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Calf and Leg pain after Spinal Fusion

gowri45ggowri45 Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:27 AM in Spinal Stenosis
HI Everyone
Iam 2 weeks post op and had spinal fusion L5 S1. I am experiencing bad pain in the left calf and leg. My doctor has ordered a CT just tomake sure all is okay. I am nervous about the pain as it was the pain I had the surgery for and it should have gone away.My surgeon also says that it is part of the healing process as there could be some inflamed nerves out there. Has any one experienced something like this? I would greatly appreciate your responses. Eagerly awaiting your responses.

kind regards


  • I had a L4/L5 fusion Dec. 12th, 2008. So I'm about 2 1/2 months post op.. I'm having a horrible amount of pain in my right leg from above the knee down. After I have been up a while and then I go and sit down and 10 min to 15 minutes later or so when I get up to walk, I can barely put weight on my right heel and then to move is like an act of congress. ONce I have walked for a bit it's better until I sit down again and try and get up. Surgeon states my xrays look good and I'm progressing like i should. They seem to think all is ok... I can't understand how it can be. They have started me on Lyrica but that almost seems to make it worse as far as swelling in my legs. My right knee seems to swell up quite a bit. Are any of you having this type of problem??
  • I am sorry to hear what you are going thru. I am almost 8 weeks post OP and have started PT. I still have the soreness (vert sore behind my knees). I do not feel the pain but it is very sore when I touch it. I can walk everyday without it hurting but cannot cross my legs when I sit down. (put my left leg over my right.). I mentioned this to my doctor and he says all looks good. He says the physical therapy should help. I am not sure.

    But I am still tight and cannot bend like before. I would appreciate it if someone can tell me when the tightness in my lower back will go away. It feels as if there is a restriction there. But my OS said that I can bend and lift and twist just after 6 weeks. But I am very careful when I bend. Sit down on my knees and lift things. But today I shaved this morning with my legs on a small stool in the shower. I can walk upto 3 miles a day but the kneesoreness is still there. Very strange indeed that I can walk without any problem. But I do get sore in my back and my doc says that is okay. Just keep walking. Sorry for the long post but I just thought that I would give you all an update.

  • Hi Gowri

    Dr's are sure different aren't they?? Mine put me on nothing but light walking for 3 months. No lifting of any kind during this time. I'm a little over 2 1/2 months PO I go back to the dr on April 8th when at that time he will get me out of my brace and start in PT. I just can't understand why the tightness in my lower legs and then not being able to put weight on my heels after sitting for a while. This usually starts in late in the afternoon and stays with me the remainder of the day. I am on flexril for muscle spasms.

    Oh and that's about the time I was able to start shaving also and I still have difficulty putting my socks and shoes on I usually have to have assistance.

    Keep me posted on how you are doing/
  • I just logged on and found, to my delight, that I'm not the only one suffering from severe leg,calf pain after spinal fusion of L4-5 - I'm just over 3 weeks post-surgery and my left leg seems to be getting worse, from my knee down. Right one doesn't seem too bad (now anyway) But after reading your posts, I feel reassured that I'm not the only one suffering from these pains. My surgeon was no help at all, and suggested I see my primary physician, who diagnosed the pains as neuropathic immediately. I had been having throbbing pains in both legs for over a week, even while still in the hospital. I'm just hoping that this will subside and happy to find out they are more or less "normal" It would help tremendously if doctors would tell you what to expect, wouldn't it?
    Thanks for the help.
    Mary C.
  • I have a new question. I have a hard time trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. I usually wind up on one side or the other and hope that I'm not doing myself any harm. Do any of you have any suggestions or tips as to how to get comfortable in order to sleep? It's wonderful knowing that I can chat with others who are going through the same thing. It really helps.

    Mary C.
  • Hi sorry haven't been on here in a while.. how are you feeling and have you been able to sleep. How's the leg pain? I'm still having a horrible amount of the leg and foot pain myself. I'm now almost 5 months post op. Linda
  • I am almost 4 months post op and am still having some leg and foot pain. And also the terrible tightness in my back is bothering me a lot. Maybe I should not be worried about it so much but can't help it. Is anyone else experiencing this darn tightness (it feels like some has put some heavy weight there). Walking does not help much.

