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Numbness after surgery

NomadNNomad Posts: 11
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm 2 months out from a 3 level lumbar decompression fusion.
I had my first back surgery 17 years ago, root nerve decompression of the L4-5, when I was 25 years old. I had my second surgery at the end of Jan. of this year. Third surgery a week after that; unfortunately, I encountered complication which made my scheduled 4 day stay in the hospital to a 3 week hell.

After surgery I noticed that my left butt cheek,the back of my left leg to my knee, anus and my penis was numb. Doc said it could be swelling from the surgery. Second surgery to fix complications from first one did not show any nerve problems with first surgery.

So now it's been 2 months and still no change in the numbness. Except now have weakness in my left foot and both my left foot and leg fall asleep/pins and needle sensation all the time, especially when I sit.

So, has anyone experience this and did it ever go away. I'm experiencing some problems with my bladder and bowels as well. When I was in the hospital I could not void myself with out being catheterized. I can pee myself now but my bladder does not empty so I have to go all the time.

Any comments would be appreciated.


  • Welcome to Spine health, Nomad! What you are experiencing is very different from what I had, but that is normal, as all of us are different. I had some numbness after surgery, but only when I am standing, it is on the front of my right thigh, that before my fusion used to feel terrible shooting sciatica like pain. So to me that was an improvement over the pain. It got better with time, and now, almost a year after the surgery it is almost gone. I suppose, the nerves were regenerating. If tyhe numbness troubles you, don't hesitate to call your doctor and ask. That he what he is there for.

    Good luck,

  • Have you considered a second opinion? Of course, it is soon and a second dr. will not know what everything looks like inside...

    I also have had post-op numbness. I did not have numbness before my surgery. It was a complication. I had to get opened back up just 2 days after the original fusion. My stay was only 9 days (instead of the few days that were planned). That was last July.

    Now I still have the numbness, but I have kind of gotten used to it. It is still a wake-up call each morning when I walk barefoot on cold tile though. It's just so weird to feel only half of your foot.

    I started to have charly-horse cramps last fall in the numb leg. I started PT then for atrophy. If the nerves are damaged and are not 'talking' to the muscles I was told that atrophy will happen. What frustrates me is that no amount of PT or stretching seem to make a difference in the numbness or the charly-horse cramps.

    I am stronger from the PT, but I don't stretch any better, it's never easier to stretch and the cramps almost seem to be getting worse. They certainly have spread (used to just be the bottom of my foot and the hamstring - now they include the calf too.)

    So, in my case - no improvement yet. I still have hope that within a year or two - MAYBE - there will be a change. But I'm not holding my breath and I think I'll be mightily surprised if I do ever regain feeling.

    Sorry for such a book - but it's NOT fun, it's daunting to think this could be forever. I AM thankful that the surgery helped the sciatic pain, but I don't know that I'll ever say "I'll take numbness over pain" like I used to.

    I can't imagine having the areas of numb like you have though - that's got to be the worst - and it does sound like you had major complications. It sucks that that is a price we pay when we get forced (by pain, circumstances or whatever) into surgery.
  • p.s.

    Pins and needles actually sound like you are improving, it really could have been swelling, particularly since you had 2 surgeries - the pins and needles could mean that there is some feeling there - I would take it as good news. But, I'm not a dr.

  • Welcome to the board, and I am sorry for the reason you found us.

    Have you talked to your surgeon about the possibility of CES (Cauda Equina Syndrome)? Any time there is bladder or bowel issues, there is a danger of permanent nerve damage and you want to discuss this possibility with your doctor. This is not something to ignore and just leave the outcome to chance.

    Following is a link to a website that has a good definition of the syndrome:

  • Hi,

    Thank you for your response everyone.

    The numbness was a complication of surgery. I never had it in the region I mention before, so it's all new to me. As I said before, the regions that are numb have not improved one bit since surgery. The best way for me to describe the sensation I have in my buttocks and groin region at its worst is if I was sitting in a tub of ice cold water. It is very unnerving and next to impossible to focus on any tasks on hand.

    I see my surgeon in a week, I'll see what he says about the numbness. I may have to seek out a second opinion but surgeons who do backs are few and far between where I live. Plus, a lot of them know each other so your really don't want to be steeping on anyone's toes!

    @gwennie17: Thank you for the link to CES. It sounds like I may have some degree of it because its description is right on the money!

    The symptoms I'm experiencing in my left foot and leg(weakness/pins and needles) now are the same symptoms I had 17 years ago before my first back surgery. That was caused by a herniated L4-5 disc. My foot and leg almost get to the point where I feel I need to force myself to lift them to take a step.

