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Sciatica, Microdiscectomy Surgery, and my road to Recovery

32 year old, Male.

Symptoms first presented itself in July 2012 with sharp shooting pain in the buttocks most noticeably when transferring from a seated to upright position.

Doctor visits in September due to electric-like sensations shooting down left leg which led to physical therapy, chiropractic visits, acupuncture, massage, and natural healing in late September through December. Showed definite improvement and relief throughout physical therapy visits but nothing long lasting and overall symptoms continued to worsen.

Noticed permanent numbness on fourth and fifth toes along the outer left foot in mid-November which led to an MRI.

MRI results showed a 28x11mm disc herniation at the L5/S1 vertebrae. Surgery to follow late December.

Recovery Projections: Surgery. Overnight stay at the hospital. Out of work for 2 weeks. 3 months for full recovery.

Day 1: Post Op
Spent an hour in the recovery room then was transferred to my room.

- Slight numbness still remains in left foot. Was forewarned that it would be the last to resolve itself with a slight possibility to never healing 100% (still more manageable than the sciatic pain itself).

- So far no recurring pain in the left leg and/or buttocks. Remaining in a reclined position in a hospital bed, afraid to sit up.

- Definite pain and tenderness at incision site.

- Sat upright 5-10min to eat (clear liquid diet, BLAH!), noticed no pain in left leg.

- Nausea. Possible reaction to the anesthesia.

Doc reported surgery went well with no complications. Should be released the next morning. Hopefully the world doesn't end. 12-21-12. LOL


  • Sounds promising. All the best on going home to normal surroundings. Hope the numbness clears up quick. It will probably tingle heaps, be very sensitive to light touches of sheets (etc) and feel like a burning kind of sensation, as the nerve regenerates. Its sort of hard to describe. Hopefully you can handle it without nerve pain medication. Many here have to use it, so do I.
  • Thanks DaveFusion.

    UPDATE: Day 2 - Coming Home, etc etc.

    Released from hospital. Did a little walking. Pain at the incision area still remains but slowly lessening. Was prescribed Vicodin and Gabapentin, being weened off the Gabapentin. Sat down to eat for the first time in 2 weeks. Very slight residual pain in previously affected leg. Was told that would eventually go away. Pain at the incision area not significant enough to use the Vicodin. Will most likely use it for getting a good nights sleep. Showering and getting dressed is very difficult. Glad to have the help from my girlfriend. So far pretty pleased with the improvements and shocked at how the pain at the incision point is far less than expected. Hopefully the improvements will continue. At this point the biggest challenge seems to be remembering not to over-exert myself.
  • JoxentineJJoxentine Posts: 22
    edited 12/22/2012 - 8:36 PM
    UPDATE: Day 3

    Showering and getting dressed is still pretty difficult. Pain at the incision point is slowly reducing. Haven't had to take Vicodin at all today. Slow, steady improvements. Nothing much to update. Just taking it easy.
  • Joxentine, Boring is oh so good, savour it.

    Hopefully you'll dodge the 3 day anaesthetic wearing off type pain.

    Yes, it's difficult to remember no BLT before initiating a simple action. But essential! Funny how we don't really think about what we do, our sub conscious thinks and then moves us into action before the conscious brain realises. Need to stop it.

    Keep up the good recovery. And yeah, world didn't end and we're still here!
  • UPDATE: Day 4

    Sustained improvement. Noticed itching at the incision area. Hopefully that means its beginning to heal. Doing a lot more walking. At this point I feel pretty confident that I won't have to use the Vicodin again. I'm able to roll on my sides in bed more easily now which is a plus for me since that is the most comfortable sleeping position. It has been really uncomfortable sleeping on my back for the past couple days. Showering and getting dressed is still problematic but not impossible to do so alone. Girlfriend still helping out which is a huge deal. Grateful for family and friends to be at my side during this time of need. Merry Christmas everyone!
  • DaveFusionDDaveFusion Posts: 476
    edited 12/24/2012 - 2:52 AM
    Your going great. Itching is good, yes it means it healing. Rolling and sleeping on side at this early stage is very good progress. Was some weeks for me.
  • I'm glad to hear you are doing so well, but please take it easy and don't be fooled. After my first microdisc I felt really well around the 2 week mark and started putting up floorboard trim in my house, boy that was a mistake, I ended up reherniating. So even though you are feeling well, keep by the docs timelines. Merry Christmas
    Microdiscectomy/Laminectomy/Foraminalectoy L4/L5/S1 Oct 2009, Mar 2012
    Laminectomy L4/L5/S1 Dec 2009, Oct 2012, Dec 2012
    Microdiscectomy and Synovial Cyst removal Feb 2013
    St Jude Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted January 2014

