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My L4L5 Microdiscectomy story with SUCCESSFUL outcome

Started by AnonymousATL on 03/15/2019 10:33am

I thought I would share my so far successful L4L5 Microdiscectomy. I read over forums throughout my injury so I thought I would return the favor. Maybe this will give someone hope for a successful Microdiscectomy recovery...

To begin, I am a 30 year old male who was/is in very good shape. For roughly 9 years now, I exercise anywhere from 5-7 days a week mixing in strength training (compound exercises, free weights, calisthenics, kettlebell, and TRX, among others) and cardiovascular training (both long distance and sprints.) On top of that, I am an avid golfer and have played golf ever since I can remember. I am now lucky enough to be my own boss and for roughly 3 years now I play anywhere from 1-3 rounds of golf per week on top of hitting 100-200 golf balls on average 5 days a week. Do the math and it adds up to 1,000 balls a week and 4,000 balls a month. With that being said, my body has taken a beating over the years. I am 6’0 tall and before my injury I was on average 195lbs with about 12% body fat to give you an idea. This is important later...

On January 9, 2019 I was doing squats at my gym. I wasn’t doing anything heavy at the moment either. On about the 10th rep out of the 20 I was shooting for, my lower right back locked up. I have dealt with back spasms in my lower right back dating back to high school so I didn’t think anything of it. I immediately stopped, stretched for a while and called it a day. The next day (Thursday) I was still tight/sore but nothing I hadn’t dealt with in the past. I decided to go for a 3 mile run to try to loosen up and stretch afterwards. During the run, I noticed I wasn’t getting any looser like I had in the past but again, didn’t think anything of it. I completed the run no worse than when I started. The following day I decided I was going to go play golf with the Friday afternoon group I usually play with. Warming up on the range, my lower back was still tight but nothing crazy and was still hitting the shots I wanted. I made it through the first hole no problem. On the 2nd tee shot, it all fell apart.

On my downswing, my back went out and immediately dropped to my knees. I had a sharp shooting pain in my back but again, thought it was just a back spasm (although it didn’t feel like a spasm.) I eventually got up to where my ball was and tried to see if I could set up to the ball. I could not even bend very slightly over the ball to lign up my second shot. I decided I was done for the day and decided to try to walk with the group for the front 9 holes to try to loosen it up. By the time I got back to the clubhouse, it had gotten progressively worse as the pain was now starting to get into my hip. I called it quits, went home and immediately got on the floor which is where I was stuck for the next 10 days.

About 10 minutes after I got on the floor, the pain was a 10/10 (or what I thought at the time was a 10) and physically could not move. If I tried to move an inch, the pain shot into my hip, groin, down my thigh and went into my knee, shin and ankle. The absolute worst pain I have ever felt in my life and that includes a compound break in my left tibia and a spiral fracture in my fibula. Fast forward to Monday and the pain has somehow gotten worse, which I did t know was possible. I called my chiropractor and she said to come in to get checked out (first time I had moved since I got home Friday.) I managed to get in the car, taking a good 1/2 hour to get there and my wife took me to the chiro about 2 minutes from my house. The chiro said it was more than likely a herniated L4L5 disc. From there on out until Jan 22, I had them stretch my spine out to alleviate the compression of the nerves along with ice cupping afterwards a total of 6 times. It did not touch the pain. On Tuesday I noticed my left leg was extremely smaller than it had been. My wife measured the circumference around my thigh and it was almost 3 inches smaller than my right leg. Also during this time I noticed that I had not felt the urge to go to the bathroom at all (to get personal both 1 and 2.) I was able to get into a spine doctor on Wednesday and was hoping to get an MRI to confirm what i thought i had. The doctor spent about 2 minutes with me, said it was more than likely a herniated L4L5 disc, and scheduled me with their Physical Therapist for the next day. No MRI though - i was pretty mad but thought i would give PT a try. The pain started to subside from a 10/10 on Thursday and i was able to hobble around, albeit a very small amount. I went to the Physical Therapist who tried to put me through a few stretches which there was absolutely no way i could do. I also knew that this kind of physical therapy wasn't it for me. It involved stretching and only stretching and i needed both stretching, flexibility training, and tons of strength training by now as my right leg had completely withered away by now. On Saturday (9 days post injury) i felt a lot better (pain maybe a 4/10) and thought i turned the corner so i went to the gym and was able to walk a mile at 1.2 MPH on the treadmill. There was a little pain but nothing crazy. That afternoon, i went to an acupuncturist recommended by someone who went through the same issue and saw great results from it. I felt a little better immediately afterwards, but had to bend over to put my shorts back on afterwards and my everything went back to where it was.

