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****HELP! Need Info from scuba divers with lumbar herniated discs!

Kate MelvilleKKate Melville Posts: 4
edited 08/24/2014 - 10:40 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi! I have a L4/L5 herniated disc with a medium sized protrusion. A neurosurgeon has recommended microdiscectomy to correct it. A physical therapist seems to think that I don't need the surgery. I still continue to need either small doses of Advil or Celebrex and muscle relaxers to deal with pain. It's not unbearable pain, but I don't want to have to take meds every day for the rest of my life.

I am SUPER conflicted about whether I should get the surgery or not.

If I wasn't into scuba diving, I probably wouldn't get the surgery. However, I am into scuba diving, and this is the sole reason I am considering the surgery. The one thing I am afraid of if I don't get the surgery (or even if I do) is making it worse by scuba diving, or acute herniation. Are there any people out there that are scuba diving WITH a herniated disc? Any people that are scuba diving AFTER a microdiscectomy? As a scuba diver, would you recommend the surgery or not?

Thanks very much for anyone that can provide some insight.
Scuba Chick


  • mavik0mmavik0 Posts: 29
    edited 08/24/2014 - 11:06 PM
    If the pain is managable i would try i a PT and core strenghtening routine.
    Before my discectomy for almost 3 months i was doing exercises like planks,push ups, pull ups, bridges etc. It helped in getting my core very strong but unfortunatelly it didn't help to get rid of the sciatica.
    Try doing it for some time like 2 months and you will see. If there will be great difference and your pain will go low i wouldn't consider surgery.
    My disc was herniated for over 8 months and even doing large amount of PT didn't help it so i got under knife and now im like 13 days post discectomy almost 90% of day pain free and getting better day by day :)
    For sure gonna be back to my powerlifiting routine but with few differences like strenching and core strenghtening every single day.
    I wouldn't ready many of this forum threads because most of the people here have bad experiences with this kind of surgery but you have to remember here are like less then 1% of people who had surgeries.99% with good outcomes don't search informations on internet and just enjoy life ;)
  • I dive a lot and rather techy dives, super deep/long etc. Suffered serious back pain for 2.5 years and just had a 2 level ALIF surgery (WAY more serious than the surgery you are looking at) but only after trying everything else - do the PT, get some strong abs and check your pain levels , make sure you get a physio or trainer that specialises in back injury/strengthening, I did this, and stopped smoking and lost 20Kg, surgery was my last option, am now 5 weeks post op and doing well (L4/L5/S1 2 layer ALIF)...good luck!
  • Thanks for the replies so far! I have been reading up on the microdiscectomy procedure and it really seems as if this procedure is more a method of pain control than a preventative type thing. I guess I was under the false assumption that if I have the surgery I will have no further problems in the future with the disc. I'm thinking that's not the case?

    Like you, Mavik0, my issue has been going on for 8-9 months, but instead of the pain increasing, my pain has decreased. It seems this surgery really helps people that are having sciatic pain: radiating pain down the leg, pins and needles in the feet, numbness, tingling, etc. I had those symptoms a few months ago but now they are gone. So I'm skeptical if I actually need the surgery or was the neurosurgeon just trying to "sell his product".

    I am going to physical therapy but unfortunately my visits run out next week. The guy is very good and I hope that he can give me plenty of exercises to do at home or at the gym to strengthen ab muscles and back muscles. As of today, I am thinking I don't want to do the surgery. I only experience pain in the lower back with certain movements, and that's it. Getting a surgery to correct minimal pain seems a bit like using a machete to take out a splinter, you know? Overkill.

    What do you guys/gals think?

    Thanks for your help so far.
    Scuba Chick
  • if you don't have sciatica dont even think of going to surgery! It won't solve problems with your "back"
    Instead if you are progressing stick with streching and core strenghtening every day :)
  • Thanks, mavik0.
    I have also heard that it's not really for back pain (which is pretty much the only place I have some pain now). Looking more and more like I'm not going to go through with this surgery.
    Scuba Chick
  • PaulPPaul Posts: 730
    edited 08/27/2014 - 10:36 AM
    Kate Melville said:

    I have also heard that it's not really for back pain...
    You heard wrong. I'm living proof. I had 90% back pain 10% leg. It got rid of all of it. All the PT in the world was not going to get rid of the herniation.

    May I ask why scuba diving is different with or without a herniated disc? (sorry, I know nothing about scuba diving)
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I had a L4-5 herniation that had caused significant pain with some right leg pain and weakness, with therapy and steroid injections I was able to get it under control. In June I went scuba diving with my sister for 6 days. The outfit we used did not assist much, we had to carry & assemble equipment, and get in and out of the water with minimal support,. By the end of the week my left side had developed foot drop and the pain was excruciating. I required surgery shortly after returning. Perhaps if I had put my tanks on and taken them off in the water it would have made a difference. Once I was in the water it was no problem, but climbing up a boat ladder carrying a tank, 16 pounds of weight and a wet BC was not a good idea. If you can avoid the lifting you may be fine. Bevie
  • Run72RRun72 Winter Haven, FLPosts: 4
    I had a fusion of L4-L5 8/21/12 and was diving again that December. Get your back feeling better, with or without surgery, and you will be diving again in no time!
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