Impending Disc Removal Surgery

I started writing my first post last week, saved it as a draft and it's disappeared into a black hole so I'll try again.  Apologies in advance, I'm a bit of a rambler. 

Back story: 
6 years ago (21 yo) I was waxing a mates legs and after a good hour of bending over the wax table, I stood up and felt very sore and stiff.  Sat down on the couch and pretty much couldn't get back up.  At the time I saw a chiro who did X-Rays and diagnosed me with pelvic tilt and one hip higher than the other. I still lived at home with my parents at the time so my poor Mum threw a whole lot of money at treatment 3x a week for a few months and eventually I was able to back off and get on with life.  Though hip and lower back pain have been pretty on and off since then.  The more I'd exercise the better it'd get, then I'd do something to aggravate it and I was in hip and back pain again and have to lay off for a bit and start all over.

Last year my sciatic nerve pain got pretty bad. I started seeing a physio, who to be perfectly honest I think was a bit of a lunatic and treatment did little to help me.  I gave up on him and started seeing an osteopath who I think I had a bit more relief with but she pretty much had me doing all the same exercises, and I wasn't really improving.  Dr prescribed me steroid tablets around October last year for a week which was a great, but only while taking them.

November/December my sciatic pain started getting unbearable. My GP was pretty reluctant to refer me for an MRI because they aren't covered under Australian Medicare for backs, nor any Private Health Insurance (Tell me please what I'm paying for then..?) but I pushed and got the MRI referral ($350 out of pocket. Ouch) which showed a pretty major L4/L5 bulge.

Sent me off to a highly recommended physio and after my first session with him I walked out practically pain free for the first time in months.  Was seeing him a few times a week then for a monthly tune up ever since, mostly pain free. Would sometimes get a bit stiff at the end of the month but no sciatic pain and the sessions always loosened me back up.

Current story:
About 6 weeks ago I went out for lunch and sat on a stool with no back for an hour and a half.  Left the restaurant , felt a bit stiff and sore, rolled up a jumper to give me lumbar support on the drive home and as soon as got home I started doing all my physio stretches.  As the night went on, my pain got progressively worse until my back was in full spasm and I couldn't function. Got into bed and took some anti-inflammatory pain killers. Then I got up to go to the bathroom and basically stopped in the doorway and started screaming. I couldn't move. I couldn't walk forward, I couldn't go backwards, I couldn't sit or lay down on the floor.  My partner came running and basically had to carry me to the toilet (fairly embarrassing)

Woke up the next morning in agony, got up and looked in the mirror and I was all hunched over to one side (had one very sassy left hip).  Booked physio ASAP.  Common lumbar lateral shift. I was in agony and in tears in his office but he wasn't too concerned (like felt sorry for me, but obviously knew it wasn't the end of the world). Gave me all the right treatment and stretches to get me straight again.  Was pretty straight and pain free within a week so headed back to work (admin/office job).  3 days in and I was pretty buggered and woke up the 4th day all out of place again.  Back to more time off and back to the physio.  This time correcting my shift hurt a WHOLE LOT more, but we got there in the end.  Took another week off, and then did half days for a week and my boss purchased me a sit/stand desk.

Have been back at work full time hours since, but my sciatic pain has been unbearable at night.  During the days I'm mostly okay, but I can't sleep,  I'm awake every few hour pacing around my tiny stupid house, and sometimes I'll go sleep face down on the lounge room floor for a bit (doctor has told me this is AWFUL for my lower back, but sometimes it's the only position I'm comfortable in. I wrap a giant teddy bears limbs around my face for support and leave a gap so I can breathe so my neck isn't twisted) and then wake up sore and go back to bed and repeat.  I cannot find a comfortable sleeping position, EVERYONE says on my side is best, but that's actually the most painful for me, no matter how many or few pillows I cram between my legs to keep anything from twisting.

Have tried remedial massage, saw an acupuncturist (heard really good things, but it was too expensive to keep throwing money at. I DID fall asleep on his table which was nice) woke up the next morning in so much pain that my partner nearly took me to the Emergency Room. Got into doctor who gave me Endone and Valium and told me to take panadol and ibuprofen every 4 hours.