Waking up Sunday, now 9 days post injury, the pain was the worst it had been. I thankfully had some strong pain killers and muscle relaxers left over from my previous back spasms, so i had been taking those all week with little to no relief (but they did knock me out for 1-3 hours per night which was good i guess. I was in awful pain all day Sunday and same story Monday. Monday night, i decided i was going to the nearby hospital the next day(i absolutely hate going to hospitals but knew it was my best chance to get an immediate MRI and some temporary pain relief.)

Around 2AM Tuesday morning, i tried to crawl to the bathroom before i attempted to get a few hours of sleep. I made it about 6 feet and my body finally shut down from the pain. I went into immediate shock and was stuck clinging onto a chair at an awkward angle with no ability to even move an inch. I was shaking violently, freezing cold, sweating, light headed, confused and disoriented. I don't know how long i was in this state of mind, but i finally realized my phone was back on the floor where i had just come from (again, 6 feet away) and i needed to get back there to call my wife. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get back to that spot. I was able to get my phone, call my wife to come downstairs and asked her to call 911. I was still shaking violently, cold sweats and disoriented, but i had finally thrown in the towel and needed to get to a hospital. What i used to think was a 10/10 pain wasn't even close to this experience. 15 minutes later, i was in the back of an ambulance riding to the ER.

Once i got to the hospital, i had calmed down enough to where i was able to walk in on my own power The shaking and cold sweats were completely gone by now and i was walking around pretty well all things considering. As they were processing me in, the nurses were skeptical of me and thought i was in to get some pain medicine. They put me in a room and hooked me up to an IV with anti inflammatory medicine as i waited to get checked out. The first person i saw was a PA and he checked me over. His conclusion was he thought i had a pulled muscle in my groin or hips. I wanted to reach across that bed and slap him. He ordered an X-RAY of my right hip. A nurse came into wheel my bed to the X-RAY room and as soon as i started moving, the movement triggered that nerve and i went back into shock. They started shooting pain medicine into my IV along with who knows what else which was able to calm me down enough to suffer through the X-RAY. About 3 hours later, i finally was ordered an MRI. Again, as they began to wheel me to the MRI room, i went into shock again from the pain. About 10 minutes later, i was out of it and able to comfortably get the MRI. The MRI showed what i had expected all along; a very large herniation in my L4L5 disc. Throughout the next 6 hours or so, i was able to lay comfortably with the morphine drip and muscle relaxer and anti inflammatory injections i got throughout the day, but did go into brief shock one more time before i left.

When the neurologist came in, he suggested that i get an epidural to help relieve the pain. Unfortunately, the head anesthesiologist had just left the hospital to start his own practice so no anesthesiologist were available at that time. I left the hospital about 3 oclock in the afternoon and went straight to the clinic to get an epidural. The anesthesiologist met with me and explained what they were going to do. They put me in the hospital bed and prepped me for the shot by giving me a small dose of fentanyl. Right before they wheeled me into the room to administer the shot, i went into shock again. 4th time of the day - tons of fun. He then gave me enough fentanyl to knock me out for the procedure.

When i came to, i felt so much better. To speed things up from here, after the shot i had on 1/22, i was able to hobble around much better and got better pain wise every day. The day after my ER visit and shot, i noticed my leg and right buttocks was so much smaller than my left leg and had lost all my strength. I stepped on a scale and it read 170 lbs. 25 lbs lost in 11 days of all muscle. I was shocked. I finally found a great neurosurgeon in Atlanta that i wanted to go see and got his first available appointment on February 5. In the meantime, i still wanted to rehab myself to see if i could fix my body the natural way. I was given the name of a physical therapist in Atlanta who over the years had been the PT coordinator for a major sports team as well as the US Track and Field team. I started seeing him 3 times a week for 3 hours a day immediately and he was great. I wont go over all the details of PT, but i really liked the stretching, deep tissue work, trigger point work, core work and dry needling he put me through every day. It hurt like hell afterwards, but it was well worth it. Although it did not help me get any better over those few weeks, i think it did help me get to where i am now so quickly post surgery.

