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Discectomy - How long to wait? When to try alternatives?



  • PaulPPaul Posts: 713
    edited 06/29/2012 - 11:18 PM
    I have experience with decompression treatments.

    Around 2001, I learned about a traction table treatment by the name of VAX-D. Unfortunately for me, the nearest one was located in Hollywood CA, about 3 hours south of me. I had to travel to L.A. on business once a week, so that is the only time I could get traction pulls. I thought they were great. But because I could only do 1 pull per week instead of the 3 or 4 they recommend, I only had limited success.

    In 2006 when my pain was at its worst, I found a VAX-D table practitioner in Santa Barbara. That is only a 1 hour drive so I was able to go get treatments more frequently. Back then, gas wasn't expensive, but the treatments were. I don't have insurance, so I was able to negotiate a cash price. They were about a hun thirty each for 45 minutes of pulling. When you add up the 3 to 4 pulls per week they recommended, it got to be pricey, so I had to limit my visits.
    I had faith in the traction modality because it made sense to me. I kid you not, I was online searching for a used VAX-D table to buy for myself. I did find some for about $20K and I was very tempted to get one.

    Finally, I just had enough and got a transforaminal endoscopic microdiscectomy in L.A..

    Fast forward to 2008: I've moved to L.A. By this time, I've also had problems with L5-S1, and had the same kind of surgery on it as well. The surgeries were successful. In the course of going about life, I did something stupid and reherniated my L5-S1. Lots of pain. I sought traction again, and found a Triton brand treatment practitioner.

    These treatments were more affordable and I was able to go 3 times a week for several weeks. They worked. I was pain-free again.

    2010. I reherniate L5-S1 again. Yes, I'm stupid. Anyways, I found out that there are home traction units available now. I found and purchased a Saunders Hometrac on eBay for $130. I thought I'd give it a try.

    You may not believe me, or people may say it's a bunch of b.s., but that thing has saved my bacon. It has really helped me. 3 times now, I have re-injured my L5-S1, and 3 times that table has gotten me pain-free. When I haven't done something stupid and things are going good, I'll use it once a week for "maintenance."

    Maybe I got lucky, or who knows, but for me, it was worth trying.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • PaulPPaul Posts: 713
    edited 06/29/2012 - 11:27 PM
    Now, on your other questions:

    In my L4-L5 case, I spent 9 months in severe crippling pain. During that time, I researched my options. I didn't notice it, but my left calf was shrinking. The neural impingement shrank my calf.

    My surgeons told me that 9 months is about the limit for a herniation to be compressing a nerve. After that, I risk permanent damage.
    He also said I could get it back to it's previous size with a year's worth of building it back up.

    After the surgery, it took a good 6 months for all lingering irregular sensations in that calf to fully resolve and go away. I have no weakness or tingling, or any other issues with it, and I have not done any muscle building excersizes for it. I just kinda got on with life. To look at it today, you couldn't visually tell a difference like you could in 2007. I'm sure if I get a tape measure and measure it, it might be different to the right calf, but I'm not worried about it.

    Well, I wish you strength and courage in this challenging time you face. Let us know how it goes if you're up to it.
    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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  • Thanks for all your comments. I've done three treatments of the Spinal Decompression and I think it's been helpful - it's also been a week since I had the epidural injections, I'm taking NSAIDs, and it's been 6 weeks since the initial injury, so due to all these things I'm feeling MUCH better. Plus I'm using better lumbar support when I sit and study all day.

    My Dr is STILL pushing for surgery, he seems concerned that I can't do even one heel raise on my right foot. Second opinion Dr says wait and see re: surgery, which I'm doing no matter what since I have the bar exam at the end of the month.

    It's so hard to know what to do re: loss of strength... I'll re-evaluate in a month but this is elective surgery and ultimately I will have to make a decision.
  • You say you have the surgery tentatively scheduled with the Ortho. What about seeing a Neurosurgeon? Maybe that's what you meant you saw. Either way, the Neurosurgeon should be able to do the same surgery on your back and why not go with the one that is not pressuring you to have the surgery so quickly.

    As for nerve damage and permanent loss of strength...there is no way for anyone to know for sure. I was told 4 months before possible permanent nerve damage but realistically I had surgery right away and still have nerve damage but my doctor told me that the nerve may have take SUCH a big hit when the disc blew that it may have been damaged then. As for strength...I got most all the strength back and turns out, I never lost ankle reflex 100%.

    So the strength can come back.
    I think you are going about this all right...good luck.
  • KarenDKKarenD Posts: 742
    edited 07/01/2012 - 10:39 AM
    It's your decision when to have surgery and if you will have surgery. If you have surgery, choose the doctor with whom you have confidence or have another opinion. If you decide to wait until after your bar exam (which I would do) then schedule your surgery as soon as practicable after your exam.

    Best wishes,

    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
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  • I have had the same disc prolaps 5 times in the last 8 years. I have tried many alternative therapy’s, Yoga, Gym routine for core strength, Pilates, healthy diet, but the second I become complacent, the disc pops out again. I think if I was 100% dedicated, I could potentially get away with not having surgery, but I’m 32 and I know that there will be a period in my life where I let my defences down and that’s when the disc will pounce.

    So I have opted for a discectomy, with a 97% success rate I think I think it’s a no brainier, considering that in the past 8 years I have been rehabbing for 5 years of it and not been able to do any sort of physical activity without anti-inflammatory medication.
    Robbie M
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