Discectomy Pain

Back Surgery Recovery Time: 1.5 Years Post Surgery

In May of 2015, the Sciatic pain down my left leg was so intense that I couldn’t get out of bed for three weeks. I had surgery for a herniated disc (the root cause of Sciatica) at L4/L5 in June of 2015, and here’s an update a year and a half later.

If there’s one piece of advice from my surgeon that I should have ignored it would be to not do some sort of Physiotherapy.  I was told to just walk, and perhaps some light stretches in the pool but that type of self directed treatment pushed my recovery back for months.

Though I was familiar with some of the exercise routines that physiotherapists suggest after surgery, without the guidance of a therapist and structured set of stretches that would prevent muscle soreness and general stiffness around the incision point, my recovery took months longer than it should have.  Doctor’s need to counsel their patients better when it comes to post operative healing and as this article suggests, they need to point out the connection between diet/exercise and length of recovery.

As mentioned in this recent piece on treatment modalities, it can be beneficial to try a few different pain management techniques to maximize healing and recovery.   Here’s a list of what’s helped me:

  1. Stretches:  A combination of physiotherapy and gentle yoga techniques can increase circulation and loosen muscle groups otherwise left tight after surgery.
  2. TENS unit:  This portable tens unit sends stimulating pulses down the nerve strands to release endorphins, your bodies natural ‘painkillers’.  After a few months, I’ve noticed that a 20 minute session can give me pain relief for up to 3 hours.
  3. Good Posture:  This seems like such a no-brainer, but as Roger Frampton points out in his TED talk, finding your primal posture leads to much better results than slouching in a chair.

Apart from the surgical pain I’m still experiencing, I’ve suffered a good deal of nerve damage which was confirmed by a recent EMG test.  My nerves got zapped really hard during my bout with Sciatica, and have left parts of my leg and foot permanently damaged.  The toes in my left foot are constantly numb and there’s a sharp pain in my left ankle in the same spot that I experienced intense Sciatic nerve shocks, pre-surgery.  For this, I’m taking gabapentin to lessen the discomfort that flares up constantly throughout the day.

Overall, the healing is slow and I’m able to move about under a pain management program.  A recent MRI revealed that decompression surgery decreased the amount of pressure on the thecal sac at L4/L5 but left scarring which could be the root cause of nerve irritation I’m experiencing.

As with with previous surgeries, recovery is slow, arduous and requires full attention otherwise it’ll take a much longer time to get back to full strength.

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