My doctors visit went as expected. Looking at my MRI he pointed something out that showed him i probably had cauda equina syndrome before my epidural. He explained that my pre-ER visit symptoms were in line with that and something on the MRI showed him i guess a particular set of nerves were being impacted by the herniation. He said this is rare and you have to get emergency surgery to prevent permanent damages, like paralyzation. The fact i was walking on my own now and had feeling back in my groin/hip area, he didn't think i needed immediate surgery, but scheduled me for a microdiscectomy on 2/22.

I continued PT up until surgery and was really glad i did. Long story short, i had surgery on 2/22 and when i woke up, the majority of my nerve pain was gone. I still felt like i had been kicked in the shin, but no hip/groin/buttocks/quad pain. The first week after surgery and after the local anesthesia had worn off, the nerve pain crept back a little bit into by quad but not anywhere close to where it was before. Week two rolled around and i was able to walk around with a normal stride, still a lot slower, and the nerve pain was getting less and less. Today is exactly 3 weeks and the nerve pain is pretty much all gone. I had surgery on a Friday and by Monday i was back in the gym walking very slowly on the treadmill and doing tons of hip and groin stretches to eliminate as much scar tissue as possible and speed up my recovery time. By Thursday, i was doing some light core work (mostly different forms of planks) and small flexibility movements to loosen up the muscles. The following monday (10 days post op) i began some very basic strength work to build back up the atrophied muscles in my right leg. I did leg extensions and hamstring curls and moving 10 lbs with my right leg felt like moving 200. To put it into perspective, i used to be able to do over 200 lbs single leg extensions no problem. At first i could manage 10 lbs doing 10 reps and barely getting the 10 reps. I also started doing dips and pull ups during this time as well with no residual effects on my back. I have added a few more exercises since then, nothing that loads my spine and all super super light weight, high reps and/or body weight. I do not do anything where i bend or rotate at the hips either, whether it is exercise or stretching.

I go back to the doctor on Tuesday, 3/19 to hopefully get released back to PT where he can kick my butt and get be back to somewhat normal. As i said, today is week 3 post op and i feel almost like i felt before the injury, just not near as strong or flexible. My right leg is still pretty messed up from the sudden atrophy, but i am back up to around 175 lbs and slowly getting some of my strength back. If anyone is experiencing the same symptoms or questioning whether they should get a microdiscectomy, i hope this story helps. I would still say do everything you can to naturally relieve the herniation, but if surgery is your only option like it was mine, your recovery is what you make of it. Start tackling your recovery, if you can, before your surgery even if it is just walking and stretching. Stretch and getting those muscles activated again that are most effected by the nerve is the best way to recovery. Post surgery is no time to relax. Take it easy and be very careful with each movement you make, but stay active. The recumbent bike and treadmill were and still are by best friend right after surgery. The more you move and activate those muscles, the less scar tissue build up you have and the better your recovery will be. And STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH!!!

I know this was long winded, but maybe it gives someone hope if they are going through the same thing. Everyone told me not to get surgery except the physical therapist and doctor and boy am i glad i didn't listen to those people. I would still be stuck on the floor and in miserable pain. Remember, recovery is what you make of it. If you lay around feeling sorry for yourself, you are only hurting your future. Get out and get after it, push yourself while being mindful of your body and most importantly, keep a positive attitude. Although my experience was relatively short compared to others who live months or even years with this, i was down in the dumps the first few weeks but now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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1 Response


Thank you for sharing your story. It was a very interesting read and well written.

I am in the position of trying to decide whether to have surgery or not of the same disc herniation. The epidural injections I've had have helped a little. But pain is still there.

I experienced what I would call a 10/10 a while ago but have been more like 2-6 depending on the time/day since November. I never went into shock like you though.

I feel like everyone who goes forward with surgery does so at a much later stage of pain progression than myself. But I have also talked to all sorts of people who said they felt they had waited too long and ended up with permanent nerve damage which makes me very nervous.