L5/S1 microdiscectomy

I am going into hospital next week for a microdiscectomy. After nearly 18 months of pain, becoming severe over the last 5 months leading to me becoming housebound for the last 3 months, I am having surgery. I have had physio, acupuncture, epidural steroid injection and a nerve root injection as well as all of the usual pain and anti-convulsants/anti-depression medications for nerve pain and nothing has worked. I also took up Pilates and swimming until I became unable to leave the house. At the beginning I did not even consider surgery as I really thought my body would heal itself. I have had 2 MRI scans, one year apart, which show a herniated disc compressing the left S1 nerve root. I have very little back pain but severe buttock, leg and foot pain. In the end I decided to go private as the NHS waiting list is around 5 to 6 months. My pain management consultant was going to refer me to a neurosurgeon anyway as she had tried everything she could. At the moment I can only stand and walk for 2 minutes maximum before I have to lie down due to the pain. I am unable to sit so spend most of my day lying on my right side.

The consultant neurosurgeon I saw has given me a 70 to 80% chance of success. Due to the 2 injections I had providing no relief at all he is concerned that I may have permanent nerve damage. However, I am willing to take the chance. I would do anything to feel better. At the moment I have no life. I have been absent from work for 3 months and have only left the house for GP and hospital appointments.

I would like to ask anyone who has had this surgery what can I expect after the operation? How will I feel and how long will it be before the surgical pain goes? I know I will have back pain from the surgery but at least this will be helped by painkillers unlike nerve pain.

I should mention that I am 41 years old.

Last edited by

13 Replies

oldestnewest
  • Hi..first of all do you trust the back spec list.see I only met mine once..and told me I've bad scarel damage from my first op. and my scan showed my bottom discs moved forward and bits of disc came out sitiing on my s1 nerve..sciatica nerve...my choice to turn down one no child care..then two scared end up more pain has before..I've also bad arthritis..?? First been told that..after 8 year in pain..now went physio last week he told me one hips higher then other...and I've a s shape spine..he put my hip in place??? Can't walk this week.......I need help..be honest wish had it all over with now....my gp rang me today.. worried.. the spine doctors..basically...... haven't even told my gp what's wrong..my hips are killing..my feet feel like going to exloped... my joints are sore...in bed at moment... last time I was in bed this time of day had phymiona..... so real my sore....and you have a baby... its hard eh...

  • Hi Louise. I really do trust my consultant. I did a lot go research before choosing and he also came highly recommended by my GP. It sounds like you are having a really hard time. It must be awful going through everything you are with young children. I am lucky as my kids are grown up now so my son is now looking after me. I'm scared of the surgery too but more scared of being like this for life and it's no life. I have to take the chance as I can't stay like this forever. I am currently only taking paracetamol as every painkiller I have been given cause bad reactions. I'm climbing the walls with pain and I'm literally counting the sleeps till my operation. Only 5 to go. Louise I really wish you all the best and hope you get the help you need soon.

  • Hi ihavenolife.. believe me knew how you feel...my pain in my disc s1 nerve..did get better after 8 month...its hard because of the waiting list.before when I had my first operation the pain was nothing like my last ..nothing..didn't even feel back..joint pain..just that siatiaca pain..bum..leg..electric shocks..awfully..made me feel sick..I am pleased you have a lovely son who helps that's so nice.sand I was referred to spine care which was private and saw 4..5 different spine men!!! Had different things done..nerve blocks etc..this time had my scan..told no injection..or physio will help...so if read my other mails..went physio..been unable to walk all week go back tomorrow.. spoke to my gp today she said l must have it done!!!! Let me knew now get on..its hard because on top of everything else my teen daughter.. having big props with her..for months ref using to eat..been bad month with her....eat very little today xxxx

  • PS..keep me updated..thinking of you...I didn't get to choice were..was just sent somewhere?? X

  • Thanks Louise. I will let you know how I got on. Keep your fingers crossed for me on Tuesday afternoon x

  • Being highly recommended by the GP does not mean a lot. You have to request a lot of successes and failures with respect to the operations the surgeon has done. Not only this there is no guarantee that the surgeon you think is going to do it actually does it.

    Physio under the NHS is one size fits all. So failure of physio does not mean that there are no other pathways to try first.

    MCTimony chiropractic may help with micro muscle spasms which are pulling the disk onto the nerve roots. Alexander Technique teachers can teach you not to tighten into pain and so in the long run reduce the pain as well re-educate the proprioceptors.

    Hope this helps

  • Hi John. Thanks for your reply. I had already chosen this surgeon before speaking to my GP and by chance she mentioned his name so I felt I had made the right choice. He has a really good reputation in neurosurgery. Unlike the NHS as I am paying I am guaranteed that he will be the one carrying out the surgery. I will also see him before and after surgery and again at my 6 week post op appointment.

