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L5/S1 discectomy on 8th September

ModoMModo Posts: 4
edited 08/26/2015 - 1:45 PM in Surgery Buddies
Anyone have any advice for me - I am scheduled for an L5/S1 discectomy on 8th September?

It's been 13 and a half weeks so far that I have had sciatica problems. Left side - severe stabbing/throbbing pain in my buttock and thigh, burning in my calf, occasional aching ankle, and numb side of foot and toes.

I haven't been able to walk propery (fully straight - hence the new nickname from my loving family), stand for any length of time, or sit for more than about 60 seconds without extreme pain. Sitting of the worst of them all. Hence I cannot drive, or work at my office, or even sit in a wheelchair like a normal person when walking is hard (I have to kneel on them). I am working from home (lieing down) on a laptop.

I have gradually progressed up all the usual drugs - naproxen / cocodamol / tried amitriptyline / gabapentin / and now also fentanyl patches and oxycode tablets for breakthrough pain. The opiates are a problem all on their own sometimes as on some (bad) days I throw up like 10 times a day and it's worse than the pain itself, and on those days I usually just fantasize about lieing down in the middle of the road in front of a nice local bus. My mum bought me some over the counter anti-sickness meds on one of those bad days, but typically my contrary body decided that was cue to immediately throw up, so I've given up on those ...

Some days I am counting the days 'til the surgery and I don't know how I can go on. Some days it's not too bad (neither the pain or nausea), and I wonder what I'm making such a big fuss about.

My prolapsed disc (found on MRI) is very large.

Typically, early GPs told me it would get better by itself, etc. etc. And then even after getting the MRI results the consultants and surgeons have been 'sceptical'/ rude. I think they just try and put everyone off, to filter out anyone who isn't completely sure. What part of 'I'm eating my meals lieing on a doggie blanket on the floor rather than sitting with my family, and I'm on enough pain meds to become a total mess if I'm on them long term', and 'I'm not that far away from losing my job' screams 'yeah I can wait a year to get better' to these idiots?

Anyway, barring any significant improvement before the op, that is what I am still planning to go ahead with. I want to take decisive action to at least try and put this behind me. Any general advice on the surgery itself, or before/after, or anything useful would be appreciated.

Emma/ Modo.

Modo (Emma)


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
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  • Hi from a fellow l5-s1 microdiscectomy patient!

    Things that'll come in handy after will be a grabber so you won't have to bend down to pick things up of the floor, some slip on shoes (took me a while before I could attempt to put my own socks on and tie my own laces!) And most importantly, plenty of books to read and films to watch for a few weeks after!

    I had it done at the same level back in May and from my experience so far it's been great! I was up and walking after a few hours and discharged the next day once I walked up and down some stairs. Immediately after the op I felt no pain at all, the next day my back was a bit painful when getting in and out of bed, once up walking or lying down I felt nothing though (the first time I felt it I panicked a bit but the consultant and nurse told me I'd feel like I'd been kicked in the back!) That wore off after a week or so though.

    Pain-wise I'm almost back to normal, I occasionally get some really mild sciatica or backache but mainly if I've been sitting too long and it's nothing like the excruciating pain that left me out of work and in bed for weeks on end as I couldn't stand up so try not to panic if a few days after the op you get some mild symptoms in your leg occasionally.

    If there's anything else you want to know give me a shout but good luck and it'll be fine - the recovery boredom afterwards is the worst bit, you walk, lie down, walk, watch a film, walk lie down etc..!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
  • ModoMModo Posts: 4
    edited 08/27/2015 - 12:05 PM
    Hi mrjolly.

    Thanks for the helpful advice.

    I'll try not to worry if I have a bit of sciatica pain afterwards or other pain after op, I guess you just have to let it all settle and see how it goes. I'm usually pretty good at chilling out and reading and watching TV, so hopefully I'll have some stamina for that part, at least hopefully won't get too bored. I have my trusty Kindle and a pile of paperbacks I've been meaning to get through. My mum helps run a charity shop, I'll ask her to keep her eyes open for a grabber ... or else I'll pick one up somewhere. Hmmn.... my little sister is home from university at the moment, so she'll have to be my designated sock putter onner for a few weeks! Sure she won't mind ;0

    What about the pain medications right after the op? I have a bit of a delicate stomach so I'm worried if I stop them after surgery right away, I might have withdrawal symptoms the first few days after op (not ideal). I should probably just consult the nurses and docs though, and if necessary stay on them for a bit and wean off them slowly once I'm at least mobile.

