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post-surgery scar tissue

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
Hi. I'm new here. I'm excited to find others who also are looking for help and hoping for relief. I just had a laminectomy 5 months ago on the L5-S1 disc. I just had an MRI about 4 days ago showing that I have scar tissue partially obscuring the margin of the S1 nerve root. I'm concerned of course, because my leg pain was getting better for 4 months until about a month ago. Now it's just as bad as before surgery, if not worse. Every movement hurts, even small ones. This was my second surgery in this area and the doctor told me he had found a lot of scarring from the first surgery, which he scraped out. Any suggestions on treatment or therapy for scar tissue that impinges on a nerve? I've been all over the net and have found nothing. Just hoping for a miracle, I suppose.

Thank you,
csp
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13

Comments

  • All I can say is, you're not alone and Welcome to My World! It sucks.

    I never had much, if any improvement after surgery last May, and then, in August, started feeling MUCH worse with pain in both legs and low back. I even went to another NS for a second opinion and came away with more drug Rx that I don't want to use (I chose pain over inability to drive a car or have a life).

    Anyway - keep on trying, that' is all we can do. I'm doing PT now, McKenzie method therapy. And doing the "wait and see" that both NS's told me. They both said - and many people on this site say - it can take a year or longer for the nerve pain to settle and heal. By the way, the second NS I saw said that the whole "scar tissue on the nerve" thing is very overblown and he thinks it's very, very rare, if ever, that that is the cause of the pain.

    Good luck, and you're not alone, and I believe we all, somehow, will feel better one day - even if it means waiting a few more years for advances in this field of medicine.

    Rosa
  • The best way to ward off scar tissue is to stretch and perform some physical therapy as prescribed by your MD. The idea is to keep the nerves free and moving so that scar tissue, which will develop as a natural response to a surgery wound, cannot attach to the nerve. When it does bind to the nerve, and then you move around, the nerve is held and you feel pain.
    Good luck with your recovery!
  • what exactly causes scar tissue to develop? I had it in my head that if I did something stupid like wrenching my back too soon after surgery I'd mess up and cause scar tissue. Or I was thinking maybe it all has to do with the talent and skill of the surgeon. When I saw the nurse two weeks post op I asked about getting back ino PT. She told me it wasn't necessary if I was feeling better. Maybe I'd better go anyway or do you think it's too late. How quick can scar tissue form? :< Oh boy. I wanted to do exactly the right things post op to give myself the best chances for the greatest success.
  • Rosa,
    Just curious, did your 2nd opinion doctor or the first one ever order an MRI for you to see what was going on? Or did they just give you the exercises to do? For your sake, I hope they ordered an MRI so you can be 100% sure of what's going on.

    Thank you for your support- I'm also hoping to feel better as time goes on.

    csp
  • fatherof4,
    I agree about the moving of the nerves. However, right after surgery, I found a site that told me exercises on how to do this, so I've been moving and stretching this nerve since day one. Still, 4 months after surgery, I'm in pain and scarring has showed up on my MRI. What a disappointment. Have any exercise suggestions? Maybe I should try some others.

    csp
  • I don't know how long it takes for scar tissue to form. I've been looking on line for that info. for awhile. Can't find anything. Seems that doctors all have different opinions on scar tissue. Some say it's nothing while others say it's a major cause of pain. Hard to know what to think. On one site I read that scar tissue forms between 6 weeks and 3 months. That's what I believed, until 4 months later I found myself in pain. Maybe it forms up until 6 months - who knows.

    I think all of us here tried to do the right thing right from the start in hopes of relieving pain. I hope it just takes time. Who knew I'd feel worse after surgery?

    csp
  • Here's a great article on Spine Health about scar tissue ... it explains it quite well.

    http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/back-surgery/scar-tissue-and-pain-after-back-surgery
  • Yes, I had a follow-up MRI done about 8 wks after surgery. The NS who did the surgery showed me a lot of white area and said that was scar tissue and inflammation. But he didn't seem to think the scar tissue was abnormal and said ALL surgery produces scar tissue. The second NS I went to said the same thing and said he didn't believe the scar on nerve theory - said that was rare if ever.

    I must say the more I read and the more I hear - it apparently CAN take up to a year or more to feel "better". I know my husband and some other people had instant relief from back surgery. He literally woke up from the surgery with total relief. But those people seem to be people who had a sudden onset of sciatica or some very local pain (my pain is pretty much everything from the back/hips to the toes on both sides).

