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Microdisectomy post op advice/experiences

Hello! I am new to this community but not new to back pain! I really came here looking for some feedback/advice and experiences from those suffering from back problems! Please take the time to read my story and offer any advice or your personal experiences. It will help me and I am sure it will help others!

I am a 27 year old male, who has played sports throughout my life. I have been very active until the last year of my life. I was weightlifting one day and noticed pain/discomfort in my back. Went to a chiropractor and visits seemed to help. So like any stubborn male, I kept lifting and running for the next few months. Then one day I went into the weight room, went to do a a dead lift and POP! I felt a sharp pain and was instantly in tears. It was the worse pain ever!! I went to the ER, had an X-ray then MRI and I was told I herniated my L5-S1 disc. I was given pain meds and sent to a back orthopedic who advise PT/epidural injections and over time the pain started to go away but I never felt right. After a few months of it improving it started to get worse. So I went to a neurosurgeon, and he recommended a microdisectomy.

I had the microdisectomy in late September. Before the surgery I had severe pain at times that would prevent me from walking and standing for more than 5 to 10 minutes. The pain started in my lower back, traveled down the thigh/calf and even went to the bottom of my foot. After the surgery, the pain was gone. It was unbelievable! Since the surgery though the pain has slowly returned. It is not as bad as it was, but its there, in the same areas before the surgery. I have done PT for 4 weeks and have tried to walk a mile every other day since the surgery. The last visit I had with the neurosurgeon a few weeks ago was the pain was normal and to resume normal activities after PT. It has worsened though now, and I don't know what to do.

I fear I may have re-herniated the disc or is it possible scar tissue is causing this pain. I was told by the neurosurgeon most pain is from internal swelling, but I just have don't know if it would worsen 2 and 1/2 months since the surgery

Should I contact the neurosurgeon again? Am I jumping the gun? Is this normal to do through pain 2 and 1/2 months after the surgery? What are your experiences with a Microdisectomy?

I know that was long, but its been on my mind for a few weeks now! Thank you so much for reading my story! Thanks for any advice or experiences you share with me! I am new to this forum community and look forward to hearing from you guys!


  • If you do a little searching on the first few pages you will find several of us that had recent micro-d's and have had various levels of discomfort come back after a few weeks of 'no pain whatsoever.' I think you need to ask yourself (and your Dr) - how does the pain compare to pre-surgery. If its at or near the same level, Id ask to maybe have an MRI to see about a re-herniation or scar tissue. Im not sure of any other sure-fire way to tell, except maybe the common office diagnostics like leg lifts, bending over, etc... If your pain is that shooting, constant nerve pain, Id start asking questions and pushing the issue. If its general soreness, or some 'pinching' here and there, even in those old "sciatic" areas, Id give it some more time.

    Stay in touch here... like I said, several of us are in the same post-MicroD limbo.

  • Unlike yourself, I was not improved by the micro-d and as a result had nerve damage and drop foot.

    Agree with NHback and suggest you tell your neuro every little symptom you have, even things you think have got nothing to do with your back or op. Suggest you keep a journal of what, where, when, how much pain and description of it. Then show the neuro. If its normal pain, no loss, just small investment in time. Keep in mind that its still a major operation and it does take quite a while for the nerve to settle down.

    As NHback said, read the lots of other posts and what's been said, because they are just like yours.

    Don't hesitate to ask us any questions you have or think of.

    Let us know how you go. Good or bad, as this will help others to know what happened.
  • Your posts have helped me already. I like the idea of keeping a journal of my pain.

    NHback - I kind of want a second MRI, and during my last visit I was told if I have any pain/trouble I would need to schedule an appt and an MRI would be the first thing they would likely do. I guess I am afraid of sounding like a hypochondract with the pain since I am MUCH better since the operation. But the low level pain has gotten worse recently despite PT. I agree with you, I need to be patient as well. Thanks again!

    Dave - I think the journal idea is fantastic and will start doing that! You are right, it is a major surgery, modern technique have made it seem much less invasive, but it is still spinal surgery. I guess I am constantly battling whether or not the pain is normal OR something is wrong again. Since I have never been through this I just don't know what to expect

    I will update this thread every few days to try and keep the community informed but also to serve as a story others who are in the same situation an idea of how my story has played out.

    There are a lot of resources and good threats in this forum. A great community I wish I had found when this problem first started!
  • ben_indianabben_indiana Posts: 288
    edited 11/21/2012 - 4:10 AM
    I hope you have had a chance to find some posts by me & NH & another member Cvalent. They all relate to exactly what you are going through. I had my surgery in early september. Sure enough right at that 4 week mark I felt as if I was regressing. I dealt with my sciatica for over 2 years before surgery. So when it came back it was so scary & depressing. You start to question everything. The success of the surgery, the decision to have surgery, and how the hell you are ever gonna get back to normal.

    So, even if it is all normal, there is no reason not to see the surgeon. Get that validation that everything is OK. See him as often as you need. Me personally, my surgeon just keeps telling me its normal. I believe that now although I was not sure a few weeks ago. My PT is awesome, she has given me better explanations of what has gone on in my back than the surgeon. It seems to me that the surgeons only think about the physical aspects of recovery. Mine just is not great at the assurance. He says everything is normal, but he says it so plainly and matter-of-fact that you lose a little of the personal factor.

