View Full Version : Prolapsed disc surgery (human!) - any experiences/ advice please!

15-09-10, 12:42 PM
Hi there

Apologies as didn't really know where to post this one, but after some advice......

I've a prolapsed disc which was diagnosed at the start of the year - I've had 2 steriod jabs, which have eased the pain a lot, and am shortly to have a third one.... however, they are lasting for a shorter and shorter period of time, so (aside from the cost!) I can't carry on having them and relying on them to keep me mobile :-(

I've been offered surgery as an alternative - does anyone have any advice? I've been told I'm looking at 6 weeks of doing nothing, followed by a longer period of rehab... how long before I'll be able to look after the neddies, and how long before I can ride? I'm relatively fit and able (considering!) but am aware that I could be signing myself up for more problems and a long recovery time... should I carry on as I am, or risk the surgery and hopefully get myself sorted properly???

15-09-10, 01:02 PM
I had a badly prolapsed disc and compression of the spinal cord on 2 vertebrae. Had the op July 09. The first few days were pretty rough, did nothing at all, you may want to get a good armchair thats not too low. The next 2 weeks i was so knackered and had to sleep in the afternoon but i did start walking from day 5 and gradually built it up. Didn't lift anything remotely heavy for at least 4 weeks and didn't drive before then either. It was so nice not being in pain and I did feel a bit better every day. Just take it easy and listen to your body. I haven't had any problems since the op and am so glad i had it done. Good luck.

15-09-10, 01:03 PM
I had a similar problem in 2009. I had been having disc problems for a number of years with increasing amounts of leg pain. I had one steroid injection which worked immediately and was wonderful for about 6 weeks and then I was quickly back to sq1. Because I have private medical insurance I was being treated quickly by a consultant. He said he could do more injections but clearly they only worked short term. He said in his opinion a discectomy where is took a piece of the disc out would not work long term, so he suggested removing the disc and fusing two vertebrae. I was horrified and scared, but he said he was very sure it work work for me. Anyway 3 weeks later I had the surgery. I was in hospital for 3 days, yes it was sore, but they get you up and walking pretty much as soon as you wake up. I was sent home and told to lay down on my back for 3 weeks OR walk. I was allowed to sit only for as long as it took to eat a meal. This was boring, but actually the walking was the best medicine. I took several short walks a day. After 3 weeks I had to built up the time I could sit, to begin with, I could only manage 20 minutes max. I was back at work half days after 7 weeks. I was back riding my horse - carefully - she was very sensible at 9 weeks. I had the op in July 2009. By Christmas 2009 I was riding as normal including dressage lessons - sitting trot. I feel great and had no ill effects other than I find lying in a bath uncomfortable, I think it is the hard surface.

I am no longer in constant pain. I do get the odd ache if I do too much, especially standing still for too long, I need to sit down, and I need a decent chair - nothing too deep or soft.

