Microdiscectomy: Spine Surgery for a Herniated Disc

Microdiscectomy incision and sutures

Incision slightly to the left of the spine, about 48 hours after microdiscectomy surgery.
Incision slightly to the left of the spine, about 48 hours after microdiscectomy surgery. | Source

Discectomy for herniated disc with associated leg pain has high success rate

While surgery for many conditions should be a last resort, for people suffering from a pinched or compressed nerve from a herniated disc that results in leg pain and numbness, a discectomy, or microdiscectomy, is often the solution that finally brings long term relief.

More conservative options should of course be attempted first since spine surgery for a herniated disc, like all surgeries, has risks associated with it. But when non-surgical options fail, a discectomy brings relief to more than 90% of patients with associated leg pain (sciatica) caused by pressure on a nerve from the herniated disc.

Recently, my son had a microdiscectomy to relieve the pain and numbness in his left leg and left foot caused by a herniated disc. While it is way too soon to tell how he will fare in the long term, at the moment the results look very promising.

Non-surgical treatment options for herniated disc

  • Time to heal: Luckily for many people who have a mild herniated a disc, time and easing up on physical activities is the only needed remedy to heal. Recovery may take 4 weeks or longer.
  • Physical therapy may be used to strengthen the back or to relieve pressure that the unhealed herniated disc is placing on surrounding nerves.
  • Pain killers are sometimes given to patients as a way of relieving the pain caused by compressed nerves from a herniated disc, however they may only provide short term pain relief, if any at all. Read, Herniated Disc Pain Relief, for a candid story about one herniated disc sufferer's experience with pain killers.
  • Cortisone injections may only offer short term relief, but for some people the cortisone/steroid is enough to reduce swelling and inflammation to allow the disc to heal and to relieve pressure on any nerves.

My son's herniated disc

Please note, I am not a doctor or medical professional, just a mother telling of her son's experience with a herniated disc and treatment.

Possible cause of herniated disc

It was the last weekend of summer before heading off to college and my son and his friends were getting together for a fun weekend of jet skiing at the lake. After returning from their weekend's adventure my son told me how his back was killing him after slamming down on a wave while riding on a tube attached to a jet ski.

I didn't think much of his back pain at the time, especially since we were in the midst of packing and moving him into his dormitory away at college. In fact, I actually forgot that he hurt his back, thinking at the time that it would feel better in a few days.

Back pain gets worse and now has leg pain too

By mid October my son called me and told me that he was having horrible back and leg pain. I knew he had brought his skateboard to college with him and figured his back was sore from all the hard jumping and landing involved in the sport, forgetting about the jet ski incident. Additionally, he was regularly doing a lot of weightlifting, which I also thought could be the cause of his pain.

He went to the doctor at the college's health center (luckily we had student health insurance for college, as well as our own employee health insurance) and the doctor prescribed him prescription-strength Tylenol and muscle relaxers. He was advised to see another doctor if the pain did not go away.

Back pain lessens but leg pain worsens

Needless to say, for anyone that has had a herniated disc with compression on a nerve, the Tylenol and muscle relaxers only helped mildly at best, and probably only because they helped him sleep. We figured when he returned home for Thanksgiving break that we would bring him to the orthopedic doctor. The doctor we had in mind is a very well regarded physician and we knew he would offer us an accurate diagnosis.

By the time my son came home for the Thanksgiving holiday break, he really was not complaining about his back anymore, but he did have an upper respiratory illness. With five family members from out-of-town visiting us for the holiday and the fact that my son was otherwise sick with a virus, as well as his sister too, we never got him to the orthopedic doctor as we had intended.

Leg pain becomes unbearable

During the three weeks he was back at college between Thanksgiving break and winter break he called me multiple times telling me how bad his leg was, how he could hardly walk on some days. The extreme pain he was in was very evident in his voice. Helpless to do much, and very concerned about his final exams and grades, I wasn't sure what to do.

MRI reveals herniated disc

After coming home for winter break, he finally had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. After getting the MRI results we had a diagnosis; it was confirmed that he had a herniated disc (L4/L5). Unfortunately, since the doctor was on vacation by the time we got the MRI completed, we did not get the results until a couple of days after my son returned to college.

Apparently, with some herniated discs the back pain subsides on its own, but it is the leg and foot pain, as well as tingling and numbness in those extremities, that cause all the misery. Material from the herniated disc itself can put pressure on surrounding nerve roots or the spinal canal, leading to extreme pain and discomfort. The nerve in question, near the L4/L5 disc in my son's case, affects the leg and foot.

MRI of L4-L5 Herniated Disc

This is an MRI of my son's L4-L5 herniated disc (I believe).
This is an MRI of my son's L4-L5 herniated disc (I believe). | Source

Herniated disc treatment options

We were uncertain of which treatment option to select for my son's herniated disc, especially since he was away at college with hopes to complete the semester. Since it was around four months since the sciatica began due to nerve root impingement, he stood the best chance for a good long term outcome if something was done sooner than later.

Since my son was well beyond the window of time where healing may have occurred on its own, the only two options left were:

  • Cortisone injections
  • Microdiscectomy surgery (discectomy)

At first we decided that the best course of action was to attempt an x-ray guided cortisone injection. In fact, we set the wheels in motion to schedule a time for him to return home for this procedure and even got it scheduled at the surgical center. In the meantime, however, his leg and foot pain were worsening to the point where he could no longer get out of bed many days.

Elects to have microdiscectomy (discectomy) surgery

After speaking to the doctor again, the decision was made to forgo the cortisone injection, and instead opt for the microdiscectomy surgery. It turns out cortisone injections may only provide short term relief, it could be weeks, it could be a year, but many times it is not a permanent solution.

In fact, the doctor explained that some insurance companies are beginning to not cover these injections due to their failure rate. The microdiscectomy surgery, on the other hand, while more invasive and risky than an injection, has a very high success rate for herniated disc patients with accompanying leg pain.

In the article, Nerve Pain: My Experience, Holle Abee (habee) describes her pain from pinched nerves and how her pain relief from a cortisone injection to her back only lasted three weeks.

Microdiscectomy (discectomy) surgery scheduled, hopes are high

Finally, the microdiscectomy is scheduled and when I pick my son up from college to head back home for surgery, any slight reservations I have about surgery are alleviated when I see him. Clearly, he is suffering, and is walking with quite a limp. It's painfully obvious that the microdiscectomy surgery for his herniated disc is his only option.

The morning of surgery arrives and my son is not nervous at all, in fact he is quite excited at the prospect of ending all the misery caused by his herniated disc and pinched nerve.

I too am hopeful for an immediate positive outcome, especially after reading the article, Herniated Disc Treatment Options, in which the author, Jason Menayan (livelonger), describes how he lived with grueling pain from a herniated disc that was only relieved by a discectomy. Menayan lives nearly two-thousand miles away and while I do not know him personally, he has given me tremendous hope that my son can not only live a life without this particular back and leg pain, but can lead a full and active life in the future.

Now at the hospital, the surgeon comes in to speak to us prior to performing the microdiscectomy. You've got to love surgeons - in a very matter-of-fact manner he explains how he will make the incision, remove some bone (laminectomy) to expose the nerve, and then remove the herniated disc material that is pressing on the nerve root. "Really, quite simple," he states, going on to say that the microdiscectomy will take forty-five minutes to an hour. I had zero doubt that my son was in very capable surgical hands.

Herniated disc material removed during microdiscectomy

This is a photograph of the herniated disc material removed during my son's microdiscectomy. I am assuming the 1 and 2 markings represent an inch.
This is a photograph of the herniated disc material removed during my son's microdiscectomy. I am assuming the 1 and 2 markings represent an inch. | Source

After the microdiscectomy

Within a couple of hours after the surgery my son was thrilled -- thrilled that he could already tell that a lot of his leg pain was simply gone. He still had pain in his calf, as if he had done one-hundred leg lifts, he described, but for the most part he finally felt relief from months of pain.

About 48 hours post surgery he was becoming very uncomfortable again, and the prescribed painkillers did not seem to be helping. Thinking that he may be having some post-surgical inflammation (to be expected) I wondered if the inflammation itself could be pressing on the nerve root again. Instead of giving him the prescribed painkiller with Tylenol, we decided to give him Advil since it has anti-inflammatory properties. This seemed to do the trick and the next day he decided that he could return to college.

Nothing about helping your child away at college when they do not feel well is easy. Unfortunately a day after returning to school he was miserable, this time with a fever of 102 degrees and barely able to walk again. To say my bubble burst is to put it mildly.

