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Microdiscectomy Coming Up L5-S1 - Have a few questions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I went through a bunch of posts looking for answers but got tired of searching (and of course can ask my doctor) but figured I'd get them directly from the horses mouths!

I'm having a microdiscectomy next month on L5-S1.

When can you bend (put on shoes, bend in shower etc).
I live alone, how long should I expect to need help at home?
When can you lift (grocery bags, etc).
When can you drive?
Is a back brace necessary after surgery?
Is PT ALWAYS necessary after?

My doc said 1-2 weeks recovery which I KNOW isn't realistic because his nurse said 6-8 weeks. Not sure why he said that. He does the surgery with a very small incision and in his words "not horribly invasive". Maybe he has a new way of doing it?.....I'm sure there are more questions but this is it for now!

Thank you so much for any info.



  • Hi there,

    I've never had this done myself, but from what I've read here 1-2 weeks does sound a little unrealistic. I haven't heard of anyone using a brace afterwards, but you will need to be careful lifting things until you are completely healed otherwise you risk re-herniating the disc again. I don't think PT is a bad idea but I guess it's up to your surgeon to decide - my step-dad had physio for a long time after his discectomy but his was a very severe case.

    I hope other people can help you out more! Good luck with everything, Spicey
  • When can you bend (put on shoes, bend in shower etc).
    I live alone, how long should I expect to need help at home?
    When can you lift (grocery bags, etc).
    When can you drive?
    Is a back brace necessary after surgery?
    Is PT ALWAYS necessary after?

    1.4-6 wks for bending,lifting,etc.Same for grocery bags.
    2.For 7-10 days
    3.When your doc clears you
    5.Up to doc
    But then,everybody is diff.
    Good luck with surgery!

  • Welcome to the site. Gogo is right on the money. I highly recommend you set everything up before hand. The number one thing is get a GRABBER. It will save you. Also, I got a very firm and BIG pillow to have my legs elevated. I could only lay on my back. A tv tray is awesome and lots of bottled water. Good luck.
  • I just had a Microdiscectomy L5-S1 on June 14th. I'm a teacher so I had the summer off, but I do babysit during the summer. A 4 year old so I dont have to pick her up or anything like that. I went back to work after 10 days. Do I feel 100%...nope, but it was much better than I thought it would be. The first 5 days were rough and I still have issues with leg/back pain. Now the pain has moved to my other leg which sucks, but it isn't very intense. I drove after i took myself off of the narcotic pain meds. I'm start PT this Friday. I did not have a brace. I try not to lift anything, but the bending part is really hard for me. It wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated, but I still have pain and my back still feels very weak. Let me know if you have any more questions! :)
  • When can you bend: A few weeks, i am 1.5 weeks out of my microdiscetomy with a double laminectomy and have to bend VERY VERY carefully and avoid it if at all possible, get a grabber..
    Shower: I could shower the day i got out of the hospital if i wanted the doctor said. I had my husband stand in bathroom with me just in case, but it went fine.
    Shoes: Slip on shoes are your friend

    I live alone, how long should I expect to need help at home? Probably at least 3-5 days for help at home. You might have some problems getting up out of a laying down position etc.

    When can you lift (grocery bags, etc). Should avoid anything v.heavy, even a few months out.. My doc told me to never lift anything above 20lbs for the rest of my life heh..

    When can you drive? My doc said i could drive 2-3 days after surgery... But if you are still heavily dependant on the narcotics they give you for pain, you should probably avoid this. Sitting down in the car was also v.hard for me at first. But now i can sit just fine 1.5 weeks out.

    Is a back brace necessary after surgery? Thats up to the doc, i didnt have one.

    Is PT ALWAYS necessary after: Depends on how you walk after.. My doc said PT wasnt necessary, until he saw me in his office after the surgery.. I am still walking like my leg is hurting (ie leaning to one side). So if you walk straight u should be ok without PT, but if you are not walking correctly after surgery you will need PT.
  • Greetings,

    I had a microdiscectomy in May. I had a really big hernation and so my restrictions might be more strict than what your surgeon recommends. You don't mention how long you have had this, how much it is impacting you, etc. I think that helps determine your post-surgery experience.

    My doc originally said some of his patients return to work at 10 days to 2 weeks, but for me he recommended 4 weeks off, since I had a lot of healing to do. My disc was baasically blown out and had a huge tear in the annulus. After a follow up visit he kept me out another week. So in total I was off 5 weeks. I then went back half time.

    While we can give you some person experience, always follow your doc's orders.

