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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

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!
Hi there, this is my first post on this board. I appreciated reading this thread, as like the initial poster mentioned there tends to be more negative experiences than positives all over the internet as I look around for answers and experiences. My hope is that my experience will be a positive one, though it's too early to tell (I am 4 days post op from a L4/L5 microdiscectomy). As it turned out it was not a difficult decision for me to choose the surgery, as I was fortunate t in the way things played out with my latest back episode to have access to an in-patient rehab program, pain clinic and neuro-surgeon consult throughout. All in all I was impressed with the way the different disciplines communicated and coordinated the care, testing (X-RAY, CT, MRI, EMG studies etc.). I felt I was in a good position to make an informed decision and now post-surgery I find myself contemplating where things should go from here in terms of lifesyle changes etc.

I have always been a very active person, and the back problems for me started about 17 years ago. Being a nurse, early in my career I was doing a lot of lifting, bending, moving etc. Being a male nurse usually meant others were asking for help with their lifting, moving bending etc. For many years, back pain to some degree was pretty much constant, but I was young and stupid and just pushed through it. Once I moved to more administrative type duties and community work, things improved a lot, but the damage was done. I was already in the habit of poor posture, poor lifting mechanics and my choice of sports being long distance cycling and triathlon encouraged continued pressure on my discs. This year, at age 41 back pain came back with a vengeance, far worse than I have ever experienced it. My usual strategy of waiting out the pain and getting moving again as soon as I could was not working - I was doing a lot of (painful) waiting and no moving! As it turned out once I finally did go in to see a doctor, I had a bulge and tear at L3/L4, a bulge at L4/S1 and a herniated disc with expulsion / three fragments at L4/L5. Severe buttock, leg pain down to my big toe on my right side, numbness on my right foot, big toe and right shin along with weakness.

Now post surgery, other than at the surgical site, pain is pretty much gone. Numbness remains, along with some weakness though that seems to be improving (it's hard to tell). Following all of the instructions I have been given, walking is OK, seem to be getting a little better every day. I have been told by enough people that numbness may or may not go away, and it it does it will take a long time that I have decided to expect the worst and hope for the best on that front. I will need to find activities that will keep me in shape, while reducing the risk of making my other bulging discs worse, or re-herniating my L4/L5. Researching best options on that now, and hoping for recovery :-).

Wish you all the best, and thanks for sharing your stories.

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