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ongoing leg pain after discectomy

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
9 days post op l5-s1 l4-l5 discectomy and still hurting. Had intense hip/ butt pain on both sides and lower lateral leg pain on both sides pre-op. Post-op the hip pain was gone on both sides and right leg was pain free. Lower left leg still hurting. Worried that I may have to live with this forever. Please let me know of any experiences with this situation. Can I expect recovery and relief down the road?

The pain on left side is much more tolerable than it was pre-op but bothersome and depressing overall. will it ever get better? I want my life back.

Everyone says it takes time for nerves to heal...but I am worried that too much damage has been done.



  • to the forum. You are so early out of surgery , your body really does need time to heal. If you are very concerned then please call your doc and let him know. We are all different and we all heal differently so it is really next to impossible for anyone to tell you if you are facing permanent damage or not , only your doc can truly help you with that. Please do keep us posted as to how you are doing. Hang in there....take care....Miki
  • Hi dealinwithit. Niki is right , everyone is different but don't let it drag on. I still have severe left leg, hip and calf pain after a year. Had L5-S1 Laminectomy /discectomy and 3 epidurals. Will have L5-S1 fusion Oct 27th to fix the problem I didn't have before the first op. Don't wait or suffer like I did . Give it some time to heal but if it does not seem to get better see your doc.I wanted my life back long ago.
    Good luck on your recovery.
  • I had leg pain for a good 4 months after microD and yes, it did get better. But it is true that everyone is different. Call your doc to be sure.
  • Dear Retired Boater - -

    hi, I hope you don't mind but I have a couple of questions for your, in that I had an L5-S1 discectomy a year and a half ago and all seemed kind of ok (I was recovering and so on, the odd bout of pain but nothing unexpected, all following major exertion/travel), but for the last 6 weeks I've had major onset of pain - - not as much as the original slipped disc, but as you mention left leg, hip, and in my case calf/foot pain. I'm trying to work out follow-up, and I do have my doctor on my case, but I hadn't know what any options were until I see that you are having fusion. I'd be interested to know anything of how successful you've found it, what the basis was for having it, any info you would be happy to share. I am quite young to have these problems (less than 30), and I work a v.hard job (18 hours a day at a desk), so clearly it's vital to as you say "get my life back" and I feel I had been doing ok but now am not. And I wonder if it is just as so many people tell me that this pain is something I will be stuck with, or whether there is perhaps something that could be done. Any advice or experience you are happy to share would be valuable, I am really stressed about this,
    all best,
  • I also had a discectomy 2 months ago. I had pain from lower back all the way down to my foot, but I only had numbness in my lower leg and foot. Now I just have numbness on the left side of my left leg, and in my left foot including my toes.

    The nerve pain in my foot is pretty bad right now. I am on Lyrica to help it, but if I do too much, it hurts really bad, mostly at night when I'm trying to sleep. Actually that is why I'm up now because my foot is hurting pretty bad and I can't sleep. My doctor keeps telling me that nerves take longer to heal, it will eventually get better, etc. I'm worried about it myself that it won't get better.

    I will be going back to work in two weeks, and I will be on light duty, but I know after a while they are going to get tired of it and want me back on regular duty. I am pretty sure it's going to take months if not longer for my leg & foot to heal (if it ever does). I try not to look at it that way, but I am afraid it may never get better. Sorry I cannot be more cheerful for your outlook, but I'm feeling pretty down myself about mine. The worst part about it is the feeling I get that nobody believes me. Like my husband and work. I get the feeling my husband is thinking I'm just being lazy, but if I don't lay down on the couch to rest my foot every once in a while, then it will hurt worse later. I hate that more than anything - not being believed.

    Well I guess I better try to go back to bed. I am rambling on here. Hope yours does get better though.
  • I'm not a surgeon. I'm a retired physician pain specialist, and still trying (without success so far) to get my own pain blog up and running. Enough about me.

    All the posts on this thread point to one thing. Back surgery can work wonders, or can fail miserably to relieve pain. I saw the ones who didn't get better, or got worse.

    Question: does your pain go into the leg below the knee? If it does, does it pass through the knee or skip the knee? If it skips the knee you probably have pain that starts in the Sacroiliac joint, not inside the spine. That can mimic the pain of disk disease, and make you miserable.

    If the pain goes through the knee it is probably arising with the nerves in the back.

    The best answer I have for pain that continues after back surgery is a spinal cord stimulator. This device uses wires inserted inside the spine to electrically stimulate the spinal cord, and can be wonderfully effective in relieving the pain you describe.

