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Microdiscectomy...what to expect?

JennasisJJennasis Posts: 19
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have my first (and hopefully last) microdiscectomey scheduled for 4/6/10. I have a herniated L5-S1, pressing pretty heavily on the nerve and causing excruciating pain in my right butt cheek, and down my entire right leg. My right calf and the top of my foot are numb and the leg is weak.

I've had the herniated disc for 16 years but it worsened this past January. I was incapacitated for 3 weeks before finally gong for an epidural. Then last week the sciatic stuff happened and I am unable to walk, stand or anything. The pain is excrutiating. An MRI this week confirmed the worsening of the disc and I saw the surgeon yesterday.

So what can I expect in terms of post op and recovery time? I am a professional riding instructor and manage a horse farm with 27 horses, so my job is very physical. I know I'll be unable to ride for some time, but I'm mostly looking for what to expect in terms of pain relief post-op.

How long will I be "bed-ridden"? How long before i can walk around? Bend? Go back to work? Back to the gym? What kind of pain will I experience from the surgical incision?



  • If you type microdiscetomy or micro-d in the search box at the top of the page, it will bring up thousands of posts about the experiences of many members on this site. Please keep in mind a couple things. First off, no one recovery or person is the same, so regardless, time lines and recovery will vary from person to person. Second, that most people who stick around on Spine Health, tend to be those who didn't have a picture perfect experience, so it can easily skew your outlook as to how successful this procedure can be.


    Here's an article written by Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD that can give you a real good idea about the procedure and recovery.

    Welcome to Spine Health

  • Hi there...I would take HaglandC's recommendations and look around.

    I had a MicroD (same level).
    They will have you up walking to the bathroom with in a couple hours of surgery. If possible, you should ask your doctor to keep you overnight at the hospital. It's just easier though not necessary if you are the first surgery of the morning.

    Recovery varies. Some feel relief in the leg right away but others it takes some time if the nerve was very compressed. The recovery period is 6weeks (up to 3 months) under doctor's supervision (usually you'll go for a post op appt about 2 weeks out and then again around 6 weeks).

    The key is no bending, twisting, lifting.
    This means no laundry, dishes out of the dishwasher, no grooming horses (as this is twisting).

    Your doctor will give you instructions but you'll find that walking is the best thing. Not distances but just frequent short, flat walks to help scar tissue from attaching to the nerve. And don't sit for long periods. Keep sitting (especially the first few weeks) to meals - and limit them to 10-15 mins.

    I think the toughest thing will be stopping yourself from doing stuff when you 'start' to feel better. Many reherniations are because people feel better and think it's ok to bend just a little. Don't be fooled. Be serious for 6-weeks.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks!

    The hubby had shoulder surgery last August (torn labrum) and I had to do EVERYTHINg around the house and farm for 4 months...I think he can handle the same for me for a few weeks.

    I can't WAIT till Tuesday. The pain is just unbearable.
  • Higlandc is right I think the micro-ds on hear are the 10% that didn’t have the perfect outcome a good friend of mine also a heavy equip operator like me had the same surgery
    He was able to go back to work 5 or 6 months after and at 1 year he say he hardly ever thinks about it its been 6 years he is still good to go
    After surgery for me almost all the leg pain was gone I had real bad incision burning pain but after 2 shots of morphine witch did not work and some vicodin I was up doing laps around the hospital they had me stay the night since they did not get done until after 7 pm . micro d in a perfect world you will be up and running in 4 to 6 weeks according to the docs but after surg think about a little longer time to recover don’t get in a hurry 3 months ? every one is different
    Dnice is right on take it easy I my self thought minable invasive surgery I wood be heeld up and back to normal routine in 6 weeks and I tried to and my body say no
    remember It is still spine surgery there ant nothing minable about it
    I still wish I wood have did it sooner and have not tried to do so much to soon after
    Keep us updated on how u are doing good luck
  • It depends on the technique. You see, there are different types of "microdiscectomies".
    Do you happen to know what approach your surgeon will use?

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • my outcome. I awoke from surgery feeling so much better. The pain relief was fairly instantaneous. However, a few days later, the pain in my leg became unbearable again. The doctor said it was because my nerve was trying to come back to life. It hurt for about a week, and then got better. I felt great but then six months later, I had a relapse and ended up having to have a fusion. I really wish the micro had held, but I guess my spine was too unstable.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Spine stability plays a role.
    This is why at about 6-weeks it's important to ask about PT. Some doctors prefer to wait to 3-months and some don't think it's necessary.

    But I do think rebuilding your core muscles can help avoid relapse.

    I know at least 5 people personally who are anywhere from 2-10 years out on the procedure and are happy. They have modified their life a bit to avoid impact activities and do take caution on bending, twisting, lifting but they are generally fine.
  • HI
    I can briefly tell u this,,,I had a micro'd in 4/09. I felt better right away. I could not stand the calf pain, left leg anylonger. After the surgery, that was allieviated. You do have to be careful.
    I have taken a fall and have re-herniated the same L-5..epiduals being done soon, another poss micro'd...so, as they all said here,.,,,no BLT....take it slowly
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