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My Microdiscectomy Recovery Journal

vitale232vvitale232 Posts: 43
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hey guys,

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!


  • Hi,

    I am also 23 and just underwent cervical fusion surgery c4-5. Our stories are very similar. I know the frustration of not being able to do the things we love at our age.

    I am glad you are on the road to healing! I believe your leg pain is normal. I am also still experiencing neck and shoulder pain. The surgeon told me my nerve was damaged, and it will take time to heal.

    Please keep in touch and let me know how things are going.

    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Thanks for the support Donna!

    I think things have been going really well when i consider what my body has been through. I've been walking religiously. The pain pills seem to get the leg pain under control, and I move well. I move slowly, but I move well. I'd say my walking total each day has to be approaching three miles. I'm on my feet a lot more than I thought I would be at this point. I'm really hopeful to be 100% within two months.

    How's your recovery going? How far out of surgery are you?

    I know it sucks to go through this at such a young age, but I'm trying to stay really positive about it. Honestly, this gives us a tremendous advantage over our peers! We've learned the limitations of the human body. It was bound to happen one day. But you and I will both persevere and overcome this obstacle. From this day forth, every hike, every bike ride, every head nod, every time we make love will have more meaning than our peers because we'll have overcome tremendous pain to get it. The simple things in life will take on a greater meaning, and I think we can live fuller, more appreciative lives.

    Best of luck to you with your recovery! I'll post a more detailed report after my appointment this Wednesday.
  • Welcome to spine-health! You sound like you are doing so well so early out from surgery. I am enjoying reading your journal as I am scheduled to have a microdiscetomy on July 19th. I am alot older than you (40) but before my injury was also very active. I also have issues with my facet joints as well as stenosis, so not sure how my recovery will be with these other issues other than the herniated disc and nerve impingement, but hoping for the best.

    I look forward to hearing your updates on your journey.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Hi All
    I have L4L5 herniated disk,I am confused.Its been a year now since the onset of the pain ,I am scheduled for discetomy in week time,now I have no pain except the numbnessin my left foot.The doctor says numbness may get worse after the microdiscectomy
    anyone can comment on this please?Shall I have the surgery done or not?Pl.help.
    e mail: homelifeunited@yahoo.com.
  • 6/29/2011

    I had my first follow up appointment post surgery today. I met with the nurse practitioner, Dan. He, like everyone from my chosen practice, was extremely professional, personable, knowledgable, and concerned about his patients.

    He started off by looking at my incision. He removed the dressing and the steri-strips that have been on it since surgery. Dan told me that the incision looked amazing, and he, my parents, and I all took a second to marvel at the healing power of the human body. I no longer have to put plastic dressings over the wound during showers and can essentially leave it alone. There hadn't been any puss on my dressings since the second day after surgery. So all is well there.

    I then voiced my concerns to him about my leg pain. He said that since it's been 5 months of radiculopathy there is undoubtedly some nerve damage. He encouraged me and said that he expects the nerves to heal 100%, but definitely 90%. Had I had surgery a few weeks after the injury he said I would be praising he and his colleagues as miracle workers, but since I tried the conservative approach (which he supported) a little more REPAIRABLE damage took place

    He was happy to hear about my dedication to walking. He wants me to keep increasing my mobility and work on developing a longer stride like I had prior to my injury. I really like his mentality. He had me attempt to touch my toes and I got hung up at my normal 30 degree bend where the pain starts. He said keep going. Keep going. Keep going. It hurt, but I was able to bend further than I have since February.

    He has prescribed me physical therapy starting a week from now. Dan thinks that I need to overcome the fear of using my back the way a 23 year old should. He said that pain is inevitable in recovery and not to be afraid when I feel it. 2 steps forward 1 step back. Patience and deep breaths will get me through it.

    We're going to start decreasing my pain pill dosage. He wants me to get off the narcotics as soon as I'm comfortable enough in doing so. At that point I could use Ibuprofen as needed.

