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L5 S1 Discectomy 2 Weeks Ago

Ouch1987OOuch1987 Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi Everyone,

I'm 24, and I'm new here. It's 6:45AM and I've been up all night worrying about the discectomy I had 2 weeks ago. I hope to get some advice/encouragement- I've been reading your stories and they're so helpful.

Some background: I started getting sciatic pain down my right leg about 8 months ago. After months of anti-inflammatory medicine and patience, the leg pain became pretty much unbearable and the doctor finally ordered MRI etc. Turns out I have 2 herniated disks- not from an injury, but they are both degenerative (L4 & L5). Met with a neurosurgeon, & he said shots would not fix my problem because my L5 was resting on the nerve and I needed surgery to remove the piece of the disk that was impinging on it.

So, I had the surgery 2 weeks ago. He told me he expected an excellent result and I'd be feeling back to normal in 3 weeks, buuuut I am really, really discouraged. My back is beginning to feel better and I walk (not that far, probably .5 mile) every day, but my leg pain feels the same as it did pre-surgery (shooting pains, sometimes throbbing). I've been stretching every day, but I am not feeling any relief. It hurts when I sit, lie down for too long, twist a certain way, and get up and down. Basically, I am wondering if any of you were still experiencing this kind of pain 2 weeks out and still recovered? Or at least eventually felt SOME relief? I see the surgeon on Monday, and will be very interested to see what he says (I'll update you all). Is there anything I should ask him? I know that after the surgery he said the nerve was indented (or whatever the correct term is) more than he thought it was from the disk, so maybe it is just going to take longer to heal?

I was really active before this sciatica, and it has been taking a huge toll on me both mentally and physically that I really can't do any of my usual activities. I'm exhausted from this many months of pain, frustrated that the surgeon made the recovery process seem like no big deal, and worried out of my mind that I'll live with this pain forever.

Any advice? Similar stories? None of my friends or family have been in this situation, so I feel alone, isolated, and can't stop worrying. Hearing from any of you would really mean a lot. Thanks!



  • Welcome to spine health. We are glad to have you here, but sorry that you are in pain that you need to be.

    Welcome to the other side of surgery. It really does take time to heal from surgery, and some surgeons are way too eager to tell you that you should feel better in a couple of weeks. Since your nerve was impinged for 8 months, the nerve is going to be very angry from being moved around during surgery. The longer it is impinged, the longer it takes to settle down.Glad that your back is starting to feel better. In time, your leg should follow suit.

    Keep up with the walking, bit by bit, you will slowly be able to increase your distance. Make sure to rest in between, and don't do any BLT.

    Wishing you all the best at your appointment on Monday. Look forward to your update.

    >: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 Karen,

    Thanks so much for responding this morning. It is extremely encouraging to hear that sciatica pain after 2 weeks is still normal. When the surgeon put a date on my recovery, I got stuck on that time and was overwhelmed with anxiety when I wasn't feeling relief by week 2. Thinking about it, it makes sense that the nerve would need time to heal, and I'll keep walking and hoping for the best.

    I'll be sure to ask him all about the pain I'm still experiencing when I see him Monday, and hopefully he'll have some insight. Also, I hope he recommends some other exercises or stretches to help my recovery.

    My surgery kind of came about suddenly so I had no idea what to expect, and I'm still trying to figure out what I should (and shouldn't) be doing in the first few weeks after surgery. I've kept the BLT in mind, but does anyone have any other suggestions of exercises, stretches, things to avoid, or any tips at all? I read about people lying on their backs and pulling their knees toward their chest, as well as standing on their toes? Also, I'm making sure I drink water all day long. I would love to hear any other advice/ input/ similar stories on this whole ordeal. Thank you! : )

  • :H Erin try using ice at bedtime it helped me I'm 1 month post op L5/s1 micro disc back feels ok but left leg sore and foot numb I had large bone frag stuck in nerve so I'll take more time to heal probably. Try to walk as much as possible take ur pain meds don't try to bend and stretch too much hang in there and shoot me a post.
  • Hey Erin,
    I'm in almost the exact same spot as you. I'm 30 and just had a microdiscetomy on L4-L5 S1 on Tues. Aug 16. And I too am anxious about my 2 week follow-up app. in 2 days. It freaks me out feeling that sharp pain in my hip/butt cheek when I do normal things like getting up or walking. Nice reminder of how painful it was BEFORE surgery. 90% of the time I feel decent, weakened/sluggish, but decent. It sounds like yours is more constant so that sucks, sorry.
    From everything I've read and heard its gonna take a long time for our nerve pain to disapear completely. My serious pain was for almost 6mo before surgery as compared to your 8mo. The longer that nerve was pinched the longer it'll take for it to regenerate and heal. Don't think there's a real time table but us at 2 weeks still are really early in that process. My hope is at 3 months it'll be time to start doing most normal things like golf and working out normal. High impact things like basketball might be longer???
    I'm curious to hear your appointment results and I'll post mine as well. As much as this is already getting old at 2 weeks, just try and think of others who have had much worse surgeries than us and made it through strong. At least we can walk during recovery :-) But your not alone, and I share in your frustrations.
  • So here's a 2 week update. Everything is going according to plan. I had a 10lb lifting limit and now that up to 20lbs. I can start stretching exercises and increase my physical activity. At the 1 month mark I'm supposed to start doing work in the pool. Really only waiting that month to prevent infections. My whole medical coverage has been through the VA being that I'm a disabled vet. So my process might be different than through a private doctor. There is no need for physical therapy, which is different from what I've read. But I guess the way microdiscectomy's are now there's no damage done to the lower back muscles during surgery. They were just stretched to create an opening.
    So at the 1 month point I'm supposed to be near full go for normal activity. No basketball or golf, but I can get back on a motorcycle and do normal household stuff. I'm a mailman so the VA says that at 1 1/2 months I'm back to work, lifting 50+lbs, driving, and twisting.
    This seems a little early to me but that's what the Dr. says. It also seems to me that most people wait 3months before serious lifting, so I will definetly take it easy. I'll probably wait that 3+months to play sports too.
    I guess overall this is gonna be easier than once thought. Most pain is gone with the occassional quick sharp pain, but I used to have that pain all the time so I can deal with it. They say that there might be some swelling still on that nerve, but it should be gone soon. So I hope for your sake you receive similar news and this gives you something to compare to.
  • Hey Cravilli & everyone else- thanks for taking the time to share your stories, it's so nice to hear from people in similar situations. Sorry it took me a while to update, but my semester started last week and it's been really tough trying to balance recovering from surgery and taking a full course load.

