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Recovery after Micro Discectomy

Neil KNNeil K Posts: 6
I have been reading a number of the forums here for many months on the topics of Sciatica and Microdiscectomy and have found them very useful.


I am a 35 year old male from England and up until December 2008 had never had any problems with my back, actually I was a regular gym goer and considered myself fit and active. Then on Dec 11th 2008 I felt my left leg start to cramp up and within 24 hours I felt pain shoot down my left leg from my glute to my calf, and this pain was like nothing I have ever felt before. I had no idea what is was, and for the next 3 weeks couldn’t get out of bed.

During this time the strength in my glute, hamstring and calf totally disappeared.

Then I got an MRI which showed a large disc (L5 S1) prolapse, I was advised to get a Microdiscectomy ASAP which I did within 48 hours. It has now been 8 months since my operation and although the strength is returning slowly its still only about 50% of what it was, I still have numbness in a couple of my toes, and my back still hurts for the first hour most mornings. I am stretching everyday, and exercise my core 3 times a week like I was advised to, however I feel I should have made a full recovery by now.

If anyone has gone through this process and made a 100% recovery, could you let me know if I’m on track or is my recovery slower than most?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



  • Many thanks for your response, I suppose its just hard sometimes to gauge your own recovery without someone to compare it to.

    And compared to what I was like just before the Discectomy there is no comparison.

  • I still have foot drop but other then that i feel there is still a spot some where that is week and i have to hold my abs in to not limp. But when i went in for surgery i could barely walk. The surgeon said i should not of been able to walk hmmmmm. Any wayMy doc said nerves take a long time to heal they only grow 1/8 inch a week or some thing like that. I still feel myself climbing the ladder of healing and my surgery was 11-13-08. I do mean ladder or long stair case cause it seems like ill take a step a week then one a month but i do notice progreess so im not to worried. Since i 6-3 and was 220 i went on a diet fish and low fat foods and feel better physically. I have lost 12-13 pounds. Well i wish you success.
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  • hello everyone
    firstly i would like to thank all of you who write on this forum and to all who will be helping me.
    i find that the surgeons and doctors are not very g8 when it comes to post-op help..i guess they really cant tell how our bodies would react.
    now here is my problem..i had the surgery exactly 20 days back.the first 12 days swere perfect with no pain..just a bit of swelling and then sudden;y i had bleeding from the wound.(i went out for dinner and sat for an hour)
    i went to the doc and when he checked he realised a infection and said this could be at the time of stich removal.
    it has been 4 days and i still have some bleeding,a bit of leg pain on the side of my left thigh.
    i am not on any pain killers but just started taking 1 tablet of lyrcia(75mg).
    i get my wound cleaned everyday.
    my doctor keeps saying not to worry and that my wound will heal..(but i am a little scared).
    has anyone gone through the same?
    could you lovely people give me advise on the best sleeping position at night.
    also i have started walking and i drive to the doctors which is a 40 min drive(both ways)/
    my doc says that i can drive and walk but i would like to know from you guys who have gone through the same
    (this is my first post and i i promise to keep it short in future)
  • Hi kamalkumar

    I'm new on here too - not sure I can help other than tell you my best sleeping position. I lie on my side with a pillow between my knees and another behind my back and sort of rest back against the one behind my back - hard to describe but I find it very comfortable as I am not having to use muscles to keep myself on my side. If I roll onto my back during the night I bring my lower leg up onto the pillow so I have the pillow under my knees as this keeps my back flat - hope this helps.
  • thanks O
    sound comfortable...will try it out tonight.i did read somewhere about a towel rolled up and putting it below the knees..will try the pillow though
    what kind of back surgery did you get done?
    hope you feeling good :-)
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  • Neil K,

    I am a 42 year old male. I was also very fit and active, this is until I had a giant L5-S1 disc rupture with no warning. I am now almost a year out from my microdiscectomy. A few things that I have noted during my recovery were: Huge immediate improvement when I woke up from the surgery. Very slow recovery since then. I had scar tissue issues a few months after the surgery and had to get a shot to schrink that. Since then, I am walking 3 miles a day and doing a little jogging. My pain down to a 1 or 1.5 out of 10. There may be some permanent nerve damage and that may be as good as it gets. If so, I am fine with that. You have to realize that it will never be "good as new" again, and you do have to make some life changes, such as, never completely bend over at the waist, not even to tie your shoes. Very long answer to your question is, recovery is slow, but sounds like you are on the right track. Stay the course and walk alot.
  • hello everyone.
    i hope you all doing good.
    my infection has got better and the doc says that my wound is healing from inside.
    thanks all for ur helpfull tips.
    i have started walking upto 1km and will keeop adding to that.
    i will keep u guys posted on my recovery
    godbless us all
  • Hey guys
    Im a 37 year male who had a microdiskectomy on
    Sept 17th 2009
    It's been 3 week's yesterday and Im still having
    severe pain running from my right buttock to my foot.
    Im getting numbness in the foot and tingling in my toes.
    I called my doctor and talked to the nurse which she said it's semi normal from where they messed with the nerve and the nerve being compressed by the disk.

