Microdiscectomy Update – One Year Later

For those of you suffering from back pain, disc problems, and who may have stumbled upon my blog in search of support or advice, I can only tell you that things get better with time and patience. There is no magic bullet, nor is there a perfect exercise, physical therapy regiment, or pain pill to rid you of what ails you. What I can tell you unequivocally is that proper diet, regular exercise, and perhaps compromise to trying new things in the gym are pretty solid areas you should focus on. A combination of all 3 are what have helped me feel 100% back to where I was pre-injury. (details in some of the blog posts further down)

Over one year ago, I was in the worst pain of my life from hip to toes, with a weakness in my right ankle that made me feel like I was 67 years old instead of 37. After microdiscectomy surgery of my disc between L4-L5, and probably up to 6-8 months after, I still had lingering pain that was so random and frustrating that I really began to doubt the effectiveness of my surgery. I went through PT, tried my best to get back into the gym, but had forgotten that 6 months pre-surgery I had reverted to a fairly sedentary lifestyle, drinking alcohol a little more often that I wanted to keep the pain at bay, and gaining at least 15lbs of fat while feeding my face watching episodes of Lost, Dexter, and Mad Men. I rushed into things. I tried to run 3-4 miles a few times a week, as I had done years previous and probably came back too soon.

Somewhere between August and October of this year, I noticed that pain, tingling, and tightness in my muscles I had been feeling throughout recovery sort of magically disappeared. I’m not saying this will happen to you, but I’m sure it gives hope to some of you who are 4-6 months out of surgery asking yourself “When the heck is this going to end?”

I tell everyone to stay in touch with your neurosurgeon or go see your orthopedist to make sure you’re on track or just to have them check any irregular pain or tightness you’re feeling.

Now I train at least 3 days a week, and I use light weights and do some ample interval cardio on the elliptical, stairmaster, + stationary bike. I’ve abandoned running outdoors for now, because the pounding still aggravates my lower back and hips.

I’ve sought the advice and training of fitness guru Anthony Ellis, who’s muscle building/fat bashing programs I’ve followed for years. One of the things he helped me with was strengthening my back muscles. There’s not a day I’m not in the gym anymore where I’m not working my legs, back or shoulders and these are areas that are most ignored and dreaded by most fitness buffs out there to begin with. These are important muscle groups you should be working. Below are a list of a few exercise that I enjoy doing now, and are really helping me get stronger. Keep in mind that I started out doing some of these with as little as 5lb dumbbells. Be careful and consult your doctor before trying any of these excercises!

1.) Split Squats (dumbbell)
2.) Lunges (dumbbell)
3.) Crunches w/ Swiss Ball
4.) Rows
5.) Step Ups (with or without dumbbells)
6.) Calf Raises
7.) Back Extensions
8.) Deadlift (dumbbell)
9.) Squats

With a steady regiment of the workouts Anthony created for me and about a 2,000 calorie diet of 40% protein 40% carbs and 20% fats (all healthy foods), I’ve lost about 12lbs of fat and put on 3 lbs of solid muscle. I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in 18 months and can’t wait to update you again in about 6 weeks on progress.

Just stay positive and pace yourself in the gym. Don’t worry about using light weights. It’s all about moving your body, working your muscles out, and please, please, whatever you do – don’t forget to stretch!!

Even on days I don’t work out, I stretch for 10-15 minutes a day. Make it part of your morning routine and this will help you feel great!

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109 thoughts on “Microdiscectomy Update – One Year Later

  1. Hey Rick –

    first off – massive thanks for these posts. I just had the same surgery l4-l5 on November 11th and am on my way back, following your advice of keeping moving. For me, it was a whack in the back during a game of soccer that sent me in 6 mos of conservative treatment and pain management. I dug around the web and read and your post convinced me to go for the microdiscectomy. My only regret is that I didnt do it 4 months prior!

    Had questions about your stretching regimen. I’ll admit that while I’ve been continuously active (running, soccer, basketball and snowboarding) until 7 months ago (37 now) – I have no idea how to properly stretch. Would really appreciate learning what you’ve done for a stretching routine, so I dont ruin the doc’s work. He’s holding me off the rehab program until I have the post-op visit on Dec. 22.

    thanks again ~

    Greg-

    • Hi Greg,

      Nice to hear from you and hope you’re feeling well. I’m glad that sharing my experiences here have helped you in some way. If you are recently post-op and haven’t done your follow-up, it’s best you follow doctor’s orders before you start stretching just yet. I remember my doc asking me to specifically wait to do any stretching til I started therapy. His only prescription after surgery was to try walking 20-30 min per day. The site of your incision is still tender and they did have to cut through some muscle so you should really let that heal first. Sounds like you’re a pretty active guy and like me are probably anxious to start moving again. Your physical therapist will likely give you a stretching routine to bring home but generally, make sure to stretch out the hamstrings, quads, calves, groin, (all traditional stretches you’d probably do before soccer or boarding). P90X has fantastic 45 minute stretching routine that I will do on a Sunday after a long weekof workouts. (though the entire workout program itself is probably not suited recovering back surgery patients!). Good luck in your recovery and please visit again to update on you progress. All the best! – Rick

  2. Hello Rick,
    I just stumbled upon your blog and it’s so nice to finally find a recent one. I have an L4/L5 herniated disc and sciatica (which is I think what you had?). I’ve decided to have surgery, and am going to schedule my surgery tomorrow! Scary decision, but I realized I just need to do it. I’ve been dealing with this for a little over two years…and regret not doing it sooner. I do have some numbness in my first three toes of my left leg where I have sciatica. Just curious if you had numbness and if the feeling came back? I don’t have complete numbness..just some…but I do feel pain in the ball of my foot when I walk too much..very weird feeling, and don’t feel comfortable wearing closed toed shoes because of the numbness..good think I live in AZ! I was told that I have some nerve damage. It amazes me to see anyone that has gone through microsdiscectomy start running again. I think I would be terrified to re-herniate the disc, but it’s awesome to know what people can go back to running. I miss being active and I can’t wait to get back to working out….of course very cautiously. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for your comments and I hope your surgery is a success. I had all kinds of feelings before and after surgery in my leg, foot, hip, and butt area. Sometimes numbness (although not too often), tingling, cramping, etc. Sometimes I even felt like the bottom of my foot was on fire. I actually didn’t have pain in my feet until a month or so after surgery. Weird I know, but it’s part of recovery and just goes to show how intricate and delicate our nervous system really is. The numbness, pain, tightness all come and go, but I can honestly say that it’s been quite awhile since it’s returned. Good luck to you and remember to take it slow and be patient in your recovery!

  3. Hey Rick,

    This blog is just the boost I needed. I had an L5/S1 microdiscectomy on December 1st and still have moderate tingling and occasional jabs of pain. The first two weeks after surgery I felt like my foot had the worst sunburn ever, but after no feeling for 3 weeks it was an annoying reminder that I was on the mend.

    But the pain that hobbled me tremendously is largely gone.

    I am walking a great deal and am really keeping conscious thoughts to be patient. It is so reassuring to hear of your recovery and that you are able to run again. That is my goal also, I ran my first Half Marathon last June at the tender age of 52 and am hopeful to do another one.

    Take Care and Saty Safe!

  4. Pingback: Road to Recovery – Life after Microdiscectomy « Rick's Rants

  5. I am 4 days post surgery after the worst pain in my life for three weeks. Although I have been having trouble off and on for about 8 months, but not severe. Post surgery have had no pain until yesterday. A slight pain in my hip and my foot is still numb, which I was told may take a bit to recover. Have a trip planned to Costa Rica in approx. 1 month and am concerned about the long flight. Was searching the internet looking to see if this was common when I came across many blogs stating how bad they were several months after surgery. I was beginning to get discouraged when I came across your blog that has given me renewed hope. I am anxious to get up and around, am walking on my treadmill 20 minutes 2 times a day. Thank you for your blog and I have renewed hope that I will again be feeling great. I am dedicating the next year to me, doing what I need to do healthwise to feel great again. Thank you again.