    Let's all stay in touch - I wish we had a board with a roster of check-in's for: 1 mo. post op, 2 mo. post op etc. for the various surgeries, like laminectomy, fusion, etc.. well - we all hear it all pretty much right here.

    Good luck and PLEASE post any news, Dx, improvements, etc. We all need all the info we can get!
    Rosa
  • Rosa,
    I just got back from my NS and he told me my MRI looked great. Of course, this doesn't get rid of the pain. I also have scar tissue. He told me that he didn't want to back in because it looked good right now, but to wait for about 6 - 8 months. Then, if it still is shooting down my leg, maybe he would go back in and put a "nerve wrap" around the nerve (after digging out the scar tissue again). Ever hear of that?

    Maybe it WILL just take more time than we thought.

    csp
  • Hey csp

    Any more surgery will just cause more scar tissue unfortunately - they can go in and scrape the old stuff out but scar tissue is the bodies natural mechanism after it has been cut open. It just depends from person to person how much scar tissue forms and how quickly.

    As fatherof4 said the only thing that seems to be "evidenced" for scar tissue is keeping the nerve gliding to prevent tethering

    I had a revision L5 S1 microdiscectomy in july and they had to remvoe a load of scar tissue from my first surgery which had tethered the nerve root and I am still suffering with my "rocky road" as my NS calls it so I know how you feel

    N
  • My doctor and PT never mentioned anything about scar tissue. What are the exercises recommended to prevent it?

    Hugs,
    Haylie
  • Haylie,
    The only exercise I know to prevent scar tissue is:
    Lay on your back with both knees bent.
    Lift one leg up while completely straightening it.
    "Pump" your ankle so that you're flexing and extending your calf muscles off and on. I try to do about 20 of them and then do the other leg.
    Supposedly, this moves the nerve that's being trapped by scar tissue (Or has the potential to be trapped). And it keeps the nerve mobile so scarring doesn't trap it to the point of pain.
    I still have sciatica even though I've been doing these exercises since after surgery (5 months ago).
    So I'm looking for more exercises and advice.

    csp
  • Thank you CSP. I hope you get relief soon, and please share with us if you find additional exercises. Is scar tissue a possiblity with any type of back surgery? Is it possible for less with a microdisectomy?

    Thanks again,

    Haylie
  • I had my fusion due to drift of vertabrae because of RA. My tendons are gradually weakening because of the disease process. I had C1,C2 fused about five years ago with excellent results and total recovery.

    The pain I have been experiencing began just about the time that my lumbar fusion was considered stable. After discontinuing use of the post surgical brace I began doing water therapy exercises again. (I had been doing them for 14 yrs). I began to have excruciating pain in my sacroiliac right at the incision site scar (on my left side) and down the front of my left leg.
    My x-rays show excellent healing of the spine. I saw a really excellent yoga therapist who developed core strength exercises for me with reference to all my issues, but the resultant pain caused me to delay the program until the pain is under control. I have had massage which made the pain so much worse for several days, acupuncture in hopes of breaking up the scar tissue, which seemed to help for three days. When I had a second treatment the pain was again worse for several days.
    I saw a physiatrist who recommended a sacroiliac belt which didn't help at all.
    I saw a PT with the result that I felt worse pain for a few days due to the range of movement I had to show him.

    I have done yoga and tai chi and been a dancer, done years of water exercises through my adult life. I am not a wuss, nor exercise averse but I too fear to make things worse. I have pain meds that sometimes work but which I dislike. About the only relief I can get is with hot baths and my massage mouse. It is like a litte tens unit. I almost always have to use it during the night when I wake with pain. It allows me to get back to sleep. I believe any tens unit would probably work.

    I long for the day when my muscles, tendons or whatever recover so I can get some exercise again.
  • Well, since it's over 6 mos since surgery and I continue to feel worse with back and leg pain, I'm having a 3rd mri and a CT scan to look for possible fracture or scar tissue/arachnoiditis. On the arachnoiditis - I don't know what I'll do if that's the problem. From what I read it is about as bad as it gets, for the rest of your life, and, per the doctor, can continue to progress (doesn't just STOP so you at least know the limit of pain you have to deal with)....

    I'm pretty freaked out. But want to get the tests over with and find out what's going on..... Rosa
  • Easy for me to say Rosa but you need to be really focused on the up.

    I have been with the Ugly pain as it is called!

    Be confident that you will resolve your current situation, in time.
    Scar tissue will be inevitable for any surgical intervention it just depends on your bodies healing response how problematic that may be. Whether it is really the cause of your pain or whether the doctos correctly identified the pain triggers who knows. Medicine is not an exact scinece and the docs are doing their best.
    I hope that you find a cuase for th epain but it is one with an easy resolve.
    Be strong.