    I've been cleared to drive, and I'm alowed to sit upright for <1 hour. He said if I really wanted to I could take a 2 hour car trip, but he would not recommend it. He assured me that within 4-5 weeks I'll be at the level of mobility I want. I'm currently in New York and am really longing to move to Utah to be with my girlfriend and resume backpacking. I asked him if he sees me being able to do 8 hour car trips in 4 weeks. He said yes!

    His final remarks were that you're a back patient, you've had a back surgery and you always will have had a back surgery. This doesn't mean you can't live your life the way you want to live. You'll get through this and be back to living your lifestyle pretty soon. He said he believes that if I stay up on my core strength, avoid smoking, and maintain good posture I will never have to see another neurosurgeon again.

    The appointment left me feeling really good and excited to begin Physical Therapy!!!! I went shopping with my mom after the appointment and drove us home. I felt really good afterwards. I then drove and walked around town stopping into shops looking for work. When I got home there was a little bit of leg pain, but I took a pain pill and it seems to be completely underwraps.

    So here's to a speedy prognosis! I wish you all the best. I feel your pain! But hopefully not for long.
  • Sounds like you are doing great! I have my 2 week post op appointment on July 6th. I had my surgery 2 days after you.

    I agree with you said here:

    "But you and I will both persevere and overcome this obstacle. From this day forth, every hike, every bike ride, every head nod, every time we make love will have more meaning than our peers because we'll have overcome tremendous pain to get it"

    I have actually been thinking about that quite often lately. It has made me a more compassionate and understanding person. Also a much stronger person.

    I have been walking a little as well... But not nearly as much as you, only about a quarter mile a day. I plan on upping this!
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Today I had a physical therapy examination. The physical therapist and his grad student both seemed very knowledgable, and they did/told me a lot of what I expected after all of the extensive research.

    The exam focused on range of motion, as my strength is fully intact. My lumbar extension and flexion are both subpar, especially for someone my age.

    Lumbar posture seemed good, but he wants me to work on better cervical posture.

    They want me to keep gradually increasing my walking as tolerated by pain.

    I was prescribed three gentle trunk stabilization exercises. They also prescribed a nerve exercise that seems interesting. Apparently part of the problem with the lingering nerve pain could be the nerve is not sliding appropriately within its sheath. They prescribed an exercise that is designed to have the nerve gently slide through the sheath to get things moving in there again properly.

    As far as functioning, I'm slowly noticing increases and improvements. Immediately post surgery, flexing my calf muscle sent pain shooting up the sciatic nerve. I can now do that without any increased pain.

    A friend of mine from college was driving through my town, and he and his girlfriend stopped in. We walked 1.5 miles into town, sat down for an hour long lunch, and walked the 1.5 miles back. I did all of this with very minimal discomfort!

    Another buddy came over that evening. We walked back into town, grabbed a bite to eat, and hung out in the park and watched fireworks. I was essentially on my feet all day, and by the end of the day I was in what could be described as tolerable discomfort. The nerve was a bit sore but nothing like presurgery. These activities would not have been options before the surgery. My back muscles were a bit sore by days end, but it was that good, satisfying, I just did something that made me stronger type of sore.

    All in all it seems like things are slowly getting better. The hardest part is being a patient patient. It's only been 2 weeks since the surgery, and for some reason I want, maybe even expect, to be 100%. Or at least close to it. But I guess when it comes down to it, that's all any of us want.
  • I really am an impatient patient!! Double click, double post. Oops!
  • Woah. Walked 6.2 miles today. That's big. No additional leg pain because of it. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

    The pain is starting to reside more in the knee, thigh, and hip. Still some strange feelings in my big and middle toe. Not unbearable by any means. Calf only when agitated. Starting to realize more muscular pain in the lower back. I reckon that's because of the increased mobility i'm starting to gain.

    Looks like I'm on my way towards recovery. I'm 3.5 weeks out. Having trouble keeping the mind occupied, but when I look at gains on a week by week basis rather than daily, I'm doing well.