I was reluctant to get another MRI for the cost again, but managed to get into a clinic which would Bulk Bill so on Saturday, off I went to get that done.  And yesterday afternoon I got a call from my physio which basically put me into shock - "I'm amazed you are even walking, let alone functioning at the level that you are. You need to go see a specialist asap. This is surgery. This is beyond anything I can help with".  Got appointment with my GP, and same answer.  Looked at my images and the bulge has doubled. Took a photo with my phone because i'm a creep and I like looking at my insides.

Gave me a referral to surgeon she highly regards and managed to get an appointment this morning. Unfortunately he had none of my MRI imaging just the notes. But I showed him my phone photo and he's said there's definitely no real option for any conservative treatments, we're well beyond cortisone injections.  I'm picking up a disk of my MRI imaging tonight and seeing him again tomorrow to go from there, but basically have been told if I get a bad knock (car accident, bend wrong, lift something I shouldn't, fall over, etc) it's so severe I could be paralysed. 


I am terrified.  I'm a 27 year old female.  I keep my weight down, and I try to keep fit.  I wanted to avoid surgery at all costs and now it's my only option.  He doesn't want to do fusion because of my age and the chance of it putting too much pressure on the discs around it. He was very reassuring that surgery was NOT a worry and that he does it so often he could do it with his eyes closed "....Please don't do that. Keep your eyes open" and that it would all be okay.  I'm scared now of making sure nothing happens to give me that knock that could do undoable damage.  I will have more conclusive information tomorrow and most likely surgery will be next week or week after.  I'm not sure at this point if I'm venting or asking for advice and hoping that others have similar stories and can tell me it'll all be okay.  

He said recovery is generally 6 weeks, and because I'm in an office job I could be back at work within 2-3 weeks though it's not REALLY recommended but understands that people need to work. My boss is pretty understanding but it's hard because I'm basically admin manager and there's a lot of things I do that nobody knows how to do and I'm not sure if my trainee is ready for the pressure.  Is it likely that during my bed rest recovery period that I'll be useful enough to log in from home and work? Or am I going to be drugged out of my mind..?


  • William GarzaWilliam Garza TexasPosts: 1,925
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM

    Welcome to Veritas Health Forum
    Please click the Welcome Message for more information about the Site.

    Sorry for all the pain.
    Good that you found the cause.
    Take it easy and use all the accomodations presented so you can heal properly.

    Youll be no good anyone if you re hurt yourself!

  • HI kimbra i was in the same boat as you when it comes to the really bad bulging disc  right after surgery my siatic pain was gone and the past 5 months have been up and down for me  but no fears! do as the surgon says and youlll feel better i had my surgery  may 6th and im feel so much better little weakness every now and  then in my legs but going to PT again for that reason hope you have a good surgery and a smooth recovery keep me updated
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  • KimbraKimbra AustraliaPosts: 57
    Thanks to both of you for your responses. I have been booked in for next Friday (14th October) for discectemy as surgeon rearranged other people to fit me in as he saw me as more of an emergency.  Pretty confronting news when a week ago I thought I was just taking longer than normal to recover from a lateral shift.  I feel like now I know the extent of my injury that the pain feels worse and every twinge is the end of the world.  I'm glad it's so soon because I don't have too long to work myself into a panic, but also scared that it's so soon because obviously I still don't want to go under the knife!!!

    Heavenlyrae, I am curious as to whether you had weakness in your legs before the surgery?  I get pins and needles down my leg constantly (I *HATE* pins and needles) which obviously makes me feel weak but I don't have any actual weakness yet, I am still perfectly capable of climbing stairs with both legs at a reasonable pace and haven't had anything give out on me yet.  My bad leg's foot doesn't raise quite as high as the good leg, but nowhere near dragging it or anything.

    I am working on getting my home laptop set up to work from home (still don't know if wishful thinking) but I will be bored enough to try, I am so sick of resting and would much rather be doing things!  Hoping I can at least get back into my hobbies quickly (I love sewing and crafts, and while being home from work isn't too shattering, when I'm prevented from the things I enjoy, it's hard not to get pretty depressed)
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809
    edited 10/06/2016 - 5:07 AM


    You're young... which is both good and bad.  Good... because your youth should help with your recovery.  Bad... because you will probably want to get back to everyday life too fast.  Recovery from a discectomy should NOT be rushed... as you run the risk of reherniating the same disc if you try and do too much too fast.  LISTEN to your doctor and add another 100% of conservatism to his inputs.  If he says after a month it's ok to lift 10 pounds... wait another month before you do that.  If he says it's ok to go back to work at 3 weeks... wait until 6 weeks.  Your young so you probably will reject my inputs but trust me there are plenty of horror stories here on this forum where young people have pushed too hard too fast... and messed up what their surgeon tried to fix. 

