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One week, post-op L5-S1 microdiscectomy (ow)

yaderheyyyaderhey Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Recovering from Surgery

I've been reading others' posts, but I think it's my turn, mostly because I could use some reassuring words right about now.

Last Tuesday, I had a microdiscetomy for a herniated disc between my L5-S1 vertebrae. The highly-regarded and cocky neurosurgeon said the herniation was larger and more dense than the previous two MRIs showed, but he "took his time" and thought the surgery went well. He noted an immediate increase in the strength of my left foot. My toes are a little numb, but it's not too annoying.

A brief background:

I'm 37, and I think I herniated the disc snowblowing last winter. For eight months, I dealt with the pain, mostly in my left piriformis muscle and back of my left thigh. The pain always stopped at my knee, which the doctors said was atypical. I ran through the pain, even doing a 10k in July, which surely was the straw that broke the camel's back. Before the surgery, I did months of PT, chiropractic and two cortisone shots. Not much helped.

Following the surgery, I still felt pain in the same areas, but it felt ... different. More achey, maybe, and less twingey. For the first several days, I was taking oxycodone every four hours, 600 mg of ibuprofen three times a day and valium every six hours.

I also started walking right away. First day home, around the block. Next day, a mile. I wasn't limping, and my left foot, that had turned outward this summer to compensate for the pain, was facing forward again. Monday, I didn't take any oxy and went to work for half a day. Then, I came home and walked a total of 3.5 miles.

Last night (still Monday), the original sciatic nerve pain in my butt and leg came back, just like it did before the surgery. I haven't lifted anything heavy, including my 3-year-old daughter. I maybe got a little cavalier, putting on my own pants, but I certainly didn't do anything strenuous that would cause a re-herniation (I hope).

Today, the pain continued, and maybe spread a little. I called the physician's assistant, who said it was unlikely that I reherniated the disc. He thought I just overdid it and suggested I get back on the valium three times a day. He stressed that my condition presented itself differently than most, since the pain never went down to my foot. Tomorrow, I go back for my post-op evaluation, and presumably, to get my staples removed. I still walked a little over one mile today, but I definitely didn't push it. Walking makes it feel better. Oddly, running this spring and summer also helped, but only during the activity.

I'm kinda freaking out that this surgery didn't work. Can anyone offer me some words of encouragement? Maybe it takes more than a week to feel relief? Maybe the nerve pain will come and go while it regenerates? But why was it feeling better, and now it's feeling worse?

This is pretty scary, and I don't want to endure the awful sciatic nerve pain that has cursed me since February. Any thoughts from anyone who's been there?

Thanks in advance,


  • Welcome to spine health and to the other side of surgery. Just want to reassure you that you are really early out from surgery. Whether it is a micro d or a more invasive spine surgery, it is still spine surgery. It takes time, everything has been moved around in there and your nerve will be angry and irritated because of this.

    I had a 2 level discectomy/laminectomy 8 weeks ago. Now mind you,I definately wasn't running a 10 k a month before surgery, which being in the pre surgery state you were in should help your recovery.

    Sounds like you are doing a lot, even returning to work so early. Please do be careful not to over do things. Make sure to take breaks between your walks and limit the amount of sitting that you do.

    Did you have any other issues other than the disc, such as facet problems or stenosis?

    Wishing you all the best in your recovery. There are going to be ups and downs with recovery, it may be your bodies way of telling you to slow down a bit. Hang in there. Please keep us updated on how you are doing.

    >: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
  • Thanks for the kind words, Karen. It means a lot coming from a stranger.

    I have had ongoing back problems unrelated to the disc, since amazingly, I've been rear-ended three times since I started driving as a teenager. But those have all resolved themselves through yoga, PT, chiro and stuff.

    So, prior to this snowplowing incident, I was feeling pretty good.

    Now, it's just so scary, as I've pull all my remaining eggs in the surgery basket. I'm confused as to why that piriformis pain came back so suddenly ... and patience isn't my strong suit.
  • I think it is too early to tell. I also had the same as you, and it took time to even tell it worked.

    If it doesnt get better in a month or so, I would for sure go see the doctor. That is what I did. There wasnt any other choice of surgery to have for me. I now am having a fusion, same area as you :SS .

    I hope that you will heal, and be great soon. It takes time, a lot of patience! I am sure I will hear that over, and over on here when I have the big surgery :? .

