Bulging disc repair - I need one good story, please

I have never heard anyone say “boy am I glad I had my back surgery”, and I’ve been around a lot of people in rehab since I worked so many years as a home health nurse.

Not looking for medical advice. Have already had epidural injections, along with intensive physical therapy. The pain is not really in my back, it is down my leg starting at the knee (someone is pounding a chisel into the side of my leg), down my shin (someone is slicing me with a sharp knife), across the top of my foot (ew, electrical hot sensation) and into my toes (did someone tie string around my 2nd toe cuz it sure feels like it). Also, the weakness has set in. My leg buckled 4 times yesterday, and I really really need to not go down to the floor, since I could possibly dislocate my artificial hip on the other side. Some of the time pain is bearable, and I am still working. Other times, I am taking Vicodin and applying cold all over my leg just to make it thru the night. Motrin is eating up my stomach. I can’t go to work stoned on Vicodin (House, how I envy thee!)

I guess I want to hear it all. Good, bad, whatever you can say to me is fine. My MRI shows 3 bulging discs from L3 to S1, the largest bulge being 4.5 in size, the others are both 3.

Is it more effective to apply cold to the disc area, BTW? I’ve been doing it from knee to toes, but it makes sense to start at the source, maybe??? :confused:

I don’t have any back problems, but a guy at work has had some real issues lately so it’s come up a lot, and it seems I know a lot of people who have had the surgery. T, the guy with the problems, says the surgery was wonderful but now a whole other disc is bulging and he’s in a lot of pain. C had the surgery and says it was tough but she’s glad she did. (These are both younger people.) My dad is in horrible pain from his three discs, but he’s 75 and they don’t think he should have the surgery.

Ruffian seems pretty happy.

Boy, am I glad I had back surgery! I had the same problem, only I had one bulging disk instead of 3. I had the injections, traction, PT, you name it- and the pain in my leg got so bad that I couldn’t walk without a walker. This was a few months after running a half-marathon. My doc finally said that we were getting to the point that if I didn’t have surgery, I might have permanent nerve damage. I was really, really trying to avoid surgery because, like you, I’d heard so many horror stories. I was ready to saw off my left leg with a butter knife.

 I had the surgery.  When I woke up from the anesthesia, I started to cry, because it was the first time in months that my leg didn't hurt.  I stayed home from work for 3 weeks, worked half-days for three weeks, and then went back full-time.  I'm a trial lawyer, so I'm on my feet a lot, and I was still able to get back to a normal schedule.  I did PT for 6 months after the surgery.

 This was November of '03.  I have had the odd problem if I overdo it, but nothing that some Motrin and an ice pack won't fix.  I avoid lifting anything heavy, and I have to be careful not to twist- for some reason, that really bothers me.  Being in one position for a long time- like being in the car for several hours- can get to me, but if I take a little break, I'm fine.  I've even been wearing my 3 and 4 inch heels.  I also can't lie flat on my back for too long, which is OK, as I am a side sleeper.

 I've had a little trouble taking off the 20 or so pounds I've gained since the surgery.  I used to be an avid runner, and I've had a little trouble getting back into it.  I've recently started going to spinning classes 2 or 3 times a week, and I'm walking a couple of times a week, so I expect to drop the weight sonner rather than later.  

 I do have a little, tiny bit of permanent nerve damage.  The back of my left calf, in one spot, is always numb.  I really don't notice it until I shave my legs, and it squicks me out a little that I can't feel the razor.   

 Boy, am I glad I had back surgery!

Nice to see some good news. I’m wondering which procedure you all had - standard lami-disc repair or the new mini-diskectomy. If the incision was so small, it had to be the newer procedure??? Has anyone heard about radio frequency (RF) nerve ablation? Supposedly a short fix thing until you can go for the whole enchilada. Timing for me is very important. My job will be gone if I take off too much time. The won’t fire me for having surgery, they will just replace me. Thanks for the info, very helpful!

Boy am I ever glad I had back surgery. It’s been just 8 days, and while the muscles are still pretty honked up (I will need PT to retrain them to work they way they’re supposed to), the nerve pain is GONE. Bonus: I’ve had sharp heel pain in my left foot for over a year. I thought it was plantar faciitis, and perhaps a complication of all my equestrian events (“Heels down!” is the universal cry of riding instructors). As I was pregnant, I didn’t do much about it beyond inserts, and then after the baby was born, my back pain became center focus. I just noticed yesterday that since the surgery, the heel pain is gone. Huh! It’s a common radiculopathy apparently for herniations at L5/S1. Bonus!

The last few days I’ve amused myself by putting on shoes. It has been such a habit to carefully cross one foot over the other leg (ankle on knee), throw a sock on as fast as I can, then barely get the shoe on and then stand up and stomp it the rest of the way on. I’m stunned that now, just days after surgery, I can actually bend forward and put shoes on like a normal human being.

Are they talking surgery to you already? I was informed that surgery is not usually considered if the herniations are under 7mm. (My protrusion at L5/S1 was 8-9mm.)

For the record, I had a microdiscectomy (removal of the bulging part of the disc), laminotomy (removal of a dime-sized piece of lamina/bone to give the nerve more space), and foraminotomy (same idea–opening up the nerve spaces to give more room–my MRIs showed “foraminal narrowing”). My incision is about 1 1/2-2" long.

