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L5-S1 Surgery in January 2012

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Old 11-30-2011, 09:43 AM   #1
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tomkinsone HB User
L5-S1 Surgery in January 2012

Hi everyone,

three years ago I was diagnosed with a herniated L5-S1 disc which is pressing on a nerve on the right side that causes hot throbbing pain that runs over my right hip across and down the front of my right thigh to just before my knee. For the past 3 years Dr's have done multiple PT, injections, nerve blocks and denervation all of which have not helped. Dr. ordered another MRI in September and found that the herniation ins much worse than it was 3 years ago. We decided that surgery is the next option because I am tired of being on pain meds for so long and want some kind of normalcy back in my life. So the Dr. said that what he will be doing is removing the portion of the herniation that is pressing on the nerve. Has anyone here had this done? It won't be a fusion. What is the outcome of this surgery? Yeah the Dr. said I'd be up and about in 3-6 weeks, but I want to know from real people what they experienced. How was the pain? Will I need more than a week's worth of help at home? I have a gazillion questions. Is there a possibility that this herniation could become worse again, requiring yet another surgery later on? Would it be better to just have a fusion? My Dr. is a great doctor, but because he has never had this surgery done to himself, I can't really accept what he tells me with regards to recovery.

thanks everyone for your insight.

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Old 11-30-2011, 10:30 AM   #2
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ddp11 HB User
Re: L5-S1 Surgery in January 2012

Hi there! Sorry to hear you're facing surgery in January. However, it sounds like you've exhausted all other options first, which is good. I believe what you're having is probably a microdiscectomy. I've had two of these - one was 8 years ago on L4-L5 and the other was 4 years ago on L5-S1.

While everyone is different with recovery, I can speak to both of my surgeries and will begin by saying I am very happy that I went through with each of them. I would say a 3-6 week timeframe for recovery is very realistic. I'm not going to lie...the first few days will be a little rough/painful, but my pain was managed very well with the meds they gave me. You'll be walking the same day as surgery and you'll quickly learn which ways you can move that won't cause pain. They'll be cutting through a lot of muscles in your back, so in my experience, that's where most of the pain came from.

You will need help around the house for at least the first few days and probably a week to ten days to be on the safe side. Regarding re-herniating the discs, that is a very real possibility and is more likely to happen in the first few weeks following surgery, so you need to be very careful. I ended up re-herniating both discs, but not until years later and just recently ended up having a fusion on both levels. That being said, there are plenty of people out there that have micro-discectomies and never re-herniate.

Both surgeries were a success for me. My main symptom was leg pain, and after the first surgery, I woke up and immediately noticed the pain was gone. The second surgery, it took a few weeks for the leg pain to subside, but it eventually did. After both surgeries, I resumed a very normal, active lifestyle and was not limited in any way. In hindsight though, I probably should have been much more careful with my activity level and maybe I could have avoided this fusion.

Anyway, I hope that helps to answer some of your questions. Best of luck to you and feel free to ask any more questions. I wish I had found this board before my first surgery - I was 23 at the time and had NO clue what to expect, so this board can be a great way to alleviate some of those "fears" that come with any surgery.

Old 11-30-2011, 10:53 AM   #3
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tomkinsone HB User
Re: L5-S1 Surgery in January 2012

Thank you ddp11, that was very helpful. I also have a bulging disc in my L2-L3, but nothing that is causing discomfort, didn't even know it was there, but apparently this has occured over the past three years since the diagnosis for the herniation. keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't herniate. Had a herniation in my C2-C3 and had that fused in 2009, which I have felt great since, but always heard the low back is a bear when it comes to surgery. Only problem I have with my neck now a days is mucle tightness and aches, but nothing that needs any therapy, whether heat, PT or medication. It's tolerable. My Dr told me that he would much prefer to do neck surgeries than low back. Nice honest answer, but didn't really feel comforting. LOL He said that the lower back is so much more tricky because of all the nerves and muscles. Where as the neck surgery is in through the throat. Thanks again for your insight. yes, I am glad this website is here to help people with questions.

Old 11-30-2011, 01:27 PM   #4
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Re: L5-S1 Surgery in January 2012

Are you being treated by the same spine specialist who did your cervical procedure?

Have you had more than one opinion? The reason I ask is that pain on the front side of the thigh is not a typical location of pain from a problem with the L5-S1 segment. This is typical coming from a nerve at L3 or L4, sometimes L2. The L5 nerve innervates the outside of the calf down into the foot and the 3 middle toes. S1 typically causes what we tend to think of as "sciatic" pain, running down the back of the leg, back of calf to the outside edge of foot, to the little toe.

I am not contradicting your doctor, but I would advise you to take a look at a "dermatome map" that you can find online, and then ask your surgeon if your symptoms match up to what the MRI is indicating. Sometimes a badly bulging disc on an MRI turns out to be asymptomatic, and a bulge that looks fairly benign can hurt like crazy.

Otherwise, assuming they are operating on the disc that is causing your pain, it is a relatively easy procedure. You do need to be very careful afterward though, as the tendency is to try to return to "normal" activities too quickly post-op, which can result in the disc reherniating. So plan on taking it easy after surgery, even if you feel great.

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