I personally had cleaned around his surgical wound a day earlier and doubted there was any skin infection. But to be on the safe side I strongly encouraged him to go to the doctor at college so the doctor could examine my son's incision and sutures. Thankfully, no signs of infection were present. Meanwhile, back at home, the surgeon's nurse explained to me that patients can run a fever for three to five days after surgery. Apparently, inflammation from surgery can produce a febrile condition.

Eight days post microdiscectomy

Luckily, the fever only lasted a couple of days and as the fever lessened so too did the leg pain. Eight days after surgery my son told me that he had not had fever for a couple of days and he estimated that his leg was 80% better.

Nerves take time to heal, that is why full recovery from a discectomy or microdiscectomy can take many months. With his latest health report I am hopeful that the sciatica caused by the herniated disc impinging a nerve will be fully gone.

This much I know, my son really had no choice but to have the microdiscectomy surgery, and with an over 90% success rate since he also had sciatica, the outlook was positive. Unfortunately, for people with herniated discs that have back pain but do NOT have leg pain, a discectomy or microdiscectomy is not usually helpful.

Discectomy vs Microdiscectomy

WebMD defines a discectomy as,

a surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.

WebMD explains that a microdiscectomy differs from a discectomy in that a special microscope is used to view the disc and nerves. The larger view provided by the microscope does not necessitate as large of an incision as is needed for a discectomy, thereby resulting in less damage to the surrounding tissue.

During either procedure (discectomy or microdiscectomy) the surgeon may need to perform a laminectomy (aka laminotomy), which is the removal of a small piece of bone called the lamina in order to expose the nerve. Additionally, both forms of the surgery are performed under general anesthesia.

As the name sounds, the microdiscectomy is less invasive, and this is the procedure that my son underwent to remove the disc material that had become so bothersome. From the photograph of my son above you can see that the microdiscectomy incision is about 2" long.

Microdiscectomy Recovery Time

I guess in our son's case we will never know the exact cause of his herniated disc, whether or not he did in fact injure it jet skiing. If he did injure it that day, I doubt that it could have ever healed on its own as he pursued other athletic interests such as skate boarding and weight lifting. "No pain, no gain" is a real fallacy.

Whatever the cause, the microdiscectomy procedure is complete and he seems well on his way to recovery. For the first few weeks following a microdiscectomy it is important to not bend or lift items over ten pounds. However, it is also important to not lay around and to be sure and walk. In time scar tissue will "fill in" his herniated disc and movement will ensure that the scar tissue itself does not cause future issues.

Microdiscectomy Scar

Microdiscectomy scar four months after surgery
Microdiscectomy scar four months after surgery | Source

Update: 4 Months Post Surgery

The first few weeks after surgery I was a bit concerned. My son developed a fever and the pain that seemed to be gone immediately after surgery came back. It turns out that this return of pain and leg numbness was due to post-surgical inflammation.

Of course, microdiscectomy recovery time will vary by patient, but in my son's case, the pain seemed to come and go for the first couple of months, with it being almost gone by the three month mark.

It's now been four months since his microdiscectomy surgery and I'm happy to report that he is virtually pain-free. He says that after he's been very active and on his feet all day that he feels a little leg soreness but it is nothing he can't live with or tolerate. For him, the microdiscectomy for his herniated disc was a definite success!

Poll for people with a herniated disc who have had a microdiscectomy or discectomy:

1. How would you describe the outcome of your discectomy or microdiscectomy surgery?

  • All pain is gone
  • Most of the pain is gone (every now and then feel a little twinge of pain)
  • Some days are good, some days are bad
  • I still have a lot of leg and back pain
See results without voting

2. Based on the outcome of your surgery and what you know now, would you still have elected to have a discectomy or microdiscectomy?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting

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Comments 96 comments

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

My husband had discectomy about 20 years ago. He had a herniated disc that was causing back pain as well as his leg would go numb to the point he would almost fall. He was only 32 years old. The surgery was very easy as far as surgeries go and came home the next day. Of course he had to take it easy for several weeks, but re-couperated quickly. I won't say his back was as good as new, but the difference was wonderful! I would say that if it lasted for 20 years, he would definitely do it again if necessary. Thank you for such detailed information. Voted this up and useful! :)

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you sgbrown. That is wonderful news about your husband's discectomy surgery, especially seeing that it was 20 years ago. It sounds like your husband had no choice but to have a discectomy. I'm glad the surgery is a little less invasive now - the microdiscectomy, that is. I think recovery may be a little easier since I'm pretty sure they don't have to cut through muscle, or at least not as much. Thanks for sharing your husband's experience with his herniated disc and surgery. It certainly makes me hopeful that my son will have a good outcome too.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

ktrapp: THANK YOU for this great writeup and for the links to my Hubs on this topic. Reading your son's story took me back to my own experience, which was very similar (although my herniation was at L5/S1). I too was elated on the day of surgery at the prospect of having that pain behind me.

I hope your son's recovery continues. I know it takes a while before you heal enough to handle normal activities, including lifting things, bending over, etc. although the relief from sciatica was pretty much immediate for me. Maybe your son had some temporary nerve damage which will heal gradually. But you're right that by the time insurance authorizes a (micro)discectomy, there's pretty much no other option left.

Thank you for publishing this great resource. If there's any silver lining at all to the ordeal your son and you were put through, this would be it!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

livelonger - Thank you for your kind words. I do hope to be able to update this hub from time-to-time with further good results from my son's microdiscectomy. It does seem as if there may be a little nerve damage since his leg is not completely back to normal. Since nerves are slow to heal and since the surgery was less than two weeks ago, I am optimistic that he will recover fully in time. At least it is no longer debilitating!

I do keep cautioning him to not lift things and bend over. Actually he's probably tired of me texting him that. But I know he has no desire to repeat this experience with a herniated disc, sciatica, and surgery, and so will be careful to not injure himself.

Thanks again!

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

I provided a link to this Hub from mine about treatment options; it's a great recount of your son's experience. And while it's slow to do so, damaged nerves do heal. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you. I am glad you think highly enough of this hub to include a link to it on yours about herniated disc treatment options. I appreciate it along with the well wishes.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I have lived with back pain all my life and it is at times disabling. I had the steriod injections and it took 3 before relief came. But they helped me very much.

I now have a herniated disc in the same location as your son and take a steroid pack for the pain along with a prescribed painkiller and physical therapy.

At my age I'm going to try to stick it out. Great detail on your hub. I do hope your son is pain free and doing great. Voted up and thanks.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

vocalcoach - I'm glad to know you eventually got relief from the steroid injections. We were actually in a tough predicament with our son. He is about four hours away from home at college (and four hours away from doctors that our insurance covers) and was missing a lot of classes and having a hard time studying.

We were concerned that if the cortisone injection failed or failed within a short period of time then he would miss even more school and may even have to drop out for the semester. Additionally, I've read that the sooner the microdiscectomy surgery can take place to the onset of leg pain, the better the chances are for full nerve recovery. Based on his level of pain I'm guessing that one steroid injection would not have worked for him.

If you don't get any relief from your current regimen, I would consider the surgery if I were you. The surgery itself is about an hour long and of course you would want to find a top-notch surgeon. You're too young to stick it out! Best wishes to you.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Thanks much for this look at your son's discectomy. My experience with steroids harming my eyes keeps me from encouraging anyone to use them. It is good to hear more about options provided by technology!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

I had no idea that steroids could harm your eyes. I am curious to know what steroid that was and I do hope you have recovered. In the case of a herniated disc it is cortisone that they inject if that option is attempted. In our case I'm glad my son just went ahead and had the microdiscectomy. When I look at the photo of the herniated disc material that they removed during surgery, I don't see how a cortisone injection could have helped. But then again, I'm not a doctor. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with steroids.

Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

I feel for you in having gone through this and I am so glad it has turned out well in the end. I have always wanted to take my kids water skiing and using an inner tube but my husband has always warned me that it could cause an injury, I didn't believe him. You have done a great job of explaining this from all angles. Well done!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Tracy. It's been a difficult couple of months culminating in the microdiscectomy, and I'm still hoping it all turns out well in the end. My son is still complaining of leg pain, but we have to wait patiently to see if the nerve heals all the way. I know this much, and I know you can relate as a mom of four, if I could have taken all of the pain and suffering on his behalf I would have in an instant.

Knowing what I know now, I have to agree with your husband about tubing. I think my son was sitting on the tube or on his knees, and I guess if you hit water at a fast enough speed it probably is the equivalent of hitting a solid object. All sports and recreation have their risks but this one I think I would avoid.