8 days post-surgery, I can walk, go up stairs, drive, carry my 17+lbs son (for a few minutes), and otherwise lead a normal life. Only things I really struggle with are picking my son up off the floor, shaving my legs (bending all the way to my ankles), picking my horses’ feet, and sitting for more than an hour or so. Considering how recent my procedure was, I find that remarkable.

I had a herniated disc 9 years ago. I was able to deal with the pain through medication and physical therapy over 8 months. I really wish I had the surgery as soon as the disc herniated. Since I let the disc be herniated for so long, calcifications built up around it so when the pain got really unmanageable it felt like a sea urchin being stabbed into my spinal cord. I had a complete discectopy (sp?) and was up walking within hours. Living without pain was amazing. Sure, it gets twingy if I bend wrong or the weather is wet. So, I can honestly say that I am glad I had my back surgery. Plus, the scar isn’t too bad!

I’m glad I had surgery (laminotomy, microdiskectomy, foraminotomy).

I ruptured my L5S1 with huge extrusion of the pulp mostly on the right but enough on the left that I “went bilateral” (as one of the nurses said, like it’s a trend in GQ). I had 3 injections and loads of physical therapy. After 6 months they gave up on nonsurgical methods and I changed Drs. New guy said I should have had surgery long ago and now have permanent nerve damage.

So I had the surgery and immediately lost about half the pain. Then he put me on Gabapentin for a few months over which I lost most of the rest.

Now I’m a year post-surgery. I have a little pain every day, but not enough to medicate (glad about that, as after 1200 Percocets they aren’t much fun). My foot is partly paralyzed but it turns out wiggling the toes isn’t really that important. I’ve learned to move differently and will never again haul around 80 lb sacks of concrete, but otherwise this injury doesn’t limit me and I love life again.

By the way, success rates are much higher for surgeries that are treating limb pain by decompressing the nerve root than for surgeries that are treating pain in the back itself. I gather that the mechanisms causing back pain per se aren’t fully understood, but if you decompress a nerve root you’re fixing the only thing wrong with the nerve.

Boy, am I glad I had back surgery! (twice!)

Ruffian, you are kinda scaring me with the amount of lifting you are doing. If your doctor says it’s OK, then that’s OK but I sure would hate to hear that you re-injured yourself. One of the main things they warned me about was doing too much too soon since I felt fine and normal again.

Napier, I’m glad to hear how yours turned out. I knew the decision about having surgery was weighing heavy on your mind, good to know it helped you get your life back.

I hurt my L3 doing squats at the gym one day a few years ago. It hurt real bad all the time and was apparently pinching a nerve going down my left leg, making it extremely difficult to operate the clutch in my car. I also couldn’t do any heavy lifting at my job, which required quite a bit. Luckily my boss was cool about it.

When I got to the doctor, he did some x-rays and determined that it was a bulging disc and that I should go into traction. Twice a week I’d go in and they’d put me in this machine with straps wrapped around my hips on one end and a harness for my shoulders in the other. They turned it on and it s-t-r-e-c-h-e-d me out in a way I’d never felt before. On the one hand it felt really good. On the other hand, my back still hurt like shit. However, after about six or seven visits of going twice a week, I noticed that my back felt remarkably better. A few weeks after that the pain was gone, and still is gone to this day.

I feel (or rather, have felt) your pain. Good luck.

Duke O’ Rat, you have an admirable memory! Yeah, it is an intimidating decision to make. I believe in making informed decisions, so even though it wasn’t requested let me offer an ugly story too.

Four days before my scheduled surgery, I mentioned to an acquantance that I was having it done. “Oh, no, you can’t do that! Didn’t you hear about so-and-so?”, referring to a casual friend I hadn’t been in touch with in years. “What about him?” “He had disk surgery and it turned out badly and then he had a second surgery, and a third, and got worse and worse. He shot himself last week.”

But the odds are still excellent for surgery for limb pain.

I was nearly insane from the pain, so any back pain/surgery stories stick with me more than other stories might. I felt for you, hearing of your condition made my back hurt. I got the feeling you were getting near the end of your rope, a story about missing an important family get together and the anguish it brought you comes to mind. Hearing that you are doing so much better (and without all the meds, to boot) really made my day.

So next time you take a walk with the grandkids, take a few steps for ol’ Duke, who couldn’t take a few steps on his own before back surgery.

Boy, am I glad I had back surgery!

My husband is glad he had back surgery. Twice.

The first time, everybody who hadn’t seen his MRIs tried to talk him out of it. Anybody who had seen his MRIs was like, “yeah, you better get under the knife ASAP.” Even as a layperson, I could see what that bulging disc was doing to his nerves.

He woke up from anasthesia with a HUGE smile on his face. He said “It’s so wonderful! I don’t hurt!” “But you just got cut open. How can you not hurt?” “Oh, it hurts where they cut me open, but I HAVE NO MORE BACK PAIN!”

Then he had another one, and had to do it again. That time, he ended up with permanent nerve damage, but not as much as he could have had if he had waited.

(A key to his successful recovery both times was that he was really good about doing his physical therapy.)

I’m glad to hear some good experiences. My L5/S1 has been trying to make a break for it for about a year now. I got the epidural shot last March, and I went from walking with a cane to actually being able to find comfortable positions within a week or so.

My back was feeling better and better, to the point where I felt like I could start leaving my bottle of Vicodin at home instead of keeping it in my purse … and then I made the mistake of pulling the floor mats out of a car. Apparently my back took great exception to that, and now I’m almost back where I started. Looks like I’m headed for another shot or maybe some surgery – something I’m not looking forward to at all.