Microdiscectomy Recovery – Returned Pain Week 5 Post Operation

Posted , 25 users are following.

Hi Everyone,

I’m a 33 year old, male and I've recently had a microdiscectomy (6.5 weeks ago 21st July 2014) to remove a large L4/L5 herniated disc which was pressing right central on my sciatic nerve. This was causing severe pain in my right buttock, occasionally moving to the left, and pins and needles in my legs. I struggled to sit, drive and for the final couple of weeks before the operation walking had become painful and I would have to rest every 500 metres or so.

I’ve been using this forum over the past several weeks and would like to thank everyone for their contributions which have been extremely useful to assist me (and put me at ease) in my recovery period.

Post operation my recovery was going really well up until week5. Late in week 1 light pain returned in my right buttock, this intensified over weeks 2 and 3. Week 4 the pain significantly reduced and I was feeling really good. Throughout my recovery I have walked every day, building up my distance and I also incorporated swimming into my rehabilitation on week 3. I had been told not to do any Physiotherapy (PT) between the operation and my follow up appointment with my surgeon on the 25th of September (9.5wks post surgery).

So on week 5, I went for an early morning walk, along a flat path. I was well rested and it was my first walk of the day. Pre-walk i felt no pain in my buttock and just a very dull ache remained around my incision area. Approximately 15minutes into the walk I felt a twinge in the right side of my back. I hadn’t slipped or tripped on anything, it just seemed to happen. I immediately sat at the nearest bench to recover and then went home.

The rest of the day I minimised walking as the ache in my back was a little more noticeable, but nothing alarming. The following morning when walking I noticed that the pain returned to my right buttock. This pain intensified as I walked and light glute stretching and priformis stretching intensified this pain. My hamstring on my right outer leg also became very tight when walking. The pain in my lower back was still present but there was also some noticeable swelling of area. I therefore minimise activity but still avoided sitting for periods in excess of 40 minutes.

Although I continued to experience pain when walking, I attended two swimming sessions on the Thursday and Friday of around 20 mins each. These sessions demonstrated that no pain was encountered when kicking, using kick board on front or back. Walking backwards also removed the pain to a degree.

Walking had become extremely painful and I often found that I had to hunch over to recover from the pain in my right buttock, after very short distances, much shorter than pre-operation. On the Saturday and Sunday using a GPS tracker, I undertook several short walks from my house and found that when setting off, I was relatively pain free. As I walked past 100/120metres pain in my right buttock would appear and intensify, this pain spread to my right outer hamstring. At a distance of around 200-220 metres my leg and buttock felt on fire and I could not continue to walk without severe discomfort. I now feel the pain when standing for periods also or sitting down. I find that I am most comfortable lying on my back with my knee slightly bent and my right foot elevated.

I have since been back to the hospital for advice and was tested for Cauda Equina Syndrome. They concluded that I was not at risk and I am therefore waiting to have an MRI scan on the 21st of September (3 weeks from now) and I will then see my surgeon on the 25th as planned originally.

Anyway so that is where I am now. I’m back at home, 6-7 weeks after the operation, in very similar pain I had before the microdisectomy. I’ve decided not to return to work unless the pain lessens.

I’d just like to ask if anyone has had any similar experiences or issues and if so what was the outcome? - It really feels like something is pushing and angering a nerve when I walk and stretch my right foot forward.

To go from week 5 with almost no pain, to week 6 and now 7 with pre-op pain and symptoms is frightening, I’m guessing it could be a re-hernation, but I’m hoping it may be just scar tissue or even just muscular, the area around my wound is still very inflamed, to touch the surrounding area feels like it is swollen and squidgy. There are also small hard lumps assumed to be scar tissue.

Any advice would be most welcome.

Many thanks,


4 likes, 46 replies

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  • Posted


    Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us! How are you dong now!

    Thx DaveS

  • Posted

    I had a L4/5 microdecompression/disectomy in March 2016. I had severe left buttock, hip, anterior thigh pain and left toes were numb and weak. Epidurals and PT prior to surgery did not help. I was pain free for 2 days and pain returned, however it was not as severe or constant. Two steroid packs after surgery did not help much. I had a second MRI in May which showed either recurrent or residual L4/5 disc extrusion at same level pressing on L5 nerve root. Since my pain was not as severe and I returned to work, neither my surgeon or I were keen to go back to surgery so soon. For whatever reason the pain intensified end of July and steroids did not help. A third MRI showed scar tissue and the disc extrusion. Surgeon said only option was a revision surgery. Repeat of prior surgery which was on 8/12. I was pain free for one week and then the buttock pain, thigh pain have returned in addition to ankle pain and significant pain in toes which were numb previously. I do not see MD until 8/30. I am concerned that I have reherniated again or are nerves just irritated and injured and trying to heal themselves. I certainly do not want another surgery. Has anyone experienced this and NOT have to have a third surgery?
  • Posted

    Hi Pete... I had this survey on Aug 16th...but I had a laminectomy at same time so the surgeon could see the disc ...my nerve pain has seemed to go away so far....perhaps you could ask your surgeon if everything went as planned or if there were any unexpected things to happen during the surgery...good luck..
  • Posted


    I've followed your posts throughout my painful journey.