  6. Hi Rick,

    I’m 2 weeks post op for a L4/5 discectomy. After the usual physio etc for the past 2 years ended up having surgery, i’ve been told nothing more strenuous than gentle walking until i have my follow up which is 6 weeks away now, although to be honest thats all im capable of as i still have a numb left foot and calf which limits what i can do.
    I was a very active person gym/snowboarding and running which i thought was going to be a thing of the past until i read your blog. Please keep up the good work because after reading your blog you’ve given me hope again which had long since faded.

    Thankyou so much Rick !!!

  7. I have been looking for help and this the first i have heard of hope I had fusion of L4/L5 in 2008 and everthing went well i was back to a normal active life style and then in oct 2010 my sciata was pinched and i had severe pain waiting for surgery microdisctomy i fell and sprained my left ankle making things worse i had the surgery in oct and was left with a numb left foot and calve spasms and irritated hamstring the docor said this should all improve with time so i just kept going .then in january2011 the pain came back in the back and the left leg so doctor did a mri and the disc had herniated again so a second micro was done on jan 15 2011 the pain was gone but i am left with severe tightness in left ankle and calve muscle pain and still a spasming hamstring I am trying to stay active but my activetys are limited i stretch and excercise the leg and some days are better than others i am looking for more help with coping with this and i can maybe get back to some normal life please excuse some spelling still on pain killers and valium Help!!! John

  8. I herniated L4-5 in Boot Camp class 2 weeks ago. Immediate back pain along with right leg weakness and loss of sensation, MRI showed large herniation and I had emergency microdiscectomy 72 hours after injury. I’m now completely free of back pain but still have no feeling or movement in my lower leg. I cannot wait to get back to working out and running. I am doing what the doc said (walking, no lift or twist), but frustrated that my leg is not yet responding. Your blog gives me hope that I’ll be running again sometime in the future (I’d rather it be sooner rather than later). I’m interested in hearing how long it took to get your function back.

  9. Rick,
    Just stumbled across your blog as I feel frustrated. Long story short, 25-year-old, super freak athlete all my life and have a very active, physically demanding job as a photojournalist.

    Herniated a disc in August 2010, had some cortisone shots and PT with rest. Felt great, but reherniated my L4/L5 at work. So much pain I collapsed in my apartment. Had surgery in December which was an L4-5 laminectomy, discectomy with foraminotomy.

    I am about 12 weeks post op and in physical therapy two times a week. Like you said, when I am moving, walking or working out at PT I feel great. But if I sit too long, I am miserable. Not so much pain as I am sore and throb.

    Just really, really eager to get back to work and doing what I love. I know I need to be patient, but also sick of the pain. Just last week I stopped having pain in my foot.

    Just looking for any advice other than what you’ve given.

    I’ve also been blogging daily since surgery: http://www.backfocusing.com/

    Thanks,
    Patrick

  10. I am 10 days post-op L4-5 microdiscectomy and kinda bummed. I know it’s too soon to expect the leg weakness to disappear but I hoped to see some kind of improvement. I herniated 6 weeks ago and had 3 epidurals with some pain relief but lost feeling and strength in my left leg and foot. I was a Zumba addict before but now don’t do much but try to walk and limp around the neighborhood. Any advice?

    • Kathy – Sounds like you’re a lot like I was. I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow doctor’s orders. My doc told me to just walk for the first month of recovery. Keep moving.. but I doubt Zumba is going to be a part of your physical therapy regiment. Back surgery of this nature takes a long time to heal. You just have to be patient and understand that with time, thing will feel a lot better and then you can start getting back to old workout routines. Good luck!

      Rick

    • I am 56 6’1″ 213 pounds have suffered with back pain for 30 plus years. Managed pain throug PT, and lots of back strengthing exercises and stretching . Finally L4 L5 blew out. It’s been 2 weeks since microdiscectomy surgery. Feel like a new person. Started walking 1 hour a day 5 days post operation. Today did a 10 mile bike ride. No pain no numbness . I feel like I could do anything. But it is very important to be moderate and adhere to your surgeons advice. The disc takes along time to heal. I have lost 13 lbs since surgery. I feel great. No pain or numbness. Listen to your body, eat healthy and do as much walking as tolerated. I find that if you push yourself a little bit more each day without going over the pain thresh hold it also increase’s blood fow to injured area which aids in recovery. Apply ice after each exercise episode. Everybody’s body reacts differently, find Your “zone” and be positive. It wll get better.

  11. Hey Rick,
    Sir I truly appreciate your blog. I have been searching for info on people who have had surgery because I have been dealing with this pain since May of 2010. I have what they say is a mild to moderate bulge in L4-L5 area, and Mild in L5-S1. I have had two steriod epideral injections in those areas since, and changed doctors because he told me he couldn’t do anything more for me. I have been to a new dr., who thinks by my MRI that it is facet joints, and is going to do some diagnostic injections to be sure. I tried a bit of running the other day, and had serious pain in both calfs that is finally subsidding. Just can’t do any activity with pain in the sacral area (which they say the pain radiates) I have played indoor soccer every Firday for the past 6 years, although not in many months lately. I did all the PT they have prescribed, and am by far not over weight at 6’3″ 185. I just want to get back to playing, and doing the things I love. I have a 4 year old boy whom i haven’t picked up for 7 months. I am not working right now, and do manual labor, but have discussed this with my employer, and we are working on a new job with less labor.
    I also asked the previous Dr. about surgery, and he said he knew many neurosurgeons he could send me to, but he knows none of them would touch me with surgery. Frustrated, but with your blog have hope. Please keep the updates coming.

    • Jeff – Sounds like a pretty complex issue you have there. Did your ortho say why the neurosurgeons wouldn’t help you? Am thinking because you have a bulging disc rather than a fully herniated one.. I would go see a few neurosurgeons anyway to get their opinions (find some who specialize in micro-discectomy) and see what THEY say. In the end it’s going to be your decision to move forward with the surgery. When PT failed for me, then I went to see the neurosurgeon and he gave me the choices of more PT, surgery, or doing nothing. I chose the surgery and never looked back. Am glad I did it. I played ice hockey for the first time the other night after a long hiatus, and am in the gym 3 nights a week lifting, running, and even doing back strengthening exercises. good luck and let me know how things turn out for you.

  12. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR ADVICE,I I DID MY OPERATION 4 WEEKS AGO IM FEELING GREAT BUT JUST STARTED TO GET A LITTLE PAIN DOWN MY LEG BUT AFTER READING YOUR ADVICE IT HAS MADE ME FEEL RELAXED SO THANKS AGAIN.

  13. Wow, am I glad I stumbled across this blog – my first discectomy was 27 Dec 08, followed by another discectomy 3 Feb 09 – I am (was) a fitness freak, working towards my class instructor exams, i’ve competed in triathlons, marathons, half marathons and now I do hardly anything!! I have tried to run but I just get constant pins and needles in my foot, any type of stress goes straight to my back, I walk alot more and swim but I don’t enjoy it at all, i’m a runner and sometimes feel very depressed. I’m only 38, i’m a single mum with 2 young kids. Part of the reason I hardly exercise is because i’m scared of the pain and going through another operation. I’ve had an MRI scan in Jan this year, it showed no further degeneration of discs which is great – the weight is creeping on which is getting me down, I realise that as i’m not training as much, it will creep on – anybody have any advice for me?? Keep the blogs coming, its good to know i’m not the only one going through this!!

    • sorry, second op was feb 2010 not feb 09!!

    • Hi Michelle –

      Would love to hear how your recovery is coming along!? I’d love to do a triathalon one day, but am still nervous even 2 years later to even attempt that type of vigorous training schedule. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond her.. but would love to hear what you have to say.
      Rick

  14. I had my surgery of l4 l5 s1 on may 17 2011. I am 22 years old and to this day I have no idea how I herniated my discs. I was bed-ridden for 2 months before they finally got me in for surgery. I had been experienceing the pain off and on for 2 to 3 years.4 weeks out of surgery and i feel amazing. I have some mild numbness and tingling in my foot and random ancle pain, but other than that I cant believe how amazing I feel. I have a ton of stretches I do daily and physical therapy twice a week. My advice for anyone out there with this type of pain is do not rule out surgery. I thought i would mend on my own and i put myself threw months of pain.