  • Thank you for the well wishes everyone. Merry Christmas.

    UPDATE: Day 5

    I can comfortably sleep on my side now. The itching is still there. Walking has become very easy. There is almost no pain at the incision point while walking now. Able to painlessly wash my hair and the front part of my upperbody and arms. Girlfriend still assists with my lowerbody. Don't want to take a chance just yet. Able to painlessly put on a shirt. Still using assistence from my girlfriend to dress my lower half. Intending to play it safe as much as possible. Still focused and constantly reminding myself to take it easy and not over-exert myself with anything.
  • UPDATE: Day 6

    Not much to report. Continued reduction in pain at incision point. Can sleep on my side and roll over in bed with no issue. Noticed tightness in my left buttocks and what feels like muscle fatigue in my left calf. I'm not sure.
  • Great recovery.

    Remember not to sit still too long before moving.
  • Thanks for the reply, Dave. Trying to get up and walk as much as possible.

    UPDATE: Day 7

    No big update today. Itching becoming much stronger. Feel like I can do a lot of things again but will stick to the doctors orders. No lifting and take things slow. Getting to that point where limiting myself is becoming a challenge. Still determined to be a lazy bum for at least the next two weeks. No way in hell will re-aggravation be a result of stupidity.
  • UPDATE: Day 8

    Today marks one week from surgery. Feeling pretty good. Not a whole has changed since yesterday. Itching still continues and is increasing at the incision point. Showering and getting dressed is still somewhat difficult so still getting help although I could probably manage assistance free if I had to. Haven't had to take the Vicodin at all since Day 2 which is a good sign for me I suppose. Continuing to ween off the Gabapentin and will start taking only one per day for the next week. That's it for now. Until tomorrow.
  • It's great to hear your daily updates. We look forward to each tiny step forward and the occasional one back.

    Joxentine, Just keep the long term perspective in mind. Keep reflecting what you can now do compared to last week, last month, etc, and then the progress is really encouraging to you.
  • JoxentineJJoxentine Posts: 22
    edited 12/28/2012 - 11:21 PM
    UPDATE: Day 9

    Another one of those tiny updates again. Walking a bit more each day. And feeling like I'm the old me again but knowing that I'm not and having to take all those extra precautions to make sure there are no re-occurances. Feeling better day by day. Positivity!

  • UPDATE: Day 10

    Nothing new to report. Hopefully every update after this is similar....Getting better.
  • UPDATE: Day 11

    Showered and dressed unassisted today. No problems. No need for creative positioning, just being careful not to bend awkwardly. Not much else to update. So far so good.
  • JoxentineJJoxentine Posts: 22
    edited 12/31/2012 - 9:16 PM
    UPDATE: Day 12

    Tiny updates are good I guess since it means no new or big developments. Biggest struggle is just reminding myself to limit what I do and continue taking it easy.

    Goodbye 2012 and may 2013 be a better year for all.
  • You of course, need to walk a number of times a day without exceeding your current limit. What is your limit? It changes as you progress. With me it was tightness, soreness between the shoulder blades. At first glance that's not got much to do with L5/S1 fusion. But it is my indicator. So keep up the good work of being careful and respectful of your body.

    How far are you able to walk now?
  • JoxentineJJoxentine Posts: 22
    edited 01/01/2013 - 9:17 AM
    Hmm I don't really measure my limit in distance. I usually measure it in time. I know I can walk 15-20 mins straight on my driveway and road which have a slight incline without a problem of any sort nor any type of discomfort. My doctors never told me to walk to my limit per se. They just said to walk every so often. So every 1-2 hours I walk at least 10 mins.

