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nordon 03-03-2003 06:29 AM

L5-S1 hemilaminectomy with microdiscectomy
Hi everyone! :wave:

I'm new to this site and so far, by reading the messages, I can tell I'll fit right in - everyone seems so helpful, laid back, and full of great information!

Well, I've had a bad back for over 2 years - a torn and herniated disc at L5-S1, confirmed by MRI and discogram. I first hurt it at work (which got totally better) and then really wrecked it when I moved into my house by lifting everything in site, not thinking about my body mechanics. I had tried everything to make it get better - lots of physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, pain meds, Vioxx - but nothing gave me any long term relief. I still had DAILY pain down my right butt, leg and into my toes. The toe pain was the worst of it! I never thought toes could give someone so much pain.

I had it in my mind that there would be NO WAY I'd ever let a surgeon touch my back. I was advised to have the IDET done, but my insurance denied it (as well as the appeal). So I waited it out for another year or more, when I finally decided to go for the surgery: hemilaminectomy with microdiscectomy, and I had it done 2/18/03.

Since I came out of the OR my butt/leg/toe pain has been completely gone! I was up walking the day of surgery around the hospital, and I've been getting to my community center to walk on the treadmill everyday. I didn't start walking on the treadmill until 5 or 6 days post-op. Today is post-op day 13, and I've been so excited that one of these days...this summmer:bounce:...I'll be able to get back to all the activities that I love like hiking, biking, raquetteball, basketball - and sitting!

The only catch is the rehab period which is critical. I haven't sat down since surgery and don't plan to for the full 6 weeks of recovery. And of course no bending at the waist, twisting, lifting, anything... My uncle had this surgery back in 1983 and didn't sit for 6 weeks - never has had a problem since. 20 years! And he's an active guy. It's been hard not to be able to do anything for myself, but it's so worth it to just let the house go - to let other people take care of things for this time, because I know that if I take care of myself now, I'll be set.

Have those of you out there who've had this surgery - is it really true that you are back to "normal" and can be really active again? Sometimes I feel like it'll never feel normal, but it's only been 2 weeks.


ddp11 03-03-2003 07:05 AM

Hi there! It sounds like we have a very similar situation. I had a lumbar laminectomy and discectomy to remove an L4-L5 disc herniation about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers to your questions about being able to participate in your normal everyday activities this summer. I am wondering the same thing! I am in my early 20s and have been very active in athletics my entire life. It is killing me to not be able to run, play basketball, etc. My doctor has indicated that at 3 months post-op, I should be back to "normal" and pretty much doing any activity that I want. I sure do hope this is the case!
You mentioned in your post that you are walking on the treadmill. How has that been going? I have done a decent amount of walking since the surgery, but not yet on a treadmill. My fear with that is that I will make it too fast and push myself too hard. I am feeling pretty good right now considering I just had the surgery a few weeks ago and if I get on a treadmill, it will be hard for me to just walk and not run!!
I guess I need to just take the time to make sure I heal properly and not do too much.
Do you feel that you get tired pretty easily? I went to the mall last week and even that wore me out, but I guess that is normal.
Have you been able to drive at all? At my two-weeks post-op check-up, my doctor said I could start driving short distances, but I tried driving for about 2 minutes and it was not comfortable at all! It's still not comfortable for me to sit and driving was even worse.
Sorry I can't answer your questions, but it's good to hear from people that are going through the same thing! Good luck with your recovery!

nordon 03-03-2003 08:05 AM

Hey ddp11,
Yes, we are going through similar experiences. No, I haven't driven at all because I decided that I won't sit for the entire 6 week recovery period. I just called the neurosurgery nurse clinician to call me back because I want to ask her questions about that. Like if that's a good idea.

Wow, so you still can't sit? Hmmm. I've sat down for only a brief period of time and it wasn't uncomfortable, but it was only for about 10 seconds!

Walking on the treadmill has been great. I only go 3.0 mph (slow for me - I usually speedwalk at 4.7) and I feel a little stiff afterward, but that's all. I just decide before getting on that I won't push myself, and that I'll stick to 3.0 the whole time. I may speed it up in a couple weeks, but I'm not going to screw anything up. I used to be a runner, and oh, how I miss that. My sisters are telling me about how they're running 5, 6 miles at a time, trimarathons, etc. and it makes me envious, but I figure speedwalking is just as good (except more time consuming) and that I can still stay in shape that way. Being young and going through this sucks, I know - I'm only 30.

