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Post op week 4 MicroD L5S1 Activity and Pain ????


This is my first post on this site. I'm really excited I found it. I'm a 27 year old nursing student. I just started nursing school, just finished my first semester. I made it through the whole semester with a pinched sciatic nerve and a herniated disc. It was awful. Every day I had to come home and choose to either be in pain and study or take massive pain pills and sleep. Lucky for me, my professors were all nurses so they worked with me and one referred me to a doctor she worked with.

I've worked as a CNA for almost 10 years and never had a back problem until two years ago. I bought these new shoes that a lot of nurses/CNA's were wearing and they KILLED my feet for about three weeks. Everyone assured me that the shoes hurt for about a month for them as well, but after they are broken in, they "feel like clouds". My job was very physical. I worked for five years in a Nursing Home lifting/moving/carrying patients. Then I worked in an ICU unit in a hospital lifting/rolling patients, bending, squatting, and on my feet go, go, go for 12 hours shifts with a 30 min lunch. It wasn't until three weeks of wearing those shoes, I woke up one morning and I could NOT get out of bed. Long story later......I ended up going to see a neurosurgeon once I lost complete filling in my right leg after a month of sciatic pain. I also was losing bladder control.

I had a microdiscectomy on my L5S1 disc because of a herniation on 12/2/2013. The only pain I have felt since the surgery was at the incision site for the first week and then minor aches around it or above it that are typically fixed with ice/naproxen. As instructed, I rested mostly for the first two weeks and made sure to get up and walk around every hour for at least 15 minutes. Weeks 3 and 4, after my follow up appointment, I started working my way back into regular activities like cleaning my house, doing laundry, etc..... I know everyone is different in the way we heal/perceive pain ...but this is where my questions begin.

I am in week 4 post op now. I've seen a lot of improvement in myself over the past month as far as what I can do. I just go and do things (minus bending, twisting, lifting) until I feel that ache and then I sit with ice and am fine to get up and keep going. The only pre op issue I still have is parts of my leg are still numb and the bottom of my foot is numb, but I understand that takes time to come back. Tomorrow I start a home physical therapy routine plus walking as much as I can for as long as I can and then try to improve the time the next week.

I am very scared to start that routine. I'm terrified to try to get on the floor and not be able to get back up. I'm so scared of hurting myself again. Did anyone else have these fears after their surgery? Did anyone find they had less aching and more movement improving after PT and walking? My doctor told me and my husband to resume sexual activity whenever I felt that I was able to. (Sorry if the following is TMI, but it is part of my question). We did this for the first time yesterday and I felt fine during and after. I woke up this morning with some aching around my incision site. I want to chalk it up to just being sore because that was the most work out I've had in the past four weeks. Did anybody else have a similar experience? Or did anyone else feel that ache that I am talking about after doing activities? It's not really a pain, and it's nothing compared to what I felt prior to surgery, but it is an aching at the incision site and above so I always have that FEAR that I've torn something inside. I'm just scared to re injure myself, but I know immobility is worse.

Tomorrow is the day I am suppose to start my PT at home and walk so I plan to walk in the morning and start slow with the exercises, stopping when I feel any discomfort. Hopefully this ache will be gone. I've been using ice off and on all day which makes it go away. I'm trying not to live in fear but if anyone feels that nerve pain, you understand why I do.

Also, I still can't sleep all night in my bed. Anybody else have that problem? We have a tempurpedic that is medium/soft and not hard to roll around in prior to injury. I can lay on it and sleep for a few hours without pain, it's only when I am sleeping and roll over without thinking about how I am rolling that I feel pain at incision site or above. So I am sleeping mostly in a recliner downstairs.

Any advice/experience/relating would help me feel better.

Thank you!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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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
  • Hi, I think it's pretty common to feel concerned after a surgery. It didn't really hit me until after my second surgery. I'm only now starting to believe my body isn't going to betray me again. I am trying to stay positive that I will get back to normal and doing things I love to do.