    Called doc about looking for work. Said I'd need limited duty: no bending, twisting, lifting more than 10 lbs. Need work that allows me to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 minutes or so. Fat chance of finding that, so the waiting continues. Next appointment is July 27.
  • Been a while since I've updated this. Recovery has slowed down a good deal. I've backed off the walking - usually doing about 3 miles per day now. The sciatic pain is still lingering, and it's becoming quite maddening. It's there for most of the day ranging from 1/10-5/10. The length of the nerve is "achy on wakey" every morning, but seems to calm down what I get up and get breakfast. I can't walk much more than a mile at a time without it getting worse and can't really sit for too long without it getting worse, so I spend a lot of time on my back with pillows under the knees.

    I'm not really noticing any increase in my left leg range of motion. I still get searing pain upon attempting a leg raise . The right leg raise generally no longer produces left hip pain, though. So that's an improvement.

    I've been getting pretty depressed about it lately. All the reading I do shows the majority of patients have significant improvement in sciatica at this point. I have some improvement, but I would not label it as significant.

    I've got myself kind of freaked out that I may be experiencing S1 nerve issues rather than L5. Too much reading? Probably. There's been pain just behind my ankle on the outside of my foot, weird sensations along the outside of my foot, and my achilles reflex was diminishing prior to surgery. Also felt some pain directly behind my knee rather than on the outside the past couple of days. I know people are not text books, but it's still a bit alarming.

    I also think I "overdid" it this weekend. I drove 30 minutes to my friends place, lounged by the pool all day, and sat on the porch having some drinks that night. The fact that this is my new definition of overdoing it is realllly hard to cope with.

    Looking forward to my appointment on the 27th with the surgeon. Hopefully he'll either validate my concerns or put them to rest and give me a better picture of what to expect.
  • Sounds like you are still doing very well. Your last post you sound a bit discouraged,but you ,in my opinion are still doing great. I cannot get over how much you are able to walk. I have been keeping up with your posts and I am no where near recovering as you are. I am just past two weeks post op, still use a cane (although not relying on it for support like I was, more security) I have been trying to increase my walking, but still only walk short distances(200 to 300 feet) then need to stop, rest, get up and go again.I am still on all my pre op meds as well. Do you still take meds?How are your physio excercises going?

    Keep up the great work!Look forward to reading more of your updates.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Hey Karen,

    Thanks for the support! I'm glad to hear you've been improving! You'll be able to use the cane for kindling before you know it.

    It sure sounds like you were in much worse shape than I was preop. I thought my pain was bad and I was still able to walk 30 minutes pre op! I can't imagine... But hey, you're getting up walking and sounds like getting better every day.

    Where is most of your pain? When I was 2 weeks post op my muscles were still in really rough shape. And the sciatica never really went away, so that was there to. What's been the limiting factor for you as far as pain?

    As far as meds go, I really, really tried to stay away from too many opiates. Given my personality I thought it was best. I had some opiates when I was moving back to my parents house in New York from California in April/May. In the days more immediately pre op I had been taking Motrin 3 times per day and the occasional tylenol.

    I got off the opiates and muscle relaxers about 2.5 weeks out. They never really seemed to make the sciatic pain calm down, just made me care less. I've been taking Motrin 3 times /day again since getting off the painkillers. It's ripping my stomach into tiny little shreds, tho.

    Physios been going alright. They kind of hit a brick wall with introducing new exercises. Pretty much everything I have done has been working the transverse abdominus while lying on my back. Also some neural tensioning. Hopefully my doc will allow them to progress me more at my follow up.

    Definitely feeling a bit discouraged lately. Just want to feel better and go have new experiences. I'm sure you can relate to that. Keep me posted on your progress, and best of luck with the healing!
  • I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon yesterday, 5 weeks out of surgery. It was a little bit discouraging.

    My surgeon is "disappointed" that I am still experiencing significant pain. He said that he saw what he expected when he got in there. The nerve was clearly elevated which indicated compression, and he was able to free it up without complication.

    He said that generally this far out you shouldn't be experiencing the same type of pain. He would hope that most symptoms were resolved. If there was nerve damage, he would expect me to report burning, creepy crawly feelings, or maybe numbness. For me it's mostly the same type of pain.