    Assuming you get through the initial recovery phase you should also realize that your surgeon has "fixed" your back by cutting away a portion of your L4-L5 disc.  That portion that he has cut away(the part that was pressing on your spinal cord) will NOT grow back... it will only scar over. So for the rest of your life your L4-L5 disc strength and flexibility will be compromised from what it was pre-herniation.  This means that you must "be kind to your back" for the rest of your life or risk a reherniation of the disc that your surgeon "fixed".  This doesn't mean you can't lead and active and happy life... it just means you always need to be conscious of the stresses you put on your back and avoid things like aggressive sports, lifting heavy suitcases, etc...

  • KimbraKimbra AustraliaPosts: 57
    Thanks for your response hvills. I know I will find it very hard to not want to jump straight back into life as soon as I feel up to it, I've only been suffering severe pain for 6 weeks and I'm ready to have my life back.
    I nearly cried when my surgeon told me I'd have to give up weight lifting but he has promised to help me work around my limitations to retain fitness and tone. Because I've had ongoing issues for so long I'm fairly used to finding ways to work around my limitations (which makes it so frustrating that I've ended up so messed up. I've been so conservative with my exercise and always listen to my body first). I've had very little flexibility in my back for a long time so I am used to squatting rather than bending, turnine my whole body rather than twisting, etc. Even at my best this year I could barely reach my knees doing a straight leg bend.  And before I had back issues I had knee issues (dislocated kneecap at 11yo and the other at 13yo). It's beyond frustrating being limited by my body at such a young age, when I have so many years ahead and will most likely keep having further issues with various body parts! Haha
    But I will take on board what you've said. I will try to make sure I take it easy and listen to my doctor and my body. 
    And I'm glad to have an excuse to never have to lift a heavy suitcase!! Hahaha 
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  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 361
    1st of all, I know what pain you speak of, unfortunately.  That story of screaming at the bathroom and needing your partner's help was mine, too.  That was almost 2 years ago now.  Had the discectomy surgery, which it sounds is what you are having?  I also remember the fear and the worry.  Try not to.  All the advice above is bang on.  Be patient and follow the doctor's post-op instructions.  Not everyone has instant relief from the surgery, just be aware.  All the best to you!
  • KimbraKimbra AustraliaPosts: 57
    Thank you smartens162. Much appreciated. I'm hoping for instant relief of my sciatic pain like the doctor promised but I understand the nerve might be irritated for awhile afterwards. I'm just hoping I feel better than this. I have what I'd consider a fairly high pain tolerance and this has been beyond tolerable, and I'm sick to death of the cocktail of drugs I'm taking to get through the day. My partner is sick of me crying every morning until it eases. 

    I'm not sure what I'm supposed to between now and surgery. I'm still going to work but should I be resting or should I be walking? Should I be going to the pool and walking in there? I'm gong crazy. 

    I woke up this morning pain free but as soon as I started moving I was in agony and now I've taken so many drugs any normal person would be out cold. So I'm back in bed resting but I'm not sure laying around is what I should be doing right now 
  • Kimberly9591Kimberly9591 Los AngelesPosts: 92
    Wow our stories are so similar. Are you getting the entire disk removed or just the bulged portion cut off? I have heard of some people getting an entire disk removal on this site. 
  • KimbraKimbra AustraliaPosts: 57
    @Kimberly9591 Just the bulge and all the goop inside. Real technical terms there. "L4/5 laminectomy, discectomy and rhizolysis" is what my medical certificate says. So it's pretty much the whole disc in doctors terms but it's leaving the outer layer so there's still some kind of cushioning
  • Kimberly9591Kimberly9591 Los AngelesPosts: 92
    Oh well if they are removing all the material probably a better chance you won't reherniate! Good luck, hope you're excited for the road to recovery. 
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