    I did suffer from sciatica before surgery in my left leg when I had flare ups but since I have not really done any type of activities for a long time (before second surgery), I did not want to miss work because of the pain and discomfort most activities caused grieve to my back; so I basically have not enjoyed life for the past 5 years. I'm just hoping this will all pass and I will be somewhat better than before.

    One more thing, do we all suffer from from sleep issues? And I'm wondering if anyone has found a way to get a good night sleep. I'm really tired, no pun intended, of only getting about 3 straight hours of sleep a night! I've been suffering from this for about 16 months!

    Thanks again for all your input!
  • very few of us sleep well, or comfortably.
    I alternate between no sleep aids for 2-3 days until I am so sleepy in the am I can't stay awake. Then I take 10 mg of Ambien early so it has time to wear off by 7 am when I get up for work. That night I somewhat sleep OK. I will also use Benedryl on some nights.

    Any one trick will only cause other issues. I have found nothing I can use regularly, so I alternate things around and stop taking them when I get frustrated. Usually get one night without aids. It is spent tossing and turning, trying to get the hurting parts in the right place. never for very long though!
  • I am sorry you too are having such a rough time with no answers. Your story is so similar to mine. I woke up with the numbness after my first surgery and I too was told it was surgery swelling. Well, over two years later I am still dealing with a bladder, bowel and stomach that have no sensation. I am a bit over a year since my last surgery. My foot also became numb and painful and I ended up with drop foot and having the feeling of really thinking to lift my foot to work.
    It sounds like a little progress is happening with your bladder, but unfortunately when a nerve has been messed with it responds however it pleases. And regeneration takes a long, long time. I am told I need to keep being patient cause only time will tell them if anything will come back. That is the hardest thing to hear, but sometimes doing nothing is the only thing left to do to give it a chance to heal.
    I have a hard time staying asleep. I often wondered if it was pain that woke me up.
    I hope you start healing and begin to see some more progress.
  • Thanks again for your input!

    Here's a question: Is everyone working? Or on some type of disability?

    I'm off on Workers Comp. because this was an issue from a work injury 17 years ago that progressively got worse. I'm not sure what's going to happen in the near future but I know that it is impossible for me to do my job again with the issues I'm having right now! What kind of help is there for us to supplement our income if we need it?

    My current employer is refusing me short term disability and say I can go on Unemployment Insurance. There is a difference of 30% in pay and they also are not returning any of my emails concerning this matter. To claim UI, I need my record of employment which they seem to not want to give up! Sorry for ranting...

    Best wishes...
  • I had a lumbar laminectomy fusion in Sept 08. I too have numbness I didn't have prior to my surgery. What I did have a unbearable pain that I could no longer tolerate. I finally realized that I still had many good years left and decided to have the surgery. My numbness was right after surgery in my left leg. As I healed I regained most of the sensation in my leg but to this day the front is still numb. I am very confident that I will to some degree feel again in my entire leg, but if that isn't the case, I am far better after having the surgery. From reading the posts everyone is different and healing is also different. I couldn't wait to get back to work and work everyday to overcome a phantom ache or pain. I would give my body time to heal and if you are not satisfied, get another opinion. You shouldn't have to be in pain.
  • Hi,

    It has been 8 months since surgery and guess what; the numbness has not improved at all. Actually, I think I have more pain and discomfort than before…

    I saw my surgeon last week and his prognosis is that I have plateaued in my recovery and it’s most likely that I’m stuck like this for the rest of my life. I have fallen into the 10% of people who come out of surgery worse off than before surgery. I knew I had a 60% chance of success going in!

    So, what’s next?

    I still have low back pain with the numbness in all the same parts as I mentioned before. The pain increases if I sit too long or stand and a burning sensation starts in my toes. There’s weakness in my left leg and foot. I have pain from my left buttocks to my toes all the time, especially in my butt. The more I do, the more the pain increases. I do too much, the pain starts to radiate in to my right side. I’m consumed with pain. I probably have had less than 45 hours of sleep in the last 2 weeks.

    I have tried a plethora of medication for the pain. Currently I’m on Hydromorphone HCL, just started yesterday, and Morphine. Morphine seems to be the only medication that takes the edge off and I mean, JUST takes it off!
    I was just wondering if anyone is in a similar situation because I can’t return to work and I can hardly do anything around the house.

    I have zero quality of life at the moment!!!


  • I'm so sorry to hear of your predicament. I am wondering about your surgeon. Did he have lots of experience with your type of surgery, do you know? I'm sure he did his best for you, but it really makes me think that our best bet is to go with someone who has at least weekly experience with the surgery that we need.

