So here’s a nifty gizmo for all my back pain brethren (and sisteren?). It’s called the Nayoya Acupressure Mat and it’s basically a foam mat with 6210 plastic spikes attached to it to mimic the effect of acupuncture treatment. And here’s the story of how I scoffed, then purchased and now recommend this massage aid as it seems to relieve pressure on my back in the way that traditional acupuncture does. Read More
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...Read More
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 growing list and one that a Laminectomy should partially fix.
Of the more common types of back surgery to relieve disc related pain, Spinal Fusion seems to be the most complex involving implants and bone grafts.Â Here’s how a spinal fusion isÂ performed.
After several lengthy discussions with my Orthopedic surgeon and Neurosurgeon, I’ve been told that a spinal fusion will be a last resort if all other treatment methods fail.Â From my conversations, it seems like surgeons want to avoid this type of surgery as it’s difficult to determine exactly where the pain is coming from.Â As Dr. Peter Ulrich states “spinal fusion surgery only works for specific indications and only can work if we can identify what the specific pain generator for the patient is. Probably 80-90% of the time, the pain generator can’t be identified.”
In September of 2011 I underwent a Laminectomy for a herniated disc at L5/S1.Â The operation was performed by a Neurosurgeon who advised decompression to alleviate a large herniated disc applying pressure to a nerve root.Â He also removed a Schwannoma, unrelated to the L5/S1 disc issue which you can read about here.Â The entire procedure lasted approximately 5 hours and I stayed one night at the hospital.
The list of things I was told to do by medical professionals post discectomy was short.Â They told me to rest, eat healthy and avoid any position that involved flexion.Â I was prescribed enough painkillers to last a week, instructed to walk a little bit more each day to stimulate blood-flow and once again, to avoid any bending, hunching or movement that would push the disc at L4/L5 laterally.Â All of this advice seemed obvious but was appreciated and after a few days the soreness subsided and I gained my strength back.Â As Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, founder and president of Atlantic Spine Center states in this well advised article: Do’s and Don’ts after Spine Surgery “patients and their families should be aware of several things that can smooth the transition from hospital to home, and then back to regular life”
But what about long term?Â It’s become obvious that I won’t be able to do all the things I did before I was sidelined by Sciatica and that I’ll need to change some habits, routines and lifestyle choices to avoid re-herniating.Â Though I’m still in the early stages of figuring all this out, it has donned on me that perhaps a discectomy could be seen as a pivot point in my life.Â An opportunity to try things that I might not have if ye ol’ back hadn’t forced me to.Â But the tradeoff is yet to be determined so I’ll hang on to my mountain bike for now.
Here’s a good research study done on 196 patients who had discectomies and how it impacted their lives long-term.
It’s been close to five weeks since my discectomy and one question that lingers is how would I define a success? The obvious indicator would be pain relief but because I suffer from several back problems, measuring surgical outcomes for any one issue is a bit murky. I’m sometimes asking myself ‘is that a new pain /tingling / numbness from the discectomy or just my Spinal Stenosis acting up?’
Three weeks after my first back surgery in 2010, I had convinced myself that everything had gone smoothly and that I was ready to return to work.Â After all, the swelling and inflammation had gone done considerably and I was starting to feel like my old self.
As I sat back in my once comfy office seat, it didn’t take long to realize that the old habits that had twisted my back into a knot would return to do the same if I didn’t make some adjustments.Â The first adjustment would be mental.Â I had to tell myself that I wasn’t rehabilitated yet and that office work could wait.Â Luckily, I had an employer that was very supportive and allowed for flextime so that I could work PT in the office and the rest of the time at home.Â This gave me an extra month to let the scar tissue and alignment issues settle down.
So when is it too soon to begin work again?Â A recent study presented at American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, finds that on average people who were working before a single layer lumbar discectomy were able to return to work in 67 days post surgery.
Though my personal opinion is that it’s different for everybody and that you’ll need to really stay in tune with your body.Â I know that doesn’t help much but setting an unrealistic recovery schedule might just drag you right back to the operating table.Â Alberta Health Services has some common sense tips on what to do when you do decide to get back to the 9-5.Â The most important in my opinion would be to not sit for too long.Â Stand up and do some light stretching or if possible, go for frequent short walks to keep blood flowing to the back.Â These little preventative measures have made a huge difference in the productivity and quality of the office life.
Alright, so….If you can look past the cheesy Bollywood actor on the packaging, Sandhi Sudha joint pain oil is one the best ways to fight inflammation.Â I’ve gone through several bottles of this somewhat smelly potion over the last three years and I reach for it any time I feel my back heating up.Â I was as skeptical as anyone at first especially since it has that snake oil marketing quality about it, but for me this is a great naturopathic alternative to taking anti-inflammatory meds.Â I’ve come to rely on it now and so I’m passing along my recommendation.
Now why would I name this blog discectomypain.com if I hadn’t endured a micro-discectomy for a herniated disc?Â Well I have, so hence the name and on with my first-hand account – but first a bit of history for context.
About two months ago, on a random Tuesday morning, I bent forward to tie my shoe laces and never really got back up for the better part of five weeks.Â I’ve been suffering with sharp, zinging lower back pain for years (related to 2 herniated discs – L4/L5 – L5/S1) but this time the mild Sciatica I had been experiencing on and off for years, turned into an excruciating nerve pain that got worse over the course of 5 days.Â Luckily, I had an up-to-date MRI so the surgeon quickly diagnosed an L4 protrusion pushing on the Sciatic nerve.Â My options:Â 1) wait it out and hope it eventually settles down 2) Discectomy.Â Notice that there was no option 3 for me.Â At the time of the diagnosis, I had been on laying on my stomach for 2 weeks – the only position that didn’t aggravate my Sciatica, medication brought no relief, and seeking any type of therapy meant moving, and moving was intolerable.
The miscrodiscectomy took 2 hours and when I woke up the nerve zingers were gone…errr…for the most part.Â After a few days of recovery I could tell that all was not perfect.Â As the surgeon explained to me, there may be some permanent or semi permanent nerve damage depending on how hard my Sciatic nerve was pinched.Â I still feel a duller version of the original sciatic pain radiating down the back of my calf to the ankle…about 1/10 the strength.Â Other issues I’m experiencing include partial foot numbness (top half) and scar tissue pain from the incision (which is minimal).Â This article outlines some of the complications that can occur after surgery.
All things considered, I’m glad I went through with the procedure but time will tell if it was a complete success.Â Here’s my scar and minor swelling 4 weeks post surgery:
And here’s Susan Kaye’s follow up videos after a microdiscectomy at L4/L5.Â Watching her recover really put my mind at ease pre-surgery.
In September of 2011, I underwent a Laminectomy for a herniated disc at L5/S1.Â The operation was performed by a Neurosurgeon who advised decompression to alleviate a large herniated disc applying pressure to a nerve root.Â He also performed another procedure unrelated to the L5/S1 disc issue which I won’t discuss at the moment.Â The entire procedure lasted approximately 5 hours and I stayed one night at the hospital.