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RE: 7 weeks post-op microdiscectomy still in pain

I had a microdiscectomy on Feb 22nd for two herniated discs; I have degenerative disc disease and arthritis in my spine. Two steroid infections failed to be effective. Now I still have pain that has required a minimum of two Lortab 10s per day. When it rains i am back to taking them every four hours. I still have sciatic pain. And, the hot, sharp pain I had before that "catches" when I change positions, lift my leg, roll over, etc. continues. I feel as if I am put together off center if that makes sense. I keep hearing from the phone nurse at my neurosurgeon that I am healing, nerves are touchy to work with, etc. but I will say this--this is old pain that is different from sciatic pain, post-surgery pain, and the pain from the discs themselves. Should I be off the pain meds? Should I ask for a second MRI? Could I have RE-injured it? Am I a wuss? Should I ask fora second opinion? I feel as if I don't know what to ask and that if I don't ask the right stuffing I won't get the right answers. Sitting,standing,walking, and lying down for any length of time is painful. I am 37 and in good health. I shouldn't hurt like this and cannot function without the pain meds I'm terrified of needing. But the pain is real; I'm afraid b/c I have no relief even after healing this long. I'm also afraid the doc will say no more meds; what happens then? Pain management doctor? I don't know what to do but lying home all day isn't an option. I have to support my family.


  • this is not unusual. I have DDD and am 12 weeks post op for microdiscectomy at l5/s1. the questions your asking are the same things I have asked myself over and over again. these questions weren't helped by the fact that a lot of sites suggest that 6 weeks should be a point of recovery. but look deeper and youll find that this isn't the case. the wound may be healed but you are still in recovery. the nerve that can be affected by a prolapsed disc can take a very long time to heal. I am still getting the "catching pain" when I turn in any way although it does seem to be easing in the last couple of weeks. learn to stop putting yourself under pressure. if you have major concerns ask for a second opinion if for nothing else then just to ease your concerns. should you be off your meds?? well I came off mine because I wanted to break the cycle, and this was fine while I wasn't doing a lot but I am now back to them. when you ask for a second opinion ask the questions you've just asked. I know how frustrating it can be when you walk away from an appointment and realise you haven't said the things you wanted too. write them down before you go so you don't forget them in conversation. what is your main concern at the moment? try to deal with and understand one thing at a time. I know your frustrations and understand your concerns. I still cant sit of stand for any length of time. take it easy and don't try to sprint the marathon
  • Thank you for your reassurance. And I am feeling anxious. All I've wanted is for the nurse to normalize my feelings and experience. I've even said that to her. She's flat in affect and disinterested. Ever meet a nurse who makes you wonder why he/she entered a field that usually requires empathy? This would be one of those cases. So, I will go Monday and have my list and be ready to tell the doc how frustrating it is. And I will ask at what point he will worry and maybe allow myself to relax. Today the sciatic pain and electrified shocks were not on the right as they usually are; they were on the left. That's when I surrendered and decided I would just wait and see. I have no choice and may help the process but relaxing.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 04/13/2013 - 11:42 PM
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • don't expect sympathy off all those in the medical profession. some will put an arm around you, some will push you to encourage you and some just don't consider your feelings. let me know how you get on, I also now get some pain on the left after surgery so it will be good to know what they say. chin up and try to smile.
  • Thank you for reminding me that the docs and nurses may not be that war and loving. Truly, I know they get conditioned and are even trained to spot drug-seeking bx and hypochondriacs. My legitimate account may not differ from someone's exaggerated story but that isn't my fault or my problem. I must advocate for me.