    I have been struggling for nearly 20 months now since my first operation and am still hopeful. Yes i have very bad pain days. I have bad mental down days.
    Try and find some good things that have come out of your experience, even if it is something small and silly.

    Hugs
  • Thanks, itsalongwalk (and boy it sure is!), and I really do try. I have seen 2 friends die, one of ALS and one of Parkinsons, so I try to count my blessings.
    And you are so right - medicine is not exact. The new NS I've been seeing admits that (unlike the first, who I think has a God complex). I also live with the hope that over the next few years better drugs for pain will be developed.

    I'll let you all know what the tests show. And again, I don't know what I'd do without this forum, able to talk to people who've been there and know how it feels.

    Rosa
  • I had an anommally removed from L4. Prior I walked a 13-14 min. mile. Now 5 years later I can not go up my stairs. I think I own the local MRI machine. All my NS says is sorry adn good-bye.

    He kept telling me the reason for the pain and weakness is the scar tissue. I have had shots, PT and massage. I am only worse and have no hope. There are days I do not leave bed, because I have difficulty standing up.

    NS says to get a Sponal Cord Stimulator. But it will do nothing for the weakness in now both legs, feet and gut. Each day is worse than the previous.

    I wish I had some encouraging word. But to go from a very healthy person with no pain to an overweight blob, has been very difficult.

    Stretch and massage msy help.
  • I had an anommally removed from L4. Prior I walked a 13-14 min. mile. Now 5 years later I can not go up my stairs. I think I own the local MRI machine. All my NS says is sorry adn good-bye.

    He kept telling me the reason for the pain and weakness is the scar tissue. I have had shots, PT and massage. I am only worse and have no hope. There are days I do not leave bed, because I have difficulty standing up.

    NS says to get a Sponal Cord Stimulator. But it will do nothing for the weakness in now both legs, feet and gut. Each day is worse than the previous.

    I wish I had some encouraging word. But to go from a very healthy person with no pain to an overweight blob, has been very difficult.

    Stretch and massage msy help.
  • That is truly tragic - I mean that. I know what you mean, and I'm nowhere near as incapacitated as you are. I wonder if you got the Stimulator could you slowly increase walking and build your leg strength back up?

    I know what you mean - I went into surgery so blissfully happy that the past 3 years of pain were about to end and now would give anything to feel as "bad" as I did before that surgery....

    Rosa
  • I have been told that a SCS would be the answer. BUT I am allergic to metal and plastic. I'm not sure I want to change one problem for another. My PM said he did't think I was a good candidate.
  • Normie_rad,
    What exactly is CSC??

    csp
  • Zach,
    My first surgery wound up better than this last one. It took 6 months to feel better, but I finally did. This is my second surg., and it's been over 6 months, and I feel worse than before this surgery. I'm so limited, everything I do affects the nerve pain...any movement at all.

    I'm going to look up duragen patch and see if I can find anything out. Did your doctor say how many good outcomes he's had from doing this? If it works so well, I wonder why doctors don't just do this right off the bat.

    csp
  • Zach,
    When is your surgery supposed to be? If you go through with it, I will be curious to see how well this procedure works.

    After my second surgery, I gradually started getting relief. It was slow going, but it was getting better. Then, all of a sudden, my leg started hurting more. I thought it was just a bad day. But it didn't let up. I was getting better for 4 months after surgery. Then, the pain started and hasn't left for 2 months. (I'm not on any meds right now.)

    I had 2 MRI's after surgery. One right after, because I still had pain for a good 3 weeks post-surg. Then, again, after 5 months. The only thing that showed up was scar tissue after 5 months. And what a coincidence - it was right on the S1 nerve root - exactly where the pain dermatome (?) is. I am getting a second opinion of my MRI on Dec. 8th. I want to know if it's definitely just scar tissue causing the pain. I also want to know if a "nerve wrap" is the answer. That's what my surgeon said he would do if I still have pain in June. I'm nervous about another surgery as well... not the surgery itself, but like you, the recovery (or lack of).

    Don't you just love it when your surgeon says, "Your MRI looks great!" I just want to punch him!! (Not really, but it's almost as if they're saying you're lying.)

    csp
  • Zach,
    If your doctor says you could have permanent nerve damage, I would opt for the surgery. (That's just me.) My doctor never gave me orders for after surgery... that's what bothered me. I had to go by what I did after my first surgery and learn more online. I did my regular P.T. exercises, plus I found stretches especially for preventing scar tissue. Did it work? Obviously not. But I keep doing them just in case there's still hope. (I also pray to God a lot about my recovery.)