    >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D<
  • I'm just over 2 weeks out and was told at my 2 week appointment that there is still swelling in that whole area and not to be freaked out by some of the pains in the recovery process. I haven't had the same sort of "reoccurance" that you have. My pain has come in short 1 second shooting pains when I get up or take a certain step. No real consistency to when I feel that ole pain again. But much better than the nonstop pain before surgery. From what the nurses told me is that the nerve is still finding its rightful place and will be aggravated at times. Its been irratated for a long time (mine since Mar, yours Feb) and that it won't be back to normal so quickly. Your Dr. can only be sure of your circumstance but I hope this helps a little.
  • I had my follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon today. He said that I probably overdid it with that 3.5 mile walk on Monday.

    He also said that it's too early to tell, but my strength in my left leg is definitely back.

    He put me on a six-day oral steroid pack and ordered a round of PT, which I start next Wednesday.

    I speculated that the piriformis muscle is still seized up, and he suggested seeing me next week. He said I could perhaps get a shot right into that muscle.

    He didn't seem nearly as concerned as I am. Which is good, right?
  • I only have aminute but try ice it works great
  • Hi Andy,

    Sounds like I am in pretty much an identical situation to you. Just that I has the microdiscectomy the day after yours (weds), am 38 and live in Australia.

    Same as your pain, mine never went much below the knee; the occasional brushing on the outside calf, but mostly in the top of my thigh and at the top of my glute.

    After the op, my pain was almost 100% alleviated, and I have been walking a bit, and did a couple of half days at work last week. But then Thursday came, and i have been feeling the same gluteal pain again. Not all the time, but in particular positions and on certain movements. One in particular is lying down, and I get a full burst of weakness on standing after lying for a period of time.

    I also spoke to my surgeon, who said my symptoms aren't uncommon and should ease up in a week or so. I had been off the meds pretty much completely, but his practice nurses reminded me that I have undergone pretty major surgery, and should be keeping the meds up. And should also not be pushing myself. Another physio friend re-emphasised the "taking it easy for 6 weeks" minimum just this evening.

    So I'm takin pills again and some more time off work, and hoping that it's all gonnA get better. It certainly would be tough to get back to as bad as it was.

    Oh, and I have a two and a half yo daughter too! No picking her up for another month or so!
  • Well, tomorrow is the two-week anniversary of the surgery. The pain remains, though at least it's constant. For some reason, that's reassuring.

    Last week, the neurosurgeon put me on an oral steroid pack, which I just finished today. I don't notice any difference. He also wants me to take valium at regular intervals, which seems to help a bit. I'm only taking the oxycodone after 8 p.m., and I'm not sure if it does much.

    Tonight, I instinctively picked up my crying 3-year-old daughter, who woke up to say she had to go to the potty (first time she's done that at night). I only carried her 20 feet before realizing what I had done. I feel the same, but am praying I didn't re-herniate the disc. I am taking things as easy as possible, but I don't know what will/will not cause the disc to re-herniate again.

    But back to my butt/hamstring pain:

    My theory is that my glut/piriformis is still seized up from eight months of sciatica, and that in addition to the nerve taking time to heal, that muscle needs to be released somehow.

    I start PT on Wednesday, and I'm hoping some deep tissue massage gets it moving in the right direction. Feeling pretty bummed out tonight, like this will never end.

    And Skander, please keep me posted. Sounds like we're in the same boat.
  • Hi mate,

    I'm about 12 hours off my 2 weeks anniversary here too. I also was really scared that I had re-herniated my back last Thursday. I'd been laying on the couch when I tried to shuffle into a different position and that was what brought the pains back. But after speaking to my specialist and also reading the advice you've been given, I am now of the opinion that all I have done is aggravate the nerve.

    The pains I am getting are sharp and sudden, but feel right in the spot where the majority of my pain was before - and I reckon that was the exact spot the prolapse/herniation was pushing on the sciatic nerve. So as far as I see it, it's either re-herniation or the nerve getting used to the new space around it. I also get a short bout of aching weakness in my left leg after I've been lying for some time and I go to get up - which is quite often at the moment. But once I'm up, all the pains tend to disappear.

    After my talk to the practice nurse, I've been taking anti-inflammatories, and this seems to keep these sudden bursts under control. God knows I've got enough of them around the house from the original pre-op pain! I'm also taking painkillers, primarily at night to help me sleep through.

    From the sounds of it, the valium your doctor is prescribing is to prevent any muscle cramping.

    One thing I was warned about when leaving the hospital was the recurrence of 'phantom' pain. That's what I was praying I had last night - the pain from the sciatic nerve resettling. My surgeon reassured me saying my symptoms are common enough, and particularly that I "will have a strong spine again."

