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L4/L5 discectomy - closing in on 1 year later. Thoughts/Advice...

rolorrolo Posts: 52
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I haven't checked in here for a while, mostly because I have felt so good so often that I haven't gone looking for help from others much. I vow to get on here more often to help others and answer some of the questions they have.
Back to me and my recovery... I had a l4/l5 discectomy in March of 2009 (10.5 months ago). Immediate relief, then got the "it's been 2 weeks, the steroids have worn off" pains return, gradually they got better. Off and on flare ups, often wondering if I reherniated the disc, couple of medrol packs, etc.
So here I am, in the middle of a bad flare up this week. Normally I can trace it back to something (fender bender, lifting a suitcase, etc) but this week I haven't done that much, just sitting a lot. 2 weeks ago I went from coast to coast, sat in mtgs all day for 4 days, and had no issues. This week - I have the nerve irritation pain from hip to foot. The good thing about all the flare ups is "I know it'll pass."
I had an MRI in Nov to make sure the herniation hasn't returned, it hadn't, here were the findings:
All I had to see was "no recurring herniation" to get syched. Then I knew that my issues were either muscular, scar tissue irritation, or something that can possibly be helped or temporary.
I wanted to ask others who have gone through this, how do you tend to deal with flare ups? Can you attribute it to anything in particular? My doc thinks my tight piriformis is the reason I still get pain similar to before, and since I sit a lot he may be right - but you cant stop sitting doc ;)
SO far I have used aleve/ibuprofen and flexeril for flare ups. I do not need any medication when not having a flare up. The flare ups last 2-10 days typically.
Anyone out there found ways to prevent or diminish flare ups? That pesky nerve doesn't seem to even want to go into permanent hibernation ;)


  • I think it is possible that this flare is connected to your trip from two weeks ago. That trip must have irritated the discs, what with all that sitting in cramped spaces, etc. The soft tissue may have swollen just enough that it began to press into a nerve. Perhaps it never completely went away and in the subsequent two weeks, even though nothing jumps out at you, there may have been some other activities that caused a tad more inflammation...just enough to bring on the flare.

    When you are on a trip such as that, do you ice at night back in the hotel? You can buy little ice bags that you empty out after using, and just get ice from the ice machine or room service.

    One thing I would like to mention to anyone who has had surgery and has "recovered" enough to resume functioning....It is important to keep up with the day-to-day activities that will keep the back healthy. It is human nature to resort to the old habits once our back problem heals and we are feeling better. But this usually leads to more of the same problems. For one thing, once inflammation gets going, it is really difficult to get it to go away entirely. It is important to keep up with the back and core exercises and stretching. It is important to get some form of exercise that doesn't cause more stress to the spine, and to try to keep the weight normal.

    It is also very important to monitor body alignment and posture. If you have an office job, make sure it is set up with ergonomics in mind. Pay attention to how you carry your body, and especially how you sit. Most of us have a lifetime of bad habits when it comes to how and where we sit, and these habits are hard to break. But if we want to stay away from the spine specialist's office, it behooves us to learn the correct body mechanics so we're not stressing the discs further.

    I would suggest that when you travel, you need to make time first thing in the morning, and again at night, to stretch and do your back exercises...and at night, to ice if you feel you had a strenuous day. Also, there is a form of traction you can do that will straighten out the spine and unload the discs.

    Lie on the floor, flat on your back, with the knees bent, feet flat on floor about shoulder-width apart. Arms should be close to your sides with the palms facing up to the ceiling. Then you just breathe deeply from the belly, slowly, and relax...for about five minutes.

    If this is not comfortable there is a variation. Lie on the floor with your hips nestled up to a couch or chair. Lift legs and place them on the couch seat, so that from the knees down, you're resting them on the seat of the couch. Be sure the body is always lined up straight so the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are all in alignment (in other words, don't lie at an angle!) Again the purpose of this is to relax so that all the soft tissue that is supporting the spinal column can relax and stop bracing...so the discs can unload and so you have a chance to regain a natural alignment.

    When I was having problems prior to surgery, I would do this as often as ten minutes every hour or two.

    While you're lying on the floor, you can throw in those piriformis stretching exercises before you do the relaxation. And, ice if needed.

    After being at work all day, try not to go home and slouch in a chair to watch TV. Try not to sit longer than 60-90 minutes without getting up and walking, even stretching a bit.

    This all may seem like a lot, but pretty soon it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth...Your back will thank you for it.

  • I am 7 months post op micro-d l5 s1 I started having bad flare ups
    At about 3 months lasting 2 to 4 or 6 days every time I know I reherniated
    Nero serg doc say its normal takes time to heal I have not had post op mri
    Gp doc say try pt first . some days seems to be better especially after traction treatment
    Then after ride in car or shopping trip to Costco walking on concrete floor the little
    Guy in my lower back gets mad and I am done .
    The only thing that seems to helped was one pt doc did Acupressure or some thing.
    The traction helped the low back brick pain a lot but made the leg and foot pain worse
    It seems like its taking a long time to get better I did drive heavy equip for a living but now? I cant drive more than 25 or 40 min doc say it takes time all is normal . ya right
    Have not giving up yet still way better than pre op dead foot ,leg ,&pain that wood not let up- maybe I will try the pressure guy . cyropractor next . let me no if you find something
    To make the mad little nerve guy to move out
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