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My L5S1 microdiscectomy recovery

Hi everyone,
I thought I would share my story from the beginning to document my recovery. This is my second surgery, first was also to L5S1 in 2012. Last time I had complications so took me a long time to get better.

Had the surgery yesterday morning. They went through all risks etc and I then went down to theatre. Fell asleep & woke up 1.5-2hrs later. I woke up to doctors asking if I could we wiggle my toes. My right ones wouldn't move & the back pain was intolerable. Stayed in recovery for nearly 2 hours whilst they gave me increasing amounts of IV morphine. Leg pain was gone. I had foot weakness before the operation, but was worse straight after. It was very scary. Over the course of the day, the strength started to come back & now it's same as before surgery. Took me a while to get pain meds sorted on day 1. I'm now on oxynorm (10mg), oxycontin (10mg) & IV paracetamol. I had no sciatica when I woke up, however around 3 hours post surgery, I stood up to walk to & use the toilet & pain come back right leg & marginal in left leg (some pins and needles in left side toes off and on, altered sensation and numbness in right foot - same as pre-surgery). Sleeping has been very hard, had maybe 2 hours so far. Painful to lie flat, easier on side but not tolerable for long as seems to worsen foot numbness.

It is very early day(s) so I'm hopeful to update you all with positive progress in next few weeks.

Last surgery seemed different. Worse pre-surgery pain, no numbers or loss of strength, similar immediate pain. Took me around 3-4 mo to come off oxycontin & oxynorm & on array of painkillers for past 3 years. L5S1 disc had sequestered surgery 1 so lots of disc removed. Seeing the surgeon tomorrow to hear about the current surgery. He told me family it was more straightforward & no disc wrapped round nerve like last time, but did talk about removing quite a few disc fragments. I'll update you all soon.
PM me if you have questions. Hope you are all healing well.


  • My you are brave. I had the same surgery at L4L5, L5S1and it was so extremely painful for months afterwards that I wouldn't have it again. That is, there is only one reason I would do it again, and that is if the doctor said I didn't fuse and I'd fall in half, then yes, then I would do it. That's the only reason.

    What were the complications from your first surgery? Was it because of non-Union? I have a broken screw and I'm debating having it removed. I'm afraid of the damage that it might do.

    But you are amazing! Getting up and walking to the bathroom three hours after surgery!!! They had taken care of my bathroom needs for two days, thank goodness.
  • Hi TinyDancer,
    Thanks for your comments. I am now on day 5 and have been at home since yesterday. So pleased to be home in my little bed. The whole ordeal after the surgery was very scary and I hadn't realised how bad it was until I spoke with the nurses and doctors the day after my surgery. I had complete paralysis in my leg for a few hours, but I am so so fortunate that this was temporary. A second MRI scan didn't show reherniation so that's good. I have drop foot still since surgery & trouble moving my feet up and down/in and out & toes don't move. I had this before surgery, but it's worse now. My physio suggested that this was because the disc had impinged the nerve for a quite a while and quite significantly so had caused damage to the motor function in foot/ankle.

    I still have nerve pain, mostly in foot which is VERY odd as the top of my foot is very painful & feels like it's burning, but underneath & my toes are numb and feels nothing or cold. I'm unsure if the pain or foot drop will improve completely, but I am sure that in time it will get better than it is now. I have a crutch and getting a splint to help me walk & hoping that I'll be able to drive again at some point early next year.

    It is painful & doing it twice has been very traumatic, but actually I'm glad I had the surgery despite all the problems as the disc had fragmented. This was the complication in the first surgery & the disc had become tangled in the nerve so difficult to disentangle. I'm not sure getting up was helpful as it causes the static pain to come back again so I wish I'd spent the day in bed.

    I decided to have the surgery. I didn't make the decision alone, with my surgery, GP and family. It seemed like the right one given the pain I was in. It may have caused more problems, but it may not. You never know what the other outcomes may be so I don't see the point in being upset about them. You deal with what happens in life & time passes.

    What has happened to the screws? If surgery will help to replace these, it might be a good idea, but I would recommend speaking to as many people as possible before making this decision.