Inventurist profile image

Inventurist 4 years ago from Georgia, USA

ktrapp, Very good job of recounting the process and keeping the information flowing. Options keep coming with spine surgery and improvements include stem cell treatments now. A company known as Osiris has created a new product from what we used to throw away, the placenta, calling it Ovation. Mixed with either dissected bone from the patient (autograph) or allograft putty (cadaver product) and placed in the void where the disk was, the healing begins quite quickly. There is no rejection issues and fusion is all a part of the patient in a very short order. It can even be directly injected into elbows, sore feet, knees for healing of tendons. Used with new stand alone spinal implants such as those from Wenzel Spine, the incision is very small but the patient can literally leave a surgery center and walk to their car after single level repairs. All very exciting and applicable to cases similar to your son. Good luck!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Inventurist - This is really interesting information. I just read further about Osiris Therapeutics and Wenzel Spine and they both seem to have some very promising treatments. I am so amazed at what the human mind can come up with.

I actually just got off the phone with my son and he said for quite a few hours today he didn't notice any pain for the first time. I am hopeful his microdiscectomy is going to be successful. I've been a little concerned because until today he still has complained of pain. But I have to keep telling myself that nerves take time to heal and he is now only 3 weeks past the surgery. Thanks for your contribution regarding some amazing treatments for spine and other issues.

Patient 4 years ago

I'm 32yrs old and am 3 weeks post microdiscectomy on the L4/L5 and am still getting leg pains. I'm hoping it will continue improving, but even as is, it's still better than before surgery. I wish your son good luck in recovering.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Patient - When I first wrote of my son's microdiscectomy about 8 days after the surgery he told me the leg pain was about 80% better, as I wrote in this article. But when I've asked him since I don't think he feels as well. I'm starting to notice that his recovery almost seems to go up and down which I do not understand. But he did tell me the other day that he had a few hours where he didn't notice any pain at all. To me that seems like a really good sign.

I did read somewhere that most healing occurs in the first 3 months but there still can be healing for up to 2 years. Like you, my son's microdiscestomy was L4/L5 and he also had surgery 3 weeks ago. I think some people are lucky and get complete relief of leg pain immediately, others like you and my son, need a few months for the nerve to settle down. Best wishes in your recovery and I would love to hear an update in time on how you are doing.

VARUN 4 years ago

Hi all,

Its so nice to see a post which is talking positively about the microdiscectomy procedure. I am 28 and have a herinated disc at L4-5. My condition was really worse a week back and the MRI Shows disc herination at L4-5 and compression of thecal sac and exiting Nerve. I was not able to come out of Bed as well. Then i show it to two doctors in India and both of them suggested me to take absolute bed rest for 14 days as the MRI is not indicating any requirement of surgery and i should wait for the same. I am writing this while lying on the bed ,and will taking ret for another week. Though the pain has subsided a bit but when i am standing for 5 mins or even when i am sitting it again starts paining but not at that level . I am also taking Lyrica and voveron . Hope that i should recover early and go back to my work .

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Varun - I am not sure when you herniated your disc, but if you did so recently there is a chance for recovery on its own. Usually doctors give it around six weeks or so to see if the pain subsides on its own. Unfortunately my son's leg pain not only did not improve, it got worse. The microdiscectomy so far has worked well. He is home on spring break from college this week and no longer is walking with a limp and reports now that his leg pain is 90% improved.

Varun 4 years ago

Hi Kitrapp,

I have started with a disc problem in jan 2009. At that time i had severe pain in my back and i was not able to stand also. I shown it to a doctor nad he told that it is a muscle spasm and i will be fine in a few days. He also prescribed me muscle relaxants and painkillers. After a few days ,I become fine but there was always some numbness in my left leg . Now on 30th Dec 2011 ,i again had a very bad back pain which forced me to stay on bed for a week. On 25th feb i came back to my home after a long travel in a bus and was having severe pain in my back which was going till my ankle. Waited 3-4 days but the situation didn't improved .So i got the MRI done. On bed rest for another week. Will see whether to go for surgery or not

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Varun - I'm so sorry that you have had back and/or leg pain for as long as you describe. Hopefully the MRI you had done recently will pinpoint the cause of your most recent severe back and leg pain. I'm not a doctor, but if you are having so much leg pain then it seems as if something in your back may be pressing on a nerve which is resulting in leg pain. Hopefully that can be relieved. It sounds like you will have some answers soon and then hopefully some sort of treatment - perhaps surgery. Best wishes.

Inventurist profile image

Inventurist 4 years ago from Georgia, USA

Learn about the terms your doctors use and what they mean. Ask questions of your doctors and nurses. Do not be afraid of getting a second opinion. I explained to a friend of mine that when his doctor told him he (the doctor) could not do that surgery - it meant THAT doctor couldn't do the surgery, not that the surgery couldn't be done. He finally had the surgery and was much improved.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Inventurist - That is terrific advice. I think as patients we have to not be intimidated by doctors, as I think some people are. As a matter of fact, the last time I went to the doctor with my daughter (for her back also) I sat there with a notebook and pen and jotted down terms the doctor was saying. I think he may have even tried to explain things more clearly when he saw that I was truly trying to understand.

Jonathan 4 years ago

I'm about to have a microdiscectomy at L3-L4 this coming Wednesday and I'm 23. This is my second herniated disc (first one when I was 17 (different disc - one below) which healed over a long period of time (1-2 years) with meds and physical therapy and losing weight. This one isn't getting better after just about every treatment/therapy you can try before surgery, so I am electing to do surgery.

Main things I have learned:

-Nerve Pain?? Ask for GABAPENTIN it is an amazing nerve pain medicine that I didn't have the first time.

-Epidural injections: When the medicine is injected it fills up that already tight space between disc and nerves which for me caused unbearable pain and they had to stop the injection. (Didn't help either time I had herniated disc, made worse.)

bjcatz25 profile image

bjcatz25 4 years ago from Michigan

I am now 4 weeks post-op from having hemi semi laminotomy/discectomy. I feel better than I have in a long time and for me the surgery was necessary as my nerve was almost completely compressed. During surgery they discovered part of the herniated disc had broken off... this would not have resolved on its own. I had the injections prior but for me they did not work as I was already behind the eight ball thanks to the hoops my insurance had me jumping thru as well as the ER doctors who refused to take an MRI. Three weeks after my first ER visit I was in the pain clinic for the ESI's and that doctor demanded an MRI...thank goodness! Mind you the same disc L5/S1 caused me issues on my RIGHT side two years ago that had resolved itself. This time when I went to the ER the pain was on my LEFT side and it had traveled down to my foot as I walked hunched over like a monkey for months. I walked into the ER in tears hunched over and walked out in tears hunched over. I had a wonderful surgeon and am glad I did the surgery. For me it has been a god-send, just ask my husband :) Still trying not to do too much. I believe I will be going back to work here shortly. Good luck to all who have had surgery or are considering surgery. What I did find thru all of my research is that back problems are not reserved for the "older" folk and back problems can plague any of us at anytime. For me two years ago it was lifting a bag of dog food wrong this time who knows what I did...I wish I knew so I could make sure not to do it again.

Jonathan 4 years ago

I found this post helpful while searching for information on experiences. I started a blog to provide more details on what happens day of surgery to know what to expect and my recovery. I just had surgery today and want my experience to also be useful to others! Thanks for sharing your story. Here is my MicroDiscectomy Story: This isn't to promote but to share another story. I'm 23!

bjcatz25 profile image

bjcatz25 4 years ago from Michigan

Jonathan thanks for your blog! I am 7 weeks post-op and am head back to work next week. I am feeling pretty well but do get tired easier. Am on no pain meds. yay! I did not get prescribed PT or exercises except walk walk walk. What exercises to they have you doing? My surgery was L5/S1. No yoga for me for awhile yet and no bending lifting or twisting. My neurosurgeon said be careful because the same disc can herniate again. Hope you are still on the road to healing well take care. Thanks for sharing!

Patient 4 years ago

I'm glad to hear your son is much better. So am I! I just started physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and prevent re-injury but am very happy to say that after a bumpy recovery that the pain is almost completely gone :) My lower back is still tired off and on and needs to be rested but I can take care of my 9 month old without extra help now and can go for walks and to the gym again. I hope your son finishes recovering and then never has to experience it again!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Jonathan - Two herniated discs? Ouch! You're lucky that the first one was able to heal without surgery and I hope all went well with the microdiscectomy for the second one. I will check out your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience and taking the time comment.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Bjcatz25 - You are correct - back problems are not reserved for "older folk." We also had some insurance hoops to jump through which took weeks of time of which my son was in horrible pain and somehow trying to cope with getting to his college classes by foot. I'm glad to know your discectomy surgery went well!