    Your doctor seems to give you a lot of information. This would be helpful if my doc did the same thing. I did not go by what he told me after surgery. He said to just go back to doing whatever it was I was doing before. He said that if I was going to rupture another disc, it would happen no matter what I did. I didn't believe him, and I was very careful. I still have pain.

    The two surgeries I had were a microscopic laminectomy and a laminectomy. Both were on L5-S1. My S1 nerve root is being bothered right now. Like I said, I was almost pain free up until 4 months after surgery. Then the pain started all over. I did everything right - I think. I was very careful. That's why this is so upsetting.

    I didn't know an MRI or CT would show that a nerve is actually inflamed. Does the nerve look bigger or something? Does scar tissue show up on the nerve? My MRI said that there was "an abnormal signal on the S1 nerve root." Those were the exact words. But my doc said it looked great! (Confusing). The MRI also said that it was epidural fibrosis, which is of course, scar tissue. I was hoping for a ruptured disc so it could be "fixed."

    Oh yeah... the heating pad made my pain worse when I tried it. I don't use meds because I want to know exactly what my pain is and not be thinking it's getting better when it's not. Weird, I know.

    What's the dura mater of the nerve? Is that the outer coating or something? Or is it a ligament?? Who's your doctor? Where's he from? He's given you so much info. I hope everything turns out well for you.

    csp
  • Zach,
    If you ask your doctor, maybe he would let you give his name out. I live in Michigan, so if he's out of state for me, I wouldn't be able to see him anyway. I have a hard time trusting any doctors at this point. It seems like they're all in a hurry and just want you out the door. I need a doctor who's willing to explain things to me so I know whether or not to go ahead with another surgery or not. I would like someone I can trust with an honest answer... not a doctor who is worried about getting sued, or just wants to move on to the next patient.

    Your back sounds worse than mine. I've not had a swollen nerve ever show up on an MRI. I'm glad you have someone you can trust - a friend. At least you know he will do what's best for YOU. For me, I feel like I should get about 100 opinions from various doctors to be sure I make the right decision. I'm almost afraid that this is as good as it's going to get. If I have another surgery, I could get more scarring. Of course, we all could.

    It's scary that the fragment from your disc wasn't reported. I'm glad the doctors choose to look at the MRI rather than just read the report then. I just wonder if something was missed on my MRI. It says just scar tissue, but who knows.

    Did you say you had a fusion also? Was that more painful than the laminectomy?

    Hang in there. Sounds like you're on your way, with your doc and all.

    csp
  • Wow! You have a lot going on. I'm glad you have a doctor friend who can be honest with you and help you through this. Scar tissue taking 6 hours surprises me, unless that also involves more. Two years is a long time to heal. I don't blame you for taking the route you've chosen. What is mis? You said that clearing scar tissue through "mis" is a long process. Is that because of the fusion?

    Are you still able to work? Does your family help you out? Hopefully? I hope the scar tissue removal is successful for you if you decide to have it done. Do you know of anyone else who's ever had this scar tissue problem? It seems that doctors all disagree on the severity of the pain scarring can cause. Some say it's just a myth. Others say it can cause all kinds of problems. Who do ya believe? There sure is a lot to a person's back I guess.

    What would happen if you took the whole 2 years off? To me, that would be better, although I couldn't afford to do it unless I quit my job. That's the part that's hard - trying to work through all this pain.

    Back to work. Have a good night.

    csp
  • Has anyone had problems with their bowel after the surgery?
    Everytime I move my bowels I lose the use of my right leg. I went to a Proctologist who couldn't see anything wrong with my bowel. She thought the only solution may be a bag. Forget that one.

    Have you ever met anyone who thinks being constipated is a good thing.
  • Zach,Do you know of the success rate of removing scar tissue? Do you know of anyone else who's had theirs removed? Did you say that you would get an injection while having surgery in order to avoid getting more scar tissue? How does this work? What date is your surgery? Have you made a decision as to whether or not you're actually going through it or not?

    Sorry so many questions... just curious. You're the first person I know that's had similar issues as me.

    csp
  • normie,
    I did not have stomach issues after surgery. But I would think that that would have to do with the procedure you had done and what disc level. I know some herniated discs can cause problems with bowels/bladder function. If you haven't already, I would get an MRI. A lot of times, when someone with a disc herniation goes to the bathroom, it can make leg pain worse.

    csp
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