    I'll share my journey with you first.

    Sept 15: my ex partner put my back out (I ended the relationship). I was in a lot of pain straight after.

    Saw the doctor. He said take co-codamol.

    Dec 15: My doctor prescribed Tramadol and referred me to see a physio. Physio misdiagnosed me with, 'muscular' pain.

    Jan 16: started my new job and starting paying privately for chiropractor - big mistake!

    End of Jan/beginning of Feb 16: I became in crippling pain, running down my right leg. I begged my doctor for strong pain relief and he referred me for an urgent MRI. He prescribed OxyContin.

    5th Feb 16: MRI done. Referred for pain management. Started working from home. Couldn't drive for my work.

    9th Feb (b-day) 16: saw the pain management physiotherapist. He showed me my MRI. The report hadn't been written yet. He gave me his opinion.

    11th Feb 16: MRI stated a large disc extrusion (0.6cm) compressing the nerve root at L5/S1 and a bulging disc at L4/5 plus Degenerative Disc Disease in both discs. Couldn't walk properly or drive.

    End of Feb: Managed to get a nerve root block within two weeks of diagnosis.

    March 16: Started pain management back to fitness exercise programme. It helped me walk a bit more but the pain was gut wrenching.

    April 16: physio referred me for the surgeon's opinion. Surgeon gave me two choices: stay in the pain and worsen or have surgery. I chose surgery and another nerve root block whilst waiting.

    Mid May 16: After the second nerve root block went down hill. Ended up in hospital and had another scan. I was having bladder issues.

    May 16: MRI scan stated L5/S1 1.1 cm disc extrusion (doubled in size), L4/5 bulging canal stenosis with facet arthropathy at multilevel up to L1.

    The surgeon brought my pre-op forward.

    End of May 16: had pre-op and was on the cancellation list.

    13th June had microdisectomy. The surgeon checked L4/5 and it wasn't compressing anything so he left it. L5/S1 disc extrusion was bigger than the May 16 MRI stated.

    1 week post op: incision infection and put on antibiotics.

    2-3 weeks post op: I tripped over in the hallway and my back bent forward.

    It took me 3 weeks to see the surgeon. He agreed to another MRI for my peace of mind.

    2 weeks ago I bent forward and pulled my back. Went to A & E and they thought it was just muscular. I recovered from the pain.

    Monday just gone I had fully weaned off the OxyContin.

    Due to the fall, my physiotherapist wouldn't commence my post op physio until we had the MRI results. Physiotherapy (only light) is meant to start next week.

    The surgeon's secretary finally returned my calls to chase my results yesterday and said she'll probably get back to me next week once the surgeon has a look at the images.

    This morning I received a phone call from my surgeon's secretary saying that my appointment for October has been brought forward to September and the surgeon needs to assess my symptoms, it isn't an emergency but he needs to see me and I am only allowed to do light physio (11.5 weeks post op). I asked the question - have I reherniated - she wouldn't answer. Now, I'm in limbo.

    Since completely stopping/weaning off the OxyContin Longtec, my back pain has increased. The leg pain is more like a cold water running down my leg/heel pain and stiffness. I am now worried that my gut feeling was right. I think I've either reherniated at L5/S1, L4/5 bulging canal stenosis has extruded or my DDD has worsened and I'll need a fusion. It does not sound very positive to me. Do they usually repeat the microdisectomy or do they perform a spinal fusion?

    I am literally going out of my mind with worry. I'm phoning them on Monday. I need to know why I'm being brought in sooner. It's a busy hospital and their waiting lists are long.

    I have chased all the above involved, hence why I managed to get the treatment a lot sooner. If it was left to the above, I probably wouldn't of had the recent MRI due to the fall and I would've waited longer for the treatment. I had the onset of Cauda Equina Syndrome when I was admitted to hospital in May.

    Thank you for any replies.