    I did originally have NHS physio but then when things got worse saw a private physio. She advised that because of the severity of my condition in her opinion no exercises would help and I should seek a surgical referral. This advice came from someone who could have made money from me.

    I know surgery isn't for everyone but there are times when all else has failed that this is the best option. After my surgery I am going to see an Alexander Technique instructor to help me with my posture and movement and also a one to one Pilates instructor (who is also a physiotherapist). After everything I have gone through I want to do the best I can for my long term back health. If only we were taught these things at school!

    Kind regards.

  • Hi, I had a micro discectomy in 2001 and like you I tried all those things and more for a couple of years without any relief from terrible pain. My surgeon gave me 70% chance of success. I've never had leg pain and I believe that the surgery is supposed to work best for cases with leg pain. Coming around from the surgery was wonderful not having any pain due to morphine! Felt very stiff, battered and like id been in a car crash once the drugs wore off but after a few days this subsided. It takes longer than you think to get over any surgery even if it has 'micro' in the title! The surgeon said the disc had been badly inflamed and had required excision and I really couldn't have gone on the way I was but I have nerve over-stimulation (noxious ) now permanently with chronic pain. I take anti-inflammatories to relieve pain and I function pretty well. I saw Sarah Key and she really was the key to me getting back on my feet but I would still have the surgery if I had to do it over! When a disc is really bad (leaking noxious substances) it's creating just as many problems as adhesions from scar tissue. Just wish I'd done it sooner for a better result! Have the surgery as long as you have confidence in the surgeon. Best wishes

  • Thanks Boozybird. I'm quite prepared ( I think) for after surgery. I had major pelvic surgery nearly 2 years ago which took about 6 months to recover from. I thought the pain then was bad but was nothing compared to the pain I'm in now. Did you get any relief from your pain at all after surgery? Like you I believe that the longer this is left the greater chance of long lasting damage so am keen to get this done as soon as possible. I had my pre-op assessment today and will have my surgery Tuesday afternoon. I am nervous but now believe that this is the only way I will recover. I have great confidence in my surgeon. I know that he does not operate unless he thinks there is a chance of success. He did offer to put me on his NHS list for surgery (12 week wait minimum) but I wanted it done quickly so am paying for private treatment. At my age I would rather get into debt than risk my long term health. Take care.

  • Good luck to you for Tuesday. Am sure you'll be fine... I had an MRI a few years ago which showed that my disc above the operated level had collapsed really so the pain continues... Once the disc has gone one is virtually guaranteed arthritic joints as the surfaces then rub together so i rumble along but look, the type of acute pain from a chronically inflamed disc is BAD and I believe needs surgery ASAP! Fingers crossed. Surgery does work sometimes! I had a toe operation last year and really happy with the result! :)

  • Please let us know how you get on. I know many people who have had a successful result. I wasn't so lucky, but I know you will be. Keep us posted

  • Hi all. I am now nearly two and a half weeks post surgery and am delighted to say that the operation was a complete success. When I came around after the surgery I was scared that I couldn't feel my legs. I then wiggled my toes and moved my legs. The reason I thought I had no feeling in my legs was because I had no pain. For the first time in 18 months I had no pain at all. What an amazing feeling! My surgeon came. To see me straight after the operation and again the next evening. He was very happy with how things went and said he knew straight away that the surgery would work. He admitted that he was surprised when he went in as the moderate disc herniation as shown on my scan was actually a large herniation which was totally squashing my nerve. He was able to clear a lot of space around the nerve so is confident that the problem shouldn't recur.

    I was in hospital for 2 nights. Two days after surgery I was walking around my room. I was able to have a proper shower for the first time in months. I had pain and stiffness in my back due to the surgery but this was nothing compared to my leg pain prior to surgery. After leaving hospital I took paracetamol for a few days and then stopped. I have been painkiller free for nearly 2 weeks.

    I have the occasional twinge in my leg but this is fleeting then goes away. My nerve was squashed for so long I know that it will take a long time to heal properly so have no worries. From not being able to sit or walk for 3 months to how I am now is amazing. My legs are weak but I am walking short distances several times a day to build up strength and sitting for 20 to 30 minutes a few times a day to get used to it again. I also have exercises from my physio to strengthen my core and mobilise my spine and I do these religiously. It's frustrating not being back to normal straight away but my body will take time to recover from being immobile for so long. I feel a difference every day in my ease of movement and level of fitness.

    I know surgery is not for everyone but in my case I believe this was the only way I would get better. My disc was too far gone to recover on it's own and the surgery cured the problem immediately and also avoided permanent nerve damage. I have absolutely no regrets and believe that if I hadn't had the surgery I would be unable to stand by now. This surgery saved my life!

  • Hi.ihavenolife.. just been able to get back on site after 3 week..pleased your doing good..wish I had gone ahead with mine now..has my right bum..leg pains been hard..great..has well has upper back..been bad...you have to take a chance in life..and gab and try or what?? Still be in bed..pleased your good.xx

You may also like...