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Surgery Jan 3rd. Pain deminishing?

I'm due to have surgery (microdiscectomy) next week. This is my second occurance with a herniated disc and a pinch root nerve. First was March of this year. I was out of work for 2 weeks and working with limitations for two weeks. Everything went away. This time, Sunday before Thanksgiving, it happened again. Only worse. I could not stand or walk for 2 weeks without enormous pain. Could not sleep. I've been out of work since then. Finally after 5 weeks now, the pain is going away, although not completely. My left leg is very week. My question is....... If the pain is going away, does that mean that the herniated disc has retracted and no longer pinching the nerve? And if so, what would/could surgery do? I never want to experience this again. My job is very physical. Lifting, pushing and pulling heavy weights. A third occurance is highly likely. Opinions and insight welcomed. Thank you.


  • ....whenever my back is in total pain, I rest it for a few days meaning I literally do nothing. Of course I start feeling better because I have rested it. Then after a couple of days of "feeling better" I'd forget that I have a back issue and do something stupid and I'm right back where I began, this vicious circle. If you have seen enough doctors that support your need for the discectomy, then I'd go forward because it is going to keep happening. Especially if you say that you have a strenuous job. This is just my opinion though. I've been dealing with back issues for over 4 years and finally agreed to surgery because I hit my peak!! Good luck!
    Lumbar DDD
    TLIF 1/2/13
  • RTgirl2011RRTgirl2011 Posts: 512
    edited 12/29/2012 - 9:57 AM
    I have a severely herniated disc at L5-S1. It hurt like hell when I first messed it up. As of right I have barely any pain from it. My right leg is weak and very numb. I am having an appt with the NS on the Jan 16th to discuss having another fusion. I am already fused L3-L5. I would talk to my surgeon, maybe they could send you for another MRI to see if it has began to heal. Discs do heal every now and then, so it is possible. Keep us posted on how everything is going.

    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
  • Thank you both for your reply. Bigmamaree, that is true! I've been resting my back for weeks now. I know it will happen again with the slightest wrong move. I can't live with that fear. Thank you.

    Jennifer, I had the latest MRI 2 weeks ago. That is what has identified the herniated disc. I guess with rest it could calm down. In addition to the trimming of the disc, opening up the root nerve canal so that the nerve has room to move out of the way the next time the disc herniates is another procedure available. I'll have to call my Dr's office on Monday. Thanks for your reply.
  • edried,
    they recommended a microdiscectomy for me also, that was over a year ago. i have bulging l4,l5 and herniated l5,s1. my job is physical also, i must be able to lift up to 75lbs, that is why i have put off surgery, i do not want to reherniate from work. but i have been feeling alot better since my doctor put me on nucynta er. i also take gabapentin and celebrex, and do stretches every morning. yours might have gotten better, but it could also come back, try to talk to the surgeon, see what is going on, and keep us updated. good luck to you.
  • Are you only putting off surgery because it feels better with meds and stretching, or are there other reasons? Since your pain and the pinching of the nerve is now managed, are you still a candidate for surgery? For how long will you have to be taking the meds? Thanks for your help. I'll post my Dr's response to my questions on Monday.
  • i am mainly putting off, for one i feel alot better now that i take nucynta er, and also that i have heard of to many people reherniating, and like i said at my job i must be able to lift up to 75lbs, and i figure it would just not be worth it , yet anyway. before i started this medicine, my main pain was down my leg, and it seemed to be my piriformis also.
    everytime i go to the pain management i usually just see the nurse to get my refill, she just ask how i am doing, and says are you still thinking about surgery.but she did make it sound like this is the most that they can do for me, since the 4 epidurals did not help to much. i will probably need to get the surgery one day, i just do not feel i actually need it yet. but i do not like having to take all these pills all the time either.let me know what happens.
  • Catfishman,
    Have you lost alot of strenght in your leg? How have you overcome that? It must be tough to keep a smile on your face: or are the meds that good? Thanks again for sharing your experience. Good luck to you as well.
  • edried,
    i have not lost strength, but say i am laying on the floor doing stretches, i cannot lift my left leg to stretch my hamstring. there are times that i feel pain, but not as bad as before. and yes i get to smile, at work sometimes when the time is right we can all get a good laugh in. the meds do not make me loopy or anything, but when i wake up in the morning my head feels a little hungover, but it goes away after an hour or so.
  • PaulPPaul Posts: 730
    edited 12/30/2012 - 10:42 AM
    The herniations do retract slightly sometimes. I also understand that macrophages eat them as they recognize them as a foreign object.

