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Microdiscectomy questions

Hi everyone, new to this forum.
32 year old male, generally in pretty good health, other than my back.
I am gonna have a MicroD, for a L5/S1 herniation.
Had pain for 3 years, recently completed epidural injections. Minimal improvement for short periods of time after each injection.
My main questions are about recovery.

Is it realistic that I could return to work after 2 weeks ( light duty of course )?

What kind of brace is required after surgery?

It will be very difficult for me to be out of work for more than 3 weeks. I am a shop foreman in a machine shop, I do have many physical duties but I am mostly concerned about resuming my office duties.

Any other comments or advice would be appreciated as well.
L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!


  • i know of a person that had one done and was back to physical work in a week, he had one setback and had to get an epidural steroid injection, but has been fine since, this has been about 4 years ago. i would not recommend this at all. he went against doctors orders, because he needed money. he also works on the weekends building retaining walls, and that is very physical. but this one story has not convinced me to get my microdiscectomy yet
  • No doubt, I have no desire to go against orders. I just hope that it won't be too bad.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • catfishmanccatfishman Posts: 185
    edited 08/10/2012 - 3:51 AM
    in my situation, sitting makes my pain worse, if i sit for too long when i get up, the pain can be horrible, the more i move around the bettter.
  • My experience is quite different. I had a rupture and ended up in the ER, lost feeling in my leg and had a large/massive piece of disc. I was told no driving for 2-weeks and that I had to be cautious for 6 weeks (no physical activity other than walking). At 2-weeks I didn't really feel much better but tried walking.

    That being said my surgery didn't go so well and I ended up with another piece of disc coming out so I was back in surgery again within a few months so 2nd time, I followed doctors orders to a tee. (I did the first time but learned a lot about sleeping, walking and sitting and eating foods full of fiber. Heck I was worried that sneezing would cause a problem).

    Hopefully you are the norm that is a 6 week recovery. Keep in mind it does take 3 months for the disc to 'heal' over but they say a typical patient will feel better within 2-weeks and then generally be released from surgeon care at 6- weeks. I wish I was that patient.
  • I just had a microdiscectomy @ L5 for a posterior disc bulge on my left side a week ago. i am 27, and in good shape.
    my operation went well and i have been walking everyday since the day after the op. everyday I'm feeling a little bit more manoeuvrable, however i really don't think i would be comfortable going back to work next week. mainly because of the sitting down part, i still haven't sat down since the operation (apart from going to the toilet) i only plan to start sitting down by the end of next week. this is because the only consistent bit of information i have received is sitting down is the worst thing you can do after surgery in your lumber area.
    heres a few bits of info i have received about getting back to normal.

    work up to sitting down for up to 1 hour/day by week 4, avoid sitting in week 1-2 20 mins maximum in a day if needed

    walk daily up to a mile max week 1-2 then build up to 3 miles/day by week 4

    dont lift anything more than 10kgs for 4-6 weeks. (you'll see that after the op even lifting your arms in front of you puts strain on the back)

    after 4 weeks iv been told the tissue will have healed, my recovery will become a lot faster, and i can start getting back to a normal lifestyle.

    and finally 3months in total until i can start running, gyming and just generally living a normal lifestyle again.

    hopefully this helps a bit. you'll find its hard to get consistent information from surgeons and physios etc. everyone seems to have their own idea. the main thing is don't rush it.

    oh as for braces and things, I've not had any braces or walking aids, the only thing i have is a small waterproof dressing covering my cut. the cut is 2.5-3" long.

  • Very good info, thanks! Sound like we have very similar problems. Its gonna be a looong few weeks after surgery. Thanks for the reply!

    So if youre not sitting, and walking a little more each day, thats alot of hours laying down??
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • splashandersonssplashanderson Posts: 2
    edited 08/20/2012 - 1:03 AM
    Its a bit of a grey area this one as well i think, i do my walk along the road each day, sometimes i spit it into two walks. but i also try not too lie down for too long throughout the day either (i find i get sore if i lie down too long now) which means im wandering around the house trying to keep myself busy, i guess clocking up more miles all the time. so iv decided that this doesn't count and i just make sure I'm doing a proper walk along the road everyday.
    one thing i forgot to mention is the physios said to stand longer each day until you are comfortably able to stand all day. no time scale as i guess each person is different. (i dont think this means you have to stand all day if you can, just that if you needed to you could, its more about building strength in your back again.)

    the not sitting down thing is unfortunately as bad as it sounds, standing next to the work top to eat meals is rubbish! iv decided to sit down for one meal a day now, i'll probably be sitting for both lunch and dinner by the end of this week.

    thats me a week and a half post op now, still getting a bit of sciatica in my bum cheek and pains around my Achilles/ankle but its bearable. i feel i could easily walk 3miles now but i've read on here a few people over doing it early on and setting themselves back a couple of weeks. so im limiting my walks to 1.5 miles just now.


  • As I get closer to surgery, there are a few things I dont understand and a few more questions. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    I know I am having a microdiscectomy. Am I also likely to have a laminectomy & lumbar decompression? It seems these go hand in hand with the microD. Or does it just all depend on the damage?

