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Just had a L4/L5 diseconomy (my story)

sxepridessxepride Posts: 12
edited 07/14/2014 - 11:40 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I would like to let everyone know MY STORY and it may help others with the same condition. Sorry so long winded but attempting to make it easy to follow.

About myself: 33 yr old male, athletic build, 195 lbs.
Condition: Dealt with sciatica on right side of buttocks down the whole right leg for 14 months due to a herniated disk L4/L5.
Cause: No specific event or trauma caused this condition as it just developed and worsened over time.
Attempted cures in order. Perception pain pills/relaxers, chiropractor, PT, massage, Nerve block/ steroid injections (1 time).
Surgery: Laminectomy and Diseconomy to L4/L5 disc. Surgery done July 8th, 2014


On August 28th, 2012 I was wakeboarding (doing nothing fancy) and at the end of my run I let go of the rope swam back to the boat, lifted myself in and after a few short minutes my lower back started to tighten up (nothing severe). Once we returned to shore when I got out of the boat my body was really crooked and took 3 days with muscle relaxers and pain pills to straighten back up again and never had any issues (keep in mind I never had any issue's or surgeries in the past).
On May 17, 2013, I was simply screwing in a bolt of some outdoor furniture and all of a sudden I fell to the ground in great pain and I was crooked again, same symptoms as last time. This time I went to the chiropractor twice a day for 3 days and after 7 days I was back to normal again thinking it was just a strain to my back. A few months later I started to develop pain in my right leg and and a tingling feeling. I went to my located doctor who schedule me with an MRI which showed I had a herniated L4/L5 disc and prescribed PT for 6 weeks. This did help at first but as time went on the condition got worse and I was finding that I could not stand for more than 10 minutes or my right leg would go numb. I was able to deal with the pain knowing that if I walked or laided down the pain would go away.
On May 15, 2014 I was finally frustrated with the numbness as it was affecting my daily life and seemed to be getting worse by the week. I sought out the best hospital I could find with in reasonable travel distance and lead me to EDIT with is ranked #1 in the country for neurosugery, so I sought out their opinion on my condition. After the surgeon reviewed my MRI from last year he advised that I should attempt the back injections as he did not want to operate as that would be the last resort. Keep in mind at this time was was unable to walk/stand and sit. I could only lay down and walk about 20 feet before I had to lay down. It was a 10 on the pain scale of 10. I had the first round of back injections which helped about 50% which allowed me to walk and stand for about 1 hour before I had lay down again. As each week went on, I felt the pain coming back. I met with the doctor again which he had take a new MRI and lone and behold my disc ruptured and a fragment broke off which was crushing my nerve and now I was losing strength on my right foot and I failed the toe test. (this is where he pushes down on your toes and you have to resist. I had little to no strength). He said the surgery is a MUST and must be done ASAP which he scheduled a week later on July 8, 2014.

I went into surgery at 7:30am and was out by 9:30am. When I woke up from surgery, it was a miracle that the leg and butt pain was 100% gone. They then took me to my room in which they kept me overnight as a precaution. Seven hours after surgery PT got me out of bed and had me walk the halls for 15 minutes which I could not believe I would walk with no sciatic pain. Mind you my back was sore due to incision. The next morning the DR. came to see me again to ask how I was doing. He then talked to me about the surgery and said that I had 2 fragments crushing my nerve and was amazed how I would even walk prior to surgery. He explained that the removal of the 2 fragments was apporx. 20% for the disc. He said he did not have to cut an more of the disc as just the removal of the fragments were all that was needed. My incision was approx 3" not the typical 1" due to my muscle structure (which he told me prior to surgery)

Due to the large amount of disc being removed, he said I could not bend,twist or pick up more than 10lbs for 3 MONTHS and not the typical 4-6 week recovery. He did not say when PT would start as he said scar tissue must form first and I must take it really easy.


Day 1-2 - I only have pain at the incision but is handled by pain meds. 4-6 hour rotation
Day 3-4 - I am able to get up from the laying position myself and walk about 20 minutes each time I get. (5-6 times a day)
Day 5-6 - I am seeing it easier to get up and take showers and I have scheduled the appointment to remove my sutures (stitches) next week.

I will keep you updated as time progresses but I am staying positive and taking it real easy. Also helps that I have a wonderful wife.

Though I did not have any sever complications, I did experience the below scares.
- It took 7 hours after surgery to pee which they were concerned but it did flow and everything is fine.lol
-My throat is still a little sore which I am told is normal due to the breathing tube.
- Took 2 days to have a bowl movement due to pain meds and stool softeners aided with this. All is fine now.


