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ShayBennSShayBenn Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everybody. :H This is my first post, but I'm a long time reader. Lots of useful info here.
I've had lower back pain on and off for the last ten years or so (I'm 27). My first flare up occurred when I was 17, but for years in my early twenties, I had no pain or problems at all. Then about a year and a half ago, I noticed the pain but it wasn't bad enough for me to seek any treatment. One day however I woke up in so much pain, I had to go to the ER. The doctor at the ER said it sounded like a bulging disc, but I didn't get an MRI done until almost 6 months later, which did show that I had a bulging/herniated disc in my lower back. I actually switched doctors because my PCP at the time was not taking me seriously, I had to actually seek out a new doctor and ask for an MRI. Anyway, since the MRI I've had two absolutely debilitating flare-ups. I can't walk more than two feet without painful spasms, and I am only mildly comfortable laying down when these flareups happen. My husband has to do pretty much everything for me, and while I appreciate and love him, it's humiliating. When I'm not having a flare-up, the pain is still always there in some capacity. I'm sore every morning and have trouble getting out of bed, I have trouble with shoes, teeth brushing, walking my dog, getting in and out of cars, pretty much everything. I feel like I'm in my 80s and I am only 27.
I am at my wit's end. I've tried physical therapy twice, (the second time I think actually made it worse), massage, stretches (I do them religiously every day, sometimes twice), heat, ice, every type of med (naproxen, mobic, flexeril, steroids, vicodin) and all of these only give temporary relief. I am also not comfortable with being on any kind of med for a long time.
My new PCP wants to me get a second opinion from another neurosurgeon (the first one I saw, for a total of about ten minutes, recommended flexeril and physical therapy, after I told him I already tried both of those things). I found a highly recommended one with great reviews in my area, and I want to ask him about microdiscectomy. I have been against surgery for the longest time, but I feel like I'm running out of options and I can't live like this anymore. From what I understand, microdiscectomy is minimally invasive, and the recovery time isn't too long. Does anyone know anymore about this procedure, as far as recovery, pain, if it actually works? Any help or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading. :)


  • Hi ShayBenn,

    I would definitely recommend a second opinion, and even a third one. It sounds like the first doc didn't take you seriously, so I'd write him off and go get two new opinions.

    I had pain for 7 years and just had a microdiscectomy at L4L5 on 1/27. I had gotten to the point where I couldn't stand up for more than 5 minutes without pain. As soon as I got out of bed from the surgery I noticed that I no longer had the pains in my legs and butt. It felt like someone had hit me in the back repeatedly with a baseball bat, but each day since surgery that has gotten better.

    You would definitely need constant help for the first week or two after surgery, but hey, your husband is already doing that for you. Each day gets better and you will feel a little stronger and will have less surgery pain.

    I am now taking half doses of vicodin but up until today I was taking whole doses. So yes, you'll be in pain and you'll need help, but that's what medication and loved ones are for. :)

    My incision is about 2.5 inches long and it has staples in it to keep it closed. I go back next week to have the staples removed.

    I'm SO glad I had this surgery. I kind of wish my doc had done it earlier! I kept trying to put it off with medication and by doing PT, but ultimately those didn't work. Last night my mom and I made jam. I probably stood up for two hours straight, which was unthinkable before surgery.

    Good luck, and hope you find a solution soon.

  • Thank you both so much for your replies! I really appreciate it. It's good to hear from people who have had positive experiences with surgery. :)
  • 2nd opinion is always good.
    Just keep in mind that minimally invasive really has nothing to do with how 'big' the surgery is.

    What's minimally invasive is a smaller incision and the ability to 'weave' through the muscles vs. cut right through. The actual surgery on your back is still a big deal. Lower back surgery is a major surgery. Also, the micro surgeries do come with a drawback in that the surgeon is working with 'reduced' vision so they can only 'cut away' what they can see and can miss portions.

    I don't want to scare you. I've had 2 MD's (the first one didn't work and the 2nd one was 40% successful at best) but I do want you to realize that surgery is not a cure all.

    Have you seen a Physiatrist? I feel like I'm preaching this lately but they do look at the entire muscular/skeletal system and try to tailor a PT program based on your entire body, not just your injury.

    Anyhow, I would not ask about an MD, I would ask for a true evaluation and a treatment recommendation. When he gives it to you ask the next 2 questions
    1 - what slightly more conservative approach would you take?
    2 - What slightly more aggressive approach would you take?

    What are the pros/cons to each?

    Good luck
  • ShayBenn said:
    From what I understand, microdiscectomy is minimally invasive, and the recovery time isn't too long. Does anyone know anymore about this procedure, as far as recovery, pain, if it actually works?
    It depends on what "kind" of approach is used.