    You need to consult an interventional pain specialist who knows about these things, and puts them in. That evaluation is absolutely worth the effort, and can give you better understanding and marvelous relief!

    This is the best way I know to take charge of your life and get good things done!

    Have a happy!

    Ken Noel
  • This knee thing - by skips the knee do you mean by-passing the knee, as in pain free knees??

    My problems are most defo from my L5 area in spine and I have NO knee pain. Grion, buttock, deep thigh (sometimes) outer calf, grand toe - toes, topa nd bottom of foot. Getting worse...is this possible? The coldness, OMG!

    I am nearly 3 months post removal of hardwear (bit different to MicroD, although the rationale for surgery is similar) so I appreciate the worries around slow healing nerves.

    Why are they worse at night? It isn't like the nerve knows it is bedtime!!???
  • Hi Ken,
    I found your post helpful... I had discetomy at L5S1 and have
    been in pain for almost 3 months! The pain in my left ball of foot started immediately. The doctor ordered another mri and it shows the same disc now has a bulge. The doctor wants to explore my L5S1 disc because i am in so much pain... but im not so sure... the surgery got rid of my sciatic pain but left me debilitated with my left foot pain etc which i never had before surgery!

    Thanks in Advance for your input!
  • Hi just wondering if your pain ever got better? Im almost
    3 months out after L5S1 discetomy and in more pain now than
    before surgery. I have throbbing left foot and numb calf that just won't stop...Mine also is bothersome at night and Neurotin only gives me a little relief! 5 weeks of physical therapy and no progress :''(

    Let me know how you are doing?

  • well alot of what u all are going through sounds alot like what i am going through.im also in constant pain.had a herniated ruptured disc pinching a nerve in my right leg.L4/L5.i had surgery in feb/2007.i was ok for a few months but then i started getting pain again.right hip pain.cramping in legs.lower back pain.had an mri done..turns out i have annular disc bulging from L1 all the way to L5..and one of my discs is bulging towards the right side of my spine..i was also diagnosed with osteoarthritis..lumbar spinal stenosis.found out i acquired scoliosis when i was a child..also have carpal tunnel..in left arm..i get numbness in feet.feels like my right foot is burning..one thing after another. :''( :''( im going in for an epidural next week..and continuing on physical therapy..
  • jj grey, your post gave me a small window of hope. my husband has been struggling for almost a year with this. he has been off work for 6 months now trying to heal his back - most of this time was spent in bed with acute pain. he had a microdiscectomy on his l5/s1 in june after an mri showed a severely herniated disc. following the surgery, he was again in acute pain and on a whole whack of pain killers. he has since weened off those and has regained some mobility, but is still not able to sit for any real length of time and still has persistent leg pain. it's been 2 months of this and his recovery seems to have plateaued. being as he's a pilot, he will not be able to return to work until he is able to sit for extended periods of time. this is so disheartening and frustrating. it's hard not to lose hope when it seems like anyone we've read about who had pain post op never actually got better. no one has really been able to give him any answers, except to say that he shouldn't still be having leg pain. he's on a waiting list for an mri again.

    please tell me that you are still pain free. what was your recovery like? have you returned to work?
  • hi there i'm new here. had my surgery l5s1 l4l5, 3 weeks ago. i have the same pain as all of you. after my surgery i was fine for about 4 days until one night i had back spasms all night. since then i have pain in my lower hip, and the sides of both legs. the pain in the hip is always there and the leg pain starts when i walk or stand. i'm on Oxycontin for the pain but they don't work. i have been off work for about 9 months and i'm afraid if this goes on i'll be of longer.
  • I had discectomy on l5-s1 back in august and i thought all was going great till recently. I have started having the hip pain and ankle pain. Although my case might be a little different a month after my back surgery i had also had the left knee scoped and 60% of the cartilidge removed. So rt back herniation 10mm x 17 mm then left knee. I had tried a bunch of pain meds and none helped except to dull senses and reaction time. However i had started taking Gabapentin not designed orignally for back pain but worked great for a while seeing it workes great on nerve pain. Also its not a narcotic :) My PT working on my back is noticing the pain is no longer siactic but seems to be in the hip/medial maximus. We are working on massage and ultra sound to help it heal. I work outdoors and do a physical job it is tough and the pain does get intense. One time i have learned is stretch ALOT (only if you can) hamstrings and some yoga techniques are helping. I also have done acupunture and was surprised to see the pain went away for awhile and the other times it did knock it down some. Those in pt prolly already know this but stregthing your core (below your abs) that will help your back alot too. I will try to keep up on updating this if anyone reads it. Prolly update it also for those who see it years from know. Seeing this is running a lil long i will leave you with this message. Be strong even on those days when the pain is the worse. Do not be afraid to call your DR and if they can't help find another (if possible) and please don't give up.