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Patient - I'm so glad to hear that your back pain is almost completely gone. Dealing with the pain of a herniated disc and the recovery from a microdiscectomy must have been even more challenging with a baby. Thankfully you are recovering well as it seems my son is, as well.

christin53 profile image

christin53 4 years ago from UK

Excellent hub it is always important to see a doctor straight away if you have any numbness and tingling in your leg with back pain. My mum was almost left paralysed because she left is so late and had to have emergency surgery.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

christen53 - The best outcome with herniated disc surgery that is causing numbness usually occurs when it is performed sooner than later. The idea is to get the compression off of the nerve as soon as possible, I think. Nerves are very slow to heal and I am sure there is a point where they just don't respond well if tons and tons of time has passed. Hope your mum is doing better these days. Thanks for your comment.

janet8476 4 years ago

I had a herniated disk L5 S1, it got so bad one night I woke up after the cats had jumped on my bed startling back went in to spasms and I could hardly walk, my husband drove me to the hospital which was 2 hours away. I was throwing up, the pain hurt so bad. They knocked me out with pain killers. I ended up having a diskectomy in Nov 2011. Right away it relieved my pain, but 4 days later I had an infection in my incision sight, so I ended up staying in the hospital for 10 days to treat it, anyway , it has been about 7 months and just recently my back has been hurting quite terribly. I have started to get those pains in my calf, ankle, and but again. The numbness has never gone away, and I can live with that, but not the pain. Hard to bend over. The piece of disk they took out of my back was very large the doctor said, so I don't know if there is more coming out or if it is another disk going on me. I really don't want to go back to the doc again and have more surgery. Anyone have any answers they can provide me? Has this happened to anyone else? Any info would be greatly appreciated....thanks Janet8476

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Janet - Keep in mind, I'm not a doctor (just a mom with a kid who went through this ordeal) but I am curious, did the pain ever go away during the 7 months since your surgery? I know my son had pain probably on and off for a couple months after surgery, and now (4 months out) he really doesn't have pain.

I am wondering if your pain is related to the original herniated disc or perhaps is there another one. Also, after a microdiscectomy, scar tissue can form which can cause issues as well. This is why it is important to do exercises as part of recovery. Either way it sounds like you need to get an MRI so a doctor can perhaps see what is causing your pain. Since it sounds like your first surgery was an emergency type of situation, you may want to find a highly-recommended doctor, as well.

I hope you're able to get help and relief soon.

LLyons 4 years ago from California

Hi, I so hope your son is doing better. I had to look up micodisectomy to see exactly what it was. They removed only the portion of disc that presses against the nerve root and a portion of the nerve root itself? What does the MRI look like now? I have a 21 yr old son who plays soccer in college. He sustained pars fractures L5-S1 in jr high, agin from soccer and being a nurse and very weary of back surgery we managed his pain thru chiropractor, massage therapy, yoga, Pilates, anti-inflammatories, the facet injections you've described. The pain kept worsening and last year he decided to have surgery, one that we have repeated discussed with his orthopedist. He opted for a fusion S1-L5 and we wanted a disc replacement L5-L4 since this area is unstable, and an abdominal approach since we were worried about damaging nerves and muscle from the back. Our Anthem Blue Cross were horrible to deal with (another story) but after 3 mo of daily conversations we did get the fusion approved.

My son was better immediately, out of the hospital 3 days, in the gym (very modified) in 3 weeks. Believe it or not the bill for this was 105,000.00 plus 27,000.00 for anesthesia and post-op pain relief. He will red shirt for this years soccer season and play in fall of 2013. It is so tough when your a parent and you have to make a decision for your child an adult one but still your child. Good Luck. If you have to go back for any reason, I suggest you pick an ortho who works with college athletes and professional athletes at least for a second opinion, or in other words we need to shop for our medical care these days the same way we shop for a house or car.

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

LLyons - I definitely can empathize with the tough health decisions you and your son had to wrestle with. Adding to the fact that his college athletic career was on the line must have made it that much more difficult. Like you said it is difficult to make the decision for your adult child. My son was in such pain that the decision was that much easier. He was really suffering and it was taking a toll on his schoolwork too.

I cannot even imagine the battles you faced with your insurance company. I was so annoyed with ours when we were at first trying to arrange for him to have the cortisone injections. It's a long story too - but then again, aren't all insurance stories long?

All turned out well for my son; it's been four months now and I put an update at the bottom of the article in case you missed it. He has not had another MRI, no need really since he is doing great, but if you look at his MRI and the piece of herniated disc that was removed we really didn't have a choice but to do the surgery. Sometimes resorption of the disc material occurs, but I've also read that chances are better for a long term result with a microdiscectomy if it's done by six months since the point of injury.

I'm glad to hear that your son's surgery was a success. It's sounds far more invasive and costly than a microdiscectomy. I hope his fall 2013 soccer season is a great success. Thanks for stopping by and for all the great advice too.

Jonathan 4 years ago

@ktrapp - I'm back! My surgery went great! I still get a little discomfort down my leg here and there, but it isn't painful and doctor said it could take a year for nerve to heal which is why I feel it sometimes. Can your son relate to that? Would love to know if others still have a little nerve discomfort a few months out here and there. :) I blogged as I said I would until I returned to work on and posted my pics to compare, etc. Thank you so much for your post here! Glad you took the time to document your son's experience, gave me more of a boost going into surgery :)

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Jonathan - Thanks so much for sharing your update on your surgery. It's really nice to know that the story of my son's whole herniated disc and microdiscectomy experience gave you a boost going into surgery. I recently added a four-month post surgery update to the bottom of the article. But to sum it up, he's doing great and hasn't complained of pain once since he's been home for summer break. I think it took 3 months to get to that point. I took a look at your blog. I cannot believe how much herniated disc material you had removed. My son's looks so minimal in comparison, but it certainly was enough to cause significant pain and numbness. I'm glad you're doing great and I know it's great for others facing this surgery to hear of positive outcomes. It certainly seems like the majority of people who answered the second poll question above do not regret their decision to have a microdiscectomy. I hope your healing continues to go well as the nerve settles down and heals. I remember saying to my son on the ride home from the hospital that now he knows firsthand what the saying, you're getting on my nerves" means for real. Best wishes Jonathan and keep all of us updated on your progress.

Thuji 4 years ago

I am a 48 yr old man who has undergone a microdiscectomy at l4/l5 about 6 weeks ago. The first week after surgery was a great relief after suffering from right leg pain for more than 5 months. I have decided to undergo microdiscectomy after so much of online researches and well, of course running out of options. But about 2 weeks ago, a burning sensation on my under thigh and calf returned though not as painful as before surgery but nonetheless painful and depressing. I cannot walk straight for more than 5 minutes but I can still do the hamstring stretch without any pain. I am fearing that the microdiscectomy was unsuccessful and really, the mere thought is depressing me. It would really be helpful if anybody could tell me if this is normal to feel pain at this point or pain in the leg mean that I might have re-herniated my disc? I have talked to my local doctor but he insists that I wait till the 3 months mark but I have to get back to work very soon. I do back strengthening and stretching exercises as advised by the PT but would really want to know about the still persisting leg pain.

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thuji - I just had my son read your comment. He said that what you are experiencing is a lot how he felt. The week after surgery he developed a fever and pain resumed. After a couple weeks I remember him calling me and telling me that the pain in his leg was back. Like you, he also was getting depressed. He said the pain was not as bad as before surgery but still was pretty bad. But by about two months post-microdiscectomy he probably had far more good days than bad and probably by three months really did not have any pain to speak of left. If you do any reading about nerves, you know that nerves are slow to heal. That is probably why your doctor is advising you to wait and see how things are at three months post-surgery. I think you are just going to have to give it some time, but remember I am not a medical professional and my reply to you is based off of my son's similar experience as yours. Best wishes for a full recovery. I would love to hear back from you in time to see how you recovered as I am sure the many other readers of this would be too. You know how it is when you're desperate to find information - often reading about the experiences of other patients is very helpful.

Thuji 4 years ago

Thank you ktrapp. It is quite encouraging to hear about your son's condition. I have started taking some analgesic medication which helps a lot, but I am not sure whether it may have any long term effect.

I will definitely report any progress with my condition.

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thuji - When my son started having pain not long after surgery he did take some ibuprofen (Advil). We figured since Advil is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) it might help more than Tylenol (acetaminophen) which is not anti-inflammatory - thinking that maybe he had some surgical inflammation that was triggering the pain. It did seem to help a little, but you don't want to take too much of these types of these drugs or for too long because they can cause their own problems. But, then again, the pain may have more to do with the nerve(s) that were compressed, beginning to slowly heal. Take care and I look forward to hearing about your progress.