    He suggested that the pain could potentially be coming from the level below. The L5 nerve was being compressed by the disc, which he freed up, but the foramina that it exits through were also slightly narrowed due to a spondylolisthesis. He, nor any of the other doctors I've spoken to, would have anticipated that as a pain generator based on the imaging studies.

    The plan is to be more aggressive with physical therapy for the next 6 weeks at which point I'll have another follow up. He's prescribed some Lyrica which I'll likely hold off on for a week or two.

    I had my first no restrictions PT session this morning and it seemed to help. In particular, stretching the piriformis muscle seemed to give me more range of motion before being stopped by nerve pain. I would be ecstatic if the lingering pain is due to a piriformis issue since it seems much more treatable.

    So the journey continues.
  • Sorry that your 5 week appointment wasn't more encouraging. Do you have a lot of back pain or more in your leg?Hopefully the physio will continue to help you and continued improvement will show.
    When I had my appointment at the end of last week( I am 3 weeks out) I too explained that I feel the same as pre surgery. I am going to have xrays done, although I don't think they show much, they don't show herniations or impingements, so not sure what they are for really. He said that you generally have to wait 8-12 weeks before you know for sure that the surgery wasn't successful...so will wait and see.

    When you were in surgery did they widen the opening of the foramina? Mine was completely narrowed but think? from what he said,was widened.

    How often are you having physio and are you still on all your pre surgery meds? Lyrica might help the nerve pain, although some have negative side effects from it. Have you been on it before?

    I continue to wish you all the best with your recovery.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Hey Karen,

    Thanks for caring! I truly appreciate the support.

    I guess I've always had a little bit of back pain. Often times just sore muscles. For about a year prior to the leg pain there was a nagging ache. The debilitating pain, though, is strictly the buttocks/leg/ankle. Hopefully PT and time will combine to give me back my range of motion.

    As far as meds, I've only been on motrin. I had a prescription anti inflammatory pre op but it didn't make a difference. I've never been on Lyrica, and I must admit some of the side effects are pretty intimidating.

    My surgeon seemed to agree that you can't proclaim it a failure until about 3 months have passed. He said that PT is a part of the equation for a reason. It helps a lot of people out, so I think there's still hope for both of us. I go 2 times per week and do 2 sessions of home exercises per day.

    He did not open up the foramina at all. The level that he operated on (l4/l5) has no foraminal narrowing. The level below is the one with the 6 mm slip, so that's the level with the narrowing. He said he wouldn't touch that level unless it were to do a PLIF. The strange thing is that he and my radiology reports and my doctor all indicate the left side to be "minor" and the right to be "moderate". The right gets some sensations, but the left is the one that huuuurts.

    I can't imagine why they would be giving you an x-ray. Have you had one done before? That was the first imaging test that was taken of my spine when I originally sought treatment. Did you doc tell you when you can start up some physical therapy? Are you on any meds? Back pain or just legs? Are you still using the cane or are you on your own?

    Best of luck with your recovery! Hopefully we'll both get our nerves settled down sometime within the next 8 weeks.
  • I had a discectomy L4-L5 on July 19th. I had been struggling with sciatic pain for the last year, with the last 6 weeks having been the most acute phase. I had reached the point where I could not walk without extreme sciatic pain. I didn't really walk, I sort of shuffled. I had numbness all the way down to my foot.

    The surgeon told me that he removed a fairly large chunk of disc that was pressing on the nerve so he felt like the procedure was a success. So did I for the first 5 or 6 days. I was moving about with virtually no sciatic pain and only moderate back pain. However, when I woke up on Tuesday and went to get out of bed I had a severe shooting pain down my right leg (where the pain was pre-surgery), that was somewhat relieved once I got up and walking around. Ever since then, if I move a certain way - getting into or out of bed, shift wrong while I'm sitting, etc, - the pain is unbearable to the point where I literally see stars and have almost passed out.

    Once I'm up and moving around, the pain is fairly minor and I'm walking several times a day for probably a cumulative 1.5 to 2 miles. I think however the mistake I am making is that when I'm not up and walking, I'm lying down in bed flat on my back. I was feeling very demoralized (and impatient) about my recovery but as I've read both of your stories it has given me hope that I shouldn't expect too much too soon and certainly shouldn't expect miracles.

