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Microdiscectomy 12 weeks Post Op today!

GettingstrongGGettingstrong WalesPosts: 12
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi there,

Here's my recovery story so far.

I hope this is encouraging for anyone looking to hear someone else's experience. I know I was searching the forum when I was in my first few weeks post op looking for hope and courage! I had been struggling with back pain for 3 years which grew steadily worse especially between February and July pre-op this summer.

I'm 12 weeks post op today after L5/S1 microdiscectomy for a sequestered disc and severe sciatic pain causing complete immobility plus 100% loss of foot raise on left.

I had really successful surgery and was allowed home the next day after the surgery. I didn't need any more pain meds after the second night as the sciatic pain had diminished so much I only had some slight incision site pain. So I stopped taking co-codamol (Apparently the surgeon's can flush the incision site with steroids and antibiotics before suturing so the area feels much more comfortable for a few days initially post op).

In hindsight I probably suffered withdrawal flue like symptoms as I had been on maximum doses of Co-codamol for 4 weeks pre-op when my pain levels went off the charts and I couldn't move.

I was really stiff and being very careful about bending, lifting our reaching. I didn't pick up any of any weight up at all and spent most of my first 2 weeks either laying down, standing or slow careful walking. I walked everyday increasing up to about a quarter/half a mile on even surfaces.

I was so disappointed 2 weeks post op as it felt like all the sciatic nerve pain returned in quite high intensity after a 2 week window of little to no sciatic pain just some mild surgery site discomfort and twingy sciatic feelings. At 2 weeks I was back on co-codamol and paracetamol again at quite high doses. I even wondered if I had re-herniated.

My surgeon was very reassuring and said the pain often comes back a couple of days after surgery and it's very normal especially if you had intense pain pre-op. Which I had had.

Physio was also very reassuring at 4 weeks post op. Again saying the pain would diminish and the right exercise was key to my rehab. After advice from my Physio I started swimming at 5 weeks.

My first swim was a gentle slow meander for about 2 laps (at 5 weeks), more of a float really.

I flew 5000 miles, a 20 hr journey with a 10 hr flight followed by a 2 hr flight, at 6 weeks after my surgeon's approval. I stood up and walked around the plane for at least 4 hrs of the flight and took pain meds. Not suprisingly this aggravated the nerve some and I was in much more pain for a week afterwards and that's when I really started my regular lap swimming and that's when the sciatic pain began to diminish significantly.

After my flights about 10 days later I swam 12 laps gently. Everything felt great so I swam 22 laps a few days later. Then a few days after that I swam 40 laps and my pain level dropped significantly.

This really boosted my hope for being pain free again.

In the past 4 weeks I've been swimming about 40-60 laps front crawl, back stroke and breast stroke 4-5 times a weeks and my comfort level and strength is increasing really quickly and pain is diminishing every day.

For me I have found swimming to make a huge difference to the speed of my recovery.

I'm 12 weeks post op and feeling great. The swimming has reduced my sciatic pain considerably and continues to do so. I haven't taken any pain meds for two weeks.

I was pretty fit before the operation but had not swam for several years. Swimming is going to replace running for me from now on I think.

I have found that by avoiding sitting and either walking, laying flat (stomach or back or up on elbows) or standing I reduce inflaming the nerve any more allowing it to heal. I guess the swimming is strengthening my whole frame, stretching my muscles, moving my nerve and taking nutrients/fluids to the nerve and discs and other tissues helping them to heal too.
It's really helping me.

I'm starting to not even have to think about pain meds and even beginning to sit down without thinking too much about it for short periods.

My ability to do left foot raises, I think it's called plantar flexion started coming back at about 5 weeks and is now back to full strength. I've nearly got all my feeling back under my foot on the outside and behind my thigh (the numbness has gone).

So my sciatic nerve is healing really well. Just some residual pain in my left glutes, so I avoid sitting!! If I do sit for any length the sciatic pain does increase again and affect further down into my thigh or even calf.

My muscles in my thoracic spine are a bit tender sometimes which I think is because they are over compensating as I protect and am careful about my lower back until it's mobility returns.

I've continued to lie flat on the back seat whilst driving whenever I can be driven and this really helps me.

I know the particular Tuesday after swimming those 22 laps for the first time when my pain diminished significantly I just had the complete confidence that I would heal fully. It was like there was a switch in my thinking.

I know that regaining my Hope in a full recovery has been the real key for me.

I read somewhere else to measure your recovery by the month not daily or even weekly. I think that is good advice.

I've still got some way to go to be totally flexible and pain free again along my sciatic nerve and through my back and hamstrings etc but it's happening.

I'm going to start trying some pilates classes - at the back of the class doing a few appropriate exercises very gently and carefully to add to my swimming. I'm also trying to get a full body massage every few weeks too.

I'm incredibly thankful to be able to walk again and live pretty normally again.

Even difficult times like the past 4 months have taught me so much especially about appreciating the everyday things and especially about appreciating people.

Keep believing - you'll get better - bodies are designed to heal, I just needed to learn to listen to what my pain was telling me about my life and get the help to make the necessary changes.

: )


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Comments

  • Just wanted to tell you that I am so happy for you! It's awesome that you are recovering well and getting some of your life back. When my surgery is over I want to swim as well, I have always loved swimming and I think it would be the best physical therapy. I love your confidence in your healing and you can hear the happiness through your words. Good luck to you on a full recovery! I hope you will be pain free or pretty close when all is said and done!
  • All the very best with your surgery too.

    I know there is much we still have to learn about how our thinking and emotions etc affect our bodies and how they heal and vice versa how our bodies get sick because of what's happening in our emotions and mind!

