I have suffered from back pain from lumbar herniated discs for the past 8 years. In January 2010 I was stretching and pushed it too far and finally understood what sciatica was. I couldn't stand, it hurt to sleep it hurt to sit, it hurt to walk and I lost a lot of strength in my right leg and foot. I opted to have a neurosurgeon here in Utah perform a level 1 microdiscectomy at L4-5 on March 25 2010.
The reason for my post is that I turned to message boards and blog posts to learn more about the procedure and about recovery and here is the number one thing I have learned. People don't typically post about positive results...they are more likely to write a blog or post to a message board when things haven't gone well. These message boards scared me to death because it is post after post of failed surgeries, increased pain, lifelong numbness, and complaints in general. I am here to give you a positive point of view.
1 - everyone has different levels and kinds of pain, everyone has a different type of body, we are all at differing levels of fitness or age or health, everyone will have a different experience with any type of surgery and healing process. Keep that in mind - your experience will be yours alone.
2 - I woke up from surgery and the sciatica pain was all but gone. I had some numbness in my feet and leg below the knee. Here is the bottom line people - YOU HAD A MAJOR NERVE BEING IMPINGED AND YOU HAD PRETTY MAJOR SURGERY. you are going to have some numbness for a while, just stay positive and allow your body to heal. I am 3 weeks out from surgery today and there is still a little bit of numbness, but I hardly notice it at all.
3 - Do what your doctor says to do. If he says to ice your back 3 times a day - do it. If he tells you to go on a mile walk 3 times a day - do it. If he tells you not to sit for more than 30 minutes or not to bend or twist or not to lift more than 5 pounds - damnit, do it! Most people I know who didn't heal properly after surgery didn't follow doctors orders. They just laid around on their fat *** and let scar tissue grow. Remember that it takes movement to get healing blood flow to the lumbar spine. Go on your walks.
4 - Take your meds, but don't overload your system with pain killers. If you aren't writhing in pain, just take the ibuprofen to keep the inflammation down. Allow your body to feel a little bit of pain, that's how you know you are pushing it a little too hard. I was also prescribed a steroid to help with the numbness after a few weeks and that helped. I am totally off meds now, except for 1 800mg ibuprofen a day. The pain does go away fairly quickly.
I apologize if this post is too long, but I just want to let you know that my microdiscectomy went great. I feel better than I have felt in 8 years. I believe that the mind plays a huge role in recovery and I have decided to be patient and positive and to stay committed to the process of healing. I am not ready to run marathons or golf 18 holes, but I can walk 3 miles without any pain and I can sit at my desk without wanting to stab myself. I have 4 other people close to me who have had the same surgery and they are feeling amazing and are so glad they did it.
Realize that a lot of the people posting in here have not had good results.
Talk to your doctor, ask if you are a good candidate for the surgery, made a decision, and theyn stay positive and committed to your healing. Good Luck!
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:07 PM.
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I've had 5 back surgeries since 1997. My 1st one was a laminectomy. I had excruciating pain from sciatia. That one went well. Five years later I had another laminectomy because I trusted my doctor in trying to relieve burning in my foot; he thought that maybe by going back in and cleaning up my disk it would help. It did not. So I got on nerve medicine that I must take to this day to relieve my pain. With it I have no problem with burning.
In 2003 3 different doctors, all in different towns told me that I had what was called (disk space collapse). That's where the collagen that's in between the disks is gone. I nearly had one disk on top of another one. So in 2004 I had my first and so far my only spinal fusion. Eight days later they discovered that one of the screws was in a nerve root. Back to surgery I go. All went well after that. I went home and 4 mos. later went back to work. I was never completely out of pain. Each surgery relieved some pain but I thought it should relieve all pain.
Then in Nov. of 2009 my right leg starting bothering me so much. I couldn't work but one hour without dragging my leg around. I tried steriod pills, steriod shots, epidural shots. Everything! Nothing helped. I went back to my nuerosurgeon that performed my spinal fusion in 2004 and he said I had a pinch nerve. On March 17th 2010 he performed a microdiscectomy on L-3 L4.I really started feeling much better after that. Especially my right leg.
My problem now is the painkillers. I'm addicted to lortab and I know it. Been on them for so long. Thought they were the cure-all. Even if I'm not in pain I will take one. I take 3 or 4 a day and I know I don't need them. I'm writing this in hoping other people will follow what you said about following doctors orders and only taking ibuprofen if needed. Exercising is a big key to recovery. I have not gone back to work yet, but I do walk each day and work out some.
Hope my post is not too long. Just wanted to respond to you and anyone else reading this post.
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:08 PM.
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Hey, I list my surgeries but I am happy with what my doctor has done to me. For me, two major things went wrong. One is genetics, and two wash the Chymopapain injection I got in Canada. That injection was later proven to be not so good, and the enzyme just ate away at my back. Heck, my surgeon said that he pull my facet joints off with his hands.