    I was pretty bummed last night, and that's when I came across this thread, and it has reassured me that this too will pass. It's just the getting trough which is the tough bit.
  • Had my first PT appointment today, and the physical therapist said to not be too worried yet. He agreed that there's a lot of tightness up in that piriformis and stretching, massage and the sim machine should help (assuming I haven't re-herniated anything).

    After the first session, I do feel a bit better. Tomorrow is my next follow-up with the neurosurgeon. Two weeks and one day removed from the surgery, I'm still pretty freaked out.
  • Hello, I thought I'd add a post, after reading through all of these threads, they have made me feel good and realize that I'm not alone. I had an L-5/S-1 Microdiscectomy on Sept. 7th and will be at two weeks tomorrow. I began having sciatica pain in Febuary and it continously got worse until finally, I couldn't stand, walk, or sit. Laying down with feet elevated was my only position of comfort.

    My family and I live in Galena, Alaska, a remote bush village and live a semi-subsistence lifestyle. No wonder I have back pain right?!? My condition however was not due to a single event, but a degenerative issue that has been slowly degrating for many years. My past/present activities of personal logging, whitewater rafting/fishing guide, heating with wood, fishing with nets, serving 18 months in Iraq, in addition to having significant scoliosis, spinal stenosis and an oddity of a vertebrae (L-6 or S-1 whatever you want to call it) which is partially fused to my sacrum, all have led to my current issues.

    The surgeon tried 2 x cortizone injections,the pain persisted. I realized that I didn't want to put a band-aid on the real issue and chose to have the surgery. After waking, I immediately felt fantastic. All pain in my left leg (buttock, hamstring, calf and numb foot) were gone, perhaps a slight tingling in toes, but all told amazing good results. My surgeon informed me to spend two days, more or less immobilized and then I could begin light activity, no bending, lifting, etc...obviously. I was given the o.k. to return to teaching on Monday, Sept. 12th. The first week went great and I've been as diligent as possible about taking things very easy. My students are great about helping me out. I was prescribed percocet, vicaden, and tylenol-3. I STAY AWAY from the vicaden, it took the pain away, but made me very depressed and gloomy. Percocet has been great, but puts me right to sleep.

    On Sunday, 9/19, my 2 y/o daughter woke us, requesting a bottle of milk. In my groggy state, I fixed her bottle and then (without thinking), bent over for my own water bottle. There was a quick "tingle" down my nerve from buttock to foot. Since, I have felt the pain in my buttock return and occasionally feel it in my left calf/ankle. I'm horrified that I have reherniated my disk; however, after reading these comments wonder if perhaps I only aggrevated the nerve? I classify the pain as a 1 and would really say that it's really just more uncomfortable than painful. I realize that I am ultra-sensitive in my mind regarding anything involving my back right now, but wonder if anyone else has experienced something similar. What might a re-herniation feel like, would it be painfully obvious, no pun intended.

    I am continuing at work, although i wear my back brace (all of the time, even while sleeping to remind myself that I have an injury even though I generally have felt good) with an ice pack stuffed inside, alternate between standing, sitting and brief walking. While I'm teaching I don't notice any pain, but when the day is done, I'm definitely ready to lay down. My most comfortable position continues to be laying down with feet elevated, icing my buttock and back and having my wife massage my calf, if painful. I'm so thankful that I have her support, as she is 6 1/2 months pregnant and shouldn't be doing a whole lot either!

    On a closing note, I want to thank all of you for posting these messages, they are really great for folks like us to read. And remember, it's not a matter of "will I get better", BUT "when you get better". Positive attitude breeds positive results.

    If you have any info regarding the re-herniation,I look forward to hearing what any of you might have to add. Otherwise, it's just great to hear your stories and updates. Thanks much and wish you all a proper recovery, none of this process is going to be speedy!

  • Hi,
    I came across this thread just 7 days after my L5-S1 microdiscectomy and I was astonished to read how much physical activity the OP had engaged in so soon after the surgery. My Neurosurgeon has 37 years experience and is widely respected as being at the top of his game. His parting advice to me when he discharged me last week was to follow the basic exercises as directed by the physiotherapist and to imagine i was 75 years old (I'm just over half that) and take things very gently for the first 2 weeks. The way i see it, even a sprained ankle or wrist would need a couple of weeks to stabilize so it's not surprising that a spinal procedure will take time to settle. The body needs time to heal and doing too much too soon is counterproductive and will very likely lead to a longer recovery period.
    7 days on and i feel reasonably ok, a bit sore and achy but it's coming good - i just wanted to warn folk not to be impatient.
  • I am utterly amazed at the people posting here. How in the world are you walking so far and sitting for so long so soon after surgery? I am wondering about how you guys are doing now, months later. I see from the dates of the posts that you had your surgeries several months ago.