    It is horrible that he has put you into the "too hard" basket. I would not suggest you give up however. Can you try to get another opinion, from a surgeon who regularly does your type of surgery? I've heard of patients who see quite a few doctors before being offered a solution. It's hard I know. And expensive. And time consuming. But by doing so, you still have hope of a better future. I wish I could be far more help to you, but that would be my advice.

    Wishing you the best of luck.
  • @JenG: Thank you for your reply.

    My surgeon specializes in spines and is part of group of surgeons who only deal with spine issues. I guess the main problem is dealing with nerves and soft tissue like scar tissue from my first back surgery in ‘93 which is very difficult to deal with. I actually had a second surgeon poke around after my first surgery and he could not see any problems.

    My surgeon was actually my second opinion doctor. The first one said there was nothing that could help, whether it is surgery, physiotherapy or medications. He also said that I wasn't fat and that I could go back to work. Nice attitude. This was the top neurosurgeon in the province! Yes, I'm from Canada... That was 6 years ago. So, I was suffering from a herniated disc, DDD and stenosis for all that time.

    My quality of life sucked because if tried any activities I risked making my back worse and that usually meant loss of time at work.

    Now I’m worse off…

    I'll take all the luck I can get, thanks!
  • I feel sorry for you, but think that you need to be seen by someone else for another opinion, It just doesnt seem like the surgeon is trying to do all he can for you. Maybe that isnt a option, but I am thinking that I went to 8 defferent places until I found one that could find the problem Good Luck..
  • My surgeon is a spinal surgeon but he specialises in scoliosis surgery. He does 2-3 of these operations per week. His skills have given me 100% success and now I have no pain at all.

    Just as an example, if I required the type of surgery that you need, my surgeon, though very skilled, would not be the right man. There are so many types of spinal surgery, a specialist in the correct field is the man to go with. But if you are sure that your surgeon has plenty of that type of experience, i.e. every week, then he's definitely your best bet.

    As another example, my friend broke her arm and went to a public hospital here in Australia. An orthopedic surgeon operated on her. She remained in severe pain, had to give up sport, suffered depression and had two more surgeries over the next 2 years, by the same surgeon. Still no luck. Now it turns out, though he is an orthopedic surgeon, he specialises in knee reconstructions, but he happened to be on duty the night she went to hospital. She now has rotator cuff problems, calcification, impinged nerves... all from what was originally a broken upper arm. So sad.

    It's just not fair to be told you've plateaued and there's nothing more that can be done. If you have any doubts at all about this man, please keep trying. If he can't help, it's probably because it's out of his league. Keep trying to find someone who can. I know, easier said than done.

  • Even try a neuro-surgeon? Others with experience with neuros and more knowledgeable than me may be able to give some advice about this.
  • @JenG,
    Thanks for your input.
    I actually had a neurosurgeon go in with my surgeon a few days after my surgery because of a CSF leak that occurred. He was assisting my surgeon to see if there was any nerve problems from the first surgery. The only issue that was found was a torn suture, hence the leaking of CS fluid into my body.
    That was repaired but nothing help the numbness or the pain. It first was thought it was swelling from surgery, made sense at the time...
  • Dam Nomad, you have some heavy duty crap going on. I really feel for you man. There is always hope by finding your way to the right doctor who may be able to improve your situation. The numbness may be due to permanent nerve damage, but I would imagine that something can be done about the pain.

    To answer the question, I am 2 weeks post op from a 3 level cervical fusion. I originally had 3 artificial discs but somehow I caught a staph infection and hence the discs have to come out when that happens. They grafted lots of bone from my hip and I am still numb on the upper left side of my thigh. They say this will go away within a few months, we'll see if it does or not. I hate having numbness, it just creeps me out to touch a spot and then not even feel it,..YUCK! BUt it is better than pain for sure. Ive been mostly pain free since my 3 level fusion, hope it stays that way. And I hope I fuse, the fusion rate for 3 level fusions is much less than single or double level.
  • Thanks steve55...
    I see you have had a lot done to you. I'm glad to hear you are pain free some what.
    Numbness is weird let me tell you, especially when it's on your willy, sorry for the euphemism!
    My doc has prescribe Hydromorphone Contin for me to try to help the pain for a longer period of time. I'm on 9mg, 3 times a day. Plus 25mg morphine 3 times a day as needed for breakthrough pain. I'm pretty much tolerant to morphine now so I don't take it as much. The meds are just taking the edge off, but that's about it; I may need to get it increased some. If I stand or sit for too long, around 15 minutes or so, the pain increases to the point I have to lay down to get some relief because I'm consumed by it!
    There's not much I can do these days...
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