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This time it was different. The pain in my lower back had become worse overnight and had spread down my right leg – a slipped disc.
I had suffered from back pain on and off for years. I was used to the kind of neck pain that you get from sitting for long periods of time working on a computer in an office. What was more difficult to cope with were the slight burning pains that reoccurred regularly in my lower back. Until that point, they had always gone away again, but this time I knew it was different. When I turned my upper body sideways, I felt a stabbing pain in my lower back that just wouldn’t subside. The pain intensified overnight and spread down my right leg. The next morning, I was feeling pretty fragile because I couldn’t really put any weight on my right leg and my lower back was incredibly painful. The GP confirmed my suspicion that it was a slipped disc and referred me for an MRI at one of the Hirslanden Private Hospital Group’s radiology institutes.
On the MRI, you could see the soft structures, the nerve root and the bulging nucleus pulposus. It showed a sideways slipped disc between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae, which was pushing upwards against the nerve root. This pressure was causing the back pain, as well as the pain down my right leg.
I wanted to try all the available conservative therapies before thinking about an operation. Unfortunately the physiotherapy and pain therapy weren’t enough to alleviate the pain and help me regain the full use of my right leg, so my GP sent me to see a spine specialist. The specialist confirmed that I required surgery, as the herniated nucleus pulposus was still pressing against the nerve root and had not returned to its proper place.
I was admitted to hospital in no time at all. The operation took place after a couple of preliminary examinations. Seeing as the slipped disc had occurred on the side and not near the central spinal canal, the spine surgeon opted to access the site from the side using a microsurgical procedure instead of an open operation. Using x-ray control, he inserted a very delicate instrument – sort of like tongs – through an approximately six-millimetre-wide opening and removed the slipped disc material. This endoscopic, microsurgical operation took place in the morning under general anaesthetic.
I couldn’t believe that by the evening I was allowed to take a few steps with the help of one of the nurses. The next day, a physiotherapist showed me the right way to stand up and lie down, as well as a few simple back exercises. On the third day, I was able to leave the hospital. I had to take it easy, not sit for too long and not lift any heavy objects, and repeat the physiotherapy exercises at home. The spine specialist also wrote me a prescription for follow-up outpatient physiotherapy treatment, which I was able to start shortly afterwards. My workmates were delighted when I turned up at the office just one week after the operation. Today, four weeks after surgery, I’m completely pain-free. And to make sure it stays that way, I now do regular back strengthening exercises.
This report has an illustrative function. It is based on medical facts and serves to educate patients. The persons described are purely fictional.