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Microdiscectomy in teenagers


I'm new to Spine-Health, so if I break any rules of etiquette I apologies (and please tell me!).

I am keen to hear from any teenagers (or their parents) who have had a microdiscectomy. It does need to be teenagers, rather than adults, as a teenager's disc is not fully formed yet so presents its own issues.

My 15 year old son is scheduled an MD in 5 days time to help with an L5/S1 hernia. 10 months ago he had a nerve decompression, 2 months ago steroid injections and heaps of physio in between. Now all involved in his care (neurosurgeon, sports physician and physio) concur that the only option left is MD.

He is a tall chap - 6 ft 3 (about 190 cm I think) and also an elite tennis player. I guess ideally I would find another 6ft3, 15 year old elite tennis player with a hernia but I recognise there may not be too many of those!

I'm now planning his recovery period and determining how best to proceed, so any advice or thoughts welcome.



  • I'm sorry to hear about your son. I'm a 5'10, 18 year old, average tennis player with a herniated L5/S1 (I will also be having a microdiscectomy pretty soon). According to my physician, discs normally regenerate material until around age 25. Because of this, your son may be at a slightly increased risk of recurrent herniation. Most people need at least 2 months to recover from a microD, some need 4-6. The pain relief after the surgery lures many people into getting ahead of themselves and ruining their progress (according to many of the threads I've seen here); I would play it very safe.
  • Thanks mrow for your post. I agree - higher risk of reherniation so definitely worth going slowly. We've been told the 50% rule...your recovery is 50% of the pain reduction, so if you feel 50% less pain your recovery is only actually at 25% and if you keep that in mind it helps to reign in the desire to overdo it! I hope to post regular updates, which may help you when you have an MD. I found one written by an adult and it was so useful - would be good to have something similar for younger sufferers.
  • I've started a blog to record my son's progress (he's scheduled for the 11th). I'm not particularly blog savvy, having never written one before, but there is so little practical info for teenagers I'm hoping it will help anyone else in a similar position. It might help adults too? I'm not sure how to point anyone to it (!) but a google search for 'nickmicrodiscectomy' then select the 'blogs' option seems to find it. Or this might be the URL - www.nickmicrodiscectomy.blogspot.co.uk.
  • Rosey, my story is endless, one of pure pain and numbness, I was 15 years old when I got a sharp pain down my leg, I thought little of it as the pain made me jump and let go of a glass, so I went to clean it up. While on the floor bent down, I noticed I couldn't come back up as every time I did, I got severe pins and needles and very bad pain in my leg. We seen numerous doctors before as I had suffered with my back since I was 10! That's very early, but I am extremely tall 6"4. I am now 17, 1 year and 2 months over my operation, I had all sorts before it for an entire year, and then I had enough, my leg was down to 10dgs pitch! After the discectomy, I had lost quite some feeling in my leg affected by the sciatica, to this day I still have reduced feeling. Last Wednesday I was in the doctors office on a checkup after an MRI and I now have a reherniation of the same disc. Agony is not the word ! Pain pain pain! Anyway, I'll leave it at that! Feel free to message me! Would love to chat!
    Ian O'Reilly
  • Oh Ian, so sorry to read your post. You are having a really tough time. I will try to message you but not too sure how to do so, but will try once I have finished writing this. Keep pushing for help, answers and solutions, especially re pain management. For my son, we found physio and strength and conditioning really useful for addressing underlying imbalances, which need to be addressed to find a long term solution. But pain management is also very important, as coping with what you are going through whilst in pain can be very tough. So hang on in there and keep seeking the best way forward. Rosey
  • Need help on what to do my son herniated his L4 L5 disc when he was 15 he had epidural shots and two rounds of physical therapy. Which relieved most of his pain. He is now 17 1/2 and having the same problems. The new MRI shows L4 disc degenerating now. I have a neurosurgeon linger up but can't get him in for over a month. Wondering thoughts on what to do. My son has grown from 5'11 to 6'3 and gained 55 pounds since he first injured his back. He is now 200 pounds. He is and was in excellent physical shape. He is also in a lot of pain and this mom is scared to death to make life long decisions for my teenager who has missed most of his high school athletic carrier dealing with a back injury. He is a Junior in High school now. Any suggestion advice will be greatly appreciated. It's very hard to find information on teenage disc injuries and long term effect.
  • Oh ddaniel@galena4, I do feel for you - I've been there! Everyone is different and I am not a medic, but a few thoughts in case they help. For Nick, neither physio nor injections nor nerve decompression helped. It was only having an MD that solved the problem. Knowing this now, I do regret waiting so long before him having an MD, but it is so hard to go down the route of surgery for a child because no one knows for certain if it is the right route or not. My advice in this is, if you try a treatment (physio, nerve decompression etc) then set a deadline for assessing whether it worked and when you reach the deadline take action if it didn't work. Don't keep putting off a decision. Also, seek out lots of advice - we got 4 opinions in the end to help us. A responsible consultant will have no objection in you seeking a second opinion (though it is respectful to tell them that you are doing so) and should be quite relaxed about the idea.
    I would definitely sort out a pain management plan - if you suffer in pain then you risk damaging elsewhere as your body tries to compensate. And he is too young to be in a lot of pain. Keep pushing your doctor for medication - it's only short term as you have a consultant lined up. And if the first type of medication doesn't work, go back for a different one.
    Finally, I can honestly say that Nick now has no problems with his back at all. He plays about 16 hours of tennis a week plus fitness work every day and is turning professional on the tennis circuit in the summer.
    Do take a look at my blog if he has an MD - lots of practical info there! Link - http://nickmicrodiscectomy.blogspot.co.uk.