    Here is what I was told following my surgery:

    When can you bend: I was told to avoid bending and twisting as much as possible, even now. My PT's have emphasized that I should not be bending, but rather using my legs and proper back position to lower myself. As others have said, the long handled grabbers are great. I still use one at the gym/pool, around the house, etc. to reduce or eliminate bending. I am married and have a teenage son, so they fortunately do a lot of the bending for me. I've been told it takes up to 4 months to fully form scar tissue around the surgery site.

    Shower: I showered the next morning, prior to release from the hospital. They covered my wound with a plastic bandage (Teguderm or something like that). I had to cover the wound with that before showering for the first week or two. Your doc will tell you when you don't need that anymore.

    Shoes: I still am using my slip-on shoes.

    I live alone, how long should I expect to need help at home: I had my wife's help the first week, then she had to go out of town. I got by while she was gone, but had to have things put up on counter-tops, etc, so I didn't have to bend. I even had my toothbrush, etc put on a little wire rack, so I didn't have to bend. Had some pots/pans put on the counters, so didn't have to get into cabinets, and put out a stack of paper plates, plastic utensils, etc. out so I had few dishes to do that week or so. Try to do as much pre-planning as you can. And see if you can get help lined up for some of the things that will exceed your lifting limitations (e.g., garbage bags).

    When can you lift (grocery bags, etc): My doc told me not to lift anything more than a quart milk container the first couple weeks. Then gave me the restrictions of no more than 5 pounds lifted repeatedly, and 15 lbs maximum. Those are still my restrictions, thru my next visit in August. Your surgeon will need to advise you on this. Depends on how big the herniation was, how much material he or she had to remove, how your healing is going, etc.

    When can you drive: I was told not to drive until I was off narcotic pain medications. I didn't do much car travel the first 2-3 weeks, but again I had a big herniation and a lot of internal healing to do. I was on pain meds the first 4 weeks or so.

    Is a back brace necessary after surgery: Some doc's believe in them, some don't. Mine did not.

    Is PT ALWAYS necessary after: My doc is a big believer in walking as primary recovery tool, so I had to ask him about PT. When I raised the issue, he agreed it would be helpful for me and he wrote a prescription for therapy. I am very glad he did. I've got a lot out of PT. They have been working to modify my program as I get stronger, adapting to my current needs as I progress, etc. I am a big believer in PT, but then again I've had very good therapists that have helped me a lot.

    Hope this feedback is helpful.
  • Wow, what great information. I appreciate all of you responding. So, the bending thing...are we basically talking about bending completely over? I bend somewhat to brush my teeth and wash my feet/legs in the shower for instance. If that's the bending I need to avoid I'm going to have really bad breath and be extremely dirty!!! I'm guessing you guys are taking about the "picking something off the floor" bending...right?!

    A little background. I had an MRI mid-June of this year and it says I have: a paracentral herniation of a large fragment on L5-S1 disc. Fragment is 1x1 cm and creates marked compression on the left anterior thecal sac and left S1 root. Also have a 1cm lateral annular tear of L5-5. There's no telling when this happened as I have been battling pain since Oct 2006. I had an MRI at that time which showed a slight bulge, nothing major at all and not bad enough to be causing the kind of pain I was having. I then was diagnosed with piriformis syndrome and had surgery for that in Jan 2008. My leg pain is much better since that surgery but before the surgery I was in 8-9-10 level leg pain. However, I just wasn't feeling good about how much it still hurt so I had this recent MRI and there you go. So, that's the long way of telling you I have no idea how long my disc has been herniated. I'm in a lot of pain now but get by. It does get way worse if I do too much. Anyway, blah, blah, blah. Just really wanted to say "thank you".

    Take care everyone
  • I had an L5/S1 microD on 4/28/08. I also had a very large herniation and tear in the annulus. Here are the instructions my doc gave me:

    Lifting: Nothing over 5lbs for first two weeks. After first two weeks, nothing over 20lbs for next four weeks. After 6 weeks, no restrictions.

    Bending Bend with hips and knees...not back. For first two weeks, keep it minimal....tying shoes was fine...but slip-ons would have been much easier.

    Twisting: No major twisting (golf or baseball swing)....however, normal twisting (as you would do if somebody called your name and you turned to look at them) is fine.

    Reaching: No reaching over my head for two weeks...that was considered an "abnormal" movement.

    Shower: No shower for first few days (3 I think) while the incision heals. I was told to keep the incision dry. If was going to use ice, I had to make sure the ice was well wrapped and not getting my incision wet.

    Driving: After two weeks I was cleared to drive. However, it was suggested that I keep my time in a car (driving or riding) to under one hour for 6 weeks.)