    Beginning today, I am focusing on staying out of bed during the day such that I am either standing up or walking or sitting in a recliner. Please keep posting the status of your recovery(ies) as it is helpful to keep me sane knowing that my situation isn't abnormal.

  • Welcome to spine-health and to the other side of surgery! It really is an up and down roller coaster. Some days I feel that I am starting to feel better, and then bam a few hours later I am in terrible pain.The pain that you described sounds similiar to something that I have been experiencing. When I wake up in the morning, after repostitioning every 1 1/2 during the night I have extreme pain in my left hip/buttock down my leg. It is very painful in the top portion and then numb as it gets lower down my leg. After being up for a while (and taking meds) it eases up. Sounds like you are doing quite a bit of walking, just be sure to really break it up throughout the day (sounds like you are)I must say that I too lie down quite a bit, or sort of recline. Sitting straight up is still not good at all. Be careful of BLT restrictions,if you're on meds don't let the pain get ahead of you, keep up the walking and you are on your way. Wishing you a great recovery! It does get better!

    Vitale, I had xrays,MRI, bone scan, but all pre surgery, so not sure if he is starting from scratch again with xray. I am still on all my pre surgery meds (he actually upped them and added a muscle relaxer at last appointment) they do seem to be helping, but my hope from surgery was to get off meds, or at least greatly reduce them. I am walking more than last week, but am still hanging on to my security blanket cane, though not as much in the house. I can't wait to start physio, hoping that maybe the excersises will help. I am going to ask him about that at my next appointment.My pain is mainly in buttocks,thigh with numbness/intermitent pain in calf and numb foot. Low back pain is worse since surgery.

    Have you had a discogram done to see if one of your pain generators was your L5/S1 as well as your L4/L5?
    Look forward to your next update and may we all continue to improve daily/weekly.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • 6 weeks out of surgery and it seems I may be turning a corner!

    At my 5 week follow up, the surgeon basically said that I need to try and resume my normal activities since the incision was completely healed. Upon hearing that, I've been on my feet a lot more and more active in general.

    On Sunday I went to the horse races where I'm living and spent the day sitting, standing, betting, and smiling. It did wonders for my spirits and showed me that I'm actually able to have a "normal" day with tolerable discomfort.

    My PT has been cranked up a bit to include more stretching and dynamic exercises. It finally feels like I'm challenging my core strength and developing more flexibility. Neural tensioning has improved dramatically. 2 weeks in to therapy I could only get my leg to 21 degrees from straight. And that was with terrible pain. I can now get it straight with terrible discomfort! Quantitative progress is nice.

    Yesterday was a landmark that inspired me to write an update. I --get this-- touched my toes!!!!! First time in about 6 months I've been able to do that without bending my knees. Super exciting!

    I'm still walking ~1 mile 3 times per day. It seems that I can now do this without increasing my discomfort. I'm also able to walk at a very normal/borderline fast pace.

    Don't get me wrong, I still have pain and limited range of motion. But it does seem that things are getting better in a much more obvious sense. I think PT and time have both helped me out tremendously.
  • It seems like I'm due for an update on here. I'm about 7.5 weeks out at this point. I still have pain, but for the first time in 6 months I'm finding that I occasionally am pain free! It seems that for the first half mile or so of walking the past week or so I've been pain free. After that I get some pain, but it's not horrendous.

    Also my pain is definitely a lot worse in the morning. I'm not sure if that's because there's no motrin in my system, I'm sleeping wrong, or my nerve is hungry and feels the need to wake me up. Regardless, pt, moving around and taking Motrin seem to free it up.

    I've been keeping up with the pt pretty religiously. Trunk stabilization, stretching and neural tensioning are the weapons of choice. It seems the neural tensioning has been helping more lately. Stretching the hip flexors also seems to increase range of motion. The trunk stabilization certainly isn't hurting, but I'm already pretty strong. I'll certainly keep it as a part of my routine - til death do us part. stabilizing the core and using good mechanics will hopefully prevent future issues.

