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Need some input on Discectomy Recovery

anjsmilesaanjsmiles Posts: 52
edited 04/06/2013 - 4:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
On September 13, 2012 I suffered a herniated disc of the L5/S1 space from severe coughing with a bad bout of bronchitis. I suspect I have had bulging discs for years because I have had bouts of sciatica for about 12 years now that has previously been successfully treated by a chiropractor. I also work for a chiropractor now as well so I get free care. Let me interject that I know some have had bad experiences with chiros but this guy is great and he knows his limitations. He has many times referred patients on for an MRI and medical work up when he feels the condition is not improving.

When this herniation occurred I was bedridden for 2 weeks then went into physical therapy for 6 weeks. I was also on steroids, pain pills and muscle relaxants. My HMO would not pay for an MRI until these steps had been taken first. The MRI revealed the L5/S1 herniation and a bulging disc at L4/L5. I had severe muscle cramps, right sided sciatica with numbness, nerve burning, weakness etc. I recovered to a point and did go back to my part time job as an insurance clerk but never got pain free so in December I saw an orthopedist. He gave me a steroid epidural which just seemed to irritate the nerve and make everything worse. He then wanted to do surgery but I decided to get a second opinion because this guy was a bit of a jerk and had a bad bedside manner. In Jan 2013 I saw a Neuro surgeon. He repeated the MRI which showed the same as the first and also did a NCV test. He said I did not show permanent nerve or muscle damage on the NCV and he thought I really would benefit from a discectomy.

On March 22, 2012 I had a discectomy and laminectomy. I awoke in far more pain than I was expecting to and my nerve numbness and irritation was still present. 11 days out from back surgery I had a major set back. For about 3 days I had more leg pain/irritation. I thought maybe I wasn't moving around enough and so this past Sunday evening we got out of the house and went to the park to walk. I walked a mile and it felt so good to be out in the fresh air. The walk was slow and at times I stopped to rest but I felt okay and like it actually did me some good. This past Monday morning I awoke to very bad nerve pain, burning etc. down my entire right side from my low back to my ankle. I could hardly walk when I got up. I burst into tears as this is what I felt like before surgery when I was still in the throws of much pain. I put a call into my doctor's office and the nurse there said that it can happen to have increased nerve irritation along the way in recovery. She talked to the PA and they called me in a steroid dose pack. I was told to stay on ice alternating with heat and get up and move around every hour. Then we wait to see how things go from there.

It has taken me all week to recover from this back set and I feel like now I am about back to where I was last Friday. I am disappointed that overall I am not better than I was before surgery. In some ways I am not as good as before surgery because I have all this recovery discomfort. I also have more nerve pain and burning in my leg right now than I did before surgery. I keep hoping that the surgery will eventually speed up the healing process and that overall I will still have benefited from it.

Time will tell. It is just hard for me because the last 2 weeks seem like it has been a month and I still can't yet even do a lot of the stuff I was able to do before surgery. Sitting is the hardest, I can only sit upright in a chair about 15 mins before I start hurting. I am weakened and give out easily too. When I awake in the morning I am achy, sore and stiff. The nerve pulling is still there.

I don't "think" I have reherniated because I am not in the worst pain like I was when this first happened but I am in more pain than I was prior to surgery. Can someone who has been down this road give me any insight, encouragement or whatever as to what to expect? Is this normal?
Angie 46 yo
Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.


  • DaysleeperDDaysleeper Posts: 19
    edited 04/06/2013 - 6:19 AM
    I had a micro-D February of 2012. I was told by my physician's staff RN that it can take up to 6 weeks after the surgery to start feeling better. That seemed like an awful long time to me! I was pretty miserable. I did get relief from the leg pain though. Immediate relief. Sometimes the neuropathies in the leg can take a while to settle down. Give it time. The nerve is inflamed from manipulation during surgery. Perhaps you need to ask your physician about something for the nerve pain (Neurontin, Lyrica, etc.) There are specific meds made to help with this sort of pain.

    I've since had a single level fusion and it caused a great deal of nerve pain in my leg. I was suffering horribly until I was put on medication specifically for nerve pain. Two weeks is early out~~it's going to take time and determination. Keep calling your physician's office until you get satisfaction. If you're still in awful pain in spite of the dose-pak, they need to know.

    Best to you,
    Mother, wife, Southern farm keeper, chicken lady, beekeeper, anesthesia provider. L5-S1 PLIF 9/2013. Visit PLIF blog at http://www.lumbarfusionfusion.blogspot.com
  • Hi there,

    Just read through your post. I've just finished 6 days non-stop working so am pretty tired, so sorry but will be brief.

    2 weeks is pretty soon post op. My son had an MD last December and I kept a blog of his recovery progress. I've just looked back to my entries around 2 weeks and the first comment I came across was 'I think this is going to be a frustrating period for Nick'. That how you feel?

    And I agree with the above comment re sorting out a pain management plan - that's really important.

