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Microdiscectomy - Time, Pain, Surgery & Recovery

sleightysleighty Posts: 30
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:00 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

Im a 25yr Old Male currently at 17 weeks post Op, Microdiscectomy. I am providing only my diary notes on here hopefully to give some insight and maybe some expectations (although we all heal differently). I must stress I had possibly the most acute symptoms prior to surgery, crying, vomitting near daily form the pain, sleeping 1-3hr a night - I was exhausted come surgery.

10 Months ago (Pain 10/10) - Fall moving window frames in a factory. I only fell a metre off a step but the result was instant pain. I saw the Dr who referred me for MRI which showed a disc protrusion at L5/S1 and the Dr believed it to be pressing on the nerve root. I was sent home where my cousin (retired nurse) checked in on me and kept me company while I layed near 24/7 on the floor. I was dosed up on Orimorph (morphine)predominently and on 18 pills a day including other opiate based drugs all the way to my surgery date!

9-4month ago (Pain 6-10/10 - I'd seen the Dr for extensive medication, I had been in physio and read books to guide me, a lumbar cushion and had accupunture. I must stress for me the accupuncture was number 2 on pain relief after drugs. If your in this time bracket I would suggest at least trying it. I never believed in it but by session 6 I was certainly feeling the benefits

4-1month ago (Pain 7-10/10) I was worn down mentally but with a glimmer of hope in that I was finally referred for surgery. In this period I was quite lax with my physio exercises. The majority of my time was spent looking online for ideas of self help and taking my medication. The drugs meant I rarely went to the toilet. Use some anti-constipation ASAP if this happens. It randomly helps as the bowel pressure however small did effect me. I developed some bruising sensation at the base of my back. I am not a Dr and know I couldn't go 12hr without medication but regardless knowing the pain I was in vs the medication effect on my internal organs, I couldn't of stopped even if I wanted, I was in agony that only fellow sufferers can understand (i honestly hope the proverb of there's always someone worse off isn't true for that amount of pain)

From month 9-0 pre surgery I walked 1-2 miles every other day. I was a very fit individual pre injury swimming to a high standard and playing football at county/state level.

Ok, so the surgery, pretty much as I had seen on youtube (look up miscrodiscectomy you'll see the basics in a med video).I was worried prior as I knew I couldn't go on as I had been but happy at least another avenue was being explored. Ok so take it there were no complications.

Week 1 (Pain 2-8/10 - Dosed up on drugs but aware from day 1 I was lacking the striking nerve pain in my left leg. I felt stiff and pain around the surgical area but did as instructed and stayed laid on my floor at home a whole week (although told to start moving after 3 days). I cannot tell you the relief both physically and emotionally but must stress I was still getting nerve pain in my leg (usually in the morning) and slight numbness in the toes and back of my left leg. I would class this time as painful

week 2-4 (Pain 2-8/10 - I had my up and down days, I couldn't always put my finger on what I had done to aggravate my back but when it was bad I just wanted to give up but that one day of relative pain free movement was worth it. Again everyones different but I will say I kept the will that I would get better. Someones horror story in 2009 i read in a blog cannot be considered against todays advancements in medical care i believe. I could sit during this period but never pushed it. I saw each sit as a potential worry period of pushing out of the disc again so every 20min-40min I would stand. I still hadn't gone to the cinema or had a proper sit down meal.

Week 4-8 (Pain 2-8/10) Same as above but my right leg became irratable. I wold have bouts of pain but felt more able to manage. I was on less painkillers and more importantly off the opiate drugs like oxycontine. I would walk 2-6 miles every other day. My running knowledge and muscle theory has taught me with long injuries the body needs to be pushed then rested. People are different and some I've read go out near daily. I took the long view with my sciatic pain, I thought if I go back to how I was it would be the end of me, so 2yr out of my life was my short term view to full fitness. I know this sounds long but seriously if you have been where I've been with this injury only then would you go to the same lengths.

Week 8-12 (Pain 5-8/10) I honstly felt in this period I had taken a step back. Possibly as a result of returning to work part time. I had to though as money dictated I was without income and stretching money into loans etc. This stress period didn't help and I believe set me back. I did slip back into taking my opiate drugs and again became lazy with stretching etc. PLEASE DO NOT copy me and stay strong. I will add I had sex for the first time in 4 months in this period, the three days after were very painful in the leg mainly. You've gotta have your partners support, I knew it wasn't easy for my wife but on this occassion I wish I hadn't

Week 12-16 (Pain 2-6/10) Time and walking were my key, I felt I had taken the rough and this period was the smooth. I could jog, not run, and swim but not extensively as the muscles would tighten. I still put aside 20mins stetching but if I missed a day or two I didn't panic. I think this was the point I thought 'yes, this is manageable' but at the same time felt I was never going to be the same as an athlete..