    And one last thing I have lost about 10 pounds. It is great but when people tell me I look good they do not know waht I am going thru. Again any experiences with this. Why does one lose so much weight after spinal fusion?

    All your answers especially about the tightness and the pain will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much
  • Hi Gowri45

    I will be 5 months post op on the 12th of this month. Still experiencing that horrible leg and foot pain. Mine is at the bottom of my heels and I can hardly walk on them for a while. Then my toes get severe cramping in them.. pins and needles in my lower legs.. I'm not having the tightness in my back so much.. it just feels so tired at times. Now I wish i could have lost 10 pounds but i've just stayed the same.. luckily haven't gained any..

    Yes any answers about the pain would be helpful.. I haven't went back to work yet and I know my appt at the dr on the 20th he will probably send me back,.. I just do not know how I can yet.. sitting bothers me, standing bothers me and driving bothers me.. and all of this I do. Okay I will quit complaining...

  • Are you guys taking a medication for nerve pain such as gabapentin or its new big brother, Lyrica?

    Mary ~ Did you find a comfortable way to sleep by now? If you read anything about back problems or good body mechanics, it will tell you that the best position for the spine is to sleep on your side with a small pillow between your legs. The point of the pillow is to keep your top leg in line with your shoulder. This position supports the natural curve of the spine.

    Some people find it comfortable to sleep with a large "body pillow" that they can put between the legs and then the rest of it can be gently hugged, so it supports you as you sleep on your side.

    I will warn all of you that it is very difficult to get a doctor to talk to you about your nerve pain. All you will hear is that nerves take a long time to heal....They really do not want to hear about it!! (And the reason for that is because they are helpless to do anything about it. It is what it is...it may get better, and maybe it will not....)

    But do not give up. There are people on the board who have finally recovered from nerve pain after two years.
  • Gwennie17

    They haved tried me on Lyrica and it made my legs swell and then I had worse pain. Now I'm on cymbalta and it may be helping a little.. but if I sit and I'm not doing anything I just fall asleep, so right now I'm not taking anything except a muscle relaxer. I go back to the dr on the 21st of this month and I'm so scared hen is going to put me back to work and I just do not know how I can do that. Lately my back has been so tired and achy.. I guess I'm just a complainer and need to suck it up... but at this point I don't feel any better than I did before surgery. Oh and the pillow between the legs laying on your side it works wonders I sleep like that most of the time.
  • Hi all! I just had the same surgery June5th and have been experiencing the severe nerve pain from my rigth knee to the bottom of my foot. I can't even wear a sock - let alone a shoe. Walking is difficult. I see that many of you have experienced the same pain issues. What, if anything have you found to releive the pain? I have tried ice, sun burn cream, noxema (Yes, I am desprate!)... Nothing works. I can't even have a blanket on it at night... Does anyone one have anything at all that has worked for them? I know I am just barely 6 weeks post-op... But something has to give.
  • gowri, the leg and calf pain is normal since you are only 2 weeks post op that's normal
  • Tcposel....Don't worry what you are feeling is normal it was several weeks b4 I stopped having that feeling in my foot you don't wnat anyone to come near it your nerves are stating to heal there is nothing you can really do about it other than take pain medication and I don't mean over the counter stuff
  • My wife has undergone L5-S1 TILF about two weeks ago. She has been having a strong tingling sensation on the sole of the left foot since surgery. Recently she has been suffering from severe calf muscle pain in her left leg too similar to what Gowri had posted, mostly during night. Usually when she takes a walk relief is felt however she is unable to stand for more than couple of minutes as the severity of the calf muscle pain increases. We Will be glad to hear from Gowri and others as to how this event developed subsequently and what was the cause of this pain and what treatment helped in recovery
  • I had an L4-L5 Fusion on 8-26-09. I started out with a numb tingling left foot when I came home from the hospital. The Doctor put me on steroids and Lyrica to fix the numbness. After about 1 week I began to feel shooting pains up foot into my calf on my left leg. Once the numbness was finally gone, I was faced with the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life! I can barely stand, it is very difficult to get around the house. The pain is concentrated around the bottom of my instep and my big toe but it spreads through the entire foot and up my calf. It doesn't even matter if I am standing, sitting or lying down anymore, It is on fire 24-7, the skin is so sensitive that if the fan blows wind on it I almost scream.
    The Doctor has diagnosed it as Neuropathic pain, and yesterday (10-1-09) I was sent to another doctor for a pain block epidural injection into my spine. The numbing shots he used on my back also numbed my leg for about 3 hours! (Heaven) He said I will have to wait about 3 days to 1 week to see if the epidural works, and the if it doesn't I can go back and try again. Has anyone else tried this? Does it work or is it false hope?? I am only sleeping about 2-3 hours per night with the pain, I am willing to try anything!!
    I am only 31 and was in great shape, no smoking, drinking,lifted weights...Have lost 22 pounds since the surgery, I can't eat in pain, nobody understands this, I was hoping you guys did.