    Work: Off for two weeks, then worked from home for two weeks, then back to office full time after that. If I had not had the luxury of working from home, he would have kept me out for four weeks. Going back full time after four weeks was exhausting....looking back, I should have done half days.

    PT: My doc had me walking from day one (well...no walking day of surgery..but day one of recovery). Their suggestion was walking "mailboxes" or driveways. Start out going to your mailbox and then increase it as you feel comfortable. For the first few days I gimped around very slowly....a walk around my cul-de-sac was very tiring.

    However, within just a few days my normal stride returned and I felt much better. They recommended being up to two miles by my two week visit. Not two miles in one walk...but two miles total in a day. I would walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner...by two weeks I was at almost three miles daily.

    I also made sure to not lay for more than an hour or so...I would get up and move around the house, get something to drink, etc.

    At two weeks, my doctor put me in physical therapy at 3 times/week for four weeks. This was a God-send. My strength returned rapidly to my left foot/calf after starting PT. I also found that it made me feel much better on the days that I went (the stretching helped a lot.)

    Sitting: My doc told me not to sit for more than 15 - 30 mins. for the first two weeks. After that, it was suggested that I not go for more than 30 - 60 mins without a standing/walking break. He still suggests that I follow those guidelines at work.

    At my two month visit, he said I was doing great and cleared me to return to "life." He said that most people he sees "back on the table" are those who do not stay active. He said, people tend to be fearful of returning to "life" and put on weight and decrease their activity....he said that was the biggest "controllable" cause of repeat problems.

    He told me he could not guarantee that I would not need a future surgery...however, he said if I put on significant weight and do not stay fit, he could almost guarantee that I would.

    Also, as you can see from everybody's responses...everyone's doctor is different. However, you are asking the right questions. I know before my surgery...I had a three page list of questions I went through with my doctor. He answered them all and made me feel a lot better.

    After that, at each visit I would go in with a list of questions (it got shorter each visit)..but he always answered them. Sometimes just hearing the answer, even if it isn't the answer you wanted to hear...can make you feel better.

    Good luck,
  • Hi,

    It's been 4 weeks for me and my body is just itching to bend again, but I won't do it until Doc says so... not on purpose anyway. Twisting to far causes me pain. Nurse told me these things will not undo the surgery, but that they will hurt... bad. She was generally right. Shoes and socks are very difficult, but getting better. I was driving after 10 days and back to work at 3 weeks (desk job). Right now I'm still on a 10 lb restriction. I've heard no mention so far of PT or a brace. My pain level has dramatically improved in just the last few days. Not completely better, but better none the less. I see NS on Thursday,... I'll let you all know how that goes in a new post... probably Friday morning.

    Good Luck End of Rope.
  • Again, thanks to the new responders. I have a much better idea of what to expect from your post and everyone else's. Luckily I can do some work from home - I just have to keep them at bay for the first two weeks or so. Well, I guess now I just wait and look forward to getting better after surgery. Oh...and line up several people to bring me ice cream, etc. then walk it off of course! Take care everyone.
  • my restrictions were the same as buzzards but the work part.

    I am a nurse so at times I do have to lift, position, and stand on my feet all day. I had my micro on 3/5 and 3/28 and I am just now going back to work. I am only allowed 4hrs a day for 2 weeks and gradually go up to 8 hrs in a period of 4 weeks. I could take a shower 2 days after.

    The first surgery I felt absolutely wonderful. I went out to eat with my mom the next day and everything. Went by my work to get disablity papers filled out. But, in the long run I should have took it easy. I ended back up with a reherniation because my son fell and I picked him up a fews days afterwards. Make sure you follow your drs restrictions and don't end up like me.

    The work thing probably wouldn't have been so long but now I am having more problems due to degenerative disc disease is my bottom 3 levels.

    I wish the best of luck.
  • My endoscopic microdiscectomy was radical (removed most of the disc) and my surgery was failed. I had no where near the easy time of recovery that everyone else here has mentioned but everyone is different. Just try and be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. I was totally unprepared for what I had to endure and it was rough. I would strongly suggest getting a hand held shower massage and coming up with a way to use toilet paper after bowel movement with out twisting. I know that nobody wants to talk about this subject but it was very much a problem for me since that is something that you really do not want to ask for help with. Also unless you have someone to help you dress, you may want to have a supply of night gowns on hand. Forget the underwear unless you have someone to help. I am not trying to be negative at all and I am sure that your surgery will go fine as most do. Like I said, I was so unprepared and I wished that I would have found this site or more info pre op. Good luck and please keep us posted with the results.
  • me too painintheback mine was failed too. It didn't work and now I am left with a piece of the disc removed, bone removed and no relief.
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