    I don't think I've had any sort of discomfort walking since about day 5 or so at the incision point of my back.

    What's the reason/purpose of walking to my limit? Not really opposed to doing that its just that in my area walking for more than 15 mins on my driveway gets boring and my neighborhood is filled with lots of steep inclines and blind corners.
  • Well, I was actually trying to suggest to walk near but under your limit and as your limit rises, also increasing the walking amount without overdoing it. This keeps challenging the body to increase its strength. Otherwise it may stay the same strength.

    I initially walked up and down the corridor in our house. Slowly increasing the number of laps. Yes, it's boring. Used a MP3 player, iPod type device to listen to music. Looked at it as an investment in the future. I am up to about 45 mins now. But it's taken 5 mths. (I wore the corridor floor out and now have to walk elsewhere, :) )
  • As we are all different, as always, exercise should be discussed with your doctor before changing to something different.

    Take care and keep moving!
  • Yeah I have my two week follow up this Friday so I guess I'll just wait and see what he says. I know I'm not supposed to do anything "active" beyond walking until I see him. I do go back to work next Monday though. Guess we'll see.
  • UPDATE: Day 13

    Still not a whole lot to update. One day at a time. Limit myself... only things I really notice is the tightness in my left butt and the occasional sensation down my leg which is barely worth mentioning. Oh, the numbness is still there.

    Happy New Years everyone.
  • UPDATE: Day 14

    Well not much to report again. Still slow and continued improvement. I'm actually getting anxious at this point and want to do physical therapy or something.
  • UPDATE: Day 15

    Well it has been two weeks now since I was released from the hospital and I must admit I feel okay. I am still worried about reinguring myself somehow or someway but it is what it is. Got my two week check up tomorrow so hopefully everything goes well on that front.
  • Keep up the good recovery, but beware! I had my L5S1 MicroD Sept 6th. Recovery has been up & down, up & down for me. Just like you I felt pretty great early, sure enough at 4 weeks I thought I could do a little tiny bit of physical work and BAM, 4 week setback! As soon as I felt a little better after that I did a little swimming at the gym, BAM 2 more weeks setback. The following 6 weeks were pretty great. I got stronger & more mobile. The weekend before christmas I even spent a day at the aquarium, 90% pain-free. It was great! Well after a hectic holiday including car travel ( SUCKED ) and then doing 7 hours of work in 2 days on the shop floor has given me a week of nerve inflammation. I wouldnt go so far as calling it another setback but annoying just the same.

    I am also 32, but I dealt with my sciatica for 2 years before surgery. So hopefully its a little bit easier for you!

    So keep up the good recovery but whatever you do, ease in & test the waters first!!

    Good Luck!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • DaveFusion is the man! Always giving out good advice & encouragement!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • JoxentineJJoxentine Posts: 22
    edited 01/04/2013 - 9:56 PM
    UPDATE: Day 15

    Well I had my 2 week post op appointment today and it went as well as could be expected. The doctor basically asked how I was doing and how the pain was. He said I was recovering well and that I could now carry up to maybe 15 lbs and drive. He did mention again to be careful and there is always a chance of re-herniation of the disc. He told me to do some hamstring stretches with my back on the floor as well as pelvic lifts from the same position. Also, cleared me to return to work (basic office job) as long as I don't carry anything heavy which won't be an issue. Also mentioned no pulling or pushing anything heavy. Really don't know what else to say... was a really quick appointment... less than 5 minutes total I think.

    Since it has been two weeks and I guess this is basically the first milestone post op I'll go into a bit more detail of my current condition compared to pre op.

    - Pain in left leg is 99% gone compared to pre op. I now have infrequent pulses of sensation down my left leg that I would classify as a 1 on a 10 point pain scale. The doctor said that this is normal and a result of my nerve regenerating. Honestly, not that I want it to but if this sensation continued for the rest of my life I would not have any problem just living with it... it is extremely minor.

