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L1/L2 and L2/3 microdiscectomy next week

After a month of reading these forums I've finally decided to join in. I can honestly say that reading everyone's stories and experiences has better prepared me for the decision to have surgery and what to expect during recovery. I'm posting this mainly because i noticed most of the posts are from people dealing with L5/S1 issues and i wanted to share my experience with seemingly identical symptoms at a much hIgher lumbar level. My neurosurgeon told me of his last 500 surgeries he's only seen one other patient with herniated discs at that level. After researching it seems my symptoms shouldn't be going down into my legs but they are. I will certainly admit i never knew anything could be so painful and i really don't think anyone can understand severe sciatic pain unless they go through it themselves.

Interesting facts i googled:
L1/2 and L2/3 herniated discs account for less than 5% of cases.
According to a medical research study, upper lumbar herniated discs are far less likely to heal using conservative methods compared to lower lumbar discs.
Surgery results seem to be more effective with the upper lumbar herniated discs. My only doubt with this is because they are so rare the sample size they used in the study was very small.

ok so here's my story:

For the last 6 months or so i have been getting a strange numbness/tingling sensation down both of my legs without any pain associated only after doing something physical (walking, sports, etc.) I really didn't think anything of it as i am only 30 years old and generally in good health. So i ignored this until January when i woke up one day and noticed my lower back feeling extremely sore to the point of it being difficult to get out of bed. I figured it was just a pulled muscle or something and decided to take it easy for a few days. Well needless to say the pain never got better so i scheduled an appointment with my GP who immediately scheduled me for an MRI after going over my symptoms. As my headline suggests, the MRI showed herniated discs at both the L1/2 & L2/3. I was then referred to a neurosurgeon who prescribed 6 weeks of physical therapy for me along with a series of ESIs...the first injection did absolutely nothing for me and after discussing with the doctor giving me the injection it was very unlikely any further shots would help. Since i was in excruciating pain (ranging from my buttocks down both legs to the calfs) the ESI 2L was supposed to allow me enough temporary relief to start physical therapy which it never did. Again i am only 30 so surgery was the last thing on my mind. Despite being in a lot of pain, i began physical therapy anyway 3x a week. I was never able to do any of the stretches/exercises only the electrical stimulation and going over proper posture techniques. I tried keeping a positive attitude but that quickly faded when at the fourth week of therapy my physical therapist told me at this point i had not progressed at all and needed to revisit my doctor. So i did and he basically told me at this point surgery is an option. I asked if there was a chance it could still heal on its own and he told me that yes it would heal most likely but the real question is how long would i be willing to suffer for the mere chance of it healing. At this point my pain level was a constant 8 and at certain times of the day it could easily hit 10. I feel like i gave the conservative route a fair shot and after 3 months of suffering i have elected to have the surgery in hopes of regaining my normal life.

So here i am today posting before my surgery next Tuesday. I will keep this updated and let everyone know how my progress is going.

Thank you,


  • Hi Jeff, I too have L2/L3 herniation but so far luckily am improving with conservative treatment. That said, I'm still worried about this becoming worse at any moment and afraid to return to normal activities.

    What was your life-style like during your 3 months of conservative treatment - did you continue sitting, walking, and doing normal things, albeit with pain? I'm now 3.5 months after the incident and have gone from extreme pain to virtually zero pain. The process was gradual, but consistent, it seemed like i was improving about 5%-10% per week. However, I lived a super restrictive life-style. I work from home, so initially took a few weeks off which were mostly bed rest. Then I started working at a standing desk, with frequent breaks laying down. In the first 2 months I did not sit even for 1 minute. In month 3, I've sat in a chair less than 5 times, and no more than about 30 mins. I wonder if my very cautious approach is what has saved me from surgery so far.

    Have you had any answers as to what might cause an upper lumbar herniation, given it's so uncommon? I saw a neurosurgeon who didn't give any special reason, simply said "that's just you".
  • Hi Jeff-  did you have the surgery?  How did it go?  I too have disk herniations at L2 and L3 with pain.  
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