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Too late for surgery??

FaraFFara Posts: 16
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
It's been about 8 1/2 months since I herniated my disc. I have a far-lateral herniated disc at L4/L5. Upon the initial herniation, my leg was very weak and numb, but I never really had much back pain. I am able to walk normally now and have increased strength in my leg, but after trying more conservative methods, i.e. oral steroids, physical therapy and ESI, I still have some numbness, tingling, weakness and more pain.

Is it too late to have a microdiscectomy? I read somewhere that after 6 months, the surgery is not as successful. Is this true and is it worth a try? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!




  • from my knowledge that is not true, it took me almost 1 year to get a diagnosis and operation for a herniated disc and the result is 100% recovery, i have an artificial disc now and im much better! your best of asking a surgeon what they think, but I have heard of people having surgery after 10 years pain!
  • Howdy Laura,

    I say it depends because each spine issue is unique. I went 2+ years before I was fused at C5/6 - way to long due to me being a chicken with no answers! I had 100% recovery on that one. My next level, when it went, damaged my exit nerve. So waiting 10 minutes (facetious here a bit) for me was too long?!? What I am getting at is it all depends on the health of the nerve, not necessarily the length of time from symptoms to surgery. I hope that helps.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • My micro-d on L4-L5 was almost a year after it happened.
    Keep an eye on the size of the muscles in your leg.
    I never noticed mine. The doctor measured them and one calf was smaller than the other.


    The longer a nerve stays compressed, the longer it takes to heal. The numbness and tingling I had took about 6 months to fully go away.

    Each case is different of course.
    Best wishes.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Thanks to you all. This has helped shed some light on my situation and has made me more confident if I decide to have the surgery. I will be discussing my options soon with my doctor. Hopefully, he can help me with coming to the best solution for my case. Part of me just wants this all to be done with so I can get back to normal...
  • Laura,

    Hopefully you will be fine and won't need surgery. I've found over the years that my body pretty well tells me if something serious is wrong with me. The details no, but "I" could tell... Are you finding the pain is changing or reducing? I hope so. *hug*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • if you have little or no back pain and can walk the keep out of operating theatres ..its a sure bet that even if you have an operation and you have a good result you will more than likely require more surgery as the years roll on ..think long and hard surgery is not always the answer and ANY spinal surgery is a major operation .if you have no back pain you will after an operation as various structure will have to be cut and believe me low back ache is torcher i know as i have been living with it for the last 4 years {constant} and 15 years on and off ..
  • I had stable radicular symptoms for 5 years before having surgery. Pain increased severely making surgery the only viable solution. Radiculopathy was gone immediately after surgery, and still gone 4 months post. Remember everyone is different, but if you had true loss of function you should discuss that with your surgeon promptly.
  • Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for your comment. I understand what you say when "you" feel a difference. When the doctors measure my strength, they don't see much of a difference between my legs, but "I" can. One docotor told me that pain is subjective, which in a way I can see that.

    After my epidural injection, my symptoms have increased. My pain management dr. explained to me that sometimes, the epidural injection can irritate the nerve causing the it to become more irritated which sounds like what happened in my case. My lower back pain is increasing in addition to the tingles and numbness, and weakness in my foot. My suregeon was most confident that I would be better after the shot, but here I am today with the same symptoms which is why I am considering surgery. I keep going back and forth in my head about having the surgery as I really just don't know if it help me or hinder me. And of course, the doctors cannot say either way. Pure frustratiion...

  • Thanks for the advice and I am sorry that you are experiencing pain. My main concern is that my back pain will increase after the surgery and when I ask about this, they say most likely no. But then again, they said that the ESI would make my symptoms go away when in turn, it exasperated them. According to some doctor's that I have seen, I should of had the surgery when the herniation first occurred, but I took the gamble and wanted to wait it out to see if I would get better. I have gotten a lot stronger (I couldn't stand on my left leg due to the weakness) and never had much back pain to begin with which has baffled the doctors from day 1. My thinking is that as long as the nerve is compressed, then I will be doing more damage. Isn't it common sense that if something is impinging the nerve, to get it off of it and let it be able to breathe again??

