My Experience With Lumbar Spinal Surgery – Microdiscectomy

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Note: The following article is based on my personal experience with lumber spinal surgery. I am not a doctor or medical professional and cannot dispense medical advice. Please consult your physician if you are experiencing lower back pain to discuss treatment and/or pain management.

I had a microdiscectomy. Actually, I had a laminotomy (the removal of a portion the lamina – the bone at the back of the spinal canal), a laminectomy (the removal of the entire lamina) and a microdiskectomy (the removal of a portion of a damaged disk. A microdiscectomy is less invasive than a classic discectomy. The surgeon uses a microscope to perform the procedure).

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Prior to the surgery date, I searched the Internet for articles and visited medical discussion boards for “real-life” experiences with this type of procedure. To me, any type surgery is serious – especially if anesthesia is involved – and I was nervous. Most of the articles provided clinical statistics filled with optimistic recovery and success rates. Most of the posts on the discussion boards, however, gave a very negative review of the procedure. I was feeling less and less sure of my decision to have lumbar surgery when I came across a post that put things in perspective. The poster noted that people who had successful surgery were less likely to post comments than those who had a negative experience. Why? They were out doing other things because they were now pain-free.

Very good point. I decided then that if my surgery were successful, I would post an article to this blog that offered an alternative view of the procedure.

After eight weeks, I feel confident enough to declare my surgery a success.

Here’s the Readers Digest version of why I elected to have the microdiscectomy: I had a herniated disc that pushed against nerve roots in my spine and caused foot drop. I could not move the toes on my left foot. The top of my foot, ankle and areas on my calf were completely numb. I had to walk with the assistance of a cane. Not good. The surgery was to reverse the nerve damage.

The surgery itself wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. I am grateful for the visits I received from the OR nurse, EMG specialist, two anesthesiologists and my orthopedic surgeon. I was calmed as each person described his or her function in OR. The procedure began at 7 am. I was given a sedative in my IV as I was being wheeled to the OR. There, the OR nurse placed a mask over my nose and mouth and instructed me to breathe deeply. I was out after the second deep breath. A breathing tube was inserted and I was placed on my stomach after the anesthesia had taken affect. The procedure lasted about an hour (or so I was told), but I didn’t awaken from the anesthesia until around 10 am.

I was up and walking – with assistance from a staff physical therapist- about five hours after the surgery. The PT showed me the proper way to walk and climb stairs. I received morphine for pain later that evening which made me extremely nauseated so I refused future injections and relied on prescription medication to manage the pain. My hospital stay was overnight; I was home by noon the next day. I needed someone with me for a few days following the surgery. Thankfully, my mom made the sacrifice.

My recovery so far has been excellent. The incision is healing nicely. My surgeon recommended walking as the primary form of exercise. I walked around my neighborhood, beginning with walking halfway down my street and venturing further each day. I was off the prescription medication after a week. I’ve had two visits with my surgeon since the surgery with another one scheduled for early next week. The surgery did not completely reverse the nerve damage; I was informed it could take up to a year for complete reversal. However, the mobility and sensation in my foot have improved dramatically. I do not need the cane anymore. I can move my toes and the numbness is almost gone. I would say my foot is 90% back to normal. Bending and lifting are restricted. Sitting for long periods was difficult at first, but became more tolerable as time progressed. My surgeon advised me to not sit for hours on end, so I make sure to stand up and walk around frequently at home and at work. Speaking of work, I was out of the office on medical leave for about two and half weeks.

Again, this is my personal experience. Overall, I was in good health before the surgery and still am. I have not experienced any of the excruciating pain I had prior to surgery. No back spasms or pain down my leg. I am back to a normal routine (with the exception of bending or lifting). Having a microdiscectomy is a decision I have not yet regretted.

May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.

34 thoughts on “My Experience With Lumbar Spinal Surgery – Microdiscectomy”

  1. I’m terrified after reading all the failed surgeries and accompanying ones. Seems like i do ever read a successful one. Thx for posting. I face either discectomy or fusion..wont know until tomrrow.

