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Back Surgery

January 22, 2012

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 19:58

Two years ago, a disc in my lower back ruptured. The disc tissue put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which caused significant discomfort. The pain started in the lower back and worked its way to my left hip, then to my left quadricep, and eventually down to my lower leg and foot. At times, it was very difficult to get in and out of automobiles or put on clothing, especially socks and shoes. I had heard many stories of unsuccessful back surgeries, so I considered nearly everything possible to avoid it. I tried chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, physical therapy, a muscle activation technique, stretching, and walking. I even tried several sessions of quantum energetics, a therapy that is said to trigger the body’s natural healing ability. Over a period of months, the pain disappeared and I regained strength in my leg.

In mid-December, after returning from a trip to Washington, DC, I felt a familiar discomfort, but this time on my right side. I soon knew that it was a disc rupture, although I later found out that it was a different disc. It was my belief that stretching and walking were the most effective two years ago, so that’s what I began immediately. Some days, it would feel better, so then I would try running or going to the gym for strength training. Both aggravated the problem further and were probably a mistake. I continued the stretching and walking routine, but it progressively got worse. By the middle part of last week, I hadn’t sat down for more than a total of 10 minutes over a span of 10 days because it was so uncomfortable. I purchased an excellent sit-stand workstation product from Ergotron, which I recommend highly to those who want to stand and sit at work. Within 2 seconds, your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and a work platform can be in either position.

While tying a shoe last Wednesday, excruciating pain shot through my lower back, hip, and leg. It was the most discomfort I had ever experienced, and it lasted what seemed like an eternity. My wife was nearby and tried to help, but there was little she could do. I took some Vicodin, which helped a little, and then made arrangements to see the neurosurgeon I saw two years earlier. The trips to and from his office were horrible. I took some Valium and steroids that he gave me while I was in his office, yet I still couldn’t put any weight on my right side. The pain was just too intense. After taking even more Valium, I eventually made it to the parking lot and car with assistance from my wife. Later that day, I had an MRI that showed the location and severity of the disc rupture. Surgery would reduce the possibility of permanent nerve damage and provide relief from the pain.

The next day wasn’t much better, even with all the pain medicine, so I felt I had little choice but to have surgery. We were able to schedule the procedure, called a lumbar laminectomy, for Friday. I was in the operating room for about an hour and at home walking three hours later. The doctor instructed me to walk 1 mile (1.6 km) that day, 2 miles yesterday, and 3 miles today. All of the pain is gone, except for the area of the incision. My leg is weak and part of the shin is still numb, but I should be able to snow ski again in about one month. Surgery was my last choice, but I’m glad I had it done. I can now sit, walk, and sleep again and I feel very good.