09 Re do Fusion L3-L4
08 L Fusion L3-L4
08 Lami L3-L4
04 L Fusion L4-L5
95 Rmv hdwr - prev fusion
93 L fusion L5-S1
91 Lami L5-S1
80 Chymopapain Inj-dissolve disc L5-S1
5 other leg surg
Well, I followed all possible advices such as : no lifting, no bending, no twisting, take it easy, don't over do it, go walking as soon as possible, take your prescribed medicine, drink plenty of water.
I had a microdiscectomy just over 3 weeks ago now at l4/l5 ( 26th March).
Prior to this, I had back pain since mid November last, that changed to an almost daily sciatica pain radiating down my left buttocks, back of knee, calf and foot at rare times. I am a fireman, and although I still managed to walk, drive, swim, I was certainly unable to do heavy lifting or jump, run, so I wasn't fit to resume my job.
And despite many sessions of acupuncture, chiropracthy, physical therapy, ostheopathy, many anti inflammatory and anti spasms treatments, many stretching and core exercises, I even bought an expensive TENS machine, and eventually I had a lumbar epidurale injection in February, the sciatica pain never disappeared...
So, I was left with basically no option but to go for the surgery option, the same option I feared and tried to avoid.
I am 41 yo, married with 2 kids, if I am unable to be fit again, my life will be shattered...
The sciatica pain went straight away after the operation. After being in a bit of pain and discomfort around the scar area for a few days, my condition eventually improved daily, and I started my walking routine, increasing the distance every day.
The sciatica pain came back firstly overnight after about 10 days now and again, but eased during the walks and went away now and again.
Alas, since last saturday, it is back to an extreme level never experienced before. So sharp and deep in my buttocks, that I can't stand or move more than 10/15 mn without being forced to go back to bed. As soon as I lie down the pain goes immediately though...
So, I thought that everything was going well, until that set back that makes me wondering a lot of things, and do not boost my morale at all.....
Anyway lads, I find very beneficial to be able to exchange views, and I will more than likely visit this site again and get in touch.
Best of luck to all.
You are going to have to be patient and take it very slowly as you recover. I am 14 months post op from a triple lumber discectomy. About every two month periods your nerves are going to test you in different ways. Look and plan for slow steady progress. Do not push your back. At this point, ice packs are your friend. I can't say this enough, patience, patience, patience.
RC, I am very happy with your success. This board is a very valuable venue for sharing of ideas and offering support. While we thank you for your input, we surely do not need to be lectured by you. Again, praise the Lord for your successful surgery result. The rest of us have a bit longer road to travel, but we also hope to heal sufficiently enough to regain our lives. Regards. AZREBEL
I'm also 100% satisfied with my microdiscectomy. I'm posting this message for people who are considering microdiscectomy surgery but are frightened by the overwhelmingly negative experiences.
A little background. I was 42 years old when I herniated my disc (I'm 44 now). I'm male, 5'10'', 170 pounds and athletic. I had run four marathons in my late 30s, early 40s prior to the disc injury. I run, bike and weight lift regularly. I used to "tweak" my back every now and then weightlifting, but that was about the extent of my back problems.
I herniated an L4/L5 disc while snowboarding in Feb 2008 - I heard a pop while I was turning and I could barely get back up. I did not know I herniated a disc at the time and I seemed to be about 85% recovered after about 5 weeks, so I went snowboarding again (stupid!), only to develop mild sciatica at the end of the snowboarding day.
The sciatica was just on my left side. The pain started in my hip/butt and got progressively worse over the next four months, despite physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, traction, posture alignment therapy, epidural injections (don't ever get them; they are next to useless), you name it! The sciatic pain eventually extended to various areas down my entire leg and foot.
I was referred to an orthopedic spine surgeon, who told me I "probably" wouldn’t need surgery, despite the fact that I could not walk more than a few blocks at a time.
I was in constant pain and sometimes it would become unbearable. I have a desk job but was barely able to work a full day. Regular pain killers did nothing except at 4x the prescribed dose (I could only take them 1-2 days a week to avoid getting addicted). I had a prescription for medical marijuana, which helped but you can't really be completely stoned 24x7, so that only provided a temporary reprieve.
Seven months after the injury I finally got a second opinion from a UCSD neurosurgeon, who urged me to undergo a microdiscectomy before the nerve damage became permanent. My left big toe was starting to go a little numb at this point. I was only apprehensive because of all the horror stories I had read on forums like this, though I had a feeling (rightfully so) that the forum participant population is biased toward negative surgical outcomes.
When I awoke from surgery I could tell immediately that the pain was 100% gone. I did not take ANY pain killers following surgery, not because I'm tough but because I just didn't need them. The first time on my feet after surgery I felt 10 times better than I did before the surgery! I felt better than I had in months.
I was discharged the day after surgery and I felt great - other than the severe stiffness and soreness in my lower back. Definitely no painkillers needed. I went for short, very, very slow walks the first day, and progressed slowly from there. I MADE SURE I DID NOT OVERDO IT. Each day I walked a little bit further and a little bit faster. I was virtually 100% pain free, though certain extreme movements could still illicit nerve-related pain. After three months, I jogged slowly for about a mile during one of my walks. After about four months, I started jogging regularly, though slower than normal.