    I had L5 S1 discectomy/laminectomy two weeks ago yesterday, and had planned to go back to work at three weeks post surgery. I'm 47 and am a high school teacher, so I will be returning to standing/walking for seven and a half hours a day with short bouts of sitting. I'm at two weeks and am walking up to 45 minutes a day. (I started day 2 with 20 minutes for the first week like I was instructed, then this week I have been increasing each day.) Sitting is just not bearable for more than 20 minutes. I am walking with a cane because my left foot/lower leg are numb and weak, just as they were before surgery. This doesn't scare me because the nurse at discharge told me it could be 6 - 12 months for all the feeling to come back. The pain is much, much better post surgery.

    Anyway, about 6 days after surgery I had to get grades posted for progress reports, so I worked for about 30 minutes at a time at the table grading papers. I would take breaks to lay down. It hurt, but I didn't think it would damage me. (Oh, although I have a substitute, I still have to grade the papers, write lesson plans, etc. I've been doing it all from flat on my back, but I had so much to do that day, I thought it would be faster sitting up at the table.) A couple days later I couldn't even put my left foot on the ground, the pain was so bad I was afraid I was back to square one and was afraid I had reherniated it. I rested for two and a half days (so those days I did minimal walking and had to use crutches) and finally was able to go back to the cane. That was good. Then, yesterday I decided that while walking with the cane I would try not putting my weight on the cane and only use it for balance thinking this would help me start to increase my muscle strength which might compensate for the lack of nerve communication going on between my foot and my brain. Last night I got up for dinner and couldn't stand again. I had to use the crutches again. I went to the dinner table, ate two bites and realized I couldn't sit either and had to go back to bed.

    So, although I've had alot of worry about reinjury, reading your posts gives me hope that maybe I just overdid it, and maybe there was inflamation or muscle tension, although you guys are doing much more than me! I called the "on-call" doctor when I couldn't stand on my foot, and he told me not to be so heroic about my pain meds. (I had been trying to spread out the doses of Oxycodone and Valium worrying about becoming addicted.) He also told me that for this same type of surgery, he recommended his patients stay out of work for 6 weeks. Wow! I know I need more than the three I'd planned for. I don't know how within one week I'm going to go from how I am now to standing/sitting for 7 1/2 hours a day.

    Could you tell me about your experiences going back to work? Were you successful going back as soon as you planned? Was it difficult? How did you cope? Did it do any damage?

  • Hey MLeigh,

    It took me a good while to get back to work proper. I first went back almost immediately after I left hospital - my surgeon had kept me in for about a 5 or 6 days all up after the op so I could get as much time on my back as possible. Anyway, I tried a couple of half-days at the office, sitting very erect as I'd become accustomed. And then, about a week after the op, the pain came back.

    It felt like I had almost never had the operation. And, as you can see above, I got worried. In fact, I think like most of us here, it is the re-emergence of the pre-op pain that drives us here for comfort and advice.

    So, long story short, I went back to lying on my back a good couple of hours each day. Usually I could hack a couple of upright hours in the AM, but then would need to spend 11:30 - 2:30 lying down, passing the time. I hadn't expected I would need nearly as much recuperation as I did. But, it is a pretty serious operation - they have to cut through a lot of flesh to get right down to the spine at L5S1.

    All in all, I don't recall how long I took off work, but I did a lot more half days than I'd expected. I actually think the recuperation period was closer to 12 weeks than the 6 they'd mentioned. I did try to pick up the kids at around 6 weeks, which was when they said it should be ok, but I was very careful about it. I also remember a mate passing me a box of wine about this time and I spent the next 10 days wondering if I had reherniated just from doing that.

    The healing process is terribly slow. And there will be times when you put strain on it too soon, and you do end up with more pain and worries. But if you're mindful of your back, that should keep you out of trouble. I'm 9 months on now, and I've been doing all manner of things I thought I'd never be able to do again, shovelling dirt, hauling heavy things, bending at the waist, twisting. I put a lot of stock in the physio I had afterwards, and I still do some core strength exercises a couple of times a week. Because there's no way I want to go back to where I was beforehand.

    But, just like the ads say, I does get better. And as Aesop also says, Slow and steady wins the race. Don't push it.
  • Thanks Skander,
    It's good to know that hope lies ahead. I've been thinking about the need to strengthen my core so this doesn't happen again. I know there's no guarantee, but I figure that with stronger back and stomach muscles that my vertebra wouldn't have to support the complete weight of all my actions, such as rearranging desks in my classroom. Haha.