  • I also just had a L-4-L5-S1 fusion on 9/11/09. I am approx 4 weeks out and also having this extreme calf and foot pain! It is a sharp, aching severe pain that affects me walkin, sitting, sleeping....everything! I also have numbness and tingling from the knee down...all of this in my Left leg only. Sounds like many of you also.

    I am so glad I am not alone, but it does not sound like there is a solid answer or fix to this pain?! I am getting married in Mexico in March next year and am not going to walk down the aisle in this kind of pain. My back seems to be healing normally, so thankfully I am no having problems with that. My sciatic nerve pain down both legs has gone away almost permanently, with a few times where the nerve flares up.

    I feel bad complaining about my leg, after such a major back surgery. When I first called my Dr to complain and inquire about the calf and leg pain, he of course said "Nerve pain....it'll go away with time". I will talk to my Dr. about some of the things mentioned here and see what he says.

    I'll post back after Oct 15th with his recommendations. Ever doc is different, maybe he'll recommend something new/different?!
  • I forgo to mention I am also having shin pain, pretty much like shin splintz, along with the calf and foot pain....Is anyone else having this shin pain?
  • I forgot to mention I am also having shin pain, pretty much like shin splintz, along with the calf and foot pain....Is anyone else having this shin pain?
  • I also am having the shin pain in the left leg along with the rest of the terrible pain. I have an update on my situation, I am having my second epidural injection into my spine as a pain block for my left foot/leg/shin pain on 10-9-09. I had the first one about 1 week ago, it took a few days to start working but I have noticed a significant reduction in the shooting pains up and down my leg as well as in my foot, I actually walked about 1/4 mile the other day with my 4 year old, it was painful but I was able to at least tolerate it. The burning has not gone away at all however or reduced in intensity I still want to scream whenever something even brushes my left foot, hopefully the second injection will help with this,and the Dr. thinks it should. I am very happy that I had this done and that the shooting pains have subsided, this may be an option to be discussed with your doctors, so far it seems to be working for me.
  • I just want to say that finding this site has really helped me tremendously. I am 5 weeks post-op L5-S1. At 2 weeks, I began having severe leg and foot pain, burning of my feet. I couldn't stand for anything to touch my feet, especially at night. I think I had a wonderful surgeon but when I called about my nerve pain, I felt like I was the only one that this had happened to. The doctor's nurse told me that the surgeon didn't prescribe anything for this type of pain. They seemed surprised and acted so puzzled. I felt so alone and scared. Now, I see there are many with my same problems. The nurse advised that I needed to see a pain management doctor or my PCP. Thankfully, I was prescribed Neurontin and that has helped tremendously. I still have some of the same problems but not to the extent that I feel like I will lose my mind!
  • I am 12 weeks post op for ALIF/PLIF for L4/L5 & L5/S1. As everyone else is, I am so happy to see that there are others that seem to have the same problem. Not happy to see so many people in pain. My calf/leg pain seems to be getting worse as time goes on. My question is whether it is nerve pain or not. The pain I had prior to surgery, which was supposed to have been leg pain, is different then it is now. It feels like my muscles are constantly cramped and then very painful soreness that you would feel after cramping. The time I have pain is either when I am sitting up or standing for any longer then a few minutes. If I am laying flat or walking I get relief. Although if I walk too long then the pain gets worse.
    I went off Neurontin but now after seeing all of your posts am wondering if I should get back on it. I don't go back to the doc until the end of November which is when I should come out of my brace and start PT.
    Well, it sounds like all of you have similar issues so if anyone has any suggestions, I welcome them. At any rate, am happy to finally be part of a forum with all of you.
    Trying to stay positive!
  • My father just had back surgery two weeks ago, they fuzed l2 and l3 i believe. He was fine the fist week, and than he started getting these horrible legs pains. He said it felt like cramps, tingly, numbness that really hurt him. This is a man who doesnt cry, and this has him crying, he has been like this for a week now, I am having to keep taking him to the hospital so he can get treated for pain, but they are doing nothing else?!? I am really worried about him. Has anyone else had pain so bad you had to keep going back to the hosp.? Thankyou all for you time, and I hope you are all feeling well.
  • I am so sorry for your fathers pain, Yes I was sent back to the hospital 1 time for pain all they did was give me a shot in the arm of some narcotic and do some tests for blood clots. Once they decided it was not a blood clot I was sent home, the narcotic did nothing for the pain in my leg, but it did make me sleepy. I can not describe the pain that I feel in my leg other than I am holding it over an open flame constantly, the tingly feeling for me feels like shooting cramps(stabbing pain) up my calves, I bet he is feeling those as well, those are the worst part of the entire thing for me because they are unexpected. I do not cry either, those bring tears to my eyes.
    Have you asked your doctor about a pain block epidural? I have had 2, very quick easy painless procedure, they helped a little with the stabbing pain,and cramping, but honestly they have not helped me much, the doctor will tell you sometimes they work sometimes they do not, depends on the patient.
    I hope your fathers pain gets better, I understand what he is going through, tell him I will pray for him.
  • Hi all
    I posted a while back as I am having the severe cramping in my calf, shin pain, and horrible foot/toe pain that is tingling, shooting pains, burning, etc, like many of you. I recently saw my dr and he said it's all "normal nerve pain". Except they are starting to get concerened about the burning and tingling in my foot, mainly my big toe.