Thuji 4 years ago

ktrapp - I wish I could say that I am have no pain today but my leg pain is still there. Day before yesterday, I was feeling pretty good as I was able walk around and there was not much of pain except for litlle discomfort but since yesterday I was in bit of pain down my right leg. I have stopped taking painkillers now and I have resumed work since yesterday and want to have a normal life (pain free) but I guess not for a while, hopefully. I was excercising regularly but sometimes I feel that may be it is causing the pain. I do hamstring stretching and some other back strengthening excercises but would really love it hear whether it helps or any other excerscises that has helped your son. I am very happy to hear about your son's recovery and hoping that one day I will be able to share similar story. Nice day to you.

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi again Thuji. To be honest with you, my son did not do any strengthening exercises after surgery. He was away at college when the pain and discomfort became unbearable, came home for surgery, and had more issues following surgery while back at college. I think it was all he could do to get out of bed and get to class, so he didn't do any exercises. But he is back to being fully active. He's home for the summer and is back to hitting his punching bag, push-ups, and some weights. I hope in a few months time you are able to be pain free too. I know the waiting is frustrating, especially when you really don't know what the outcome will necessarily be, but I am hopeful for you.

LLyons 4 years ago from California

Glad your son is doing so well. Does he have any permanent limitations i.e.. no snow boarding, no running distances etc.? my son is 2 mo post L5-S1 fusion and my biggest problem is keeping him semi-inactive. I think we may have waited longer than necessary to have the surgery because of my own personal fear of fusion. My son is soooo happy to be pain free. We have a genetic acute curvature in our low backs, so after 20 years of nursing I also have a lot of pain. The steroid injection does work for some, my first round was awesome, the second not so much. I then actually had the nerves around L4 and L5 oblated (fried) , that was wonderful but has to be redone every 6-8 months because the nerves grow back. It is great that this dialog goes on in your blog, not only to inform but to compare what is usual as far as insurance coverage. We never even discussed the microdiscectomy, not sure why. Also my son couldn't have the fusion until he tried the facet steroid injections. To be able to get the oblation I had to have 2 rounds of steroid injections. As I said before we wanted to have one disc fused and 1 disc replaced, the insurance denied the replacement so did the state on appeal. But as it goes today my son is active and pain free.

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

LLyons - I'm so glad to hear that your son is active and pain free. Hopefully he'll be in great shape for his upcoming soccer season. My son is doing great now and I just beg him to avoid high impact activities. So far he is complying because he has no desire whatsoever to ever go through the pain he was in. He also is going to have a weight training class next semester in college (exercise science major) and I've told him he needs to avoid doing squats which are notoriously hard on the low back. I said if it's a problem just show the professor the microdiscectomy scar. I'm sure he'll be fine since he is cautious, but he definitely is back to being active.

Thanks for the update on your son. I find it very interesting to read the experiences of other people and I think this type of "conversation" really helps other people in similar medical predicaments (at least I hope so).

Jillby 4 years ago

I had the microdiscectomy procedure 4 months ago, my disc herniation was also L4/L5. The procedure was successful. I am in my 40s and my injury occurred playing tennis. Before the procedure, I tried physical therapy, which seemed to work, until the leg and foot pain began. It took me 5 weeks just to see the Dr. of my choice for the microD, but was well worth it. I have had some pain through the recovery process, but nothing that compared to my condition before the procedure. Until about a month ago, I would have some numbness and tingling. I do stretch exercises and use an elliptical for about 30 min. each day and if the weather is nice I walk a couple of miles outside. I am a teacher and have had to change my choice of shoes. Most days it seems that the injury and surgery never happened. There is hope for anyone going through this over 40 yrs. old!

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ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Jillby - I'm so happy to read that your microdiscectomy was a success. I'm gathering from my son's experience, your experience and from what I've read from many others that bouts of pain and numbness can occur for several months post surgery. I think your story offers hope not only for the 40+ crowd but really for anyone. Additionally, I think it lets people facing this surgery know what to expect and to not be discouraged through the recovery process. Thanks for sharing all of the details of your story and healing.

LLyons 4 years ago from California

Yes I truly believe information being passed along in this forum benefits us all. Last night one of my son's friends was over, he plays baseball for Whittier and recently had elbow surgery. His story regarding getting his insurance to cover the procedure went along the same lines as my son's. He eventually had to change insurances to have the surgery done. I thought maybe it was just ours. It's good to know other people's stories and outcomes. Wish your son luck with the excersize science major, my son's is Kinesiology (basically the same thing I think). He is wise to understand which excersizes he can or cannot do, sometimes the trainers aren't as up-to-date as our students.

Anthony 4 years ago

I had a microdisectomy a week and a half ago. I was suffering from leg pain since the end of February. I had 2 herniated discs. So far I feel a lot better now than before. I couldn't walk, work. I was miserable. But now already. Even though it's only been a short time after I only have slight pains in my legs. Before the surgery I couldn't walk longer than 4 minutes before I was in excruciating pain. But now I can walk so much longer. I have a cane to help me when needed.

deepak 4 years ago

thanks all of you!

I am 29 yrs software engineer and its my almost 2 week of l4 l5 surgery.But there is still pain in my legs.

Can some one share me that what will be my limit doing activity.and what kind of excerise to be done to avoid bulgs to grow.i am over weight. Do i need to lose instant?will diet create side effect?

AnnaMarie 4 years ago

I had a micro done on July 9th. I was up walking around 2 hrs after the surgery. I was so happy to be pain free. Before the surgery, I cried everyday, I couldn't sit or stand. I had to work through it all. I praise God for His strength. 2 days ago, I felt like I had a charlie horse in my hamstring, and than a day later it it. My leg pain was back. All I want to know if it is my sciatic flaring up or did I reherniate my disc. I have a dr. appt next week. I don't recall doing anything too out of the ordinary. Did your son ever experience this?

sid 4 years ago

ANTHONY: where u did surgery and what was the cost of surgery kindly send me doctor name as well

mandie 4 years ago

I am 9 weeks out and my pain in my back is worse. There are days I can not move. But we also are air force and had to move a month after. This happened at work and no one here will take out of state work comp. So I am going to the er later to see what happened. Any ideas from ANYONE? Thanks

Thuji 4 years ago

Hi everyone,

I would like to inform that the pain in my leg following microdisectomy has really subsided. Now I am almost back to normal except for some tingling/burning sensation in the toes of my right leg which only comes on if I walk for more than about 15 minutes.

So for those who are suffering after surgery, do not lose hope, just give it some time and I am sure you will be alright.

Oh, using a back support belt helps.

Ktrapp - thanks so much for your understanding. It has really helped me through the dark days. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that my leg pain does not return.


Azhar Farooq profile image

Azhar Farooq 4 years ago

Hi Ktrapp and all other,

I am 28, happily married with 2 sons, 3 and 9 months. I had accident in December, 2011. Someone rare ended me. I started feeling pain in my left hip. Got some muscle relaxers and did therapy and it started getting better. Then in April it got bad and Dr recommended more therapy but pain went to leg in foot, it is tingling, numbness etc. My xrays and MRI came out clear in February though. Dr ordered nerve test and the result showed L5-S1. Finally in June he said, I should get cortisone injections which I declined and I went to Chiropractor which did not help much. In August, I went to another orthopedic he ordered more xrays and MRI. I got results last week and followed up with Dr who said its herniated disk and my last option is Microdiscectomy.

On the scale of 10, my pain is usually 7-8 though its getting worse day by day. I am 28 and having back surgery at this age is always the last thing I want to think about. I am the sole provider for my family as my wife is a student and stay at home mom...... I need your advice and support to make a decision..... hows your son feeling after 8 months? is he 100% fit and active? I am not sure if Microdiscectomy will work in the long run etc......

Thank you all.

richard c 4 years ago

im now 7 weeks post op im im still getting pain across my lower back and in my left leg. my brother in law who is a sports physio said that the nerve is severely bruised and will take time to heal. i am due back at work next week which im dreading as it involves heavy lifting for 12hrs a day. i see the surgeon on wed so hopefully ican post back on here with some answer. after a full year of suffering i can't wait to draw a line under this horrible experience. ive even had doctors laugh at me thinking i was lying to them. the pain i would wish on nobody not even my worst enemy( maybe the laughing doctors though)

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Azhar Farooq - It's been about 7 months since my son's microdiscectomy surgery and he's doing great. He is an exercise science major so spends quite a bit of time in the gym and being active and is not having any problems with his back at all.

cHUCKY 4 years ago

Hi Ktrapp,

Glad to hear that your son is getting better day by day. I hope he will rock once again. I am kind of in same situation. Hernaited disc at L5-S1 and tingling and numbness in left toes and pain in left leg and back. On naproxen ,I feel better but the numbness is scaring the hell out of me..Three weeks ago just after the MRI I was squatting to pick something up and my pain flared up like nothing else I have experienced before. from there on I have this numbness and tingling although pain has reduced with medication but unsure when I can stop the medication. Still in dilemma for epidural vs surgery... I hope I am not damaging my nerve..


