Yeah, I've been there and done that.
L5-S1 herniation 10mm . Left side. PAIN and PAIN back, glute (butt) and entire back leg and foot. Awful. My physician had me wait 3 weeks to see if it would resolve a bit. I did have a reduction in pain, but I had some bad symptoms, random flashing pain, foot weakness, and some bad nights. The sciatic nerve being pinched can cause all kinds of unpleasantness.
I finally demanded a resolution, and got in to see an orthopedic surgeon. MRI, X-Rays, physical tests. The MRI revealed where and how big the herniation actually was. I opted for surgery. So almost 8 weeks after the injury I went into a surgical center , and 6 hours later I was out. Outpatient back surgery.. There actually was some relief following the surgery. I was still having pain, but tolerable.
2 weeks out of work, then back , no lifting, no twisting, etc.
4 weeks post surgery started physical therapy 3 times a week for an hour. Many different types of exercises to strengthen the core and back without stressing the spine and discs. Planks,leg lifts, half wall squats with weight balls.
8 weeks after surgery I was done with physical therapy and about as good as it would get.
They really will harp on you to lose weight if you are bit overweight. I guess a herniated disc doesn't like carrying around extra weight!!!
I started mountain biking again the following spring 2014. I haven't re-injured the back yet, but I know I am pushing my luck, sometimes after a two hour bike ride, my left leg is PISSED at me. I think it's my form. And I know it's the damn herniation and sciatica. A bit disgusted that it will never be 100% (maybe it never was, I have hurt my back several time over the years since my teens).
If I had to do it over, I would do a lot of physical therapy before finally getting the surgery. Sometimes you have NO choice if you are being tormented by constant pain. Can't time travel though.
The back surgery is called a micro discectomy. and they also perform a procedure called a laminectomy as well to expose the sciatic nerve root where it exits between the spinal column vertebrae. They trim some of the bone "wing" from the vertebrate (lamina), Then the move the sciatic nerve out of the way to expose the herniated section of disc. This is then nibbled out and removed. Think of a jelly donut, the exterior is a very tough fibrous membrane which tears, and the interior firm but cushiony disc material pokes through and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve causing all the pain.
The disc itself has almost no nerves or blood supply, so things will take time to heal in there after the removal of the herniation. It will scar over in time, but it can be re-herniated. There are some videos on YouTube of course showing the surgery. Most people have great success. Make sure your doctor is experienced if you decide to go through with it. My doctor had been doing these procedures for about 20 years.