  2. Hi Nico

    I was terrified as well. Thankfully, my surgery was and still is a success. I wish the same for you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. THANK YOU! i been nervous all having the same surgery but whats been worrying me was that i had 2 herniated discs l4 l5 and my first surgery was a success in 2009 and i own a restaurant and a bar and i also cook in da kitchen hustling and trying to push quality meals real fast for lunch crowd cause everyone is in a rush.and i sometimes thinking am superman and even after surgery i was pain free and thought i was 100% and my line of work theres a lot of bending and twisting and stressing.
    but ur post helps and ill make sure i change my work routine cause i don’t wann go through it again.
    thanks again

  4. I had a Microdiscectomy in Dec 2012. I was someone who never ever thought I would have back surgery based on all the horrible stories I’ve heard. But the pain won and I went thru with it. The surgery and recovery was a breeze. Pain gone instantly. No overnight hospital stay, in at 6am out and walked out by noon. Prior to surgery I could not sit (especially in a car!) for more than 10 minutes. The 30 min ride home was amazing. Not a hint of pain. I’m 4 weeks out and feeling really good. Occasional aches but nothing of significance.

    I write this to help dispel the rumors that surgery usually makes things worse. Medicine has really progressed and if you have a herniated disc and a MicroDiscectomy is an option – To not be afraid. Just find the best damn Neurosurgeon you can. Do your research and fear not.

  5. Hi, thank you so much for posting your story. It sso true, you never hear positive stories on discussion forums and its always the scary things, I prefer to read the medical information sites and never discussion boards now.

    I am 3 weeks post op of a microdiscectomy, i had foot drop for a couple of days before surgery was called for. My leg pain was instantly gone, I now get muscular pain which is mainly from my leg strengthbeing weak in one leg and just all the exercises I am doing to recover. But so much better than the pain from before. My foot is slowly recovering, I went from no movement to now at about 30%, I get very excited every time it moves again. I like you am being very careful with siting bending and twisting. I am happy with my expeience so far and physical therapy has helped a lot.

    thanks again for posting

  6. Thank you so much, Kathy, for stopping by and commenting. So glad to hear you are having a successful recovery!

  7. glad to hear all the success stories. I’m a 31 year old male, lived a very active lifestyle( daily) prior to my diagnosis of a severe herniated disc(1cm) at L5/S1. Started as a bulging disc a few years back that didn’t bother me much. Its been about a year and half dealing with severe buttock pain on left side. I have no real muscle weakness or back pain but just constant sciatica. Been trying to avoid surgery but cant deal with it any longer meanwhile i tried every natural supplement/stretch/ exercise out there! im scheduled for 7/29/13 microdiscectomy. the pain is even worse now due to me not being able to take mortin or fish oil a week prior to surgery. i will be sure to post my outcome 🙁

  8. I realize I am finding this a bit later, but I wanted to say THANK YOU for this post. I had my microD in December of 2013, and I am about to reach post op week 6 tomorrow. I had very severe nerve damage as well. After the surgery, when I walk and do my PT, I feel the numbness in my leg disappear little more each week. I started doing physical therapy routines at home at post op week 4 and walking, walking, walking. Needless to say, post op week 5 I felt AMAZING.

    I had to return to normal life when my school started post op week 6 (I am in nursing school). Clinical days, when we are moving around all day, I feel fine. Maybe a little achy, but typically ibuprofen and ice take it away. It’s the sitting for lectures that bring the major discomfort. It’s not pain, not compared to what I felt pre surgery. But I definitely ache during the week.

    I sit for 30 minutes tops and then move around in the back of the classroom. I’ve been very depressed this week feeling like I would never be able to be me again. Of course everyone is different, but hearing you say that you felt the same discomfort and eventually got better gives me hope. Everywhere else I have looked as been gloom and doom and left me in tears this past week.

    Even though lecture days cause me to feel that achy feeling, I come home and walk, do my PT exercises, and try not to lay around or sit too long. I am hopeful I too will have the success you did.

    I still consider myself a success story. Prior to surgery I was in a wheel chair and using diapers due to loss of bladder control. So aching, if that’s the worst I have to face right now, ill take it.

    Thank you again.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to post about your experience. My prodecure is scheduled for mid-February and I’m aprehensive. So reading your story has assured me that I will be fine in time.

