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20 years old Considering surgery on herniated disc

Hey everyone,

So in December 2012, I injured my back playing basketball (I think some improper working out might have helped mess up my back). Turns out it was a herniated disc in l4-l5 and l5-s1 (this one is causing the problems). I started off with physical therapy for about 2 months, then got an epidural injection and continued physical therapy the rest of summer. The epidural injection alleviated the leg pain (mainly in my left calf), but did nothing for my back pain. Physical therapy did not seem to help me at all, as I saw no improvement after 3 months of twice a week physical therapy. In the latter part of the year I continued to try and strengthen and stretch my back, with no avail. I recently started acupuncture, which seems to relieve my back pain a bit, but I have no improvement in mobility. I am completely unable to bend over, sit in a chair without pain for more than 30 minutes, and feel as if I have a slight limp in my walk.
After over 1 year of trying to heal my back with conservative measures, I feel I am forced to consider surgery.

I am 20 years old, turning 21 in a month. I never wanted surgery as I know the consequences, but I'm not sure if I have any other options at this point? Also, what are the approximate costs of surgery?
Just looking for some general advice on where I should go from here.
Thank you everyone


  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Hey Nab, did you get a MRI to confirm your herniated disc? I had one too, a big one about 3 cm. I did get a discectomy
    2 years ago, unfortunately I re-herniated again last month. I'm going back in for surgery to get that disc off my nerve.
    My poor nerve is hammered, I have leg weakness, numbness & pain. I think its important to get that stuff off the nerve
    and let it heal. I do have a friend that herniated his disc when he was 28. He made a remarkable come back and is a
    professional surfer. So there are people out there that do well from surgery! Hang in there!
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  • I agree, I had surgery on my l4l5 at 24, knowing very well that I have several other disc on the verge of herniating. But getting that pressure off the nerve and giving it a chance to heal was really important.
    I'm only 10 weeks post op, and definitely not to 100%, but my quality of life has improved so much since having surgery.
    Compressed Discs/DDD - L2/L3, L3/L4
    Major Herniation - L4/L5
    Bulging Disc - L5/S1
    "no healthy 24 year old's back should look like this without a major trauma"
    MicroDisc L4/L5 Nov 7, 2013
  • Hi
    Have you looked into laser treatment. Where they go in and cut off the herniated area. Or if its very deteriorated they can just pluck it out without doing the full fusion. My hubby did both.
  • Angry30AAngry30 Posts: 24
    edited 02/08/2014 - 2:34 PM
    Is there any and I mean ANY chance at all that physiotherapy made you worse? Is there any chance that physiotherapy prevented you from getting better?? My advice is to "pretend" like you had surgery for a minimum of 6 week. REST. After surgery, you can not bend at all. See, if you don't get better. If you don't get better, then have surgery. There is this really bad joke that no one has just one back surgery. From reading what you wrote, it sounds like you got some strong anti-inflammatories and pain killers - but continued on with your life. Your back needs time to heal. You will have a minimum of six weeks where you can't drive after surgery anyway ... TRY EVERYTHING!!
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  • josbornejjosborne Posts: 86
    edited 02/12/2014 - 11:52 AM
    Please consider ALL options before having any spine surgery. I had mine in December and am still having alot of difficulty and my surgeon has just now told me they only ever expected me to have a 50% reduction in pain (so likely ill always have pain) and my surgery (I chose a coflex over a fusion) only has a 60% success rate and ill likely need another surgery before im 50. (Im 25). I went into surgery uninformed expecting miracles and woke up in horrific pain and have had a miserable recovery. Just please consider this so you dont possibly have to spend your whole life with a bad back.
    (12.24.13) L2-L3 Laminectomy, Discectomy and Coflex insertion. DX'ed with Ankylosing Spondylitis on 5/13/14
  • it is done to fix either a mechanical problem or a neurological compression of the spinal canal or the nerve roots. Pain relief is not the basis that any surgeon would offer surgery. In fact, almost every surgeon tell their patients right up front that pain relief is not a reason to undergo surgery, and in fact, the surgery can make it much worse in the long run ,due to scar tissue and cutting of muscles and ligaments.
    If someone gets relief from their pain, then that pain is usually from a nerve compression or a canal stenosis but mechanical pain is going to continue at some level. The way your spine worked prior to being injured is no longer the same, the mechanics of the spine are changed , because of the injury or because of the surgical necessity, but either way, the way your body moved , bent and flexed is changed as a result......so the challenge to us becomes one of learning to live with a certain amount of pain, and living our lives in spite of it, or taking the risk with surgery, fixing the mechanical and neuro problems and hoping that we get some reduction, but either way, we have to live with the results.
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