    I have found some relief recently though! My doc changed my Percocet prescription to JUST PERCOCET (normally it has Acetominophen in it also). I now take 1-2 (5mg) Percocets with 600-800mg of Ibuprofen. You can take 800mg of Ibuprofen up to 3x day according to my nurse. This has significantly reduced the inflammation and pain. I am so sick of pain pills, but the pain is so bad I have to take something. Since switching to the Perc/Ibuprof mix, I have slept thru the night for the very first time in 4 weeks. I am hoping the pain will fade with time, but at least I have found a combination that reduces the pain for several hours. I only have to ice my foot 1-2 times per day now instead of 9-10 times!

    Maybe this will help some of you too.....
  • I am 3 weeks post two level fusion involving S1, L5 and L4. I used to have nerve pain in my left thigh but honestly, riding a stationary bike one time resolved this - did this for 10 min. on upright bike level 1. I could not believe it. However, the nerve pain and tighness is significant behind left knee and down calf and really bad pain/ fire on top of left foot and some left foot numbness. I haven't ridden thebike again but am considering trying it, I think it may make the nerves communicate w. the muscles in a diff. way whichhelps them normalize- I just haven't beenable to get there. Pain on top of foot is annoying but i could prb. tolerate that. What I cannot tolerate is the tightness and pain behind knee, down calf to bottom of foot. I tried stretching. I am on 300 mg neurontin 3x's a day and 1-2 oxycodone q 4-6 hrs ad flexaril or valium fr muscle relaxer. I have tried massaging w. vibrating thing to help nerves get stimulated but not sure if this actually irritates more the next day or not. I had actually used to have sciatic pain but it went away and I had bladder sx's which is why I had surgery but I avoided surgery for 6 yrs despite bladder symptoms. Dr. said he found nerve (s) deformed after the laminectomy part of surgery so I just keep thinking that tne sciatic nerve is just "unkinking" and reforming connections. I also used to be very pysically fit and healthy and have lost some wt. not tons, have prob. gained some back since being home. My grade III spondy. was reduced to grade II- I am happy to say bladder sx's are better, no spasms or leakage. I know from other research that diff. areas of our leg pain is frm diff. exit routes of nerves from spinal cord either S1, L5, L4... I found my top of foot pain is related to S1 nerve damage. I ujust want to know what HELPS. What else can I do. I was told to only take tylenol and no anti-inflmmatory meds instead of oxy if I wanted to decrease oxy. Weird, compared to other posts.
    I hate this. Anyone have any oher info. or lenghts of time that help? thanks, Laura
  • :H I'm over two years post op but I also had the same pains in both my legs but they went away in time. #:S I am still having some slight pain in both feet only when I lay down, weird!! :? I wish that everyone who is suffering have a painfree life and may God bless you all!

