L4/L5 discectomy and progress at 8 weeks

This forum has been great as I have gone through my ordeal.  I suspect there are many success stories that do not get posted and mostly from those of us having at least some problems or concerns about their progress.  I hope my experience can be of help to someone and I have a few questions too.

56 y/o male here.  Cycling is my hobby.  In June of this year, I was getting ready for work, all dressed and about to leave when a pain went shooting through my back; knew I wasn't going to work that day in about 3 seconds :)   Went about 12 weeks out of work as I could not get into any posture to get away from the pain.  Accordingly, I could not sleep at all so I could not work.  I dreaded sundown for those weeks and praised the sunrise.  Had 8 chiropractic visits which did nothing.  Had 3 epidural shots which did nothing but cost almost 10k per shot.  The neurologist had looked at my MRI and recommended that I consult with a surgeon to get the info I needed to make a decision about what else could be done.  While waiting to see a neurosurgeon, I got an inversion table and hung in it 3 times per day for about 3 min. at a time.  I got to a point where I could get a few hours of sleep and went to work for the week before I went into surgery.  Not saying the inversion got me to feeling better, could have just been the passage of time but I did enjoy getting into it, felt relaxing.  Went to see the surgeon for consult and went in hoping to show him how functional I was and hoping to get word from him that this would work out in time without surgery.  He had me tiptoe across the room which I did with no problems.  He pointed out that my right calf was smaller than the other which freaked me out.  He chuckled and said that given I was not in a lot of pain and so functional, he thought I needed the surgery given the herniated disk with sequestered fragment.  I should mention that the pain was never severe but again, I could not sleep.  Riding my bike aggravated the sciatic nerve significantly while sitting in the saddle.

So, had the surgery.  Went in to surgery at 7:00, doc worked on me for 2 1/2 hours and I left the hospital at 12:00 noon.  Wife drove me home while I laid as prone as I could for the 30 min. drive.   Threw up before I could take a phenergan.  Laid down for about an hour, got up and walked half a mile.  My doc said he did not believe in PT as he had had some patients who had gotten messed up with it.  He had pretty quiet bedside manner and I had to be the one to pull answers  out of him.  Discharge instructions said walk around 3 times per day.  Day after surgery I walked 2 miles and 3 miles the next.  I called his office the next day to see if that was ok and the nurse said no, you just had surgery, that meant to move about in the house in order to prevent blood clots :)  I cooled off a bit but continued to walk.  No sciatica whatsoever.  Slept on my back for two weeks until I couldn't stand it anymore and started to sleep on my side.  Kind of had to pick up my hips in order to move and had to be careful rolling out of bed but that was about the only pain I was having.  After 3rd week post op, no pain at all turning over in bed or getting out of bed.  Only took percocet for 3 days post op and no further need for it.  At 5 weeks, I was just euphoric and got on my bike and rode about 8 miles around town.  Had really good power going up hills which I stood on the pedals for in order to keep pressure off the disk at regular intervals.  I rode at a time trial pace for about a mile.  No pain whatsoever and I was just giddy that I was progressing so well.  Next morning, a little delicate in the back but it wore off quickly.  Started doing 25 pushups every other day and minute long plank 5 days per week being careful about keeping my back straight, posture getting into and out of position.   Well, at week 7, I started having pains turning over in bed and getting out.  Iced the back before leaving for work and the rest of the day went pain free but I did wonder what was causing that pain all of a sudden.  I called my doc about it and he put me on a 12 day pack of prednisone obviously for inflammation.  This past Friday, it got significantly worse.  On Sat. it hurt like all get out getting out of the bed.  It was not a sciatic pain but clearly to me, something hitting the nerve root.  Like a lightning bolt, about as bad a pain as one could have (maybe except for tooth pain :)  I am already titrating down on the prednisone and if it was going to work, it probably would already have given that stuff works pretty fast.   Just dreaded getting out of bed this morning just knowing I was going to have to once again get past that trigger point of the nerve root.  It hurt but I got past it up on my feet and went on.  No problem sitting on the toilet or bending down to tie my shoes most thankfully

So....wonder what's going on in my back.   We all wonder if we have reherniated, I think that's just a natural human thought to have given this type of surgery.  I don't think I have given I have no pain at the moment when I'm standing up, walking etc.  My friends think I may have an overuse type of thing going on but if that were the case, I would think the prednisone would have given me some relief after 6 days (so far) of it.  I only rode my bike once and have stopped with the pushups and planks...only walking a mile or two per day.  I tend to think I may have developed some scar tissue that it is hitting the nerve root.  As I have read elsewhere here in other threads, the nerve could be angry given the impingement for approximately 16 weeks before the surgery, and need some time to heal.  Again, the sciatica pain was not severe but bad enough where I could not sleep so I don't know that the nerve was aggravated enough to be causing my current regression with the return of my pain.

