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Microdiscectomy - recovery question
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crumblindown posted:
Before I ask my question, I will tell you my background.

Back in October, I started having some minor sciatic pain down my right leg. By late December, it was a daily occurance and was starting to bother me. I started going to the chiropractor and would feel OK from the visits, but the pain never went away. About 3 weeks ago, I went in for an MRI and it showed 2 pretty severe disk protrusions/bulges. The L4-5 was more severe than the L5-S1.

I've been in pretty severe pain from this over the past few months. I'd say it's can be a 9 out of 10 on a pain scale at times. I can relieve it in the evenings after laying down for a couple of hours with ice. Anyway, right after the MRI, I started going to a back pain institute for therapy. I feel great after each session, but I am seeing no improvement when I get back to the office and have to sit all day.

So Friday, March 20 I visited with an orthopaedic surgeon. He looked at the MRI and knew right away I need to have a microdiscectomy. So here's my situation now........

I have a very important family vacation on Thursday, April 16. I leave that day for Italy for a 2 week trip. It will consist mostly of walking and sightseeing. My doctor has scheduled the surgery for Friday, March 27....which is just about 3 weeks before I fly out. He very emphatically said that I will feel better on April 16th than I do today. He also is confident I will be ready to go into the office to work a few hours each day starting on Mon or Tue during the immediate week following the Friday surgery.

My question is this....is 3 weeks a reasonable amount of time after a microdiscectomy to be able to take a trip like this? I doubt that I could go on the trip feeling like I do. But the orthopaedic surgeon is confident I will "feel better" in 3 weeks.

What is the average recovery time for a successful microdiscectomy on a 34 year old male? Is it possible for someone to be physically ready to do a lot of walking within 3 weeks of microdiscectomy surgery, plus handle a 9-hour flight (with an exit row!!!)? I'm in pretty decent shape, love to trail hike and travel. I'm not a great athlete by any means, but I do like to get out.

Any detailed recovery information would be greatly appreciated. I'm tired of reading the general internet descriptions of the surgery and recovery times and would love to hear some knowledge from an expert on this surgery.

Thank you in advance!
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annette030 responded:
I would go to a neurologist and ask him what ALL your treatment options are. See a neurosurgeon for a second opinion before having any kind of elective surgery.

I had a friend with low back pain who was rushed into a microdiscectomy by a new surgeon she had never seen before. After wards she had new pain down her leg that she had never had before. After the procedure she was laid up for weeks. He pretty much said he had done what he could and her new pain had nothing to do with the procedure. He refused to see her again.

Everyone will respond differently to any treatment, medicinal or surgical. There are no guarantees. Any doctor who gives guarantees is being less than honest.

I would personally not plan a European vacation 3 weeks after a procedure like that. I would ask for good drugs to get through the vacation, then decide when I got home, after doing a lot of research and getting a second opinion.

I don't care how minimally invasive they say these surgeries are, they are still surgeries, with possible complications.

Take care, Annette
 
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cweinbl responded:
I've had two discectomies (L5-S1 and L4-5). I was 31 when I had my first and 32 with my second surgery. Both surgeries failed, so I had laminectomies at ages 36 and 38 (with multilevel fusion).

In neither discectomy recovery was I ready for extended activities at three weeks. In fact, I went back to work 2-3 weeks after my first discectomy and developed a very severe case of inflammation. I ended up taking more time off to recover from the inflammation than I did from the surgery. That being said, my discectomies were 25 years ago, I went in with existing nerve damage and my discectomies turned into extended procedures with a great deal of reconstruction. Everyone is different. How much nerve damage do you currently have? How extensive will the procedure be? T

The key will be how much nerve damage you have, how extensive the procedure will be and how much reconstruction will occur near the nerve roots. Most people do not have surgery unless they have extensive spinal nerve root compression. You can ask your doctor to carefully explain the entire procedure to you. Ask how much nerve root compression you have now and how much reconstruction will occur around your decompression. It might be possible for a healthy young person with little to no existing nerve damage to recover in three weeks. But, that is a best case scenario.

Virtually all surgeons boast about the quality of their work and your likely recovery. With spine surgery, anything goes. In my opinion, the risk of developing serious post-surgical inflammation is related to the amount of nerve damage that existed prior to the surgery and the damage to your nerves that occurs during the procedure. If your spinal nerve roots are healthy and the surgeon does not impinge them (and the surrounding tissue swelling is low), then you might have less inflammation. Still, three weeks seems risky, unless you plan to be resting on your vacation (and you indicated that you will be walking, hiking, etc.).

In my opinion, you are taking a risk in planning a potentially strenuous vacation just three weeks after a discectomy. Based upon my discectomies, I would not have been able to manage it. Why not postpone the trip until a time when you will be better able to enjoy it?

Finally, I must mention this fact. Research reveals that spine surgery to reduce pain is only 50% effective. Such procedures are 80% effective for improved function. But, it's a crap shoot for pain. I had only minor, temporary relief from my spine surgeries, before the pain returned to prior levels and higher. I do not wish to rain on your parade, but you should be aware of the facts before agreeing to any elective surgery.

