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Looking for feedback re:Microdiscectomy experiences - surgery next week for L5/S1 14mm herniation???

dsimons2001ddsimons2001 Posts: 2
edited 02/14/2015 - 1:08 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am having a really hard time deciding whether or not to have a L5/S1 microdiscectomy next week. I appreciate your feedback.

I am a 44 year old active, fit guy from Tampa, FL. After years of weightlifting I had some sciatica pain back in November of 2014. It was very severe pain for about a week. Sitting was the worst. Not too bad when standing.

The pain subsided after about a week and I rarely have any pain if I take ibuprofen. If I don't take it I have some sciatica in my left leg.

After seeing my Primary Provider and having an MRI (12/31/14) I visited two Neurosurgeons recently who both recommended a discectomy because the herniation was so large (14mm) and I have some left calf and hamstring weakness. I was limping at first (back in November) but my leg strength seems to be improving very, very slowly with time. My left leg is still significantly weaker than my right. It is about 70% weaker than my right leg. I am unable to do a calf raise while standing only on my left leg, although I can almost do one if that makes sense. I can get abbout 1/2 way up now on my left foot and a couple weeks ago I could not even do that. I can do quite a few calf raises if standing on my right leg.

I am scheduled for a microdiscectomy on 2/19/15. The two Neurosurgeons suggested surgery as soon as possible to possibly avoid permanent nerve damage and to hopefully regain the muscle strength in my left leg.

Any suggestions? Should I try physical therapy first to see if I get all of my strength back. I have been doing stretching and light resistance exercises at my gym for my legs and lower back. Should I get a third opionion? Should I postpone the surgery to see if leg strength continues to get better?

I am on the fence with this decision because I really don't have any pain and my strength does seem to be coming back in my left leg even though it is very, very slowly.




  • Spiny_MaloneSSpiny_Malone Posts: 225
    edited 02/11/2015 - 9:54 AM
    We don't offer medical advise here. I would ask them 2 things:
    What would you recommend I do if I was your family
    What shoud I look for should I opt to not have the surgery, but could potentially become an emergency situation?

    I'm sorry you're in that situation. I was too, only I had no use of my foot. The nerve is touched in different ways for all of us.

    Good luck and keep us posted. I'm happy you are coming back, I hope it keeps improving!
  • I have the same L5/S1 herniation. I'm a 49-year-old fit woman. The pain began in March 2014 (when I was 48). After suffering through eight months of sciatic pain that culminated in an almost complete numbness of the left leg, I scheduled a microdiscetomy for January. But I ended up canceling it a couple of weeks before the date. Glad I did.

    I will explain why, but first a caveat: My choice isn't for everyone. I'm a long-term yoga practitioner, which contributed to my ability both to physically and mentally confront the associated challenges.

    Okay, the story: Pain was triggered by a vacation 11 months ago that involved a lot of sitting. I endured sharp nerve pain in the left buttock for three months before finally seeing a neurosurgeon in June. He advised that I keep on doing what I was doing (ie: modified yoga and exercise classes). He didn't think I should get an MRI since I wasn't interested in surgery. There were moments after a yoga class where I felt no pain at all. But hubris did me in: I was determined to master a forearm balance and kept lifting weights to achieve the necessary arm strength. I'm pretty sure the overhead weight lifting motion caused the problem to escalate. In any event, it got markedly worse around late October. I could no longer pass the "straight leg raise" test on my left leg. Everything went numb in the left leg, down to my foot. I was on crutches, and lost so much weight people kept commenting on it.

    At this point I finally got an MRI. It showed more than just a herniated disc: I had all kinds of different degenerative disc disease, from several other bulging discs to spondylolisthesis to stenosis. Most are associated with aging.

    My neurosurgeon recommended surgery (microdiscetomy), but one of my yoga teachers was adamantly against it. He'd gone through a double herniation (albeit when he was about 15 years younger) and it had taken him 2.5 years to heal (without surgery).I was deeply skeptical of the "no surgery" route, but I deliberately didn't let the surgeon rush me. First, I asked for a epidural spinal injection, which helped.

    Then, I deliberately scheduled surgery a good six weeks after we discussed it. I stopped taking Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (Motrin, etc.) because the surgeon said they would increase bleeding during surgery. I started sleeping with a heating pad on my lower back at night. I kept exercising, which pumped oxygen into my bones.

    In the interim, the leg numbness mostly went away (thus removing the "you're gonna have permanent nerve damage" worry). I think that stopping the anti-inflammatory drugs might have helped as well, because it let my body take over to shrink the slipped disc. And while I was far from being back to "normal," I was no longer in relentless pain. At that point I didn't think it made any sense at all to get surgery.

    The other factor was the generally bad condition of my aging spine: I needed to learn to manage the decline, so to speak, rather than run to the hospital every time something crapped out. I've already been doing this with my bad knee for years. I change the way I exercise to avoid putting stress on the joint that is worn out. In terms of my back, this now means paring back my yoga practice a lot. I also can't do a full downward dog at this point because of the pain. But... most of the PT exercises recommended for sciatica/herniated disc are essentially yoga poses, so I kept doing yoga (modified). Today, at the 11-month mark, I can sit again at my computer (though I now use a standing desk regularly during the day) and pretty much live my life as always. I'm glad I didn't do the surgery. I am pretty sure the body heals these discs on its own over time. It's just that "time" can take a year or more, and in the interim there is a lot of pain, and insurance covers surgery so .... lots of people do the surgery. But there are definitely alternatives to surgery, and studies show that five years out, most people (surgery or not) feel about the same. So I guess it depends on your own ability to manage the pain while you heal.
  • Relieving nerve damage is what the operation is about and weakness in the leg is key symptom. Certainly if the sequestered disk is large then in all likelihood it needs removing; it's not going anywhere is it. A surgeon advised me pre 6 months op reduces the risk of herniation.

    Going forward its an initial 6 (not negotiable) weeks recovery for driving and going back to work and then a further 5 months of rehab. I had mine done 5 months after the pain started, and two weeks on so far so good. It has a 90% success rate.

    If you have it stay in overnight don't rush home.

    BTY. Andy Murray played in the Australian Open Tennis final last month and he had a microdisectomy last Spring.
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