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L5S1 MicroD Recovery Time.. Is this realistic?

scmgurusscmguru Posts: 103
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My spine surgeon/neurologist @ UCLA indicated that I would be up and about a day or so after the procedure and it would only take a few days to be able to go back to work (desk type job)

However, everything I'm reading here seems VERY different (ie much longer).

My question is two fold..from your experiences..

Is being back at about the 2 week mark going to be an option?


Would I be able to travel a week after the procedure (6 hour flight)?




  • different of course, but I went back to work just a few days after my micro-d. I didn't have much trouble at all. Some pain and tingling down my leg while the nerve tried to wake up, but no worse than what I had before the surgery. I'm fairly certain I would have had no trouble flying a week after the surgery. Now -- there are some folks here who ended up having complications or other problems that probably would have meant they needed to be out two weeks or more and they probably couldn't have flown. All I can say is, it wouldn't have been a problem for me!


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • But, just because you CAN do it...should you? Does that mean it gives your spine the best chance of recovery?

    When you look at the percentage of people that develop problems with the same disc a very short time after micro-discectomy, is it because they try to resume normal activities before they have completely healed??

    I know my surgeon has commented several times that the biggest problem he has with people after micro-d is trying to keep them from doing too much. They feel really good and want to do all the things they have not been able to do prior to surgery...and very often they end up doing too much and he gets them back in his office with a reherniation or something similar.

    I think most people do quite well after micro-d. Barring any unusual problems, you should be able to resume work. I would question the trip plans though. I think that would be very hard on your spine so soon after surgery. You really shouldn't sit for more than about 15-20 minutes at a time before getting up and moving around. That is never easy on a plane.

    Good luck with your surgery.

  • Good points Gwennie . . .from someone who is going in Tuesday to find out if I re-herniated my disc.

    It's realistic to say you'll be mobile after the surgery. However, you really have to be careful not to bend, twist, or lift. You also shouldn't sit for that long as scar tissue will build. At work, it's very hard to get comfortable.

    My personal opinion is that it is realistic what you want to do but you have to be prepared to change plans and listen to your body and not push it.

    I had a bad herniated disc L5-S1. It's been 3 months and I have very little improvement. Went back for a follow up MRI and have been asked to come in to see the doctor for results.

    What would I do differently?
    - Take all the help
    - Do not bend to take laundry out of dryer
    - lie flat, ice, walk every hour for about 10-15 mins
    - Do not drive or even go in car the 1st 2 weeks unless necessary
    - Do not drive self until week 3 or 4
    - Do not be so quick to go back IN to work. I should have taken a full week off (yes, I worked from home a few days after surgery out of boredom) and not gone back to work in office until week 3 or 4.

    From someone that is waiting to hear back on a potential reherniation and who has given it thought, I would recommend being cautious. The surgery is not the tough part . . .it's the 'rest and recovery' like Gwennie mentions.
  • Yes you can be up a few days after the op and it may be possible to go back to work at 2 weeks, from my own experience I would say that you would be pushing it. My surgeon's restrictions at 2 weeks still prevented me for sitting for longer than 20 minutes.

    As far as flying, I would say no. I had to make a 13 hour flight at 3 months after my micro-d and 4 days after a sacral epidural injection and it was painful. If you have absolutely no choice, then you would need someone else to carry your bags, maybe even think about booking a wheelchair, and stand for as much of the flight as you can.

  • I definitely agree that you should NOT risk a 6-hour flight so soon after your surgery (and it IS surgery, btw, not just a procedure). However, don't let what you read on this site scare you away from having it done. Realize that you are mostly reading the worst-case scenarios and that most of the people here are here for a reason - to find support when things don't go as hoped/planned. I'm one of them. Definitely didn't expect to have this much pain 12 days post-op, which is what led me to this site. If things were going well, I most likely would never have sought advice from sources outside of my surgeon's office. You very well may be one of the much larger percentage of people who recover quickly w/o any problems. Just make sure and ask what the worst-case scenario could be, and clear your calendar for at least a month just in case!

    Good Luck!
  • Could I get up and be mobile after my L4-L5 md? Yes.
    Could I have gone back to work 2 weeks after? Yes, and I did.

    Looking back, I was very foolish to have done so.
    I didn't have any problems but a person should give themselves much more time to recover.

    The first post-op month is when the disc is most vulnerable.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • As someone who has "been there, done that" with the micro-d, I would say plan for the worst and hope for the best. This is not negative in any way at all BUT if you do better than you planned, that's great however you may be putting pressure on yourself to heal at a faster rate and do harm to yourself. I myself am back on this board because I did re-herniate two years later, not in my post-op period. The two years in between these incidents, I was relatively pain free, only needing to see my PCP once this past Febuary for steroids/muscle relaxers/pain meds otherwise my aches were nothing that Aleve didn't usually fix.

    That being said, I originally requested 6 weeks off from work and I was actually out for 8 weeks, mostly because I tripped and fell 3 weeks post-op so we were extra cautious. When I returned to work I only worked 20 hrs/week, 5 hrs/shift. Then I moved up to 32/week for a week, then finally was full-time another week later.

    The other important question is, what type of work do you do? I am a nurse which limited me with some job restrictions for a while. I felt ready to return to work but I got my butt kicked for that first month back even with limited hours! I had a position at the time in which 40% of my time was in the office and 60% of my time was caring directly for patients. So I pretty much had equal time sitting at a desk and doing work that was considered more strenous, they both felt equally bad to me but in different ways.

    As far as flying...that's a really long flight! You definitely shouldn't be lifting ANY luggage, I think its pretty standard to put you on a 10-15 lb weight restriction!

    Let us know how you're doing...when is your surgery?
  • NO.

    That is not realistic to go back to work in a few days with a traditional micro-d, in my opinion. Unless you are taking muscle relaxers and morphine at work, then maybe, but I wouldn't recommend that. You need as much time to heal as you can get. When did the doc say it was appropriate to start PT? That is a much better timeline.

    Flying? whew,...that's a lot of sitting. Try to stand up as much as possible if you can or if you can, find a way to lay down using empty seats, I guess.

    Good Luck.

  • Hi everyone.. thanks for the input.

    I'm going to reschedule for the week after my return.

    I definitely don't want to risk any type of complications.

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