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2 weeks post L4/L5 foraminotemy/discetomy

needhelpnneedhelp Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My husband was injured doing heavy listing at work ~18 months ago. He had an MRI shortly after the injury which showed a L4/L5 disc herniation impinging on the left L5 nerve root. This was consistent with his symptoms of left leg and hip pain. He had several epidural injections with now relief. Because he complained mostly of hip pain, he was referred to an orthaepedist and ultimately (July 2010 - 1 year post-injury) had hip surgery due to bursitis and ferebroacelar impingement. This surgery corrected the "snapping" he had in his hip but left him with remaining hip and leg pain. His orginal back surgeon would not operate on the disc due to a negative discogram.
He tried visiting a chiropractor and was diagnosed with sacroiliac dysfunction. He had treatments for a few weeks and within the first few days found great relief, but this only lasted a couple of days and within a week he was back to the same pain. Additional treatments were no help.
We saw a second surgeon who ordered an EMG which showed diminished reflexes in his lower left leg. Two weeks ago (Feb 15 2011), he had a foraminotemy/discetomy. The surgeon stated that the surgery when well. He appeared to have some pain relief in the days following surgery - although not the immediate relief some have described and, truthfully, that we were hoping for. He seems to have good and bad days, even hours, but has not see any real gain post-surgery. We had a follow-up yesterday with a physicians assistant who prescribed a 5 day course of oral steroids to help with swelling. He also recommended my husband continue walking - which he has been doing some of, not as much as perhaps he should. I'm am desperately hopiong that he will feel relief with time and don't know where to run if he does not. My husband has always been a healthy, active guy and physical laborer. Now, at 30, it seems as though he may not be able to return to that lifestyle. We have a 2 year old son and I desperately want to see him be able to enjoy playing with our son as he grows, not watching from the sidelines.
Any advice.insight would be very much appreciated.


  • Hi there,

    Gosh I can sympathize with your husband's situation.
    I had a microdiscectomy (similar procedure) on L5S1 in August 2009.

    So while I'm not a doctor, I can at least give you some insight based on my experience.

    He is 2-weeks post op. Yes, some people get immediate relief and others gradual. It is good your surgeon is taking your husband's progress (or lack of) seriously. Often times, people are slower to heal from the surgery inflammation so the steroid is a good first plan. Swelling/inflammation can also make it seem the surgery didn't work.

    As for walking, it's important to walk every 1.5 hours even if it is just a 10-15 mins slow walk. Why? It keeps scar tissue from adhering to the nerve. Scar tissue will form from the surgery and the walking keeps it from trying to attach to neves.

    Tell your husband to follow the no bending, twisting, or lifting rule. This means no stretching either. Try to keep his back in the 'neutral' positions (shoulders aligned to hips). I'm sure he learned how to log roll out of bed, etc.

    See how the steroid works. I suspect at week-6 the surgeon will want to try Physical therapy. This helps body mechanics and starting to build abdominal strength back to keep the body 'safe'.

    If by week 8, he's still not feeling right, he can always ask the doctor to re-MRI. Most surgeons will give the surgery about 3 months before taking another MRI (unless of course your husband tripped or knows he did something). There is a chance he could have lost more disc material as it is more common in the 1st 3 months before the incision is fully healed.

    And, perspective helps. Lower backs are definitely about patience. Back surgery (as simple as it may have sounded) is a big deal. It is important to journal progress and set backs to that he can keep his surgeon up to date on what's going on.

    I did re-herniate within the 1st 3 months. They have no idea when but said early on based on the scar tissue placement and my symptoms. I have no idea what I did and they told me it was nothing specific but just a probabability. I had a 2nd microdiscectomy a year ago. While I'm not perfect, I'm doing much better.

    I have decided to move running to the bottom of my list along with some other activities because I don't want to risk needing a fusion. However, I'm back to hiking, carrying my nieces, and walking my dog. I won't be able to spin my nieces around or do 1,2,3 "swing" but I can hold them safely. I'm more aware of my back as your husband will need to be but with physical therapy, strengthening, good body mechanics, I bet he'll get close to where he wants to be....it just takes time. Lower backs are very very very frustating to recover from but I've noticed in a year that I'm so much better than a year ago and am convinced I still have more progress to make.

    I hope your husband shows some positive response to the steroid. If not, don't lose hope...you sound as if you have a surgeon that wants to know your husband is well and is listening to him!
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