15-09-10, 01:26 PM
Sorry to hear of your back problems both of you as I know how much back pain hurts and how hard it is getting people to realise that :(
I wish the OP luck with the operation and in their shoes I would take the risk of it if it meant a chance I would be more mobile in the future.
I too am wondering if this is what I have? I have 'put' my back out now a few times since first doing it around 5 years ago. On the first occasion it went by just putting dishes into washer. Then I could hardly move the next day and ended up going to A & E the day after. My range of movement was greatly affected, even the doctor who examined me was surprised at how little I could lean forwards without pain. They came to the conclusion that a disc had prolapsed and my sciatic nerve had been bruised as I had sciatica down my right leg. I was given strong painkillers and told to keep moving. In just after a week I was ok again.
A few times since I had pain in the same lumbar region if doing too much.
Last year I slipped on concrete and did the same again. Ended up going to A & E again as I was more worried this time as I had really fell on my coccyx area heavily. I was given painkillers again and the fact I had a padded backside I think saved my bacon.
I then fell of my horse two weeks later and was jarred again, but only slightly.
A few times since then I have had pain or heat in the same area.
Then just under 2 weeks ago it went again. I was leaning forwards not bending. I felt something go, it felt like an elastic band, that is the only way I can describe the twang. I knew straight away I had done something again. The pain was instant but was not as painful as it was 5 years ago. I kept mobile and didn't take anything. I can't take the painkillers I was given that first time as I had a bad reaction to them a few years ago and it was horrible. I just gritted teeth and bore the pain.
I kept mobile as much as I could. I had that funny pain/tingling again down my right leg that sort of starts deep within the back of your buttock and extends downwards. I didn't have it past the knee though. This time I also got a bit of it a few days later down my left leg. I did ride a couple of days later but it was painful. Gallop and walk were ok but canter and sitting and doing rising trot did hurt, as did getting on and off. I was determined not to let it stop me. I was scared of not moving about and seizing up and getting the sort of pain that brought me to tears years ago.
I have not been to the doctors. It was seemingly getting better but yesterday I had a clearout and tidy up and I knew straight away after doing some lifting even though I was using mostly legs and not my back that I had overdone it. Today I am ok but back is still sore and I get an odd twinge down that leg.
I know I should probably go to the doctors but I was that angry at the response I got last time at the hospital it has put me off. To be honest the doctor that saw me that day was a fatist by the comment that he made. I should have complained really but was in too much pain to do so. Also the fact that I did have a bottom covering probably protected me from having a break in my opinion.
I hardly ever go to the doctors and while I am no skinny lizzy I am not hugely overweight in my opinion and I am more active than a lot of fat people I know. I just don't feel as though I would be taken seriously if I went to the doctors because back pain is so hard to show someone I feel. It is not like you have visible outer bruising or a visible break. I want to do more riding and do more exercise but at the same time this fear of me doing something to my back worries me and I don't to ever feel as debilitated as I did those 5 years ago.
How did you both find doctors to be in your situation? Were they sympathetic?

15-09-10, 01:29 PM
I had an L4/L5 discectomy last October. Before I had it, I couldn't lie flat and sometimes could barely walk, with pain in my hip, ankle and knee and often pins and needles. I spent the whole summer only able to ride for a 1 hour hack three times a week - anything more crippled me. For the operation, I was in hospital for one night and had pretty much no pain immediately after apart from stiff back muscles. I went from a big dose of ibuprofen and paracetamol each day, with an opiate occasionally, to nothing (they gave us one paracetamol the evening after the operation, but I don't think I really needed it!). I was off work for 10 days, but I started looking after the horses again before I went back to work, and I was able to do several miles of walking. I wasn't allowed to lift anything over a certain amount (14lbs?) so my mum weighed all the rugs and I was allowed to put the lightweights on! I didn't really ride until Xmas, but that was partly because of the weather. The worst bit about recovery was that once I started doing normal stuff again, the pain came back, which was very depressing, but with physio it has got very much better. I think all my muscles had tensed up to support the damage in my back, and they weren't willing to un-tense even after the operation. I'm still having some physio, still have a tiny bit of pain, but that is mainly when I sit still for a while. I can ride as normal, although I'm a bit stiff in sitting trot. I have every hope that this will improve though - my lower back definitely has room for improvement.
Whatever you do, don't read random stuff on the internet about this op - I did and found loads of people claiming to have horrific pain after the operation. There were three of us done the day I had the op, and we were all sitting chatting that evening with no pain. The lady in the next bed, who had had her bunions done, was in agony. I've also met several people who've had the same thing, and none of them had any bother.
Good luck - it's terrifying to go through but I'd do it again if another disc decided to go.