Hang in there! Take it easy and don't push yourself!

ddp11 03-03-2003 08:30 AM

Hi etoile,
Thanks for your response. I will be interested to hear what your doctor/nurse says about driving, sitting, etc. Keep me posted. I'm trying to limit sitting as much as possible since it's still not all that comfortable and it sounds like sitting isn't good.
I know what you mean about the running thing. I was a college athlete, so not running is driving me insane! My goal after I graduated college was to run a marathon someday, but that has been put on hold. I guess it's just a matter of time! I decided to try walking on the treadmill this morning --I did 2 miles at 3.8 and I think that was a little too much. I don't feel too bad -- the pain in my left leg seems a little more intense, but not awful. It felt good to get a little workout, but I may tone it down next time I try it.
This site is great though -- it's good to know there are other people out there going through the same thing!

nordon 03-03-2003 12:15 PM

Hi ddp11,
That's great that you walked 2 miles this morning! Be careful, though, please! Let pain be your guide, and don't push yourself...or you'll regret it miserably later.

I still haven't heard back from the neurosurgery nurse clinician. It's clinic day today, so she's probably really busy - she'll probably get back to me tomorrow. I'll let you know what she says, for sure.

I plan on walking when my husband gets home from work. The place I work out at is only a block and a half from my house, but it snowed about 3-4 inches, and so I'm making him take me so he can help me change my boots to my running shoes. It's funny, I consider my recovery like a job, that I HAVE to get out there and walk.

Be careful - don't think that you need to stay in total shape right now - even walking for 30-45 minutes slowly is great exercise for now. You sound like you're in great shape, but your body had some pretty decent trauma, so let it heal without adding any more stress to it! [img][/img]

nordon 03-04-2003 02:23 PM

Hi ddp11,

I talked to my surgeon's nurse clinician and she answered a lot of my questions.

As far as walking, she said that I can walk as much as I want, as long as I don't feel pain in my back. I told her about walking on the treadmill, and she said that I sure be really wary of the treadmill. She said that it has a more jarring effect on the back than normal "natural" walking. I told her I wasn't walking very fast (3.0), and she said that's good, and as long as I don't feel like I have to keep up with the track, I should be fine. So maybe your walking 3.8 is too fast? But you're a week farther out than I. Just be careful. The ground is covered in snow and ice, otherwise I'd be walking outside.

The sitting thing - I told her I wasn't planning on sitting for at least 4 weeks, and she said that I could sit "that there's nothing inherently wrong with sitting" as long as I kept my spine neutral - straight posture.

And about PT - she said I may not require it, that it's often for people who have lost strength and/or sensation, not to mention the fact that I'm getting around pretty well already. I told her my concern about the kind of work I do and if I'll be able to do it after 6 weeks, and she said I shouldn't have a problem (I have to be able to lift 50 pounds) BUT she did mention PT called Work Conditioning Program where the PT helps you with specific activities related to your job. So I'm going to ask my surgeon to prescribe that for me.

Well, time for me to go walk on that treadmill! Hope this helps you too! :wave:

ddp11 03-04-2003 06:48 PM

Hi there! Thanks so much for the information. That is good to know about the treadmill. I'd rather walk outside as well, but it's been way too cold recently! I think I'll tone it down on the treadmill next time I walk on that. I felt pretty good as I was walking yesterday, but felt the effects from it today. I don't feel too bad, but some of the leg pain is a little more intense today than it has been since the surgery.
I'm just anxious to get back to normal! I'm starting physical therapy on March 17th and hopefully returning to work at that time as well. It sounds like your return to work will be a little later due to the amount of lifting you have to do with your job.
One more question--do you have a bump on your back around the incision? I still have this bump and I hope it's not permanent!

Anyway, thanks again so much for the great information. Be sure to keep me posted on how your recovery is going!

ruth ann 03-05-2003 10:45 AM

Hello, ddp and etoile!
I hope I'm not butting in on your conversation here, but in seeing your posts, I am going thru exactly the same thing as both of you.

