Microdiscectomy Journal

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by Bolt, May 5, 2018.

  1. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    I figured I'd start a thread to journal my recovery from recent right L4/L5 microdiscectomy surgery.

    Background: 42 years old, 6'0", 185lbs, no history of back problems, reasonably high level of physical fitness. Some results during last 5-6 years ... backdoor brag ... (running: sub 18' 5k, sub 5' mile; rowing: sub 39' 10k, sub 17' 5k, 15k meters in 60'; assault bike 921 calories in 60'; lifting: 405 max deadlift, 230 C&J, 325x5 squat, 215 bench, 165 overhead press).

    Injury: I "tweaked" something in my right lower back July 2, 2017 during my second set of 2 reps with around 80% of max deadlift which at the time was 405. I recognize I didn't respect the weight and lowered the bar too far in front. Over the next few weeks the condition never really got worse and didn't prevent me from maintaining my indoor rowing meters (75k per week) or assault bike sessions (2x 30-60' threshold sessions), so I continued to workout as usual under the impression it was just muscular and would resolve on its own. Nope. Sometime in November I woke up and the nerve root had finally decided enough was enough. Since then I could find no lasting sanctuary from the pain. I saw and tried everything (PT, dry needling, chiro, mckenzie extensions, massage, Quell, TENS, mobic/nsaids, ESI) I could to avoid the knife, but nothing proved fruitful. MRI in December showed disc minor bulge at L4/L5. I continued conservative treatment under the care of my surgeon who advised me to continue exercise and try to slowly reincorporate my old routine and back at the first of April I stepped weird and boom I was down for the count. Pain went from 3/4/5 to 8/9/10. Doc suggested we try a couple of ESI, and after two of these with zero relief, surgery was the last resort.

    Surgery: As of right now (5/5/18) I'm 18 hours post op. Prior to surgery I could only sit, and, even still, pain was 4/5. Standing for longer than a couple of minutes was 8/9 and walking more than 100yds was out of the question. Walking and standing are now 1/10 pain. Getting into bed is difficult but I can find positions that are pain free. The leg pain seems to have been replace with quite a bit of numbness in my right foot / calf. Coming out of anesthesia was rough going. I was in tons of leg pain and the meds they pushed just made nauseous so the meds the pushed to combat the nausea knocked me out and slowed my respiratory rate.

    Goals: My short terms goals are to return to pain-freeelite level yawning, pooping, and sneezing. Long term I would like to be able to go for a walk, ride a spin bike again and feed balls to my 15 year old.

    Purpose of Journal: I plan to use this journal as a way to track my recovery, get input from fellow back surgerized folks, and most importantly to keep myself honest and not overdo things.

    TL;DR In shape middle aged dude, herniated a disc being lazy, tried everything to resolve pain and let disc reabsorb to no avail, had surgery on 5/4/18, within 18 hours already noticing some definite improvement, goals are to get back to life, writing this journal to stay true.

    Thanks for reading!
     
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  2. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Day 2 post op

    Update: Pain in my butt, leg, and knee is gone. The incision site is sore and my lumbar region aches some, but it's mostly just minor discomfort and is easily dealt with. My right foot and toes have all sorts of tingles and weird buzzing sensations. I'm guessing this is just the aftermath of the 9 months of nerve compression and/or surgery and will resolve with time. Getting into bed generally is not fun. The sinking of my hips into the mattress aggravates the nerve root and causes quite a bit of the old leg pain. This scares me the most; does it mean the disc bulge is still there? does it mean the nerve is just being cranky about the stretching?

    Activity: I've walking about every couple of hours either around the house or to the end of the street and back. Today my log shows 6100 slow and easy, but pain-free, steps. I'm appreciative of each and every one of them.
     
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  3. myservenow

    myservenow Semi-Pro

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    Bulging disc issues for nearly a decade here with no relief. One day at work the pain shot through my lower back all the way down to my right foot. Debilitating and on the floor crying in pain. Right leg and foot were functional but numb. Off and on with Ortho for about a year. Felt like my right leg was dead. Microdisectomy in 2016. I was basically ok the day after surgery except for the soreness. This is now 2018 and my back/leg is probably 85 percent of what it was pre-injury. But I’ll take it. Right leg is definitely weaker but no longer as numb or tingley. I was out of work for a week after surgery against doctor’s advice. Doc cleared me for work and I broke news to him that I had been back to work for a week already. I waited too long after the injury to have the microdisectomy (again on doc’s advice) which led to the nerve growing into the disc and causing difficulty during the surgery. But was still a successful result. Haven’t really played golf or tennis since the surgery due to work and family obligations, but realistically not having a numb dead leg is worth it if I never can play golf or tennis again.
     
