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.
Tag - discectomy
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.
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.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a surgical procedure to treat nerve root or spinal cord compression by decompressing the spinal cord and nerve roots of the cervical spine with a discectomy in order to stabilize the corresponding vertebrae. This procedure is used when other non-surgical treatments have failed.
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.
An actual lumbar microdiscectomy performed by a qualified surgeon.Â Warning:Â video contains blood, tissues, bone etc…not for the squeamish.
Required viewing for those considering this procedure.Â This video provides a clear understanding of how the procedure is performed.
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.
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.