I am now 3 wks. and 2 days post-op from a lami-discectomy at L5-S1.

ddp - I posted to you about the bump in another place - but I have it too! Do you think it will go away? What is it? It feels like a deformity - when I lie flat on the floor I can really feel it.

Etoile - I have exactly the same fear of sitting that you do - I don't think it is good for the back, and might harm it. I wouldn't even sit in a car coming home from the hospital, and made them take me on a stretcher in a van. My dr. thinks this is a bit excessive, and is encouraging me to sit and drive. I would do neither the 1st 2 weeks, and then felt foolish about maybe being over-the-top, and have started driving and sitting a little. The leg and butt pain comes right back. So I think that you and I are not so far from the truth here. Especially hearing what you've said about your relative who didn't sit at all at 1st and now is fine.

It is also driving me crazy not to run. I am used to running every day. When do your dr's say you can run again? I know running is about the worse thing you can do for the back, and for me, it's probably one reason I had to have surgery, because I kept running even with an inflamed disc up until the day before they operated.

How interesting to hear about the treadmill theory. I had only heard that flat surfaces were good. I have been walking laps on an outdoor track, as aerobically as possible, with no problems. But before surgery, I started running on a treadmill, because it actually felt more gentle on my back than the track. I guess I was wrong.

Etoile - I also share your concern about going back to work too soon. My case is Workers' Comp. and they have this ridiculous option of allowing dr.s to release patients for "light duty", which is what my doc plans to do. In my job, I can either do it or I can't. It can't be modified. I am afraid of undoing the good of the surgery by being forced back to work too soon. I explained this to my WC case manager, and she said that if light duty isn't available, they will just keep paying me temp. disability payments until I can fully return to my work. This sounds too good to be true. But if it is, it will solve my problem.

Anyway, I was so excited to see your posts, I guess I got a little carried away here with length. Thanks for reading, and keep posting! - di

ruth ann 03-05-2003 02:20 PM

Hi, ddp!
Driving really aggravated my sciatic pain before surgery, and it seems to hurt in the same places now, after surgery. I feel it most in my left bottom cheek.

I suspect it has something to do with the contour and position of the car seat. I am experimenting with different things - tilted way back (this seems to be the least stressful but it's kind of hard to drive), the seat itself pushed way back for lots of leg room (not much difference), and lots of variations with pillows.

It seems to feel best with one big long bedroom pillow on the back of the seat, so the whole back is cushioned, and then a smaller cushion on the seat. The small cushion fills up the "bucket" shape and makes me sit up really straight.

This is all, of course, turning into a ridiculously complicated ritual every time I want to drive a few blocks: making sure all the pillows are adjusted just so, etc. But it seems to help.

About the running - my dr. told me 1 month post-op I could start again. As with his insistance that driving was perfectly fine after one week (it wasn't), I think he is being overly optimistic.

My last ortho dr. (I switched to a d.o. for my surgery) didn't want me running at all during or for 6 wks. after epidural injections. In fact, he didn't understand why I had to continue running at all. "Just stop" he said. I think your dr. has the right idea - 3 months sounds reasonable.

Great to hear from you, and keep up the strong recovery! - di

nordon 03-05-2003 02:59 PM

Hey there! :wave:

How cool that we are going through the same thing! [img][/img]

I think what the surgeon's nurse wanted me to be aware of regarding the treadmill is that is can be jarring IF you feel like you have to keep up with it - since it won't slow down when you slow down, you may start stepping too hard to keep up. So any jarring activities should be avoided (jumping, running, etc.).

That makes me think that driving would be bad, too - think of all the bumps you go over when you're driving! I think that if a surgeon tells you you can start to drive after a week he's insane. But that's my opinion. I won't even sit to eat - I either eat standing up or lying down in bed. I laid in the back of the car on the way home from the hospital. I just figure that if it's supposed to be limited, then I'll just avoid it altogether. Plus it seems nice to be following my grandfather's advice (he was a surgeon and told my uncle not to sit for 6 weeks post back surgery - that was in 1983 and he hasn't had a problem since) especially now that he's dead and gone.