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  4. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for the input! I will heed your warning and not rush the recovery. I don't ever want to feel like I did pre-surgery.
     
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  5. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Days 3&4 Post Op

    Update: Lumbar area and incision site are improving each day. Getting into and out of a seated / lying down position are much improved. That said the initial hip shift getting into bed still finds my "old friend" but the leg pain goes away pretty quickly. My right foot / big toe is still buzzing and tingly.

    Activity: I continue to log several slow, gentle walks to the end of the street and back which add up to around 6-8k steps per day. All are pain free and that's an absolute miracle in my book. I don't spend long periods in any one position and my mantra is no BLT (bending, lifting, or twisting).
     
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  6. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    I've dealt with 2 rounds of herniated disc. Managed to avoid surgery both times, but it wasn't easy. This last time I caught it early and went to the doctor before it got very bad. Unfortunately the doc was not much help. Offered injections or physical therapy so I tried physical therapy. The therapy made it worse. Basically all I could do to be comfortable was sit. Couldn't sleep except flat on the floor with my knees up and only about 2 hours a night for a couple of months. Finally found a book called the back mechanic. That has some good advice on exercises to do after the initial severe pain is past. Until then it basically recommends brisk walks several times a day based on what you can tolerate.

    Eventually I got well enough to go see a chiropractor in houston after a local chiropractor I saw also made it worse. Just search for ring dinger on youtube and you'll find him. My hips and spine were all sorts of out of whack and the doctor and therapist were basically powerless against it. The houston chiropractor had me straightened out in 3 visits. After a few more weeks of sleeping on the floor and doing a little more each day I'm now back to sleeping all night in my own bed. I do wake up a bit sore and I still have a little numbness in my right foot, but much better over all.

    I plan to develop an exercise regimen for myself based on the back mechanic book and hopefully stick to it so my back gets stronger and more resilient over time.

    I still find myself falling into bad habits from when I was hurt and I have to constantly remind myself not to do things like use my arms to support my weight at my desk.

    So I feel for you and hope you have a good recovery. Just be aware that according to the back mechanic author (McGill), it can take 10 years for a disc to fully heal. I think my first back injury was around that long ago, so I don't know exactly what the initial cause was this time, but it may not have fully healed because I quit worrying about it quite a few years ago and I wasn't really doing any back or core specific exercises like I probably should have been. Hope not to make the same mistake again.

    Good luck to you.
     
    #6
  7. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Bolt, glad to hear you are improving and things are slowly getting better for you. I have a Microdisectomy and fusion of L4,L5,S1 scheduled for May 29 and am very much looking forward to getting away from the pain and problems I have been having for about 9 months now although I am really not looking forward to the surgery and recovery. I hope you continue to recover well and are back on court as soon as you are able. I'm hoping to be back on court my November but will have to see how it goes. I'll have to start a log here also for others that may be having problems to refer to.
     
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  8. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for the insights!
     
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  9. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    I hear you! The surgery and recovery are indeed scary, but getting away from that horrible pain is paramount. You will feel better after the surgery. Please keep me posted either through PM or here.
     
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  10. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Days 5-14 post op

    Update: Well that was a bumpy 10 days! After seemingly immediate improvement in my primary symptoms (excruciating leg pain), I started to experience on and off recurrence of this pain on days 5-10 with increasing intensity each day until it reached a head on day 11. That night I tried to sleep flat on my back as that position had been comfortable for a nap earlier in the day. After 4 hours of sleep, I awoke to intense leg pain that would simply not relent. Within 30 minutes I was sobbing. All I could think was it was back and wasn't going to leave. A few pills and a couple of hours later the pain finally comes under control. I spend the next 12 hours in a fog of background pain and narcotic haze and vow not to attempt to sleep like that any time soon! It's now 11pm, so I head back upstairs to the guest bedroom and reassume my safe position: propped up in a semi seated position, head tied to the bed frame, pillows everywhere to get me into a somewhat comfortable spot. I decided to try earplugs and an eye mask tonight too. Boom. I sleep 10 hours straight and wake up feeling amazing. WTF?!? There was some leg pain upon getting out of bed, but a little walking / gentle nerve flossing and the pain was simply gone. I repeat the same procedure last night. I didn't sleep as soundly, but time time I had zero pain getting into bed (a first), and the stiffness upon rising was even less and went away even quicker than yesterday. Now, I can sit in a chair without pain, the weakness/numbness in my toe/foot are improving, etc. My two week post-op appointment with the surgeon is on Monday and hopefully I'll be given the go ahead to start rehab. After the roller coaster last 10 days, I'm now expecting recurrences of symptoms but I will remain optimistic ... if I can have good days I must be on the road to recover; the bad days will pass and get farther apart as time goes on.

