I love this site and have found lots of fantastic information. One thing I noticed while doing research prior to surgery is that there are very few people that chronicle their recovery. It seems like most of the posts are people with concerns and regrets, and according to the literature the majority of patients find relief! I have decided that to address this and will chronicle my recovery until I am back to full health in hopes that I will encourage others.
Here's my story:
I'm 23 years old and in really good physical shape. I'm very active and an avid hiker, mountain biker, backpacker, swimmer - generally anything that gets me sweating outside. I was doing field conservation work for about 9 months and always had some lingering lower back pain. It was never overwhelming and I was able to live a very active, full, invigorating life despite it. Then one day the pain took a turn towards my hip. From there it started all the way down to my ankle and all of my muscles seized up. After some chiropractic treatment and physical therapy with no real relief, I was sent for an MRI. The MRI revealed a disc protrusion at L4-5 with the accompanied, miserable nerve compression. A CT scan at a later date also revealed a mild uncovering of the L5-S1 disc and bilateral pars defects on L5. The pars defects are likely why I'm suffering disc issues at such a young age.
I religiously stuck to my home exercise and tried two steroid injections. The first was a traditional interlaminar epidural and the second was an interformainal nerve block on the l4=5. Neither provided much more than 10-20% relief for a couple of days. I want my active life back so I decided to get the microdiscectomy about 5 months after the onset of radiculopathy.
I went in for the procedure on June 21, 2011. The procedure went very well according to my doctor. He said that when he got in there there was no doubt that the nerve was being compressed. He was surprised to see that the disc had not fully herniated but rather was exhibiting an extreme bulge. He was able to trim the bulging material and leave 80% of my disc in place. He said the disc material still looks very healthy and should continue to function well in the future. Good news.
When I woke up from surgery I was having some definite pain at the incision site. They were able to get this under control with some intraveinous pain killers in the recovery room. I was out of the OR by 1 pm and I was walking the halls by 8pm. I honestly think I could have been on my feet before that. I walked relatively often while in the hospital with minimal discomfort. I was released the next morning and was able to walk from the hospital room to the car!
I've been experiencing leg pain still. The leg pain seems to be most noticeable while lying down, which is actually the position that provided the most relief preop. I'm trying to stay calm as I'm assuming that the nerve is inflammed and angry from the procedure. I'll be going to meet with the nurse practitioner in a week, and remain hopeful for a successful, quick recovery!!
For those of you out there that are trying to decide on surgery, I would suggest looking up some peer-reviewed journal articles about microdiscectomy in athletes. I know the vast majority of the population does not have the physical conditioning nor the resources of professional athletes. I do, however, believe that if we can fully dedicate ourselves to recovery and maintain a positive outlook as you would expect in an athlete, the "average joe" can find relief from their symptoms and get back to the life they love!