    When a disc herniates, it is because the outer covering, the annulus, let out the nucleus material in the disc for one reason or another. It could have been a trauma, genetics, or something else. The disc attempts to close that opening with scar tissue however, the scar tissue fibers are not as strong as the annulus fibers.

    So, if the annulus could not contain the nucleus material, the scar fibers will not be able to either. This is now the weak link in the chain.

    I'm going to send you a link to a site that has lots of good info about this. It is a TON of reading but very helpful.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Thank you Catfishman and Paul.
    I tried to speak w/ my Dr's office today, but they are closed until Wednesday. I'll just have to wait. Surgery is on Thursday. 95.%
    sure that I'll be moving forward with this. I do not want any reoccurances.
  • your welcome edried, good luck to you, and keep us posted.
  • NHbackNNHback Posts: 35
    edited 01/02/2013 - 3:41 AM

    I had a similar experience. In Dec'11 I had an episode that essentially crippled me for a few weeks - sciatic pain from buttock down to calf with all my muscles from my hammy to calf tightening and remaining knotted for days, calf and toes got weak immediately. Did not have an MRI then but started PT and by March was back to 90%. Went all summer with no issues, then flared up in mid-August - MRI showed a herniation and small rupture/extrusion but pain was manageable and restarted PT for a few weeks. Then another excruciating episode on Labor Day weekend that again literally floored me. A 2nd MRI did not show much change, but the small rupture/extrusion was clearly almost completely broken off the disc and pressing S1 nerve root. Deciding on MicroD...in about a month's time (Oct 3). First two weeks I was literally bedridden and sure of my decision, next two weeks the pain subsided considerably, although my calf and foot got more and more numb.

    By a few days before the surgery, other than the numbness, I too wondered if I was on the mend and if surgery was the right thing....??? Very doubtful of going through with it.

    Here is what I and my wife talked about and why I decided to have the surgery:

    1) Although the pain was subsiding, the numbness in my lower leg was actually increasing, or certainly not improving which indicated the nerve was still being affected.

    2) With being essentially bedridden for two weeks, and then MINIMAL activity for another two weeks - and plenty of Percocet and Flexeril in the interim, it made sense the pain had subsided...

    3)...but we reasoned my condition had not changed - I still had a rupture/extrusion that was almost completely seperated for the disc and was not "going back into place."

    4) my surgeon, and a 2nd surgeon, basically said that the only chance for that rupture to resolve w/o surgery was for the body to slowly break it down &/or re-adjust to it - which they said could take 1-3 YEARS!

    So at last I figured I could skip surgery and be in limbo for a long time, afraid to move, work, exercise for fear of aggrevating what was already there, and just "wait and see" if it got better - really better. I decided Id be living day to day just waiting for another serious episode and weeks/months of pain and immobility again. At least with surgery, I knew the rupture/extrusion would be removed and I could start with a new baseline.

    It has not been as easy as I led myself to believe. 13 weeks post-op I still have a little nerve pinching in my buttocks, pain around my hip, and my muscles up and down my leg still act a little funky... but I believe I did the right thing. Honestly, I think my lingering symptoms are a result of the nerve root being affected for so long (10+ months) even though I felt better in the summer. I wish I had actually had the surgery sooner, and uptrapped the nerve earlier. Who knows if that would have made a difference in recovery.

  • I was going to ask you if you had tried epidural injections to see if that would help with the pain, and even give the disc a chance to draw back and heal.

    As you have a physical job, that will put a strain on the disc even if it does heal, so it may go again.
    Something else to consider is that you will need to give the disc enough time to heal after a microdiscectomy otherwise you will be back in this same situation again.
    I believe that generally a surgeon will only do a microdiscectomy a couple of times and if it needs doing a third time, often they will suggest a fusion.

    I suggest that you prepare a list of questions to ask your surgeon on Wednesday.
    One list all about having the surgery, and the another list about how to avoid surgery and what the chances of avoiding it altogether are.

    Good luck, and please do come back and tell us how you get on.
  • edried, just wondering how it went ?
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