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Permanent nerve damage?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
I have a disc pressing against my L5-S1 nerve area, giving me pain down my leg since September. I was originally scheduled to have surgery in February but I am thinking of pushing it to May. Is there a chance that I will have permanent nerve damage if I do that? If not, how long does it take before nerves are permanently damaged from the herniated disc?


  • and welcome to the forum. You will find a ton of support and understanding from all of our amazing members here. Your question is a tough one because everyone's body is different so it is hard to tell when permanent nerve damage is going to kick in. Have you talked to your doctor about pushing the surgery date from February to May and if so , then what does the doc say? You might want to think about making a list of your symptoms , your questions , concerns , etc...and taking those to your doctor to get some answers. None of us here are doctors so we can't really give you any medical advice , the only medical advice that you need to follow is your doctor's. I wish you the best of luck and please do keep us posted as to how you are doing and what you decide to do. You are not alone in all of this , we are here with you. If there is ever anything that I can do for you then please do not hesitate to just let me know. Take care....Miki
  • Your question is one we all ask and wonder about, and it is one that doesn't really have a specific answer. Even looking at imaging tests, it is difficult for your doctor to know the extent that the nerve is being compressed. Even if he could tell, there is no way of knowing what might be causing permanent damage. A nerve can look terribly mangled and there can end up being no damage, and conversely, a nerve can look "fine," and the person ends up with significant damage. And there is no way a surgeon can judge how things will turn out.

    Many people who have herniated a disc choose to wait and see if things will improve on their own, without a surgical intervention. It can often take 6 months or longer for the pain to start to lessen.

    Assuming that you do not have bowel or bladder involvement or foot drop, most surgeries are done for pain relief. In the majority of patients, whether you have surgery immediately or choose to try healing through rest and conservative treatments, you will end up at about the same place five years down the road. I am speaking of lumbar disc issues. I do not know anything about cervical discs and how they respond.

    What are your reasons for waiting?
  • Hi

    So sorry to hear of your pain.

    I had pain in my right lower back for a few weeks and the physio couldn't help. I went off to see my doctor who tested my ankle reflexes which were normal.

    6 days later on the Monday night I had horrible pain starting in my thigh and it went down the nerve and by the end of the night my right foot was numb. Saw a surgeon and had an MRI on the Friday and was operated on on the Tuesday am!

    Not only had my L5/S1 become "old and shot" a very large lump had come away and was sitting next to the nerve. My ankle reflex is also badly compromised and my back is overcompensating all over place.

    I had my surgery on Nov 11 but the feeling in my foot is just this week at 75% and that was after only 1 week of it being numb. I am also having 2 hands on physio sessions a week and 1 pilates rehab a week.

    For me waiting for the nerve to come back has been horrible I thought would it would be ok when I woke up I didn't really think it could take the 18 months the surgeon warned me - I was wrong!

    Something that has helped me in my nerve recovery is done by a physio and it is called a straight leg raise with traction-done a lot in Oz!

    Hope this helps you make your mind up. I didn't really have a choice but now I am feeling more like me I realise how unwell I have been and for how long.
  • I have had the same problem you are describing, mine got so bad I went to the hospital. The on call neurosurgeon told me I was a canidate for surgery but he suggested I try more conventional options first. I first did the epidurals , 1st one nothing, so then before my second I started some traction which helped alittle, then my second epi. I had my first appointment with another surgeon the day after my second epi. I was feeling better because it was still alittle numb so I couldn't really complain about my symptoms properly, so he told me to continue with the 3rd epi. Before my third one I started having severe pain again so I called the surgeon hoping to be seen immediately only to be told it would be like a month. So There really wasn't much to do but wait and pop lots of drugs. I finally recieved the third epi and the pain seemed to be getting much better so they started me with physical therapy. I still have very accute pain if I move a certain way or if I walk too much or stand, but I still can not perform normal functions like putting on a sock, that brings exteme pain. So I have another visit to the surgeon in 1 week. I have no idea what he will say but I am better considering when I went into the hospital I couldn't even walk, my foot was numb and my ankle started to turn. I have all the feeling back just the underlying sciatica is still bothering me. I was worried about permenate nerve damage too but I guess the Dr. isn't. I would try some other things first, alot of people feel alot better with the epidurals. I'm still not sure I want surgery, but I know if this is what my life will be ,then I need to try it. I'm not satisfied with not being able to do normal things. My back pain started in Sept. was in the hospital mid Nov. and I'm still not scheduled for surgery. Why don't you try and reschedule for march and try some other treatments in the mean time, if they start to work you can always cancel the surgery. It's just that if things start to get worse at least your already scheduled. I just get so freaked out because everyone says to avoid surgery at all cost so I'm still confused. Good luck let me know how it works out. P.S. not sure about insurance but mine would only pay for surgery after trying conventional methods first. You may want to check it out.
  • Hi! Am new to site and tapping in from Hong Kong. Have extreme pain in left lower back and non-stop spasms in gluteal area with pain radiating down left leg. Am going to see my physican for referral to neurologist tomorrow after a year of this, and trying pain specialist, Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and osteopathy. have tried gentle exercising - makes it worse! Am now having to take tramadol and two sleeping pills at night as in so much pain. All started 18 months ago when was being treated for breast cancer with drugs that included taxotere. After the first chemo dose, left thigh went totally numb, and during the next three was very painful. As had previous suffered myofascial pain and had successful nerve burning treatment, went back to this surgeon who put me "back together", including Botox in my leg. Taxotere is known to cause problems to muscles and nerves. Was painfree for four months. Even my oncologist agrees have neuropathy. My physician took me off diazepam because he didn't want me to become dependent. Am hoping a neurologist is the best path. Didn't have any such problem before chemo. Have got through being depressed about it all, and now want action!
  • Hi Lorna

    You've certainly been through it all!
    Well done on going to see someone and I hope you get some permanent relief.

    Let us know what the neurologist says.
    Sara from London
  • I would say YES. I believe my now pernanent nerve damage was a result of having to wait an extra 2 months for my op. I have had two L5/S1 op's and athe first one was undertaken within a week of having the symptons. I made a full recovery. I had a second op a year ago after waiting 4 months to have it done and now 12 months later have permanent nerve damage.
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