    As far getting off the floor, I think it's pretty difficult still. Have something or someone near to help is pretty important. I can get off the ground without help now, but it's pretty rough and takes some time. I usually use the coffee table to help drag myself up. With that being said, make sure you have sturdy furniture.

    I also have some acheyness around the incision still. I had 2 surgeries back to back (no pun intended) so I imagine it will take a bit for those muscles and nerves to forgive and forget. The incision itself is still tender so I notice that when doing some PT excercises. I find that walking reduces acheyness and soreness, I just slow down if I am feeling a bit sorer that day. I think that any new excercise (read sexual activity there) causes some, I think it may be from being hyper aware of how our body is reacting to things. I also noticed it around my incision area, so I think that may be common (you and me = common experience right?)

    I was able to sleep in my bed with a satin sheet and satin nightshirt but I was careful when rolling over still, I would wake up and was super slow. I'm doing better now though.

    My numb leg and foot, left for me is the most annoying. I hate the weird icky numbness and can hardly wait to get shoes and socks off. I don't want anyone or anything touching my little toe especially. My neurosurgeon said it could be over 2 years to get feeling back.

    Anyway, that's my story. I hope you continue to improve and here's to a pain free 2014!
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • Kclemens1025KKclemens1025 Posts: 6
    edited 01/04/2014 - 3:09 PM
    That help's a lot! If you don't mind me asking, what did you do to need the fusion? Any particular activity or just going too fast?
  • Hi, I had a really large herniation, it herniated on a Friday, I had an MRI on Tuesday and was in surgery Wednesday. I was recovering nicely and I dont remember doing anything to cause it to reherniate, I was just the unlucky 10 to 15% that reherniate I guess.
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • man molly i dont know how you got into a dr so quick! i spent 8 weeks trying to convince diff drs that something was wrong and i was in alot of pain....i had to finally demand an MRI after i started to not even be able to walk to the bathroom. my MRI took a week to get the results back. and every neursureon i called (and i called alot), had at least a 4 week wait to see them. then another wait to schedule the surgery. i wanted to die!
  • Yes, my PC doctor was mad the ER didn't do an MRI on Sunday when I had the emergency visit. I have to admit, I'm from a larger city and small town healthcare scared me, I always said "in case of an emergency, drive me to Denver" judging from some of the posts, I have had a change of heart. My surgeon was great, my pain at the hospital was well managed, and I had quick and personal care. It's good to be wrong sometimes!
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • sleepy20520ssleepy20520 Posts: 111
    edited 01/06/2014 - 10:17 AM
    oh man, i think i went to the ER 3 times in the 12 weeks before i had surgery. each time being told there was nothing they could do and id have to wait for my surgeon appt. i literally thought i was going to die from pain. i was stuck at home, in bed in the most excruciating pain ive ever felt (and ive given birth) for 14 weeks. i went to more drs than i can count! each one more inconsiderate than the last. the final dr (before my surgeon) told me to "take a tylenol, i dont prescribe pain meds" i flip out! i told him i need an MRI, i need to know whats wrong with me! he did it and boy was he surprised (still not sure why). his next call to me was "you need to see a surgeon asap" even when i called multiple surgeons offices to tell them my condition was deemed urgent by my dr and the MRI tech they didnt give a crap. i was told many times "sorry he doesnt have any openings" EDITis wrong with people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    lukily i met a girl on the one time i left my house the entire time i was in pain, who was a nurse at a neurosurgeons office. she told me the same happened to her mom and shed talk to the dr and to call the next day. i did, and i had an appt the next morning and was booked for surgery that week. the surgeon said to me "i dont know how you are even wlaking right now!" i said "well generally im not" point being, some drs just dont care and it floors me that they get paid so much to be so insensitive. i even had one dr googling my pain on his phone in front of me!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Post edited by the Spine Health Moderation Team
    Please review the forum rules prior to posting at these links for more information.