    I hope that this helps. As a mum it feels like agony, but it's worth persevering and keeping strong for your son. As mum's we somehow find the strength for them. I'm sure you will too.
  • I suffered with back pain on and off for over a year and eventually found out I had a herniated disc and would need surgery. I didn't do anything to cause the herniation, no injury or trauma so that was very strange. I just had the operation on Monday and it took twice as long as expected and it was also worse than expected. The nerve was completely wrapped in scar tissue from being damaged for so long. I expected to feel relief almost immediately because that seemed to be common but I was in for a reality check. I woke up in the same pain as before the surgery but guess what, my leg felt like it was asleep and someone was squeezing it all at the same time. So as of right now I cannot say that I feel any relief. The incision hurts of course and I'm sore around my lower back/hip. I do not think I am healing as well as I would expect but my parents seem to be very impressed by my abilities. I am very discouraged and I do not think that this surgery will be successful. I wish your son the best of luck and I hope my experience can help you.
  • Hi there. Sorry to read your comment. 4 days post op is very early in recovery, I wouldn't feel discouraged if I were you. It does take time to recover from the operation itself so be patient! Follow all the medical advice you have been given and take it easy on yourself. Good luck, Rosey
  • Hi there my name is Julie and I have recently had a revised L5/S1 discectomy, L4/L5 discectomy and a Wallis Inswing stabilisation. I thought I knew the pain I would suffer this time from my last experience but had a huge reality check as well!! The scar tissue build up on L5/S1 was extensive even though I had exercised early to try to prevent it the first time. The pain post op was a 10 an took all mediciation they could throw at me to reduce it! My left leg and foot had a lot of numbness pre op an I experience increase numbness and pain under my foot after surgery and my whole leg went completely numb at times, so your experience is not uncommon so hang in there. Due to work on the nerve and releasing, post op nerve can be extreme but should settle down.

    I am now 23 days post op and things are starting to settle down but also experience new pains in different areas every day .. all part of the healing, so try to be patient and take it easy. Do not push yourself too hard at the beginning or you will put your disc or more risk of reherniation. My surgeon told me that a healing disc is very vunerable for at least 3 months so even though the outside scar on your skin has healed please be very careful and follow the instructions you have been given post op. He also advised no heavy lifting for at least a year.

    I have suffer from back problems for 25 years but over most of that I have found management of my core has helped me 'manage' and only had surgery in 2014 due to extreme, unbearable pain from a severe herniation that involved the nerve.

    I hope this helps but please ask any questions if you need to. Good luck with your recovery :-)
    L5/S1 herniation Apr 2013
    nerve root injections Oct 2013
    L5/S1 discectomy Jan 2014
    L5/S1 nerve roo &, facet joint injections & edpidural Jan 2015
    L5/S1 revised discectomy, L4/L5 discectomy & Wallis Inswing Stabilisation L4/L5 May 1st 2015

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