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