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Microdiscectomy L5 S1 - When Should I....?

gonerawggoneraw Posts: 6
edited 09/15/2014 - 8:50 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi fellow back pain friends!

For five months I have had severe lower back and nerve pain with a dropped foot down the side starting at my L5 S1 area. It was worse than any pain I have ever thought imaginable! I have four, huge babies, all natural and this pain was 100 times worse! After trying to keep a smile on my face and trying every treatment under the sun, including aromatherapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, phyiso, PT, decompression, steroid shots, inversion board, etc. Yes, I've spent a small fortune on this issue! Before this happened, I was in pretty good shape and in the gym at least 3 times a week. I eat an organic, local diet. I don't have sugar or dairy in my diet. (no inflammation)

Last Tuesday, I went to see an amazing neurosurgeon in Austin, TX. He was amazing! He explained that my real pain was the budging disc pushing against the nerve root and it was causing nerve damage. (I had little feeling in my toes and most of my foot was numb) On Friday morning at 7:00a.m. I had a microdiscectomy in which the surgeon removed a huge piece of my disc. After the surgery, I felt like a train wreck! I came home barely being able to move myself! I had to have help getting in and out of bed and even to sit down on the toliet. After a few days the pain has started to ease up; most of my sciatic pain is gone. My knee still hurts and my foot is still somewhat numb. I feel sore and very emotional at times, especially at the end of the day. I am still taking Tramadol (4 a day) I can walk about 1 mile a day but feel really tired after that excursion.

My question is where will I feel great again? When can I expect to drive again or venture out? Should I look for certain signs? Is it normal to feel emotional? Should I stay in bed most of the time? Do I have to sleep on my back? When is it okay to have sex again? When can I bend over or twist (play tennis) again?

Is there anything I can do to speed up my healing?

Thanks for your thoughts!
Stephanie Ross


  • I had a L3/L4 microdiscectomy 10 days ago,,, I also have a foot drop and numbness still down my leg and my foot and 2 toes,, had foot drop for nearly 10 weeks now,,, but I had a delay in getting my mri done by the hospital should have had it there and then but had it done 2 weeks later and got referred to a spinal doctor didn't get results till I seen him 6 weeks later, he said it had been left to long and I won't get the feeling back and is now paralysed, if I'd of had the mri at the beginning he could have been saved,,, so hopefully it will come back and is wrong takes time I suppose,,,, I start physio on Wednesday,,, and have to start wearing an afo instead of using crutches when I'm out and about,,, I'm on gabapentin for nerve pain for my foot slowly increasing it week by week,,,, my back is still sore abit today but I've stopped my pain killers to see if I could manage,, had few pains down my leg n foot but not to bad,,,, I sleep on my side can't sleep on my back still tender and my stitches haven't dissolved yet not sure how long that takes,,,i was told not go drive for 4 weeks but I can't drive any way yet with my foot drop not sorted yet,,,keep getting up and having a walk round, I can't walk that far yet without being uncomfortable,,,also bending and twisting is 4 weeks to,, also was told not to lift more than a kettle for 6 weeks,,,, hope you recover well and take care and rest
  • Describe the incision. How big is it?

    There are different versions of microdiscectomies. Some are very invasive and cause a ton of collateral damage that takes a long time to recover from. Bone is removed, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are cut.

    There are other versions where very little damage is done; these require only a small perforation on your side. No bone is removed, no cutting of anything is done and are closed with just a band aid. (no sutures needed!)

    And there are versions in between those two.

    Also, the amount of time the nerve had the impingement on it is a factor. If left too long, permanent damage is done. I understand that 9 months is about the max. From what I've read, a nerve that recovers, does so at a certain rate. I think I read a millimeter per month. Not sure.

    It took me a good 6 months post-op to fully get rid of all my symptoms. I remember trying to walk the Ontario Mills Mall (in SoCal) one day and I got too tired half way thru. I had to sit for a while and regain stamina.

    Get yourself a diary and track how much you do everyday. Track your progress. It is very helpful. I added a little bit everyday and just kept building. (making adjustments + or - if needed along the way)

    Your body's chemistry is out of whack with just the surgery alone. Add in meds and yes, emotions can also get out of whack. Mine did.

    Sex and sports and activity. Gosh, please be careful. Know that your disc is, and from now on, will always be compromised. It has a much lower capacity for carrying weight, for absorbing shocks, and for handling shearing stresses and torque loads. The annulus of the disc couldn't hold in the nucleus material and it tore open. It attempts to close it back up with scar tissue but scar tissue is not as strong as annulus fiber. If the annulus fiber didn't hold in the first place, the scar tissue will have a much less ability to do so.

    I'm also not saying you should be a nun. Activity is good for the discs. But just be aware of your new limitations. Try not to blow out the discs or it's back to square one! Maybe even further backwards!

    That said, you CAN go on to lead a very happy and full life. I'm living proof. It won't happen instantly. Ya gotta help it happen.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hi GoneRaw,

    Had a similar situation as yours (i.e. always ate well and exercised, did conservative treatments post injury, etc) and low and behold did not get better 3+ months after blowing out my L4/L5 disc training for a marathon. I have dealt with pain and set backs throughout my life, but i must say, this injury topped them all. I had Micro Discectomy / Laminectomy surgery in July, and have been doing Physical Therapy since early August. When will you feel great again? - Establish a new baseline and find comfort and joy in working towards rehabilitation and don't set a time limit. Your new marathon training is to get better!!! When can you drive again or venture out? - if you are on muscle relaxants or narcs, don't even think about it. I stopped my meds 2 days post surgery, and ventured out 4 days after surgery, just cruised around my neighborhood and that is about it. I also went to a wedding 3 weeks after surgery but sitting in the church and reception was absolutely brutal. Should I look for certain signs? - track your progress in weeks and months not days. Is it normal to feel emotional? - Absolutely!!! I was at rehab today, and there was a 20 year old nursing student who herniated 3 discs in lower back lifting a patient. She has sciatica in both legs, numbness and tingling down to her feet, and major hip pain. She is scheduled for surgery in October, and feeling all the anxiety we did before going under the knife. Even after 2 months post op, I wake up every day wondering if I will ever be the same...I have set backs like pain and increased numbness in my right leg / foot, but find a way to press on. My new strength is knowing that the nursing student I met today is much younger and has a lot to overcome, but she was very positive in her outlook....look for inspiring moments like that and not feel like you are a victim who was unfairly dealt a bad hand. Should I stay in bed most of the time? - I spent a lot of time on the couch and bed 3 weeks post surgery but made sure I got up and moved around every hour on the hour. There is a lot of research out on the internet that proposes getting up and moving about vs. being bed ridden.Let pain be your guide. Should I sleep on my back? - I found sleeping on my sides with pillows in between my legs helped tremendously. 2+ months after surgery I still have problems sleeping through the night but it is getting better. When can I have sex? - No prescription for this other than let pain be you guide and your mind be free and clear of concern (e.g getting re-injured). Take it slow just like building up to getting back to running and other physical activities prior to your injury. When can I twist again? - Follow Docs orders on this one. My Doc prescribed no Bending, Lifting, Twisting for 3 months.

    Here is to a speedy recovery!

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