15-09-10, 02:26 PM
Cazee, Have you seen an osteopath, i used this as a first port of call as it would usually sort out my back. After prolapsing the disc in South Africa on a field trip my doctor perscribed 6 visits to the osteo, when this had no effect he referred me for an mri. I have a very good relationship with my GP, i never actually visited him during my probs, did it all on the phone. An mri is the only way they can diagnose your problems, everyone will have an answer, osteo, chiro, yoga, bowan etc, but without a diagnosis you can just be throwing money away. I was unable to walk or stand for more than 5 minutes but could sit, drive and lie down ok. My GP also put me on Amyltriptilin (sp) which is an anti depressant but also alters how your body interprets pain, i think this helped alongside painkillers. I would take Co codamol when desperate but tried to avoid it as it made me feel so rubbish, i would try to manage the pain by limiting my activity. It is miserable and it is only after the surgery that i realise how bad things actually were. Please see your GP and ask about an mri.

15-09-10, 02:41 PM
I had L5/S1 op 2 years ago. it was quite painful afterwards and i couldn't see my horses for 3 weeks after which was the hardest thing. i was starting to muck out again after 6. Not lifting heavy water buckets obviously though. i have no pain from my back now. my disc stuck out the back which crushed the cauda equina nerves which brought it's own problems but my actual back is absolutely fine.

15-09-10, 03:48 PM
Hi Honeybee - just back from hols and noticed your post. I do hope you get my reply. I am 57 and have suffered with arthritis since my late 20's. I was told to stop riding in my late 20's (some hopes):) I have had everything the NHS has to offer except surgery which I refused for the obvious riding implications. I have had my horse on Suppleaze gold for over a year now with great results. When I rang to place a further order I jokingly said I wish you did it for humans. The lady told me they did. It is by a company called Aviform, in all the horse books and is called pro loco. I have been taken the maximum dose for about 4 months now ( 6 tabs a day) and I honestly honestly honestly can't believe the difference. I had been told after an MRI scan, that I have four collapsed discs which used to give me the most dreadful sciatic pain. Also my neck and knees were pretty hopeless. I am now back to rding 5 days a week and for the first time in years I am upright. I used to set off and my bum used to follow 10 minutes later:) Please try it. I have had epidural injections and they punctured my spine which gave me dreadful headaches for over a month and I had no balance. The product is in the region of 22 for 180 tabs so is also very cost effective.

15-09-10, 04:44 PM
My OH had a microdisectomy in 2003 after having a prolapsed disc. he was back at work after about 7 weeks and on full duties after 6 months. he has had no further back problems - touch wood!! He just is careful about twisting and lifting heavy weights. He occassionaly goes to the chiropractor. he is not interested in horses so can't advise about that

15-09-10, 04:52 PM
JJ Barney - have got your reply and will definitely try the tablets!

It's so useful to hear everyone's thoughts and experiences - I'm not very good at being inactive, so the thought of not being able to do my horses at all or ride for months terrifies me (let alone finding someone I trust to do them instead!)

I've been pretty much trying to carry on as normal, but seem to suffer the same as you guys have - riding is sometimes ok and sometimes dreadful and yard work gets more difficult the longer I'm out there :-)

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences - will let you know how I get on....

15-09-10, 09:16 PM
I have a history of back pain and have had a fusion too and I would say don't rush into anything, especially if you are not sure about it.

I'm assuming you have had an MRI so they can make an accurate diagnosis? If not definitely don't let them operate until you've had one!!!

Don't be scared to ask for a second opinion, all the ortho consultants seem to have different methods of treatment/types of surgery that they prefer.

If you do opt for surgery you will be amazed/horrified how little time they will keep you in hospital for and if you get the choice try to go for a specialist orthopeadic hospital rather than a general one. The days of lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself and eating grapes are long gone and they get you up and walking very quickly. Usually the day after surgery if all is ok. Once you are home you are encouraged to do lots of gentle walking but avoid the temptation to rush back to mucking out or you will be straight back to square one! Don't expect to drive for about six weeks though.

My consultant says he is happy for me to ride its the falling off he doesn't approve of.

Oh, and don't believe all the horror storys people will tell you of the appalling pain. I was in fairly minimal pain after both ops and if it does hurt ask for stronger pain relief.