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • Just a brief history. I had a right sided Discectomy at L4-L5 back in 1996. For the most part it was sucessfull till I was invloved in a MV accident in August 2004. Since the accident my back health has rapidly declined. On Monday November 9th I underwent a Spinal Fusion at L4-L5, and micro discectomies at the L2-L3 and L5-S1 levels. I know its been less than a week but I am experiencing severe foot pain in my left foot. My left side was my bad side as far as nerve damage and leg pain prior to my surgery. I read through all the post here and found them extremely helpful. I'm glad to see that others had foot pain as well because I was getting worried. I'm not sure if my pain is esactly the same but I want to describe it just in case I should be concerned with something else.

    The bottom in-step heel and arch are extremely painful, walking or putting weight on my foot makes it worse. laying in bed doesn't offer much relief, but sitting helps. The pain radiates up the inside of my ankle and terminates before the calf. It feels similar to a bad case of plantar fasciatis. I did have foot pain prior to surgery but not this extreme. I am able to walk, but the foot pain makes it uncmfortable. I'm taking Lyrica, Oxycontin and percocet. The percocet helps make me comfortable but the others seem to have little or no effect. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. Good luck to everyone that is undergoing or underwent back surgery.
  • I had a laminectomy and fusion of L3, L4, L5 and S1 on July 14th of last year. The pain (right hip and leg) never abated after the surgery, in fact the pain became worse and a second MRI indicated that the nerve is being pinched at L5 - S1. The first MRI couldn't see this because of the bony growth over the top of it. Bone growth was there because of a previous fractured back that had never been treated. I will be having a foraminotomy in two weeks. I had to wait four months after that diagnosis because the bone grafts had to be strong enough for the second surgery. Hopefully, this will take care the pain. I hope so, as it's been two years now since I first felt the pain and went to see the doctor. Two years of Norco, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Lyrica and Neurontin. None of which remove the pain.

    I've been using a wedge pillow under my calves when I sleep and that is very comfortable.

  • My husband had an L3/L4 laminectomy (minimally invasive) at the end of October. He is still experiencing the same severe pain in his left thigh that the surgery was supposed to take care of. He can't stand/sit/walk for more than 5-10 minutes before the pain becomes so severe he has to try something else.
    The worst problem for him is sleeping at night. He wakes up every couple of hours with pain and has to sit in a recliner or walk a while before he can calm the pain enough to try again.
    He's already on morphine, gabapentin and percocet and uses something call esgic for breakthrough pain, but nothing really helps. His ortho said he would rather "gargle with razor blades" than give him another (more extensive) surgery, since he's already on such high-powered drugs.
    I hope there's a solution for him out there somewhere, but I'm over 3 years post-fusion (L4/L5) and still often have severe muscle pain, so it's difficult to give him encouragement. I DO try though.
    Good luck to all with finding ways to make your lives work in spite of the pain!
  • I am 12 weeks post L5-S1 mini TLIF, and have been suffering from inability to stand for more than a few minutes due to calf pain. Walking is OK. I am a physician, but that hasn't really helped! I have concluded that the pain is not a radicular pain i.e. radiating nerve pain from the spine. The calf muscles become very tender to pressure, and there are areas which are excruciating to deep massage. I am actually on Lyrica, but coming off it-that was prescribed for a different issue. I have found that Firm Futuro elastic stockings help to some degree, also raising the heel takes tension off the calf muscles and helps a bit.There is a guy I know who does "neuro muscular therapy", but he has a unique low frequency percussion massager that he uses on tight areas in the muscles. I have only had one treatment, and though my muscles are less tender to deep palpation, the standing issue is no better. There is also the possibility that treatment of myofascial trigger points could help, but I haven't done that yet. I suspect that there is a relationship between the nerve pathways from the spine and this issue, and this is mentioned in the trigger point theory.
    From the posts above, it does not seem that everyone is suffering from the same problem, and the first stop for complaints should always be your doctor. If you have some idea that you have come across, always run it by him, and he will probably be happy to discuss it.
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