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post discectomy/laminectomy nerve pain

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,662
Hi Everyone,
I haven't posted too much here, but I have so appreciated the information/advice/shoulders to cry on! I had an L5-S1 laminectomy/discectomy on 3/2/09. All went well for the first 2 weeks and then I awoke with bad sciatic pain once again. About a 6-7 on the scale. Since then my surgeon has given me 2 dose packs (I start the 2nd tomorrow) of prednisone. I'm taking 5-6 lortab 5/500 per 24 hour period, sometimes 7. I've read some posts here which indicate that some nerve pain is perhaps normal post surgery? Should it be pretty constant, because mine is. I'm walking 1/2 to 1 mile daily, not overdoing and attempting not to under do, but I'm scared. I hate this pain. Any feedback? Thank you.


  • I also had the pain return after not long after a microdiscectomy at 5/1. The surgeon said that in some cases they don't get all of the loose disc out and it reherniates; he did a second microdiscectomy about two months after the first. The good news was that second time totally worked -- no pain for a year and half; the bad was my pain has now returned, with the junk diagnosis of "failed back surgery syndrome" and no treatments seeming to work with fusion the likely only option.
  • The pain is hateful. I completely agree with you, and can totally relate. Don't panic, and try to be patient. If you can do that, tell me how because I haven't mastered it yet. :)

    Call your doctor. I have unfortunately learned from experience that there are many possible causes for sciatic pain after surgery. Yours may be completely normal, or it could be an indication that something else is going on. Be on the safe side, and make yourself feel better about it by calling your doctor, and just asking his/her opinion. If the nerve is just irritated, you may need to back off the walking, that is what my doctor had me do.

    My sciatic pain returned and has been at a relatively constant level since about 3 weeks after my surgery. I have not reherniated, and according to 2 post op MRIs and a dozen xrays, there is nothing physical causing the pain. "A seriously pissed off nerve" is what my surgeon said. So, in my case the pain is "normal," but painful and extremely frustrating all the same.

    Good luck to you, I hope you are feeling better soon!
  • Jeq,

    Your history sounds very similar to mine. I had ESIs, narcotics, and finally microdiscectomy. Currently I am on 2nd pack of oral steroids to control my pain. I would say my pain is at 5-6 and it is constant. I am scheduled to have another MRI this coming Monday if my pain isn't under control. But I wonder if the oral steroid is just masking the pain from a possible reherniated disc. Did you not get any relief while you were taking the steroids? I am getting some relief. It is frustrating to feel the old pain after the surgery.
  • My surgeon's nurse said to give it until the 6 week post-op check-up. So...that's what I'm doing. Prior to surgery he told me I had an angry nerve...I'm the one who categorized it as seriously pissed off! I did have 5 ESIs dating from 8/08-1/09 but they were completely useless to me. Thankfully the Lortab works pretty well but, the whole thing of being made to feel like a junky sucks. Aside from the fact that I probably (certainly) am addicted by now...I've been on these for 9 months! I suppose I could go through another surgery if need be, it wasn't bad or anything but, I haven't found out the co-pay yet and in this economy it will have to be seriously considered. I don't feel the the steroids are helping with anything but my psychology; I hate doing nothing! After 48 years of wonderful health and an extremely active lifestyle, this sucks! Rather hard on marriages, isn't it?
  • I didn't mean to leave you out of my reply. Your diagnosis is junk! I'm sorry...I never knew so many people lived in such constant pain until I joined the club. It's such a difficult pain to describe to those who've never experienced it. A toothache in your entire leg? Close, but no cigar. Ah well, its a beautiful morning and my kids are healthy so that's the good stuff.
  • Thats a lot of ESIs! Why did they do 5 if they didn't help? They didn't do much for me either, and the steroid pack I had a few weeks ago was mostly useless. The first dose helped, but it kept me awake all night. As the doses decreased, my pain increased.

    I have oxycodone. I really don't like the way it makes me feel, so I don't take it. I'm just on ibuprofen now until the dr comes up with something else. Its good that the Lortab works for you, but if the "addicted" part starts to outweigh the pain relief the doctors can help you get off it safely.

    I was actually hoping for a second surgery! I just wanted something easily identifiable to be causing my pain, so my surgeon could swoop in and get it out and I could live happily ever after... Instead I'm stuck waiting with my pissed off nerve. Oh, I hate the waiting...