    I have posted many times about the importance of finding the right surgeon and that goes for PT also. It takes a team of people including your family to work through all this. That is what I am most thankful for this weekend. The triple threat of my wife, my surgeon, and my PT to get me through all this.

    And now finally at week 11 I feel I am back on the right track. I upped my PT yesterday, and feel some pain from it. The understanding of what pain is OK and normal means everything. And that understanding not only took almost 11 weeks but it is still happening day to day. What can I do at PT? What can I do at the gym? What can I do at work? Its all a process.

    The biggest step for me was the acceptance that a 6-8 week recovery is just plain unrealistic. Maybe the disc is healed and the mechanics are all there, but the muscles still have a long way to go. Strength & mobility have a long way to go also. 2 years of pain & favoring do no go away in 2 months.

    So thats where I am at. I hope this helps you. I am glad you found the forum. I talked about the triple threat but also I dont know how I could have gotten by without having so many real people going through the same things as me to talk to.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • Flash09 said:
    I guess I am constantly battling whether or not the pain is normal OR something is wrong again. Since I have never been through this I just don't know what to expect

    This is exactly the hardest part of the recovery process for me. I can relate to you 100%. As frustrating as it is, I know that the only thing that will answer these questions, and help with the worry/anxiety is time... taking it day by day and seeing what happens. For me - even on days that Im doing very well physically, are still emotionally demanding.
  • I had a micro-d in August of 2011. It took probably about 2 months or so for the pain to go away, mostly because everything was still very irritated. I remember doing 2 back-to-back rounds of steroid packs to get the inflammation down. That being said, I was pain-free for about 6 months and re-herniated. If you're still feeling that nerve pain at the level it was before surgery, I'd definitely tell your doctor. Scar tissue has caused me pain in the past, but nothing like a herniation did. If you're not doing any BLT, then it may just be scar tissue. Everyone is different, though! I have no idea how I went from a small re-herniation after a micro-d, to a discogram telling me it's DDD and scheduling an ADR/TLIF, haha. And like NH and Dave said, don't hesitate to ask anything! I've found that talking to others who went through it is helpful and a bit reassuring.
    DDD L4-5 & L5-S1 w/ herniation
    Failed discectomy, 8-15-11
    Discogram, 11-14-12
    L4-S1 ALIF (2 plastic cages, 2 plates and 8 screws), 1-4-13
    FBSS & SI joint dysfunction, 12-30-13
    1 year post-op CT hardware scan & left SI joint injection, 1-17-14
  • Thanks for taking the time to post your experience and advice, I did feel a little about my situation after reading that and less afraid to contact my neurosurgeon next week and schedule an appt to discuss my concerns.

    I understand it is a multi therapy approach, I need to incorporate PT into my recovery. I have been doing so, it just doesn't seem like its as effective as I would have hoped. I know PT isn't going to make the pain go away but I was hoping for more stability in the core region and I just don't feel like I have accomplished that.

    I have begun to accept its not an 8 week recovery process, it is going to take months to get back to the state I was in prior to my injury, if I every get back to that point. I think overall, my lifestyle with playing rugby for years, lifting and running but strain on my L5-S1 disc and that region in general. So we are talking years of stress to that region, Its going to take awhile to correct this issue.

    Realistically, I am just looking to be able to get back to being active while eliminating the pain. If I could get to a point where I could jog, swim and/or light weight lift 3 times a week without pain I'd be super happy!

    One thing I didn't mention in my original post is the mental toll this has taken. No being active for so long, in pain and really not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for months just has been awful. I have not been the nicest person to be around at times and its just because of the mood this whole thing has put me in. The microdisectomy seemed to he the savior, and I am still holding hope it is but the recent pain has def been a step back mentally as well
  • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with disc herniation!

    I have a few questions for you. How did you first hurt your discs? It took about 2 months for the pain to go away, was it a gradual the pain lessened after the surgery or did it fluctuate from better to worse to better during that period of time? How did you know you re-herniated the disc?

    I go back and forth about whether the pain I have now is scar tissue, nerve inflammation or disc material hitting my nerve. As I mentioned it is only 1/5th of the pain I was experiencing a few weeks leading up to the surgery. I could barely walk and stand without terrible pain. The pain I have now isn't preventing me from doing anything other than more energetic stuff like swimming/running, but its there for sure, and this week it seems to have gradually worsened a bit. For some odd reason sitting for a period of time seems to trigger it. Also in the morning when I get up i have leg pain, which is odd. Prior to the surgery, the pain was sever when walking/standing, but lessened when laying down or sitting.

    Also what is BLT? Sorry I am new to this terminology!