    Activity: Still just walking. Some days I get more than others depending on how I feel. I've started some gentle nerve flossing in the morning and evening which seems to be helping. The sensation I have is that the sciatic nerve is really sticky/stiff/yucky and needs to get back to gliding smoother. No BLT!
     
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  11. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    It sounds like there is definitely some reason for hope that you will eventually be pain free.

    Based on my experience I would caution you to be very careful with physical therapy. I would probably not even attempt it for 6 months. Stick with the walking and continue to be careful with how you sleep, sit, stand, etc. It takes a long time for a disc to heal and one wrong move in physical therapy set me back probably a couple of months.

    The first time I herniated a disc it was 6 months of daily walking and no sitting before I was able to sit on the toilet pain free. I still remember that day and thinking I'm never going to take sitting for granted again.

    Just take your time and be careful.
     
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  12. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Thanks!
     
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  13. J011yroger

    J011yroger G.O.A.T.

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    Good luck Bolt. Your discipline with life and exercise in life before injury will help in the task of recovery.

    J
     
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  14. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Let's hope so!
     
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  15. LITennisJD

    LITennisJD New User

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    I grew up playing sports my whole life and had a microdiscectomy at 21. I'm now 24 and it's my three year anniversary of post op surgery. I have had a few rough days post surgery (mainly from sleeping in a very uncomfortable position on a couch). I am pain free otherwise and more than happy I went through with the surgery.

    Like you mentioned, I struggled to do much and my quality of life was poor at best once the nerve gave. Post surgery for me was pretty rough the first few days in terms of soreness, but after about a week I felt much better and was much more mobile.
     
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  16. comeback

    comeback Hall of Fame

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    Great are you now able to play singles tennis?
     
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  17. LITennisJD

    LITennisJD New User

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    Yes, I have no issues or problems playing for hours on hours. My back feels a bit tight here and there the next day, but nothing major.
     
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  18. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    Lost here in all the discussion of treatment is the issue of prevention. Doing deadlifts is simply asking for back injury; much has been written about it. It's an exercise that should just never be done.
     
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  19. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Done improperly, as I fully admitted I did, I'd agree. This is true of just about anything. Couch sitting, bike riding, tennis, deadlifts, you name it, if done wrong, are simply asking for an injury. I was specifically training the deadlift to directly strengthen the anatomy involved in my chosen sport at the time (indoor rowing). I made a mistake which I've owned up to and am paying for. I appreciate that you took the time to carefully read the posts in this thread and thank you for your empathy, support, compassion, and insight.
     
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  20. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo G.O.A.T.

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    I think most exercise has its own intrinsic benefit to the body, but does it suit the person's need and body?

    Bolt, I ask because as I read through your posts, this all started from that one faithful day at the gym where you were deadlifting an impressive amount of weight. But for what though? What sort of benefits were you expecting to gain out of deadlifting that much weight?

    When I'm at the gym, every exercise I do had better have some connection to my sport of choice, tennis. And to me, tennis is more of an endurance sport with repeated episodes of explosion. And so, my workout reflects those qualities.

    Lastly, in regards to maxing out. Again, I go back to the question "what for?" And I used to max out on exercises as well. Let's talk about risk of injury/overall stress to the joints/muscles, versus actual performance gains and differences in the sport. I can bench a good amount, max out at around 250lbs or so (I'm only about 150 - 160lbs). Just because I can, that doesn't mean I would. Am I ever going use ~250lbs of exertion from an up-right, athletic stance (think forehand here). No way, not even close to that.

    So why bother? I'm curious to hear your thoughts and man, best of luck to your recovery! Back problems are no fun. I manage to keep mine at bay with regular stretching, yoga-like exercises, core strengthening and maintenance, and adequate rest. (Early 30's here)
     
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  21. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Indoor rowing is a unique sport that requires extremely high levels of both strength and endurance. Pulling a barbell from the floor is quite specific for indoor rowing hence my use of the deadlift and the clean as a training adjunct.
     