16-09-10, 10:15 AM
Cazee, Have you seen an osteopath, i used this as a first port of call as it would usually sort out my back. After prolapsing the disc in South Africa on a field trip my doctor perscribed 6 visits to the osteo, when this had no effect he referred me for an mri. I have a very good relationship with my GP, i never actually visited him during my probs, did it all on the phone. An mri is the only way they can diagnose your problems, everyone will have an answer, osteo, chiro, yoga, bowan etc, but without a diagnosis you can just be throwing money away. I was unable to walk or stand for more than 5 minutes but could sit, drive and lie down ok. My GP also put me on Amyltriptilin (sp) which is an anti depressant but also alters how your body interprets pain, i think this helped alongside painkillers. I would take Co codamol when desperate but tried to avoid it as it made me feel so rubbish, i would try to manage the pain by limiting my activity. It is miserable and it is only after the surgery that i realise how bad things actually were. Please see your GP and ask about an mri.

Thank you for your reply x Yes I will get in to see my GP and ask about an MRI as this cannot go on like it is. Sometimes I don't know from day to day, week to week if my back will be ok or if I will do something that will aggravate it. An osteopath should be able to help also and I will ask my GP about that. I am not the sort of person who goes to the GP complaining about allsorts and I do have a fairly high pain threshold. I do also get hip pain in my right hip, which I don't know if it is connected? It is just that someone on this thread has mentioned they get hip pain too. Touch wood I have not had it for few months. I have never asked the doctor about it as it is so intermittent that me actually getting an appointment at a time when I am actually in pain with it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It is a strange pain, it feels like someone has stabbed me with a red hot knife right into my hip/groin. It is so painful to walk when I get it that I swear even if out as the pain is sudden and there is no warning sign. I could be happily walking and then bam I get this pain and every stride I take is very painful. I did also fall from a horse around 8 years ago, fell heavily in a wet school and landed on that side. I had pain in that side of the body, just aches really for about a month. I didn't go to the doctors or anything then as I didn't think I had done anything serious as my breathing and walking etc were all fine. I have no idea if the problems I get are related. I have been getting the hip pain for around 2/3 years I would say but I think I have only had it once this year. It is so hard to explain and I haven't told my GP as I feared they wouldn't believe me because I am fine otherwise except for my on and off back pain. I ride horses and do quite a bit of walking usually, though not as much the past 2 months.
Thanks for the advice though and I will see my GP pronto.
Good luck to anyone else with back issues.
You have my sympathies x

16-09-10, 03:36 PM
Hi Honeybee123,

I was diagnosed two herniated/prolapsed/bulging disks at L4/L5 and L5/S1 (lower back) last year after two MRIs, the second of which showed that, as I suspected, despite paying the osteopath and physio almost 2k in the intervening six months, the flipping disks had gotten worse.

Anyway I took the offer of surgery after spending Christmas 2009 in agony on floor, when not doped out of it on valium, difene, arthrotec, zydol (and some hot whiskey to get me to sleep!).

Surgery was a miscrodiscectomy on the L4/L5 disc (surgeon says the L5/S1 budge is smaller and will heal itself once the first is fixed)

Surgery April 20:
In to hospital Monday evening 8pm
8am Surgery (Eight other patients for the same surgery that day)
10am Awake but groggy after surgery, talking utter rubbish to nurse, possibly tried to sell her a Connemara pony...
10.15am Back on ward, sleeping
1pm Woke up, felt stiff in the same way you would be if you went for a long day's ghard hunting after not riding for 12 months
2pm Helped out of bed by nurse to go to bathroom. Stiff and a bit sore.
5pm Shuffle to door of hospital for smoke (Have since quit thank god). Way too early to go for that long of a way, very dizzy and lightweight on way back. Nurse said blood pressure too low (I didn't mention the cigarette!)
7pm Slept for night

6-10am woken by nurse, checked blood pressure, all other vital signs etc, met surgeon, two words, said i was ine and go home
12 noon collected & driven home

