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Lumbar Discetomy Recovery

edited 10/27/2015 - 9:05 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm about 3 weeks post op from an L4-L5 Discetomy and I feel I'm almost to the point where the recovery has become harder than the surgery itself. The herniation was so large that over 50% of the disc was removed and my surgeon keeps bringing up the idea that a fusion is inevitable given the state of my spine. I'm 26 years old and was a Starbucks Store Manager prior to this. I worry everyday that I won't be able to return to my strenuous job yet I love what I do. I have good days and bad days but I feel like my close family expects me to be joyful at all moments and when hard times come my way they justify it in one way or another. I just feel so alone in this process and I wish I knew what it will look like on the other side of recovery. My brother asked my surgeon what the timelime would be for a "full recovery" and the surgeon straight out said I will never be the person I was before surgery. He also stated it takes the nerves a year to recover, not be perfect again but recover to their max potential after being compressed for so long. Talk about discouraging. I am currently in a short term rehabilitation center and of course I'm the youngest here but I'm grateful for my daily PT & OT. I just need to know there's hope at the end of all this, that I'll feel like myself once again. ******************************************************************************************************
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Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 10/27/15 15:05est

The once young and active individual


  • Recovery is a different experience for each patient. Some patients bounce back quickly, others like yourself take the full time (one year) to recover. Sounds like your doctor is leaving it up to you to decide wether or not you want to have the fusion. And if you read the posts about that on this site, it might make you a little nervous. The biggest thing for you is to know that you won't be the same person you were prior to this ordeal. And to accept that it's okay. You have a supportive family and you may still have days where you wonder "why me"?
    If you're worried, get a second opinion. I had two and they both said the same thing. Usually, PT is prescribed to strengthen your core, otherwise everything is harder on the back. So, follow all the non-surgical advice and take your time to decide about that surgery. Hope all turns out well'
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 724
    Your surgeon is spot on in my opinion. Your nerves were badly irritated and damaged by the herniated disc for months and they will likely take months to fully recover... be patient... 3 weeks is really nothing. Your surgeon and AJ are also correct in that you will never be 100% of what you were before. Your doctor has cut out a key part of your spine and it WON'T grow back... only scar over. So you must be careful in how you treat your back for the rest of your life if you don't want to end up back under the surgeon's knife for fusion surgery. No more heavy lifting and putting excessive stresses on your back... if that means a new less physical job then so be it. Better a new job that doesn't stress your back then to end up back under the surgeon's knife again. Back surgery recovery is a tough road... but positively accepting the new norm is key and is of course easier said than done. I've been through 2 back surgeries and like many I also struggle with good and bad days... but then I think back to what life and the pain was like before surgery and I'm thankful for where I'm at today. A good PT routine can help a lot both physically and mentally. I use swimming as my daily PT and I always feel better both physically and mentally after my swim sessions. Hang in there... life will be good again.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Thank you AJ & Hvills! It helps to hear from those that have gone through similar situations and can speak to recovery from their own experience. My current therapist seem optimistic that I will one day be back at my job, working away. I so appreciate the positivity but my concerns are that they don't understand how much I physically must be capable of doing. This is a constant concern luring above my head on a daily basis. I did physical therapy for 6 weeks prior to surgery along with two epidurals trying to ensure I could do everything conservative before going under the knife. I really did not want surgery but the pain I was I when I arrived at the ER was equated by the doctor to the feeling of multiple childbirths at once. It took 4 pain killers including Tramadol, morphine, and diladud to get my pain low enough for me to move my legs again. I don't ever want to experience that again. I almost feel like I have PTSD from the experiences themselves. They were horrendous. I just know I was starting to get down more often than not in this recovery time and I had to reach out and hear from others that there comes a time after back surgery and recovery. It's not always like this (post op). Thanks for the words again. It's nice to know I'm not alone.
    The once young and active individual
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