Right now I am grateful of the outcome and prepared if I have any lingering symptom which I do not have at the moment. My best word of advise is to not take everything you read on forums and the internet seriously. I spent days on this form reading "MOSTLY" bad outcome's and scared the hell out of me. I looked at it this way, If peoples surgery went well, they are more likely not to post on the forums as they have no reason to. If you had complications, you are trying to find other people with the same complications. I took my time to write this to show people that surgery can work and be successful. I am the type of person that researches the crap out of things and I was only going to surround myself with the best team and hospital I could find . I wish everyone going through this surgery the very best and stay positive as I am ready for the road to Recovery. I would be happy to address any questions anyone may have. It's great to be able to walk pain free again, as I suffered for almost 2 years with the last month prior to surgery as the worst.

God is Great,


Post edited to remove name of specific hospital. by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team



  • We both had surgery same day! Difference is mine was on the L5S1. Would like to hear more about your experience.
  • Will do. I am now 1 week post op and they only pain I have is due to the incision. Best way to describe the discomfort when I am laying on the couch on my back is it feels like I am laying on top of a remote control. Lol They confirmed that I am getting my stitches. Removed on the 22nd of July. Let me know how your surgery went.
  • tfduffyttfduffy Posts: 31
    edited 07/19/2014 - 3:50 AM
    Hi Sxepride,

    Our stories sounds almost identical regarding symptoms, approach to address, and finally making decision to have surgery. I posted the day after your post and listed the events leading up to my surgery on July 14th of this week. I'm 5 days in, don't have much pain other than incision site area, and haven't taken any pain mess for over 24+ hours. My biggest concern right now is having the feeling in my right foot, weakness and tingling go away or get better. I too have big toe drop and the 2 toes next to it are numb and weak as well. I'm due to go back for my 2 week post op visit on July 28th and will be inquiring about PT/Rehab. I'm walking 3-4 times a day for 15 minutes each. I have trouble sitting for more than 20 minutes and find only way I can lie down is on my side. I have to rotate lying on side every hour or so.

    Take care and let's keep in touch.

  • Tim,
    We do have alot in common and almost identical. The minute after my surgery all the pain and numbness was 100% gone as not returned. I am on post recovery day 13 (get my stitches out tomorrow) and I am still taking the pain pills only when needed. The only pain I have is still at the incision but this pain is more like a swollen pain and does not hurt that bad. I just like to stay ahead of it. It only flairs up when I stand or walk for 30 minutes or so. The best way to describe is that it feels like (when you are laying on your back) you are laying on top of a brick or remote control. I still have weakness in the right big toe as I hope that will come back in time and if not it doesn't bother me or effect me in any matter that I can tell. But again I do not have the numbness or tingling sensation like you mention. Give it time. I do not have any trouble sitting but again I only keep it to 20 minutes like my DR. said. I only laydown and sleep on my back as If I laid or sleep on my side I am afraid I may twist myself in which I can not twist/bend or lift anything heavier than 10lbs for 3 months. I am a very over causes person as I want to get back to 100% and refrain from a reherniation as the DR said being that he took out 20% of my disc any reherniation would result in a fusion which we all want to avoid. Please also keep me updated on your recovery.
  • Hi Mike,

    Great to hear back from you, and yes, let's keep in touch during our recovery. I too have been the ultimate coach potato watching a ton of TV and reading, but I make sure I move around often. I'm a Type A when it comes to doing physical things so it's been pretty rough having to slow down to almost a stop. Enjoyed watching the British Open this weekend all four rounds and am addicted to Pawn Stars and American Pickers!!! I have my 2 week post op visit with surgeon next Monday (July 28th) and we will see where we go from here. Take care and stay strong and positive Mike!!!
  • All just a further update. I am now 5 weeks post op and feel great. I met with my surgeon last week and he was very happy with the surgery and overall progress. He has released me to drive and allowed me to go back to work. I am still under a 3 month recover of no bending, twisting or lifting more than 10lbs due to the size of the disk removed. He said I wills start PT after the 3 month recovery (mid October).. The hardest part now is that I feel like 100% and can do anything but I am using extreme caution as he said this is the most important time not to do anything stupid and let the scar tissue build. I ask him why I was not starting PT any earlier and he said due to my case and how much disk was removed, he did not want to jeopardize the scar tissue building as PT can cause the scar tissue to breakdown and lead to a re-herniation where as in my case that would lead to a fusion. Again I went to surgery in a wheel chair (due to severe sciatica in the right leg) to walking with no leg pain 3 hours after surgery. The leg pain (sciatica) never returned which I am greatful for. I am now walking 1-2 miles a day for exercise. My legs feel a little week and I can tell my right hamstring and calf needs a good stretch but need to wait till PT. I'll keep everyone updated with my progress. God Bless.
  • tfduffyttfduffy Posts: 31
    edited 08/15/2014 - 1:50 AM
    Hi Mike,

    Sounds like things are progressing well and I'm happy to hear from you. I see you responded to my thread. I am I completing my second week of PT with daily home exercises and it is making a world of difference. It is mostly stretching and some very light leg strengthening. I'm still a bit unstable and weak below the waist and the numbness in foot is still present. I too walk a lot at least 2 miles per day and that helps with stiffness. Sleeping is still a challenge but I am getting the sleep I need. Heading to the beach this week for a vacation with family and I'm going to chill and continue to take it slow and easy. Would be interested in knowing how your numbness and weakness is progressing.