Now (Pain 2-5/10) Im happy when I think where I came from. Im not healed fully but can function. I still have may 2 in 7 days of discomfort. For those who know the buttock bruise sensation you just can't get too and the ankle sciatic pain do arise sometimes. I can run, I have done 8 milers and the odd 15 miles. The period after running I have started being careful. I drove 40 miles straight after running a 15 miler once and the day after had to phone in sick. I must say pain now is not quite the same. I compare every injury to the sciatica and nothing comes close. I would say I'm at 10% of what I had 14 months ago. Right now I am sat at my desk writing this which has taken 30mins and thinking about it I have some muscle tightness in my leg and a slight ache in my left ankle. I have just stood up without pain and sat down and it comes and goes.

My take away points (only applicable to me)

1) The hardest thing for me was the time waiting for surgery and the sciatic pain.
2) Oxycontin is the most effective drug for the pain after that the time release tablets Mambron (which are the long release tramadol) if nearly as effective.
Stretching goes so far and will help - NEVER go to the point of pain.
3) Try sleeping on the floor for a week. If you can lay on your side put a cushion on the floor under the leg thats upper most so its not completely hanging over but instead elevated so the hips are 90 degree to the floor.
Get a lumbar back cushion.
4) Dont scare yourself reading the internet. Most people write on sites only about their bad pains - trust me if you have it you'll know its bad but medical science is ever improving - I went with the micro surgery as opposed the laser alternative as the micro is as good as it may get but the laser is fledgling so I thought the best of the time was prefered to potential best of the future.
5) I am the worst person to be told rest. I missed national swimming trials and competitions and lost 2stone while I waited. You must give it time. I've set 2-2 1/2yrs as my goal.

I am not going to apologise for the length of this post as its to counter the many horror stories and instead let people have the facts (of 1 persons) a current case. I will answer any questions on my email but stress I'm a person, not a dr, I can only talk about my experiences.

I hope you recover at whatever stage your at




  • Well, glad things are going well.
    I also think it's nice to see your full progress there and back (so to speak).

    I hope you continue to do well. I do think it's important for people to read success stories. It's a good reminder that each person is very different. A bulging/protruding disc is different than a rupture. Also, any herniation can vary...even those that look horrible on MRI might not cause that much pain while other smaller herniations can cause a lot of pain.

    At the end of the day, it's good to know both sides and I hope more people have positive outcomes like you did! SO nice to read a positive result!

    Thanks for sharing
  • HI! I am glad you are doing better, it sure is a long recovery! Good luck to your continued recovery. Thanks for sharing!
    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
  • Hi, I just thought I'd drop in a quick update:

    Month 5 (Pain 1-4/10) I've dropped off with the running as it was giving me some hip pain and afterward a more constant sciatic pain (2-4/10). However I have been doing swimming more regulary as an alternative in the last 2 weeks with a notable reduction in the random sciatica which hits me only 0-3 times a day at present.

    Being a swimming coach I have found back stroke the best for someone in my position. It allows me to breathe without arching the back (as in front crawl) and allows you to observe your hips to ensure they dont corkscrew (twisting in the hips can bring on the leg pain)

    One other point I've noted this month is the ab strengthening belt I've been using to improve my core muscles from deteriorating has been making a real difference to my posture and corse strength. I only have it set on level 20-50 of 130 and until today had only good things to say. However today while using it I had a 3min bout of nerve pain. I remain curious if anyone else has used these?

    I hope everyones doing well
  • Hi, I just thought I'd update as im at my 6month post op anniversary:)

    Month 6 (Pain 1-2/10)For the last part of feb I was swimming regular (3-4 times a week) mainly on back stroke. A mistake (hard for me to admit being a swimming coach), I've let my back muscles have a holiday and when standing still for a long time I started getting some pain, more awkward than a real pain. For the last 3 weeks I've reverted back to running(3miles) every morning and doing dorsal raises upward off 50 x 5 a day on top of walking and more recently cycling (20mins - fairly intense but posture totally straight). I thought maybe having the break from running had really helped as that was my major change. I wasnt getting any post run pain really so I assumed initially it was the dorsal flections strengthening me up. Then I kinda kicked myself on friday when asked if i wanted a beer i said 'no, on drugs' before thinking what the hell for the last 2 weeks I've not popped a tramadol pill. -

    I'm wondering if maybe the last month has been my bodies reaction to final tramadol withdrawl, I had bad withdrawls aching and sciatica in month 1-3 when I kept trying to come off them (too early the dr said). Is there anyone at the 6month+ point that had a final withdrawl bout of pain over a few weeks? - Its odd pain, its like my bodies trying for 2-5secs to hurt me but then just gives up and it goes away leaving nothing - on a scale over 5 secs it feels like 2-2-1-1-0

