Failed discectomy, eager to run

  • Creator
  • #62438

    Anybody have luck with micro-discectomy?
    I’m having it rough so far. I’m 8 weeks removed from my second back surgery and i’m still a bit sore and dealing with nerve coldness in my foot.

    Here’s my backstory:
    Ran a Marathon last year, After taking a few months off, my sciatic nerve started giving me issues after just a few miles. Went to PT with no success, then i had an MRI and noticed the nerve touching my disc. Tried an injection as my last effort to fix this thing, didn’t help much then, finally decided to get micro-discectomy surgery. It didn’t go well. My disc was worse then ever after the surgery, pushing in the nerve even more. Was recommended a second surgery as they would cut off more of my disc. Now, i’m better than after the first surgery but that first surgery did a number to me. It made my foot cold and weak all the time (nerve compression/scar tissue). I’m into 2 months after my surgery and i just am not ready to run yet and i’m real worried i will never run again. Currently, just happy i can walk with minimal pain. Praying that i will be able to run someday.
    Anybody experience something like this? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

Posted In: Injury & Rehab

  • Participant
    Erica on #62470

    While I didn’t have lumbar surgery – I did have two successful spine surgeries last year (artificial disc replacement) C5/6 & C6/7. Cervical and lumbar are different in many ways – but I just wanted to offer a little solidarity. I know how absolutely frustrating and what a mental health struggle spine injuries can be as someone who is also a runner/climber/mountain-things-person. I too was grounded from running and most every activity I loved for over a year other than walking and my peloton bike! I suffered and fought with insurance for over a year, got 2 surgeries 6 months apart, and finally as of Dec 30 I’m given the green light to go back to everything I love, and am totally pain-free and am now training for the Leadville Marathon in June.

    A thoughts from my experience that may be helpful:
    – discectomies rarely work and are generally considered a technique that is becoming outdated. Most insurance requires them be tried before fusion, so its not generally the surgeons fault, yet most really good orthopedic or neurosurgeons dont do them anymore and move right into into fusion or artificial disc replacement.
    – injections also rarely work, and at best buy some time, but again they are mostly an insurance requirement and a waste of time and money (sadly)
    – fusion or ADR will likely give you your life back, but ESPECIALLY for lumbar I would only go to the most reputable surgeons in the country. Spine surgeons are definitely not all created equal….and for me when it came to my spine I wasn’t going to settle. Be willing to travel! I saw 5 surgeons before finally settling on Dr Peloza at the Steadman Clinic in Vail CO. Hes one of the best in the world and would recommend him hands-down (they treat olympians and athletes from around the world, so getting people back to sport is what they do best) – the other is Texas Back Institute which has a stellar reputation. A good friend travelled to Mexico City for her lumbar fusion and was on a plan back home 3 days later. I highly recommend looking for a surgeon that does lumbar ADR, which is very new and much preferable to lumbar fusion if you’re a candidate!
    – there are some great FB groups that really helped me navigate my surgeries and gave me great support. This is one group, but there may be other lumbar specific ones.

    Hang in there. I know how hard it is, but if you stay diligent and look for the best possible care you can definitely get back to what you love!


    Thomas Summer, MD on #62527

    Hi Jeff!

    Sorry to read that the first surgery didn’t go that well. Sounds like a nerve for your leg/foot took some damage. Hard to make any predictons (even more without knowing more about the surgeries), but recovery of a nerve can take many weeks and even months. Is it getting better? Do you have more informations you can and want share?

    You can’t compare HWS to LWS. And every patient is different.
    I’m working as a rehab doc, with many back surgeons at the moment. We see a lot of good results with microscopic disc surgeries. And also with injections. There are good indications for fusions of the LWS, but there are also lot’s of indications where it is not the way to go. I would be very carefull with recommending any surgical procedure without knowing much of the medical records of the patient.

    Sorry that I can’t help you more at the moment. But maybe we can figure something out with more information!?


    jeffgate on #62570

    Thanks for all this helpful guidance.
    I’m looking to go 0-2 for surgeries. About 7 years ago, i had a bone spur coming out of my heal and decided to have surgery to get it shaved off. It was a horrible experience too. Nerve damage as well but it was because my splint was put on too tight. I really learned a lot from that. I bounced back but it was a slow recovery. These surgeons are like used car salesmen. They really sell it to you. Even after you do tons of research. Then when you come in for your follow up, they want no interaction with you.