    My new pain on my left is not soreness from overcompensating. It is the same pain that sent me for surgery on the right side that wasn't present on the left before, so I'm anxious to know what he says as well.
  • And now, perhaps b/c the next three days are to include rain, my right foot (the original painful side) is exceptionally painful the skin is tight, as if on the verge of a spasm, with sharp pain and tingly sensations that occasional extend to the ends of some toes. Yet another mystery...probably not. Nerves are an interesting group of creatures...
  • If it wasn't for the fact that your surgery date and level of disc repaired was different than mine, I could have written your original post! (I am even 37!). I had my surgery March 20th: a L4L5 discectomy/laminectomy. I was like "YES!" when you mention the "catching" pain because that is what I have been having and it is like a jolt of electricity each time. Add to that that we are heading into week 2 of daily rain in the Midwest (good for plant roots, bad for nerve roots!) and so now I have had just a dull, achy pain all the time:(. I am pretty sure I didn't do anything because I have been real careful. And also adding to my misery is the fact thatI can't take any anti-inflammatories because they KILL my stomach. I am taking Tylenol. That's it. I am back at work so I can't take anything that would make me drowsy anyway. I too need all the reassurance I can get from other people who have "been there, done that.". As much as my well-meaning friends and family are supportive and say "You'll be fine--stay positive" they don't get it unless they have experienced this type of pain. Just wanted to tell you that I am right there with you ! I go for another follow-up appt. next Tuesday. I will be bringing my list as well!
  • ...it feels great to not feel alone doesn't it? I go today at 4 PM CST and am now armed with a list of questions. As I may have mentioned earlier I feel as if going in without knowing what to ask will leave me uninformed. The nurse never offers information so I am stuck wondering later. This time I will have a list. And the doctor can answer the questions. I hate that my appointment is so late in the day b/c he always runs over on his other sessions. But I hope to have some kind of answer. I will keep everyone posted. :)
  • Amylynn75AAmylynn75 Posts: 13
    edited 04/15/2013 - 3:23 PM
    So I went in with my list of questions and got some answers. PT has been ordered for one month plus an anti-inflammatory. After that we reassess and may consider more injections, a second MRI, etc. I've been assured that the nerve pain I have is likely typical but that the pain on me left and right is likely about a long-standing issue I let go for eighteen months before seeking help. That's probably how long I walked around with two herniated discs before I asked for help from the doc who sent me for the MRI. I have likely been overcompensating and that's part of it. And the arthritis is here to stay. He was very nice even after I explained that I felt as if I was in the dark b/c I had. It asked the right questions. His nurse was as blah as ever, so I went Into giddy, cheerful cheerleader mode to annoy her...;). Next time maybe I will hug her. She actually had another nurse walk me back so I made her speak as I walked by. I don't understand why her work annoys her, but it does. I go back after a month of PT and am free to call as needed. Also, I am continuing the Neurontin for the nerve pain. He refrained from giving me a timeline or odds, and admitted PT would make it worse before it would make it better. That scares me, but we shall see.
  • CopperCCopper Posts: 2
    edited 04/15/2013 - 9:19 PM
    I had my first microdiscectomy L4-L5 Jan 15th 2013. During my recovery I started having severe nerve pain and was put on Lyrica. That helped, but the weekend before I was to return to work I was in incredible pain. I knew something was wrong and I returned to work with major muscle spasms. Causing my lower back to twist up just like before the surgery. I went to me Surgeon and he gave me some options including more injections. That help with the muscle spasm, but my nerve pain was still bad. He was thinking a MRI might be needed, I pushed for it. It revealed my disc re-herniated. I had another surgery April 3rd. I'm just under two weeks out now. I hope this is not the same case for you unless absolutely needed.

    I think it is important to listen to our body. In my case I had foot drop before my first surgery and still after my second. Since I hadn't had the foot drop that long. The thought was to get the 2nd surgery done sooner rather than later in hopes that it would not become permanent. It appears my foot is slightly strengthen. That is giving me hope. I do understand how scary this all is. Hang in there and let us know how the MRI turns out.
  • To clarify I did not get a second MRI, at least not yet. I have PT now before we opt for another test. Did anyone have luck with PT? No one I know has...scary odds...
  • I was cleared yesterday to do the treadmill; I just did twelve minutes no incline at a slow but steady pace. My back is screaming as is the sciatic pain. It hurts as much now as before surgery. Should it be like this?
  • I am sorry you are going through so much pain. I have had 5 spine surgeries and all I can tell you is the 1st year you can expect almost anything. I have become very good friends with ice packs and heating pads depending on what feel the best. I have been on narcotics for so long I can not remember what it feels like to be pill " free". I am still under the care of my spine surgeon. My last surgery was 7-'06. Well one minute.. I had a THR march of 2011. I am now on the list for a SIjoint fusion. For me I have to take all this one day at a time. I rarely make plans anymore, or socialize much. I make sure my bed is clean and always near by. The Spine is clearly one tough disease to have. The nerve pain is what always gets my attention as well. I would love to offer you some clear advice but really it is one day at time.. Give it a year and please let us know how you are doing.
  • Well, this is the first full week of PT. I finished and while I feel a sense of accomplishment I can also tell you that my pain diary for this week reads:

    April 22, 2013

    Today was better--more mobility
    Slight Numbness in right leg and foot
    dull ache bottom right side of my back
    Treadmill x 20 minutes--very painful after 12 minutes but pushed thru
    Stretched at work
    One pain pill at 9 AM
    Missed PT b/c of cracked tooth/dental appointment but did Pilates stretching after cardio
    Pain directly in spine
    Old, hot pain remains in spine when I move my leg just right
    I feel like a big block of discomfort/pain exists on my right side of my back a lot of the time--this is not muscular pain
    Some muscle spasms today--tiny
    April 23, 2013
    Moderate sciatic pain all day
    I knew it was raining before I got out of bed
    Moderate pain in my spine all day
    "Block" feeling right side all day
    Old, hot pain on the right side when change position while seated at my desk
    Had to stand several times and stretch or simply stand rather than sit
    Twenty minutes on the treadmill; painful after 8 minutes
    Lower back pain consistent
    Lots of old pain late in the evening; had to have assistance to get off the couch. Hot, sharp pain lower in my back not quite in my rear end but below my waist
    No foot pain today

    April 24, 2013
    Significant sciatic pain--right side
    Popping feeling--right side
    Grinding pain--right side
    Old, hot pain in spine, especially when raising my foot from below my waist line or above my waist
    "Block" feeling--right side all day
    PT today--tolerated but significant pain afterward and restless sleep
    Bent at the waist several times to endure daily activities
    No foot pain

    April 25, 2013

    Significant sciatic pain--right side
    Popping feeling--right side
    Grinding pain--right side
    My back feels like a cluster of mismatched puzzle pieces
    Old, hot pain in spine, especially when raising my foot from below my waist line or above my waist
    "Block" feeling--right side all day
    PT today--tolerated but significant pain afterward and restless sleep
    Bent at the waist several times to endure daily activities
    Foot pain returned--right foot--soul of my foot thru to my toes

    I have been assured it will get worse before it gets better. Every single symptom I have prompted me to have surgery in the first place. I'm scared. I don't know what to do. I don't know if I should trust them or my body. Am I feeling my instincts, or fear? Anyone?
  • I'm so sorry you are in so much pain. Is there any way you can squat or go from standing to one knee vs bending at the waist?? That's what I do. Also, don't push yourself through the pain!! If you are on the treadmill and you start to hurt, STOP IMMEDIATELY. If your physical therapist is telling you to push through the pain, get a new physical therapist. I would suggest seeing your orthopedist/surgeon and giving him your pain diary to see what he thinks. Good luck!
  • 4life44life Posts: 36
    edited 04/26/2013 - 7:16 AM
    ok so I am now 14 weeks post op. I returned to work after seeing my consultant after 6 weeks after the op. he told me I could consider returning to work on a phased basis in the next few weeks. at this point I felt that I was doing well and was looking forward to getting some form of normality back in my life. so I started working for 2 hours every day for 3 weeks. I was fine while I was recovering and doing nothing but now I am trying to normal tasks I seem to have taken a massive step back. I cant sit or stand for more than 20 mins I have constant pins and needles, my lower back pain has seemed to have returned with as much force as ever and the pain and burn in my right side from my glute to my thigh starts as soon as I try to do everyday tasks also with this I still have a lot of swelling that doesn't seem to be disappearing any time soon. I am now in the process of returning to see the consultant. I completely understand the anxiety your feeling and the frustration and worry you have. I too didn't know whether to just keep powering through or listen to the warning signs, but I now am going with my gut instincts and going to see the consultant. if i have learnt anything from all of this is that the body lets you know when it has something wrong with it. how much should you push things before you give in to the underlying signals your getting. the way i weighed it up was that this is my health and i cant go through this again so im not risking it, if it is all part of the process( and i really hope it is) then that's fine. but if there is a problem then it needs to be identified and sorted. im sure you will do whats best for you all i can say is listen to yourself. you are the only one who can really answer the questions you ask. i gave in to those feelings and hopefully will get some reassurances from my consultant soon. i hope whatever you do you find progress and get some positivity from your situation. keep in touch, ill try and follow your progress and let you know what happens with me. keep smiling. its tough at times, but be assured you are not alone in your situation.
  • Well, I started today with minimal pain. As time passed and the rainy weather moved in that changed. Now I am tight and stiff with snapping, crackling, and popping in my back when I inhale, walk, etc. how can I tell if this is my disc or muscular? It's all so jumbled together. Last week was so rough but Monday and Tuesday were less so...is this my disc or the effects of PT? Am I being a wuss? I do not see that my endurance has increased. I have yet to be pain free. I still cannot walk for more than about five minutes without pain, or sit for long. I feel hot, electric pains. And sometimes, for moments, I feel ok, but then it comes back. I have not been w/out pain meds at least once per day since the day of surgery--February 22, 2013. I was told I have arthritis in my back; I can now predict bad weather. I have been relieved of a good bit of the sciatic pain that once gripped me. But the lower back pain remains after the microdiscectomy. I didn't know that procedure is not usually effective for lower back pain, or that the longer you wait to fix the problem (I waited 18 months or so) the harder it is to fix things. I am on mobic and neurontin and lortab and I am tired. I am not yet forty. I know I am physically dependent on the opiates--who wouldn't be?--but I do truly take them for pain. I read others' stories and know mine is nothing. The pain is a blip on the radar some days, and others it's horrible. I'm tired of researching it and trying to understand but w/out questions and reflection my doc isn't offer info. So, that's where I am right now...feeling defeated. I'm not opposed to the PT but it isn't taking it all away. And the rating of 2 to 4 on good days is with pain meds. That cant be good right??
  • Jenni2876JJenni2876 Posts: 27
    edited 05/19/2013 - 2:06 PM
    Amylynn: I am wondering how you have been doing?

