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Discectomy Surgery Questions

SapaSSapa Posts: 47
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone,

I've been living with pain from herniated discs between L4 & L5 and L5 & S1 for about 2 1/2 years. It seemed to lessen for a while, but recently, the pain and numbness in my right leg has come back, and increased. I've tried everything, rest, pain meds, anitinflamatory meds, Physio, Chiro, Accupuncture, Massage, Walking, injections, nothing helps.

Finally, my Ortho specialist wants to do surgery to remove the herniation between L5 & S1 because it's pressing on the nerve and my leg is getting weaker. Actually, I've been told my muscle is atrophying (sp?)

Anyway, I'll be going for surger in December to remove that disc, and was just wondering what to expect in terms of recovery. What have some of you experienced? (I know everyone's different) But how was the pain after surgery? Were you in bed for a while? Could you take care of yourself, or did you need help? How long were you off work? Did it help a lot in the end?

Anything you can tell me, I would really appreciate hearing! Thanks everyone!!



  • PS: I also have Fibromyalgia, so how does that impact recovery and effectiveness of the surgery? If anyone else has Fibro and has had surgery, I'd love to hear your experiences too!

  • I cant tell you about your surgery, but I have Fibro and had a fusion last Dec. I know that the fibro makes recovery a little harder, as we seem to have more pain. But it did not affect my fusion. It completely fused in 9 months. So, just wanted to offer what I have gone through, and will be hoping and praying that it works well for you. Take Care, Love, Robin
  • Removing the disc that is pressing on your nerve should give you substantial relief. The recovery from the actual microdiscectomy should be a piece of cake, but you may have issues with the nerve attempting to regenerate itself after being so severely compressed for this long. I wonder at them waiting until December to do your surgery, are they really that booked? At any rate, you may want to ask about a prescription (if they think it will help) for Lyrica or gabapentin, as I'm sure your nerve will bother you as it begins to wake up from the compression. Hopefully, the micro will really improve your situation and you will have a bright future ahead of you.

    All the best,
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hi Sapa. I had recently had surgery ....and it was umm... Painful but manageable.

    I had a laminectomy / Micro-discetomy, on my L-5 S-1

    In fact today is day 10 and I drove for the 1st timethis afternoon. . I am walking. I am blessed.

    What would you like to know ?

    I was in the hospital for 2 days. You are properly medicated in the form of general anesthia....You won't feel anything until you wake up...a little sore at first, I had to get used to moving around again, and was extremely tired and starving, as you cannot eat anything after midnite !

    I was put on a morphine drip for a day, so you may find that comforting, although I didn't...it made me really nauseous.

    I was prescribed Vicodins 750 : before that , i was prescribed Norcos. But your doctor will give you something for pain, don't worry.

    If you have any more questions, just ask !
  • My recovery was extremely hard. First of all I was not at all prepared for it. My doctor told me that I would be OK to go back to work in 2 weeks so I figured it would be fairly easy. That could not have been farther from the truth. No bending lifting or twisting will effect you in ways that you could not imagine. Being able to wash yourself in the shower, twist after using the toilet, turn over in bed, etc. Please read the post op must haves as you will be much better off if you are prepared. The surgery did help the pain in my leg but it did get worse before it got better. I had to have lots of help dressing, bathing etc post op. I agree with another poster that the longer the nerve has been compressed the angrier it may be when it is revived. Mine was compressed for about 4 years before surgery. There is a good possibility that your post op will not be anything like mine. I am just trying to prepare you just in case it is. I would much rather of been prepared for the worst as lack of preparation really made it so much worse. Good luck and keep us posted with your progress.
  • Thank you so much for your replies! I know that everyone's experience is different, but I like to know what others have experienced - I like to feel prepared, knowing all the possibilities!

    I have to wait until December, because I don't have enough sick time to have it done right away. I was off on disability for 2 years, and used up all my sick time. I've only been back for a few months, and have 11 days sick days banked so far. I get 2 weeks off at Xmas time (I work for a school division) so I have to work that into my recovery period. Hopefully, I'll be okay to return to work after that! But I'm not going to go back before I'm properly healed, even if I have to take extra time. I don't want to have gone through all of this and end up messing it all up by going back before I'm okay!

