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Microdiscectomy Recovery 23 year old

I have recently stumbled upon the spine-health forums and they have given me great encouragement that dealing with the post surgery ups and downs isn't something that is unique to me!

After previously being very active, running half marathons and playing tennis around 3 years ago I started to get increasing back pain. This went on for a while until I finally was referred by my physio to see a specialist. MRI scans revealed an L5/S1 disc prolapse with some contact on the nerve. Over the previous 12 months I have had two epidural/facet joint injections and combined with physio to limited effect.

Increasingly in the last 6 months I developed a lot of groin aches/pains alongside flare ups in the lower back.By this stage I hadn't ran more than 1 mile in almost a year and agreed with the specialist to undergo a microdiscectomy.

I am currently 4 weeks post surgery and have to admit it is starting to get really difficult. I had a couple of good weeks, with expected pain and limited leg irritation. Now I have increasing right leg irritation/burning sensation. I have increased my activity, getting back to work at the end of week 3 on reduced hours and walking more and more.

Does anyone out there have any experiences with post op recovery? I feel that I am now not progressing as fast as I would like and getting increasingly worried by the sensations in my right leg. At 2 weeks review my surgeon did indicate that some irritation of the nerve root was normal and put me on a course of dicloflex.

I am currently having gentle physio and on a course of dicloflex, having stopped all other post op painkillers. Any inspiration or wise words would be greatly appreciated, I am sure that the irritation of the nerve is a normal thing, but it is much worse than before the op and in hamstring/calf/heel rather than groin. I feel increasingly young and inexperienced with dealing with this op!

The positive is that my back itself is almost pain free.

Thank you in advance.



  • Nerves can take several months to heal. The surgery itself can cause irritation and once pressure is taken off of the nerve it begins to regenerate at a very slow pace. It's too early in your recovery to know for sure just how successful the surgery was. Were you cleared to return to work so soon? Adhering to post op instructions is just as important as the surgery itself. Overdoing it can cause setbacks. If the nerve pain continues you can always talk to your Dr about a medication specific to nerve pain. Keep your surgeon informed of any changes but hopefully it's just normal recovery pain.

    Good luck!
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • Maybe find out how/what your doctor thinks about you getting a new MRI. Everyone has a philosophy about that.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Thank you for your replies LC and Paul.

    LC - I returned to work on reduced hours following the advice of the surgeon, I think he would have happily signed me off for a further couple of weeks but saw no barrier to me getting back so long as I was careful and didn't push things. The hospital have now prescribed further diclofenac which seems to be helping.

    Paul - I have since seen the physio who believes at this stage the irritation is normal, hopefully no need for further MRI.

    I am pleased to say that the irritation that last week was a 8/10 is now more like a 2/10 and peaking at 6/10 only during a commute home from work. I have since seen the physio who suggested that everything looks to be on track and that the leg pain was most likely my bodies way of telling me I am doing too much - probably right! A relaxing weekend really helped.

    I think there is a very fine line between returning to work and other more mobile activities too soon and causing additional pain, as opposed to not returning too quickly and having a slower recovery in the long term.

    I think finding things to aim towards is also difficult - I am told a gentle jog is around 2 months or more off. At least there is now light at the end of the tunnel.
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