    I'll update again in another few days. Walking is limited due to imbalance & pain but I'm getting up every few hours to use the toilet and walk around the flat a bit. Pain becoming more manageable, although still on oxynorm 2 x day & Oxycontin every 2 hrs.

    Good luck with your recoveries.
  • e2sultanee2sultan Posts: 1
    edited 11/18/2015 - 7:29 AM
    Had surgery on 25th october 2015 in Abu Dhabi [edit] by Korean surgeon. This is my second surgery again in the same disc L5S1. Now I am in 3 week.. feel much better can walk for 4 km. Started physiotherapy. 2 session in a week.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
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  • Hi everyone,
    Now on day 10. Pain has been steadily decreasing, although I still have the occasional super painful time (like I did at 3am this morning). I had my first shower yesterday & managed to wash my hair & it was so wonderful to feel clean! My walking capacity is improving and today I walked for about 15 minutes - a big improvement from the past few days. My foot drop has not improved at all. I have now received my ankle splint and this has been very helpful in reducing the limp. I've realised that I have numbness below the knee and can't tighten my calf muscle at all so that is also affecting my walking. I don't know whether the drop foot will improve or not, I've read posts of people recovering this and others not but it started around 7 weeks ago and hasn't improved one little bit since, just become increasingly worse!
  • Hi!

    With regards to the foot drop, I've got the opposite in that I can't go into tip-toe on my left leg. It doesn't really cause me to much bother except that I walk with a slight limp as I can't push off on my left foot. (Although I find sometimes if I'm walking on autopilot without thinking about it I'm almost at the same speed I was prior to my herniation, if I don't think about it when I'm walking I seem to do better - weird!)

    What I have found though is that I'm now able to go onto tiptoe on both feet and hold it for a few seconds on the left which is more than I could do a few months ago so even though I had my l5s1 microdiscectomy back in May I'm still recovering and finding strength slowly returning so don't give up hope yet. My consultant said it could take up to two years for the nerves recover from being squashed so badly.

    Even if it turns out I'll not get full strength back and this is as good as it gets I'll be happy, the pain that left me bed bound for two months has gone, I'll take a limp over that any day!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
  • Hi, thanks for your input and glad you're foot drop has improved. Is there anything you have done to strengthen your leg so you can now walk better? I've been trying to use a theraband to push and pull my leg up,although I can't feel my calf when I'm pulling upwards. It's very soon after surgery though so not hoping for miracles. I've booked an appointment for a physiotherapist to visit me at home to assess my walking and leg. It appears that the weakness increasingly gets worse the further down my leg (weakness in thigh --> no feeling or strength in calf but can walk --> restricted movement in ankle --> little or no movement or feeling in toes). I'd like to know why this has become worse following surgery so looking forward to seeing my consultant next week.

    Are you using walking aids/have you ever used them for foot drop? I've found a splint and crutch very helpful to keep me steady. Now two weeks on, the pain has continued to reduce and I'm hoping that once I come off the morphine, i will continue to have reduced pain, but we will have to see. I will continue to update you all!
  • mrjollymmrjolly Posts: 54
    edited 11/30/2015 - 12:25 PM
    Hi! I didn't do anything special after my operation, my physio was all focused on my core muscles and I was told to walk as much as possible afterwards.

    A few weeks ago I did try strengthening my left leg by going into tip-toe on both feet and coming down on my left leg only. I woke up after a few days with a really painful calf which worried me a bit until I realized I'd pulled the muscle...! Needless to say I haven't tried since!

    It's really strange as if I try to raise on my left foot I can't at all but if I raise on both feet I can hold it for a few seconds and then go slowly down! I'm walking without any aids but find if I think about what I'm doing I have a slight limp, if I'm walking on autopilot and daydreaming about something I find I'm walking fine until I realise it!

    Even now I get occasional pains in my calf or thigh, a minor pain in my back or my foot feels slightly numb after a good day or two. Whereas before the op it was unbearable now it's just a minor thing which doesn't really bother me as I'm learning to get used to the odd strange ache or minor pain!

    Best wishes and hope the recovery continues to improve!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
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