Hi cHUCKY 4 years ago

I am so appreciative of this thread and Ktrapp who started it offering her son's experience. Those of us who suffer with herniated discs need positive feedback and experiences from others.

I am in the very same situation you are in the moment. I don't know how old you are, but I am 59. I have the same herniation at L5/S1 with tingling and numbness in back of thigh, calf, heel, outside of foot and last 2 toes. I am waiting for another ESI injection this week. If you have not tried them yet, I would encourage you to do so. I had 2 five years ago and they worked like a miracle for me along with PT. Then in Dec. 2011, I reinjured. I've had 3 injections earlier this year and I got much better, but it has all returned. I am having one more injection and praying it helps. If not...I'll be seeing a surgeon. Thus why I look for positive outcomes for microdisectomy stories. For those of us who are older, there are other spinal situations such as other buldges or some stenosis, etc. that are part of normal aging but I think do not help the situation.

I hope you have success and talk with your doctor about the ESI injections. I've had this now this time around for 10 months, and have had to take leave from my work.

If anyone here is older (I did appreciate the post from Thuji)...and I hope he responds here with an update. Is anyone else here well over 40 with the same issues?

Good luck to you. Stay positive!

David 4 years ago

I just went this week to see a neurosurgeon about a back injury at work from over two months ago. I explained to him about my lower back pain and how my right leg especially hurt all the way to my foot. the top of my foot is numb and feels like pins and needles stabbing it. After reviewing my MRI, he said I definitely had a large piece of cartilage come out of my L5 disk area and said he would have recommended surgery at first, but since I was showing some improvement and was not in as much pain as initially, he said your body can sometimes absorb the cartilage, but it can take years. he said you also run the risk of permanent nerve damage. He basically has given me three choices to decide on. I can go with the latter and let my body try to heal itself, or try the epidureal steroid injections or surgery. Which I believe is the Micro Endoscopic Discectomy that he would go in and remove the matter off the nerve. He said at my age and health it is a routine surgery and has a 90% success rate. I am having a hard time deciding what to do. I know there is always a chance something can go wrong with a surgery, I have had other people tell me a few horror stories about back surgery. Guess I am just looking for other opinions to help me decide.

Alexandrea 4 years ago

I am 20 years old and I am a week and a half out from a Lumbar Lamimectomy/Discectomy. I have no idea how I injured my back but when my doctor finally ordered an MRI it showed a severe herniation at L5-S1. Prior to the surgery I had tried EVERYTHING possible to relieve my back and leg pain. Physical therapy, muscle relaxers and painkillers, the chiropractor, spinal injections... nothing worked. I finally went back to my orthopedic surgeon and they did more scans that showed almost the entire disc had herniated and was compressing my sciatic nerve. As of today I am about 75% pain free. I get "electric shocks" down my leg sometimes and the numbness is about 80% gone. Being a mother of two young children I really hope the pain stays gone. :/ reading your son's story really gives me hope!

Holly 4 years ago

Two weeks ago I just had decompression discectomy and lamocectomy at the age of 32. Before the surgery I was unable to move... Left side of behind down to foot in excruciating pain and numb. Nothing...I mean nothing...could control or eliminate the pain! I quickly got into surgery, which was necessary. My situation was so bad that injections would not have worked and permenate damage would have occurred. After two weeks I do still have numbness in left foot...but that terrible unable to walk pain is gone!!!!! I am up walking as best as I hip does bother me, but I expected that. My question now...for those of you that had surgery, did your place of incision bulg out after surgery? I know I may have an infection...we are monitoring that. But until I hear back from dr. I am curious about this bulging at this the infection causing it or is this my healing process due to the intensity of my operation? Any thought?

Amber 30yrs old 3 years ago

I have a herneated disc l5s1. I have a lot of pain and my Buttox and goes down to my knee and some numbness in my pinky toe. I am very scared to make a decision to go to have surgery on my back I don't know what to do I definitely do not want the steroid injections

Thuji 3 years ago

Hi Amber,

I really sympathize with your situation. I had similar pain like you. Using a lumbar support belt along with physiotherapy helped a lot. I managed the pain for more than 8 years but had to undergo microdissectomy this year because the pain got too much and really restricted my movement which affected quality of my life in general.

I suggest you try and manage the pain with physiotherapy and a lumbar support belt. If these do not help at all, surgery is an option. Mt experience with surgery is quite positive because the pain in my leg has disappeared. I hope this helps.

Mark 3 years ago

Very interesting article. It pretty much describes exactly what I've experienced. I had a laminectomy/microdiscectomy about 10 years ago. I would do it again, even though the disk (L5/S1) re-ruptured 5 years later. I'm probably due for another surgery.

5 years after surgery I did the epidural injections for the re-herniation. This bought me another 5 years. But yet again, the problem still remains.

Battling this for 10+ years now, I can say that the epidural injections are worth a try. They worked for me. See a good neurosurgeon and get his or her advise!

I've had good experiences with physical therepy, lumbar injections, and surgery.

One of the most important things I've learned..... Don't underestimate how much pain is caused by inflammation and muscle spasms. If you can get that under control, sometimes that's enough to make the situation manageable!

Mark 3 years ago

Very well written. Having been through the same surgery, it's nice to see a good explanation of the process.

MrsB 3 years ago

Hello..I am 36 married,9 yr old@home&I am 7 days post opt.I to had a herniated disc on the L4/S1nerve,& I tell u it was.t no joke.I believe I injured my back while working on a cardiac floor in a hospital from improper lifting&pulling..but what made me fully aware was (and I never told my Dr this) but I believe an intimate encounter@the foot of my mattress is what finished it off(embarrassing)..I experienced the left leg numbness,tingling,electrical shock feeling,throbbing,burning&charlie horses.It was awful.I got 3 series of the epidural cortisone injections which helped me NONE!!!And just took my hair out&made my left leg muscle weak to where my leg would buckle.So I tried the chiropractor,and the crackling of my back.just scared me..And I also got into pain which who wants to b doped up all day everyday(not me)So after a couple of MRI,,it was decided on the microdiscectomy w/ a facet infusion.My pain started New Years 2012,Received injections in April,May&June..Surgery n November..5th,2012.I was not scared or nervous because as stated in previous comments you should go to a highly recommended Neurosurgeon.Soon as I woke up,,I instantly knew the pain,cramping,burning&all that was gone.I got up&walked around to prevent P.A.D. where u could get a blood clot in your leg..and I was discharged the next day.The Dr told me what I could and could not do..which one was no outside til return appt in 8 days&no bathing/showering cause if the incision site gets wet,u are sure to set up an infection(spongebath :-/) And of course no lifting.bending,squatting,..which is highly impossible.U have to do all of that stuff just to get up,sit down,lay down..etc..Needless to say..I'm on day7 and I feel a slight tingling in my left foot&some cramping in my left leg.But the nurse@ the Dr office says its normal to experience that. So in going to continue to be optimistic&if I had to do it again I would.Because there is nothing worse than that pain I wa experiencing.The cost is mostly covered by ny insurance&the rest I will pay as I encourage anyone who is faced Wt having to have a microdiscectomy to do it¬ put it off because of the expense or any negative comment u may hear from someone else. Everyone enjoy your day.

Jennifer 3 years ago

Thank you for your write up. I am one week out from a microdisectomy on my lower back. I never had pain traveling the length of my leg, but rather had pain that wrapped around my hips and that made my discs feel compressed. My I tried the injections but experienced no relief. I lost a tremendous amout of weight and stayed on Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Vicodin for four years. I decided to go with the surgery for relief and to get off pain meds in hopes of planning to start family.

I had my surgery a week ago today. I have had no pain from my disc, so I have my finger crossed that it will stay away. Pain from the surgery is minimal, it gets better each day. This past week I have been lying in bed most of my time, and I get up to walk and stretch. I limit my chair sitting to very little but have slowly increased. Today (Christmas) I have sat up most all day and my incision in really swollen. I guess tomorrow I will go back to resting in bed. I am happy that I had the surgery but mad getting tired of being cooped up so much.