    If you want to read through the blog it's at www.nickmicrodiscectomy.blogspot.co.uk. I haven't updated recently cos my work, but hope to do so soon - and on current form it should be a very positive update.

    Hope this helps,

  • Thank you. I have read through some of the blog entries and I am impressed at all the stretches and such that your son was given to do right away. I was told upon discharge to see my doctor on April 15th for a followup and to rest, use ice and not bend at the waist, twist or turn or lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Nothing was said to me about doing stretches. However, because I had taken physical therapy before when this first happened I remembered my nerve glides stretches being helpful in the beginning of my herniation and so I have been doing some of those the last two days when things are feeling tight. I have felt somewhat on my own since surgery until the next appointment.
    Angie 46 yo
    Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.
  • Things have settled down some for me. I still have nerve pain/irritation in my leg but I am not just crying in pain. The steroids helped a lot. On Monday I talked to the Dr. office and they wanted to call me in some Neurontin and when I asked if I could start physical therapy they said yes. I read up on the Neurontin and the side effects really kinda freaked me out so I haven't started on that. I am trying to see if I can get better on my own with physical therapy. I do still have to take an occasional 200mg Ibuprofen for the raw feeling in my nerve when it is really bothering me but I am managing.
    Angie 46 yo
    Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.
  • HI! I had two microdiscectomy within a month. First one was 02/12/2013 the second 03/15/2013 due to re-herniating. I am now looking at a spinal fusion b/c I am worse. After the first one everything was great for 5-6 days and then the leg pain started back up so the dr put me on a steroid dose pack and neurotin 300mg this helped for 2-3 days then it went back to the same thing again. Had another MRI and the dr saw the herniated disc except it was worse than the first. Had my second micro and 5-6 days later the same problem again. I called the Dr they gave me the same dose pack and they upped my neurotin to 600mg. I am already on percocet and somas.. which is only sedating me. Saw the Dr yesterday and he sent me for another MRI and has sugested a possible spinal fusion. I am no help on recovery. All I can say is after the 2nd micro I am much worse. My back pain is much worse than before the first one. I still have sciatica. I hope everyone has had better luck than me.
  • that sounds horrible to go through this twice with 2 fails. Did they offer any input as to why you are herniating so quickly after surgery each time? Did you do anything that possibly caused it? I guess my biggest disappointment was that I never had a pain free moment following surgery. My sciatic nerve felt the same as before surgery afterwards and then got worse when I walked that mile. Now it is better than last week but still not quieted down. At this point don't know if I would do this again....
    Angie 46 yo
    Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.
  • anjsmilesaanjsmiles Posts: 52
    edited 04/12/2013 - 5:03 PM
    I had the epidural prior to surgery and all it did for me was make things worse. If it had helped I would not have had the surgery. It is very tricky these nerves and how each one of us responds differently for sure. Today I am doing fairly well. I still have the nerve irritation though and it is in both legs. They told me before surgery that the MRI showed no reason why my left leg should bother me but it does off and on. It is always in the same spot on the outside of the mid calf area. Not sure why.

    Overall I am doing much better though and feeling hopeful.
    Angie 46 yo
    Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.
  • steven61ssteven61 Posts: 37
    edited 04/13/2013 - 6:15 AM
    A one mile walk is a lot if you don't build up to it slowly. I think it is important to approach the stretching and strengthening like baby steps. I had my microdiscectomy 10 weeks ago. I still have some frustrating nerve pain, but it is getting better little by little (but it feels ever so slow...). Every Dr. seems to have a slightly different approach to rehab. My Dr. didn't want me to do anything the first month other than walk: no driving, no stretching, no PT, etc. The day after the surgery all I could do was walk 5 minutes around the house. But each day I would push myself to do a little more. After about 5 days I made it out to the street, and each day I would go a little farther. By the end of the month I was walking for an hour twice a day. 3 miles was ok, but a couple of times when I tried to walk 5 miles it irritated the nerve and I had to back off. My point is, don't try to do too much, too fast. Find a level that you can do without causing a flare-up, and then push that level back little by little. Every few days, or every week add a little more. One mile might not seem like a lot, but it is if you are not used to doing it. And be as active as you can. Good luck in your recovery!
    Microdiscectomy L5-S1; Jan. 28, 2013
  • anjsmilesaanjsmiles Posts: 52
    edited 04/14/2013 - 10:09 AM
    was my norm before herniation. It wasn't that the mile walk was a problem for me but that my body was not healed enough for it and protested I guess. This week was better. Been doing the short walks around my yard. Also called the dr. and asked about PT and they said I could go. Went Tues and Thurs. It seemed to make the week a lot better. Still haven't started the Neuorontin as I am doing okay. Just take an occasional 200mg Ibuprofen and sometimes the Flexeril at night. I am probably about like I was before surgery now. Hoping the nerve will keep healing and get even better than it was before surgery. I see my Dr. tomorrow.
    Angie 46 yo
    Post Discectomy for L5/S1 herniation on 3/22/13. Also have bulge at L4/L5 and minor facet syndrome in one joint.
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