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Microdiscectomy Day 18 Recovery

GymaholicGGymaholic Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone!!

I, like everyone else, have done endless research/reading as I prepared for and am still recovering from a L5/S1 microdiscectomy. Although there are positive stories, they seem to be far outnumbered by negative experiences. Although I'm still very early in my recovery and cannot yet declare it successful (knock on wood!) I do feel I'm on the right track, barring a setback, and wanted to share my story.

I don't want to dwell too much on how I got here. Suffice it to say it was years of bad posture, too much sitting (office job), and bad weightlifting form and philosophy (huge/strong upper body) without corresponding strengthening of core and lower back. My L5/S1 inevitably herniated and a big piece of nucleus squeezed through and impinged my S1 nerve root.

I was in varying levels of pain/discomfort for 6 months prior to surgery. Slight numbness but mostly just pain all the way down my right leg. Could not sit, struggled to stand at work all day, layed down all night as soon as I got home. Tried PT, acupuncture, meds (anti-inflams, pain), 3 ESIs (they all helped a little). Probably got about 50-60% improvement from original symptoms but it wasn't enough.

I had an Ortho do all the conservative treatment but switched to a Neuro when I knew it was time to consider surgery. He's well recognized as a top Neuro in the Atlanta area but not great at Q&A and post op rehab. Anyways we decided on micro-d and did it on 12/1/11.

Surgery was routine with no complications, at least none I'm aware of but then again I was stone-cold out before even being wheeled into the op room. Since they used a catheter, regaining control of my bladder afterwards was difficult but fortunately I was able to "force" it to work after considerable effort. Stool softners are important since it can take awhile (days in fact for me) for the bowels to "wake up" post-surgery and all the pain meds don't help the cause. I was walking grandpa style around the hospital that day (5-10 min periodic walks) but realize now I was very hopped up on pain meds. Discharged the next morning.

Since I've been home here are my observations on recovery. A bit depressing at first (post-surgery blues and all). For the first 2 weeks, it's tough to know what pain was/is surgery-related and what is the old sciatica (simply taking pressure off the nerve does not mean immediate relief, it can take weeks to months for the nerve to recover, not to mention the impact on the nerve as the surgeon yanks it around to free it up during the op). Standing in one place gets me sore as does walking for too long. I was getting wonderful "zingers" the first week whenever I did something awkward (getting in car on ride home, first time getting in my bed, walking too fast, stairs, etc.). Doc says it's the nerve stretching and is normal but it does hurt like heck and probably made me more cautious than I needed to be. They come on fast but leave just as quickly. I do still get goofy feelings sometimes but all minor (hip soreness, bruised feeling behind the knee, calf pings, buttocks muscle spasm, etc.)

Walking is key and the biggest thing I was trying to figure out. Everyone says walk (to strengthen & recover), but how much? I spent the 1st week shuffling around the inside of the house at 10-15 min every hour. The 2nd week I started walking outside, doing 1/4 mile loops 3-4x per day. Now, I'm up to 2-3 miles per day in 1/2 to 1 mile increments. Feels good. Uphills can still make me sore so trying to keep it flat. I have noticed the sciatica receding. I still get sorness when I push it but it's better than anytime pre-op and I'm hopeful it will entirely go away in time.

Anyway, I've droned on long enough. Bottom line is things are progessing well. I never had surgery before (let alone spine surgery) and totally underestimated the recovery (actually thought I'd return to my office job the next week, lol). I now know it will be a long road, both to return to normal activity, and prevent future injury but I'm committed to it, and I will stand more and the 185lb military presses and 90 lb barbell curls will need to stop. Hope this post helps gives people another view on the surgery and best of luck.


  • Glad to hear things are going well!
    Yes, always good to be cautiously positive b/c that will remind you that you had major surgery and really need to give yourself 3-6 months being extra careful.

    Yes, I've heard for men, it takes longer for the bladder to wake up than it does for women. And, stool softener a good idea! Very valuable advice!

    You mention you are returning to your office job next week. Any chance you can work remote so you can be careful? If not, make sure your chair is good. I had them do an ergonomic assessment to ensure I had a good chair. Drink LOTS of water because this will ensure you do not sit for more than 30 mins. I know silly but just a quick walk to the bathroom will do your back a favor b/c you won't sit so long.

    Yes, just because it's a MICRO discectomy, doesn't mean it isn't major surgery.

    Keep up the good work with recovery....no bending, twisting, lifting. Limit your time driving in a car b/c I found that was the WORST thing for recovery. Driving has you jostling, twisting, and just putting added stress on your back. Try to get a ride if you can.