  15. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your post. I had discectomy surgery for a severely herniated disk (L5-S1) on June 6th. Overall, I feel great. No more pain in my leg and the numbness/pins-&needles sensation in my foot is slowly going away. The pain from the surgery is also decreasing, but I still do have some tenderness around the incision.

    My only real concern at this point is that I too still have some random pains in my lower back and occasionally in my leg. I’ll feel pretty good for a few days and then have a couple of days where I am achy and sore and completely paranoid that I’ve re-herniated myself. While I have been trying to keep active and walk as much as is comfortable, I have been very careful about not over-doing it. Would you say that this is similar to your experience? Over the holiday weekend, I did some traveling, including a short flight (made sure to get up and walk around frequently) and a couple of hour-long car rides. I’m completely paranoid that these might be contributing to the discomfort I have right now. Do you think this is related to being weak and out of shape from surgery and the preceding period of inactivity due to the original injury?

    Thanks again and hoping to hear from you and anyone following the post regarding their experiences and suggestions.

    Best,

    Jon

    • Hi Jon,

      Glad your surgery was a success. The anxiety you feel is so normal. I was so nervous about getting another herniation as well. The pains you feel are normal, and believe it or not, I’m almost 2 years out of surgery and occasionally I’ll get a foot pain, or ankle pain. The traveling you did is fine. I flew to China 2 weeks after surgery, so was also paranoid about doing damage then. In general the first year after surgery will provide you with all kinds of feelings in your leg, back and feet. MY doc told me it was normal. I think it’s time to post another update, because as I said, it’s almost 2 years, and my experiences now are so different than what I felt after surgery. I feel really good, and am staying fit. Keep in mind that when you have the injury, you’re not working out and your legs get weaker. It’s normal, and you should have a lot of patience. Eventually you’ll be strong enough after PT and you can begin strengthening those muscles and getting back into shape. Good luck and thanks for reading / posting!

      Rick

      • Hi again Rick,

        Thanks for the reply (insert heaving sigh of relief here).

        As you know, it’s a tough road. And, while I am very fortunate to have a terrific doctor who I like, nothing can replace the words of advice from those who have gone through the experience. Much appreciated.

        Taking is slow will continue to be the order of the day.

        Take it easy,

        Jon

        PS. I like your “Riding Trains with Slobs Post.” I live in NYC, ride the train daily and come in contact with pretty much everyone on your list over the course of a week. What’s more, of all the nasty things a New Yorker puts up with, it never ceases to amaze me how gross and completely inappropriate subway riders can be. Not sure if you saw this recent video (NSFW) of a subway patron…. http://gawker.com/5818011/woman-uses-nyc-subway-train-as-shower

        Enjoy!

        Jon

  16. Hi Rick, Thanks for the Rant.
    I had surgery in June for a herniated disk that to relieve sciatic pain. I had almost imiediate relief from the surgery but was sick with killer headaches for 5 weeks before another MRI showed I had a spinal fluid leak that required another surgery and a much slower recovery. Anyway, even before I knew what was going on with the spinal fluid I would go back to your page and read your encouraging words. Two months after my initial surgery I remember to be patient, eat right and try to keep moving. Its been a crappy summer. Ready to get back to golf, racquetball and WORK.

    Thanks!

    • Hey Mike,

      Thanks for reading. Hope your recovery has been going well. How are you doing? I love reading everyone elses updates, so hopefully you’ll see this and will post your story too.

      Thanks!
      Rick

      • Seven months since the second surgery and for the most part all is good. Every now and then after the gym I have some discomfort for a few days. This happens when I decide it’s time too get after it again and I may do too much. Looking at your recommendations on lighter weights, working the back, legs and shoulders I think I will concentrate on working those to strengthen my core.

        Yoga feels great. I just need to keep myself motivated to keep stretching daily even when I am feeling good and also remember patience. It is easy to have bad thoughts when things flare up again.

        Thanks, Mike

  17. Hey Rick I know you probably don’t even check this because its been so long. But incase you do, I just wanted to say thank you for posting you journey through recovery. I has L5 S1 micro done about 4 months ago. I am feeling MUCH better than pre surgery but still getting those “reminders” that I am no where near healed. So I sat here shake my head in acknowledgement for almost every thing you mention. Is my surgery successful. When will these pains stop. I have to remind myself that not too long ago I couldn’t walk. I yearn to return to physical lifestyle I once had but now see it’s a long and hopefully successful process.

    Thanks
    David.

    • Hi David,

      You are welcome! Am glad things are going well and you’re recovering nicely. I do check this blog when I can and you’ve inspired me to a post on 2 year recovery piece. I think when you’re facing the surgery, you want to look far far ahead but just can’t because no one is around to give you perspective (except for your surgeon). Literally 2 years ago, all I could find were a few message board posts by people who have had negative experiences. I started this blog to talk about my positive experience with the surgery and hopefully that has helped everyone else make their own educated decisions. Good luck and I look forward to an update in 6 months from you!

      Rick

  18. Pingback: 2 Years Later – Microdiscectomy Follow-Up « Rick's Rants

  19. Rick, thanks for your blog. I feel much comforted after reading it. I had a very bad prolapsed disc between L4 and L5 and suffered in pain for over 1.5 years. Finally I could not stand and walk and was in such agony that I decided to go for a micro discetomy in April of 2011. I felt great immediately after the surgery as all the leg pain was gone. Compared to prior surgery, I definitely have a better quality of life as I can walk and stand now. But what bothers me was the lingering back pain as well as the muscle tightness that wouldn’t go away even six months post surgery. I was so worried that I may have re-herniated my disc. After reading the experiences of folks on this blog, I feel comforted that this is normal…

    Jaclyn

  20. Rick,

    Thanks for the update. I’m 32, female, 9 months out from my microdiscectomy L5-S1, and just re-upped my gym membership. I started out walking and now am up to the elliptical for 20 min, incorporating all the exercises my PT gave me during my PT treatment after surgery. I’ve also picked up yoga twice a week. I was also eager to get back in the weight room, and I did so with much enthusiasm. However, I’m now seeing everywhere that people with “compromised” spines like ours should give up on ever lifting again. This really bothers me, as I put on 20 lbs (yikes) in the past 9 months – eating crap food, not moving, drinking too much – and lifting is my own way of getting back in shape.

    How are you doing now? Can you lift now?

    • HerpDerp, just saw your 2-year followup. I’ve started lifting with too-heavy weights (I can see this now) and am lucky that nothing adverse has happened. Backing it down to lighter weights to at least get everything moving properly again.

    • Hi Jen – has taken me a while to respond.. sorry! I did start lifting again. I think it was about 6 months after the surgery and it was very very light weights. I decided to come back slowly and not try to rush things. Also being out of the game so long (about a year) it made sense to come back slowly to make sure I didn’t injure particular muscle groups.. not just my back. I stayed away from free weights too. You’re probably a year out of your surgery, so would love to hear how you’re doing. Nowadays I’m not lifting a terrible amount myself.. Doing a lot more cardio than anything else. Thanks again for visiting and hope you’re feeling and living well.
      - Rick

  21. Rick,
    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and I am totally inspired. I was in a bad car accident almost one year ago to the day. After 2 months of what I thought was horrible back pain, I got hit with sciatica. Now THAT is bad back pain!! Initial xrays showed severe lower spine compression, but the MRI two months later revealed a bulging L3 and severe herniation of L5/S1. I had a discectomy/laminotomy for the L5/S1. Post surgery I had three months of physical therapy and I am now on my own to explore the deep waters of recovery, exercise, and healthy living. I have gained a total of 20 lbs, faced my fair share of depression, and struggle daily with the idea of permanent disability. I have started to take steps to my own recovery. Watching what I put in my mouth: sticking to lean meats, fish, veggies, and lots of Greek yogurt. I’m also in yoga twice a week for stretching and I joined the YMCA where I am taking swim aerobics. I too have had to quit my LOVE for running. I see people pounding the pavement and have to look away. I really can’t tell you what it’s meant to read through your blog. I hope your recovery continues…that goes for anyone reading this blog or post.