    I honestly feel so so good at the moment. I'm getting the odd pain here and there but im holding onto it being my body trying to mimic the pain to get its hit of drugs - Anyone had anything similar or got any info?
  • I had microdisectomy surgery on March 7, 2012 to repair a herniated/fragmented disc at L5/S1. Before the surgery I was in excruciating pain for 5 weeks...pain meds I was getting were not as effective as I would have liked. After complaining about that I was given something called Morphine sulphate in a 15mg dosage. This did absolutely nothing for me and I suffered on until the surgery. When I woke up from the surgery, the pain was greatly diminished, although there was still some in my buttocks and lower leg. This situation hasn't changed much in the 7 weeks since the surgery. I am much better off now but still am very restricted with pain that seems to come and go. I am wondering who has had a similar experience and how long did it take to be pain free. Thanks.
  • I'm glad its getting better for you. I think I am one of them positive stories as well. I am 5 weeks post op L4/L5 micro. The sciatic pain was gone when I woke up from surgery. I had some pain around the incision though. I still have some back pain, but I'm sure with some PT, that will eventually go away. And its on a very low scale most of the time so its easy to deal with without meds. I hope I continue on this path and get back to where I used to be
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I could be going crazy.
    But I think I read your thread before. A long time ago.
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Hi, Im a little early for it but had a nighmare few days.

    Month 7 (Pain 1-2/10 - 8/10 for 6 days). Ok so last thursday while helping a friend with his shed the ladder fell away. The distance was 2metres and after 5mins I decided to hop off, annoyingly I landed with all the weight on my left leg and I had instant shooting pain radiate in my ankle, hip and surgical area. I S%^t myself for a few hours as it just mimicked parts of the sciatic pain I had before surgery. Although only a 8/10. Its stayed with me for 6 days now and I'm in to see the dr friday.

    So thats my current nightmare.

    However I remain positive as its all I can do for now as up until then I was feeling better everyday. I even got my first real drinking session in which was brilliant.

    Im sat here just wondering has anyone had falls post surgery in the 4+ month period which caused a re-lapse? I don't feel like its a full relapse but my bodies telling me somethings quite wrong because I aint slept properly since thursday:(
  • Hi folks - this is me. Check my IP. I forgot my password and can't log back in as my emails not recognised:) Such fun

    Month 8 (Pain 1/10) Ok, so I had my fall which was a nightmare in itself. However it turned out following an X-ray I had chipped the pubis part of the hip. The Dr said the pain I had was likely coming from this as opposed my back BUT as I pointed out I know what sciatic pain is. I had clearly jarred my back with the impact that gave me some real pain BUT as of 2 weeks ago the sciatic leg pain ceased. I didn't take any tramadol or other post surgery medication, mainly because im stubborn having just come off them but have had the odd ibuprofen.

    So saying all that I feel quite good. I'm not doing much PT because of the fall because im sore more than anything but I put the 1/10 because Im being cautious. I am getting a pain (not sciatic) in my left buttock but its the numb/bruise sensation and I never can decide really if I class this as pain anymore - more a reminder that niggles.

    Ok so to put some people at ease with immediately post Op differences compared to now (as I've seen quite a few posts looking for goals and expectations)BUT please remember we are all different (and I know thats a semi-cop out)

    Post Op Numbness: Immediately after for me I had numbness in my toes most noteably on my left foot but also quite symettrically on my right. My tips of fingers also were quite cold. I had the sensation come and go in the left ankle and hamstring area.

    It has taken me months to get over this numbness. As Ive posted before I bought a magnetic sheet which worked wonders for circulation for me. I now have 90% of the day with warmth and the 10% is barely noticable - mainly pointed out by my wife after I've done something outside or washed in water that isn't warm. My own understanding as a physio is nerves cannot fully regrow but CAN recover so this numbness in some cases will go and in other stay BUT if it was a toss up between pain and numbness I know which I would take.

    Post Op sleeping: On the side, cushion between knees and worrying all night if I moved I'd ruin my chances of recovery. PAIN. Oh the pain I cannot describe how much I wanted to be done with my wretched life some nights. I knew I didn't want my drugs and worried about side effects/ internal effect but what I came to realise was I had to have them and there was no 'manning up' and trying to come off them quick or missing a dose.

    It took me along time to realise sleeping only on one side set me up for over/under compensating certain muscles. I knew it was painful but I think it was 2 months post surgery I started forcing myself onto my other side. Mainly in the morning from when the pain woke me. The way I found those later months was putting my meds the other side of the bed so I'd wake and have to role over to take them, then I'd stay that side feeling sorry for myself - but it must of helped as I am comfortable both sides now


    Drugs post surgery: You've got to take them and do as your dr says. Yes they probably don't understand your pain but they no what they want to treat and thats pain in general. BUT if they aren't working tell them, don't suffer in silence. I had mine changed 3 times before I got the right amount to stem what I considered hell.