    I have a herniation at the L5/S1 – I do not have foot drop, but horrible pain in my right leg and numbness in my foot. I had a ESI (epidural steroid injection) in December with some relief for approx 2.5 weeks. (I still had to take my meds..just reduced the number of times per-day)
    I’m back to taking them 3x’s per day now to control the pain, and I want to be OFF of these things. 2400mg of Ibuprofen every day cannot be good for you!

    I’m very glad your story was the first I came across when I googled. I got to skip all those negative stories and saved myself tons of worry. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  10. Thank-you for a realistic yet optimistic post. I went to the surgeon yesterday and am scheduled for Friday. I have had a herniated disc since 2004 but after meds and steroids and rest could always recover after a “flare-up” However, this has been the worst and I have horrible pain that is indescribable to anyone who has not had back pain. I feel better about Friday. I know I chose a great surgeon so I am putting my faith in that as well. Good luck to everyone and THANK-YOU again!

  11. Day one -post surgery and things seem to be going well. I had a visit from Home Healthcare and he said everything looks good. I’m having minimal pain and it seems to be mostly incision related. The pain and numbness in my back & leg is gone…FINALLY!

    I’ll update later in the process as well. Just so anyone stopping by the site knows theres hope for relief. GB

  12. I am grateful to find a site written by a real person with comments from others having a similar experience to mine. I have a herniated disc L5-S1 with lumbar spinal stenosis. Sciatic pain was debilitating. The first neurosurgeon I visited recommended laminotomy & laminectomy. I could not schedule surgery due to pending flights/trips, so I was referred to pain management I had my second epidural cortisone injection on 2 1/2 weeks ago. Both injections have improved the pain and numbness in my right foot. The pain waxes and wanes throughout the day and day to day. I still require muscle relaxants to sleep. My 3rd injection is scheduled for March 13 before my next scheduled trip. I received a 2nd opinion yesterday. He recommended the injections first before considering surgery, but advised they would not heal the herniation that would likely be bothersome in the future. He did review my MRI but not the radiology report of the stenosis, so was hesitant to recommend the laminectomy. Reading these comments has comforted me as I too have only seen the gloom and doom of unhappy patients. I am fairly young and in good physical health otherwise, so I expect a good result from the surgery. I suspect that my pain will not be eliminated by the 3rd injections and expect to follow through with surgery. I would be greatly interested to hear how “joea” is doing post op.

    Thanks again

  13. Thank you to all who have left comments and have received some measure of comfort from this post. I wish you successful surgeries and speedy recoveries. Stop by again when you can to let us know how you are doing post-operation!

  14. Thank-you all for the encouraging posts! I have a herniated L5 disc and the gel is compressing the nerve root. Have had numbness in my calf and foot for 7 weeks and am in severe pain most of the time. I had an injection 3 days ago and it only relieved the pain a little. I go back to the doctor next week, but am leaning toward a discectomy because I was told I could have permanent nerve damage if the compression goes on too long :(. I’ll keep you updated, but appreciate the positive responses because it is all very scary!

  15. I’m now two months (+ 6 days) past surgery. I’m feeling pretty good and I’m finally off all of the meds. Initially, the numbness and pain was gone, but I did have some reoccurring on day 5 and was fearful that I had somehow done too much – too soon. My doctor hadn’t told me that it was normal for this to happen afteranxiety due to nerve damage. It was nowhere as severe as the pain I experienced pre-surgery and has gradually lessened. I do still have some pain that I would rate around a 2 on a scale from 1-10.

    The first two weeks of recovery were hard for me mostly due to the fact that I had never had surgery and had no idea what to expect. I’ve also had a rough time weaning off of the meds. The gabapentin in particular has caused a lot of withdrawals that weren’t pleasant to deal with. Severe itchy, joint & muscle aches, anxiety and headaches to name a few. Again, I’m very happy to be done with them all!

  16. Hello all.

    Thanks for posting all of the success stories it is a blessing to find them. I am scheduled to have a microdiscectomy on May 2nd. I have had a herniation at L5-s1 for 9 weeks and have been dealing with sciatica pain in my right leg all the way down to the foot. Had one epidural injection with no effect what so ever. Chose to do the surgery to release the pressure on my nerve root and hopefully prevent permemant injury.

