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Surgical options for L5-S1 herniated d

After 6 months, we've finally found out I have a large disc herniation at L5-S1. This has cause me terrible nerve pain in my left leg. I can barely walk. I'm a woman in my late 20's and  surprised it has affected me this badly. 
I tried physical therapy several times, but they refuse to treat me because of how bad of shape I'm in and new nerve symptoms. Also tried several epidural injections. 

My pain doctor that did the discogram referred me to a neurosurgeon. I'm wondering what everyone's experiences have been with the different surgical options for a similar diagnosis, and the outcome 1,5,10 years down the road. 

I'm a young woman with a physically demanding career (and no I'm not quitting), so I'm terrified of being disabled at my age. I haven't been able to work for the last 3 months and I don't see myself going back anytime soon. 


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,241
    While you are waiting for responses from members with shared experiences, you may benefit from using search, upper right on page.
    You may be led to current or older discussions on your concerns.
    You may be led to medical side of forum with articles and videos. Very informative!

    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 448
    your story is very familiar, however I'm not as young as you.  But I was fairly active at the time of my rupture at L5-S1.  I, too, could barely walk, yet somehow I managed to keep working my retail job for 5 more months while the company searched for a replacement.  I had the discectomy surgery, the most minimally invasive of the options I was given.  I was not instantly relieved of the nerve pain from surgery, but slowly over the next few months things improved to the point that I was as mobile as I wanted to be and off of all medications (I was on gabapentin, ibuprofen, baclofen, and morphine prior to surgery, all this just took the edge off).  I was recommended to walk often after surgery.  I started on Day 2 post-op and it was absolute heaven to just be able to walk again, as I used to walk alot for exercise!  I did end up re-herniating the disc nearly a year post-op, but I'm told it was not really anything I did, rather scar tissue developing that pulled on the remaining disc.  Even with the re-herniation, I'm still better off than I was before surgery.  I have some nerve pain, but not nearly to the extreme as prior to surgery.  I am managing with occasional doses of tramadol and baclofen.  I walk several days a week, and I am at the pool 3 x weekly, so I am keeping my strength up for whatever might come next.  I'm not sorry I opted for discectomy, it relieved me from the worst pain.  I am currently at 1.75 years since the discectomy surgery.  I am considering the recommendation for an artificial disc replacement, but still researching it.  
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  • dilauroddilauro ConnecticutPosts: 12,510
    Many times there are non-surgical options for almost any spinal condition.  Most doctors will try several different conservative treatments before even thinking about surgery.

    But then there are times, when surgery is the only option.  That generally occurs when there is nerve damage involved.  When a disc is impinging a nerve root, the result can be sciatica which is relatively painful.   Failure to take any corrective action in that situation may lead to permanent nerve damage.

    That is where the doctors recommendation has to come into play.   If they say surgery should be done now vs later, then they are pretty sure of the nerve problems.

    But there are many times with herniated discs that you do not have any nerve problem.  Many people handle that with conservative treatments and some actually improve their condition over time.

    I had my first lumbar surgery at 28.   I continued working with IBM as a Developer, Support Team, Manager, Data Center Coordinator, etc  I did that from 1974 until I retired in 2009.   During that time I had a total of 4 lumbar and 2 cervical surgeries.  I also had a number of flare ups in between.

    But I did my job, I never let my condition and pain stop me.   Perhaps back in the 1970's and 1980's the idea of working while or opioids was not a concern.  (I know because so many times, I drove my 70 miles one way, worked 8 hours while on a relatively high dosage of opioids.)  

    So, eerbear17, with all that I had, I had a successful career.  The most important thing for you to do, assuming you have surgery, is to do everything you are told to do.  Pay close attention to all the restrictions and limitations.  Also keep up with all the exercises that you picked up at physical therapy.

  • erinb40eerinb40 EnglandPosts: 20
     Your story sounds very familiar to mine, but I am just a little over 10 years old. I am 1 week in recovery, and i went for a walk all on my own for about a mile today. As long as you make sure to follow the physio and take your time in recovery ( I keep getting told off as I sometimes do forget). I am having twinges but it is so far it was thr right thing to do 
  • adam1999aadam1999 DubaiPosts: 1
    edited 09/08/2016 - 10:08 AM
    dear errbear17, i' m a bit older than you, but i'm trying my best to avoid surgery. a week ago i was diagnosed with degenerated l5/s1, actually there is no disc and herniated l4/l5 which fell in to pieces . i was given no hope after i made my mri, but i'm trying with several doctors. 
    while doing this i recall the case of my friend who is few years older and ca. 2 years ago he had surgery date already set. i convinced him to try with physiotherapy and he did. his condition dramatically improved after 2 weeks and he stopped taking any pills. today, after 2 years he is completely fine and so grateful he avoided this surgery. there are methods for herniated discs, they focus only on that and you can achieve a lot. look at this article, have you tried it?
     keep trying, especially if you want to stay active person. looking at one of the posts below, sorry, but having several surgeries is not an option. all the best.
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  • martyadlmmartyadl Australia Posts: 19
    I just had surgery for an extruding L5/S1 which on surgery they found had fragmented. The nerve pain didn't go instantaneously but now seems to be getting better. I got surgery 2 days after my first appointment and so glad I did. Couldn't have coped with the ongoing sciatic pain and not sure why long term there would have been any benefit in not having the micro-D even if it it ultimately get absorbed 6 months down the track after more pain and nerve damage. 

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