  • Hello Gymholic, THanks for sharing! I am on the same path as you so i really appricate u sharing ur story.. My back isue started in Jan 2011-- i was a mess for 3 months with just moderate back pain(NO SCIATICA), then i felt normal from April to Oct 2011. I wasback in the gym only doing machines and dumbell curls of 45lbs which is light for me.. I was to chicken to do shoulders and etc with free weights.. Anyways life was good and I wass getting solid again.. etc..... Then one day i woke up with LEFT LEG SCIATICA, but very mild back pain.. Everything this TIME was OPPOSITE of what i was used to.. So now sitting and laying down are great but walking and standing kill me. Its been 8 weeks.. One doc wants to do MED surgery. So i will let u all know what happens!

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  • Glad to see people have the patience to read my long post!!

    DNice, you are spot on...being really careful, no BLTs and started back at the office yesterday part-time, 4-5 hrs in the morn then back to the house for some rest, walk, & ice. I stand the whole time. I have absolutely no desire to sit (except the car ride being chauffeured by the wife and taking our sweet 'ole time). I just feel healthier standing :).

    Dax0007, yep, my situation was pretty similar, started out as back ache and being my usual stubborn self tried to "work through" the injury with my typical heavy weight routine. Ended up making it a ton worse and the pain shot down my right leg. Even then, I was still in denial at least until I got my MRI back which wasn't pretty. Keep me posted and wish you the best. All of us back sufferers need to stick together!!

  • Gymaholic,

    I too had microdiscectomy on December 1st at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. My symptoms from the sciatica all mostly all gone. I still feel a soreness and zing like you from time to time, and my left hamstring is still really tight from not being able to fully stretch is since the injury occurred back in March. I have started walking 2-4 miles a day 4 times a week and I try to stretch as much as I can. Before surgery I could maybe go 15 minutes walking before the pain would kick in. The surgeon who did the procedure actually recommended I start slowly jogging depending on how I feel. I tried a 2 mile jog and the spot where the surgery was done was a little sore after. I think I will wait at least another week before trying to jog again.

    It's good to find another person who is dealing with the same problem and had the same surgery on the exact same day. I will follow your progress and will also post on here my progress. Kind of a support group, haha. I too never have had surgery before and although I was not scared of having the surgery, I was nervous that I had to have back surgery at only 24. Needless to say I will not be touching a weight at a gym until at least May.

    I will be returning to work tomorrow (I too thought I would only be out a week). Hope our recoveries go well! Good luck!
  • I am actually getting a microdisectomy on Jan 3rd. I hurt my back last January at the gym. I was warming up for squats and herniated the L4-L5 disc. At first my doctor gave me a steroid pack to relieve inflammation but it didn't help. I ended up getting the steroid injections and they helped for about 2 months. Around the same time as my injections, I also started to get back into the gym lifting light weights and avoiding squats, deads, and overhead presses. I made decent progress with my gains since August but three weeks ago, I was teaching a buddy of mine how to deadlift, and I tweaked my back hard. I went to the doctor and he recommended the surgery. My question is what kind of lifting routine would you guys follow if I am unable to squat, deadlift or overhead press. Previously I was making good progress on a 5x5 routine which focuses on those lifts.
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  • Phil14, our stories are closer than you think...I'm originally from Boston area (although in ATL now) and my first name is Phil. Man, that's crazy bizarre! I can't believe you tried jogging! Good for you. I'm still a little too gun shy to do that. Otherwise, I'm still doing good, day 25 and all. After I've been on my feet for a few hours some soreness/discomfort creeps into my upper right butt and upper leg. I don't know how much is residual sciatica versus the operation versus muscle tightness. Man, I cannot wait to start PT and stretch out.

    daisaw 1219, sorry to hear about that. My advice would be to take it easy in the gym until you have the surgery and get the all clear from the doc (could be awhile depending on recovery). Last thing you want is a re-hernation. When I do get back in the gym my approach will change from heavy weights/gains to lean and mean (a lot of body weight, bands, and core, occassional plates and machines maybe but light).
  • Just an update....

    I started going back to my normal activities about 2 months after surgery. Last week I had another MRI because I had the old pains coming back. The herniation is back. I just started a new job and cannot get another microdiscectomy right away. I'm not sure if I want to either. I don't what to do. Was it my fault for returning to normal too quickly? Or was it just the odds and I was the unlucky 1 out of 12 that has it happen again?

    I will be getting another cortisone shot soon and hopefully that helps, although it didn't in the past. Hope everyone else is doing better.

  • You have to protect that disc now. The outer covering gave out for some reason and the scar tissue that closed the opening is, and always will be, weaker than the covering. If the covering failed, the scar tissue stands even less chance of handling the same amount of stresses.

    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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