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Herniated for 14 years - will surgery really help?

Started by Mamaplease on 04/14/2011 5:22pm

I am hoping that somebody who either has had a Microdiscectomy or knows someone who has could help me with my question. I hope this post doesn't sound all "pity me" or whiny, because I really don't mean it that way. I just want to make sure I put down all the information so that I can get a better opinion.

I have no insurance so the surgery they want me to have is literally going to take every dime I have and all I can borrow to have it done, and there won't be any money for physical therapy or any kind of post operative care. I have a disabled husband who requires alot of money each month for meds, equipment, etc., so I have to be able to work to support him and my 14 year old son. I have had a herniated L5-S1 for 14 years and it has finally come to the point where I cannot continue to function with this sciatica, and it has begun to affect my relationship with my son... when mama comes home after work, it's all she can do to hobble to the bed, lie down and cry.

My personal physician as well as the doctor and medical staff at our local ER have all advised me to file for my Social Security disability. They feel that once the board sees my MRI as well as a physical examination that will show significant reflex and nerve impairment, that they will approve it.

My choices are this: I can have the surgery, not have any kind of physical therapy or post-operative care, bankrupt my family and pray that I don't re-herniate because I'll lose my job, or I can file for Social Security, pray that they approve me, wait 2 years until I qualify for Medicare, then have the surgery with some help to pay for it and any complications or physical therapy afterwards.

My question is this: What really is the risk of reherniation, and in your opinion, what do you think my chances are that I can have the surgery and go back to normal without needed any kind of post operative care (other than missing 2 weeks of work)?

Please, I would appreciate any responses, even negative ones.

Thank you so much for reading this.

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2 Responses


Your question is hard to answer with any certainty because everyone responds differently to surgery and PT. I first herniated L-4 L-5 just over 5 years ago and the cause for my herniation was unknown. After waiting 4 months I agreed to have surgery laminectomy and diskectomy. My nerve damage down my left leg was severe but I was told they had high hopes for my recovery to be close to 95-100%. I was young and otherwise healthy.. Haha on them. I have spent the last 5 years with mild to severe residual lower back pain and nerve pain and numbness that never went away. It took me 2 years to be able to gain the strength to take my little pug for a walk down the block. I have still lived very carefully, don't lift things over 5-7 lbs, no running, dancing or anything high impact, no amusement parks with my kids : ( roller-coasters were my favorite. Basically I have spent every day watching every move I make living in fear that I will reherniate again. Last Aug was my doom. L-4 5 herniated again but this time it progressed much faster. My left leg atrophied in a matter of weeks leaving no use of it. Due to other complications I had to wait until Dec to have the same surgery again. After recovering from surgery itself I still had no use of my leg or foot, and all movements felt like severe agony to do. Some of the nerve pain subsided but that didn't last long. 3 1/2 weeks later still bed ridden a 2nd re-herniation occurred. I am not a candidate for spinal fusion due to deterioration of and mild herniation on L-3 and S-1 now my only option might be artificial disk replacement but that all depends on a few factors that still need to be evaluated. And of course no none of which is covered by insurance. My only wish is to have the ability to walk and try to take care of myself again. My 17 year old son does almost everything for me and his 14 year old sister. Surgery is not always the best option unless you have no other choice. Physical Therapy is a key component to the healing and recovery process. Without it you chance not building and gaining the appropriate muscle and strength needed to prevent another injury. I hope from the bottom of my heart you heal well and have good health from here on.


Thank you so much for answering. Your comments fall right in line with my thinking...

My neurosurgeon said that people have a 90% - 95% of not re-herniating if they have the surgery within 6 months of the injury. Well, mine happened 14 years ago. When I asked him what my risk would be he kind of dodged the question. When my husband asked him what my prognosis would be without the surgery, he said "well, we look at history to give us the answer. Your wife has gone from a 5 cm herniation to a 20 cm herniation in 2 years, and her pain has gone from 3-4 up to 8-9 most of the time." That was the answer. So I can only conclude that I would have a high risk of re-herniation without the surgery and things will progress until I'm in a wheelchair without the surgery.

My problem is I don't have insurance... even if I was able to scrape together the $20,000.00 I would need for the initial surgery, If I re-herniated then it would all be for nothing. On top of that, and along with your story, I seriously have never met anybody who had a Microdiscectomy who didn't have to go back at least once for more surgery.

Thank you again for your post. It just helps me to see that surgery is probably not the best option for me at this time. My regular doctor has suggested that I file for SSDI, wait 2 years until I qualify for Medicare, and then try to have the surgery done. That way, if there are complications, I have some insurance to help me pay for physical therapy or whatever I need to try and get to where I have some quality of life, because right now I have none.

Take care and bright blessings to you!