    Also, on the recovery. I know walking alot is a part of the deal early. But I see in these posts that sitting is bad and laying down may be uncomfortable as well. How does everyone spend their days, standing? Right now standing is my worst enemy. Also I hear that bending is bad, how can you do anything without bending??!! I picture myself walking around in circles, drugged up, not being able to do anything!

    I have a climbing harness at wowk, should I just hook it to the ceiling and hang all day??!! :)

    I just dont know, I am 2 weeks away from surgery. 6 days away from my pre-op appt. I am sure I will get alot more info then, but as you all know it just fills your mind every hour of every day. It is not helping that I am still getting a little worse every day with pain at night and extereme pain in the morning ( i think the nerve is being pinched all night )

    Thanks All!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • Hi,
    I had a discectomy 2 years ago and it was successful - no sciatic pain now, although I did feel some twinges of it as I was healing after surgery. I used one of those picker-upper stick things so I didn't have to bend - it worked great -especially for getting clothes out of the washing machine!!! One piece at a time though.. hehe.

    I varied laying down, sitting, going for short walks down the hall. Sitting, laying down is fine, just don't stay in one position for too long. I didn't take many narcs -in fact I lost them a few days after, but I didn't really need them. The worst was turning over while lying down, and getting up from lying down- the pain was nauseating, since you can feel the wound being twisted as you turn. Ugh!

    From what I know, the first time it's a discectomy, 2nd time it happens, it's another one, 3rd time it's also the disc fusion- can't remember what it's called.
    discectomy in June 2010 - success! No sciatic pain, just some remaining numbness in foot. And I get charlie horses a lot.
  • Thanks for the input Meesha, glad to hear about a successful MicroD!!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • I'm nearing the two week mark, but I couldn't imagine going to work. I feel like I'm just now starting recovery. I can sit some, but only in stretches of around 20 minutes, so I save that for meals. The rest of the time is a combination of laying down, standing, and walking. My lower back muscles get tired out after being up and around for about an hour, and I have to lay back down if I want to avoid being in pain. Also, I still have to be on my pain meds or I get in Sciatic pain down my right leg. I think pushing myself or allowing myself to get in pain hinders my recovery. It causes my muscles to get inflamed which throws my posture off some and makes walking hard. The neurosurgeons office told me it's pretty normal to still be in pain at this stage, and that I shouldn't worry about it because it sounds like I'm making a normal recovery. I believe I'll be in this particular phase of recovery until at least 4 weeks, or until I start therapy at the 6 week mark. Until then, my physical activity is limited. I do my real walking outside 4 times a day, trying to go a bit further each time (it's nice because it helps me avoid cabin fever). The rest of the time I either lay down and watch tv / play on my ipad, or piddle around the house. So far the only thing I can wear is exercise pants or these soft sweatpant / dorm shorts I bought from target because the waistband doesn't put pressure around my incision site. Shoes have also been a challenge, because most of my slip ons have ended up being too heavy for me to comfortably wear. So far I can wear one pair of flip flops, and my tennis shoes but someone else has to tie them. I did find a long shoe horn at the drug store so I can slip the shoes on myself, if I can ever find a comfortable pair without laces. Other recommendations are to definitely check this site for pre-op advice and get yourself ready. Buy one of the grabber reacher tools, so you can pick up anything you drop or laundry on the floor. I ordered mine from amazon, I think it was made by ettore. There is definitely no bending or twisting. The hardest part about that is rolling over in bed for me. I've had to learn to be very careful, because I've ran into quick pain that way. I can sleep on my left side (surgery was on the right) as long as I have one of those contour leg pillows between my legs. The rest of the time I lay on my back with a pillow underneath my legs. I've ordered a tilting overbed table from Amazon so I can have use my laptop easier in bed. I suggest you do put everything you need at waist level - put your toiletries / hairdryer on the counter, spare toiletpaper where you can reach it, get dixie cups to rinse your mouth out when you brush your teeth so you don't have to bend over. I would also suggest getting a non-slip bath mat for your tub / shower and either a back brush or a loofah with a long handle, because you can't bend to wash your legs / feet. Also, get one of those shower suction cup hooks to hang it from so it's always within easy reach. I still can't drive (can't imagine trying yet), so my roommates are making sure I have stuff to eat. It does get better every day, and I'm up more (I slept a lot the first week), but it's a slower process than I was led to believe. As for a brace, they didn't make me wear one (I would think that would hurt, because my incision has bruising around it). I did end up having to use a walker with wheels on it for the first week though because I was having bad muscle spasms that caused me to almost fall when I walked. If I can help any other way feel free to ask and I will be happy to share my experience with you. :)
  • Sorry if that was long and rambling, I just want to help and tell you anything I found valuable.
  • ben_indianabben_indiana Posts: 288
    edited 08/27/2012 - 3:03 AM
    Not rambling at all. Really appreciate the advice! 10 days till surgery.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
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