My son suffered a herniation of the L5 S1 disc this past winter. We believe he suffered the injury lifting weights with his football team. He had pretty severe sciatica in his buttock area and his hamstring area of his left leg. The pain became debilitating in late may and he missed the last month of school mainly because he could not sit. We saw a neurosurgeon who immediately recommended surgery. We sought a second opinion with an ortho surgeon with a fellowship in neurosurgery. He cautioned against surgery at such a young age and proceeded with steroids and NSAID regimen followed by an epidural injection. My son never returned to normal but greatly improved over the summer to about 80 percent of what I call normal. We took bim to chiro twice weekly for about 2 months. he developed a mild case of drop foot that had almost went away. We decided he not play football this year and cautioned him sports may not be an option ever again which of course broke his heart. He is a big kid at almost 6'4" and 250 pounds. Obviously he needs to lose weight and we are working on that. We have tried to keep him active by walking and biking and chores around the house. About 3 weeks ago he had another flare up. For about a week he had severe pain in his calf muscle and tingling in his lower leg. It has been a major setback. His pain has subsided as long as he is standing or lying down and his drop foot problem has returned. His dr ordered another MRI which shows no change in the herniation. He is again missing a lot of school because he can't sit. I have been taking him to acupuncture twice a week which seems to be helping or at least he thinks so. If he continues to improve we think he can return to school on Monday. However his dr says we need to start thinking about surgery to avoid long term nerve damage. He happily referred us to another neurosurgeon in the area that seems to be well known and have an excellent reputation. This surgeon recommends micro discectomy and assures us it's a minor surgery or at least as minor as surgery can be. He also warns of long term damage and weakness in his leg. All three drs have referred to his disc as a "rather large herniation."
Obviously I do not want to see him continue to suffer or have permanent damage. He is showing improvement which is encouraging. I guess I'm just looking for support. How do we know when it's time for surgery? He is on the fence as to what he wants. His mother thinks he he should have the surgery. I suffered a similar injury at age 25 by lifting a heavy piece of equipment. I had similar symptoms but was able to recover without surgery and return to a very active lifestyle. My experience cautions me against surgery. The only alternative we have not tried is physical therapy.