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L5-S1 discectomy on 9/22...what should I expect?

Hello. I have a "large" herniation that wasn't helped by all the non-surgery modalities so I'm headed for a discectomy on Sept 22. I've done a good bit of research on recovery and found a huge variation in experiences ... no surprise since we're all so different, but I'm interested to hear from anyone who's been thru this. I'm 65, live alone, but good friends across the street. Am I likely to be able to move around the house enough to do the basics ... stick food in the microwave, feed the cats, get dressed, etc. Surgeon is going to keep me in hospital for 1-2 nights since he knows I live alone. He's a very nice guy.

I've been on 5 mg hydrocodone twice a day for 2 weeks just to keep me from writhing in pain and doc says I'll go home with Percocet. That's strong stuff, right? Should I worry about being too medicated to function?

(Btw, I had 2-level cervical fusion 4 years ago and found this forum to be a great help. Surgery was very successful.)


  • Hi!

    After mine I was able to walk about fine, use stairs one at a time for the first few weeks etc. The only pain I had was when rolling over in bed or going to lay down or stand up, once up and about I felt fine but just a bit fragile.

    Dressing wasn't a problem, just took a few extra minutes (and occasionally a few swear words) to flick my clothes down over my legs rather than bend down, socks and shoes were a problem for a while for me but slip on shoes would have been easier but being a male I've got one pair of work shoes and one pair of trainers so that was it...!

    As long as you don't have to lift anything too heavy or bend over to feed your cats you should be fine, make them come to you! I wasn't told not to bend, lift or twist but for the first few weeks wouldn't have been able to our wanted to anyway!

    A grabber stick is a must if you need to pick anything off the floor too to prevent you bending too.

    Good luck with the surgery and I hope it all goes well, give me a shout if there's anything else you need to know!
    L5-S1 microdiscectomy, May 2015
  • Thanks so much for your speedy reply. I feel relieved. I've had a grabber for ages so I'm set on that front. I've no doubt the cats will find the food on the counter rather than the floor... they've never learned "no" about going where they want to go. Cleaning the litter box will definitely be too hard for a bit. Maybe I can convince my neighbor that I'll need for her to do that daily ... for, um, a year or so. ;-)
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  • I would recommend having your house prepared for you to have very limited mobility after your surgery, just in case. I was not expecting to have so much pain after my surgery, and I wish I had been over prepared! All of the dressing/hygiene aids were musts for me, along with a sticker fridge. Luckily I live with my husband and he was able to help with the things I couldn't do.

    Percocet (with 5mg oxy) has been great for me. It is the only thing I found that took the edge off my pain without me feeling too messed up to function around the house AND being able to sleep well. Too much oxycodone keeps me up all night, and that's no fun.

    I hope you have an easy recovery!
    L4/5/S1 scar tissue removal surgery, plus unexpected L4/5 microdiscectomy #2 October 2015
    L4/5 microdiscectomy May 2015
    2-level ADR C4-6 (Mobi-C) February 2015
  • I meant "stocked fridge", not "sticker fridge". LOL
    L4/5/S1 scar tissue removal surgery, plus unexpected L4/5 microdiscectomy #2 October 2015
    L4/5 microdiscectomy May 2015
    2-level ADR C4-6 (Mobi-C) February 2015
  • You had me scratching my head for a bit and then laughing when you clarified! Thanks for the info and the laughter.
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  • Hi Ktromb.

    Weirdly, for me, the first 24 hours were easier than the second and third. I don't know if during the first day I was just relieved and on a high because the surgery went well, and the sciatica was much improved, or there was long running anaesthetic effect of something or other, but it was pretty easy, and then was harder on the second and third days. I didn't feel like I needed any pain meds at all, but I took some 'in case'. Also, I didn't want to go completely cold turkey on opiates, as even going down just to paracetamol and codeine was still a step down, and I was still sick the first day back home. (Maybe have a bag or bucket somewhere accessible??)

    I would give it some serious thought, before you tell the doc you feel well enough to come home if you will be alone, just in case. But you may be on the lucky side, and at least not need much pain meds (but I would stagger your reduction if I were you, to avoid withdrawal).

    Similar to mrjolly, I just had difficulties getting up/getting down/ rolling over/ adjusting my sitting position etc. And getting on to the floor (and then up again) or getting anything from the floor was a definite no no. Started getting a lot easier as of about 4 days post op (getting up/down got easier).

    Definitely have your house prepared ready for anything you could need, and I'd say schedule your neighbours to come see you a couple times the first day or so you're home, as I'm sure there will be things they can do to make your life easier, or just to cheer you up and help you feel okay in the tough first few days. Maybe give them a key, so you don't have to get up and answer the door?
    Modo (Emma)
  • Good advice! Especially about getting keys for my friends. Luckily for me, they all live on the same street as I do so it will be easy for them to pop over. I've already teased them that I was preparing a sign-up sheet for who wanted to bring me which meal. They all know I hate to cook and that I'll milk this recovery as long as possible.

    I've heard that some docs put some kind of pain med directly into the area they messed with and that gets you thru the first day or so with less pain. I've already been on pain meds for 3 weeks so I know I'll have to taper down slowly after the surgery pain lessens. Thanks again!
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