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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

Hello everyone :) I have been lurking for awhile now but this is my first post. In a nutshell, I am scheduled for my first surgery on November 2 and I am very nervous.

A little background: I am a 31 year old mom and I have had back pain and sciatica since I was a teen. I have had a few MRIs over the years and they have shown various degrees of DDD, osteo arthritis, L4 and L5 stenosis (never really brought up again) as well as a minor herniation at L4 impinging on both nerve roots, and a moderate herniation of L5 also impinging on both nerve roots. My most recent MRI has shown things are deteriorating and I am unable to work at this point. The pain is quite debilitating.

Surgery is being done by an older neurosurgeon who is quite "old school" but very skilled and he can do this surgery in his sleep ;). He is doing an open bilateral discectomy (left and right side) of only L5-S1 since that seems to by my worst problem area. The strange thing is that I am herniated more to the left nerve root but 90% of my leg pain is on the right where the smaller herniation is. He is going to do both sides to be sure but L4 is not going to be touched. It leaves me to wonder if I am setting myself up for more surgery when L4 bulges more over time. There are no plans for a fusion during this surgery.

So I guess I am here just to reach out and say I am pretty nervous about the recovery and surgery in general. I had my pre-anesthesia blood work and screening today so this seems more real now. I learned that I will be staying in the hospital for at least one night and I will have a self regulated morphine pain pump if I need it. My husband has two weeks off work so he will be taking care of me and the children. I will have meals frozen ahead as well.

I wonder if the bilateral surgery will be a harder recovery than a single side discectomy? I am not sure if two incisions will be made but I will have two laminectomies on the same disc. Is this safe without a fusion? What do you think about climbing stairs? I forgot to ask about this. I have 10 stairs to climb as soon as I get home from surgery because my bedroom and bathroom are on the upper level. Once I am up there, I can stay in the bedroom as long as I need until I can climb down, hopefully during the first week home. I also have a four post cane for balance if I need it.

Any other advice? I read the surgery prep thread and made a note of the recommended items. I have also read a lot of your posts so I have stories to relate to. I know to walk as much as I can but not to sit too long.

I really appreciate any advice, support or just a chat to help ease my nervous mind. I love to chat ;) I plan to make a recovery progress thread after surgery so my post may help others as your stories have helped me.

P.S. Sorry the post ended up a little long LOL
Since you are having an open discectomy, you shouldn't notice the difference between having one or two "sides" done. The laminectomy is not very much more invasive either....if you have multiple laminectomies, on adjoining discs, that's when you get into problems with possible instabilities.

You will not be let out of the hospital until you can climb however many steps you have in your house. You will be able to do it -- but you will want to limit how many times you go up and down those stairs. I've never had a discectomy...((I just started out with a fusion...) but recovery isn't all that much different. In your case, you will not want to do anything that will risk a reherniation...some people really feel quite well within a couple days of surgery. Actually, that is how people reherniate: they feel so good that they get carried away and try to do too much too soon.

The time frame you have set up sounds perfect. You will not need anyone around to help you after two weeks. Even with my three level fusion, my son came out to spend the day with me for three weeks. By the end of the second week I was telling him he didn't need to "babysit" me any more!

You don't need to walk as much as you can. You need to take short walks often. The point is that walking stretches out the spinal nerves as well as any other exercise and is milder on the body. You want to stretch these nerves to keep scar tissue from attaching to them as it is forming and filling in in the early weeks post surgery. The adhesion of scar tissue can ruin a surgery so you want to do what you can to keep it from becoming attached...and you do this by walking. However, it is not important how far you can walk or how fast. And you don't want to tire yourself or cause a flare with the sciatic for this reason I say don't walk as much as you can...this isn't an endurance contest! I had my fusion in Jan in the frozen Northland and I could just walk around the first floor of my house...but it was enough. I would plan my walks around my trips to the bathroom...but you won't be as uncomfortable as I was.

It sounds like you are organized and as ready as you can be. Oh, do you have a "grabber?" That will be your #1 most important item...if you aren't already using one. Organize your kitchen and frig so the things you use most often or will want are right at waist sure you have comfortable clothing -- you won't want to wear anything with a tight waistband. (Lots of people find their jeans very uncomfortable for quite awhile after lumbar surgery.)

It is perfectly normal to be nervous in the days leading up to surgery. We are all terrified of having our spines cut into...we'd be foolish not to be, right? But realize you have done your homework. You have selected the surgeon that you trust and now it is time to try to relax, to think positively, and to have faith that things will work out well for you.

We're here to try to support you and answer your questions, so feel free to post often.
You might want to check with your doctor before using the treadmill, at least when you are fairly early in recovery. Some surgeons do not want their patients walking on a treadmill until their healing is complete.

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