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Recovery after Micro Discectomy



  • 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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  • I am a 37 year old occupational therapist that is 8 days post op from a microdiscectomy L5 S1 that was caused by a Pars fracture that I had no idea that I had. (changed the load/force placed on the disc and caused a herniation). I had a 2 month history of pain at the right SI joint and was working with PT on my SI instability issues when I had sudden unset of radiating pain, weakness and numbness right lower extremity that scared me into seeing a neurospine doc asap. I really appreciated your post. It agree with everything you said. The mind/body connection is significant and being patient with your body as it recovers is important. I always tell my patients that, but it is a little harder to be patient with my own body. My job is very physical and I will be off work ~8weeks to recover. Thanks again and good luck with your recovery.
    A bored OT at home on FMLA.... : )
    I am working on my spanish to keep busy :))) :)))
  • Hi, am new to this forum, and really appreciated Stubbornback's comments. I had a lumbar discectomy 4 weeks ago, and was crestfallen to notice fairly severe nerve pain in my left calf area, which I didn't have before the op. It seems to pulsate in painful waves throughout the day. Fortunately the severe pain in my left hip is no longer there, but I seemed to have swopped one pain for another!!!! Am doing some exercice at home, and starting a series of physio sessions next week. Thanks to all for thier shared experiences.[ PS: Jenbrook, all the best with the Spanish, I am painting to pass the time!]
  • I had a microdiscectomy and after the surgery all the numbness and tingling stopped but I still had pain in my back,butt hip, thigh. just recently I started getting the numbness,tingling,burning sensations back and the mri said I had a re-herniation. I know Doctors have told me that after surgery things can be swollen and it may take some time for the nerves to get back to normal. I've had 2 back surgeries. One was a 2 level anterior cervical discectomy with fusion on c5-6 and the other a microdiscectomy on L5/S1. I never had any tingling, numbness etc after the cervical surgery. It took about 8 months before the tingling,numbness came back after the other surgery. I did have pain though from the surgery on just some of the pain in the back of my leg was gone but still had butt,hip, back pain. I understand your concern because I felt the same way when the tingling came back. Do they feel an mri needs to be done to be sure it didn't reherniate?
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  • I appreciate your perspective (from a physician). I wish that my surgeon was more frank about the recovery process.

    Now I am more realistic about my recovery process. I am 8 postOp (microdisectomy), and relatively doing well. I still have discomfort that only pain killers can relieve;however, once I take one I don't feel any pain. I take one or two a day. I was hoping to be off the meds completely.
  • Hi,

    Since my last post, I have started physio again, and am really happy that I took that step: I have a series of good exercises which I do a few times daily, and feel that I am really making progress: doing the exercises under supervision puts my mind at rest that I am not doing anything which might be counter-productive. So if any of you are wondering whether physio might be helpful... GO FOR IT!!!
  • I appreciate all of you sharing your experiences. Thank you.

    I had the surgery for a severely herniated disc at L4-L5 on 9/21. I had sciatic pain off and on for quite a few years but the first week of August all of a sudden it became excruciating. I could not sit, stand or walk and have been out of work since the first week of August. The docs tried drugs (no relief!!), steroid shots in my spine (the second one actually caused MORE pain!), Chiropractic care, PT and water therapy before rushing me into surgery because of the intensity of my pain- I could not function, so I showed up at the office and made them see me and see how bad I was. God gave me favor with them and I got into surgery less than a week after seeing the NS.
    Immediately after surgery the sciatic pain was gone. It was a rough first week, but I walked. At first it was laps around my living room, holding onto furniture and the walls. My surgery was on a Monday and by Saturday I was able to walk, albeit very slowly, to the end of my driveway and back. Each day I walked a little more. I can now walk a mile comfortably, more or less. My hip is out of whack because of the pre-surgery pain, so it can get painful on my long walks and in getting up. I haven't gone to PT yet because I developed an infection at the incision site and so the incision is still not quite closed. I am anxious to get back to water therapy.
    I have some mild radiating pain down the inside of my right leg and tightness/pain in my upper back. I'm not quite sure of the cause, but I have an apptmt with my NS tomorrow. Anyways, I return to work on Monday and am anxious to get out of the house. It's been quite a challenge to be pretty much sequestered at home.

    Anyways, that's my experience so far...
  • I have that too. I had my surgery on 9/21 and still have not quite closed because of the infection. NS says he isn't worried. He put me on a round of anti-biotics, which I have finished. It has made me nervous too, but I think we are ok. :)

  • I had a fusion about 2 years ago at L5-S1 that went perfectly. Walking within a week and so on. Has second fusion 8-10-09 next level up. Drain plug came out that night and they decided to leave it out. Next day developed faever of 102-103 and BP dropped to 60/40. Had fever all night Tuesday and was released on Wed with no antibiotics to take. Was sonewhat fine until the following Wed when I found blood all over bathroom floor from incsicion. Went to docotor and he just cleaned it up and covered it up. On Friday bleeding started again, went to doctor again who sent straight back to hospital to have the seroma as I later found it out to be called cleaned out. Ever since then I have lost all strength in left leg and it is the same as right one was pre op and much worse back pain. My wuestion is, could the untreated seroma have infeced the bone. I am steroids now to reduce the inflamation for 12 days and then possible another myleogram to see what else is there. Can anybody lend any insight into this for me?
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