    • Posted

      My surgeon repeated the same surgery. Revision L4/5 decompression/discectomy/laminectomy. My foot weakness and numbness have resolved, however, I do have intermittant tingling in my foot. My thigh and buttock pain have returned and is about 90% of the time. It is not as severe. I do have alot of spasms in my leg and take Baclofen every 4 hours and ibuprofen for pain. My surgeon told me this week that things were worse than the MRI indicated. He had to remove 4 large disc fragments pressing on the nerve so he is not alarmed about the residual pain. The nerve was injured significantly and will take time to heal and could be up to a year. If my pain worsens then he would order a new MRI, but would not do a third revision, I would have to have a fusion. I am trying to tell myself this will improve with time, but I am disappointed. It has definitely affected my quality of life as I am a very active person and have missed out on family activities etc. I am walking about 2 miles per day, but cannot sit or stand for more than 15 min at a time. Good luck to you and I hope you get good news from your doctor.
    • Posted

      cherylc4, I know it has only been 4 days, but just wanted you to know many of us have read your situation and wish you well. Thank you for sharing.
  • Posted

    Hi all,

    this is a question for those that have reherniated, is there a point that you felt a definite twinge  that you can associate with your re herniation? 

    I have started with a pain in my right buttock (3.5wk recovery from l5/s1 microdiscectomy ) it goes when I am lying or sitting but is there when walking and initially standing from sitting and stepping on the leg that had Been affected prior to surgery. I am so scared something has happened

    • Posted

      I did not have any specific knowledge of when I reherniated, but suspect it was immediately after surgery the first time. I had my 2nd surgery one month ago and I still have left buttock pain and left thigh pain about 80% of the time, but it is not severe so I feel it is getting better, just slowly. I take Baclofen every 4 hours, Ibuprofen as needed and Neurontin 400mg at bedtime. If I do not continue to get better or my.symptoms worsen then I am going to request a new MRI. Good luck to you
    • Posted

      Hi, you’ve probably read my initial post, but yes for me there was a definitive moment I realised I’d done something. It was notable for me because I was completely pain free when it happened and had been feeling great. The twinge was sharp and painful when it happened in my lower back, but after resting it subsided and remained a dull throbbing ache, it was the next day when other symptoms in my leg and backside returned that my worst fears were confirmed. My mri then confirmed the reherniation but it was then months before I got my next operation, by which point I had partially self-healed with the disc moving back itself, leaving minor symptoms from scar tissue and a fragment of disc possible missed from the first op. So even if it has reherniated there’s always the possibility of self-recovery.

      I note that you are 3.5 weeks post-surgery, I recall I was still experiencing problems at that stage of my recovery, where symptoms came and went but this gradually improved over time, I think it was late week 4 before I started finally feeling good so hopefully it’s not reherniated for you. All the best Pete

  • Posted

    Hi Peter and fellow followers of this post..I just had this surgery 2 months ago. I'd say I agree that all was well until week 5 , then the pain came back after starting physical therapy. The pain any where from my tailbone ..to the outer aspect of my left thigh ... my calf to my foot..

    I currently find that " megafood" Turmeric strength all body Works well for the nerve pain.. I had run out and stopped taking it..to find that the nerve pain did not remit even with motrin.

    Nevertheless, I'm back on it with also fish oil and Ala with carnitine,( just increased that to twice a day)

    the tens unit works well if I use it routinely.

    I also am trying a topical Epsom salt rub to the areas.

    I am due to see the Dr in 2 more weeks, however he told me it may take up to A YEAR to not have nerve pain ..

  • Posted

    Hey Peter,

    I know this is probably a long shot but I am having the exact same issue as you with the back pain. I am currently on week 6-7 of recovery from a discectomy of my l4-l5 disc bulge. To be honest I don’t think I even needed the surgery since the pain never really left after the surgery. I feel that it is something to do with my hamstring muscle or piriformis. Stretching really aggravates it and I’m worried that it will never be resolved. The pain started for me almost a year ago and I believe it is the reason I have been experiencing new depression issues that are starting to cause problems in my everyday life. I’m not trying to tell you my life story but more just reaching out to see if you have had any positive info and I really hope you are past this problem you and I have experienced. Any info you have would be very helpful and appreciated as I feel like there are no answers to fixing this problem I have. 

    Thank you Peter.


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    • Posted

      Hi Joe. Sorry to hear of your situation. As you said you never noticed any improvement post surgery I’d probably ask for a second mri to make sure the disc still isn’t pressing on your nerve. I say this as I did notice immediate significant relief from my first op , but the remaining lighter pain  I had post both surgeries (assuming this was a combination of muscular due to cutting and compressed nerve restoration/ghost pain) did diminish over time but very very slowly. So I suppose there’s chance of slow improvement if they did manage to fully decompress your nerve and I’d want to confirm this if I were in your situation. 

       Hope things improve for you take care. Peter

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