I also asked my surgeon's nurse about stretching execises for the hamstrings. She said that as long as I do them flat on the floor, and that I don't feel ANY pain in the back, then it's fine. But as soon as I feel anything in the back I should stop. Well, I guess I'm not doing those anymore, either. I can walk as much as I want, though, so I think I'm going to walk 30 minutes, twice a day - and yeah, only at 3.0 mph!!! Call me a wimp.

I also have a bump around my incision! It's not very prominent, but I can really feel it when I lie on my back. I was going to ask that nurse about it, but forgot... I think it's just residual swelling from the trauma of the incision, and I'm not too worried about it. If you guys have bumps that are big, and if there's any redness or drainage, see your doctor.

Di, I hope you get enough time off. If you have concerns about being sent back to work too soon, then tell your doctor that you don't want to go back until a later date. Tell him, don't ask him. Sometimes you need to be firm with these doctors - they often think they know what's best for everyone, when in fact they don't. Don't get me wrong, I have all the respect in the world for physicians, I just think we as patients need to be a better advocates for ourselves.

I use a lumbar cushion in my car - and it works great! I can't wait to get back in my car and go for a drive! Things like shopping and going out for coffee seem like luxury to me now. How funny. :smile:

Well, I'm glad we're communicating. I really think this board makes my days go by just a little faster.

Take care!

ddp11 03-05-2003 07:41 PM

Hey there! It really is amazing how similar our situations are, etoile and princess di.
Etoile, I know exactly what you mean about how normal everyday things seem like luxuries now! I actually get excited to run errands right now--it's pathetic!
Di, that sounds like quite an ordeal you have when you drive a car--that has to be a sight with all your pillows! But hey, comfort is the key for us right now, so more power to ya!
I've still been trying to avoid driving, but may give it a shot again tomorrow--we'll see.
Do you guys find yourselves getting tired out pretty easily? Everyone tells me that's normal after having surgery, but I'm 23 and get tired from a short trip to the mall since my surgery. I'm sure that's completely normal, but it drives me nuts! I can't imagine having to go back to work for a full day--I am going to be worn out!
Anyway, thanks for all of your posts. It really is great to hear that other people are going through the exact same thing I am!

nordon 03-06-2003 12:28 PM


Ddp11, yes I get really tired really easily, too. It seems really weird - all I have to do is walk around the house for a while or go for a walk and I go back to bed feeling exhausted. I think this is normal, too. I hope that my daily walking will keep me from being a total wuss before I get back to my normal life!

How did your car ride go today - did you go? I watched my husband go back to work (he comes home for lunch) in MY car and I'm telling you, I can't wait to get out of here!!!

I'm reading a really good book, though, which helps. It's called White Oleander. It's long, but really good.

ddp11 03-06-2003 07:27 PM

Hey there etoile,
I didn't have a chance to try driving again today. We got all kinds of sleet/freezing rain, so I didn't want to chance it on a day like today. Friday will be the trial-run!
You'll never guess what book I'm reading as well -- White Oleander!! I'm only a few chapters into it so far, but you're right, it is good! I saw the previews for the movie and decided to read the book before the movie--I always like to do that and then see the movie to see how it compares! (books are usually better--don't you think?)
Sounds like your walking routine is going really well for you. I haven't tried the treadmill again, but may give it a shot tomorrow. I just wish this winter weather would go away so I could walk outside!
Well, that's all for now. We'll have to compare thoughts on the book!

ruth ann 03-06-2003 07:40 PM

Hi, ladies!
White Oleander is a great book! I enjoyed it very much, too! Isn't this wild about all of these similarities? I am amazed! - di

nordon 03-06-2003 09:34 PM

Hey! That's great that we're reading (or have read) the same book! I'm almost finished with it - it gets better and better. I didn't even know is had a movie out. Yes, I agree that the books are always better. I always have a particular image of all the characters, and they are usually really different on film. Have you read the Harry Potter books? There's supposedly for children, but they are SO GOOD! :)

Had right pain down butt/leg/toes for over 2 years.
Tried chiro, PT, epi steriod injections, more PT... to no avail
Had L5-S1 hemilaminectomy with microdiscectomy on 2/18/03 - now pain free!!!

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