerve pain isn't gone even now. It's decreased, but my entire disc is gone, so I'd hope it would lessen some. Lol.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
  • I'm sorry you are suffering and having to make such a huge decision. I recommend you make sure you fully trust your doctor, have multiple opinions and follow your gut. If you have the teeniest bit of doubt, I would hold off. There is no guarantee that surgery will help with the pain, as you can see by my history. 3 surgeries and permanent nerve damage anyway.

    I really recommend trying to find a special physical therapist called "manual therapist". They work in a very different manner from regular physical therapy, and can be quite hard to find. If we had not moved, I would have spent more time going to mine and I'll never know if the outcome would have been different. We moved to a very rural area of a rural state and I had no ability to find someone similar.

    Welcome to Spine Health!! Hope you have a peace about what you decide.

  • You shouldn't rush into a decision if it's not an emergency.

    In my case, I was hunched over for about 10 months.
    Couldn't walk much, couldn't do much of anything.
    I didn't notice that my right leg shrank. The herniation was impinging the neural signals at the L4-L5 nerve.
    Obviously my quality of life pretty much died, but I hung in there. I tried all the conservative treatments during that time. Nothing solved the real problem.
    Luckily I found a good surgeon with a good procedure and am doing ok.

    I'm guessing you're in England? I confess I am not familiar with how healthcare things work there.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I've been off work for 11 months and I can't barely walk with my herniated disc. Epidurals helping the leg pain. But the back is still sore but lately noticed my back doesn't start hurting until afternoon. I'm hoping I will heal on my own. I have a 2nd opinion Ortho next week. I hope you had a 2nd opinion and have your family Dr. line you up with more than one pain referral Dr. We can't tell you not to have surgery but you should be feeling comfortable with this. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Hello Geer,

    You have received very good advice in the posts above.

    I would only second what others have said - do NOT rush into surgery. This is NOT an emergency situation from what you have described to us.

    You definitely need to seek the advice of several other spinal surgeons/neurosurgeons. AND most importantly the very BEST doctors who you can find in your area. Take the time to REALLY do your research well. Ask a lot of questions.

    It is YOUR body. Surgery is the LAST option. Slow down and lets talk this thruogh some more.

    You have found a great group of people on SH. We will provide our thougths and guidance. Do remember that with the information and thoughts you read here to think over the opinions of the spinal surgeons you talk with, and you DO need to speak to several more apinal surgeons/neurosurgeons. Then take the time to make the decision you are comfortable with and that is right for you. Be very careful of any doctor who pushes you into immediate surgery, unless of course an actual emergency arises.

    Do stay in touch.

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