    Some surgeons may do an "open" version. This is the most invasive version. They make a long incision, cut thru muscles, and ligaments and bone.

    Others may utilize a technique where they only need to make two small perforations that don't even require a single stitch to close; a bandaid is all that is needed.

    ...And varying versions in between those two, with varying degrees of positives and negatives.

    I've had two of the latter. They worked for me. The recoveries were definitely unique to my set of circumstances. This is why it would be difficult for me to tell you "The recovery will be "X" and the pain will be "Y".

    Sorry you have to go thru this back pain stuff. You are on the right track however. The more info you gather, the better your chances are to choose what's right for your well being.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hi DNice :H

    Thanks for the info! After I read your post I googled Physiatrists and found one in my area that seems pretty good. Is a Physiatrist kind of like a physical therapist, but with a medical degree? I think after my appointment with the neurosurgeon I will make an appointment with the physiatrist as well. Like you said, I want as many opinions as possible.
    Something I was not aware of until recently was how bad smoking can be for back pain, and I am a smoker. This week I began tapering off (I used to smoke a pack a day, I'm down now to about 7 a day) and I plan on this Sunday being my "quit day". After I have kicked the habit, I want to start a diet and exercise program (hopefully the physiatrist can help with this as well), because I am also about 20 pounds overweight. I'm really hoping that between quitting smoking and getting in better shape, my back pain will decrease greatly. I've wanted to quit smoking and lose weight for a while, and my back pain seems to be the kick in the butt I've needed. I know it is a lot to take on at once, so I'm trying to pace myself. The main reason I am so stressed about my back is my husband and I were planning to have our first baby in the next couple of years, and I can't imagine pregnancy and labor with the kind of pain I have now. I have to start being proactive, for my health and for the health of my future children. I absolutely do not want to have to take flexeril and vicodin when I'm pregnant!
    Thanks again for the info, and excuse my long winded reply! :)
  • I just had one on thursday. I had bad leg pain friday night all the way to sunday morning. I mean BAD in tears pain. I actually feel a million times better now. I can do light house work and walk all day no problem. I would definatly get a second opinion because my mri just showed a herniated disc. When they opened me up the disc was actually ruptured and I had bone fragments everywhere. It is still early in my recovery but I do feel a huge difference already. The siatic and back pain are gone. Yes I habe pain right now but it is surgical pain. I know that I am pushing myself kind of hard right now though too. I actually got yelled at by my nurse friend tonight. She has been coming over everyday to check on me and change my dressing. I was sitting "wrong" when she walked in and to top it.off I had removed my dressing about 10 mins before hand because of the insane itch. At this point in time I would recommend it to someone becahse like I said earlier, its a different pain. I wouldnt be able to vouch for your recovery because everyone is different but I am willing to keep you posted on mine if that helps. Minus the whole leg thing it has been cakewalk.
  • Hi ShayBenn - your post made me realize I forgot to mention a few things

    First - very exciting that you are looking thinking about having children. Let your doctor know your plan/goals. He may have a slightly different opinion based on this. I know it sounds silly but it does play into it. I'm not sure if he'd be more inclined to suggest surgery or wait until after you have the child. But very key factor to share with your surgeon - your life goals.

    Second - my situation was not like yours so don't let me completely scare you. I ruptured a disc after managing for 17 years with sciatica/back pain on and off. Visited doctor about 3-4 times over those years, went to PT twice (~6-12 sessions each time), kept fit and did generally well. My situation was extreme.

    Lastly - yes, Physiatrist is a medical doctor. The center I'm going to (got the recommendation from my GP) has 2 Physiatrists, PT's, aqua therapy, etc.

    I do see a difference in the PT I'm getting with this group and feel it is tailored to me.

    Good luck with the 2nd opinion.
  • I had a lumbar microdisectomy 6 months ago... certain pains it helped.. but my nerve was so suffocated from my disc, i may never 100% heal. My doctor said i could be better in 2 weeks, or a year or two.. everybody's recovery time is different. the surgery as my doctor stated, "it does not fix your back". it just allows your back to start to heal. 6 months after my surgery, feeling in my leg finally is slowly starting to comeback, however that is extremely painful. after surgery walk as much as you can... i found out, even though painful, walking my dog does help. i'm also 27 and feel like i'm 80 too! my personal opinion = get the surgery..

    i was 17 with my first flare up... look at "schuerrmann's disease" i've got some symptoms, but not as severe as most people with that.. but that disease typically starts in people around the age of 17, your symptoms sound similar to mine.
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