So, couple of questions for the gang.  Anybody have a return of pain like I did and if so, what was causing it?  If scar tissue, anything about that that can be done?  Like I said, I'm a cyclist and that is what is most important for me to get back to.  Any cyclists here that had discectomy and when were you able to get back in the saddle?  I'd also like to hear from others that may have used an inversion table.  My doc said not to use it for a whole year.  He's getting one himself ( won't mention the brand).  He really is a good surgeon but a bit dull with his bedside manner.  I asked him if I could have sex at the 3 week checkup and he said yes, then handed me a brochure for folks that have back pain.  Quite a bit different thing to have sex with back pain versus for one that has has disk surgery lol.  I still haven't because I'm so paranoid about hitting that nerve root.  Questions or comments are most welcome.  Thanks for reading and best to all!


  • Hi there - my husband had L4/L5 discectomy 6 weeks ago.  He was making good progress for first 3 weeks post op, although not to the point where he was back on his bike!  He was walking a couple of times a day up to an hour each time.  Then, one night, he turned over in bed and felt pain 'like a dart into his back'... since then he feels like he is back to square one.  After 2 more MRIs, CT scan and blood tests, he has been diagnosed with an infection on the vertebre.  This was just over two weeks ago and he is now being treated with antibiotics, and told to rest.  He is a (normally!) fit 52 year old who is a keen cyclist, swimmer and gym bunny!  It's driving him crazy resting and having limited mobility; at the moment he is most comfortable lying down.  Walking is OK, but its the movement from lying down to standing that causes the most discomfort at the moment.  He's having twice weekly blood tests to monitor the infection and check that the antibiotics are working.  So far, his CRP seems to be coming down.  Keep us posted on your progress - best wishes.... 
  • Thanks Paula, I appreciate your response.  I didn't think the prednisone was going to do much but after being on it for 6 days without much change,  I had a night of getting up for the restroom multiple times without pain.  Starting titrating down on it and it is getting worse again.  I only have two more days on it  now being on the minimal dose.  Had a hard time getting out of bed this morning and pretty significant pain in the lower back/buttock area that got better in about 15 min.  Still feel that if I move wrong (typically lateral or side movement from the hip),  Zeuse will shoot another lightning bolt at me :)   Like your husband, I am really looking forward to getting back on the bike and was told that at the 12th week (3 1/2 more weeks to go) the disk would be healed enough to do so.  No way I can do it as it is now.  So it sounds like your husbands problem is infection.  Did his doc say that this will be an easy thing to fix i.e. take the antibiotics and then he should be much better?  If so, I'd be delighted to hear that I have an infection also versus something like reherniation or that the surgery just didn't work for some reason.

    I too typically do better standing up and walking which has been no problem.  Seems that when I am in a lying down in a posture for a long time such as when sleeping, that is when I have the most trouble.  Please keep me informed on how your husbands infection goes and progress after he's done with his course of antibiotics.  Your post is greatly appreciated!  Best  --Tim
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  • I thought the same thing but now I'm not so sure. I rode the bike and did the exercises at the 5th week post op and stopped when a PT friend I know said I might be doing too much. I did indeed have a few hard intervals on the bike just to see what kind of fitness I still had figuring there wasn't much risk of reherniation given there is no twisting involved and I stood out of the saddle at regular intervals to give the disk a stretch. Started having some minor pains at the 6th week a whole week after I stopped with the activities I was doing (aside from some long walks). The pain ramped up on the 7th which is when I called the N/S and got started on the prednisone. So....really no immediate pain after the exercising I was doing. It became gradual a week later and more pronounced two weeks later. Yesterday was my 8th week. Still having sharp pains turning over in bed/ getting out of bed. I'm walking fine without much discomfort but have this feeling that if I step wrong, I'll hit that nerve. I have follow up with N/S next week at my 9th week anniversary. I'm hoping it'll turn out to be a case of an angry nerve that has to heal more.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    Hello Paulamarie4 !

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