    I see my doctor for my follow up on Thursday. That is exactly three weeks post surgery. I plan to talk to him about physical therapy, so I can start building my core correctly. I don't want to have any more set backs!

    Thanks for the encouragement.
  • sleepy20520ssleepy20520 Posts: 111
    edited 10/18/2013 - 1:32 PM
    mleigh said:
    Thanks Skander,
    It's good to know that hope lies ahead. I've been thinking about the need to strengthen my core so this doesn't happen again. I know there's no guarantee, but I figure that with stronger back and stomach muscles that my vertebra wouldn't have to support the complete weight of all my actions, such as rearranging desks in my classroom. Haha.


    Hey there Mleigh,
    i saw your post and was wondering how you are doing now? I am exactly 1 week post op and i feel the same as you. i am only up to walkin about 8 min - 5 times a day, so about 45 min total. I basically walk around my house using my cane sometimes, i started out walking for 5 min and have been slowly upping my minutes each day. altho today i felt way better when i woke up, not as much cramping in my buttocks as ive been having and ended up standing up in the kitchen making my lunch for about 15 min allat once and honestly didnt even realize it! but my back and butt/leg let me know... i started getting really intense muslce spasm/sharp pains and immediately laid back down. not smart. im icing it now and hoping i didnt set myself back... i know slow and steady wins the race and im happy to do so and really fortunate that i can (i work from home and have alot i savings so im ok to be off for the 6+ weeks. altho the hardest part is i had my first baby 8 weeks before my disc surgery and now i cant even pick him up, play with him or anything. the only time we get to spend together is when my husband lays him next to me and i SLOWLY log roll on my side to face him. ugh. but i guess the good news is, he isnt crawling/walking yet so im told its better i did it now lol.
    anyways, i digress!! the real reason i wanted to post is i feel like we are alot alike. i cant believe all these posters saying they are up and about so quickly after surgery. im almost happy im not as great feeling as them as it is a constant reminder to take it easy. i think if i felt good id forget. ive already forgot not to twist a couple times and caught myself midway...so scary!
    anyways, i wanted to know how you are doing now since your surgery was about 5 months ago? would love to hear back!!!

    I see my doctor for my follow up on Thursday. That is exactly three weeks post surgery. I plan to talk to him about physical therapy, so I can start building my core correctly. I don't want to have any more set backs!

    Thanks for the encouragement.
  • DrakesterDDrakester Posts: 1
    edited 07/07/2014 - 2:47 AM
    Hi - I wanted to post as I've taken great strength from this chain, as I searched for insight into what was happening to my back after my L5-S1 micro discectomy 10 days ago. I had the operation and all went well apart from a small tear in the liquid sack surrounding the spine. The surgeon clamped and patched it, and sewed me up. The day after the operation I was allowed out of bed, walked with ease and no pain and the next day was allowed home. The day after I felt great and I then think I over did it. The physio had said let pain be your guide, so I walked with my kids to the park and back, and shops and back. Maybe 1 mile or more in total. All felt fine but that night I started to get headaches so laid down. They went away quickly - a sure sign of cerebral spinal fluid leakage. A restless sleep later I called the hospital and they told me to come back in - sure enough they diagnosed the same as me, csf leakage. A blood patch injection was ordered and I had it late the next day. They said it should work immediately but as a precaution you stay flat on your back for 24hrs. I had a feeling it hadn't taken and sure enough the next day on standing the headaches remained. Not searing pain, but aching and very much there. The surgeon said next step was to repatch the leak directly but that couldn't be done for 5 more days - I requested to go home and stay flat there rather than stay in hospital, and glad I did. In consultation with my chiropractor I started to take collagen supplements and within 36hrs the headaches had subsided. However I must have done something else wrong as my lower back is in agony, making it painful to lie down, sit or stand. Pain in lower back, hard to straighten and pain in knee joint (weird). I fear I have re ruptured but have no idea. Since original walk too far too fast, I've done very little to antagonise the back - but I do wriggle when I sleep and like to sleep 'twisted' like a corkscrew, so fear I have done that and may have re ruptured !! Stitches come out in 2 days and I hope pain subsides but will update when I can. I really want to push for a new MRI but know its a no-go for months as surgeon will say rest up and see what happens. If anyone who posted these messages here some years ago are still active here (unlikely I guess as once fixed, why come back) can you let me know what happened with you, timings etc. Thanks
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