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Considering Discectomy & seeking your advice and experiences

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I would love to hear your about your discectomy. Surgery, pain, recovery, anything you can tell me is welcome!

About my situation:

I am a 28 year old female, very athletic and active. Five years ago after a series of horsebackriding accidents, I herniated my L5-S1. It got to the point where there was pain radiating down my leg and tingling/numbness in my foot. Tried PT, not much luck...then I started working with a yoga teacher who specialized in physiology, and after a lot of dedication my body was feeling really good.

I still do yoga everyday, but my yoga teacher has since moved to New York and a series of life changes have put a lot of stress on my back. It is no where near where it used to be, but the pain is constant and I am tired of it hurting when I bend down to put my shoes on.

During a recent visit with a new spinal specialist, he suggested discectomy and I have to admit, it sounds tempting. I am generally very afraid of surgery and was not even able to get a cortisone shot because I was too freaked out. However, at this point I just want my life back. I want to feel normal and not have pain when I get out of a car. I have also been feeling pretty depressed lately, and am sometimes reduced to tears because I just can't/don't want to deal with it anymore.

Please post your experiences, advice, reccomendations, ANYTHING!! I want to hear it all! Personal messages are welcome too!




  • Here's the short version:

    A massive sharp knife was stabbing me in my lower back.
    Went to see a spine doctor.
    Ordered and got MRI's.
    Herniations at L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1 revealed.
    Much internet research and 8 spine surgeon consultations.
    Tried all "conservative" treatments first, no luck.
    Had a discogram. L4-L5 was my pain generator.
    Had a microdiscectomy.
    Pain gone.
    Doing ok now, but as a person with lower spine issues, have had to adjust my life accordingly.

    That was over the course of about a year.

    Your "freak out" was/is normal. This is from fear.
    Once you really learn about and become familiar with the situation, it isn't as scary. Arm yourself with knowledge.

    Sorry you are in pain. :(
    There are lots of horror stories on these kinds of message boards, but there are also lots of success stories.
    Many go on to live full, active, happy productive lives.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Can you have a discogram to make sure that this is the painful one and there isnt another one that has a tear casueing pain? Not all disc tears show up on mri. Discogram is the gold standard for determining painful discs. I would just want to make sure they got the right one, if I was doing surgery.
  • Hi Paul,

    I had a micrdisc done in Sept 08, you look like an active guy. What are you doing to stay in shape. Before I blew my disc out, I rode a bike, jogged and lifted all the time. If you have some advice I'd greatly appreciate it.


  • It's tough to decide sometimes about surgery like this. I fell while hiking on Mt. Hood back in 98'. I fx'd a vertebrae, it was stable and didn't require surgery.......but over the next decade two disc's blew out. The pain and frustration finally sent me looking for real help last year. We went through all the conservative stuff, PT, meds, injections. Nothing resolved the pain. Then came the discogram confirming disc's at L4 and L5 were torn and causing the pain. After all that we decided to do the fusion. The recovery was very painful for me, I won't kid you. I will admit that I'm not in the best of shape, I know that has an affect. A year later I'd say it was the right thing to do. I'm having some pain now that my Doc is diagnosing which could be "hardware" pain. Worst case scenario, it requires surgery to remove the hardware that was holding everything together before the fusion took hold. Keep asking lot's of questions (to your Doc too) and it will help with your decision.
  • #1 - Get an MRI, get informed. Don't forget to get the printed report besides the films

    #2 - find out how large your herniation is (mine was 6mm, my brother-in-laws was 12mm....eck!)

    #3 - ask your doctor what is the percentage chance of it healing with conservative care. (Mine said 15%...bad!).

    #4 - if it's a high percentage of healing (you decide what that is), try conservative treatment...PT, epidurals, meds.

    #5 - if it's a low percentage, like mine was, start getting opinions with surgeons. 2-3 or more if they are really varied.

    #6 - if the doctors you talk to come to the same conclusion whether it's surgery or conservative care, then seriously consider it.

    #7 - if you are getting "numbing, pins and needles, stabbing pain" and cannot stand on your tippie toe while holding onto something - that's nerve damage and to me (not a professional doctor) that is BAD! Nerve damage can be permanent.

    My short story:
    After months of conservative care and the numbing working it's way up my leg, I saw an Ortho & Neuro surgeons who agreed I needed surgery (especially seeing that I did the conservative care) I easily jumped ship onto the surgery path, got it done. The horrible stabbing pain is gone and the numbness (thank God) is starting to fade and I"m getting my feeling back - woohoo!

    By the way - the surgery only took 30 mins. Probably took me longer to come out of the anesthesia . Went home after the little bit of nausea was gone (same day!). Recovery was tough the first 4 days..and then it's really fast! That's why people injure themselves.

    If you get the surgery download the faq sheet for what to get (stock up on) before the surgery. I wish I had that list, it would have helped a ton!!!

    Good Luck!

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