    So I had my first post-op appointment a week and a half ago, and the surgeon did not really have much to say (kind of irritating). He told me the sciatic pain was still normal since the nerve had a disk pressing on it for 8 months straight, and I'm SO happy to report that finally, the excruciating sciatic pain is gone- for now. It still mildly hurts when I'm sitting, driving, getting up/down, but it does not hurt nearly as much as before the surgery. I can't believe I can walk over a mile without limping and cringing at the pain. I just hope it stays this way!! I start PT next Wednesday, which will be 4 weeks after my surg. He said I'm pretty tight still, so PT & stretching should help loosen everything up.

    However, I'm now experiencing more lower back pain than I ever did before my surgery. It pretty much constantly hurts. It is definitely worse when I'm sitting or driving or anything like that, but I'm just confused why just in the last 3 days it hurts soo much. My surgeon never gave me any "weight" limit to lift, so I'm thinking maybe my tote bag is too heavy? I walk a LOT on campus, lots of hills, and this bag is not very light. Sitting in long lectures doesn't help either. Also, he never gave me any driving instructions- in fact, he told me I would be able to drive a few days after my surg (which was NOT the case). I have been driving to and from campus, about 35 mins each way and sometimes bumpy... am i driving too much? I wish I could figure out this back pain. Is this what a re-herniated disk feels like?

    I wish I didn't have to wait till next week for PT. I'm still so frustrated about missing out on so many things I normally love to do- this past weekend I passed up going to a baseball game and a football game because I couldn't imagine sitting in a stadium seat for 3 hours.

    One more thing- tomorrow I start an internship at a preschool. I'll be with 3 and 4 year olds.... any advice on what NOT to do? Obviously I won't be lifting any kids or bending down (although i am trying to bend now just by bending my legs and not back at all). I'm nervous because this internship is really important to me but I'm afraid I'll look like I don't care.

    So much anxiety over this pain and surgery and recovery I can't even believe it.

  • Hey Erin,

    I had a microd on 8/16 (L4/L5) and my surgeon made it sound like I could run a marathon the next day if I wanted. However, that isn't the case. Now that I'm asking questions and having complications, I'm hearing different things:

    -The area where the surgery is done does not get a lot of blood flow which is why the doctors say "walk walk walk walk"- you need to force your body to circulate so that area can get what it needs to heal. It can take 8 weeks to fully heal. That means you're still healing, which means caution.

    -Some of your aches and pains may be due to other parts of your back. If the pain pre surgery made you cut back on your activities, you might have lost strength and the flexibility which you mentioned. I have non disc back issues, and they flared up post surgery because I was trying to do too much and they couldn't take that plus extra work they had to do because the part of my back that had been operated on was not at 100%. I've been begging for PT but one thing my surgeon said that actually made sense was that certain PT things can't be done for awhile, so make sure you trust your PT person to advise you.

    -YES, your backpack is too heavy. Welcome to the world of rolling suitcases. I know they are a pain and look dumb and catch on things but it's better than more surgery. I was trying to use my backpack the first week just a few things- I was under my 5lb restriction, and it still was too much. I can't imagine you're cleared to lift over 20 lbs, and keep in mind that takes into account that you are using your arms, and not carrying the weight solely on your back long distances.

    -The driving might also be too much. Driving has always been hard on my back- the sitting plus the pedal manipulation, and with surgery it's worse. I would try to reduce it if you could.

    - Re: your internship, can you be up front about them from the beginning that you've had back surgery and have limitations? Maybe your surgeon can write you a note detailing the restrictions? I've found that my employers are moderately sympathetic if I explain up front the limitations, and be as specific as possible about what I need and why. (e.g. I need to be able to wear shoes that don't conform to the dress code, the ability to get up, etc.) If you're enthusiastic I suspect they would not think you don't care.

    As for the friend thing, it blows. I also am tired of giving up on going to things because I can't ride in a car for that long, or it's something active, etc. My friends have been very accommodating but it's still stressful. I just keep trying to focus on recovering so then I can do all that fun stuff.

    Good luck.
  • cravilli said:
    There is no need for physical therapy, which is different from what I've read. But I guess the way microdiscectomy's are now there's no damage done to the lower back muscles during surgery. They were just stretched to create an opening.
    This is what the doctor who performed my discectomy told me also.

    I couldn't believe it either, but he said just walking is enough. They do not cut the muscles or destroy too much of the tissue like they used to in older procedures.

    My back feels fine. I have numbness on my left ass cheek and down my left thigh. And my leg is weak, I can't stand on my tiptoes.

    but I do not have any pain at all in my leg or back.

    I guess everyone experiences different symptoms.
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