I am 47. 6 years ago I developed severe sciatia after an ironman event. I tried the conservative route but eventually after about 6 weeks I decided to have a microdiscectomy on L5-S1 which had to be redone 10 days after the 1st attempt. It took me 6 months more to heal. During this post-op period I sufferered a lot of pain and was very distressed at the prospect of never recovering. I did a lot of core work and palliative physio therapy eg hot-packs, gentle stetching etc but progress was very slow. After seeing a pain specialist who enlightened me about the benefits of exercising into health and even into pain, I started recovering 6 months post op. I have since been an active mountain biker and more recently a kyaker and in good health and fitness.
On 11 Feb, I foolishly did a backward somersault on a trampoline without thinking - something I have always been able to do since a child. I tore the disc between L4 & L5 and caused severe pain in the femoral nerve along the front of my thigh and shin. After 2 MRI's, it showed I had a small herniation, so my neuro was not keen to operate and was adamant I would recover with rest in about 4-6 weeks. After 7 weeks of severe pain, no driving & no sitting & managing my businesses from an exercise mat on the floor of my lounge and in the office, I was at my wits end and felt I should have an op. My neuro gave me a short & strong course of cortizone which had a very short-lived effect. He was adamant that I would heal and that I needed to hang in longer - up to 12 weeks. The toll on my family & business life was very heavy. I was on the max dose of Celebrex and Tramadol as well as Lyrica. I had no reflex below my knee in my right leg, and pain grinding radiating through my hip into my quad and numbness as well as severe burning in my shin.
After 8 weeks, I noticed a release and my recovery started. I was able to gradually ease off the meds. I did a lot of walking, and then even some light cycling.
Today it is about 13-14 weeks since my injury. I am in the 2nd phase of recovery. I am still a bit sore but I can exercise and sit and drive. I am completely positive about my recovery and accept that I still need another few months. I take 1 celebrex per day and look forward to when I can stop this. I see a biokineticist 2-3 times a week and do a lot of core exercises.
I am writing this post for those experiencing a similar situation and who are struggling with the decision about hanging in with conservative treatment or having surgery. If I had had surgery after 7 weeks, I believe I would be a lot worse off now. Each case must be treated on its merits, but in my case the decision to hold off seems to have been the right one.
I would also strongly recommend anyone suffering from neural pain to get advice from someone who specialises in the science and psychology of pain management.