  • I remember i felt like i was going crazy. like i knew something was wrong, theres no reason i should be having this pain and there not be a legitimate reason for it...i remember telling my husband one day, after spending the entire night not sleeping and crying all night and taking care of a newborn.... i said "im going to go nuts. i cant live like this! no one will help me and i dont understand why!!!" at that point i didnt know it was a herniated disc and neither did he.....so he was kind of helpless too. it was probably the WORST 2 months of my life. since my surgery i still have nerve pain (having it right now) but im hoping its a slow recovery problem. my pain only flares up if i walk longer than an hour at a time.... which sucks ccuz im at 12 weeks post op....but compared to where iw as before surgery, well, theres no comparisons really!
  • MollyAkMMollyAk Posts: 114
    edited 01/05/2014 - 1:07 PM
    I am just beginning to realize how lucky I was to have doctors that listened. I had lost feeling in my left leg so that got my PCP's attention and when she saw my MRI results she escorted me to the neurosurgeon down the hall asking me the whole time if I was sure I didn't want a wheelchair. They said they didn't know how I had made it since Friday. For how much pain I was in, I don't know that I could have made it 2 months, I feel really bad that you went through that unnecessarily. I think doctors forget that routine for them is not routine for their patients. And to think I was feeling annoyed with my town's ER for not doing an MRI (the hospital I went to for surgery was an hour away, the big city of about 18,000 people). My neurosurgeon went to a really good school and he was the only one for hundreds (and hundreds) of miles, so I'm glad he was good! Not a lot of shopping about occurred.
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • sleepy20520ssleepy20520 Posts: 111
    edited 01/13/2014 - 8:25 AM
    ya it was totally ridiculous. i got told so many different diagnosis' before i was even given an mri: muscle cramps, pulled muscle, sore glutes, poor cirulation (numb foot). my pain started in my butt/back. then one day i woke up with half my toes numb and the side of my calf numb.... then gradually the pain went down my leg. felt like i was getting stung by bees all over/my leg was literally onfire. i spent MANY nights just crying and not sleeping. i just cant believe how some drs just dont care. i saw 5 different general physicians (who i needed to get one to order an mri). one of which sent me to physical therapy without ever knowing what was even wrong. i saw 2 physical therapist for 8 weeks both telling me i needed to have an mri (which i knew but couldnt get a dr to order), i saw a chiropractor (bad idea), went to a pain management clinic (didnt help, in fact it felt like someone poured alchol on my already on fire nerve, it was HORRIBLE), went to the ER twice, and after all that i went to yet another general physician who was the one who told me to "take some tylenol" meanwhile im telling him i cant feel my foot and i can hardly walk from the pain. he was such a jerk and i think it sent me over the edge. he said to me "well we could do an MRI but we probably dont need to, im sure its a bulged disc, it will probably go away. MRIs are too expensive to just order willy nilly" i said "LOOK, i have been stuck in this excruciating pain for 8 weeks, i cant walk, i cant sleep im about to chop my own leg off! my insurance pays for MRIs so i dont care how much it costs. thats why i have insurance. can you PLEASE order it!" he said "fine" and walked out of the room. wtheck! funny thing, after i had the MRI he was so overly nice to me lol he never apologized but called me personally (not his nurse) to explain it and say how bad it was. basically my entire disc herniated out and was causing 90% spinal stenosis....he even said to keep an eye out for bladder control, ya...that scared the EDIT outta me. Anyways, ive now learned one valuable lesson. No matter how many drs it takes, when you know somethings wrong, never give up.
    Post Edited for Inappropriate Language by Sandi.
    Please see the link below-The Spine-Health Moderator Team

