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Pain has improved, should I go through with surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
I am a 33-year-old female who has been diagnosed with L5-S1 disc herniation, referred to by one doctor as "impressive" (the herniation, not me), that extrudes and impinges on the nearby nerve root. Beginning around November 2008, I had moderate leg pain and numbness; in December 2008 this turned into excruciating pain (probably a 9) that limited pretty much every facet of my life, making it difficult to do anything that wasn't laying perfectly still flat on my back. Went through pain meds, heat/ice, PT, and three rounds of ESIs, which helped for a couple of months. Then the pain came back with a vengeance. Pain management guy told me the next step was surgical consult, and both surgeons I saw (one ortho, one neuro--both back specialists) recommended L5-S1 microdiscectomy.

However, now with my surgery scheduled a week and half out, my pain has improved. Still limits me somewhat, but I don't need meds or anything. I am not sure if I should go through with the surgery, but I am concerned, though, about what happens if I don't have the surgery...am I going to be trapped in a terrible cycle of recurring severe pain. Murphy's law (and my luck) says as soon as I cancel surgery my pain will flare back up. Particularly since I am planning on trying to have children in the near future, and I can't even fathom being pregnant with the level of pain I experienced this past December/January and April/May.

Given the six-to-seven month history of pain, and its recurrence, any thoughts on whether it is reasonable to go ahead with the surgery even if the pain is not so severe right now?


  • Welcome dianek.

    That's a tough call,and only a decision that you can make.Before deciding on any surgery I've always done everything else possible that I could to live with my problems for at least a year..if medically possible.

    Is it possible for you to get another MRI~and when was the last MRI that you had..or any other tests?
    Sometimes surgery can help the pain,but other times the pain remains the same,and even other times the pain is even worse than it was before the surgery.

    I'm sorry that I can't help you more,but maybe following this link will give you better information and help you in making a desicion.

    Good luck,and please keep posting~Others here can answer better than myself,and you can get a lot of support here.With or without surgery.

  • Your story sounds very similar to mine -- except I'm 54 years old -- and I've been going through the pain "tango" since October of last year. I'll be meeting with a new ortho doc this coming Thursday to see if surgery is warranted.

    Like everyone else on this site, what I say to you is just an opinion -- You should make your decisions based on information from your doctors.

    I have learned everything I can about my herniated disc issue (great info on this website) -- I, too, have had 3 epidurals, chiropractic, PT, massage, pain meds and have had very little success with the epi's. I just lost my job a couple of weeks ago due to being out so much dealing with the pain. In my case, I would be willing to try surgery, if it's recommended because I have nothing to lose -- my quality of life is so hindered by my pain issues that a chance to regain my life is worth it to me.

    Take care and I wish for you a future filled with NO MORE PAIN!
  • My advice... hang in there and see if you keep improving.

    I had GREAT results with discectomy -- BOTH TIMES (reherniation 2 years after first surgery) -- but it's herniated again and I'm weary of this. I just don't think surgery provides a good long-term solution b/c it doesn't "fix" the disc. There's still a hole in the darn disc and -- at least in my case -- it keeps ooooozing out and causing me severe and debilitating pain every two years.

    I'm going to try exercise, PT, etc this time.

  • Seems like there's so little info on ruptured disks. Everyone is guessing. Docs just shrug their shoulders like everyone else. Snip the protrusion...NEXT PATIENT.

    Does the disk tear vertically or horizontally. Does the nucleus really just keep oozing out? What happens post surgery? Does running/jumping just pump more nucleus out? If the nucleus is so soft then why does it push so hard on the nerve root? If you didn't have the surgery, will the protruding nucleus keep the rest from oozing out? This is the INTERNET! Where are all the PHOTOS! Is this an epidemic or are we just the unlucky few?

    My NS acted like these questions had never been asked before. Guess that makes me the smartest guy in the room. haha.

    I would want all these questions answered by someone way smarter than me before letting them cut on my spine.
  • surgeon and talk to him/her i would think that you are just having a good patch at the moment and you will flare up in the not too distant future the problem with disc herniation is the nerve it at risk of being permanently damaged if you dont have surgery .one other thing to think about is .you will almost certainly have back ache after any spinal surgery and your back will be weak and more than likely you will require more surgery later in life .it is a tough call so seek proper medical advice ..get another MRI and make sure you have a very good surgeon i wish you more that all the best
  • since our stories sound so similair...
    I'm at a crossroads too, at the 6 month + point and still wondering
    if I should have surgery. you can read my story here:


    I still have some sciatic/back pain (1-4) but I am mainly still experiencing a lot of numbness/pulling sensation in my calf/ankle/foot. Worried this will be permanent without surgery but I have improved so much since my second "blow-out" it is confusing. I know how you feel, so
    emotionally draining to make decisions-

    wish you the best,
  • While I am trying to remain positive and optimistic I feel that pretty soon I may be going in for surgery. I have another shot next week with my spine ortho who believes that it could be my hip so while I am getting it I do not believe it will be the cause. I will exhaust everything before I go for surgery.


    Also if I let it heal on its own will it have less a chance of herniating again?

    They keep quoting these numbers to me about 90% of the people never need surgery but they never tell you how many of those 90% ever get their quality of life back!

    I have now had 2 epis, multiple shots, PT, chiro, accupuncture but I still can not walk for more than a few blocks without it acting up and my nights are so tough at times.

    I know how you feel deltalady and the original starter of the thread, in the end you just want your life back but maybe I should accept that getting that back is a fantasy. I would love to hear success stories but I guess they are not here as this is for people with pain...lol.

    In my case as I have read in others some of us are not lucky enough to have the monies to go without a job or change our life style so much so we can survive. I think besides quality of life, you have to consider the ability to continue to support yourself and/or family financially.

  • If my pain was improving, I would not have gone through my microdiscectomies. My pain just got worse and like you said not working is not an option right now, so I went ahead with the microDs.
  • pLEASE contact your surgoen and explain that your situation seems to be improving and what was the risk if the surgery was delayed by say a month. Unless you have foot drop or cauda equina, surgery is NOT a must have. I am going thru the same situation, my surgoen advised for surgery about 2.5 weeks ago and I told him I want to buy3-4 weeks, as soon as I got out of his office I joined NYSC and started swimming. After 2 weeks of swimming I am atleast 50% better.
    They cant force you to have surgery, but it's ultimately making the right choice and I think if thre is no danger of waiting a few days to see how it's going then delay it. But it's your decision ultimately; For me I want to do everything in this world to avoid that procedure
  • Funny this coming up as I am now thinking about the surgery again myself. I am not suffering from the prolapse but because of the decrease in disc height caused by the DDD.
    The pain is not as bad as before and I am managing to work part time but I am editing bits out of my life, I am tired all the time and the pain in my hip etc is not awful but is wearing me down.
    My doc said that the surgery is my best bet but I don;t know if I should just live with the pain and my reduced life.
  • i cannot tell you how much it can help, if i had to choose surgery v/s mother nature.....
  • I do swim every week day - i swam before too. I can't swim as far now because of the leg cramps though. I have reached a plateau in my improvement - i got quite a bit better but now have pain around my hips and down my leg.
    The doc said it was because the foraminal gap was tight now because of the disc's collapse.
    I really think I need to try the op - I am too young to stop doing all the things I usually do. At least if I try then I know i did everything.
  • good luck Nel, i wish u the best i am sure whatever you decide will be the right thing for you
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