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24 y/o on second Microdiscectomy in 5 years


So first off I just want to give a big thank you to everybody who posts on here. It has been very helpful in a lot of ways to read through these forums.

I am 24 years old and had my first microdiscectomy (MD) in July of 2008 when I was 18 and my second was in early December of 2013.

My first MD was for a disc herniation on the right side at L5-S1 causing sciatica down my right leg.. During the surgery there was a dural tear that lead to CSF leakage for about 5 days post op. I remained in the hospital for 7 days after the surgery and was instructed to take it easy for the next 6 weeks. Within a 5 months my life became pretty normal and remained so for the next 5 years aside from a few flare ups of minor back pain that might last a week to a month.

My second surgery was a second herniation at L5-S1 but this time it was herniated on the left side causing sciatica down my left leg. I had the surgery in early December and have noticed some substantial improvements but they are slow and tedious and for every few good days there are a few bad days. I have been doing serious PT for two months now but still get some pain down my leg and lower back tightness.

My surgeon says I will be fine and get back to 100%, but I feel like he has to say that. He needs to portray a positive outlook. Which is nice sometimes but sometimes I just need somebody to give it to me straight. So my question is this: Does anybody in a similar situation have any advice as to what I can expect in terms of pain? How will disc depletion from two MD's effect my back in the future? Pros & Cons of being this young and having gone through this twice (aside from building character)? Chances of needing a third surgery down the road?

Any articles, peer reviewed journals, or books would help too...




  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 03/04/2014 - 9:05 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
  • Hi, I have had very similar misfortunes. I had a L5/S1 herniation and after trying to avoid surgery with PT, acupuncture, and stubborness I finally was in so much sciatic pain that I broke down and did the microdiscectomy 2012. I did great for 2 days and my sciatic pain was gone. My surgeon was also very optimistic and made it sound like a walk in the park. He actually really didn't even warn me of possible complications since they are rare. So when I started having migraines suddenly I didn't expect I had a CSF leak. The surgeon left a sharp piece of bone from the laminotomy which punctured my dura and caused a big enough leak that I had to go back in for surgery to repair it. After the CSF leak repair surgery my sciatic pain returned. I also started having terrible muscle cramping in my calf. My disc ultimately re-herniated and I had a second microdisectomy going on 10 months ago. My surgeon initially said recovery takes 8 weeks, but when I rechecked with him months after surgery he told me it could take a full year to heal. I will hit my 1 year in a couple months and I have no sciatic pain finally, I can walk for an hour straight, and do most of regular activities. I wake up every morning in pain, but it is slowly improving. I have the same fears and worries of what shape my spine will be in when I am old , (I'm 36 and very healthy otherwise). The problem is there is no way of knowing and that is what is frustrating. Doctors really can't guarantee your outcome. Remaining active, sleeping well, practicing proper ergonomics, and trying not to let fear, anger, and worry effect your mental health is the best you can do. Having surgery compromises your disc so you are now more at risk of re-herniating your disc. Most surgeons will consider spinal fusion if you have a 3rd herniation, (which comes with more risks of complications and lower success rate). It took close to 8 months for my sciatic pain to go away completely. At 10 months I think I am mostly dealing with my muscles realigning since I was limping around for so long. Muscle atrophy and stretching out scar tissue can take waaaay too long. Especially when you just want your life back and have a clear timeframe of when that will happen. The unknown drives me nuts, but I have learned to only worry about the things I can control. Being young means you have a fighting chance at fully recovering from this and living a pain free existance. Realistically, there is also a good chance that you will have episodes of back pain periodically down the road.
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