Whatever you decide, good luck.
 
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crumblindown responded:
Hello again. I wanted to pass along my update.

I did end up having surgery on Friday, March 27. They did the 2 procedures (microdiskectomy and hemilaminotomy) on both the L4-5 and L5-S1 disks. Of course, the worst days were Sunday and Monday following the surgery. But here it is only 12 days after surgery, and I feel fantastic! Immediately, I felt no sign of sciatic pain. The only pain I had was simply the incision, muscle aches, and that's about it.

24 hours after surgery, I easily walked 1 mile on the treadmill without stopping. I can easily go as far as I want to today. Walking is easy. Now I'm not going on any marathon, or jogging for that matter, but I'm coming along probably as fast as anyone possibly could.

I'm doing a pretty rigorous stretching and exercise program in preparation for my trip to Italy in 1 week from today. Tomorrow, I'm going to bring my backpack into my physical therapy session. They are going to add some weight into it so I can get used to it for hiking on my trip.

I'd say the only real trouble I had was getting used to sitting again. Sitting did make me quite sore and uncomfortable,. but it had to be done, just like exercising. I can now last all day sitting at the office without getting too uncomfortable.

So anyway, I feel this was extremely successful. I feel it's appropriate to record my great results on this board since most of what I read (and got frightened of) were the not-so-great results.

Thank you all once again!
 
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freedom1960 responded:
You're very lucky. Usually it takes much longer to recoup! Congrats and I hope it stays this way. Still, take it easy on your vacation.

Rick
 
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happygirl763 responded:
I am so glad you posted your success-I am having similar surgery on April 15th & Everyone has tried to talk me out of it-after being in severe pain for 15 months-going thru cortizone shots & 3 chiropractors-nothing has worked- i even have one friend who claims he has a neurologist with a magic serum that would have me back to work in 2 weeks with no surgery- I have been unable to work since March 2nd when a DO i saw adjusted me without having an MRI first & she made my condition worse!

I am optimistic & feel like i have made the right decision about surgery after reading your story. Thanks! & Have a great time on your trip!
 
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annette030 responded:
I am glad the procedure went well for you, and wish you well on your trip to Italy.

My mom always said to plan for the worst and hope for the best. It sounds like you got the best results. I am so happy for you.

Take care, Annette
 
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gneebean responded:
hi-i don't want you to take this the wrong way, but i seriously think that you should really listen to "everyone"! if all you have gone through is cortisone shots and 3 chiropractors, and one that "adjusted" you and made you worse, but i'm sorry for this part, but stay the heck away from those "wannabe doctors"!!!!!!!! they are NOT DOCTORS! there is nothing after their names saying md or anything! they don't have any knowledge at all that a neurologist, surgeon, or a plain old doctor has! you need to see a couple of neurologists/neurosurgeons, or even an orthopedic DOCTOR! you've been in severe pain for "only" 15 months? i've been in really severe pain for 6 years, and there is not a surgery in the world the specialist could do, and if there was, he said i'd be way worse than i am right now, and to me, that's not a good sign. there are a lot of people here that have been in pain since their teens, and they are in their 40's and 50's now! i'm sorry if i sound harsh, but i truly will pray for you! please! don't compare someone else's surgery to yourself! everyone is different, and everyone is mostly on meds here, but please be careful! if you decide to go through with this, PLEASE come back here and let us know how it went, and how you're doing, ok? we all care, and if we didn't, nobody would have even responded, so we do care.

jeanne
 
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Lisapurple2020 responded:
I had a microdiscectomy on my L5-s1 disc 3 weeks ago. It is uncomfortable to sit more than 30 minutes at a time. Even 30 minutes is too much. I had the surgery done by a brain/spine neurosurgeon specialist. I would recommend a neurosurgeon that specializes in backs. I had two herniated disks 5 years ago which I had a discectomy and laminectomy and that was not a back specialist. I suffered some permanent nerve damage as a result of that surgery. This surgery, I do feel better quicker, but I am only walking on a track 1 mile a day and I have pain by that night. Of course, I am also doing some chores around the house but no heavy lifting.
I think you would be a bionic person if you could handle such a big trip three weeks after surgery. I specifically held off on my surgery until after my 2 week vacation. I wish you luck and hope you recooperate quickly.
 
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Katiehurts replied to gneebean's response:
I wish I had seen this board before my surgery. 2 weeks ago I had a microdiscectomy at c4-5 and have to wear a hard Aspen collar for EIGHT weeks. It is horrible, I can't sleep, bend over, lift, carry, drive etc, til this is off. Is my dr a fanatic or is this standard practice? I've had 4 cases of whiplash (not my fault at least) in 10 years and had been on so much pain medication my stomach was really starting to rebel and I was a walking pharmacy. My original pain is gone, but not being able to sleep or move around is horrible, I'm going stir crazy, but can barely move around, get dressed, feed myself anything but jello, applesauce, etc. I'm not depressed but pretty angry t hat the dr didn't warn me at all about the after effects. I am 50 and have never heard of anyone needing to have 8 weeks just to be able to drive again. I had 0 reconstruction and barely had a sore throat after surgery so I know the surgery itself went well. with 2 smallish kids and a husband who works 12 hour days during tax season, I don't know how i'll get through this without imploding/exploding. All comments welcome.
 
