I wanted to give my experience with my back pain and surgery. I found a lot of great information from all of you and I wanted to share what I have gone through to this point.
I have had back pain on and off for the past 7.5 years, it started 3 weeks before my wedding. I didn't know what was wrong but I knew my back was in such intense pain, luckily some chiropractic appointments and time cleared everything up. This was an ongoing thing for the next 6 or so years. I'd get episodes of worsening pain which would go away with a few visits to the chiro. But a little over a year ago it started to come and not go away. Chiro, stretching, ice, heat nothing worked. It was bad in the morning but would normally work itself out by the time I got to work (desk job) so I thought not too much of it.
Then around 9 month ago it started to get real bad. Impacting how I walked, what I did, how I lived... this is when I started to consider orthopedic dr involvement. I had the MRI done and it found a 6mm herniation at L4/L5. After about 2-3 months of PT not yielding much I decided to consider surgery as an option. As I was consulting with doctors I had an episode (bending & a sneeze at the same time) that dramatically worsened my pain. A new MRI showed about a 13mm broad herniation now. This event caused me to basically be bed ridden after work and severely limited what I could do. I had horrible lower back pain as well as nerve pain down both legs, down to about my calves.
The 2 orthopedists wanted to do the microdiscectomy with Coflex implant. The neurosurgeon wanted to just do a bilateral microdiscectomy. After speaking to all 3 we decided to go with the neurosurgeon. He was extremely well qualified , but had procedure done in central NJ) and I felt his level of confidence and reassurance are what put him over the top.
So.... the surgery. Had it scheduled for about 5 weeks out. Jumped through all the pre-op hoops and then it was time. I was surprisingly calm the few days before surgery. I think it was a combination of confidence in my surgeon and the support I had from my family
The day of we got to the hospital at 6am and did all the admission paperwork. Then they called for me and I got dressed into my gown and into my bed. The pre-op room had about 14 other people waiting for various procedures, we all just were looking at each other and gently nodding as if to say "good luck". The nurses came in and did my BP (which was off the charts high) and met the anesthesiologist. She described what and how she was going to monitor me during the procedure. Then the doctor came in, said hi and asked if anything had changed since I last saw him.
Not too long after that I got the medication to make you a little loopy as they wheel you into the room. All I remember from the room was it was cold, there was a table which had this arch in it (presumably to help curve your spine) and the staff was playing hard rock music out of a portable speaker. I remember saying "This is relaxing, I love this music" and everyone laughed. Then I heard "good-night sweetie" from the anesthesiologist and the next thing I know I'm in recovery.
The doctor came in and said everything went well. The herniation was massive and the procedure took about 3 hours. He said "I want you lying down on your back for 50 out of every 60 minutes for the next 7-10 days". I thought that was a bit extreme, but I followed. I stayed one night, but I could have went home the night of if I wanted to. The day of surgery I was really tired and coming in and out of sleep all day, even with people visiting. I was able to sleep most of the night with almost no pain (spine or incision). The next morning some incision pain started to creep in as I shuffled around in bed. But I was up and walking the day of and the next day with no back pain! I was trying all my old positions that I knew would cause pain but there was none! The following day I did some basically physical therapy in the hospital ( showing you how to use the stairs, shower, getting dressed, etc) but after that I was discharged and headed home. My big fear was entering and getting out of the car. My wife and I both have sedans so it's kind of a low point of entry/exit. I was instructed to sit down with my legs and knees facing outside the car. Then, slowly spin into the seat, but not to twist. It was a little uncomfortable but I was able to do it fine.
Once home I started the lying down experiment. It was very difficult to spend almost 2 weeks flat on your back, there is only so much Netflix you can watch! But, I did it, as uncomfortable as it was. I was told I could lie on my side with a pillow between my legs if I wanted to, so I was able to switch it up a bit.
One thing I was not prepared for was how I felt the first day or two once home. I had an extremely sore neck on both sides. Not a sore throat, but muscle pain when lifting my head. This went away around day 3. I also was very uncomfortable from the breathing tube. There were some cuts and bruises on my gums and roof of mouth. These were mostly an annoyance but it just was't something I was expecting. My flanks were also sore when moving. Not near the surgery site, just more generalized achy'ness. All of this subsided though over a few days. Luckily the catheter was put in and removed while I was out
I was not trying to be a hero, but FWIW Please do not use abbreviated text talk!!
I took no pain killers. I am not a fan of pills but I would have taken them if I was in pain. I said to myself, if this is too much, just break down and take them. Luckily it never got to be too much. I say this to highlight that the recovery was not nearly as bad as I had feared. While I know I am still in the midst of recovering, to this point things have been great. Incision pain was bad for the first week. You're lying on it all day so it gets real tender. Any shifting around reminds you that you just had surgery. But, after a few days it gets much better, real fast. I had some soreness/stiffness around the surgical site but an ice pack helped with that. Each day things get better and better. There are some ups an downs but at my first post-op visit I was just told that as long as the pain isn't there all the time and it comes and goes, it's mostly likely some swelling or inflammation that needs to go down. That will happen over the next few weeks. I was able to do the physical tests they asked of me in my follow-up and was told that things seem like they're doing really well.
I know I am not out of the woods yet, but hopefully things will continue to improve. At this point I'm able to briskly walk 2+ miles at a time with no real pain or fatigue in my back/legs!
If anyone has questions please PM me for more info!