    I honestly now believe only a sufferer will ever understand what I went through and no dr has a clue but as you improve in even the slightest way, congradulate yourself, sit back and assess do you still need as many drugs or as often? If you do then carry on, there is no shame in what we suffer, its a time consuming injury and as I said, we all heal differently.

    Ok my rants over but I hope someone gets something outta this.

  • I am just learning my way around this site! I just now am reading your post! When I told you I had surgery in 2009 it was for the same thing you had. They did a microdiscectomy on me also to relieve the pain of sciatica and guess what? A few weeks after surgery my sciatica pain was right back! You wanna talk about not setting a foot on the floor? Sometimes when I get up and my foot hits the floor the rest of me wants to hot the floor also! Pain pain pain !
    edited 07/15/2012 - 9:16 AM
    Hellooo people, I know its been a long time since I posted but I've have family issues and managed to get Mononucleosis which has had me in hospital for the last 4 weeks (Not nice). So ignoring the mononucleosis which i didn't realise could be so god damn destroying Im quite good.

    Where to start....ok, so Can's and can'ts at month 10

    Can't: Feel the incision site, feel any pain in my legs - Thats what I asked the surgeon for and he did it so I can't really complain. Do a forward roll (I know this sounds stupid but squahing into a small ball still proves beyond me due to fear nothing else)

    Can: Tiny tiny amount of buttock tightness/annoyance. RUN (8miles - but I have done 18 but this included 50/50 walking. Stetch until my finger tips touch floor (before injury back of hands flat to floor). Cycle (I feel upward of 40km and I personally get cautious for the period sat not because of pain etc). Lift 20kg from the floor up to a shoulders. I only go 15kg overhead (I have however always been weak in the shoulder press). Swimming - never needed to stop except when I got cramp in may (I panicked as I hadn't had cramp for years and thought it was my back). SLEEP!!!

    I know we all recover differently and I've just taken 2 steps back but my takeaway point this last month in hospital has been isometric exercises. These are basically contracting your muscles when laid in bed, floor or when walking. Google it so you get an idea of which ones suit your stage of recovery/pre-surgery. As we all know sciatic pain = less motivation = laying still = muscle wastage = difficulty recovery. Mimicking the actions we do when exercising wont make you stronger but will keep you at a certain level.

    I hope everyones doing ok
  • Thank you so much for posting all of this JSLEIGHTY. I am 21 and have been dealing with back problems since my last surgery (see my history in my signature). It is very hard to accept that I am so young and already deal with limitations and pain even after surgeries. Sometimes I feel very alone and my back problems tend to damper my outlook on life since I enjoy riding horses, doing Crossfit, being outside, etc. and I face the reality of not being able to give a 100 percent in my activities and I face the possibility of not being able to do what I love in the future. Your recovery has had a lot of ups and downs like mine and it's comforting to know that someone else is going through the same thing. I appreciate your dedication to your recovery and physical training- it motivates me to keep going. I tend to get frustrated that I have symptoms and don't want to move forward because I fear I won't get better. I hope you keep posting! I should have kept track of my symptoms in detail like you after my surgery, but they become so normal that I always forget to.
    Question for you: Do you take anti inflammatories at all when you work out or get symptoms? Some people recommend it, but I fear that it will mask my symptoms and I will push myself farther because I don't feel any discomfort.
    22 year old. Herniated L4-L5 and L5-S1 in December of 2008 in horse riding fall. All non-surgical methods failed. L4-L5 micro discectomy in Sept. 2010. Further herniation of L5-S1 disc in Nov. 2011 and had L5-S1 micro discectomy March 2012.
  • Timka2003TTimka2003 Posts: 9
    edited 09/11/2015 - 9:17 PM
    Hi, I have had my discectomy 3 weeks ago. My sciatica pain has definitely improved; however, I am having too much pain in my legs as well as on my heels. Is there anybody who have had similar issues? How long does it take for the person to completely heal?

    Please click on link for helpful information
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Liz -Spine-health Moderator
  • Hey.

    I've had 4 of these microdiscectomy operations in a year. And 3 of those took place in November (last month).

    Agony each day since last operation last Friday.

    Looking for some advice. Dos and don't in terms of sleeping. Is it bad to sleep on soft bed?

    On lots of painkillers. What lies ahead for me?
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,422
    edited 12/07/2015 - 2:28 PM
    Welcome to Spine-Health
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    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Hi, im not sure if your even still on this site, but my husband is going through this and is weight the options of surgery due to reading too much of the horror stories. I was wondering if i can get an update on your condition over the last few years?

  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Hello Stacey
    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I am closing it.
    I suggest you create a new discussion using the link below

    Please click on the link for useful information

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
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