Six Month Update–Back to Basics

Dec - 08

Six Month Update–Back to Basics

Six months ago today I had my back operation (a microdiscectomy and laminectomy of L5, if you don’t remember). While the initial recovery had its ups and downs, overall I am reasonably pleased with my progress.  I saw my surgeon a few weeks ago and he told me that I should feel free to resume all of my normal activities, so that is in itself a pretty good sign. If I had to rate my satisfaction with the process of getting the surgery, I would say that I was 90% satisfied.

In the main, I am feeling a lot better.  I had been dealing with a herniated disc and related nerve pain for six years.  The pain would flare up and give me a really bad 3-4 months and then it would go away.  During these six years I have made lots of changes in my life, from sitting on a balance ball as much as possible (both at home watching TV and and my desk at work), to walking much more (3-4 miles per day 4-5 days per week).  I also spend a considerable amount of time off the ball doing “core” strengthening exercises.

In late October of 2011 I hurt my back again, and the pain was so bad, and required so much medication to get through my day, that I opted for the surgery.  I was also totally numb from hip to toe on my right leg.  Well, since the operation, the pain is almost totally gone, and the numbness has improved a lot.  For reasons unknown to me I had a terrible episode from mid-August to mid-September, where the nerve pain returned and combined with terrible spasming of my piriformis muscle.  I had to resume the full complement of medication just to get through the day (which was depressing) but thanks to exercising and patience it went away eventually.

At this point, though, I am doing fine.  Some days the numbness returns to pre-operative levels, but it is getting better all the time (though the doctor told me that it could take another year until my nerves are fully regenerated).  One thing I have noticed is that most days I have an incredible amount of stiffness and pain in bed and upon waking.  Stretching helps, but most days I take two Naproxen in the morning and two Tylenol later in the day to get relief, and some days I still need to take a Percocet (though this is increasingly rare, thank God).Fortunately the stiffness usually disappears within an hour or two of getting up, but I am thinking of visiting my chiropractor again to see if he has some suggested stretches to help with this issue.

So right now, the challenge is to decide just how far I want to take my doctor’s permission to “resume normal activities”.  For instance, I went to see a movie a couple of weeks ago (LincolnI highly recommend it) and after two and half hours in a reclining movie theatre seat I had two days of really bad back spasms.  So the next time I went to a movie I stood–no pain, but not a recipe for date night with the wife!  I have avoided lengthy car rides, though I’ve begun increasing my time on the road.  I am somewhat dreading the first heavy snowfall of the winter, and am more than a bit nervous about how I will do swinging a bat during the upcoming softball season (I coach a high school team).  When I mentioned my concerns about swinging a bat to the doctor, he said that he would never recommend that activity, but I should try it, and if I get hurt again he’d be happy to operate again.  I guess that passes for humor in the medical profession…

Well, unless something unexpectedly bad happens this will probably be the last post in this series.  I hope that other sciatic pain sufferers have had the chance to read these jottings, and that they have been helpful.  Feel free to leave comments if you wish, and good luck!

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