    • I am a frequent visitor to this blog as I find it gives me a more positive perspective than some of the other forums where I truly feel there is no hope. I came upon your response today since I am doing the usual thing I do when some new (or old) pain pops up – try and find some reassurance that what I am feeling is part of the normal healing process and not an indicator of some looming next calamity. I could relate to a lot of what you are going through! I had microd exactly one month ago for a mild to moderate herniation at l5/s1 after 10 weeks of excruciating agony. I have had on and off pain but not much over the last weeks until two days ago – partly to blame I think on too much driving/sitting with 3 kids and a traveling husband to blame. It makes me very nervous about reherniation and the prospects for leading a normal life – like you I used to run and I have been brought to tears seeing people run on these nice spring days. I have piled on 25 lb over the last 3 to 4 months (whaaaa!!) and trying to eat healthy but still on painkillers so I have to make sure to eat fiber/fruit. I am walking most days, between 3 and 4 miles. I have to keep reminding myself that I had to crawl to the bathroom a month ago and that it’s amazing to be able to do that even if it doesn’t really “count” as exercise for me and makes me feel way older than I want to be! Starting PT on Monday and hoping to get some flexibility and an increased range of motion back into my battle-weary body. ;) Anyway, good luck with a continued recovery!

      • Thank you linneit. Hopefully you are weened off the pain killers. I took them about a total of 3 days during my entire recovery but my pain was probably a lot different than yours. Hope you are feeling better, eating well, and getting back to a good place health-wise. – Rick

    • Thanks Branan. Your story is inspiring as well. Hope you are feeling and living well! – R

  22. Its great that two years out from your original post people are still benefitting from it. I am 4.5 months out from microdiscectomy at L5/S1 and still feeling worse than i did prior to surgery. 90% of my pain and symptoms is from my calf down to my feet, extremely tight calf with stabbing pain and constant feeling of walking on marbles has unfortunately made it very difficult to walk, which i know is the best thing i could do. Prior to this I enjoyed hiking often. Had a positive EMG test so the nerve is still functional which is good. Just taking an aggravatingly long time for the nerve to come back. I am holding onto the hope from your statement that a number of months out from surgery you just started to feel relief. Thanks again.

  23. Hi!
    Just like everyone else, thank you so much for posting your experience here. I have so many questions, and no one has the answers i WANT to hear. I had an L5-S1 microdiscectomy for a severe herniation on 6/8/2012. I had pain, tingling prior to surgery. I walked with a limp for about 2 1/2 weeks prior to surgery because of weakness. I am now 5 days post op and no more pain down the leg. I still have tingling in the 4th and 5th toes and now have tingling/numbness in my left heel and left buttock (didn’t have prior to surgery). I didn’t notice anyone else posting weakness post op. I still have weakness and walk with a limp. I am eager to walk normally. Like everyone else who has posted, I am an athlete and was very active. I understand i cannot rush into the previous activities, but realistically, how long before I walk normally again??

  24. Hi there, just wanted to give an update as it might help others in their recovery process. I am about 10 weeks post-op for MD on L5-S1. I’ve posted a few times before and also had many doubts and struggles in this process. It’s only been recently that my pain is subsiding in my glute and leg. I had much relief after the surgery but my leg and glute would just ache and throb at times and an occasional jolt of sciatica would occur. My pain changed location and intensity often over the last 10 weeks. At times it felt like my outer toes were broke, sometimes my heal, and mostly that nagging intense ache in the calf and rear. My piriformis muscle still spasms since the surgery but I think it’s healing now too after all the strain put on it during my injury. Occasionally during walks or going down stairs, I’d have to hobble to avoid getting the jolts of pain and be very gingerly during the last few weeks. I’m sharing this so you can know that your pain and irritations will get better but it will take time.

    I’m just now getting back into the gym doing the lightest weights and 10 min on the bike or elliptical. Today I tried the stairmaster for the first time. I have found immense relief from getting in the pool and floating as well as soaking in a hot tub and letting the jets beat into my sore glute. It could be a coincidence but I have felt less pain since I started using the whirlpool. I had two PT sessions recently where they used an ultrasound device to penetrate my piriformis area. Maybe it helped, maybe the time I’ve had is helping. I was feeling very discouraged the last few weeks, like I’m never going to be pain free again. I just want you to know that it will get better and it’s a very up and down process in recovery. Good luck to all.

  25. Hi, I had a microdisectomy 1 year ago with a L5/S1 severe herniation. Prior to surgery, had fast loss of strength in left leg, bad limp, extreme pain and 48 hours later had surgery.

    Took a few weeks for the limp to go away due to the weakness. Every month gets better. I am afraid to run again tho. I do just about everything else and even though I am not running, I am thankful for my recovery. 9 days out of 10, I forget I even had surgery. I think the most important thing is to be patient, very patient. Goodl luck to all.

  26. John W
    Oct 25 2012 @ 17:15pm

    My first post and like everyone else on here Im anxious for feedback, 50 year old at 7 day post op L5 S1 MD, been feeling great after op with all pain in right leg gone, just sore from surgery spot, been walking up and down driveway for 5-10 mins for the last few days and been fine, today went for 2 x 20 min walks and after the 2nd I felt shattered, it hit me after 10 mins of returning and had to lay down, I guess I’ve just over done it, I’m interested in how other’s have began their walking after op and how often. I suffered with disc herniation for 4 months with chronic sciatica and like most others not been doing much in terms of fitness.

  27. Hi All – I posted back in June that 4.5 months out from my L5/S1 discectomy I was not improving and actually getting worse. In July I finally discovered an ortho Dr. who looked at my post surgery MRI and surgery notes and figured out the problem. My first surgeon (head of neurosurgery at a major hospital) closed my herniated disc tear with an “X-CLose” device, A device that had never been approved by the FDA for use on the spine and actually filed a complaint against the company (Anulex) for promoting it for use in the spine even though it had never had a clinical trial for spine use. Second surgeon removed the device which had become dislodged and stuck into my S1 nerve. I now have a shot at healing. I continue to have calf/foot pain but it is slowly improving. Anyone else have this device put in?

  28. Hi Everybody,

    I had a decompression/discectomy (L5, S1) on 13th July this year and have slowly been building up a fitness routine which consists of lots of stretching, about 20-30 minutes of cardio around 4 times a week. I put on quite a lot of weight over the immediate pre and post op months which is frustrating but that should slowly take care of itself as I move forward. I have the usual feelings of “doing much better” followed by “damn I just pushed it a little too far” and it seems that this sawtooth-type recovery of 2 steps forward, one step back is quite typical.

    My main passions are racquet sports though and I am really hoping that somebody can give me some feedback on how long it has taken to recover enough to play a game of tennis or squash. Although I am feeling a lot looser, stronger and generally better all round, I am terrified of picking up a racquet and going back to square one.

    Does anybody have any experience of this in relation to racquet sports and when sort of time they felt able to return to doing this type of activity. I really would appreciate some feedback as it is really hard to find good online sources of information and this blog is by far the best/most reassuring that I have found.

    Thanks so much and good luck to everybody who’s going through the same thing on here.

  29. Hello…

    I had a microdisectomy about a year ago. All of the inactivity caused by my ruptured disc put about 50 lbs on. I’ve lost it all and then some, exercising about every day. Running outside though is a no no for me, after about a week I’m really sore. So, I can only run on a treadmill. Unfortunately, I still have soreness and tightness, even after all of my weight loss and targeted exercises on my abs and lower back. Bednding over slightly to my right can still be tough sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t do a lot of PT after surgery; however I did walk a ton. However, it is manageable soreness, mostly in the morning when I get out of bed. Prior to surgery some days I couldn’t get out of bed, period. I’m a little disappointed that after all of my weight loss and workouts that I’m still having so much soreness. Don’t let me dissuade you from the surgery though; definitely go for the minimally invasive version of disectomy if possible. What I’m coming to realize unfortunately is that I’m going to have residual soreness for the rest of my life, which for an active, healthy person like me if a tough pill to swallow.