    - Numbness remains in left foot in the 4th and 5th toes as well as the outer edge of my foot. The numbness does continue up the outer portion of my left calf muscle and my hamstring but it is definitely more pronounced in my foot. It may just be my imagination but there are times during the day when my foot feels like it is regaining feeling. Again, I was told that the numbness would be the last thing to resolve itself with the possibility of never returning normal. It is what it is and the numbness is not severe enough where it actually impacts walking or anything. I want to say that u could also live with this numbness but I haven't jogged or run at all since the numbness hit so it is hard to say right now.

    - Muscle weakness... I never really exhibited much muscle weakness pre op so it is hard to compare I suppose. My left calf muscle does get fatigued before my right side does when I walk but it isn't something that I would categorize as being drastic. I would say that right now this is a non-factor for me.

    - Medication... I am now off the gabapentin and am officially off any type of medication. Pre op I was taking 900mg of gaba a day and 10-12 OTC Advil and 10-12 OTC extra strength Tylenol just to make it through an 8 hour work day and i wouldn't say in a million years that i was anywhere near pain free any minute of the day. 2-3 weeks before my surgery I was only working half days and was able to just take 4 each of the OTC meds but still took the 900 mg of gaba. Post op all I took was the gaba (weened off) and 2 Vicodin to this day.

    Okay so now for the post op then til now.

    - Pain at the incision point has reduced significantly. I am not stupid enough to try and see if I can twist and turn with zero pain but I would hazard a guess that I'm about 80%-85% recovered. There is zero pain or discomfort sitting or standing and the same can be said for rolling in bed or sleeping on my side. There is a burning sensation that I experienced a few days ago when I forget and bent over to rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth but I actually think that the stitches haven't dissolved yet inside which is what caused that burning sensation... haven't felt it since mainly because I don't bend over for anything now. Doctor removed the surgical tape today too. Hasn't been real itchy for a day or so now so I'm thinking the skin and muscle have mostly healed which is good.

    - Nausea is a thing of the past. Haven't experienced any since the first few days post op.

    - Walked today following my appointment for a good 30 minutes with no problem at all. Walked from the hospital to a nearby store and bought some toothpaste lol... My ride home was running some errands so I had time to burn and figured I might as well do some walking.

    That's about it. I would say at this point I am happy with where I'm at now and will definitely continue being cautious with BLT (Bending, Lifting and Twisting) as well as carrying any sort of weight. Will try to not sit at work in excess of an hour without taking at least a 5 min stroll around the office or standing at my desk to work. My next appointment is during the first week of February.

    I did the hamstring stretch earlier in the evening and oh my.... my hammys are tight! Also did the pelvic lift, hold for 15 seconds and did 5 sets... needless to say it wasn't exactly easy (surprised zero tenderness at incision point while doing it) and on set 4 and 5 I had to focus to maintain the last 5 seconds. More than anything else at this point I am dying to work my core and strengthen it to help improve back support but after today I know it is going to be a long journey. I am determined to bust my core into shape.... eventually when the doctor gives me the green light.

    Okay so I am going to stop doing daily updates from this point since there doesn't seem to be any huge events taking place. I'll probably do one next week and then again after my second follow up appointment in February. If anything does occur within those time frames I will most definitely return and do an update though.
  • ben_indiana said:
    DaveFusion is the man! Always giving out good advice & encouragement!
    This is very true!

    As to your earlier post, yeah I am constantly reminding myself to take it easy and not over do it. We shall see how things go at work come next week. I am painfully low on sick leave days so I do not have a big margin for error. I do work in an office where the majority of my coworkers are concerned for my well being which makes things significantly easier though... gotta count our blessings man... even if at times all you feel are burdens.

    Happy New year to all and I will be back next week for sure and most likely lurk on the forums and post here and there if I can lend any positive insight etc.
  • DaveFusionDDaveFusion Posts: 476
    edited 01/05/2013 - 12:44 AM
    Joke tine:

    So very pleased with your successful recovery so far and expect it will continue.

    You may wish to consider starting out with 30 min sitting with breaks and work up to the 1 hour. Just to be on the safe side, but your call. I am just surprised at how I find just doing a bit more than normal can make me feel like I've done masses more. Your being able to sit without issues is excellent.

    Once again, congratulations on being able to go to work after 2 weeks. And I am a bit envious, as I was not as fortunate. But there is more to life now.
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