    I'm sure that as the time gets closer, I'll have more questions. And I will definitely look at the post mentioned about post-op needs! Thanks again for your help and good wishes.

    Please post again to me if you have any more comments/suggestions! I appreciate them all.

    Take care,
  • I think the most important thing going into any back surgery is to realize that it is not a quick fix and it is not like any other surgery. Even once the patient is recovered from the surgical process, there is still healing to be done...as in your case with the compressed nerve. You may look fine and others will think you are fine, but you will still be healing and may still have pain.

    Also, it seems to me that most docs err on the side of being overly optimistic when they tell you the recovery time. It takes most of us longer than what we've been led to believe.

    Keep walking and try to stay as conditioned as possible. If possible keep doing simple core strengthening as these muscles are very important as you recover.

    If you have educated yourself about the surgical procedure you will be having, and about your mechanical problems, you will be better off and have fewer surprises! Feel free to post with all your questions and concerns.

  • Hi again, I've thought of another question.

    How are stairs after surgery? We have 2 floors and basement, our bedroom is on the top floor, but we do have a guest room on the main floor. It's 15 steps to go upstairs. I won't have to go downstairs, so I'm not worried about that, but my clothes, toletries, the shower, the DVD player and PVR are upstairs. I'm thinking that I should at least move some clothes, toletries, etc. down to the main floor.

    Are you able to have a shower/bath after surgery? Or do you have to sponge bath only?

    I printed off the list of items for post-op, and it's awesome! Thanks for that.

    I'm having trouble walking now, with numbness in my foot and pain down my leg. I've been told my muscle is atrophying (not sure how to spell that) but I do want to walk more and try and correct that. I'm hoping the surgery will at least take away the pain in my leg so I can do that.


  • I had my microdiscectomy/laminotomy (sp) on October 15. I was in the hospital 24 hours. I was lucky in that I had very little pain after my surgery, most of the pain was at the incision. My nerve was pinched for about 4 months, but what was supposed to be a 4-hr surgery turned into a 5-hr surgery because there was also much calcification around the nerve in question, so the surgeon had to chip away all of the calcification in order to free the nerve, then take care of the herniations.
    My catheter was removed before I woke up from the surgery, so I had no worries there. And I had a dry throat but not a sore throat from the breathing tube. About 4 hours after surgery I was walking down the hall with the help of a tech. That first time was difficult and I was just taking baby steps, but after that I was up every two hours to use the bathroom because I still had an IV pumping fluids into me.
    The next morning a physical therapist had me walk down a hall and up and down a few stairs before I could go home. If you have stairs and you cannot climb them, they will not let you go home right away because stairs are pretty much a no-no for a few days at least. For about 5 days stairs were rough, but with handrails they are not too bad.
    I have my 2-week post-op this Friday when I have my staples removed and finally get the ok to drive again. I say just follow dr's orders and don't try to do too much. Use the pain meds if you need them, but if you are like me and the pain is not bad, ibuprofen and tylenol work just as wel.
    Just remember it is not a quick fix, especially if the nerve has been compressed for a long time. Right now I feel about the same as I did before surgery. I still have leg weakness and foot drop and numbness on my left side. The dr. told me I may always have the foot drop to some extent now due to the length of time the nerve had been compressed. But only time and lots of physical therapy will tell; I figure it will be at least a year or two before I will be able to bowl or play tennis again. I guess this is a good time for me to learn patience, since I'm not a very patient person, lol
    Good luck to you....keep a positive attitude...it goes a long way!
  • Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the info! I really appreciate your calm way of stating the facts of your experience!

    I'm trying to be realistic about what to expect. It's hard not to hope for "a miracle" after living with this for quite a while, but I know you are right. I have to wait and see how it goes, and take it as it comes!

    I do plan on being careful - not trying to do too much too soon. And as for pain meds, I try not to overdo it, but I will take them as needed. (And, of course, as directed by the Doctor!!)

    Thanks again!
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