    Discectomies are supposed to have a 70-90 percent success rate and the Surgeon I chose came highly recommended from a fellow marathon runner.

    Thanks for the recommendations on the doctors. I think I may be scheduling a flight if I have to get a fusion at some point. I do think I’ll be able to fight through this but it will take time.

    jeffgate on #62575

    Thomas and others,

    It’s been a week since i posted this question and i’ve noticed the coldness and nerve issues progressing well since for most days. Here’s somewhat of a diary of what I’ve been battling.

    I’m now 2 months & a week past my 2nd revised discectomy surgery.
    I had been doing the elliptical for a few weeks. Tried a one mile run a few weeks ago and i felt ok running. Just really out of shape more than anything. Compression on that nerve (apparently from scar tissue) has really been aggravating. I’m also dealing with odd knee pain from my good leg for some reason along with glute and back soreness, but i expect that. I think the knee is from laying down 2 months straight and it’s just tendinitis.

    I ran 2 miles a few days ago and i felt a lot better but 2 days later, cold foot. I followed it up the next day with a one mile run then walk. I’ve also been moving around a bit and added swimming and stair climbing to my workout along with walking as well. Just trying to regain strength and endurance if anything. The cold foot is annoying but i’m just trying to live with it hoping it will eventually go away.

    A quick backstory of my surgery experience. Everything started pretty much 2 months after my 51st bday, January 2021.

    About 6 years ago, i had another surgery that didn’t go well. I had bone spur surgery in my foot. The result took my pain away but it resulted in nerve damage. This made recovery slow as well. Took away my balance and it was a slow and painful recovery. In fact, the PT actually turned me away after so many appointments saying that at this point, it’s all about what you can tolerate. I didn’t like that answer. But he was right.

    In spite of that experience, i eventually healed and got back to my old self. The foot is in fact weaker but I expected that and since then, I’ve recovered well from it.

    Fast forward to my back surgery.
    A few months after I completed my marathon in Oct/2020. I took a few months off. Focused on weight training. Then, when spring came around, I went for my first run and noticed swelling around my Achilles and pain in my butt the day after. Did a hurdler stretch, chin down, the Doc suggests that I go to PT with suspicion that the sciatic nerve is rubbing on my disc. PT goes nowhere. PT tells me to get an MRI before continuing. I do and it’s confirmed that I in fact have a problem with that nerve.

    I then decide to get a epidural injection. I enter into a strict core training workout. No pain but I could tell i still had an issue. After the workout, I was able to play sports but I could tell I wasn’t quite right. Still couldn’t run more than 3 miles without pain. The shot was also starting to wear down.

    I then get told that my sciatic nerve is touching my disc.
    I stop running. I then get I high recommendation from a fellow marathon runner to see this surgeon in Aug/2021. He recommends the surgery. Goes on about the high success rate and i’m sold.

    I had the minimal invasive surgery Sept 15/2021. The surgeon said that I would be up and running again after just 2 months. I really lost a lot of trust in this surgeon when i went in for my follow-up, 2 weeks after that first surgery, That day, i first seen my PT in the same building. They tell me that the pain i feel is normal, it should take a few months or more for me to feel good. I was a bit confused at that point because I knew the surgeon didn’t say that would be the case before the surgery. After that i walked over to my doc appt. I had a lot of questions. Unfortunately, my doctor never saw me. His assistant came in and did all the talking. Her reaction to how I felt was the opposite to how the PT reacted. She gasped and told me it was not normal and immediately left to talk to the Doc in another room. She then came back in and told me they were going to do an MRI to see what was going on. After the MRI, the Surgeon calls me on the phone and although I was happy to finally be talking with him, he tells me it’s worse than before. The disc is now pushing further into the sciatic nerve and recommends to go back in soon to cut more of the disc off. Sooner rather than later he tells me because he’s worried of scar tissue. I didn’t really know what he meant by that but I did know I was in a lot of pain, it was the holidays and i’m going to have to wait long for this surgery to get approved again while in a lot of pain.