-my surgeon said no sitting for ten days so i moved bed to living room in front of TV and ate dinner standing up at counter in kitchen
-walked every day, starting with 5 mins at a time and gradually increasing
-within 3 weeks walking for an hour per day and doing things around the house but not anything that required heavy lifting or leanig forward (hoovering or sweeping floor for example)
-week four- wound healed up on back so started swimming. Very short (5-6m) swims at first, also walking in pool.
-week five- physio gives me exercises to improve core strength
-week six- back to (omputer-based)work 1/2 days because boss under severe pressure
-week seven- work 4 days
-week 8- fully back to work, still swimming, some cycling, no problem doing anything i want

-week 12- surgeon says I can go back horse riding if I want to but since horses are turned out for sumemr, I don't bother
-August 20- back on horse for first time, no probs at all except cannot use stirrup to mount so use either block or leg up.
- Today- Have been riding for past 3-4 weeks almost every day. Nothing exciting, hacking out at walk and trot, plus some canter. Had a riding assessment for my stage 2 that involved two small jumps and they were no problem. I am riding my own 10yo hunter and a 5yo slob but have not ventured onto the 3yo recently broken horse because I figure what's the point in going through surgery to mess it all up again in less than 6 months?
-Future- I'm aiming for my BHS Riding & Road Safety on November 9, plus Stage 2 exam on Nov 17. Also planning to be up to full speed for the opening meet on Nov 1.
Will have to start mucking out soon as I have been cheating so far by working the horses off grass.

-Overall Opinion- I could not endure the pain any longer so I think the surgery was the best thing I ever did. However I am conscious of not overdoing it and I will step down my activity level if I feel tired or sore at any stage. Apparently there is a 10pc chance of the disk bulging/prolapsing again.

Best of luck with your surgery and feel free to ask any questions you might have.....


16-09-10, 04:38 PM
Wow Maxie, that's really helpful. Good to have a step by step run though and gives me some comfort that I won't end up unable to do my usual stuff for weeks at a time.

I'm the opp from you - The worst bulge is L5/S1 per the MRI, with a smaller bulge at L4/L5. I've also got a large amount of fibrous scar tissue in the muscles surrounding the vertebrae, which probably isn't helping (result of not seeing an oesteopath in my youth, I suspect :-( ) I think surgery will be the only option, and I'm lucky enough that it's covered on my private health insurance, so I do have a bit of say so over timings. Sounds like I'm looking at 6 weeks out of work, and probably another 5 or 6 weeks without riding?
Does that sound a reasonable estimate? By my reckoning, if I can get sorted by the end of October, there's a good chance I'll make the start of the eventing season :-)

Thanks again for all the advice - am an awful lot more optimistic (and less terrified!) than I was before.

17-09-10, 03:36 PM
Hi Honeybee123,

I would work on the basis that 12 weeks will be the absolute minimum. At that stage you will have had a post-surgery check up with your surgeon. My surgeon said (both prior to and after the surgery) that most patients can go back to any sport, including contact sports like rugby, after 12 weeks.
However as I said I didn't go back until approx week 15/16 as the horses were turned out and I didn't want to rush back anyway.

I reckon the best way to go about it is:
1. Take it as easy as possible in the early weeks (week 1-3). You'll feel the weakness in your back (not necessarily soreness by the way, I took painkillers for 3 days then stopped because I didn't need them) and you will have a fair idea when you have done too much, you'll just feel your back is tired.
2. Follow the exercise advice fairly rigidly- walking, swimming etc
3. Start riding slowly- I started with 5-10 mins and I'm not doing very strenuous riding. I am deliberately not doing anything with sitting trot yet.
4. Definitely beg, borrow or steal an armchair ride at the beginning.

Otherwise, I reckon that all going well, you'll be well ready for the eventing season.

On an aside, one of my friend's had the same op 8/9 years ago, she's 32 now and has had no problems whatsoever. She hunts, hunter trials, shows etc. However she says the one area she gets caught is if she has to lift something high over her head- small detail.