    Im not a dr or a pt im just passing on some info. Please consult the professionals before you try anything new.
  • In August 2011 i was diagnosed with ruptured disk, i was experience full left foot drop & server weakness of left leg but strangley enough no pain!!! The neurosurgeon informed me that the damage was done & didn't think surgery would help much, we decided it was best to postpone surgery until it symptons got worse.. I was hoping it wud be few years, i got 2 months before it affected my bladder. :( :( :( :(
    I was told he was going to preform a microdiscectomy & the incission would be sealed with dissolvable stitchs, no aftercare needed. I came out of op with 21 stamples & a 7cm incission!!!! Erm didn't go quite to plan. (has anyone else needed stamples??)
    Bad news didn't stop there:
    The surgeon told me that he ended up removing significant portion of the disk. (my gp told me that cliff notes from hosp say nearly 2/3)
    That the pain im now experiencing will never go away. (none before op loads after, sods law!!)
    My gp told me yesturday that i'll have to get use to it & tramadol, co-codamal will be my life long partners!! Gabapentin as well probably.. Now i've still got left leg weakness & can't walk around without leg splint..
    Q1. Has anyone else had similar problems
    Q2. From personnel experiences does it get better mentally (Can you just get use to it)
    Q3. Can taking pain killers long term cause health issues

    Weirdest thing is this all happened while i was sleeping, went to bed fine woke up unable to stand properly!!! They reckon i'd damaged the muscles around the disk before & combination of co-codamol plus seizure meant f***** disk (Epilepsy) (basically worst timing for a seizure coz the damaged muscles acted as a weak spot on my spine & shot the disk out)

    Sorry its so long just needed to get it off me chest & tbh just going to sleep scares hell outta me na!! First time is bad, second will be horrific!!
  • from what ive read online co-codamal seems to be tylenol with codiene if you have to take pain killers thats a mild one compared to what they had me on. (thats good for you) if it helps ( i was on percocet 7/325 and was supposed to start taking morphine (i passed on those)). I just started taking tramadol and it seems to help with the pain (only take at night cause i operate heavy equipt.) Will be trying during the day this weekend to see if it puts me in a haze. I was told i would have a 1-2 in. scar turned out to be closer to 6 in. but they used a glue/adhesive to seal up the wound. Staples seem a bit excessive to me. Pain will get easier (or should) in time. You feel it now cause of the surgery the pain i feel now is different than before and alot less but i was in severe pain before. (morphine/demeral shots twice a week before surgery) the gabapentin takes a few weeks and it is supposed to help the nerve pain. Its helped mine alot i found that out when i ran out for 2 weeks :( . I stopped taking my pain meds after a few weeks (i don't like the false sense of security of no pain) Therapy might help but you gotta go slow and remember this will take time ALOT of time. I didn't have the leg drop with mine just herniation that moved the nerve completely outta place ( also found out i have spina bifida occulta) so im missing some bones in my spine (gotta love what they find when inside ya) Don't give up right now your body is pissed and is gonna hurt. Getting used to it you can do even though you may never "like it" Pain-free??? prolly not 100% but it just shows you are alive. I wish you the best and i'll try to keep up on this posts.