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teresakitty2 replied to Katiehurts's response:
Hi Katiehurts,

Am so sorry to hear what you are going through. That is the unfortunate thing about having surgery. There are no guarantees about what can or does happen when it doesn't go as planned.
You are still in the recovery phase, so maybe your pain issues will still improve considerably. They were not right in not telling you what the recovery period would be like. Of course it is different for everyone, but there are similarities and guidelines that they do know about that they could have provided to help you gauge if you wanted to go through all that or not.
Many of us here are people who have had failed surgeries and as a consequence, have to suffer with pain the rest of our lives. If you do find that you are continuing to have pain that is not normal after the 8 weeks, please go back to the doctor so they can do repeat studies to see if there is anything abnormal going on such as newly formed scar tissue, etc.

Meanwhile, don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, church, and neighbors and your husband. He may have to make some adjustments in his work schedule to help you even though it is a busy time. Please take care of yourself and don't try to do too much. It could result in hurting yourself worse and then taking even longer to heal. Will keep you in my prayers for fast healing. Teresa
 
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smorando replied to teresakitty2's response:
Hi my name is Stephen. I had lower lumbar microdiscectomy in 3/2002 The area affected was L4-L5. Part of my disk was pressing against my sciatic nerve. It caused me pain, loss of movement and weakness in my right leg. I'm happy to say that I walked away from that surgery with immediate relief from the sciatic pain, other than the location / area where the doctor cut me. Believe it or not I was running, swimming, biking and golfing within 30 days. I have been told I'm very lucky and I am thankful for last 8 years overall good health and good back health. Present day...I had some lower back pain, decided to give a chiropractor a shot at keeping me healthy, I explained my history to him he took x rays and he stated confidently that by the end of the week I wont remember why I walked into his office...well the moment he adjusted / manipulated me I knew something popped in my back. Within seconds my back was locked up and my right leg felt the all to familiar sciatica pain like it did back in 2002! I will NEVER go to a chiropractor again! I am writing this from my hospital bed 6 days after that chiropractor visit about to have the same surgery with the same neurosurgical group I had back in 2002. Apparently the disc above L4-L5 is pressing on my sciatic nerve this time. I am hoping for similar success. I will report back.


Anyone know if I can hold the Chiropractor to malpractice or other?
 
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BrenBren30813 replied to smorando's response:
that is awful news, smorando.
first, i would like to see you post exactly what you did here as a new thread. this original post is a year old and may be overlooked. just title it chiropractor and malpractice or something to catch some eyes. most of us on the pain board don't like chiro's because they are not the ones who completed medical school, and hell, they don't even have MD's of any type.

YES, CONSULT AN ATTORNEY ASAP.
please post this as a new thread - you need help. so sorry to here about this. it makes me angry to hear that you were doing just what the doctor's ordered and some time later you resumed all physical activities.

my question to you, did you sign a release form before you saw your chiropractor??? what did it say?? as fast as you can, get a copy of the release form (ask a friend to pose as a patient) before this guy realizes what he did to you and alters these release forms/contracts given to new patients. i hope i don't get into trouble at all stating this, but you have rights, and you need to protect yourself before he tries and covers his ass. don't let him know (if you haven't already) until you have lawyered up, k? best of luck. i will be praying for you, and please let us know your progress, B

PS Chiropractors will not "keep you healthy" - you can keep yourself healthy
 
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teresakitty2 replied to smorando's response:
Hi smorando,

Oh my gosh I am so sorry that happened to you..I have always had a terrible feeling about chripractors because of bad personal stories just like yours I have heard from relatively normal people getting totally messed up for life by them. X-rays tell them nothing and many of them can't read them anyway. They are not MD's, but try to come off like that.

Truly hope and pray that you will come out OK. Please let us know how you are doing and how we can help you. BrenBren is right, start a new post so others can see what you wrote.. You might just prevent someone else from making a huge mistake of their life. Good luck with the surgery and will keep you in my prayers. T.
 
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An_223877 responded:
I had microdiscectomy surgery 5 months back. I was back at work (office) and standing most of the day after 2 weeks. Walking relatively well after 3 weeks and at physio doing various excersises after 4 weeks.

I do NOT think you would be in a position to do extensive walking after 3 weeks...just my personal opinion. I am a 40 year old Male, decent shape and it took me 2 full months before i felt confident about getting back into an excersise routine. Keep in mind, most of your sciatic pain will be gone BUT your back pain will not. This surgury is mainly meant for helping sciatic pain, not back discomfort. Sitting for long periods is the worst thing you can do for your back as well, so not sure what a 9 hr flight will do to you but it wont help your cause.

Anyway, just my 2 cents. if you where going on a beach vaca and lying around most of the time I would say have fun. But, hiking and long travels probably wont be in the cards so soon after your surgery. Good luck.


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