    So in summary, still some pain but slowly headed in the right direction. Hopefully I'll be well enough to do some bungee jumping in another month. Just kidding! But seriously...
  • Hello, I want to thank all for posting their comments. I am having L4-L5 disc surgery Sept. 8th. 55 years old, but in good shape ( hiking, biking, weights). Pain started 8 weeks ago, left hip and down leg. Physical therapy only made it worse. MRI showed fluid from herniated disc formed cyst which is pressing on nerve.

    I have to admit some anxiety about the procedure. Right now pain is manageable ( and minimsl) as long as I do not exert myself. I want to get back to hard physical activity ASAP. Initially hoped cyst would be absorbed back into the disc, but surgeon tells me that this far into it that is unlikely.

    I would appreciate any comments dealing with early stages of recovery.
  • Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum, but have read everyone's posts and thank you. Good luck on your surgery JohnO, I'm scheduled to have L4-L5 microdiscectomy on September 20th so I have all the same questions as you do.

    I have been experiencing intermittent episodes of back pain now for about 5 years, since a MVA I was in when I was 17 years old. I've tried epidural steroid injections, accupuncture, massage and the chiropractor with little or no relief, so I'm at finally at the point of surgery. My herniation has gotten worse overtime, is compressing the nerve root, I have severe spinal stenosis, the herniation is beginning to migrate upwards and because of all the muscle spasm and compensation I actually looks like I have scoliosis - I'm a mess.

    Now, it figures that the most recent and acute upset of pain "flared-up" this past May, right before I was to begin an accelerated nursing program, and it has lasted since then. The pain consists of the most unbearable muscle spasms and sciatica I have ever experienced, it's a nightmare. It's nearly impossible to sleep at night and I can't walk for more than a few minutes before needing to take a break. I met with my neurosurgeon and we scheduled a date for surgery.

    Unfortunately I have to return to school a week after the surgery because of clinicals, in your opinions, would this be physically possible? I know this probably sounds ridiculous because my health should be my number one priority, it's just hard to accept that after being told that I may have to withdraw from the program if I can't be medically cleared.

    From everyone's experience, is it physically possible to return to work or school shortly after surgery? How is driving a few days to a week after surgery? What has everyone's pain level and mobility been like? Vitale, when you mentioned you can't sit for very long, is this because there is pain at the incision site, or do you begin experiencing sciatic pain? And since everyone's last post, how has recovery been for everyone?

    Thanks again and good luck!

  • Hey Kayla,

    Sorry to hear you're having such issues. If I'm doing the math right, you're 22 years young? I feel for you.

    If I have the right impression of clinicals (classes mixed with functioning similar to hospital staff) you'd be really pushing it to go back after a week.

    My surgeon was on the conservative side, but for the first 4 weeks he wanted me to change positions every 30 minutes or so. Also, time on my feet and sitting were to be limited. Walking 3 times per day was needed. It would be almost impossible to juggle all of this with being an overtime student in an accelerated program.

    There is also a school of thought out there that returning to work immediately and getting on with life as much as you can is the best way to recover. The evidence to support this is anything but overwhelming, tho.

    You should set up an appointment with your doctor and figure out some reasonable expectations for your recovery. Every doctor and every patient are different, and there's really no way of knowing how someone will respond to the surgery. I lived by my doctor's words as law. I trusted him to perform surgery on my spine, so I would be foolish not to trust his advice afterwards.

    Seriously, tho. Take everything that's said about recovery with a grain of salt. Mine has gone almost nothing like the doctor described.

    When I refer to pain in my posts, I'm mostly referring to sciatica. The incision certainly hurt, especially for the first couple of days, but it's a different breed of pain. There's nothing worse than nerve root compression.

    As for an update on my condition, I'm definitely way better than presurgery. I still have sciatica 95% of the time, but it's less intense and less distracting. I've done a couple of mild hikes since my last post, traveled a good deal, done a little biking, and generally am living a more fulfilling life. Still feeling the symptoms the most in the morning. Between lunch and dinner I feel good, and then things tighten up again. I'm able to extend my leg straight out while seated pretty fully. Also finding that I'm using poor posture more frequently -- mainly becuase it doesnt hurt terribly to slouch anymore. I've noticed that I can touch the floor much easier than before. Also, after touching the floor once it's easier immediately after.