    I am not a DR or have i had any training in medical just relaying my personal experience. Always consult your DR beofre trying anything "new"
  • Thanks for reply pal its reassuring to speak to someone who's had same operation.
    I'm hoping the pain will eventually get better, atm its hit or miss whether I'm practically immobilised from pain or I can walk round a bit. (its a horrific amount of pain after I've had a minor seizure)
    Yea I thought it was a bit excessive 21 staples.
    So I've actually asked my GP why and he said its because the incision is 7cm long & nearly 1cm wide, apparently its that long & wide because of how much the of the disc they removed. I didn't know that the entire left side of the disk was removed leaving a gaping hole where it should be, that's why I still get leg weakness because when I stand the left side squeezes together & slightly rubs or pinches the main nerve. If or when the remaining portion of the disk ruptures then they'll have to preform a spinal fusion but that's only as & when needed. (I think I got a raw deal really)
    I can't believe all this was caused by a single seizure & I was in bed, didn't fall out or anything. ((( How did you rupture your disk??? )))
  • not really sure if doing this right.. i am new to this. i continue to have pain after surgery. originally diagnosed in nov 2010, after emergency room visit. started with epidurals and occasional emergency runs for toradol. op was nov 11, bilateral compression L5-S1. right after surgery i noticed discomfort in left area, heel. started pt and had to stop because pain increased. back to meds.
    new mri shows no new hernia or scar tissue issues. but i am still unable to stand still longer than 10 minutes w/o feeling pressure in my back. same situation if walk longer than 1 hr. now, back to pt. pain in heel, shin, hip area. just had another toradol shot and finally able to walk this week. a lot of pressure on back. current pt is tens treatment. i would like to regain a somewaht normal life.
    if you had something similar or can provide info i will appreciate. again, thank you for your replies and the website for the avail info.
  • Sjm sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I was bounced off a concrete wall while i was in the military (working on a install job). It took years before it finally got to bad for my body to not be able to keep keep everything where it was supposed to be. So im guessing you probably got hurt a long time ago and the seizure was probably the straw that broke the camels back (so to speak). I am roughly 8 months out of my surgery and i still have pain in the lower back and leg it is better than before but my PT told me it might be a year or so before the pain goes away (and it may never go away completely). I would say don't rush getting back to doing what you were before you got hurt it will take alot of time (and pain). From what i understand after talking tomy Drs and pt the surgery will cause pain because the body has been damaged and it will take time for the body to heal itself. If you can walk do it slowly and with caution if you start getting pain stop and relax in time you should be able to go farther each time. My PT has taught me to work on the lower abs (core) and it has helped alot and it is easy and you can do it at anytime. The best way to describe it is when you urinate try to stop the flow. You will feel the muscles in your abs tighten. You can tighten these muscles even when your are sitting walking and laying down. Tighten them for 10-15 secs and relax stop if your get sore. Do this 3-4 times each time for as many times as you can a day. Don't over do it go slow. As i always say please consult ur dr or pt before you go try anything i say but i believe this might help with weakness. Best of luck.
  • When was your surgery and what medications are they giving you. As you can read in my last post its has been awhile since my surgery and i still have some pain the heel (rt side) It comes and goes sometimes after working and sometimes it just shows up. DRs and pt are still not sure if it back related. Like i told Sjm it will take time (along time) to get the most relief. As for the mri and scar tissue you might not see swelling from fuilds the body naturally produces to heal itself. Kinda like if you cut urself and you see some fluid that eventually lead to a scab when internally the scab doesn't get hard like on the outside. So the pressure will be a little more than on the outside. So id say go slow and go easy. And as always talk to your drs or pts before doing anything i say. Im just relaying information i have learned from my pts and drs and from hours of searching the net. I am not a medically trained person just someone who had alot of time to learn about what helps and what hasn't. Best of luck and i will keep up these posts as often as i can.
  • I am almost 1year from surgery date of lower back surgery and still have chronic pain in lower back. My right leg now has numbing pain and spasms. This is taking longer than I though and for someone who was very active and in great shape it is getting harder everyday to fight of depression. The doctors tell me that nerves are like a sponge that has been compressed and is slowly coming back into form. That is why the pain, but hard to Believe.
  • I understand the depression part it is hard to avoid but try to not let it get to you. (easy to say) I deal with it daily not being able to do half the stuff i used to do is never easy to get over. You have to remember that if you let depression take over you stop trying to get better. Even if you don't feel that you are getting better you have to fight it and try to stay in charge of yourself. Being depressed cause you are hurting is normal it doesn't hurt to accept it and try to do something that makes you feel happy. (watching a movie or going to a good dinner or just chatting with friends) Hiding it doesn't help either if you want you can always msg me i'll talk with ya about it. Are you doing pt or anything? Have you tried acupunture or massage therapy? Also are they giving you any medication to help the pain. I have been on glucosamine/chondroitin its takes awhile but it has knocked it down a bit (my job is rather physical so the muscles are usually tight at the end of the day)

    Im not a dr or medically trained in any way always ask a dr or pt before making any changes to your treatments. Best of luck Roll
  • I had a disceptomy in April last year & at first it went well.
    But two weeks after surgery I ended up with swelling in the wound area and was rushed back via Ambulance they said there was no infection but think that maybe I was allergic to the stitches and had had a reaction to them, I know I am allergic to latex.
    About a week after the swelling started I stood up gently to go to the toilet and felt a burst/burning feeling on my right side. At the front of my hip area.

    After 3 cortisone injections, 2 in the bursa and 1 in my hip joint, for what they thought was bursitis.
    6/7 months later my Osteopath suggested that it wasn't bursitis that it was nerve damage from the two lower discs (the ones they had operated on) the nerves that run from these discs through my gluts and leg feel like there on fire. This burning sensation subsides from time to time but keeps reoccurring & increases with movement.

    And due to not being able to walk for 7/9 months after surgery I feel my back has gotten worse.

