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Sciatica, l5/s1 herniation, anyone have these symptoms with discectomy relief?

SkhotsSSkhots Posts: 10
Hey all. I've had lower back pain for about 7 years now. Saw chiros and did pt but no lasting relief. I recently demanded an mri from my pcp as the pain is now constantly in my leg and not so much my back anymore.
Turns out I have a herniated disc at the l5/s1 location. Getting a discectomy next week. Doc says I should be back to work in 2 weeks easy. Seems like most people's doctors say that but it really takes them a month+ to return to work. I hope that's not the case for me.
So... I'm looking for anyone that had similar conditions prior to a discectomy. And how their recovery went.
I'm 28, very active and fit aside from a fading 6 pack.
My pain is most noticeable when I'm standing for longer than a minute, worst when I'm walking. The Sciatica in my right leg is felt with every right step. Can't lie on my back without pain so I sleep on my side with a pillow between my legs.
Here is where things differentiate from other's experiences. I feel best when sitting up, in bed or in a chair at work. Every post or YouTube video says they could barely sit. If I adjust the way I walk, I can feel less pain at the cost of looking like I'm 70 yrs old and forgot my cane at home.
The pain came in waves before it became constant.
Chime in please if you can give me some real life recovery times and struggles-best if you've had the same pain.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I just had a L5 S1 discectomy 3 weeks ago. I also found relief somewhat with sitting in a chair like you said. Sitting was what also made me feel better. Now standing and walking was a total different story as well. I am 20 years old I also had to start walking like a 70 year old to. Your story sounds that exact same as mine! I am so sorry that you are in pain! As I just had a discectomy on October 30th I am still recovering. I know longer have sciatica with ever step that I take. But some days are worse than others. My recovery has been slow. But my nerve pain has not been as bad as it was before. Before surgery I was in a wheelchair. The recovery is slow and hard but I believe I made the right choice. It will just take a long time for my nerve to heal. But so far I am SO glad I had the surgery because I have seen improvement! I pray you feel better very soon!!!!
    L5-S1 Emergency PLIF Revision May 26th 2015
    L5-S1 PLIF May 22nd 2015.
    L5-S1 Discectomy Feb 27th 2015.
    L5-S1 Discectomy Oct 30th 2014.
  • You had it so bad you were in a wheel chair? I'm not quite to that point.
    I have been dealing with this back pain for so long that I think any relief would be good. I have a little girl that weighs 22 lbs and I would not be able to enjoy life if I couldn't carry her throughout my recovery days. I can handle not carrying her for a few weeks but anymore than that and it'll be tough on both of us. Will I really have to take it easy for months? not weeks?
  • It can be very hard to predict recovery. I think I'm a bit slower than average and if I knew that I probably would have arranged my recovery timeline a bit differently. I had a L4/L5 left microdiscectomy on July 9th, 2014 (so that puts me at 4.5 months). I was able to return to work (an office job) in a month but it was not easy. The 35 minute commute (each way) actually was quite hard until the end of the 2nd month. However, I could walk pain-free as much as I wanted - 10 to 20 miles per day was no problem. Staying still was much harder. No lifting, bending, twisting. Although the surgeon said that 'adult activities' were allowed after two or three weeks, I didn't feel stable enough in my low back to even attempt that - and still haven't. That being said, I also have a transitional L5 (sacralised) and some hip joint/piriformis issues so I think those may contribute to a longer recovery time.

    I had to get a sit/stand workstation and I started for the first three weeks for work doing half-days and slowly ramping up. After two months I still didn't feel 'right' but basically I was working full-time with two half-hour walk breaks in the morning and afternoon, plus a one hour walk instead of lunch (all of which I am continuing). The first two months were a 10 to 15 pound weight limit, going up 5 pounds per month - always being careful to lift 'correctly', straight, and always with the TA/pelvic floor engaged. I would check with your surgeon and/or physiotherapist regarding lifting instructions and not deviate from those.