    I know forgiveness and hope are hugely important : )

    My mobility has ramped up another level this week as I've started doing tumbling/tumble turns in the pool and also flexion exercises in the water. The pool is so good for my recovery. I feel like I' ready to go to my first gentle pilates class this week.

    I've also begun to be able to sit in a chair without pain this week which is another huge milestone.

    So now I feel like I'm ready to work on my stretching and flexibility.

    Enjoy your recovery process, there is much to learn from it.

    I have found it to be a journey of self-discovery and good changes.

    Keep believing : )

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  • I have recently re-herniated L5/S1 5 years after a very successful microdiscectomy in 2011.  A revision microdiscectomy surgery is scheduled for this week.  I'm a horse woman so I took extreme care after the first surgery, not riding for 12 months and really invested in my rehab and getting strong again.  I wanted to be able to ride horses for the rest of my life.  That served me really well.  I've had 4.5 years of strength and full pain free living enjoying all the activities I love including the horses.  I'm really disappointed that I have re herniated.  I guess I didn't appreciate the weakness I still had in that area of my spine and I got a little complacent and did too much!!  I'm swimming a mile a day currently pre-op and I intend to swim to rehab post op as soon as I can.  Intense sciatic pain at the moment again!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 971
    edited 05/22/2016 - 12:43 AM

    Lisa

    Your L5-S1 joint will be even more susceptible to further herniation after this next surgery.  Each time your doctor performs a mico-discectomy he/she cuts away part of your disc and it does NOT grow back... it only scars over.  As such that joint is compromised from its original strength and pliability for the rest of your life.   With this second surgery there will be even less of that disc left.  Riding a horse on a compromised spine no matter how strong your back muscles are is a very stressful activity for your spine... and you really need to reconsider whether you continue with doing that activity.  You may not like hearing that... but you also need to consider your future health... spine problems tend to get worse with time without lifestyle adjustments.  Something like you... I loved riding motorcycles for a big part of my life... but after 2 major lower back surgeries I have to now accept that continuing with that is just not possible... unless I want to end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

    On a bit more positive note... like you I also like swimming and I swim 800 meters almost every day in just under 30 minutes.  My doctor and almost every other doctor I've talked to supports swimming as a good PT activity for post-op back surgery patients.  It's a great way to rebuild back muscle and core muscle strength without stressing your spine and is also a pretty good cardio workout.  I always feel better both physically and emotionally after swimming... the healing and soothing properties of water are wonderful.   My doctor released me to swim about 3 months after my fusion surgery... I would think your doctor would release you a bit sooner.

    Harry - 65 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015

  • hvills said:

    Lisa

    Your L5-S1 joint will be even more susceptible to further herniation after this next surgery.  Each time your doctor performs a mico-discectomy he/she cuts away part of your disc and it does NOT grow back... it only scars over.  As such that joint is compromised from its original strength and pliability for the rest of your life.   With this second surgery there will be even less of that disc left.  Riding a horse on a compromised spine no matter how strong your back muscles are is a very stressful activity for your spine... and you really need to reconsider whether you continue with doing that activity.  You may not like hearing that... but you also need to consider your future health... spine problems tend to get worse with time without lifestyle adjustments.  Something like you... I loved riding motorcycles for a big part of my life... but after 2 major lower back surgeries I have to now accept that continuing with that is just not possible... unless I want to end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

    On a bit more positive note... like you I also like swimming and I swim 800 meters almost every day in just under 30 minutes.  My doctor and almost every other doctor I've talked to supports swimming as a good PT activity for post-op back surgery patients.  It's a great way to rebuild back muscle and core muscle strength without stressing your spine and is also a pretty good cardio workout.  I always feel better both physically and emotionally after swimming... the healing and soothing properties of water are wonderful.   My doctor released me to swim about 3 months after my fusion surgery... I would think your doctor would release you a bit sooner.


    You have really brought more insight to my understanding in decision making about surgery than any other doctor/surgeon has been able to. I sometimes get the image of myself strangling these doctors just to tell me what they really think and not give me the business jargon of neurosurgery.

    I have had one doctor immediately want to operate on me L5-S1 microdis, after 1 visit. A reasonable assumption I felt...but also felt like he was too quick to get into the surgery. The other doctor I am seeing now wants me to go through a serious of specialist visits just to bond with a neurosurgeon partner of his, because he was irritated that I am getting frustrated about my situation, which I need help so that I don't get fired from my job. 

    I am not going to wander anymore off into a thread jacker. But, I do want to thank you and I hope lisa continues to get better. I wish everyone who suffers from back conditions ,like me, continues to pull through for the best


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  • Thanks Harry,  I appreciate your reply. This re-herniation has been a wake up call! Actually seeing that L5/S1 disc compared to all the other plump, strong, think ones in the rest of my spine gave me a realisation that I need to care for and consider that weakness.  

    Horses are are a huge part of my life, but I am going to figure out how to change how I enjoy them and care for them. Maybe I won't be riding so much or at all and will need to enlist others for their care.  I use them in my work as a life coach helping people with personal and professional development.  But there are ways that I can make changes to my lifestyle to reduce the strain on my back.  It's not the end but a time for really big changes.  This has been a wake up call, if I want to be like the queen and still ride on Boxing Day when I'm 90!

    The really good news is my sciatic pain levels have suddenly begun dropping significantly the past 3 days.  So much so that I've only taken 2 cocodamol today ( and only those because it was my niece's Christening today and I didn't want to miss it!) I probably could have done without any.  Still very sore and moving about gingerly, but a huge change.

    so my dilemma is do I cancel my surgery which is scheduled for this Thursday?  I guess it's a no brainer, if I wake up tomorrow with the same or even more healing then I'll cancel the surgery and keep doing what I'm doing, swimming and praying.
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