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Should I have surgery

Started by calicyclist on 03/26/2019 6:49pm

Hello. I have been struggling mentally with the decision to have surgery or not for a few months now and wanted to solicit advice from others.

Here is my story:

I believe I have had a partially herniated disc for a while. I had very minor leg pain centered on my left hamstring but never associated it with my sciatic nerve. I always thought I needed to stretch my hamstring more.

Last year I started cycling with a friend in the summer somewhat aggressively while training for the Levi's GranFondo. Towards the end of my training I started noticing that it was painful in my back (versus my hamstring) if I tried to bend over and touch my toes. Or even lean forward while sitting with my legs out. I saw my Chiropractor and he (mis)diagnosed the issue as Piriformis Syndrome. So I started being treated for that while trying to complete my training.

Unfortunately, I had several minor accidents on the bike leading up to the race. Including being run off the road by a car and falling while getting my bike off the car the day of the big ride. These all likely contributed to further compromise of my L4/L5 disc. After the last fall, I continued to do the 102 mile / 9k ft climb ride which was probably a bad decision.

The weeks following this were bad. Immediately the week after I had real problems going from a sitting to a standing position which caused severe pain. I started physical therapy and I had an MRI taken which showed a significant herniation of my L4/L5 disc pushing on my left sciatic nerve. The pain then moved from my back to almost entirely concentrated on my calf muscle. It got so bad that I couldn't walk and stopped being able to work outside of the house.

After seeing a few different surgeons I had an epidural injection which substantially reduced the pain. I was able to walk again and work normally, with some discomfort. But the pain has never completely dissipated. I've had one more injection which didn't seem to do anything.

I have tried acupuncture, get regular massages, am seeing a personal trainer to work on my core muscles, use an inversion table, and do lots of stretching. But I can't seem to get back completely to normal.

I have been approved for surgery by my insurance, but I am having a hard time completely committing to it. My mind seems to change on a daily basis depending on how my pain is. I have spoken to many people who have had back surgery and most of them make me optimistic about it. But I am also aware of the studies which say that after 6-18 months the pain is typically the same for people who have surgery versus those who don't.

So I guess my question is - how does one know it is time to bite the bullet and have surgery? Does the pain need to be completely debilitating? Or just persistent and annoying? Am I considering having it too soon?

Thanks for any thoughts or insight anyone has. Sorry for the long post but wanted to clearly explain my situation.

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