    • I relate to that. I had a microd early April and the recovery is really not linear. I now realize that the neurosurgeon was right in telling me that the actual recovery takes as long as it does for those who don’t do the MD. The damage to the nerve cannot be reversed completely, ever, I believe, but mostly – however it takes time. I am running 3 miles 3 times a week and I do an hour of weight training 3 times a week, a far cry from where I was 5 years or so ago. The key is to listen to your body and back off when necessary. I find it’s not always just activity – when I travel and sleep in a different bed I can have as much or more pain than when I ramp up my workout. Like you I am so happy I did surgery, I ran for 40 minutes today and barely 6 months ago I could not stand, walk, sit or lie on my back. My only regret is not doing it sooner. It’s adjusting to a “new normal”. Good luck

      • … and I forgot to say, strictly treadmill. I piled on 30 lb during the ordeal, wonder how much of it had to do with epidural steroids and neurontin, still struggling to lose it all :(

  30. I had a microdiscectomy one week ago. I’m 61 and had been extremely active prior to the pain. Personal trainer 1x week, bootcamps 3 x week, running, and racing sailboats. I was in so much pain I could barely sit and standing was getting worse. Had an epidural in August which was a temporary fix. Decided one week prior to surgery to do it. I am pretty much pain free now. I do have some weird burning in the back of my thigh (ibuprofen takes care of that) which is a new place and the strangest thing is that my legs ache and knees hurt when lying down. I can’t wait to get back to exercising. I’m a little nervous about that and I’m sure as things progress my fears will subside.

  31. Hi
    I had microdisectomy (L5/S1) 3 weeks ago. I have been out and about a few times but always come home absolutely exhausted. I am 37 and feel 87! I have 2 young children both still in nappies and am anxious to know when I will be able to look after them again. My surgeon does not speak very good english and is extremely over stretched so I barely have had time to speak to him. My physio can’t advise me. My little boy is with his grandparents in the U.K. and I am i France and it looks kile I won’t be able to have him back fro a long time as I’ve just been advised by surgeon no bending down or lifting anything for 2 months! Any information is appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi Charlotte,
      I just came across this blog and I know it’s been a while since you wrote. How is the energy level for you now? I am currently at 3.5 weeks post discectomy/laminectomy/foraminectomy and I will agree that I tire out very quickly. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to heal! Simple things will tire me out by the end of the day. At least I’m not taking naps every day anymore and sleeping 9-10 hrs/night. I hope you have been re-united with your children!

  32. Hi Rick-
    Also very glad to have found your posts. Diagnosed with herniated L4/5 abt 6 years ago although I had sciatic pain intermittently for 3 years prior. In 2010 decided to lose weight and join a gym. Was cleared by ortho and hired a trainer. Fortunatley, a good one. Lost 100 lbs and was in great shape. Gym 6-7 days a week and really hitting heavy weights. Had a tummy tuck in Oct 2012 and was out of the gym for a month and then went back gradually. Was benching one night, only 65 lbs, and arched my back and twisted and felt it go. Wasn’t excruciating immediately but over abt 6 weeks it got worse. I thought it was usual lumbar strain which I have on and off. By week 6 I couldn’t get out of bed. Tried cortisone which helped immensely so of course, back to the gym I went. BIG mistake. Anyway, ended up that the disc was ruptured and had to have microdisectomy. Amazing! I had never experienced such pain prior and then the leg went numb. I am anxious to get back as I too packed on some pounds AND fat. Funny, when I had the tummy tuck I didn’t have lipo in the back because I didn’t need it. Now I do. My ortho surgeon was a power lifter in college so he is probably a little less conservative than some. I am at week 6-1/2. I am doing pretty much everything at the gym, although either no weight or light. He gave me the go ahead for leg extensions and leg curls after 2 weeks, light, to keep the hams loose. I am doing body weight squats, stiff leg deads with 25 lbs (I was doing 100+ so I only get a stretch at this wt), assisted pull ups and machine pull downs. All chest except he bar, delts are back to normal. I know I am probably pushing i this soon bu I am sitting on my hands if you will, every time I want to up the wt. I just add reps or another set instead. I know I can;t worry abt growing muscle at this point and I don’t ever want to experience pain like ha again. I was nerve a runner so that’s not an issue. He did not recommend the treadmill because of he impact. Said outside is better and I did lots of walking every day for he first month. I do sit all day at work and I feel it. As to numbness, my foot is still numb. I got used to it but when I try to slip on flip flops, I can;t “slip.” I have to reach down and pull them on cause the toes don’t quite work. When I do step ups at the gym, that foot is difficult because it’s numb and weak. I do a lot of unilateral work with t to keep he muscle strong. I could live with it if I had to. As to nerve pain, not so much. I feel very lucky and it is good to know that you can get back to some sort of normal-it’s tough for us gym rats. Thanks for posting!

  33. Hi all. Rick, thanks for providing the encouraging blog, which has sparked so much positive discussion.

    I’m a 33 year old female, had an L5/S1 discetomy, laminectomy, and bilateral foraminectomy on 4/15/13. My herniation had actually managed to pinch both the left and right sciatic nerves, which is why they needed to work on both sides. My right leg was in constant pain, my left leg was initially in severe pain and then left with weakness and numbness.

    I’m about 3 1/2 weeks out from the surgery. For anyone considering the surgery, I really found it to be much less difficult than I expected. Yes, there is some surgical pain afterwards, especially the first few times you have to get out of bed. However, it’s tolerable. Aside from the anesthesia, I never took any narcotics after the surgery. Tylenol and Ibuprofen gave me adequate relief. My surgeon ordered me to take fairly high doses of Vitamin D, C, and Calcium for a few months to help with bone healing.

    Anyway, I agree that recovery is NOT linear, there are ups and down, good days and bad days and it certainly feels like 2 steps forward 1 step back. I think for most of us, we tend to overdo it the minute we are feeling a little better.

    My right leg pain was pretty much gone immediately after surgery. My left leg numbness and weakness is taking longer and the improvements are very subtle. From what I’ve read, the neurological deficits can take a long time to recover.

    In the last 2 days I’ve started to have residual pain down my right leg. I have to continually convince myself NOT to panic and to remind myself to SLOW DOWN and BE PATIENT. It has been helpful to see from others that a variety of pains and sensations come and go during the weeks and months after surgery and this is all normal. Like others, I have to keep my perspective and realize that I am still way better than I was before and this is going to take TIME. I also realize that the first few weeks of recovery are NOT a good time to try spring cleaning.

    What I have learned so far is that I have to slow down, I have to let things go around the house, I have to learn to be Ok just “being” and not “doing” all the time, I have to be kind to myself when I over-do it, I have to take deep breaths and calm down when I think I’ve re-herniated, I have to be OK with having a different kind of lifestyle for a while.

    Overall, I am grateful that I had a back condition that could be fixed because I know there are many back conditions without good solutions. I’m grateful that I had insurance and access to a good surgeon and hospital. I’m grateful that the recovery has been tolerable. I’m grateful that my job is generous with medical leave and that I have good support. I wish everyone luck and healing!

    • Liv, your story sounds exactly like me. I’m now 6 weeks post op and experiencing mild pain in both legs. I am curios how you are feeling now?

      • Hi Holly,
        I continued to have on and off leg pain in my right leg (my “bad leg”) up until about 9-10 weeks. Overall the pain got slowly dimmer over time until it was pretty faint. It was a subtle and slow process. I noticed that I had to start looking at my progress in terms of weeks and month rather than days because things can be so variable day-to-day and it’s easy to get caught up in that. When you look back a week, or two weeks, or a month, you get a much better perspective on how far you’ve come.

        My right nerve had been compressed for a good year before surgery, so I think that made a difference in how long it took for it to calm down. Maybe that’s the case for you?

        It could also be inflammation as part of the healing process. As you’ll read below, I ran into some trouble with this and was able to turn things around with PT.

        During my 18 weeks to date, I have experienced a variety of sensations that come and go randomly in both legs (pain, numbness, tingling, spasms, feeling like there is a bug crawling on my leg) and all of these things are pretty tolerable and slowly go away as you heal. One day you’ll wake up and think, “wait, I haven’t had a spasm in a week”, etc.

