Hello All! I try to stay away from forums because the sad stories hurt my heart and hopes, but still, I value the opinion of those who know the nature of this injury and of the surgery. Most of my friends don't know the statistics about microdiscectomies nor how herniated discs heal. So, I write this post to get educated feedback, as I decide whether or not to have my quickly-approaching microdiscectomy surgery--February 27.
I am 40 years old and developed this injury in June of 2014 from overuse---running, weights, spin, a four-year-old, guitar playing, kickboxing, gardening. Like most athletes, I thought I could just "work it out." The story of my MRI confirmed, L5-S1 Left is long and strewn with a number of bad physical therapists, chiropractors, and semi-helpful acupuncturists. My symptoms went from bad to better, to excruciating, to better. I have had three epidurals--of ranging success. I was ultimately kicked out of McKenzie-oriented rehabilitation because my pain-level did not better--although my range of motion and strength did improve--so they say. None of their stretched helped me. The back bends helped until I received a painful and damaging "massage" from the head PT, that sent pins and needles and fire up my leg, when I left the table. Did I mention I was sexually harassed by the first specialist I saw? Yeah, it's been a long, painful, and humiliating struggle. Right now I do pilates (not what you think, small movements and light, standing core) twice a week, walk an hour a day (1.8 miles per hour) and I take Naproxen, about one Norco per twenty-four hours, and a medical marijuana candy before bad. (This candy has turned my sleep around. I don't stay up late enough afterwards to feel 'high,' but I go directly to sleep.) I have been sleeping like a normal (though drugged) person, lately.
This is where I am at. I trust my surgeon. I don't think I need a second opinion about the surgery. He advised conservative measures, back in October, and not surgery immediately. To me this proves some trustworthiness, plus a good reputation. When I saw him in December, my foot was numbing on the outside and I had considerable leg pain. Surgery was set for two-months from then.
Today, my foot is not numb anymore. I have a ton of searing butt, thigh, and back pain--when I sit and when I rise from laying down for a short time, after a massage, for instance. I do not sit at all around the house. I stand or lay on my stomach in the living room. I have stopped driving because of the butt and back pain. I haven't worked (I'm an adjunct professor) because I am scheduled for surgery, and also because I cannot drive and it is very difficult to grade essays on my elbows on the ground. Sometimes, I can ride in the car, uncomfortably, but I feel okay--sometimes tears roll down my face and I beg my husband to get me home, as I use my arm to push my left buttock off of the seat.
So, here I am. It is eight months after my initial injury and I ask, am I healing, or am I just not living? I mean, I have read instances when a person cannot walk and yes, microdiscectomy is the answer. But I can walk. Sometimes my pain-level is 0, but is it because I am not living? I do little stretching--some nonstatic, stretching in the private pilates, but the McKenzie stuff was brutal on me--made me fire and needles. I do have leg pain, but it comes and goes.
Here is what makes me think surgery is a good idea: 1) I'm not functioning. The quality of my life is bad. I'm depressed and isolated. I can't take my four-year-old to school. I am either standing or laying flat on my stomach. No driving. No playing guitar (I'm in a band called Dear Darkness.) 2) Drugs. I feel queasy and shakey--especially in the morning, after all my night drugs. I have been on Naproxen for eight months. I feel toxic. I don't have the energy to put on makeup nor do my hair. 3) I cannot sit--period. It hurts like hell and if it doesn't right away, it will soon. I can't bend. I can barely lift anything. I feel as if I have lost my life.
I ask, since the leg pain is way less than it used to be? Am I healing, or am I just feeling pain less because I barely do anything and I'm on drugs?
Here is what makes me think surgery may not be the answer: 1) Less leg pain. 2) Sleeping through the night. 3) I shaved my legs yesterday and it didn't hurt. I feel no worse for it today--as far as the drugs will have me believe.
So, I am no longer laying on the ground, begging God to kill me, because of the pain, but I am now begging God to kill me on car rides.
There are moments in my day when I think, "Yes, I need this surgery SOO badly. It hurts pretty freakin' bad, still, after eight months." But there are times when I am pain-free, like now, standing at the computer with a bunch of residual drugs from last night (marijuana candy, half a Norco and a Naproxen four hours ago.)
What do I do? Am I getting better or am I just avoiding the pain? Should I lessen the drugs and up the activity to test myself out? Am I isolating myself because of the fear of pain--although the thigh, butt, and back pain of sitting is very, very real.
I find myself wishing I was just a little bit worse or just a little bit better. It sucks to add this uncertainty to the depression, isolation, and drugged feelings I already have.
So, I ask, those of you who have had successful microdiscectomies, how did you know it was the right decision to make?