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Suger scheduled, but...

ouchmybackoouchmyback Posts: 16
Here is a link to my recent MRI
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16846982/My MRI.jpg

I am scheduled for a discectomy on January 7.

I am a 56 year old male in reasonable condition. I've had a herniated disk at S1/L5 for over 20 years. About every 6 months plus or minus, it flares up and I can hardly walk for a day or 2. Then after a few days more, I'm back to "normal".

2 months ago I had a severe flare up. Unlike all past occasions, this time I have severe pain down my left leg. From the buttock downward (back of my thigh) is numb, cramping in my calf, and numbness in my left foot, heel and 2 toes. Had the above mentioned MRI and you can visualize the bulge. I think my symptoms are classic S1 nerve root compression.

This particular episode, the back pain resolved in about 7 days, but the leg pain persists. (2 months and counting) Met with a spinal neurosurgeon, and he suggested a discectomy.

I've been taking Vicodin 500mg twice daily along with naproxen. I've been on this regime for about 3 weeks.

However, with about 10 days to go before the scheduled surgery, my leg pain is getting a bit better. Is this due to the anti-inflamatories? (Still cant put on my own socks though!) So now I'm thinking, gee I'm starting to feel a bit better, should I put the surgery off? If I do, I can almost guarantee that I will be in the same boat again in the not too distant future. If surgery in in my future, then I would like to get it done now rather than later. Is this crazy thinking?

I've decided to stop all the drugs and reevaluate my leg pain in 5 or 6 days.

Oh, I also have an inversion table that I use to decompress, twice a day for a few minutes at a time. And I have also had physical therapy in the past and it seemed to make zero difference.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.



  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. It would really be unfair for anyone here to speculate as to what your MRI says, that would be best left to the doctors. One here might think it looks bad and give you undo worry over something not to serious or vice verse we could say doesn't look like much and be completely wrong.

    My best suggestion would be to contact your doctor and voice your concerns with him/her. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful

  • Hi Dave, and thanks for the welcome:) I have spoken to my doctor's office and they are on board to cutting off the meds and touching base again next week. That being said, I'm not looking for medical direction here. I recognize that medical advise should only be obtained from my doctors. I guess what I am looking for here is just some opinions and thoughts from others with similar experiences, recognizing of course that whatever is said could be wrong.

    Thanks again for the welcome :)

  • I read this all the time.. a person is scheduled for surgery but a week or two before surgery they start to feel a bit better and question whether or not they are making the right decision. In almost every case the person questioning themselves and thinking they are having "crazy thoughts", actually know what is best for them, and say as much within their own post, just as you have. " If I do, I can almost guarantee that I will be in the same boat again in the not too distant future. If surgery in in my future, then I would like to get it done now rather than later."

    Surgery is a personal and important decision that a person has to live with for the rest of their lives. You said that this has been on-going for over 20 years. Only you and your Dr. can say if this is the right decision for you. I can tell you this though, you are certainly not the only one to question this when it gets down to the wire, and it's odd how so many start to feel better close to their surgery dates. I think it can be the mind/body playing tricks sometimes. Welcome to spine-health. I know it's not easy.
  • Thank you, Robin. It feels good that I'm not alone with this feeling, and that this is not entirely uncommon. The whole idea of surgery scares me. Mostly because of LASIK surgery I had about 10 years ago and it went very badly. Lead to some pretty serious depression with diminished vision and all. Not the same thing, I know, but I became very anti surgery and anti doctor after that.

    Interestingly, as I had mentioned above, I stopped taking pain meds a few days ago to try to gauge the effects, and not surprisingly I suppose, my leg pain (sciatica) has increased. I'm still going to wait until Monday before making my final decision. As of right now, I'm leaning toward getting it done.
  • Hello. For what my opinion is worth, I don't think two months of pain is enough to warrant this kind of irreversible procedure.

    I've had the same disk (L5-S1) herniate three times over the last six years. The first two times I ended up having surgery, but only as a VERY last resort after 8 months of pain and with no other options left. This last time, since surgery wasn't really an option (I didn't want spinal fusion) I waited it out.

    It was unbearable (literally nothing provided relief... no position, no drug, no epidural -- the only thing that helped was time and McKenzie exercises) but after nearly a year I am 99% pain free. The only lingering pain now is b/c of the scar tissue from the previous two surgeries!

    If you look at the statistics, the long-term effect is the same whether you wait (and try other conservative approaches like McKenzie certified PT, epidurals, etc.) or get the surgery.

    Seriously, unless you can't function (I mean can't drive, sit, stand, walk, work, etc.) and your pain is off the charts, I strongly encourage waiting. Educate yourself about other alternatives and let your body heal. A disk is a ligament (the outer layer, anyway) and it can heal just as you can heal a sprained ankle. But it takes time and, very importantly, takes a lot of work not to keep reinjuring it daily with poor body mechanics.

    Good luck!
  • I agree with waiting and only having surgery as a last resort has always been my policy, but the OP stated that this has been going on for over 20 years now!!: "I've had a herniated disk at S1/L5 for over 20 years. About every 6 months plus or minus, it flares up and I can hardly walk for a day or 2. Then after a few days more, I'm back to "normal".

    2 months ago I had a severe flare up.

    Normally I would agree and say to wait it out or give it time, but sometimes even I say enough is enough-lol. 20 years.

    Now I'm wondering how the surgery went. I hope the healing has begun for you ouchmyback :)))
  • Lots to report, but can't sit very long right now, so I'll be brief, but bottom line all previous numbness 100% gone immediately after surgery. Still some residual sciatic pain but I attribute this to inflamed tissue from the surgery. Surgery was 1/7, and today on 1/11 the pain is slowly subsiding bit by bit every day.

    I'll report more later for those interested.
  • Here I am one month post op, and I am amazed! Zero pain, full mobility, zero numbness. However, I continue to take it easy and will continue to do so.

    Right after surgery, I was no able to pee on my own so they kept me over night. I am not a fan of catheters, but there was little choice.
  • That's a positive report. I'm happy for you about the good results from your surgery. I hope you heal completely. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I am so glad you had a positive outcome. I'm getting a second opinion on back surgery, and I know what you mean...you are in agony one day and suddenly things are better the next. Makes it SO hard to decide which is the right direction to go!

    I hope things continue to improve for you - just don't overdo it!

  • I am so happy for you!!
    Yes, please continue with taking it easy. Follow Drs orders and all of that.

    I am really very happy for you!!
  • Sorry-Double posted.
    I guess I must be really happy for you...I don't think I have ever double posted before...lol.
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