        By week 11 I was well on my way to complete recovery. Unfortunately that’s when I returned to work and all hell broke loose. I was suddenly driving 1.5 hours/day, sitting a lot, and feeling quite stressed with the demands of work and feeling really behind from being gone for 10 weeks. I started having significant sciatic pain in my leg again and felt like I was back where I started. I quickly started physical therapy (in and out of the pool) and within 1 month I was feeling like I was getting back on track again. The surgeon was worried about re-herniation or scar tissue, but I really think it was just tightness and inflammation as my body reacted the big change. My PT said I was completey “locked up”. I can’t recommend PT enough! My surgeon isn’t a big fan for some reason and doesn’t order PT as a standard part of the post-op care. From what I’ve read, most surgeons start it between 6 and 8 weeks. It was almost week 13 before I started. It’s possible that PT earlier, long before I went back to work, could have prevented my set-back. They have so much education and guidance to offer. They definitely had me doing things that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own and they can steer you away from things you shouldn’t be doing.

        For anyone who does have a set-back, even a few month into recovery, try to stay positive and realize that it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track and recover. I thought I was “supposed’ to be recovered after 3 months and was so scared when I was struggling after that. My PT told me that the body is changing, healing, adjusting, and progressing for a good 6 months and they consider 18 weeks to still be “early on” in the process.

        I sure wish I had eased in to work a lot better. Perhaps half-days a few days per week or something like that. I should have made it clear to my boss that I wasn’t going to be fully back on day 1 and that they should keep someone else on duty to help out for a few weeks to help my transition back. Live and learn!

    • Liv, Thank you for being so detailed! I am 6 weeks post op, I started PT last week. So you got me to thinking when I came back to work 2 weeks ago, felt the stress of being gone from work, it really came on, I be the stress did it. Physical therpay feels wonderful, they do a lot of soft tissue massage, stretching and building core. Yesterday I felt extreme weekness in my left leg, today its gone and now I have pain in right right calf. Each day really is different with the pains, weekness, spasms etc. I hope to have all this a distant memory soon. Thank you.

      • No problem, I’m happy to share my experiences if they can be helpful to others. How are things going with PT? It continues to make a big difference for me. You’re right, each day can bring new sensations but all of that slowly goes away. It’s a long process but worth it in the end! I think stress management and relaxation are really important, too. Especially during the transition back to work! I hope you are feeling better each week!

    • Amen to all of the above. Good luck!

    • Hi Liv, I a, feeling just ok. I’m now 8 weeks from surgery and I feel pain in both legs. It’s not constant and no way near the pain I felt prior to surgery, but I am scared that it will come back full throttle. I called the sugeon;s assistant and she prescribed me a medrol steriod pack and 800 mg ibruphrohen to see if it would help. I am under a great deal of stress right now and I know that does not help.I go to physical therapy tonight and hopefully the 15 back massage she usually gives me will help.

      • I had L5/S1 surgery November 2012. My recovery has been good but recently have developed back pain with sensations in the same leg. Not sure what happened to cause it. Probably doing too much.
        My surgeon’s PA told me to go back on ibuprofen for 2 weeks and that this can happen in the first year or two post op. it’s starting to ease however its still aggravated. The doctor won’t see me until I do two weeks of antiinflammatories.
        I was surprised to hear someone say their surgeon did not prescribe PT. it helped me a lot and I still do the exercises from time to time.

      • Holly, when I had my “set-back”, I was taking 2400mg Ibuprofen/day for a good 2-3 weeks. The physical therapists really wanted me to be getting good pain control so we could make some progress. It helped and I was able to wean off the Ibuprofen completely after a few weeks. After a month or so I was off the Ibuprofen completely, maybe taking 1 tablet on some days but MUCH improved! I hope it works for you!

  34. I suffered from April 2012 until November of last year. One dr misdiagnosed me and gave an injection in the si joint. Switched drs and first had an injection for herniated disc which never fully worked then 3 months later had a microdiscectomy in November since u could hardly stand, sit, walk, or lay down.. Now 6 months later still some stiffness and soreness. I’m back at the trainers working out 3-4 days a week and running/walking in between.
    By the way I’m 61, race dinghy sailboats, am very active and so thankful I had the surgery
    I woke up pain free from the surgery. I asked my dr why this happened. He said usually it occurs in your 40′s but since I was in such good shape my body thinks its younger! Lol
    A testimony to being active all your life!

  35. Thankful for your posts! I had this surgery less than a week ago for a ruptured disc and the weird dull aches and feelings in my lower legs really freaked me out at first. I hope with good nutrition and exercise I can work through them and eventually not notice them or in the best case they will go away. Thanks again.

  36. I stumbled across this while doing research for my same surgery, next friday. I have been reading nothing but horror stories and scaring myself. This is the first positive things I have seen and it is a much needed change. I hope I have the same outcome in the end! Wish me luck!

    • I had back surgery November 2012. I’m 61 and very active. I race small sailboats, run, and workout 4/5 days a week. I had been in pain from April 2012 to November 2012. During this time one dr misdiagnosed me and gave me an injection in the SI joint. After 5 weeks I went to a new dr and was told I have a herniated disc. I had an injection and it was partially helpful for 2 months then it started getting progressively worse again to the point I could not stand, sit, walk , etc without extreme pain. I begged for surgery and woke up pain free. Now 9 months later I am back to doing everything! Yes, I have a little discomfort bending low, picking heavier things up, etc so I modify or get help. Bottom line is I couldn’t go on and the microdiscectomy saved my lifestyle. Good luck! Judy

      Sent from my iPhone

      • I had L5-S1 disectomy on May 28,2013 and still have random sciatica pain and back pain. Back and leg pain at its worst first thing in the morning. Have yet to begin PT at the recommendation of the surgeons nurse. Perhaps I should inquire on that again? I would prefer aqua therapy as I hear it makes you weightless and easier on the back. I also had knee surgery in 2009 which did not heal 100% and I have limited range of motion in both legs now so thats another obstacle that therapists tend to overlook and only focus on the back issue. I need help with both or the PT will not be successful. This is all overwhelming. at least I am not alone in all this. thanks for sharing some insight to what might lie ahead. What are the best stretches to do? My surgeon tells me nothing – does not have a bed side manner at all. So that has not helped my mental state.

      • Charlie, my personal experience with PT has been wonderful. I had my surgery 4/15/13 and was starting to have significant recurrent sciatica 11-12 weeks into recovery. My surgeon doesn’t order PT automatically so I asked for it. I’m not sure what I would have done if he refused to order it. I might have asked my regular MD to order it instead, which she told me she will do if the surgeon won’t cooperate. It would be interesting to know what the surgeon’s reasoning is. I do once/week in the pool and once/week in the office. The pool has made a big difference! PT has not only helped reduce the sciatica, it has also helped me start to feel so much stronger and flexible and give me the confidence to do things I wouldn’t have dared try on my own. When I had my set-back, the surgeon wanted to do an MRI and they were talking about an injection, etc. PT has certainly been a less invasive and more effective solution! We certainly have to be strong advocates for ourselves in this situation. Good luck with the next steps!

      • Liv,
        Thank you for the feedback and letting me know that I am not alone. I have contacted my surgeons office numerous times about increased radiating pain and it’s a dead end. Well, until I left a message again and suggested that perhaps I needed a 2nd opinion? I had to find my own neurologist, but I think I picked a good one. She is thoroughly reviewing my case and requesting lab work, x-rays and an ECG to rule any possibilities out. I like that she spent about 2 hours with me! That is the longest I have spent in a doctors office ever! The surgeon spent a total of less than 10 minutes with me both visits.
        He is just not concerned about his patients well being at all or he would spend a little time inquiring on how the patient is doing. His nurse is great! But she answers to him and can only do so much. I will relay the success you are having with aqua therapy and see if thats a possibity. Thanks again. It is easy to feel alone when well, you are alone and the person who operated on you won’t give you the time of day.

      • I just had a scare. Three weeks ago I started with severe back pain and discomfort in my leg similar to what was occurring prior to 11/2012 when I had surgery for L5/S1 herniated disc.
        Called the surgeon and was told ibuprofen 600 mg three times a day for two weeks before the doctor would even see me. It took over a week for it to start easing a little. Saw the surgeon last week and I’m back in PT for 4 weeks and staying on antiinflammatories. Week three is bringing more relief to my discomfort and fear I’ve reherniated.
        Have no idea what brought this on.