    How long do you think it would take the average (haha, I know there is no such thing, but humour me) person to (A) be able to sit at a desk for several hours (with occasional moving) and (B) drive after the op?
    Modo (Emma)
  • I was discharged with ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine, I took the paracetamol and ibuprofen for a few days but to be honest unless I was getting in or out of bed I wasn't in any pain so stop stopped taking them! Plus I'm a bit weird and didn't want to mask any pain and wanted to know if I was overdoing anything!

    The physio told me just after the op to limit sitting to short periods for the first few weeks and to just perch on a chair, I went back to work after 7 weeks to a desk job, the first two weeks I just did mornings to get used to it again but new I'm back to 8.5 hours. As long as I get up regularly (every hour or so) and take a quick walk I'm fine, if I sit for too long I start getting an achey back and some strange sensations in my leg but nothing too bad and it soon goes away. (It's a good excuse not to sit through boring meetings as well...!)

    As for driving I'm not sure as I don't currently have a car so didn't have that to think about!

    If you're uk based there's a good patient information leaflet published by the royal college of surgeons about recovery from a microdiscectomy, what to expect etc and when you can drive. Don't think I'm allowed to post the link but if you Google "rcseng discectomy" you'll find it!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
  • Surgery went well. No obvious complications and the pain is reduced a lot.

    I was able to stand up straight, and sit on a chair immediately upon waking up, and I haven't needed many pain meds. I was on paracetamol and some codeine for a few days, but I've stopped taking that now too. Had some nausea from reducing the opiates dose for a few days.

    For about the first 24 hours, I was moving quite easily, and walked out of the hospital day after surgery. Getting home that evening the wound and my back started to feel weak and sore. For a day or two after it was really hard to get up and down, and roll over. It's still a bit hard, but getting a little easier each day. The grabber device tip was a good one.

    Showering is a bit difficult, especially with avoiding the dressing, but easier with my mum to help me. Some light relief was provided when she squealed in shock, and then we discovered an arrow I never knew had been drawn on my butt.

    I've also caught a cold, or have allergies I think, because I've been sneezing and that is NOT fun as it forces me to make a movement that hurts.

    I still have a few sciatica type twinges once in a while, and some numbness in my little toe (but that was an existing symptom pre-op, so I'm not so bothered by that. Hopefully when the nerve heals after a while it might stop being numb. My surgeon told me he saw the nerve was quite red when he was operating, so to expect some continuing symptoms while it healed.

    I've been managing to sit in the car on drives, and take short walks outside. I'm supposed to get the clips left in the wound out on Friday.

    What I'm stuck on is tips for the recovery period. I'm supposed to have a physio appointment two weeks post-op but until then I'm a bit clueless. The doctor on the ward gave me these little tips for the first day, to roll my feet up and down levering on the ankle, and side to side, and the doctor told me to lift my leg. Other than that, I'm just guessing it's okay to walk half a mile or a mile each day (on the flat). I heard talk of that pre-op, but not much clear info about the timings of what to do when ...

    Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'd rather be doing the right things for a couple weeks rather than try and guess. Anyone have any tips? Oh- and any nuggets of wisdom regarding scar care?

    Modo (Emma)
  • Welcome to the other side!

    I remember eating a sandwich a few days after my surgery and getting some crumbs stick in my throat and coughing for a minutes, not fun at all so I'd imagine sneezing being just add bad! Thankfully no damage done though! I didn't have any arrows drawn on me but was pretty Orange from being covered in iodine and looked like an oompa loompa!

    For the first couple of weeks I mainly got up and took short walks around the house and then progressed to walking in the garden taking regular breaks to lie down. That's pretty much all I did for the first few weeks until I started physio about two weeks later. It took me a good few weeks to get the courage to walk outside in the streets againas I just felt a bit fragile!

    I'm still a bit numb in my toes but apparently that can be the last thing to heal if it does. I told my consultant I'm not worried about numbness or weakness in my leg, as long as the pain decreased and I could carry on with life again I'd consider it a success and still do!

    The advice I was given when discharged was not to sit for too long for a while (i even ate my meals standing up for a few weeks as I was scared to do any damage), alternate laying down and taking short walks and just to take things easy so sounds like you've got it covered!

    Best of luck with the recovery!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
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