  • Glad to hear that you radiculopathy has subsided. That is great news!

    I understand that every case is different and I totally take that into consideration as I read these posts and comments. My function is not necessarily disabling me, but it does hinder me from being the fully active person that I used to be. If I carry my laundry bag up and down stairs, later that day, I am in tons of pain and the feeling of weakness in my foot increases. But I have been told that there is no gurantee that surgery will even correct this... so do I continue to wait it out and deal with it, or do I suck it up, have the surgery and pray for the best. These are the questions that I know only I can asnwer, but I just can't figure out what the best solution is!
  • A smart doctor will admit (as yours did) that they can't guarantee any spine surgery will give you full pain and symptom relief. We all of course wish and pray that the surgery will be a 'fix' all, but many times it just knocks down the pain a bit, and hopefully stops the increase of damage to the nerve area involved.

    I see in some of your posts following this one that you are 'wanting your active' life back. Whoah, we all want(ed) that. Once you have surgery, all bets are off! I've had the 'good results' and the 'bad results' of surgery. After my first one, you could have convinced me I could climb Mt. Everest! After my second one, I was lucky if I could pick up a can of soda and not have it fall out of my hand!

    Continued nerve damage or paralysis risk in both cases were resolved, but the daily affects on my life continue. My old active happy go lucky life is gone, but I am not totally unhappy with the new me, as I am constantly adjusting. If you look around on here (and it won't take long) you will see members who had no real choice - well short of emergency, we have a choice, but did we..(another story), underwent 1,2 or more surgeries only to be in much worse shape! Once they go in, there is no turning back, and unless your a lucky one (and there are those with great success - my first was great!) you may start down a very bumpy road with some major issues.

    Surgery of course as you also put it is between you and your surgeon. If a disk is healing (shrinking back in), it could take months to years to resolve. That is part of the reason most insurance companies require 'all' conservative measures before surgery is offered and approved. I'm sorry that your hurting, and I wish that would go away. Try and balance between the pain days and the 'not so bad' days to aid in your decision. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Have you looked at other options in the meanwhile? What I mean is tasks; you said carrying the laundry makes you hurt later on, not right then and there? Have you tried wearing a brace (like the ones you see people at say...Home Depot wear) when you are lifting things, or doing a lot of bending? Not wear it all the time, just when doing things you know make you hurt later? If your disk is healing, this might help keep it from being aggravated over everyday tasks. Just some thoughts... :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks for your suggestions. I have asked my doctor about extra support but they didn't think it would help much. I should of have surgery right away but I was told by my second opinion surgeon that it wasn't necessary and that I would get better on my own. I didn't realize how different the views were from one dr. to another!!

    Unfortunately, my disc does not seem to be receeding at all. I had another MRI to see if there was a change and my disc has not moved at ALL. The nerve was just as inflammed as it was when it first happened.

    If carrying let's say a laundry bag, I do have some pain while carrying it but mainly feel the pressure in my foot: weakness and tingles. Then a shortly after, I get the back pain. I am trying to tough it out, and I know that I am very lucky to not have the constant pain that some on here have. It's mainly the weakness and numbness in my foot that cause me distress. I hate walking and the feeling I get when I step down on my foot. I totally feel a difference between my 2 legs.

    Thanks again for the advice.
  • Laura,

    As was stated by a--l, if function is being affected, you want to make sure your doctor knows about it, and too to what degree. As to different doctors and different opinions, lol, you got that right!!! Different eyes, different views. :)

    When my C6/7 went, my doctor was much more concerned with the weakness than the numbness. Also too, he used the pain to help zero in more on what all was being affected. It's all pieces of the overall puzzle. Don't you love being a puzzle? :) I hope your having a better day today. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
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