      • Wow, Judy! You rock! I am almost 48 and do not have the energy you have! How wonderful!!

      • Judy,
        So sorry to hear about your set-back and glad to hear that things are easing up with PT and anti-inflammatories. Those two things really helped turn things around for me. I had feared re-herniation or scar tissue and now a couple of months later I am doing great with PT. Hang in there!

      • Charlie,
        Kudos to you for being persistent with your surgeon and for finding someone else to talk to when your needs weren’t being met. Not every surgeon is going to be a good fit with every patient. It’s your body and your life and you deserve good care and attention. I don’t think we should ever feel bad about expecting or demanding that. I’m glad the neurologist was able to give that to you. I’ll be interested to see what they discover and recommend. And as you said, you are not alone! We’re all out here on our individual journeys with this issue and it’s great that we can connect. Be well!

  37. I am almost 6 mos post op now (L4). Saw doc last week. He never recommended PT and still doesn’t. My back is super tight in the AM but within a few minutes of being up it’s ok. He said the muscles tighten up around the injury (surgical repair). Still take an NSAID very day and night, sometimes just a couple of Advil and sometimes prescription strength.The muscles tighten all night and I don’t sleep great. If I stay on left side too long, some mild nerve pain, more annoying. Left foot still pretty numb. He said it will take another year for all healing that is going to occur to finalize as it takes 18 months in total and what you have at 18 mos is pretty much it. So for those who are only a few months in, have patience. I can live with some mild nerve discomfort and a dead foot, lol, compared to the excruciating pain before the surgery that was just life changing.
    As to the gym, doing pretty much everything (all back and getting heavy, all chest and heavy (don’t bb bench), most legs/glutes). Squats still feel weird so I do front squats, goblet, plie and Smith Machine squats which still feel weird but I do them with very light weight. More for motion, Able to do plyos but not the straight up box jumps because the impact is just too direct but there are tons of plyos so I can still get a serious workout. Stretching before every workout is a MUST. I do 10-15 low incline treadmill for w/up and then about 15 mins of stretching. Once I get home I either stretch or foam roll, or both.

  38. I’m a full 2 years past surgery now. I’ve found that there are some things in the gym that I just can’t do without additional lower back pain. This really stinks as they were a part of my workout before the injury. Squats just can’t be done. I thought this type of exercise would be great to stretch and strengthen the area around the injury, but it just doesn’t happen. Also lifting weights straight over my head standing straight up isn’t good for the back either. I guess there was a good deal of nerve death back there that can never be repaired. Is this true? Do some of the nerves back there just die off and never come back? Is that why most of us have some remaining discomfort (although manageable) this far after surgery?

    • I had the herniated disc when I started at the gym 3 years ago. I was 235 lbs and lost 100. Prior to beginning I saw the ortho and he said “no deadlifts and no overhead presses.” I adhered to the latter, lol. I honestly think I re-herniated it doing bench presses. I arched and twisted, and it felt weird but not painful at first. But the PT made it worse and I believe ruptured it because I went from low level constant pain for a few weeks to couldn’t walk after the 5th PT session. I was seeing a sports medicine doc because the ortho was difficult to see and he could never really do anything. The sports guy wouldn’t do another MRI, did x-rays and said the herniation looked about the same as my MRI from 3 years prior so he ordered PT and was treating me first for hip issues then SI joint. The PT was good but going by what the Doc ordered and he bent me like a pretzel one session and that was it.
      Just don’t back squat. Try front squats holding a plate and work up to the bar or goblets with a DB. I find I’m ok with weight in the front, and you can do them wide to engage the glutes more. Deads I do just the Romanian. You’ll make accommodations and find your new perfect routine.

    • Kris, I cannot squat as well! Occurred after knee surgery, but even worse now. And sometimes you just need to get down to the ground. I had to help my dog and managed to get on one knee to help her…but could not get up. Scary!
      i wound up doing a weird crawl to the patio post all the while keeping my back straight and not putting a load on the bad knee. i pulled myself up somehow and hurt like the dickens later. But I did help my dog, which was the mission. It is a big life change and it can be overwhelming. And depressing when you realized you can’t do this or that. I want a new body!! LOL!

    • Kris as a person who has experienced back pain for over 30 year of my 56 years of life and after decades of p/t and chiropractic care squats were nerve ever recommend. They put alot of pressure on the spine/ disc. Start doing lunges and step ups. much better for your back and core. I just recently had a lumbar discectomy. No weight should be used above your shoulders. I hoe this info helps

    • Thanks all for the responses. Since I quit doing squats and weights above the head I’ve had less soreness. Although sometimes right after getting out of bed I can still be stiff. I’ve really focused on strengthening my core. My mid section is pretty solid and I’m trying really hard to get a six pack, which I guess is nearly impossible at age 37. However, I’m thinking that a solid core is most important for a solid back.

  39. I want to thank everyone on this post for sharing their experiences and advice. Patience is the number one thing I have remind myself to have. But reading you all’s comments is helpful and reassures me that I am not in this by myself. There’s a world of people out there going through the same struggles and successes. hang tough, world!

  40. There is hope. Now after listening to the surgeon ten months post op after a scare of possibly reinjuring my back. I was in pain and went on antiinflammatories for 2 weeks now in the third week and pain is almost gone and back to normal. Don’t know what I did to reinjure the back. The surgeon said 95% of the time it will resolve and this can happen during the first two years post-op. I’m probably the oldest poster on Rick’s Rants so take my advice. Also a registered dietitian. Stay active, eat healthy and if you are carrying around extra pounds, lose them for the sake if your back and your overall health. A great app is My Fitness Pal to monitor your intake and activity. Several of my clients have used it and lost 25+ pounds!

  41. Hi everyone ,

    I am glad i came across this page . I am 15 weeks post op and microdiscectomy l4/l5 . my recovery is going well. I just recently started PT . Only because I had demanded it . Anyways I was feeling really good but since i started Pt i have noticed a little bit of the sciatica coming back. I am hoping that its just because I have been more active with PT .

  42. Thanks everyone this site got me through the week. Here is my story.
    I’m 49, 5’11″, 155 pds, cyclist, skier….and have had sciatica for over 2 years. I’m now 1 month post L5/S1 laminotomy.

    Pre-surgery I was taking 900mg gabapentin and 75mg tramadol per day which got me through most days unless I was traveling.

    Week 1 post surgery 600mg gab, 50mg tram and 30-5mg narco. Had normal pain from surgery and slight sciatica

    Week 2 300mg gab, 37mg tram, 0 narco. Surgery pain pretty much gone still had slight sciatica.

    Day 15 staples removed, stopped all pain meds and went for 1/4 mile walk. Spent next two days more or less in bed.

    Week 3 walked ~1/2 mile total each day. Started withdrawals from the pain meds nausea, nerves tingling, sweating, insomnia, etc. this lasted 9 days!

    Week 4 walking ~1mile total each day. 800mg IB Had two wonderful days after the withdrawals with almost no sciatica. I was feeling so good that I spent almost the entire day scanning old slides mostly from a standing position. The next day my sciatica came back worse than ever. That’s when I found this site. I’ve been careful the last couple of days and it has improved somewhat. This sure is frustrating.

    • One month is still early on . By 8-10 weeks you will be feeling a lot better . I am now 4months post op and I feel like 80% back to normal . I sometimes too get a little bit the siatica pain . Could still be due to some inflammation because when I take my Aleve the pain goes away . It will get better hang in there . The best way I can discribe this recovery is 3 steps fowards and sometimes 1step back . But as long it’s more steps Fowards .

      • Thanks Billy your advice was spot on. I’m now at 10 weeks doing much better. Sitting for too long at the computer is the main thing that increases my sciatica. I’m now a happy person again!

      • Laad,

        Glad to hear that you are doing better now . Try to avoid sitting down for long periods of time . Try to stretch out every half hour or so . I am five months post op now . I can sit for 1 hour at a time before I have to get up and walk around . Last week I went to the movies for the first time and had to get up half way and stand off to the side for tens minutes . Went back to my seat and sat down for the other half of the movie .

