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18 weeks post MicroD L5/S1 - 32 yo male

macallammacalla Posts: 3
edited 12/17/2013 - 1:58 PM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello all,

Long-time lurker, first-time poster here. What's prompted me to finally post is the slow pace of my recovery from surgery and some ongoing issues I've been having. This is a little long (apologies in advance).

My story: 32 years old. Lifted something stupidly, felt a searing pain, and figured I had sprained my back pretty badly and that it would heal on its own. After a week of excrutiating pain and no improvement I went to the doctor, got an MRI, and found out I had a herniation at L5/S1 that was borderline cauda equina. Initial symptoms apart from the back pain were sciatica down the left leg and some toe/foot numbness. Once the penile numbness and tingling in the perineum kicked in, I went to the emergency room. Had a microdiscectomy the next day and was released the day after that. Declined physical therapy at the 6 week post-op appointment because 1) my mobility was and still is very good and 2) I don't have insurance.

The surgery was 18 weeks ago. The pace of recovery has been slower than I expected for someone of my age and fitness level. I can still only manage to sit for 20-30 minutes at a time before I absolutely MUST stand up. The searing type of sciatica I had before the surgery is gone, but I still get what I describe as pinges behind my knee about 30-50 times a day. I can feel when they're about to come on because I'll get a tingle in my foot and then a second or two later.. BAM. It's more a feeling of pressure than pain, like someone is pressing into the back of my knee with their thumbs.

So, question #1: Has anyone experienced that particular type of knee pinge/nerve pain? How long does this stage of the recovery last? I know nerve damage can take months or years to heal, if at all, but some insight would be great if anyone has had this specific type of pain.

Also, two weeks ago I was sitting in my new ergonomic desk chair and, after about 20 mins, felt a brief but very sharp pain in my back. Naturally I freaked out. After poking and prodding gently, I located the pain several vertebrae up from where my incision is (guesstimating L1/2). That reassured me somewhat that it was not a reherniation. Two weeks later I still have that pain, especially if I arch the small of my back. It's always better in the morning and gets worse during the day, with sitting. It's also not generally something I feel if I'm just standing around normally, but if I arch my back it can be quite intense.

Which leads me to question #2: Could this be a muscle sprain? Are sprains ever that sharp? I hope that's all it is. My mind has been running away with me thinking it could be spondylolisthesis due to my lower back muscles weakening to the point of not holding things in place. I'm not asking for a medical diagnosis of course, just wondering if anyone else has experienced something similar or what you all think the likelihood of sprain vs. spondylolisthesis is.

Once I have insurance in January, I will be going back to the doctor to ask him all these questions myself. In the meantime, any insight would be very much appreciated!




  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835
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  • I knew the kind of pain you are in. It is unfortunate that you didn't get physiotherapy right away as it would have been preventative for the situation you are in now. I'm 1 year and almost one month post-microdiscectomy. If possible try finding some simple stretches online to help take pressure off the nerve. Good luck!
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  • teacher85 said:
    I knew the kind of pain you are in. It is unfortunate that you didn't get physiotherapy right away as it would have been preventative for the situation you are in now. I'm 1 year and almost one month post-microdiscectomy. If possible try finding some simple stretches online to help take pressure off the nerve. Good luck!
    Thanks for commenting! I take it your pain has gone now after a year? I have been doing stretches for a few weeks - four-point stabilization, hamstring, and piriformis stretches - and already the number of twinges I get behind the knee has dropped from about 30-40 a day to around 10, sometimes less. I'm hoping they disappear completely. How long did it take you to become pain-free (or at least mostly so)? I really just need a ray of hope!

  • I'm not as far along Post Op wise as you are. I'm 12 days Post Op of my 2nd MIcroD . The worst part or the severity of the pain was in my buttocks, and it would shoot down my leg...the pain dissipating the further down it went.

    2 days ago, the worst part of the pain has moved...i still have some pain in my lower back and buttocks area, but now the worst part is behind my knee, and into my calf. It's similar to what you are describing, accompanied by what feels like the worst calf muscle cramp I've ever felt. The top of my foot has also been pins and needles since the surgery, however that has gotten slightly better each day.

    Your post is a Ray of hope for me, seeing that the frequency of these "attacks" has gone down for you.

    There are some days where I don't think I'll ever be pain free, but reading some of the posts on this forum have given me that Ray of hope you are looking for.

    Do they have you on anything for the pain? Lyrica, pain relievers?
    L5-S1 Herniation. 1st MIrcrodiscectomy 11/9/13. 2nd Microdiscectomy 12/19/13
  • StoryoftheGhost said:
    Do they have you on anything for the pain? Lyrica, pain relievers?
    No, I'm not on Lyrica or anything like that. Sometimes I take a couple ibuprofen to help with the ongoing lower back ache that I also mentioned (which is not yet getting any better), but the sciatic pain is almost completely gone. In fact, today was the very first day in 5.5 months that I had NO twinges behind my knee. It feels momentous :)

    My sciatica was much like yours in the early stages: searing pain in the left buttock and back of thigh. I also found that my pain moved around and transformed and did all sorts of weird things over the months, but the general trend has been for fewer and less intense episodes. I still get abnormal sensation in the toes/feet, especially when I get up in the morning or stand up from sitting, but it goes away after a few seconds of walking around.

    12 days post-op is still super early in the recovery process, so don't lose hope. I would recommend doing physical therapy as soon as the doctor thinks you're able.

    Good luck!
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