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  22. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo G.O.A.T.

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    Definitely not my thing then.
     
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  23. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    And no longer my thing either!
     
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  24. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    5 weeks post op

    Update: Just a quick update as not much has dramatically changed since week 2. My activity is still limited to walking and no BLT. Pain/discomfort is a bit like a rollercoaster and seems to be highly correlated to the astral phases and Jupiter's position in relation to Uranus (yes Uranus affects my pain). Still, I'm nowhere near where I was pre-surgery; yesterday was a "bad" day and pain was a 2, maybe 3, out of 10. The numbness in my foot/calf and corresponding loss of strength in my big toe is gradually improving. It's remarkable how much muscle mass I've lost and how poor my fitness has become after 9-months of suck. I look forward to being released by my surgeon to get back on the spin bike! Hopefully at the 6-week followup appointment I'll get the green light.

    Activity: Just walking and hamstring stretches. I'm up to around 10k steps per day with 5-6k in one road walk and the rest from incidental walking around the house. Still have that sticky feeling in my sciatic nerve.
     
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  25. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Hi everyone,
    I said I would start a bit of a journal on my process so here it goes.
    I had lumbar fusion L4,L5,S1 and Microdisectomy on May 29.
    This was a Mazor robotic assisted minimally invasive procedure. I was in the hospital until May 31.
    The first few days were pretty painful and rough but by day 6 I was improving pretty well.
    I am now only on about 2-3 5mg Oxycodone per day and decreasing at day 9 and pain is pretty low most of the time. I’m walking a number of times per day for about 25-30 each time and hoping by next week to be increasing that. I do still have a bit of numbness in my right foot but not bad. The back of my right leg is a bit tight and sore like a tight hamstring so we’ll see how that all progresses with time. I’m very optimistic on my end result and will post more updates.
     
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  26. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    Glad to hear you're on the road to recovery!
     
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  27. dak95_00

    dak95_00 Hall of Fame

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    I live in the Columbus, Ohio area and the PGA Tour was here last week. After Tiger Woods’ first day he was talking about how he’d had a fusion and had days where he just wasn’t as flexible. He stressed he had no pain which was good but just wasn’t loose.

    I had a microdiscechtomy (twice) approximately 3.5 years ago. I’ve just gotten my flexibility back. I’m 46 and after about 5 years, I can touch my toes again relatively easy. Post surgery I could barely get to my knees. After 6 months, I could get to the bottom of my kneecaps. Touching my toes was never a goal. It just happened as a result of slowly building up strength and flexibility. I never do much weight for deadlifts or squats but instead I do many reps.

    While I don’t remember my pain, I do remember my description of it. Best of luck to you all in your recovery. Don’t rush things. You’ll get it again.
     
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  28. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Today is two weeks since my surgery.
    I’m still in the same level of pain meds but walking about 3 miles per day now, although somewhat slowly.
    I’ve developed a hyper sensitivity in the top of my right foot skin, I’ll talk to the Dr at my follow up tomorrow. Swelling is still at the surgery site but I’m tryouts ice a lot a get that down.
    Overall I’m comiyslong very well and do not have any signs of my pre-surgery pain.
    More to come.
     
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  29. Bolt

    Bolt Semi-Pro

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    So glad to hear your continued progress! Saying adios to that pain is such great news.
     
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  30. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Well I haven't been real good about posting updates here as there really hasn't been much of significance. I am 8 weeks since my surgery tomorrow and am feeling really good. I am walking 4-5 miles a day now and started physical therapy finally last week. I have been cleared by the Dr. for bending, lifting more and twisting so now it's about getting myself the rest of the way back and hopefully better than I was. I did cheat last week I went to see my buddies play a league match and hit a few balls nice and easy from the baseline just to see how it felt and I was surprised that I had no pain at all. I still don't think I will be back to playing before September at the earliest but we'll see how PT goes.
     
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  31. movdqa

    movdqa G.O.A.T.

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    I do deadlifts. But the most I'll do is about 160 pounds which isn't considered very much. I do various barbell exercises but at relatively low weights. I do not want to get injured.
     
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  32. movdqa

    movdqa G.O.A.T.

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    I have abdominal surgery next week and I expect it to take at least two months before being able to hit tennis balls again. Maybe three. I think that I'm going to take it easy in rebuilding core given what you've gone through.
     
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