    I've got an appointment with the doc Friday. I'm going to ask him about possibly getting an ESI to see if we can get things completley straightened out. The Motrin seems to help pretty well, so maybe an ESI will treat things a little more effectively.
  • Thanks for writing me back. Almost, I'm 23. It's tough experiencing this type of injury at our age, not only because of the level of pain but also because it's pain no one I know is familiar with. Not that I'm looking for pity or sympathy, just some type of understanding.

    Yeah, I'm still up in the air on what to do with school, I know it's not going to be easy going back so soon, so I'm exploring my options. I left a message with my doctor today, so I can only hope he'll call me back in the next day or so..

    I know I can't compare the recovery processes or recovery times, but just because I can't help asking anyway, in the weeks after your surgery, how long were you able to sit, stand or walk at a time before experiencing a lot of discomfort and pain? And when you started experiencing sciatica again after the surgery, was it worse than before the microdiscectomy? Also, were you prescribed a lumbar-sacral brace to wear post-op? If so, did you feel that helped? I'm sorry about all the questions, and I appreciate any feedback you are willing to give me.

    Congratulations on the progress you have made, I wonder if I will ever be able to run again.. haha, I have to learn to take it one day at a time. Thanks again and keep me updated on your progress.


  • Thanks again for the update. Hope that all goes well for you at your appointment tomorrow and that you will get the ESI's scheduled and they will bring you more relief.

    I also went to my doctor this week and he is going to schedule me to have facet blocks as well as a new MRI. Unfortunately, I am still struggling and am worse than before surgery. Your point about getting back to work and activities straight away has me wondering in a way, as I am so much less active now than even pre surgery and feeling worse. Maybe if I keep pushing it will help.

    Hi Kayla, I wanted to welcome you here to spine health. Wishing you all the best with your upcoming surgery. I was in nursing before my surgery, the thought of doing clinicals 1 week post op...yikes. I know that I personally could not handle that (I am not back at work yet), and probably won't be able to, in the same environment anyway.Everyone is different though, and you are 17 years younger so that is definately on your side.

    Please discuss this with your doctor, I really hope that you are able to work something out with your school. Please keep us updated.

    John, welcome as well to the site. I see that today is your surgery. Wishing you all the best.Hope that you are back to hiking,and biking in the near future. Do take it easy, listen to your doctor's advice on BLT and try to walk as much as possible. Build up slowly, with frequent breaks in between. Please let us know how you are doing when you are able.

    All the best to everyone, may we all find the relief that we are seeking.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Kayla- I don't mind the questions at all. It's nice to be of some help.

    Directly after surgery, I didn't do much of anything for longer than 30 minutes. If I sat, it would be for ~30 minutes. When I walked, it would be ~30 minutes. Most of my down time was spent laying on my back, but I tried to stand up and move around at least once per hour.

    As far as post-op sciatica, when I awoke from surgery I was experiencing greater leg pain than I had previously. Laying on my back hurt pretty bad, where pre op it provided some relief.

    And no brace.

    Karen- Best of luck with your appointments. Hopefully the facet shots will help ease the pain!

    For me, being as active and engaged as possible helps me with the pain. When I'm laying around or watching TV or reading all day, I find that I can't stop thinking about the pain which makes me perceive it as greater.

    For an update, the appointment with my surgeon went as well as I could have hoped. We have a plan of attack now.

    I discussed Lyrica and its side effects in great detail with the doc. He relayed some of his personal experiences in the past 12 years of practice. I decided to give the medication a try, and I must say I've felt better today. I've only been on it for 3 days, so hopefully it continues to help. I'll also continue to take the Motrin.

    My therapist has referred me to someone else in his practice that specializes in backs. I'll be seeing her for the next few weeks. She's definitely taking a different approach, using lots of extension type exercises.

    My surgeon said that if I don't start feeling some significant relief in the next 2-3 weeks to give him a call and we'll set up an ESI. We're taking things in steps to see what helps, rather than shooting off all the guns at once.

