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Recovering from L5/S1 MD... Confused on recovery

LeighAnnLLeighAnn Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:50 AM in New Member Introductions
28 y/o athletic female - trail runner, crossfitter, was in pain for 6 months and tried all conservative treatment before having a microdiscectomy at L5/S1 1 week ago. I simply couldn't take the pain anymore and thought I was just putting off the inevitable. I seem to be doing pretty good, but have concerns about residual and new pain, as well as proper recovery exercises.

After a day and a half I took myself of the prescribed pain meds and switch to ibuprofen and acetaminophen. I took pretty high doses for those days because I just couldn't stand that back pain, but then the nausea caught up w/ me and I was able to make the switch. Now that my back is feeling pretty good, my glute/leg pain is obviously not gone. I know it may take a while for the inflammation to completely subside being that I was is a lot of pain for 6 months, but it's still discouraging. Also, I seem to have tailbone pain (deep ache) that has returned (only went away after getting a sit/stand workstation at work and stand 90%) and it hurts to sit or letdown on back or stomach. It seems to only get better w/ standing and walking. Anyone else have this issue?

I am extremely athletic and have a huge pain tolerance, which can be a down fall when trying to take it easy and listen to the signals my body is sending regarding pain. I can pick things up pretty easy w/ a straight back (thank goodness for weightlifting skills), but I'm just confused on what is too much or too little. If I take it easy, I'm afraid I'm taking it too easy; if I move around a bunch, I'm afraid I'm taking it too fast.

Any athletes have some good advice or reassuring thoughts?
Thanks in advance!


  • The main thing you want to do is take it slow. Your surgeon has shaved a piece of the disc off. This takes time to heal, MONTHS and MONTHS. Doing to much can cause you to re-herniate because the repaired disc wall is extremely weak right now.

  • I have been in a similar situation that you are in now, and found it quite challenging to slow down :SS
    I made the decision to have my back surgery after 8 months because I was still physically strong and thought that would have an impact on my recovery.
    it was probably about 10 days post op that I realized that the recovery period would be hindered greatly if I did not let my body heal by resting.
    I hope that you keep posting here about your progress/frustrations...
    I have found this site is filled with caring and knowledgeable individuals who truly want to offer support.
    Take good care
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i think and your doctor would probably agree that you need to slow down alittle bit.. you just had surgery and it take s time to heal!! what is your hurrry??? that is the main way people reinjure themselve and wonder what went wrong.. please follow your doctors orders and if you are unsure of those, get them cleared up quick!!! he has a specific shedule for you i am sure and it does not sound like you are on it!!! please think this over and take better care of yourself.. good luck with your recovery! Jenny :)
  • Thank you for the support and I appreciate the concern for taking it easy. I thought I was doing everything within reason. Getting up often, going for walks... but I must have moved around too much. I'm eager to get back to "normal" but really thought I was being careful and conservative. However, some how I managed to reherniate the same disc with the same large size of bulge as the original. The lingering leg pain I was experiencing was a concern so I saw the surgeon within 2 weeks post surgery. He gave me the option to have a follow up MRI, and I knew that I wasn't going to be confident in my healing unless I knew whether I reherniated or not. Within an hour of the MRI with contrast my surgeon called me with the unfortunately news (I can't believe I kept my composure to ask a series of questions). At this point I was given two options, a second microdisectomy (everything exactly the same) or given the size, deal with the pain through meds & more injections for 1-1.5 years while my body tried to dissolve the bulge. I really don't like either of these options, but "time is of the essence" with these sort of things. I didn't really feel like more meds/injections and 1.5 years of waiting was a good option so I'm going through with a second MD on Monday. The surgeon says the sooner the better if I want to go with surgery before the scar tissue has a chance to form. Needless to say I'm nervous, scared, disappointed, frustrated, pissed off, etc. about the situation.
  • Hey there...it's frustrating. I was there. Avid fitness freak (runner, walk, hike, bike, etc) and had to have surgery. At 2-weeks post op, I knew something was wrong...couldn't convince the doctor until week 10 to do the re-MRI and it confirmed I lost another big piece.

    It is frustrating for so many reasons.
    The only relief I found was that at least there was a reason for my pain and lack of progress.

    Time is important but it isn't like you have to decide next week. Sometimes that piece will 'dry out' enough to come off the nerve. I would say time is of the essence but ask your surgeon if that means 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months.

    Whatever you decide, give yourself time to make sure you are comfortable with it. I got differing opinions - wait, revision MD, or Fusion. With 3 very different opinions I was even more scared. But, that being said, I had already waited 3 months from 1st surgery and knew I wasn't seeing an improvement. Fusion was extreme and should be last resort (in my opinion).

    I did opt for revision MD and while I finally had to accept a longer recovery, it was worth it. I've decided never to run again b/c for obvious reasons I was told I would be putting my back at risk of losing more disc not only at L5/S1 but at the level above it. It's not worth it to me.

    I've learned to be happy with being active without running. I walk, hike, swim, do Cardio and light weights and keep my core strong. I was told biking is ok but to wait until a year out (which is where I am now) and to keep it to a minimum.

    keep us posted on what you decide.
  • Oh, I should correct the "I decided never to run again".

    My Physical Therapist told me not to limit myself like that. He said it's depressing for an active person to have to take things off their list. He told me to practice saying "Running has now been prioritized to the bottom of my exercise list". He made a great point b/c he told me if I was being chased, I would still run. It made me laugh and felt much less 'restricting'.

  • I am glad you are posting and hope we continue to here how things are going. In my humble opinion, you are doing a great job of navigating through this.
    I hope today is going okay for you,
  • I'm really glad you posted ..I'm having a huge problem getting my mind to realize I need to take it easy also.. it rang so clear to me when you said you never know if your doing to little or to much ..
    .its taking a toll on my soul.. the mental games of being so active, needing help and even though I have been in pain for years... I was still able to go to work and play .. in one day that's gone..
    I posted on another thread looking for what I found in this thread
    Thank you
    Now I don't feel like I'm loosing my mind.... as much .. or at least I'm not losing it by myself..lol..
    Someone on here mentioned something about only another spinal person could understand. I try to explain my feelings and pain .. but as much as they say they get it.. I know they don't.. but I don't dare complain to much to my wife... she's had kids ...lol
    Just so you know...
    I had l5 s1 fusion on Dec 23 and now they are doing epidurals on my neck .. one a week for 3...

    Good luck and vibes your way
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