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What to expect post L5-S1 (L) discectomy and decompression?

waynuswwaynus Posts: 46

As some of my previous topics and postings on this site i wanted to find out what some other members are experiencing after having a l5-s1 discectomy and decompression (16/4/09) I also had a caudial epidural a week before which made the symptoms worse!!!!

Specialist showed me how my herniation was huge and how it covered the spinal cord and needed immediate surgery.

Im not sure whether the epidural or the surgery has left me with numbness in the:

-left buttock
-rear of left leg
-painful calf
-numb big toe, heel and outside of left foot

I would love to hear how other people felt after there operations for discectomy and decompression and epidural etc.

thanks in advance for writing and taking your time.


  • Am I correct that you had the caudal injection a week prior to having surgery? What were your symptoms like prior to surgery? Have they increased in intensity or are they in a new area?

    The pain pattern you list follows a fairly common "route" of the S1 nerve route as it travels from exiting the spine down the leg into the foot.

    I'm sure you are disappointed to not have immediate relief after your surgery, but sometimes it takes awhile for the nerve to recover from the potential trauma of surgery and from the compression prior to surgery.

    What does your doctor say?
  • As always, Gwennie's questions and advice are right on target. For the first 13 days post surgery (under my signature), I felt wonderful! No nerve pain, yay! Then, it came back. Nothing like prior to surgery, but it was there. I freaked out, you know? But, it has slowly improved over the past few weeks. I'm able to do more, think about the pain less, and I'm off all pain killers. I take an ibu. once in awhile. I beleive the nerve takes time to heal. My surgeon said it was the myelin sheath, which is a fatty substance protecting the nerve, that had damage and would take up to 8 months to heal completely. I keep feeling better every day, unless I spend too much time sitting down. That makes it suck.
    Good luck.
  • Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for the post.

    Glad to hear your pain is under control and you are dealing with the flare ups.

    Im worried about what to expect as it was never really explained to me (rushed) about post symptoms etc.

    Glad u contacted me, as doc stated its all about time and see how the nerves respond..its the frustration and taking each day as it comes.

    Wayne X
  • They usually just give you general comments about recovery because, truthfully, they do not know how each individual is going to emerge from surgery.

    For example, I had a PLIF at L4-5 15 months ago. My surgery was pretty much "textbook perfect," my recovery went smoothly and my surgery is considered a success. However, by now I am in as much pain as prior to surgery and have all the same symptoms, plus a couple new ones! After having tried many ESIs, nerve blocks, etc., acupuncture, body work, massage therapy, drugs, my "team" of specialists have decided my problem is stemming from the L5 nerve. It is not considered permanent nerve damage, but the nerve is badly damaged and it may or may not eventually go away or lessen! And, nothing can be done about it.

    So, I use myself as an example of why doctors cannot predict what will happen. Everything in my recovery has looked good from the first day after surgery, but, my pain has never gone away.

    You are VERY early in your recovery, so try not to worry at this point. You had a massive rupture from what you describe. When a disk ruptures, there are chemicals that are released and that may be in part was is causing the numbness and other symptoms you are feeling. Plus there is the trauma of surgery to contend with....so I wouldn't worry at this point.

    Follow your surgeon's instructions and try to have a positive attitude. Walk often and rest. Those are the two most important activities for you at this point in your recovery.
  • Hiya,

    hope all is well?

    Sorry to hear you have permanent nerve damage at L5. You are so right not to worry as it is early days. Trying to recover but been told that my work are trying to dismiss me even though i had a fall at work, in november 08 which progresivly got worse hence the ops.

    To add insult to injury the referring specialist said it is due to the fall. But the surgeon who i saw privately fund by my employer said he has little doubt that this is unrelated to my fall but being obese!!! and he does not require major surgery just a nerve block and i can return to work!!!!!

    I saw my employer's Dr the next day who signed me off till the pain was under control and my GP.

    The worst part is the surgeon who i saw for 10mins who wrote the letter was the one who performed major surgery on me!!!!!!!!!!

    answers on a postcard?

    Anyway im enjoying the sunshine as its not raining in London today. horayyy.

    Hope everyone on this site has a good day.

    Wayne X
  • Hiya

    thanks for the reply,

    The injection was a week before surgery...it made things 100 times worse and was in constant pain and the nerves in the left leg would not stop 24hrs a day...they think the disc completly herniated when it was done..thankfully i was in hospital when it went.

    The nerve and saddle, foot etc went numb after the injection and still numb.

    Prior to the injection my legs felt they had an electric current arounf them with shooting pains. and acute back ache and heavy clunking/clicking of the spine. I was incontent for a while and developed a burning on the right thigh which was new. The pain killers failed to reduce the pain hence called the paramedics.

    Post surgery the 6/7 inch scare is healing well. Im getting alot of numbness still as previously stated but the calf is pain full towards the end of the day and foot. Docs said it can take 6-12 months to wear off, depending on whether any nerves were damaged!!!! time will tell.

    Sadly you can't get a straight answer from the docs as everone is different and respond well. They said the disc totally ruptured so again recovery will take time.

    Im trying to rest but sadly i was told im going to be recommended for dismissal, so im sitting at my computer some of the time to send emails to fight my corner which is hampering my recovery...the worse thing is i fell at work which is an insult to injury.

    Anyway im trying to focus on my health and family.


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