  • I get that you are very upset and frustrated with what you feel were uncaring medical care, but the reality is that in MOST situations where a patient comes into a doctors office complaining of back pain, it IS usually the result of a pulled muscle or a severe muscle spasm and usually will resolve itself in a few days to a few weeks. Sciatica is usually self limiting, meaning that it usually resolves itself on it's own and disappears just as quickly as it showed up. Doctors have to follow a standard of care when it comes to treating back pain- and it starts with the lowest, most uninvasive treatment options of rest, ice, stretching, heat , and possibly muscle relaxers and then move through the steps if things don't get better.
    It doesn't make it better for you or me, ( and believe me I have my own horror stories to tell about my own spine journey).
    There is a link at the bottom of my post- it lists the overview of the steps to getting treatment for back pain, you might find it helpful to understand a little better why they did , what they did and didn't do.
    Too often , patients come into a doctors office, complaining of pain levels of a 10+, and often overstate their symptoms, ( I am NOT saying you did), but imagine that you are the doctor - a GP, and a patient comes in , complaining of back pain, levels of 9 and above, but can bend , no signs of nerve compression ( no loss or disruption of nerve impulse or reflexes), and can't recall doing anything specific that might have set off this round of concern.......what else is he supposed to do? Other than to examine you, look for signs of major problems and if he doesn't find them, gives them muscle relaxers and sends them to physical therapy to see if it helps.......Remember doctors also have to have a medical reason to provide the insurers when they order expensive tests and right now, he doesn't have it. They also want to know what else you have done to treat the problem prior to ordering this test?
    The thing is , that for most of the population, all of us , at one time or another will experience back pain- in some form. The large majority will experience it disappearing just as easily as it appeared with no intervention on the part of any doctor.
    Insurance companies will NOT allow the ordering of major , expensive tests like MRI's without a valid attempt at resolving the problem by lesser invasive, and more conservative measures.
    If and when those fail, then the doctor has the medical basis to go to the next step.....
    Anyway, please read the link below, I think it might help explain things a lot easier.
  • Kclemens1025KKclemens1025 Posts: 6
    edited 01/10/2014 - 7:26 PM
    I am so sorry to hear about all of y'alls issues getting a Dr to listen. I've been in health care for over 10 years, I am very anti doctor prior to being injured. But I was blessed to be in Nursing School when the injury happened and my Neuronurse referred me to the doctor she worked with when she was a nurse so I got in quick. He was good...he didn't even see my MRI and called exactly what was happening. I had lost full feeling/function of my right leg and I was loosing bladder control more and more each day. Not even two months married and my husband was helping me change my diaper and wipe. I am so in love with this man.

    I am happy to report that I have seen a HUGE difference in my body since my original post. I started walking first for a week and added five minutes each day I felt that I could. It's funny how much walking takes the aching away. I was TERRIFIED to start my PT routine at home cause I didn't want to hurt like that again. Nobody understands that kind of pain until they feel it! I started VERY slowly, just stretching to lengthen my spine and relieve pain. After a week I started to focus on my right leg. I had lost so much muscle and flexibility. It's been about a week since I've been doing my routine: Walking 20 minutes to warm up, stretching spine, stretching calves and hamstrings, and squatting. I also make sure to walk up my stairs at least three times a day. I'm still chicken to start the core exercises but I think about my core while I'm stretching hoping it's working. I do some of them, but with my husband helping me. I need to just start doing it without his help and see how it goes.

    Now I can bend down/squat down to pick things up, walk two miles with no discomfort, feel parts of my leg I haven't felt in two years, dry myself after a shower, shave my legs, and my favorite part.....put on my OWN shoes and socks!

    I'm really glad I found this board. It's nice to hear all of your stories (except the parts where everyone has been in pain). It helps to not feel alone in this. I start school again Monday, and I have a lot of anxiety about that. But one day at a time, and one movement at a time.

    My next goal: Painting my toenails. =P
  • i def understand drs have to follow a routine for carign for patients and some patients are exaggerating their pain, some are looking for pain pills, and some are really injured....i totally get that. at the beginning of this, i didnt know what was wrong either...and i thought oh its prolly a muscle. but after not being able to walk, being in PT for 6 weeks and getting worse and losing full feeling in my foot and calf, ud think an mri would be able to be ordered? i mean thats just ridiculuos. and im sorry but no dr should be googling in front of patients... come on now!
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