    I am in constant pain which increases with movement and day to day activities, by the afternoon I'm usually on my back as I am unable to sit, stand or walk for longer then 30 mins at a time.
    It has been over a year since surgery and I still haven't gotten a clear idea from my treaters as to what it could be but this pain is worse then before the surgery, I take Lyrica and this helps sometimes. If anyone has any suggestion that may help me I would appreciate it.
  • i am 60 years old, undergone endoscopic disectomy@ L4-L5 level and 3 sittings of transforminal epidural injections 2 before E/D surgery and one after , done phisio therapy 2 weeks dr. prescribe GABAPIN NT, ULTRACET,KYRAB AN LYRICA for one month, this is done in INDIA. please help.
  • DNDDN Posts: 2
    edited 04/12/2014 - 6:57 PM
    This comment is generally for people experiencing sciatica soon after surgery. I blew the disc at S1-L5 about three years ago and had surgery. I blew L4-L5 recently and am 5 weeks post surgery. After the first surgery, my sciatica and numbness never returned. However, after this second surgery my deep hip pain and numbness returned about 5-7 days post surgery. I thought for sure I had re-ruptured and was extremely depressed and distraught. After a week I was feeling pretty good so I did some light exercising (I'm a bit of a fitness nut) against doctors orders. The pain started after that. Now it's 4 weeks later and the pain is almost completely gone. I think there was inflammation and nerve damage causing the pain, probably exacerbated by being too active. My advice is to take ibuprofen, ice frequently, rest a lot (laying down), walk as directed, and follow the doctors orders. It takes time. My sympathy to all of you who have had it harder than I have. Good luck.
  • Hi all. I've just had my lumbar Discectomy two weeks ago.
    My pain now is so much worse than what it was before my operation and I feel as if it is worsening.
    Following the op I had numbness down my right leg and foot.
    Then it went away and I had pain starting in my foot and moving up my calf.
    Now the pain has spread all up my leg and it is so intense.
    I'm beginning to get nauseas when it gets too much to handle.
    I've also noticed as of the last three mornings that my left ankle/foot gets
    Severe aching pain when I first wake up.

    Does anyone have any advice? Should I be doing any specific exercises?
    Could I be eating anything to help minimise the nausea?
    Are there any positions I could be lying/sitting in to try avoid the intense pain?

    Any advice welcome!
    I'm absolutely desperate!
  • Hi Mena- I'm sorry to hear that you are having so much pain. I am awaiting a consult with neurosurgeon the day after tomorrow. I have been dealing with this for over a year and a half now & have tried every conservative tx available, from PT & chiro to ESI (x5) & rhizotomy (x2). A friend of mine, who is a neurosurgeon (out of state) reviewed my latest MRI (ordered due to significant increase in pain & new symptoms) & has said that I will def need a microdiscectomy for a "huge herniation that is absolutely crushing the left sciatic nerve." I've been trying to avoid surgery, but I can't any longer. I cannot be bed bound or I would, as I have a young child to take care of & I have to continue to work to pay the bills. I have to use a cane & when I first get out of bed or, often, when I go from sitting to standing, the pain is so bad, I can only barely slide my left foot in order to move. I had been sleeping on my side with 1 pillow btwn my knees or on my back with 1 pillow under my knees. When first morning pain became so severe that I couldn't move, a friend suggested a change in sleeping position. I now sleep on my back only, with a pillow under my lower back & 2 pillows under my knees. This has helped with the severe pain upon getting out of bed. I still have to roll to my side (on my good leg) to get out of bed, as if anything touches the back of my left buttock or thigh, it triggers an episode of horrible pain, where it feels like the nerve itself goes into spasm. Maybe you could try this position & see if it helps. Normally, I do not change position at all in my sleep (when I get any), but this morning I woke to find I had turned on my side & when I got up, I had that horrific pain again, where I could barely get up. This tells me that the change in my sleeping position, as I described to you, has been of some help to me. Good luck & let us know how you are getting on.
    8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
    9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
    10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE
  • www.spine-health.com/treatment/...surgery/postoperative-care-lumbar- microdiscectomy-surgery
  • Hi,

    Can someone tell me if the original person who posted on this topic has fully recovered from his injury being that this was in 2008??
  • I see this is an old thread... Any updates?
  • How are you? I have the same questions you gave:

    (((Does anyone have any advice? Should I be doing any specific exercises?
    Could I be eating anything to help minimise the nausea?
    Are there any positions I could be lying/sitting in to try avoid the intense pain?

    Any advice welcome!
    I'm absolutely desperate!)))
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