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Recover without surgery, what happens to all that disc debris?

newbacknnewback Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have a history of lower back problems and had a microdiscectomy to deal with severe pain in left left leg and left buttock, loss of leg and foot strength, leg and foot numbness about five years back. Without warning the pain returned a few weeks ago, starting with stiffnes and working up to excruciating pain regardless of position or strongish painkillers. My GP prescribed: diclofenac 50 mg x3; Arcoxia 90mg x2;Motilium x 3, half an hour before tramadol 100mg x 3; lagaflex (x2)x3.

This cocktail reduced the pain and enabled me to sleep, almost constantly while a friend brought me food and I only had to struggle to the bathroom once a day.

By the time I got to see a specialist, the pain had reduced and I was walking better but I put this down to the drugs.

The MRI showed my lowest lumbar disc is half it's correct thickness (some of this may be down to last time of course) and the surgeon showed a large amount of disc material pressing on spinal root s1 and advised microdiscectomy. I was expecting this and have arranged to have the operation next week. It is going to cost me around 8000 uk pounds as my insurance won't cover this pre-existing condition. I can find the money but it is a big stretch.

In the meantime I have reduced the drugs and took only 3 x 50 mg of diclofenac yesterday. I have just got up and haven't taken any drugs yet and can walk without pain but the numbness is still there. I am now wondering if the problem is resolving itself and whether I would be better off not having the surgery? One question I have is what happens to all that disc debris? Is it going to continue causing me problems or will it be somehow harmlessly absorbed? It will not go back into the disc, that has already been explained to me. Am I going to be much more likely to have another episode if I don't have the surgery?

I am quite overweight (about 70 pounds over at 247lbs) but have lost seven pounds during the course of this episode so now down to 240. I intend to keep losing as I'm sure my weight has been a big factor in the relapse. Could losing 7 pounds out 70 have made any difference?

Sorry for the long post but I really need to avoid surgery if my recovery is likely to continue without a significant benefit from the surgery as 8000 pounds is a big deal to me. The really big question is 'should I cancel the surgery'?

Thanks in advance for your help.


  • can certainly help, but I would think (can't guarantee) that you will eventually begin to experience a lot of pain from that disc again. It is possible that it will cease to bother you. Discs do kind of dry up and disappear, but usually not the part that squishes out onto the nerve -- of course, that's probably because we all get that part removed with surgery before it has a chance to. I think if I had to come up with $8k myself, I'd wait and pray it went away.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • In the grand scheme of things I doubt very much that losing seven pounds made any difference. It is more likely that the flare is subsiding, inflammation is going down and there is less pressure on the nerve root.

    It is possible for the disc to heal on its own. The material is reabsorbed into the body just as the body absorbs other fluids, etc. My husband ruptured the disc at the same level about 17 years ago on Christmas Eve and was advised to avoid surgery at that time. He was laid up for a couple weeks and then gradually resumed activities and went back to work. I think it took about six months for him to begin to feel "normal" again. He is very vigilant to this day in how he uses his back, in avoiding things that bring on back pain and he still does the exercises he learned in PT every single morning. He has not had a major flare since.

    I have a couple more thoughts, but will write them tomorrow.

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  • Thanks Linda. I wish it were only 8K USD. It's almost 8K UK pounds...

    If it's all going to flare up again in a few weeks I'd quite happily pay 80K to avoid it... :SS
  • That gives me food for thought. I'll look forward to reading your additional thoughts tomorrow.

    BTW, I spoke with the surgeon today who still advises that I go ahead with the surgery. He suggested that I continue with surgery. He also suggested I carry on without medication and see if the pain returns over the next few days: a kind of mini 'clinical trial'.
  • Aha - going without meds for a bit to test it - good idea.

    Oh, and I've seen it happen both ways - my DH had to have a microdiscectomy in his lower back, but when it happened in his neck he just did stretches and took anti-inflammatories and hasn't had any problems since.
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  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I'm not sure how your insurance works - but will it always consider the back problem pre-ex? In the US we see either (1) condition is always excluded or (2) after coverage is in force for a while then pr-ex is no longer an issue (often after 12-36 months of coverage).

    And does the national health care plan have a pre-ex provision. I'd always thought it would pay for most anything but often long waits occurred before the right doctor could be seen and/or the procedure could be done.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
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