It's been about 18 months since the microdiscectomy surgery and I've stayed 99.9999% pain free. I haven't run more than 7 miles at a time because I just don't want to push my luck. I feel like I could easily run another marathon. I feel an extremely slight stabbing sensation in my hip sometimes when I run, though it usually goes away if I keep running - it feels like a phantom trace of what once was (and will hopefully stay that way).
I continue to lift weights, play tag football, run, bike, snowboard and remain active. I can't believe I didn't have the surgery sooner. Six months of my life prior to surgery I would rather have been dead.
I hope this helps!
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:05 PM.
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It was good to hear that you are happy with your surgery
I am trying to figure out the best path for me. Almost everyone seems to have waited to have surgery until their pain was out of control but never mention their diagnosis. I have a bad herniated disc (L5-S1 is out 2.0 cm at the base and extending posteriorly approx. 8mm) and thus far have not been in major pain except when I try to walk; I have pain running down the left leg which turns to numbness in two blocks. My concern is that at some point I will suddenly be put into great pain. The doctors I have spoken to so far can not believe I am not in more pain.
I have been through approx. 30 sessions of decompression therapy and followed up with another MRI which showed no improvement. It seems like microdisectomy is the only answer from what I have learned on the internet.
Are their any other alternatives that anyone would suggest? How do you get an unbiased opinion? If you go to a surgeon it seems to me they will only suggest surgery just like the chiropractor thinks he/she can work miracles. Any help is appreciated!
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:13 PM.
i had the same surgery last nov, and was in hospital for 2 weeks after...im still on pain meds which include, neurontin (nerve damage) endone and oxycontin, the pain medication doctor from the hospital, wants me to continue for another 2 months at least....i want to be normal, as i was so busy before the surgery...now i feel useless and not in control for the first time in my life.
Im really looking for tips and motivation, as its hard to find anyone who is positive, after surgery.....and yes i did see a lot of unhappy people, on the merry go round of going to court, for pay outs...my physio thinks i will never be able to work full time again...that scares me...do you have any advice, i would appreciate it..thanks mce
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:15 PM.
Reason: inappropriate comments.
Tin Cup, my diagnosis, like yours, was a posterior 8mm herniation, though mine was between L4/L5. Your pain is unlikely to suddenly get worse unless you engage in an activity that suddenly worsens the herniation (like tackle football or visiting an overly aggressive chiropractor). My pain increased gradually over six months and I don't know why. I don't think my herniation worsened over time, though when it comes to nerve pain even small mechanical changes can greatly influence the level of pain.
Having tried many alternatives (physical therapy, "decompression" therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, postural re-alignment exercises and stretching) I have to say there is no magic bullet and that surgery is sometimes the best option. However, surgery should be your LAST option and you should not consider surgery until you have at least tried some of the alternatives. Another alternative to surgery is to just wait it out and see how much it improves over time. I know people who have had lower back herniations and have waited nearly a year before seeing an improvement, and eventually recovering nearly 100% after two years (without surgery). The caveat to "waiting it out" is that constant pressure on the nerve may eventually cause permanent nerve damage, so you may end up with permanent muscle weakness and pain if you wait too long. That is, any constant numbness or pain you now experience is less likely to reverse itself after a successful surgery, the longer you wait.
The first surgeon I consulted with was a spinal orthopedic surgeon and he discouraged me from having surgery, saying initially that I probably wouldn't need surgery and then, months later, saying that "if you can't live with it" then surgery would help. The second surgeon I consulted with three months later was a neurosurgeon who highly encouraged the surgery and who performed the microdiscectomy two weeks after the initial consultation.
My advice is to postpone surgery as long as you can. Sometimes the herniation will shrink over time on its own. In the meantime I would stay as active as possible (without aggravating the herniation) and take steps to correct the factors that lead to the injury (bad posture, sitting for long periods of time, lack of exercise, high impact sports, improper weightlifting, sedentary lifestyle, core muscle weakness, poor running/walking form, etc.).
I've had several doctors mention that constant pressure on the nerve for more than six months may lead to irreversible nerve damage. So if you've felt numbness and pain in your leg for more than six months it might be a good idea to consult your doctor.
The "postural re-alignment" program that I participated in is called Symmetry. Though the program did not decrease my level of pain, it did correct my posture to a considerable degree, which may have helped with my speedy recovery after surgery. My spine regained its normal S-curve very quickly in the weeks following surgery.
Hope this helps!
Last edited by moderator2; 05-11-2010 at 03:15 PM.
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Hi rcpetey3 i did just what you said talk to your Doctor ask if you are a good candidate.
Back in 1994 i ask the two Doctors i was sent to see about the Chymopapain injection if i would be a good candidate and they told me i would be a good candidate for the injection and that it had a 99% chance of working on my disc so i went for it.
I have been in pain from the day i had the injection and all ways will be.
If this Message Board had been around back in 1994 i would not have had it so Message Board are helpful.
I have made friends on this Message Board and they are good friends to talk to they have the same problem as me so if we find any think that will do us good we can let each other know.
You had a good Doctor stay with him.
Last edited by Administrator; 07-10-2010 at 08:16 PM.