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Jennifer - It sounds like you've endured a lot of pain the last four years. I hope your microdiscectomy brings you much needed relief and allows you to get off the pain medications. If I were you, I would take a look at the paperwork the surgeon or nurses gave you following the surgery regarding care of the incision. Usually they say what to look for in case of infection and when to return to the doctor if necessary. Take care and I hope all works out for the best.

RoseyN 3 years ago

Hi. Very pleased to see your post. My 15 year old son is recovering from a micro-discectomy (L5/S1) three weeks ago. Like your son, mine is very sporty (tennis) and also like your son was misdiagnosed for a few months at the start. I have spent the last 12 months trying to find out more about herniated discs but whilst there is a fair amount about older adults, there is relatively little about younger sufferers. I find it really helpful being able to read first hand accounts from others, like your son. I'm documenting my son's recovery in a blog ( in the hope that it too will help others in a similar situation. So thank you for taking the time to share your experiences, and I do hope that your son is still doing well.

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for taking the time to comment RoseyN. My son is just about one-year out from surgery now and is doing great. I am going to add an update to this Hub soon since one year seems to be a significant amount of time, but I can report to you that he is doing great and really has no pain or limitations at all. What I've learned from my son's experience and from many of the experiences of people that have commented on this Hub previously, is that some leg pain and numbness still might occur following surgery, especially within the first three months so it's important not to get discouraged. I know a lot of people hope that surgery will be the end of the problems, but it takes time for any effected nerves to heal and surgical swelling to go down. Best of luck to you and your son. I think it's wonderful that you are documenting it; it seems like people really like to read the first-hand experiences of others who have had a microdiscectomy so they have a better idea of what to expect for themselves. Thanks again.

John Kampe 3 years ago

Thanks for the information. I am facing surgery of L5 S1 herniation. Been suffering with it for 30 years and now it's down to my right foot the pain that is. I will probably have the surgery in a month or less. Hoping for a great success story. I am 45 years old and tired of being in pain.

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

John - I cannot believe you have been in pain for 30 years! Hopefully your surgery gives you much-deserved relief!

Pamil 3 years ago


i'm 22 and i've been diagnosed with herniated disc L4L5 last august. The reason was heavy weight lifting. Since then i'm on medication , tried every possible way, went to 3 doctors to get over it but it is still there. Now the doctor is advising for microdiscectomy. My parents don't want me to undergo back surgery at this age. I'm aleo reading a lot of articles on this subject but if 10 people are positive 3-4 are just the opposite. I don't know what should i do. I've left gym have gained a lot of wait coz of no exercise. Moreover i go to university i gotta walk the stairs of my department, sit there for few hours and coz if that my pain is spreading to my right leg. shall i wait or go for it..

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Pamil - First of all, I'm sorry that you've are going through this ordeal. My son was 20 at the time of his surgery, almost exactly one year ago from today. He no longer has any pain and leads a normal life again. The day I picked him up from college to bring him home for surgery, he was walking hunched over, like a 90-year old; there was no way I could deny him having the microdiscectomy surgery even though the idea of him having surgery on his back near his spine was quite scary.

From my reading and research, microdiscectomies are most successful on people who have a herniated disc as well as leg or foot pain/numbness. I believe the reason is because the pain and numbness is caused by the herniated disc material that is pressing on the nerve and in turn, the pressing of the nerve causes the sensations down into the leg and foot. The operation removes the herniated material so it is no longer touching the nerve. The nerve then needs time to heal.

Since you are having leg pain, I think a microdiscectomy might help you. I think it's also better to have it sooner than later for the best possible outcome. That is why with my son we opted to do the surgery as soon as possible.

At the bottom of this article (before all the comments) there are two questions, that at this point, over 300 people have answered. Notice the second question - 83% of respondents said that if they had to do it over again, they would still have the surgery. If I were you, I would have your parents read through this article. If you decide to have the surgery I would make sure you find a reputable doctor/surgeon. The surgery itself is only about an hour long. Although, expect to possibly have pain for a few months afterwards since the nerve needs time to heal. That happened to my son, but by three months out he knew he was getting much better and one year later, has no pain.

Best of luck to you. I would love to hear back from you, especially if you have the surgery.

antonia2013 3 years ago

Happy I found this forum as I feel like I am the only one according to my back surgeon who has had a problem with recovery from my microdisectomy/lamectomy August 22, 2012. The horrible pain, spasms, and no rest or relief was waiting on insurance issue's. Reason being was hurt at work and company doctor said to see a psychiatrist as it was all in my head..nothing wrong after viewing my first MRI. I gave her the cd to review and she did a visual. However, I had the paperwork with results which shwed a fragment and stenosis. Had surgery 4 days later a large hospital in Cleveland where 2 fragments removed and had the severe pain gone. Truly, the way I used to be seems to be gone when it comes to back, leg, hip, and spine pain. I am 60 and never had a back issue and walked 3-5 miles a day until my injury. However, it is Feb. 25, 2013 and was driven from Ohio to Chicago to see a failed back syndrome specialist. Ok..having fully enclosed MRI again this week as the back of my knee is the worst. What is going on and has arthiritis set in? Can a MRI show every spot where the problems are regarding my pain or a compressed nerve? Maybe I am in this for life and very sad over being treated like I do not know my body or pain ...the doctor and his visuals on my function. By the way has anyone had their doctors not even check their back physically?? Very depressed over the possibility of living like a hermit because of pain and pressure on hip and back. HELP!!!

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

antonia2013 - I certainly I hope you don't have to live with all this pain and pressure on your hip and back. Perhaps, as you indicated, something more is going on. It's definitely worth seeking out a top-notch specialist who can offer you the most appropriate course of treatment. Best of luck to you.

th25 3 years ago

I am 56 years old and woke up with massive sciatica pain in right leg. Went to emergency, received IV pain meds, had MRI and 5 hours later left emergency room with numbness in right hip, right calf, outside edge of right foot including entire right heel. Some pain but very moderate in the calf and heel. End of day, leg gets worse but bearable. Visited with two different surgeons who read my MRI. I have a herniated disc at L5/S1 with a sequestered (torn loose) piece of disc material compressing the S1 nerve. The loose I am scheduled for Microscopic Lumbar Discectomy in one week. The piece of disc material is one of the major drivers for my decision to have the surgery. I am hopeful that full recovery will be the outcome. I know of others who have had same exact surgery and walked out of surgery with 90% of their symptoms relieved. We will see. I am most concerned about numbness and ankle reflex as these seem to have most negative impact on my walking.

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

I hope all goes well with your surgery. Just realize that it may take some time for a full recovery. Basically, I would say it took my son 3-4 to feel completely back to normal. A year and a half later, he's still doing real well and has absolutely no more problems with his back, leg or foot.

th25 3 years ago


Thanks for the well wishes and I am glad your son is doing well. My surgery went well and I am 2 days post op. The surgeon indicated that the separated piece of disc material (sequestered fragment) was much larger than originally thought. The surgery took 70 minutes, 30 minutes longer than originally forecasted. Unfortunately I have not yet noticed a significant decrease in the numbness and muscle control in my foot. The right side of my right foot, right heel, and right buttocks area are still numb. I do believe that it is getting better but very hard to tell. The cramp like feeling that I had in my calf before surgery seems to have gone away. I have some pain around the surgical site which is normal but am using ice and OXYCODONE to control the pain. I was able to walk out of the recovery room with little problem 2 hours after surgery. I am following the doctors instructions regarding no lifting, bending or twisting. I am confident that I will achieve more recovery over time, just not sure how long it will take. I am unable to sit for more than 30 minutes or so before the lower back begins to hurt. So, lots of walking and up and down activity. Time will tell as to how well things will go. I will continue to post as time progresses. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has had this procedure and held the same symptoms of numbness tat I have described. Would like to know how long it took for their recovery. I realize everyone is different but like to establish range of expectations for recovery.

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ktrapp 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Some time has passed since your surgery, th25. I hope you have continued to see improvement.

Docp 3 years ago

Awesome forum it's somehow comforting to read other peoples experience especially when it mimics my own. I developed back pain after moving some heavy furniture three months ago. Then as the back pain subsided with antiinflammatories the leg pain started. The MRI showed bulging of the L5/S1 disc on the same side of the symptoms . Two epidurals later the leg pain (sciatica) went away but started on the other side a few weeks after. 2 nd MRI showed the other side was bulging and compressing the nerve root but this time numbness began from the hip pocket area down the back of thigh to behind knee down to the heel and outer part of foot including the small toe. Ankle reflex gone ( by the way the ankle reflex went on the other side but came back two weeks after the epidurals). Have just had ozone gas injected into the disc and an epidural on the "new" side . Sciatic pain going but it's the numb heel and toes that really "get" to me , makes walking awkward and I am scared its going to be permanent , it's been numb for 3 weeks now. The surgeon is offering microdiscectomy but I am not sure as I am still hopefull it will improve as the pain has improved , but how long to wait is the question? Hmmm , in limbo :) best wishes to all comrades out there sharing their stories , keep positive.