    My next surgery would be scheduled for Nov 18th/2021.
    Needless to say, I took A LOT of time off of work. Couldn’t walk much. I had lots of time to soak. I was second guessing my decision of getting the surgery. I wasn’t really feeling any pain in my everyday life. I only felt it after running over 3 miles. I was feeling a lot of resentment from the fellow runner who recommended this surgeon while I began to disconnect myself from all my running pages on social media. My mental state was obviously taking a hit at this point.

    One thing that made me so angry from my bone spur surgery years ago was the fact that the surgeon didn’t want to see me after the surgery. This made me feel as if it was an admission of guilt and that things did not go well. Even after I finally got a call from the Surgeon, his voice sounded defeated and worried. That didn’t sit well with me.

    Post revised surgery follow-up Dec 15/2021-
    The experience for my second surgery this time around was top notch. He even came in and seen me after the surgery to talk. That really made me feel better. (Is that too much to ask for a surgeon to at least sit down and talk to a patient for a follow-up?) My 2 week follow up was ok. The assistant made me feel better by really checking me over. I told her that I felt better and was only concerned about the foot. She checks my circulation and says I’m fine. Nerve compression is normal after surgery and that it will go away.

    Final follow up Late Dec/2021-
    Met with PT and Doc. Feeling better but still had issues with cold foot. Doc okays me to start working out after the new year. But this time says that the nerve pain may not go away and that “things happen.”

    In summary-
    I think this surgery is how I was supposed to feel after the first surgery. I’m a little worried the cold foot, is a result from the first failed surgery and the in-between time. Especially when you have a PT telling you it’s normal and making me do these painful stretches making it worse during that time.

    Sometimes I wonder if this incident warrants finding a lawyer. I really felt I should had done that years ago after my bone spur surgery but didn’t. Don’t want to make that mistake again.

    With all that said, I learned a lot from that bone spur surgery. Give it some time. I am definitely a slow healer for sure. I’m currently doing elliptical, combined with my stretches. I mix in some stair climbing and swimming once a week. This week (Jan 26/2022), I completed my first 2 mile run and feel ok. Cold foot comes and goes but not as often. I’m just fighting through it. Trying not to push too much. I scheduled a visit to my primary care doc in a few months to look at maybe getting an MRI again to make sure things look ok. Also scheduled another PT to help me take it to the next level.

    There you have it. 🙂

    Pete Dickinson MS,PT on #63075

    My 2 cents…. Microdiscectomy is a fine surgery. Recovery after prolonged lumbar muscle inhibition takes time to retrain the inhibited back/hip. Running requires peak strength to shield the lumbar spine from impact load, you likely are NOT strong enough to attenuate single leg impact loads. Develop strength prior to return to run, and follow a walk jog progression on return to running. Poor outcomes are shared by improper return to activity….

    thomasgarrod on #65869

    I had a microdiscectomy about 5 years ago. It cured my sciatica but the pain returned.I had an injection which massively increased the pain then relived it.
    I then carried on work as a dentist with extreme muscle spasms, taking codeine all day and eventually got up to5 x’s dose to work.
    I was suicidal with the pain so sold my practice with the plan to do everything I wanted to do with the money then end my life.
    Once I stopped working the pain reduced and I felt a lot better. I took two years off doing active low paid jobs but felt a lot better.
    Then had to go back to dentistry and taking codeine again if not in such high quantity.
    The most important thing I have found is reduce you sitting as much as you can. Movement helps with muscle spasms.
    Now running ultra marathons up to 100km and doing double Ironman. Hoping to get money for Denali next year.
    You are very early into your recovery. I will tell you know you will never feel back to 100 per cent pain free. Once you accept that your thoughts about the situation will improve. You will definitely be able to run again. Start pilates and try to keep as active as possible. The movement seems to be key and helps with your mental health. Until you have chronic back pain you can’t understand how much it destroys your life. MY mum had full on back pain for 1 month and said she finally understands how I feel everyday.
    Keep positive and you be back to running long some. Good luck

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