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To do or not to do...surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am a 22 year old college athlete(well former now that football season is done). I have had two small herniations at the L4/L5 and L5/S1 level for a few years. I have been able to go 4-6 and sometimes 8 weeks feeling pain free and then something would cause a flare up that would cause me to take it easy for a few days, but that was it. This year I started to get some pain into my leg which was a new symptom and the back pain/stiffness was more frequent. I had an MRI done in September which showed that the disks were pretty much unchanged so I had an injection to help get me through the season. After the season ended I started to try and really focus on losing weight and strengthening my core and back muscles (both formal and informal PT) to hopefully provide a long term fix. In December I started to get pain into my butt and hip but the doctor said it was the sciatica and the best thing I could do for it at this point was therapy and rest. So that's what I basically did, although I did play a few games of basketball. Last week while sitting at the library I started to have extreme leg pain and foot numbness that I have never had before, and I do not know what brought it on. After getting another MRI it showed that my L5/S1 disc had ruptured and was compressing my sciatic nerve pretty good. The doctor told me that he would do surgery but it was up to me because these things can resolve themselves sometimes, but it could take up to 6 months. I live a very active lifestyle and want to continue that way. I have been avoiding surgery because I have an idea in my head that once I get surgery on my back, I will have to give up alot of activity. However, the nonsurgical approach has not really been able to keep me as active as I would like to be. I guess I just want to hear from people who have done it both ways, surgery and no surgery, and see how active they have been able to be, and if people have been able to get back to their original activity level.


  • I hear it can take longer to heal even 15 months or more. It's been a year for me,but maybe it could be an age thing too. I would get a 2nd opinion if you were offered surgery. Good luck in you football season. www.chiroguy.com
    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
  • Titan I am 25 but not nearly as active as you. I can tell you personally that surgery depending on what he is is recommending can slow you down for a while, at least 3-6 months.

    Age does make a big difference on healing factor tho. I am progressing far faster then most.

    What surgery has he recommended? Living with sciatica and pain for 6 months is not fun, I barely made it through 3 months before my surgery.

    I was having pain down my right hip all the way to my ankle, more I walked the worse it'd get. Foot would also go numb and tingle.

  • Like you before my injury, and even after my injury I was a pretty active guy and what I thought pretty tough. From my experience, sciatic pain is debilitating, but fusion surgery is major surgery and has it's risks. Fusion surgery is not like knee, even hip surgery. I know and understand, I will be able to enjoy most of the activities I was able to enjoy before, but not as I was before.

    My recovery from my back surgery has been exponentially rougher than my recovery from my hip injury, or surgery and I myself am a little jelous of Jakotsu's progress. Although I am signifcantly older at 38, I felt that prior to my injury, I was in much better shape physically than I was at 25. Though I can physically do less than before my surgery, my overall level of pain has decreased significantly.

    Like Charry said, maybe a second opinion, get all the information you can prior to surgery, and weigh all your options.

    "I live a very active lifestyle and want to continue that way. I have been avoiding surgery because I have an idea in my head that once I get surgery on my back, I will have to give up alot of activity. However, the nonsurgical approach has not really been able to keep me as active as I would like to be." Titan 09 ----aaah The Connundrum (sp?)

    In the last few months just prior to my surgery, I could barely walk at work anymore, let alone ski or climb mountains. For me, I had to wait until my pain got to the point where I couldn't do anthing anymore, because I didn't want to risk the "limits" of fusion surgery. My recovery has been rough, but now I can walk, and work and look forward to skiing a little bit, (not competitively) next season. :)))

    Hope this helps and good luck.
  • I don't see what surgery is being recommended - a microdiscectomy or fusion?

    My DH is extremely active as well - he had a micro in 2001, and although he does have backaches he still does everything he wants to - running, lifting, skiing, gardening, joining the military etc. At age 45 he is in the best shape of his life. The NS feels his recovery is just a tad unusual ;) But then my DH is one determined individual.

    I had a fusion July 2008 and am still not allowed to bend, lift more than 25lbs or twist. So the jury is out on where I will be in another 5-10 years.

    In any case - choosing the BEST surgeon and being in good shape goes a long way in determining your recovery - that said, things still go wrong and you do not want this kind of surgery unless it is a last resort.
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