    All the Best

  • Spiny_MaloneSSpiny_Malone Posts: 225
    edited 08/15/2014 - 9:09 AM
    I have a very similar story. I'm on week three of recovery with significant foot drop. Sloooooooooowly coming back.
  • I had l/4 l/5 fusion with hardware on July 9 2014. I was doing great. Walking 1 to 1 1/2 miles with hardly any pain. Stopped pain meds in the hospital. And have not taken even Tylenol in two weeks Now 5 weeks I am experiencing weakness in my back and in my legs I feel like sometimes they are going to melt out from under me when I am walking. Very scary feeling. Both legs feel heavy and am having tingling In my left leg. What is going on? I don't want to go backwards. Has this happened to anyone else? Should I try to keep walking I feel afraid I might fall. I am 49 and in great health. Went to gym 3 to 4 times a week. So I am not a weak person. Anyone?
  • Hi GinGin,

    You may want to start a thread under your userid to solicit responses vs under Mikes thread.where it can get lost in the nest..plus easier to check up on. You are only 5 weeks post op from a pretty significant surgery. It is possible that you may be over doing it in rehabbing. The symptoms you are describing should be discussed with your Doctor, and may require some testing to further diagnose. I would start there first and be careful over extending yourself physically. The hardest part for my recovery has been being patient and dealing with the ups and downs. Hang in there and here is to a better days that lie ahead.


  • Hey Tim,

    With regard to my numbness and weakness, the numbness never returned after surgery. With regard to weekness, I can tell my legs are weak and slowing progressing. I tend to think this is because I have not done any physical therapy or lifting as I am just walking. Again prior to surgery I was an avid weight lifter so not being at the gym for over 6 months does take a toll on you. I was 205lb (5'-10") then when my severe leg pain started I dropped to 192lbs due to being very immobile and latterly eating on the floor as I could not stand and only eat when my wife feed me (lol) as I couldn't walk to the fridge ect... I am not back up to 196lbs after surgery as I feel great but eating horribly, which will change as my goal is to get to 185lb by the time I start PT. I believe your diet your greatly help the overall recovery process and strength building. Again, I am taking it very easy its pathetic at sometimes, as I keep refreshing in my memory from where I came from and do not want to go back. My surgeon also reassured me that he "did not make my back stronger" from surgery as material was removed from my body. I still have weakness in my right "big" toe as during the press down test its still weak. This has no effect on my at all just noticeable when you press down as I can not hold it up. It is about 30% stronger then before though so it is slowly progressing which the DR. told me I have a good chance of gaining strength back. Please keep me updated on your status as well. Also I should mention that I noticed I get cramps in the calf and thighs only when I try to sit Indian style, the cramp feels like it wants to come on real strong but I grap it and it instantly goes away. I really think this has to with my limitations as I have my wife help me put on my right sock if she is around as my range of motion is limited as I need to start stretching but will not be until October. I can put on my right sock if I need to as when I do I can feel my right thigh really tight and try not to bend at the back which is hard to do.


    I have know experience with a fusion but to me it amazing that your walking that far so soon. Please take Tim's advice and post your topic/symptoms separately then in this thread as you need other people to chime in. I would call your Surgeon and discuss your symptoms with him as you had a very invasive surgery. The worst thing you can do is over work yourself as I am fighting myself from doing as it very hard. I never had my previous symptoms return. Please listen to your body and do not overwork them as with my case I need the scar tissue to build up and fill as much as the void as possible that was left from the fragment removal. Your case is much different than mine or Tim's and is much more complex. You have my best.

    God Bless
  • I would say that this is a new and significant onset of symptoms that the surgeon's office should know about immediately. I'm sorry you're suffering.
  • I am one year laminectomy/decompression at L5, 63 male, road bike rider, with recurring lower back pain and some foot numbness. Uncomfortable but not on any meds. MRI shows disc degeneration, no herniation, and moderately severe stenosis with two tiny synovial cysts. NS recommends posterior fusion with hardware, but I am inclined to go for a discectomy and see what the outcome will be. Any thoughts?
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,342
    edited 08/22/2014 - 7:43 AM
    We ask new posters to start a thread of their own in the new member forum.......that way, you get responses to your questions and aren't disrupting a thread started by someone else.
    To start a new topic in a forum, click on the forum home page, locate the new member forum, then click that link. In the new member forum, you will see a tab on the left hand side that says Create new topic........
  • Great post, covered everything important. Thank you! I am considering a microdiscectomy for the same area (L/4-L/5 with medium protrusion). My condition is not nearly as severe as yours was and the sole reason I am considering the operation is because I scuba dive and I'm afraid that not getting the surgery and dealing with the herniated disc would hinder my diving. Anyway, it was good to read your post. Very thorough.
    Scuba Chick
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