    He also suggested that the spondylolisthesis is irritating the injured nerve, hence the continued pain. He believes that the pain should continue to subside over time, and believing so is not seeing things with "starry eyed expectations". According to the doc, I'll never feel 100%, but the pain should subside to a tolerable level.

    He wants me to start pushing the limits a bit. I'll start slowly returning to exercise and a normal life and see how things go.

    The doc shook my hand and said that he would like to see me again in 6 weeks to make sure we've found a satisfactory solution. I really love him as a doctor!
  • I think it's fair to say I'm doings really well! I don't no if it's the lyrica (my suspicion) or spending more time with my back in extension, but my pain intensity and frequency are both waaaaay down.

    I went mountain biking on Monday. I noticed zero leg pain during the ride and only a little on the drive home. And when I say mountain biking I mean rocks, roots, mud, hills. It's no rail to trails program.

    It's crazy how out of shape I feel. I haven't gained much in the way of weight, but my cardio and leg strength are both waaaay down. Ill have to b careful not to push too much.

    Seems that the only thing which aggregates my leg is sitting. Saweet!
  • Vitale, that's great that the Lyrica has been helping and congrats on your minimally painful mountain biking experience, that's awesome. Other than walking, was that the first time you had been able to exercise after the surgery? Right now I'm on Topamax (another anti-convulsant often used to treat sciatica), and I find it does help with the sciatica pain, however, the side effects aren't exactly easy to deal with.

    Karen, I hope your facet shots helped and your MRI went well. I'm sorry to hear that you are still dealing with such immense amounts of pain. Do you feel that physio is helping? Since your last post, has your pain level gotten any better?

    So I spoke with my surgeon last week and then went for presurgical testing yesterday. I don't know where I got that I was having a microdiscectomy, but apparently I'm having a discectomy/laminectomy because of the spinal stenosis. Because that procedure is more invasive, I would assume more recovery time be required?

    Thank you for all your help and sharing your experiences with me, and I hope for the best in all of our recoveries!


  • Haven`t seen any posts from you in a couple of months and thinking that that is a good thing (doing well)

    Just checking in with you to see how your recovery is going now.

    All the best!
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Long overdue for an update on here.

    I've been MIA mainly due to "getting on with life".

    My leg is slowly, slowly feeling better with each and every month. I'm able to do more and more, and I'm slowly returning to a state of better confidence in my body. There is still pain, though, most of the day. It's very tolerable, but definitely still there. Hopefully I continue to see the decline in severity. I've also noticed that more of the pain is appearing in my buttocks area rather than my calf, which I understand is a good thing.

    I think the main thing for me was my doctor gave me clearance, and I started to suck it up an get back to life. Doing little things like searching for jobs, working odd jobs like bussing tables and raking leaves (which surprisingly made things feel better, and working on a conservation project have really helped. I also participated in two full time job interviews, and I'm now working for an environmental consulting firm. Surprisingly, days when I spend all of my time in the office are most painful. Sitting for long periods really aggravates things, and a 5 min walk around the office doesn't make a huge difference. Days when I'm in the field, though, are much better. Field work requires lots of bending, walking, standing. I use good mechanics and find that my leg hurts a lot less on those days. There is still pain, but it's fatigued back muscles. A much more tolerable type of pain.

    Given the new job, I've been terrible about my PT exercises. I really need to get back into my program. I've been taking Lyrica still, and damn that stuff gets expensive. My insurance company is giving me grief over covering it, so I'm not sure how much longer I can afford it. I also find it makes me pretty tired and a bit spacey.

    In hindsight, I think my biggest mistake in recovery was my treatment of family and friends. I was really irritable and cold when people were offering my kind words and support. That's not to say I was the devil or anything, but I was nowhere near myself. It's really easy to let the depression associated with an injury like these affect your relationships, so I caution the newly injured against it. If you're like me, you'll feel really guilty in the future.

    Anyways, to those still in recovery I wish you the best of luck. Keep at it, and try not to let the injury take over!
  • AWESOME thread.. thanks for sharing.. i too have similar isues and i am considering MED surgery...Thanks for the thread...don
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