    I started taking anti-inflammatories again because I was in such pain and I definitely have noticed a difference. I have been on them regularly for a week now and, although my legs have been better, I definitely been feeling some stomach pain today. I also started P/T this past week and while I leave really sore, I find that I feel better by later in the day or the next day. I am supposed to see my doc in two more weeks.
    Hope you are feeling better!
  • Well, after a month of PT and three months post-op with increased numbness, pain, and tingling the neurosurgeon ordered a repeat MRI today. I do that next Thursday. He also ordered blood work to rule out infection that he does not believe is the problem. He said the blood work could infer inflammation as well. I'm stunned. I don't know why I keep getting surprised by the whole damn thing but I do. My symptoms are worse than before PT that the physical therapist basically encouraged me to push through as if I was being a baby. When I refused to do the cobra press (google that image...she wanted me to do that and hold it for five minutes) I knew I was going to be documented as a noncompliant patient. I anticipated being scolded but when I told him today that I was having numbness in my foot and sciatic pain on both sides he said i could have RE-herniated the disc and that the pain switching sides could be a sign of that. So...we shall see...:(
  • As I typed that my arm was numb...I'm not sure whats happened...I wonder if I have nerve damage that won't go away or if this is an injury from PT or what. It's scary to contemplate...maybe it's nothing. I told him I thought it might be a muscle strain at first but he said that muscle strains do not involve pain that goes into the leg like sciatic pain does...point taken doc...
  • debjiddebji Posts: 28
    edited 05/21/2013 - 4:37 PM
    My microscopic lumbar discectomy was on Feb 5 and my lower back is STILL tender. I just tried to do the cobra pose slowly and wasn't able to even get to the full arch before I had to stop. Hopefully you can change physical therapists. :( I'm so sorry you are still in pain!
  • ben_indianabben_indiana Posts: 288
    edited 05/23/2013 - 3:16 AM
    Remember there is no reason to think of your PT any differently than you do your surgeon. They are just as important to long term recovery than any of your other docs! If you are not comfortable with them def find another. TThere is a real fine line between pushing through light pain & doing more damage. We have to be our own advocates! Due to setbacks & pain I ended up in PT for 14 weeks. Although I got tired of it I believe it was worth it. Hopefully you get the all-clear on the MRI & can continue your recovery!!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • Hey gang. I am relating toamylynn 75. Almost 3 wyyeeks. Post nice.pain still high taking meds cause they are necessary Thinking 4 more. Weeks. If no setbacks. I had 2 bad disks plus stenosis. Laminectomy also. My surgeon said the pressure on my spinal nerve. Waaaaa excessive. Makes me think I'll be on meds for a while. I don't. Like asking. For meds but I'm not suffering for no reason. My surgeon. Knows I don't. Get constipated.. I seem to be impervious. To my medication. I've had 5 surgeries. And procedures. In the last 13 years. I know. When to decrease. My dosage. And don't abuse. Them. . I too don't. Want. To b on meds too long or worry about getting. More. I just want to b out of pain and move on. My therapy. Is painful and medication is important. I think I have a good relationship with my surgeon. He respects what I know and say as I am in healthcare. Well good luck I hope that. A month from now I am off all medication and and am pain. Free. I don't want to feel uncomfortable about being in pain and asking for medication even though I believe he trusts. My judgment. Thx for listening to me whine. Lol:-)
    James rinaldi
  • Sharamiller123SSharamiller123 Posts: 1
    edited 09/23/2015 - 9:08 AM
    Was your pain ever resolved? I am 3 months post microdisctomy surgery and still in sever pain. I have had 3 more steroid injections and continue to take lyrics but nothing seems to resolve my pain. I am looking for any suggestions.

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