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Very Scared about my upcoming Microdiscectomy

tabletopjoettabletopjoe Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone. Been spending a lot of time reading the various posts on these boards, some are encouraging while others are not.

I'm 35 and have had lower back pain since I was a teenager. About 3 1/2 months ago, the pain which had up to that point been mostly simply an annoyance finally flared up to the point where I couldn't get off the floor. All of the pain at that point was isolated to the lower back.

The MRI showed a fairly large herniation at the L5/S1 level. After getting an injection, the back pain largely subsided, but then I suddenly began getting weak in my left leg. Not a lot of pain yet at this point, just weakness in my calf and inability to walk with a normal gait. Over the next couple of months, I received 2 more injections which didn't help nearly as much as the first. I've regained a lot of the strength I lost, including a reflex in my lower leg which had been gone, but now my leg pain, which starts in my butt and goes down, sometimes to my foot, has gotten worse.

My activity levels are limited to a very short walk, preparing a meal or two for myself and spending the rest of the time laying down. Doing any more than that aggravates the leg symptom to a degree that makes it hard just to get up off the floor (where I've been sleeping for 3 months now).

That said, I opted for the surgery on August 4th and am just wondering what to expect. I'm told by my neurosurgeon that because of the size of my herniation, he can't use the typical 'tube' method to conduct the surgery, and will have to make a slightly larger incision. This means cutting muscles rather than pushing the tubes between them, which I assume would cause a longer recovery period. I'm just completely scared that this is going to make things worse--such as, causing the back pain I experienced early on to return. I don't think I could live with that for any prolonged period of time.

I'm also concerned because after my initial MRI, I think I further herniated the disc by coughing hard, so I wonder how much more damage is going on in there than the docs are aware of.

Sorry for being so long-winded. I guess I'm largely just venting and wondering if I'm doing the right thing by getting the surgery. 3 1/2 months seems like a long time to go with the more conservative methods, but I'm not completely bed-ridden so I hope I'm not jumping the gun here. That said, I couldn't go out for dinner or to a movie still as sitting for any more than 10 -20 minutes at a time ruins my whole day.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this. I wish you all success with your surgeries and pain relief.


  • I can totally relate to how you are feeling. I am 29 years old and just underwent a 2-level thoracic discectomy, done posteriorly, 3 weeks ago tomorrow. I went through all of the conservative treatments, aside from seeing a chiropractor, and didn't see a difference. I, too, wondered if I was jumping the gun, because I wasn't completely bedridden. However, the back pain that radiated to my right side and numbness and tingling in my legs...it was enough to impact my quality of life. I have 3 children to take care of, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so. I knew it was just time. I had an MRI and CT myelogram, both of which showed several herniated discs, 2 of which were compressing my spinal cord. The NS felt that surgery was a good option for me.

    Tomorrow marks 3 weeks since the surgery, so it's really too soon to say whether it's been a success. I will tell you that the right-sided pain that wrapped around to my front is almost completely gone. The numbness and tingling in my legs/feet is still there, but nerves take a long time to heal, especially depending on how long it's been since you sustained the initial injury/insult to your back. I injured my back in October 2010 while lifting my 2-year old daughter. I heard a "pop" in my back, and knew immediately that something was wrong.

    My issue now is that in the last week, I've developed significant LEFT-sided pain, along with pain that travels down my left leg. I'm on a tapering dose of Prednisone, because the NP at my NS office feels that the pain is related to inflammation. My concern is that I have another disc that isn't looking so good, T7-8. The ones he operated on were T8-9 and T9-10, both of which were herniated to the right, which caused my right-sided pain. T7-8 is herniated to the left, so my husband and I are both concerned this pain I'm having now is related to this other disc. Trying not to get ahead of myself, though.

    As far as recovery is concerned, it is not easy. I have about a 2-inch incision and had a lot of pain the first couple of weeks, because he had to cut into those muscles. Minus this left-sided pain I've had since last Wednesday, the incisional pain is much better. In fact, if it weren't for the left-sided pain, I probably wouldn't need to take much in the way of pain meds.

    Anyway, best of luck to you with your upcoming surgery. You don't have to be completely bedridden to justify having the surgery. If it is impacting your quality of life, that is a good enough reason to go through with it.
  • Hey Joe,

    I know where you're coming from. There reaches a point where the conservative methods aren't helping and you want life back to the way you know it. Spine injuries take forever to heal!

    Are you certain that your surgeon will be cutting the muscles? While I'm no doctor, I'm fairly certain that the muscles do not need to be cut for a discectomy. My surgeon used the technique that did not involve the tubular retractors. Rather than cutting the muscles, he stripped them from the vertebrae and pushed them to the side using a different type of retractor. Here's a link to the North American Spine Society's description of the discectomy: http://www.knowyourback.org/Documents/open_discectomy.pdf

    If that's the procedure you're having, then maybe my experiences will mean something to you. The surgical pain was never really that bad. It was well controlled with pain medications at the hospital and at home. Now don't get me wrong, it hurt like nobody's business to move around in bed the first few days, but I was able to slowly walk around without issue. After about 3 days it became more of a discomfort than a pain, 2 weeks out it was sore, and now 5 weeks out it is sore in the morning or after standing for extended periods.

    I wish you the best with your surgery. I was very nervous going in to it, but the day truly does fly by.
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  • Thanks for the comments. Had the L5/S1 Micro on 8/4 around 10:30 and was released from the hospital by 7:00 that evening. Doc said it was a very large herniation and that surgery went very well.

    So far, the awful toothache-like pain I was feeling in my left butt and down that leg seems to have gone away. I only feel slight nerve pain in my left leg occasionally--usually when I'm changing positions (rolling over, getting up/laying down). The only real issue I'm having at this point is all around weakness and a feeling of instability in my lower back. I walk pretty slowly but am trying to walk around for 10 minutes every couple of hours or so. I want to remain as active as I can but not overdo it--not exactly sure where that balance is.

    The biggest problem i'm having at this point is simply getting up off the couch or bed. Does anyone have a way they recommend to do this so I'm not risking re-injuring myself? I feel that I'm putting too much stress on my back when I get up from laying down no matter how I go about it. Rolling over to my side and propping myself up on my elbows while holding onto my wife's arm for support is the only way I've been able to manage it so far.

    Thanks again for the comments. Good luck to everyone.
  • My doc and PT told me the best way to get up was the method you are using. Roll on to your side then use your hand/elbow to lift and let your legs swing down. Three years after my L3 - S1 laminectomy / micro-diskectomy I still get out of bed that way. NEVER EVER try and sit up straight..

    The weakness and instability will (should) go away over time; and you should be able to walk faster and longer over time as well.

    Another thing I discovered during my recovery was, just because you feel better and could get around half way decently does not mean you are able to do the things you did before surgery. At least right away anyway. I hurt my back lifting a 7 pound ham 1 month out of surgery. So think twice before you pick something up.

    Bottom line with recovery is, let your body (and PT) tell you what you can do. Do not try and force it to do something it is not ready to do yet.

    Best of luck with your recovery, and hope you have a pain free day.

    View my history for all the gory details.
  • I haven't read all of the posts on this thread, but I definitely absolutely use leverage techniques in most movements.
    I don't just get up. For sure, I plan where and how I sit or lay and how I get up/out. Whatever technique to not put stress on the discs.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
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