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My L4/L5 Microdiscectomy Expeirence

Hello Everyone. I recently had a microdiscectomy for an L4/L5 disc herniation. I wanted to share my experience for anyone considering this option.

Some background information on me, I am a 26 year old male and I work as a performer in a Las Vegas show. My job is pretty physically demanding and puts a lot of stress on my body.

My Symptoms
Walking and standing is what would irritate my back the most. I could do either for about 5 minutes without any pain at all. Around the 7-8 minute mark of constant walking/standing is when I would start to feel pain. It would usually start as numbness in my right foot. The more I would walk, the numbness would increase, and eventually also start to have a pain in my lower back. Also the numbness would eventually spread to my left foot, and up my legs. If I were to walk for more than 15 minutes, the pain would become excruciating and intolerable. Sitting down at anytime would almost instantly relieve the pain.

Though I couldn't walk for long periods of time, I could perform my job and do many other physical activities with very little pain. More active activities caused much less pain than walking.

Oral Steroids
When I visited the doctor about this, He first ordered an MRI. The MRI clearly showed the herniation in the L4/L5. The first thing he tried was oral steroids that I took over 5 days. After about the 6th day of this my pain decreased greatly. A few more weeks and I felt great. It reduced my symptoms by about 90%. After about 2 months I ended up being released from the doctor, which I was slightly uneasy about since I could still tell their was small remnants of the pain left, but it was very small and manageable.

A Month or 2 later, the pain started to come back. It came back slowly but eventually progressed to just as painful as when it started.

Epidural Injections
After going back to the doctor, the next thing we tried was an epidural injection. Like the oral steroids, this also greatly reduced my pain/numbness. Though if I remember correctly, I think it was slightly less effective than the oral steroids. I would say my pain went down from an 8 to a 2 after the injection.

Two months later my pain slowly started climbing up again. It grew from about a 2 to about a 4.5 - 5. We did a second injection which helped again, but only brought my pain down to about a 3. After this the pain started coming back fairly quickly too.

After this the doctor asked me if I wanted to have surgery for it. The pain was a major irritation in my life and so I quickly agreed to it. He told me the success rate was very high. I had read lots of mixed reports online. There were some people saying it had great results for them, but also many others complaining that it didn't work for them or created new problems. Though the mixed reports made me slightly nervous, I trusted my doctor's evaluation of my situation.

When I woke up from the operation My left foot/leg was very numb. My pain before surgery would always start on my right side, so this was different. Also my left foot stayed numb no matter what position I was in, Lying down, sitting, or standing. My right foot/leg felt pretty normal.

I saw the doctor a few hours after I woke up and he told me the operation took a little longer than he expected. There was a piece of disc fragment that was lodged deep into my spine and he had to work hard to get it out. I asked him what side he ended up getting it out from. As I expected from the numbness on my left side, He told me he finally got it out from the left side.

After about 3-4 days, the constant numbness on my left side began to decrease. On about the 8th-9th day it was almost completely gone. It was around this time that the surgical pain had gone away enough that I began experimenting with walking. I walked for about 20-25 minutes with no pain or numbness at all. A few days later I walked for 50 minutes straight with no pain again. Something that would have been completely impossible for me before surgery.

I am now just over 3 weeks out from surgery and feeling great. Besides a little muscle stiffness left over from the operation, my back feels just about perfect. Unlike the steroids, which greatly reduced my pain, I could still always feel some of the pain buried under the effects of the steroids. After the operation, It feels completely gone.

I am very happy with the results and confident this will be a long term solution. I will post more updates as time goes on. If you have any questions feel free to ask.


  • PaulPPaul Posts: 730
    edited 02/20/2013 - 8:42 PM
    Are you planning on returning to the same job? Are you in a union? If so, did it cover the surgery?

    When I started having my problems, I too was unable to stand. Well, I could, but only at a maximum of 45 degree angle. Sitting and lying relieved my pain.

    I love Vegas. I usually go to the races at the speedway every April and Halloween. I haven't been in a while tho, because gas prices are stupid. $4.50 a gal! I chose to spend my disposable income in Vegas, thereby supporting its economy, but Obomb said we shouldn't be spending money in Vegas.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Yes I will be going back to work in about 2 months. We aren't in a union, but we have good health insurance. It was also a work related injury so workers comp covered the surgery.
  • thanks for posting your experience so far, hope it kepps going well. keep me updated, i need the same procedure, some day.
  • David SDDavid S Posts: 3
    edited 02/21/2013 - 10:52 AM
    From everything that I have learned about this operation, If you experience numbness/sciatica in your legs and respond well to steroids/epidural injections then you are likely a good candidate for the surgery. My doctor told me he often uses the steroids as a diagnosis to determine if someone would benefit from the operation.

  • glad things are working out so well for you David. Keep making progress but on the other hand take it slowly and with a bit of caution. So happy with your success!
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