    I have been more than religious about 'no BLT' and I'm almost at month 5 and almost feeling normal-ish, with the exception that I still minimize my sitting time using the sit-stand workstation, I still have some nerve buzzes but very little nerve pain or cramps, and I still don't feel confident having any low back twisting or bending other than the prescribed exercises. I do about 4 or 5 hours of rehab exercises per day (between walking, stationary bike, stretches, nerve glides, core strengthening) but in the last two weeks I really have felt like I can see my target coming in sight (provided some post-surgical complication does not happen). Slow and steady wins the race and with care you can avoid being the 10% or so that reherniate. This forum unfortunately has a lot of users who have reherniated or otherwise had a recovery problem, the closer you can keep to the recovery program the less likely you will be one of that group. Revision surgeries seem to have a fairly low success rate so it is far better, in my humble opinion, to follow the recovery instructions, and I would think that several months is a closer expectation but again that is based on my experience and how I feel at this time.
  • thanks. i haven't read one story of a full recovery from a discectomy yet. It definitely has me worried. Winter is my playground and I would not want to miss it.
  • To respond to your post I'm going to repeat what my wise neurosurgeon said to me when I asked him what you are asking us: "Everyone is different. I've had some patients go back after a few days, while for others it took six months." No one in this forum can predict how you will handle surgery. You are young and you were fit before you injured yourself. Logically, one would think that someone in your condition would recover faster than a 70 year old lady. It took me approx three months to feel that I was back to "normal" ...
    Advice: Understand that you are in a vulnerable position. Please, don't rush your recovery. Please, don't push yourself too hard. Find a good physiotherapist and listen to him/her. Strengthen your core to avoid future problems.
  • I can relate. My favorite sport (by far) is cross-country skiing. During most of summer I can barely wait for the snow to come. My physiotherapist said that as soon as he is confident I can do it safely, he will let me - but he said based on how my recovery is going he expects a March or April return - or possibly the start of next winter. It pains me greatly to miss a season of skiing but when I am doing all of the core exercises (I find that they get boring after a few months) I picture the surgery site and mobile nerves, and I picture being on skis and replay some of the more fun trails I've been on before. That has helped me get through and stay very motivated. That being said, I am gladly trading a winter or two of skiing to be rid of the dreaded weakness and nerve and muscle pain that got me here in the first place.
  • I have all of the winter and I'll share! I'm just getting over being in Mexico. Wow. Heat helps nerves and muscle mobility! But for me I missed summer. I'm s 6 month return to work as the nerves and walking were severely compromised. When my right leg went dead... Lefty did all of the work. Now after the discectomy I've had to get Lefty and righty in line to walk properly so I don't throw my hips and back out of whack. Makes sense. Takes eons. Now I'm happy again it's winter. I love Tobogganing and skating with the kids. I never realised that this would take me through many seasons in recovery. Just know the seasons will come around again.
    I'll have to ask physio about the skating and Tobogganing... but otherwise I'm walking with a cane. I don't lean on it as much... It's good to notice everything with improvement... Once you're better this site is probably the last place people go as they're busy with life. I hope that for all of us.
    Find a way to hold that baby... Even if you sort of snuggle safely for both of you. She won't know you're not throwing off your hip rocking her. She's just going to know she's loved.
  • very true Malone. The ones that are healed and back to normal probably don't even think about this forum anymore.
    Good words everyone. I know everyone's experience is going to be different.
  • SkhotsSSkhots Posts: 10
    edited 11/25/2014 - 8:00 AM
    Tomorrow is the big day. I have high hopes of fully recovering in 4 weeks. It would be a shame to miss the wintertime outdoors and enjoying the little one. Its as if my back knows that the surgery is coming so it's bringing on the pain...the pain level has increased exponentially since I first scheduled the surgery.

    It may just be a coincidence but the pain stepped up to a constant pain in any position after I had the steroid shot. If the progression of pain is a result of the shot, I would highly advise against wasting the time, money, and pain for a shortlived painless stint. Of course, your miles may vary, but I was only completely pain free the next morning. It came back on the 2nd morning.

    Anyways, I hope I don't have to come back here with bad news.
  • Your intentions sound very well intentioned. Give yourself time and patience and the power of positive thinking and you'll be back! Listen to your body and follow the post op instructions. Keep us posted!
  • Day after surgery, I feel amazing. Without the percent, I felt a soreness in my lower back but I was told it is expected. Pain was probably a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst. I read that a lot of people had lingering nerve damage pain but I don't have any of that pain when I walk. Of course... Maybe that's the percocet talking...
    Wish I had done this sooner. I think fear and Financials delayed it, although I've spent more on less important things. Another delay was general physicians and chiros telling me what I needed and having no hope from improper treatment.

    I'm thinking of doing discectomy recovery videos to hopefully spread the word and let others know that they're not alone.
  • One week update - still sciatic pain free, no residual nerve pain. Very slight soreness near the surgery site but it doesn't bother me one bit. I have been doing 25-35 minute walks on the treadmill at a pace of about 1.6 mph(.8 miles in 30 minutes). At the end of the walk, I feel more soreness near my legs than in my back. The soreness is probably just from not being able to stretch properly. Maybe I can stretch, but the doc hasn't given any instruction that I can so I won't risk it. Ice fishing is off to a good start so I hope to get on that soon.
  • great recovery!!!! my microdiscectomy is tomorrow!! been suffering since april and Im only 22. Nervous as hell but I know it needs to be done.
  • SkhotsSSkhots Posts: 10
    edited 12/12/2014 - 10:33 AM
    Had my 2 week post op yesterday and doc gave me the blessing to return to normal activities within reason. Obviously, I won't be doing any weight lifting, but I will continue to walk and refrain from bending, lifting, or twisting excessively. I got to work in my garage on various projects without pain the past few nights. I am still sore where the incision is but he said that is normal.

    My results seemed so good that my father in law wants to get an MRI and get his back fixed too. He has sciatic pain but down both legs so his surgery may not be as simple as mine.
  • I'm 4 days post op and just wishing it to be over so I too can enjoy my babies and have fun with the family!! Keep posting your recovery it gives me hope!
  • 6 weeks post op and I still feel great! I am still refraining from bending, lifting, or twisting excessively but I find that I still bend lift and twist every now and then. I hope it won't bite me in the butt later but the doc didn't say to refrain from lifting X lbs so I've just been lifting whatever I need with proper posture. Of course, I keep the weight to a minimum and lifting time to a minimum. I'm holding my 25lb baby without pain again, but keeping it to a few minutes a day.
    Now it may seem like I'm recovering perfectly with no pain but I do feel a tiny soreness in my lower back when I roll over to get out of bed. But i'll take this little tiny bit of pain over my sciatica ANY day.

    I continue to walk for 30 minute lengths on the treadmill at home and get up to walk around at work. I keep my couch sitting to a minimum as well, I stand while watching tv because I'm paranoid of reherniating. It feels better to stand anyway.
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