    My question is from someone who actually had the precedure done.
    Is this normal?

    Plue these were all the symptoms i had prior to the operation and it seems like there worse not better
  • hey wrister
    welcome to the forum
    i had the same surgery on the exact date as yours...
    all i can tell you is that i am going through the same thing..pain in my buttocks and left leg.
    what helps me is walking around,,
    just stay positive as i hear from lots of people that its normal to have some pain till the ner ves go back to there place..
    hang in there
    will stay in touch
  • Hello all. I am glad to join your community. I just had microdiscectomy eleven days ago to remove a large, sequestered herniation at l4-l5 as well as an old l5-s1 prolapsed disc. Fortunately, I am doing quite well. I actually went back to work 5 days after surgery. I am still quite a way off from recovery as I have significant muscle paresis from the herniation. After reading many of your posts, perhaps I can shed some light on some of your issues:

    1. We are all different. Not only from an anatomic perspective, but also our ages, sex, weight, underlying medical conditions, etc.. Therefore, all of us are going to have different experiences. So take what you read with a grain of salt and try not to get yourself upset. Stay positive. There really is a mind-body connection to healing.
    2. Nerves are VERY finnicky. Therefore, even after the compression is removed from a nerve, you can expect nerve symptoms. That can range from slow return of strength to continued numbness to frank pain. Nerve roots are also retracted or temporarily repositioned during surgery, this act can cause symptoms in areas of your leg/foot that you didnt have prior to surgery. Wait at least 6 weeks from surgery. With respect to numbess, this may never fully recover...but it should get better.
    As for muscle recovery, there are many variables. Basically, if you had complete or near complete loss of function (say foot drop) prior to surgery, there is only a small rate of complete recovery. Age and time until nerve decompression occured have the greatest impact on success here. If you had mild to moderate loss of strength, some studies relate greater than 80 percent chance of full recovery. Normal muscle strength is graded 5/5. Full recovery was defined as strength of 4/5.
    Swelling is normal. In order to heal, our bodies bring chemicals to the site of injury..this causes swelling slight warmth and discomfort. This is very different from a seroma or abcess. Swelling is normal and expected after surgery. I took a tapered oral steroid (medrol) before and after my surgery. Be warned, however, that this can slow the healing of your skin incision. Why? A steriod inhibits inflammation/swelling/fluid accumulation...which is what we need in order to heal.
    With respect to healing of incisions, most of us will heal an incision in 2 weeks. Occasionally, we can have reactions to the deep sutures. These are absorbable and by nature will cause some swelling until fully resorbed. This can take up to 90 days. Usually, you should not feel these deep sutures after a month or so. Some of us can dehice or spit a deep stitch out. This can look like a little pimple near your incision. Usually this is a "sterile abcess" meaning its dead white blood cells and suture debris. This can cause pain and you can even have a small area of your incision open up. This should heal uneventfully if kept clean and dry.
    As far as when to return to activity? In all aspects of medicine, more and more evidence is showing early mobilization as being beneficial to recovery. I am not saying to mow the lawn, but a slow walk each day is a good thing. Again, we are all different. Therefore, discuss each of your individual concerns with your surgeon. Lastly, I know many of you are anxious and look toward your doc to alleviate your fears. Many of you would love the opportunity to sit and chat with your doc until you feel all of your questions are answered. And I assure you, your docs would love to sit and chat, but medicine in this country is beyond stressful and more often than not we just dont have that much time to spend. I always stress to my patients to educate yourself as well. Now, with the advent of so much material on the internet, this can be accomplished in a few evenings. Certainly, sites like this are wonderful. KUnderstanding about your condition will allow a more productive and directed coversation when you are with your doctor. I do apologize for the long note. Hopefully, I helped answer some of your questions. That being said, I am not a spine surgeon or a neurologist. I fix bones, but not in the spine;)
    ***LEGAL DISCLAIMER*** Take what I said with a grain of salt. Always follow the advice of your specific surgeon as they are familiar with your individual case.
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