    I will keep everyone posted

  17. Thank you for a positive post! I had this procedure once in 2007 and unfortunately am having it again on May 9th for a different herniated disk. The first one was a success! While there is always risk in surgery I feel there is also risk in these repeated epidurals and excessive daily meds. I am in pain, exhausted and cant think clearly. I am looking forward to having my life back but am still anxious about this and really read SO many bad things that just added to it. This is refreshing and quite realistic. This procedure really does have a high success rate but it is great to hear it direct from an individual. Thanks again!

  18. Appreciate reading this blog-things can get better especially if we do our best to heal and stay healthy! Will try and come back if all goes well after my surgery 🙂 God Bless

  19. It was great reading this post. It is always better to hear about the incidents from a person who have experienced it. Regardless you are doctor or not, this post will help us to take valid actions immediately. 🙂

  20. Thanks for your post…..I am in day 5 of post surgery and am finding I am getting sorer today than I was day 2….did you experience that? Also how much were you walking at day 5?

  21. I am so happy I clicked on this! Surgery is on Tuesday and I am so excited to feel better! Thank you so much!!!!!

  22. I’m really wanting to know… Truly how long it takes to recover from foot drop. I’m 39 and healthy. My foot dropped on June 30th. I had an L4 L5 microdiscectomy on July 20th. I can only hope the original poster fell victim to the fact that people, once better stop posting. I will make sure to journal this for the web to see. It’s so scary having paralysis. All the docs say to be positive. I’m determined but cautiously optimistic. I wish I knew a recovery story. I’m a bit better post op. Still numb.. But I can wiggle my toes and hold on a shoe. I walk.. But my calves are on fire. But I’m not taking anything for pain. It’s more like a strange discomfort. Sucks to limp around.

  23. I’m 8 months post surgery (February) and feeling 90-95% better. I still have a bit of lingering pain, but it’s seldom. It took a good 6 months before I was feeling fully back to myself again. So if you are reading this, are a few months post microdiscectomy and are concerned that you aren’t improving quickly enough…stop worrying. Your body just needs time to right itself and heal. Things do get better!

  24. Thanks. For about a year, I have been dealing with pain and associated problems of three bulging discs and a pinched L5. To avoid surgery and get the pain manageable, I did three epidurals where they injected me in two places. I was taking Celibrex for anti-inflammation. The second and third epidurals made a huge difference in being able to drive to work, sleep, find comfortable positions. Still after the second epidural, my physiatrist was telling me that my MRI and our progress thus far made me a great candidate for microdisectomy. I was not ready for that decision so we did the third and I gave rehabbing it a shot. I did core strengthening rehab, swam and walked, and I really felt like I was making progress despite an occasional flare up. I was driving, sitting… all the things that you take for granted. About a month ago, I aggravated it during a trip. The pain started to intensify. I saw my physiatrist who set me an appointment with a neurosurgeon. I’ve been very nervous about this appointment, but this post and thread has helped. I would be curious with folks who have had the procedure, if you were athletically active before the injury…., after the surgery, are you able to still do some sports without continually worrying about pain?

  25. Thank you for posting this!!! After 2 years of significant sciatica pain and all non invasive treatments done, I am considering the surgery. I appreciate your story.

  26. Go to a chiropractor he’ll fix you up wutioht pills surgery. I have gone both ways, one time back surgery the other chiropractor I’ll tell you I would never have the surgery drugs again.

  27. You are very welcome. It is about one year now, and while I believe that having a great surgeon was a big part of it, I am doing excellent. Three months after the surgery, I started to run long distance again. Just a month ago, I ran the Golden Gate Relay (3 legs for 20 miles). I did all the PT, walking, and I listened to my doctors advice despite getting restless to resume activities. No pain, no drugs, playing sports, running, working… I try to keep good habits – I use a standup desk at work and still do Core training… Amazed and thankful.

  28. I’m considering getting a microdisectomy for a lumbar herniated disc so reading this thread was very refreshing. Thank you all for sharing your testimonial story.

  29. I think my surgeon is going to schedule me for one and I’m scared. Thanks for the positive comments!!!

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