Discectomy Pain
 

Discectomy Recovery: 5 People Tell Their Story

In late May of 2015, I distinctly remember laying on the floor of my condo watching Youtube videos on my iphone.  I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t really move without horrible nerve shocks shooting down my right leg into my ankle.  And while I lay there I just kept watching self published videos of people recovering from a discectomy.  These videos gave me some comfort in knowing that surgery could stop the excruciating Sciatic pain I was enduring.  So, I would like to thank these five people who took the time to tell their story of overcoming herniated disc pain through surgery.

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Discectomy Recovery Time: 6 Months Post Surgery

I just passed the 6-month mark of my L4/L5 Discectomy  so I thought now would be a good time to discuss my progress.  Just a quick recap before getting into how things are today:  In early June 2015, during a routine tying-of-the-shoe I badly tweaked my lower back.  By the next day, a crippling Sciatica  had set-in which confined me to a bed for weeks.  Luckily, I had an up to date MRI so an Orthopedic surgeon quickly diagnosed a herniated L4/L5 and I was wisked off to the operating room for a lumbar Discectomy.  Fast forward six months and here I am, resting fairly comfortably typing out an update.

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7 Pro Athletes That Have Had A Micro-Discectomy

Some professions come with a much higher risk of physical injury and often the wear and tear endured by top athletes is centered around the spine.  It’s not surprising then that many pros that have had back injuries undergo surgery of some sort – especially Micro-discectomy.  Here are some of the more high profile pro athlete with herniated discs and various other back related injuries.

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Back Pain Medication: Painkillers for relief

Treating back pain with painkillers has become a controversial topic.  And there’s a particular stigma against people that regularly use opiates to treat back pain. The media reports on the use and misuse of drugs such as Oxycontin and morphine almost daily, backed with statistics of rising rates of overdose.

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Epidural Injections

On the recommendation of a neurologist, I began epidural treatments for back pain in early 2013.  These were injections of Depo Medrol used to reduce swelling, and inflammation in my lower back.  After several treatments that were largely ineffective, I stopped with the injections and looked for other forms of pain relief.

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Lumbar Microdiscectomy: What to Expect at Home

From the Myhealth.alberta.ca site:

Your Recovery

Microdiscectomy is surgery to remove part or all of a bulging (herniated) disc in the spine. A bulging disc may press on the spinal cord or spinal nerves and cause leg pain and numbness. Your doctor made a 2.5 to 5 centimetre cut (incision) in the skin over the spine. He or she inserted a special microscope (scope) to see the area and then used surgical tools through the incision to do the surgery.

You can expect your back to feel stiff or sore after surgery. This should improve in the weeks after surgery. You may have relief from your symptoms right away, or you may get better over days or weeks. In the weeks after your surgery, it may be hard to sit or stand in one position for very long and you may need pain medicine. It may take up to 8 weeks to get back to doing your usual activities.

Your doctor may advise you to work with a physiotherapist to strengthen the muscles around your spine and trunk. You will need to learn how to lift, twist, and bend so you do not put too much strain on your back.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Avoid riding in a car for more than 30 minutes at a time for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. If you must ride in a car for a longer distance, stop often to walk and stretch your legs.
  • Try to change your position about every 30 minutes while you sit or stand. This will help decrease your back pain while you heal.
  • Your time off from work depends on how quickly you feel better and on the type of work you do. If you work in an office, you likely can go back to work sooner than if you have a job where you are very active. Talk with your doctor about your work needs.
  • You may have sex as soon as you feel able, but avoid positions that put stress on your back or cause pain.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Exercise

  • Do back exercises as instructed by your doctor.
  • Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physiotherapist to improve the strength and flexibility of your back.

Other instructions

  • To reduce stiffness and help sore muscles, use a warm water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm cloth on your back. Do not put heat right over the incision. Do not go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are unable to move a leg at all.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have new or worse symptoms in your legs or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have blood or fluid draining from the incision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.
  • You are not getting better as expected.

 

A Bad Back Uncovered

I was traveling through India in early December 2010 when ye ol’ back starting acting up again.  The years of backpacking across the globe had taken it’s toll on my spine, and somewhere between Pune and New Delhi, I was hammered by pain in my lower back radiating down my leg.  It began with a dull ache and a few days later I was in a familiar position; laid out on a bed, this time under a ceiling fan in Chandhigarh.  While visiting my grandmother in the city that I was born, I was suffering through another bad flare up and wondering how I would make it back home.

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Spinal Stenosis Video (Animation)

In 2011, as my neurosurgeon was explaining the results of the laminectomy, he casually mentioned that I had condition known as Spinal Stenosis, most likely congenital and most likely the cause of my Sciatica.  Of course, this was all news to me and I wondered why it hadn’t been noticed on the MRI scan.  Regardless, I had a new back ailment to add to the list and one that laminectomy should partially fix.

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Recovery: Exercise Without Re-injury

Exercise is an important step towards recovering from any injury.  When you’re dealing with herniated discs it’s particularly tricky to find the right routine to get your strength and flexibility back. And if your lower back is as temperamental as mine, you’re constantly reminded that one wrong twist or bend could land you back in bed for or worse, the operating table.

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Acupuncture for Back Pain

For every operation I’ve had, I’ve encountered an unforeseen complication like numbness in my foot or inflammation around scar tissue. For every pill there’s been some side effect especially pain medication that alters digestion and forces my liver to work much harder than it should. For every therapy there’s been some muscle soreness or overstretched ligaments.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the best I can hope for are back pain remedies that keep most biological systems in check, and that’s how I came to acupuncture.

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