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Experience of ongoing recovery from L5-S1 sequestered Disc Fragment

This is my first post to this site as since I was scheduled for microdiscectomy on a sequestered L5-S1 fragment I have extensively used this site to get an insight into other sufferers experience on surgical and non surgical treatment outcomes so I thought I would share my experiences as there doesn't seem to be too many positive stories on here. For the last few years I have had intermittent back pain with a bit of sciatica but typically after a few days rest, a physio session and getting back to activity it would resolve. I am just turned 41 and extremely active - training (cardio and resistance training) 5 days a week on top of cycling about 80km /week.  About 10 weeks ago I woke up with a bit of ache in the outside of my right leg...thought nothing off it and went on with my day...the next morning - OMG. I never felt such pain (and i have quite a high tolerance for pain!)  My leg felt like it had been broken, my right foot was numb, my right calf had swollen and I was seriously struggling. I went to my doctor who gave me a prescription for diffene and told me to do whatever activity I could. During the first week the pain was so bad one morning when I got out of bed, I fell to the floor and couldn't move with the spasms and pain. I couldn't sit at all and was barely able to walk. I went back one weeks later and he gave me more diffene and sent me for an MRI. The MRI showed a large disc herniation at L5-S1 (about 8mm) with a sequestered disc fragment of 1.1cm x 1.3cm which was significantly impinging my S1 nerve. I was sent for a surgical consult (best guy in Ireland). I saw hi a week later (end May) and he advised a microdiscectomy, because I was still having a lot of difficulty and neurological deficit and he didn't feel I would recover spontaneously (and he doesn't take risks so I valued his opinion). My surgery was scheduled for 2 weeks later (early June). In the next two weeks I noticed some improvement so I postponed surgery to the end of June with a view to seeing consultant again to get reassessed. At my reassessment they were amazed how I had improved. I'd gone from struggling to walk to being reasonably mobile (within limits) with signs of neurological deficit reducing. He advised putting off surgery as he felt that by the time I would have recovered from surgery I may have recovered naturally. I have to get another scan in 3 weeks (end July so 3 months post symptoms) and see where we go from there but he is optimistic. I'm not afraid of surgery and if after another 1- 2 months I am still struggling to get back to full activity then I will consider the surgery as I don't want to risk long term damage. However, here is the thing - I have read in numerous journals and from consultant that sequestered discs have a greater chance of re absorption and maybe that is underway. I still have trouble stretching my hamstring and sudden movements or getting out of a car result in shooting pain but I'm managing and though I am not out of the woods I feel I might be able to avoid the surgery. The surgeon felt my good physical condition and determination to stay active during the pain have helped - this is the most important thing for me to take out  of this. Since, day 1, even though I could barely walk with searing pain, I walked....I avoided sitting, I bought a desk top table so I could stand at work...I kept my lower back in an arched position as much as I could to take the pressure off the disc. I am most comfortable walking so I walk a lot (can do up to 15km with very minor discomfort and numbness in the exterior of my right foot....very boring but better than nothing) and ''keep moving''. this is just my experience but hopefully it will give people hope and maybe my sequestered disc is being absorped by the body? i would be interested to hear from anyone else who has had a similar experience. At this point it is the mental aspects that I struggle with - being less active than usual, having to limit my social life (travelling etc.) but hopefully that will improve as my condition keep improving but what I am doing seems to be working. I know everyone is different but if you can take the pain, be active and take the pain - when I think where I was 7-8 weeks ago I feel like new


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,212
    hello mtux !
    welcome to spine-health
    please click on link for helpful information!
    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • wajihwwajih torontoPosts: 48
    Hi Mtux
    Its great to hear a success story. I hope you completely recover without surgery. You are right some research papers support that the bigger the herniation there is more chance for it to resorbe but certainly its not a generel rule. I am into my 9th month of a massive L5/S1 herniation 22x 8 mm and so far avoided the surgery. In my case, I improved but it kind of stopped at a certain point. I am able to walk, stand and sit but for a limited time and I still have to rely on analgesics. The only positive for me is that I never had a neurological deficit other then some tingling and numbness on the toes. It still comes and goes. At this point I am seriously considering the surgery and waiting for the appointment. I am so happy to see that at least someone felt better without surgery and I just wanted to congratulate you for this achievement.
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  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 446
    I hope you manage without surgery too!  My profile pic shows my re-herniation, I never got an official measurement.  But it is noted as 'severe'.  My original injury actually looks a little less offensive, but I had waayy more nerve pain before surgery, so it helped for something.  In my neck of the woods (Canada) waiting months for MRI, more months for surgeon consults, more months for surgery, you pretty much know by the time you get there whether or not it is necessary!  I waited 9 months for my 1st surgery (discectomy), and I'm now at 8 months since re-herniation and still have not had surgeon consult :( But definitely I would give it a few months to see if it will improve without surgical intervention.  With surgery comes potential scar tissue problems, and a compromised back with cut muscle, etc.  
  • Mtux, If you are still active on this forum, would you please update us on the status of your recovery? I have a disc fragment lodged near L4 with hip, quad, & hip flexor pain and weakness in the left leg, but no numbness. I too am in my 40s and extremely active. Though not running since this happened (3 mos. ago), I still walk, swim, and do limited yoga, avoiding any poses that hunch the lower back. With all of that, along with aspirin and a tramadol at night, the pain is manageable. My spouse is anxious for me to get surgery but I am still hesitant. Did your body absorb the fragment and are you still experiencing pain? Wishing you wellness!

  • LizLiz Posts: 9,694

    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I have to close it.


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
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