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?’
My immediate issue was extreme nerve pain down the leg caused by a pinched Sciatic nerve. If this was the only measure, I’d have to say the discectomy was a success. I felt immediate relief after the operation and the ‘zingy’ nerve pain hasn’t come back. Well…not the extreme nerve pain anyway. And therein’ lies the dilemma of expectations. Was I expecting 100% recovery meaning, no pain from sciatica either extreme or lingering..? No, I wasn’t expecting complete recovery. Having had two previous procedures, I knew that surgical pain and some sort of numbness were not only possible, but should be expected.
If you look at long term studies done on lumbar discectomies, the results are fairly positive. This study on the outcomes of lumbar microdiscectomy for example cites a success or ‘satisfied’ rating of 85%. However, there are others like SPORT that report small differences between surgical and non surgical approaches depending upon the severity of Sciatica. And in cases like Lee Elman’s, multiple spine surgeries can lead to a much higher risk of potentially life-threatening complications post-operation. But let’s not end on a downer. Here’s Peter Austin’s discectomy success story that proves how quickly people can bounce back from crippling back pain.