    And it really is hard on a marriage. My poor husband has tried so hard to be patient and supportive, but he's starting to crack under the pressure. I find myself trying to comfort him, telling him I'm going to be ok when I'm not even sure if I'll be ok.
  • My leg pain is controllable with oral steroids and Lortab. I am trying to stay off ibuprofen because I have been taking them for over a year. I heard that they can be really hard on your stomach.

    Like you Jeq, I am wishing that they will call me in and give me another MRI, so they can fix the problem. Having chronic pain has taken a toll on my mental health. This morning I am ok, but last night was really difficult. First, I couldn't sleep due to the steroid side effect. Then, as I was lying down and trying to force myself to sleep, I was scared the leg pain would increase during my sleep. It is the worst when the pain wakes you up in the early mornings.

    I tried some yoga breathing to help me calm down.

    Monholdalso- how is your second round of steroid helping?

    Ostarn-why was your surgery considered a failure? did you reherniate your disc? Will you have the minimally invasive fusion? I didn't even know that it was possible to have minimally invasive fusion.
  • First, the oral steroids are prescribed to reduce inflammation. They do not really function as a pain reliever. The idea is that there is a lot of swelling after surgery. Sometimes it presses on the nerve, just as the disc did prior to surgery. The nerve itself can be very red and irritated as a result of the surgery. So the prednisone is supposed to help calm everything down and allow the healing to begin.

    When there is swelling it sets up a circular problem where the nerve is angry from being irritated, the tissue is swollen, and is larger than normal which rubs on the nerve, which makes the nerve more angry, etc. You have to somehow break this cycle.

    Also, when the surgeon closes at the end of the operation, most of them bathe the area with a steroid and some pain medication. This helps control inflammation and surgical pain. The idea is that it will be long-acting to get the patient over the worst of the after-surgical pain. BUT it does wear off -- so this is one reason why we sometimes feel really great the first week or two, and then the old pain returns and we panic, thinking we have reherniated or somehow done some damage to the new surgery. In reality the surgical medication has just worn off and we feel like we would have had the surgeon not used this medication when he closed. I'm not sure I said that very well, but I hope it makes sense. I'm rushing as I have an appointment and need to get out of the house!!
  • What they told me is that it often times takes more than 3 for the ESIs to work. The frustrating thing, besides the constant pain, is that we're dealing with a profession which is often times depicted as having all the answers when, in fact, they don't'. Also, much like believing mechanics, we are beholden to believe what they tell us, because we just don't have the expertise to know. Your pain started at about the same time as mine...I do feel so badly for my husband, not just the worry of seeing me in pain, but the drastic change in my lifestyle, quality of life, and sex drive. I try very hard to minimize my symptoms so he doesn't have to deal with it all the time, but he isn't stupid. I don't have any negative reactions at all to the Lortab, thankfully. I can't imagine a time when the addiction is worse than the pain!
    I'm sorry you're having to deal with so much pain and uncertainty. I'm sorry all of us are. It's hard to stay positive some days!
  • Hi Gwennie,
    I appreciate your info. I kinda thought they must have bathed the area with steroids...I had the same kind of weird feeling of anxiety surgical sight as I do with the dose pack. I know that steroids are used to reduce inflammation and not as a pain reliever...I certainly hope it does reduce swelling, and soon! Your message did make sense.
  • a few days and it took 12 months to settle down to what is now normal for me ..i would advise you NOT to walk but swim or walk in the pool ..this is less traumatic for you surgery ,dont lift anything other than the lightest of stuff and rest as much as you need to .also use ICE on your scar area and use bio oil when your scar has pinked up dont use on raw skin.if you want to talk via email please feel free to do so .i have plenty of tips that i have gained over the last 15 years good luck
  • Hey,
    Thank you for your post. I will take your advice and get to the pool tomorrow...thankfully there is a nice indoor swim park not too far from home. I do take it as easy as I can. I've had to quit school, and wasn't working when I got hurt (lifting weights) and my kids are grown. I'm very lucky as far as that goes. I would be very interested in any further advice you may have...perhaps I should say desperate!
  • Gwennie,

    I posted a question about oral steroids on pain med board. I am happy to find the answer from you. Thank you for answering my question. And I hope your appointment went well.

    Be pain free soon.
  • Five seems like a lot. But I've read somewhere that it is up to doctor's judgment on how many to give. By the same token, I was told that three is the maximum within 6 months, but a pm doctor on call gave me a fourth one. I am done getting the injections for awhile.

    Sometimes I wonder why I wasn't given oral steroids over injections. Part of me knows the answer. $$$ A pack of oral steroid is $10 for me and an injection is around $300. I could be wrong. Perhaps oral steroids is more dangerous. I don't know. I am still learning.
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