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L5-S1 Microdiscectomy- Recovering Questions

mferg86mmferg86 Posts: 1
edited 01/01/2015 - 10:09 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello everyone. My name is Mike and I am a 28 year old recreation, park and tourism graduate student student. All of my life I have been extremely active in terms of outdoor recreation and 'extreme' activities. Anything from whitewater rafting (former guide), skiing, rock climbing, BMX to skydiving. Throughout the years I have taken some major falls/ hits/ crashes, but I have been gifted with luck in the sense that I have never received any major injuries nor have I ever broken a bone. All until now. In March 2014 I was skiing in Utah with some friends when I ran a large chute, and subsequently crashed very badly At the time, I chalked this up as just another fall and tried to walk/ski it off. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had broken my leg (fibula) and subsequently herniated my L5/S1. I then subsequently skied 5 more days and then, upon arrival home, proceeded to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail before succumbing to extreme 'leg' pain and throwing in the towel.

Initially, only the broken leg was assessed. The doctors had me in an air cast and on crutches (which was later determined to only agitate the disc herniation more). By the time April rolled around, it finally became apparent that there was more going on that a broken leg. I was referred to an orthopedic and by May we had pinpointed (via MRI) that my 'leg' pain was indeed stemming from a large L5/S1 disc herniation. The disc was bulging into my sciatic nerve and causing me immense pain in my left leg only, which ran from by lower back, butt, and into my foot. My doctors suggested that I take the more conservative route and try to work at the issue. So I committed myself to physical therapy 5 days a week, the McKenzie Method 5 times a day, and just about every possible exercise/ icing routine/ home remedy that exists for said symptoms.

After 8 moths of rehab, it became apparent that I was not able to manage this on my own. I kept a detailed pain log (ranging from 1-10) and on my best days I was able to get the pain down to a 3, but my average pain throughout these eight months was a 6. During this time I could barely go into flexion, I couldn't put my own shoes on, etc. and I was very aware of my posture and even the slightest activity that would hurt my back. So basically, I did nothing for 8 months. Therefore, in December I met with my neurosurgeon and we commenced plans to schedule a microdiscectomy. I also visited a very well respected neurosurgeon in Pittsburgh, PA for a second opinion, and he also confirmed the need for a microdiscectomy.

On December 24, 2014 (yes, Christmas eve) I was taken under the knife and received my L5/S1 microdiscectomy. The procedure went smoothly and I was kept overnight for observation. As to be expected, I was in immense pain for the first 24 hours (mainly incision pain). I was released from the hospital on Christmas day and have been home ever since. Today marks 8 days after the surgery. For the first 48 hours at home I was in a lot of pain (a mixture of both incision pain and sciatic pain). I was prescribed Percocet (oxycodone-acetaminophen 5-325) and I was taking 2 pills every 4 hours (mind you I am 6'2" 225lbs). Nights/ sleeping was the worst and I found that laying directly on my back with my legs slightly elevated (by a pillow) was the only tolerable position.

Now that the initial pain of the first 48 hours has subsided, I have established a routine that I feel works best for me. I have found that I experience the least amount of pain when I am upright, particularly when walking. Now mind you that I walk at an incredibly slow (grandpa like) speed. I have found that if I walk ever 2 hours, and then go back to resting in either my bed or a recliner, that my pain is best managed. I am working my walking regiment up incrementally as well as working my pain med intake down incrementally. For the first week I was only walking 200 yards every 2 hours and taking 2 Percocet every 4 hours. But now in week two (today is day 1 of week 2) I am walking 300 yards every 2 hours and taking 1 Percocet every 4 hours. The thing that concerns me is that after 4 days, my incision pain has completely subsided, but my sciatic pain has largely increased/ stayed the same as it was BEFORE the surgery. I am experiencing 6-7 level sciatic pain all day, and then it seems to ramp up to about 7-8 sciatic pain in the evenings. Laying in bed the sciatic pain is the worst, so I set my alarm to wake me up every 2 hours throughout the night to continue my walking regime and it seems to keep the sciatic pain in check.

After reading through all of these cases and stories on Spine-Health (such a great resource), it seems that ever person heels differently and that everyone has had a different experience. However, the insight that people are able to provide has really helped me though this recovery so far. So I suppose my question(s) is this:

-Do others find that being upright and walking soothes their pain? If so, how far and how frequently do you walk? How much should I be increasing as time goes on?
-How long is it going to be until this sciatic pain drops off? Many people seem to identify 4-6 weeks as the hotspot where sciatic pain begins to subside. But others say 1-2 years.
-I begin working again on 1/12. Thankfully I am a grad student with a stand-up desk and have the ability to lecture from behind a podium; but do you think I will be ready for full 8 hour work days in 11 days?
-Should I request a post-op MRI from my doctor to reevaluate the status of the disc/ nerves/ etc.?
-Any other insight/ knowledge/ tips/ tricks that anyone could provide to my situation and recovery would be much appreciated.

Thank you all so much for your time, and best of luck recovering in your own instances. Take care and happy new year.


  • Dv_712DDv_712 Posts: 1
    edited 01/02/2015 - 4:54 PM
    I had a L4-L5 micro discectomy and laminectomy one week ago today. The bulk of my discomfort has been due to the incision. Trying to find a comfortable position to sleep is nearly impossible. Like you, standing or walking is best. The problem I have is that I had pretty significant weakness and numbness in my left leg from the nerve root being impinged. Therefore I' get pretty worn out when walking. I think I should be doing more walking and plan to start walking up and down the hallway of my apartment building every two hours. (Probably 15-20 yards)

    I had extreme nerve/sciatic pain in my left leg Sunday.(48 hours post op). I was quite concerned because the surgeon was so positive. He prescribed a steroid to help with inflammation of the nerve. Within 24 hours it was almost gone.

    I read a post on here that was several years old where a lady described using two pillows, one under each hip/buttock to provide a bit of a "lift" off of the incision., as well as a pillow under her knees if she was on her back or between her knees if on her side. I plan to try that tonight. Even went out and got new pillows with a Christmas gift card! Lol

    I, like you, want to know an exact time frame of when I will be 100% (or as close as possible) But it seems it is different for everyone. Patience is NOT one of my virtues, so I'm frustrated!

    I hope your nerve pain calms down! I know how painful it is.

    Best- Doreann
  • I had this operation 9 days ago. My disc was so inflamed that it was pushing on the nerves in my right leg and therefore I was suffering with lots of aching/numbness/pins and needles and so on in the right leg. I'm a really active person and I'm finding it really difficult not to exercise having being told no exercise for 2 months minimum. I decided to go for a walk around a week after the surgery around 100 yards down the road and on my way back up I was completely in agony. My legs completely give way obviously the right one just died on me. Since then when I try and walk around my right leg goes out to the side and so does my right foot? Has anyone else experienced this also? I'm quite worried!
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