Marc 2 years ago

This was an encouraging read for me. I had a herniated disc diagnosis/MRI about 6 years ago. It bothered me for about a year, went through therapy and got better, not 100% but about 90.....A long time sitting still would be painful but it was manageable.

In July of this year I was bending down to put on a pair of shoes and my back just locked on me. Couldn't straighten up, terrible pain. Went to the Ortho, MRI, disc was worse. I began to get the numbing left leg, left calf and foot. It's now November and I've had two shots which helped for a few weeks and then wear off. I've been going to therapy which seems to help a little but now the last week or so my leg and foot is just not feeling right. Pain, numbness, tingling, especially at night.

I am going to see my doctor tomorrow for my follow up and I am pretty nervous.......but I am really uncomfortable.

ajaygupta20777 2 years ago

This was an encouraging read for me also. I am 37 year old. In September 21st 2013 i have also gone through Microdiscectomy surgery for L4-L5 Spinal surgery. After two month of surgery my left leg pain gone 75%, but still some pain at back. But overall satisfactory in comrision with before surgery. Wait for full pain free life, how much it take.

Carl 2 years ago

I am 42 and had Microdiscectomy surgery for a herniated disc between L4 and L5 on 7/26/13. Prior to surgery I could barely walk. I believe I herniated my disc golfing. After surgery I recovered at home for 2 weeks before going back to work. My job is an hour away from my home and is a desk job were I sit at a computer all day. My doctor did not recommend PT, stating that my sciatic nerve just needs time to heal. I'm doing a few exercises a day (hamstring stretches, back arches and walking). My pain level is around a 5 now which is not as bad it was prior to surgery, however, I'm getting frustrated because I'm at the 5 month mark and not seeing much improvement. Currently I can not lay on either side in bed without pain shooting down my left leg. I keep wondering if I reherniated the disc, however, since I'm do not have the 10 pain level that I had prior to surgery the doctor will not order another MRI. I talked to a few people that have had surgery for the same injury and most said it took around a year before they felt better. I just want to have a few good days. Is anybody else experiencing longer recovery time from this surgery?

thuji 2 years ago

Hi everyone,

Its been a while since my surgery about 17 months back and I had a pain free existence till about a month back. I could play games like soccer, badminton and even walk long distances.

However, I have started getting some pain in my lower back and some burning sensation in my right toe. I am thinking the whole dreaded thing is coming back again.

So, is there anyone who is or has experienced such a situation and suggestions.


companion1 2 years ago

I had microdiscectomy at L3 on Sept. 10, 2013. After two months of intense pain and suffering a doctor did an outpatient proceedure that left me pain free. I can not understand why I had to suffer not to mention the addicting drugs, valium, steroids, muscle relaxers, gabapentin. I was a human pharmacy. The pain meds and steroids did not touch the pain. I even considered suicide if I had to live my life this way. I could not work, drive, clean, shop; my life was ambushed. I am thankful every day for the surgery.

sam 2 years ago

hi guys i have l4 l5 and lrg pain and doctor is giving me just pain killer i almost know 5 months now and i did physiotherapy and acupuncture but i still have the same pain lower back and leg i fell this doctor not good really i need help but i don't know what i should do

frazerisland 2 years ago

Where did your son have his surgery? We have a 14 year old daughter who has two herniated discs in l4/l5 and l5/s1. She has only leg pain. Having been a patient of a very successful discectomy 10 years ago, I am in favor of it. But we are very concerned about her age. Was there ever any concern about surgery at his age?

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ktrapp 2 years ago from Illinois Author

He had it done in Northern, IL. We were not concerned about his age. I think the bigger concern was that if we delayed surgery then the possibility for complete healing was reduced.

Mostaq Ahmed 2 years ago

I'm getting encourage to read this article.I had the problem L4L5..Had to go through surgery last 18th November 2013 now 6 month+ but still pain in my back numbness in left leg+foot+ankle..Sometimes couldn't walk straitly difficulties movement at sleeping time.Can anybody assure me when i would get full recovery??

ramfan13 2 years ago

thanks so much for sharing your experience. I just found out I have herniation of L3 L4. I had an L4 L5 several years ago and did not have surgery, it got better on its own, but with that one pain was less and only a little tingling in legs. This time, the pain in back was very bad and could barely walk, had to go to ER. That was about a week ago. Pain is better with meds and steroids, but my right leg is very numb and weak. I walk very slowly and can barely go upstairs, it is like I am dragging the leg. I don't know if I can deal with this. I had the MRI this week that confirmed herniation and saw surgeon today. He is recommending surgery due to the weakness and possibility that this could be worse if waiting. I hate the idea of surgery, but I am a very active person and cannot stand not being able to hardly move. Plus, I have a very active 10 year old boy that needs me. I am leaning towards surgery sooner but worried about how you know you have a good surgeon. Any thoughts on this. Thanks.

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Randall Guinn 2 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

How is your son doing now?

GoJackets2015 22 months ago


I am a 22 year old diagnosed with a L4-L5 herniation and will be having surgery this upcoming summer. Seeing that your son is also relatively young, I instantly was drawn to this page. Thank you for sharing all of this on here, it is definitely a great source of information.

Upon seeing his MRI and his scar pictures, I noticed that like me, his lumbar vertebrae also do not show significant lumbar curvature. I was wondering if the healthcare providers in charge of your son's case ever brought that up and if it would affect his future years down the road.

Again thank you and hope he is doing well.

Justin 19 months ago

I had a microdisceteomy 10 days. I had been having on and off sciatic nerve pain down my right leg and back for about 3 months and been seeing a chiropractor 2 months ago after 12 visit the last time I went in when he adjustment my lower back it was as it all the pain disappeared and within 30 mins after my back and leg got so tight an unbearable pain that I had to leave work scheduled an appointment with my primary care doc the next day and he recommended me straight to a neurosurgeon. It took a week to get an appointment but from the wed the chiro had adjusted me to to the fri morning I could no longer walk, stand, or barely lay without muscle spasms and shooting sciatic pain in my right leg. By that sun the shooting pains where now constant pains and even taking overdose of pain meds got no relief. My neuro appointment got scheduled for Thursday that week so I was just trying to stay confortable and easy on my back and leg. By mon the constant nerve pains turned to numbness in my right foot like in the two small toes not my big toe. And also the pad part of my foot and lower calf went numb. Still muscle spams and pain in my back and upper leg. Could only get around for short periods with crutches or wheelchair my neighbors brought me. I was nervous about the surgery I wanted to try the shots or acupuncture but my surgeaon told me just by the fact it went from somewhat bare able sciatic nerve pain and back spams to pretty much not being able to walk or function it was time for surgery, also to avoid permanent nerve damage he bumped my surgery up to the following mon. I called my parents docs and all kinda nervous that I was jumping the gun on surgery but when Inweighed out the rate for the shots was a 60-40 chance it would work and it's really expensive even with ins plus it weakens the bones and other structures in the area, and a 90% success rate and my doc had 95% success rate with his own patients I went with surgery. The day I woke up after surgery instant pain relief in my leg and back and just like a light pressure where the incision occurred. I got up and walked around the hospital a couple hours after surgery and went home the next morn my surgery was late in the evening so my doc recommend to stay till morning To make sure pain meds were working. Within 3 days I was able to go out to eat with a few friends couldn't stand or sit for long periods without gettin uncomfortable but the pain was gone and only noticed after I stopped taking all the pain killers by day 4 that there was little numbness still in my left two small toes and my calf muscle but was told this could take a few weeks to go away. I was able to take bandage off 4 days after and keep open and take a full shower by day 5 getting it wet. I started driving to grocery store or to park by day 6 and walking a lot. Doc said helps with scar tissue and keeping the muscles active. My leg muscles still feel really tight 10 days after surgery incision is itchy but looks fine and no discharge however in the last two days have noticed the lump feeling near the top kinda like it's a little swollen but not painful. It feels like pressure if I touch it. And if I sit in a chair with a hard back or lay on hard surface its little uncomfortable but not painful. However sciatic nerve pain is gone. I hope you all have a good recovery also. Anyone know when you were able to start bending and doing light cardio or upper body workouts at least?

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