      • I lived on antiinflammatories until my surgery then woke up pain free 13 months ago. Unfortunately,I didnt use them until 5 months after my pain began initially. Had I, it may have resolved, who knows.
        Good luck, keep us posted, and I hope your son gets relief soon. It’s agonizing pain that no one should have to deal with. It’s important post surgery to not sit for long periods of time and to walk a lot. I went back to working out around 3 months post -op, raced my sailboat all this past summer, and am pretty much back to normal. I do get stiffness, it goes away after I’m up and sometimes I feel a little sore if I bend over too far or do certain exercises. My surgeon said no lunges, squats, or lifting weights over the head for a while. I’m working with my trainer to strengthen the core so I can do more.

  43. Hi All, I have posted before. However I need some advice. I had a L5-S1 microdisectomy in July 2013. The leg pain was gone immediately. After about 3 or 4 weeks the sciatic pain was back here and there, a very slight pain. The past 4 weeks the leg pain is back, mostly while I am sitting, but appears some of the time while walking and standing. i went back to the orthopedic surgeon, he ordered another MRI. I follow up with him next Monday to discuss the results. I got a copy of the MRI and viewed it on my computer. The disc is not herniated, but bulging for sure. My doc said if I ever have another surgery, a fusion will need to be done because there is not much disc left. It seems like each day the pain gets a little worse. Should I just go for the fusion and get it over and done with? I’m scared to dealth to experience that full throttle pain prior to surgery and I feel like I will be at that pain level any day. My insurance benefits are all free for the rest of the year since I have hit my out of pocket maximum. Ughhh very annoyed.

    • I recently relapsed in August after surgery November 2012. My surgeon will not see anyone until you have gone on antiinflammatories for 6 weeks along with PT. I did and around 8 weeks it started resolving. I love my surgeon snd he said this can happen within the first two years of surgery. I would try antiinflammatories for a while after talking with the dr. It may get better on its own eventually with some therapy.

    • So here an update. I had another MRI regarding the right leg pain, mostly in my calf. MRI says no reherniation. The doc said it is spinal stenosis. He said just to continue therapy and stay as active and strong as possible. He also said I will be heading for a fusion later on in life if my calf/ ankle gets weak to a point where I can’t do my normal daily activities. He wants to keep me out of operating room as long as possible. So I feel better no disc herniation, but still concerned I might need a fusion later in life.

  44. Hi,

    Just found this blog. I had L4/L5 microdiscectomy in Jan. 2012 after several months of worsening sciatica. I felt better immediately and started with walking before advancing to bike and elliptical.

    I’d been a regular runner before my surgery, with my typical race being a 5-K. I take these races seriously, running around a 6:35 mile pace. But I waited a year and a half after surgery to begin running again.

    I started running again in August 2013 and I felt pretty much like my old running self. Soon I was back to racing, and ran two 5-Ks this fall at my typical pace (I finished 6th in the first one, 9th in the second, with times of around 20:30).

    All this running made me start thinking about a marathon, which I’ve never done before. Although I’ve stopped running for the winter, I’m hoping to start training next spring for an October marathon.

    Does anyone here think I’m nuts?

    • I don’t think you are nuts .lol I sure hope that I make the type of recovery you had . I am 4.5 months post op and my back still hurts . When is this going to End . All the leg pain is gone button back still hurts .

      • I love to run and plan to get back to it. You are not nuts. I’m working out with my trainer to strengthen the lower back. I race singlehanded sailboats along with running and working out so stay active so you can continue to be fit the rest of your life. I’m 62, retired, and loving life!

  45. Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Glad to hear I’m not nuts!

    I’m sticking to the ellpitical and bike all winter and will be back to running in the spring. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

  46. Pierre,

    I had the same thing with my recovery – leg pain went away quickly (which was good since that was the agonizing part), but I had lingering lower back pain for months. It was really more at the top of my rear than my actual lower back. My doctor told me this was normal – part of the recovery process.

    Sounds like you’re suffering pretty badly, however. My pain after surgery was more of the annoying kind. I was able to do everything I wanted to. So if you’re finding the pain is really getting in the way of life, you should probably be checked again to make sure the surgery was a success. What does your doctor say?

    • Dan . I am actually doing good . I am not miserable just still have an annoying pain . Doc told me its going to take time heal . I am now able to do mostly everything I use to do before the injury .:-)

  47. Good to hear, Pierre. I hope you keep feeling better!

  48. My son played football since he was in gradeschool. He developed low back pain while he was a junior in high school and continued to play till he couldn’t play anymore because of the pain. Last spring he had a MRI which showed L4L5 herniation and spinal stenosis. He has steroid injections and months of physical therapy in our attempt to avoid surgical interventions. They all had very little help and only temporary. He just turned 18 a few weeks ago. Our next option now is to undergo microdiscectomy at Methodist in Houston. He is tired of hurting and he is not able to do things that an active and athletic teenager could be doing. I’m scared to death to put him through the surgery. Please tell me something, he is too young to have surgery.

    Beth

    • I’m very sorry about your son. I’m at the other end of the spectrum in age, 62. I went from April 2012 until November 2012 undergoing PT, a steroid injection, and finally microdiscectomy surgery November 2012. I have had a good outcome.I’m back to running, working out, and racing my sailboat.
      I understand how he feels since I have been active all my life, it’s very difficult to deal with the pain and not being like the kids his own age. I guess I would definitely get a second and third opinion before surgery. I would want to research all I could about surgery for this at his age and the future prognosis. My niece ruined her back rowing right before a full scholarship to Duke and had to have surgery. She’s okay now.
      Good luck and keep us posted.

      Judy

  49. Beth,

    I wouldn’t worry about him having the surgery. it’s a pretty minor procedure that’s done thousands of times a day around the country. When I had mine, it was one of three on the surgeon’s schedule that day. The scarier thing is doing nothing if surgery is needed. The disc can degenerate further and lead to permanent problems.

  50. Thanks Judy and Dan. I appreciate your input. We were just informed the he needed another MRI of LS spine since the first one has been over 6 months ago. It’s going to be sometime in January before he can have the surgery. For the meantime he is still attending the physical therapy twice a week. I am so sad, I just hope that he won’t have to do it more than once.

  51. I had my microdiscectomy 12 weeks ago and still have several places in my right leg that is still numb, some tingling in my foot still and a lot of stiffness in my lower back. I have also developed pretty bad pain in my right hip which i never had before. I have been doing the treadmill 3x per week but that is all so far. I miss the gym and my intense workouts. Do you think this is normal and will go away or another issue? Should i try and go for it and get back into the gym 5x per week and adding weights to see if just moving again like I’m used to works? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • I would say your pain is normal . I had the same hip pain . It slowly starts to fade away . I am nearing 8 months and I am still expericing some very mild pain in my hip . I use to do a lot of heavy weight lifting before my injury . I decided to no longer continue doing that . My exersice now is swimming walking biking & hiking . I realize now that my spine is not the same any more and it’s just not worth the risk reherniating again . At 8months I am doing a lot better I am still not 100% back to normal . I’d say I was like 80% . For me my leg pain is gone but my back still hurts and I have pain some where in my tail bone .

    • I would say the pain is normal and you need to back off intense exercise for a while. Most of us had PT for at least 6 weeks and were told to not do squats or lift over the head for a while. What did your doctor say to do?

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

    • I am 9 months out from my surgery. Was tested and also have nerve damage. I just had another set of injections, which seems to help. I also have radiating pain down to my toes when the flare up occurs. Seems to be the norm. What exercises did your PT recommend?

  52. Hi Guys I had microdiscetomy surgery in September 2012. After having numbness in the Pelvic region. That has gone away completely but I also occasionally have numbness and pain the lower back to the left foot when I stand for long periods of time. I’ve had PT which helps but am curious if this is something that others have had after almost 18 months post surgery. I’m a bit worried

    • I had my surgery November 2012. I had a minor relapse last August with a lot of pain in my lower back. Can’t say I had numbness anywhere since surgery, but my csurgeon told me he would not see me unless I did a two week dose of ibuprofen. I did, it worked, and I exercise 3-4 days a week. I guess I would want an X-ray to compare post surgery and now to see if there’s any difference .

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