    Thanks again, I appreciate your advice!
  • I was in 3 different car accidents. September of 2003, 2004 and 2005. (September sucks, haha.) It took 2 years after the last accident to start having any significant pain. I didn't start to get treatment until after my son was born in 2009.
    Gradually my pain after the micro-d went away. It takes time for the nerves to heal after having been under stress for a while. I knew I re-herniated it because I had been pain-free after my micro-d and then it came back. It definitely left me feeling defeated. (I know now that it wasn't just a herniation that caused all of my pain, as I am diagnosed with multi-level DDD now.)
    I would let your doctor know the pain is returning. It may just be slow healing, or inflammation. (A Medrol steroid dose pack might help.) Sitting has always made my sciatica flare up as well. It could be you are overexerting yourself without even realizing it. The best thing is to let him/her know that way if it is something like a re-herniation, you can get it looked at before it gets even worse.
    BLT = Bending, lifting and twisting. A big no-no after any kind of back surgery or recovery from back-related problems.
    DDD L4-5 & L5-S1 w/ herniation
    Failed discectomy, 8-15-11
    Discogram, 11-14-12
    L4-S1 ALIF (2 plastic cages, 2 plates and 8 screws), 1-4-13
    FBSS & SI joint dysfunction, 12-30-13
    1 year post-op CT hardware scan & left SI joint injection, 1-17-14
  • Flash09FFlash09 Posts: 11
    edited 11/23/2012 - 10:57 AM
    Wow, I think I am never going to drive a car in the month of September! How terrible to have been involved in 3 car accidents!

    Agreed on healing takes time! I am guessing my nerve was compressed for 3 months and irritated to some degree for an additional 4 months. I actually had been prescribed Ibprofin, doesn't seem to have helped so I just stopped taking it. I might want to look into a steroid though. I am going to call Monday to make an appointment and tell the doctor my pain has returned for a few weeks now. See what course of action should be taken at this point.

    The feeling of defeat, that def is a good way to put it, that's how I feel now. I really have been striving for getting back to an active life since the initial injury, thought this surgery was the answer, so it has been very deflating since the pain started returning. I have had to seriously restrict my diet since I have not in active; I gained 15 lbs a few months after the injury because there is not much I could do. While I've now lost most of that, I just feel so out of shape.

    Multiple DDD, they haven't said anything about degeneration at any other level for me, so I am hoping this will remain true. That def has to have been difficult to live with to say the least. I wish you all the best! Thanks again
  • I figured I would update everyone, I went to the Neurosurgeon today for a visit regarding my concerns and pain. I have been scheduled for an MRI with contrast (the dye is supposed to highlight scar tissue). I am hoping this will resolve why I still have sciatic pain post surgery. Also I have been prescribed naproxen to reduce inflammation. The pain I am experiencing could be from a number of things ranging from scar tissue, re-herniation, inflammation etc.

    Talking to him settle some of my fears and he did state the nerve pain I am experience does need to get looked into as sufficient time has passed since the surgery.
  • It's good that NS is wanting to track down the source of the sciatic pain.

    Yes, knowledge settles fears. It's the 'not knowing' that stresses one.

    Great work in loosing those 15 lbs. Swimming is recommended to soften scar tissue and general / core strengthening. But goggles and snorkel is a must to prevent twisting for breathing.

    Hope you can avoid fusion. All the best.
  • First and foremost, I'd like to wish everyone a fantastic holiday season.

    I figured update you guys on the results of my MRI; the MRI shows a recurrent herniation, but it is not as big as the initial. So the plan of action is steroid oral pills, epidural injections and spinal adjustments. The hope is that it heals on its own.

    Needless to say I am frustrated at the moment, I feel like I am just going through the motions like the first time and I'll have to have an eventual 2nd microdiscectomy. My pain seems to fluctuate, some days it is very low to non-existent, while other days it can hit a 5 out of 10. Really disappointed about these findings, was looking forward to starting to do light cardio and swim, but it looks like that isn't such a great idea.
  • I can totally understand your frustration, hon. I have a reherniation after my discectomy as well and after another round of PT, tons of steroids, injections, etc. here I am staring down a 2 level ALIF. I really hope the non-invasive treatments will work for you this time!

    Hope you have a wonderful holiday! Try not to worry too much. :)
    DDD L4-5 & L5-S1 w/ herniation
    Failed discectomy, 8-15-11
    Discogram, 11-14-12
    L4-S1 ALIF (2 plastic cages, 2 plates and 8 screws), 1-4-13
    FBSS & SI joint dysfunction, 12-30-13
    1 year post-op CT hardware scan & left SI joint injection, 1-17-14
  • Flash, reherniation is quite common (approx 15% for low BMI persons). Disappointing when you are part of that category.

    You mention no swimming. What would be the reason for that?
  • I had a microdiscectomy on 12/5/12. I was having pain/numbness/weakness on my LEFT side. For 2 days after surgery, the pain on my left side was gone, but then I had pain on the RIGHT side. My surgeon put me on a steroid pack and after 2 days, the pain was gone on my right side but started getting pain again on the left. Weird, right? Well, for 2 weeks now, I'm still having pain on my left side, which the surgery was supposed to relieve. I had an MRI last Friday, 12/21, and am still awaiting the results (due to the holidays). I just know he's going to have to go back in with all of the pain I'm having. So frustrating!!
  • mp
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
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