I found this forum very useful leading up to my decision to have lumbar surgery, and would like to share my experience to help others who may be going through similar issues. I am a 49 year old male, and prior to my injury, was in top physical shape.
My injury occurred in March 2014 while training for a 1/2 Marathon run. I completed a long run (around 9 miles) on Wednesday March 19th, followed by a round of 18 holes of golf on March 20th. I was experiencing really sharp sciatic pain down my right leg (primarily in butt) but kept playing golf. The next day, I couldn't get out of bed the pain was so bad. I decided to see my chiropractor the following week and had 4 sessions over a 14 day period, he suggested I go see a Pain Management specialist because he thought I was extremely inflamed and he didn't want to adjust me I started with my Primary Doc who prescribed oral prednisone (steroid pack) and that didn't help at all. After another week of agonizing pain, I scheduled an appointment with an Orthopedic Spine specialist and he conducted some in office tests, and believed I had a herniated disc at L4 L5 region impacting my right sciatic nerve. I was given 3 epidurals over a 6 week timeframe, coupled with Physical Therapy for 8 weeks. It wasn't until the second epidural that I started to get relief from pain so that I could start the Physical Therapy.
The Orthopedic Doc also had me get an MRI after the second epidural, and we did confirm I had a 12mm x 7mm extruded herniated disc at L4 L5 which was crushing my right L5 Sciatic Nerve. Even though the pain was manageable, I had significant weakness, burning, tingling, and numbness in my right leg and foot (the pain was in the butt, back hamstring, knee, side shin and ankle). I also had numbness on top of right foot and my big toe and 2 toes next to it were weak and numb. I completed the 8 weeks of physical therapy but did not have any progress with the numbness and weakness in right leg and foot. I was barely making any progress with regaining strength. I also started to regress a little bit and the pain started to come back. Since the injury in March, I have not been able to run, walk for more than a mile, golf, do the physical things I most enjoyed. It was time to take a different approach.
After 3+ months of conservative care (NSAIDs, Chiropractic Care, 3 Epidurals, Physical Therapy...) I decided to seek the opinion of a highly regarding Pro Sports Team Orthopedic Surgeon. Bottom line is this...for Extruded Herniated Discs, the nucleus polposus that comes out of the annulus fibrosis will not resorb on its own, there is very limited clinical evidence of this happening, and I didn't want to wait too long to find out that I would have permanent nerve damage. I was not pressured at all by the surgeon who discussed what could be done via a surgical procedure (and he gave no guarantees that the numbness and weakness would be 100% restored). I made the decision in late June to undergo a Posterior Lumbar Decompression (Microdiscectomy) of the extruded disc material compressing my L5 nerve.
I went in for the procedure on Monday of this week, July 14th. It was approximately an hour surgery and I was to be released once I cleared the anesthesia and was able to urinate. Unfortunately, I had to stay the evening because I was not able to urinate. After being catheterized 3 times before I was able to go on my own, I was discharged approximately 24 hours after the surgery and was able to walk out of the hospital to go home.
Today is day one back at home, and I have pretty intense pain around the incision. It is no where near the pain I experienced with sciatica though. I don't have pain in my right leg, but the numbness and weakness is about the same, if not a little worse. I suspect it is because of the inflammation associated with the surgery, Doc said this could be the case and I will be following up with him in 2 weeks.
In summary, I decided to have surgery because of the following: I am 49 years old and I want to resume physical activities, conservative treatment over close to 4 months did not work, I do not want permanent nerve damage that could occur if my L5 nerve is compressed too long, extruded herniated disc won't go back in place like bulging disc could, and it could get even worse if more of the nucleus pulposus pops out or gets sequestered and breaks off, surgical procedures are highly advanced with better outcomes that they were even 10 years ago.
I will continue to post during my recovery and let you know how I make out with the numbness and weakness (as this was the biggest thing driving my decision to have surgery).
To all of you out there with back issues, stay strong, never give up, and keep a positive attitude!