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Just had Microdiscectomy Surgery for L4/L5 Extruded Herniated Disc - Here is My Story

Hi All,

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!



  • Had a good week after my surgery 1 week ago. I am off pain meds (stopped taking 3 days after surgery). I am walking 3 to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time I got out for walk. I still have numbness and weakness in my right foot and it feels worse than before I went into surgery. The swelling and pain around my incision is doing really well and I can sit for more than a half hour at a shot. I decided to take the car for a ride and drove for a half hour. I also drove and had dinner with my daughter tonight (another 30 minutes of driving) at a sushi restaurant. After 4 months of hell pre surgery, I feel like I am turning the corner. I don't want to get ahead of myself so I am going to stay focused on going easy. So here is my regimen...sleep 8 hours a day, sleep on my sides at night with pillow in between legs, rotate every time I wake up, drink lots water during the day, alternate between sitting and standing/walking around every hour when I am up for the day, and most importantly staying positive because it is easy to get down and feel like you are a victim and worry about not getting better. Back sufferers are in a class of our own, we have experiences that not a lot of people ever have to deal with or can relate to. Hang tight and work hard especially mentally, find a way to make through each day.
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  • Hey Tim,

    I just replied to you under my post. My only difference is that my DR. put alot more restrictions on me then you. I am not aloud to drive and limit going on car rides. I do take it very easy and find my self getting up (off the couch) every few hours each day. It amazing on how I know what is going on in the world, I know every sports score and know the weather around the whole world..lol.. I have never watched so much TV in life. lol Keep in touch and we will get through this
  • Hi All,
    Can't believe it has been 2 weeks to this date since my surgery. I continue to make progress, but have had a few rough days along the way. I still have numbness and tingling and weakness in my right leg and foot, and once in a while I get very tight and have pain (butt, hamstring, ankle, foot) especially when I wake up in the morning or sit too long. I was able to drive in car today for over 1.5 hours without stopping to stretch, so this was a big milestone for me! I am planning to return to work August 4th (3 weeks post surgery). Will keep plugging away, and am scheduled to start 8 weeks of Physical Therapy week of August 11th. Keep the Faith and Stay Positive!!!

  • Glad to hear you are doing so well.

    I had the same surgery in 2009. I did very well also. Then in 2011, it started acting up aain, only a lot worse. And since they had removed the disc material that had bulged, now I had no disc left. My fusion surgery was Dec. 2012. Be happy for the good days, because chances are, you will be back in a couple of years.
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  • Oldhockeypuck81OOldhockeypuck81 Posts: 7
    edited 08/04/2014 - 2:29 PM
    Tim, glad your doing well as I'm just a few days ahead of you. My opinion on running is that it's not for most people especially for those in our "age bracket" and now that our bodies are showing deterioration in critical areas, we're gonna need to face the facts and give up high impact activities. I'm about 56 y.o. 6'-0" 195 lbs. and have played mens rec ice hockey most of my life, but not to excess. Gave up running sports like softball, flag football many years ago as I can see that there are too many parts that can break (Achilles, knees, meniscus', plantar fascii, hips, etc) Those high impact activities are fun but the wrong move and boom, you'll be in surgery. Distance running is also just so much repetitive pounding that I don't even consider it. I think biking, both road and some tame mountain biking is much safer on the legs and lower unit as well as spine. I'm hoping to still play some hockey but not at a high pace or with dudes that can dial it up. I think skating, if done at a controlled rate is much smoother than running. I'll just have to see what kind of intensity my low back will be able to handle when the time comes. I'd like to think that I can rehab all the muscles and core so I can skate again but when they go digging in your spine, you never know where that might leave you in terms of stability and strength. But I'm not in on any running based sports anymore.
    Life's short, play hard.
  • Hi All,

    Yesterday marked 4 weeks since my l4/l5 MD for an extruded herniated disc. I started PT last week (and have been doing 2X per week with home exercises in between). So far (and knock on wood) I haven't had major pain episodes, and am starting to build a bit more strength in my right leg. The numbness and tingling is still there in my foot and ankle, my hamstrings and hip flexors always seem tight but I am able to get around more since the operation. I started back to work last Monday, and have even gotten on a 2 hour flight to/from. My incision site is looking great, and I have very little discomfort and swelling there. One of the hardest parts of recovery is exercising patience, and I remain optimistic that over time things will continue to get better. Will Post again at Week 8 which is another milestone (I get to see surgeon again to discuss progress). I wish everyone a speedy recovery and a trouble free mind!
  • Great to hear Tim, I to am doing great and doing to add to my write up. I am going back to work on Monday and spoke to my surgeon last week and he released me to drive, but doesnt want me to start a PT program until mid October as I am on a 3 month no twisting, bending or lifting more than 10lbs. I hope your numbness goes away as I am sure it will in time.
  • tfduffyttfduffy Posts: 31
    edited 09/09/2014 - 2:27 PM
    Hi All,

    Just had my 8 week post op visit with surgeon today. Based on my progress from 5 weeks of Physical Therapy and his evaluation, he believes that in another month I can start resuming some of my physical sports activities, but to take it slow and easy. I am still having numbness and weakness in my right foot, with periodic episodes of pain in the ankle and foot, and still have stability issues. However, things seem to be getting better (and a lot better since my surgery). Time will tell if I have permanent nerve damage and I am hoping I can get some of the normal sensations back in my right leg and foot. Working through some really tight and contracted hip flexor muscles on both sides of my hips which are causing some discomfort and mobility issues, but again am optimistic that sunnier days will come. For those coping with post surgery ups and downs, stay positive, take one day at a time, and keep the faith that things will get better.
  • Stay strong Tim!!
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