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Pain in leg, alternates between left and right

scmgurusscmguru Posts: 103
I'm 7 weeks out of L5S1 surgery tomorrow and I'm having the same problem as I did before surgery..

I've got a burning pain about 3" to the right or left of center and about 1" down that extends down the leg and into my foot.

Now here's the odd thing.. it will alternate legs, mostly the left side, but about 30% of the time, the left side is fine and the right side is burning.

Anyone here ever experience this?


  • Yes I did and do and I don't have a good explanation for it. I have spent the better part of the last 18 months trying to track it down...but I had a fusion and I see you had a MicroD.

    Maybe a bit more information would help?? Do you have this same experience prior to surgery or is this switching legs a new symptom? Do you know what type of disc problem you had prior to surgery. If the herniation is located centrally it is more difficult to treat, and might be what accounts for the pain changing sides.

    It could be something as simple as the fact that the nerves were disturbed during surgery and are just in the recovery process. I have also been told it can be a sign that there is some instability, but I wouldn't think that would be a problem in your case.

    These are just some guesses on my part...as usual, call your surgeon to see if he has any answers.

  • Gwennie-

    Thanks for the reply.

    My diagnosis was a left paracentral broad based disc herniation (6mm) w/ foraminal narrowing on the left side. My L5S1 disc is pretty much nearly all dried out and shriveled up.

    I had these symptoms before surgery for 6 months before surgery.

    I had 2 pre-operative Epidurals, and they didn't help.

    In fact, I NEVER had the left/right leg alternation until AFTER my 1st epidural which caused my right leg to go numb, that's when the left right thing started.

    Did PT, Acupuncture, and Chiro.. nothing helped.

    My surgery was a Micro-D, w/ bilateral foraminotomies and bilateral medail facetectomy at S1.

    The right left scenario was gone right after surgery, my right leg was perfect, left leg was OK, not great.

    At about 2 weeks post op, my left leg and left hip area in my back started to hurt.

    He gave me a cortisone shot in the office and after 1 hour, the right leg was AGAIN involved.

    That was nearly 6 weeks ago..

    For whatever reason, I can't seem to get any real straight answers out of my doctor..

  • Did he give you the injection using fluoroscopy?

    It is my experience that this type of thing is really hard to track down. It sounds like your doctor probably doesn't really know either...and that is not unusual...I've had the same situation with my two surgeons. Nerve pain is just really difficult to pinpoint.

    It sounds like the nerve should be decompressed since you had the bilateral foraminotomies and also the facetectomies at S1....However, the experiences you indicate make it sound like something is going on with the nerve.

    I have been dealing with a similar situation. After my fusion I continued to have nerve pain. Both surgeons I was consulting with indicated that everything looked wide open...no one, including a third specialist, the PM, could see any area where the nerve was compressed, and yet, the pain did not change.

    Finally my doctor told me that it may just be a problem with the nerve itself. The nerve can malfunction, kind of like a frayed electrical cord that is not making a proper contact. The nerve keeps firing, but the signal cannot get back and forth to the brain.

    I'm sorry I don't have any brilliant suggestions for you. Sometimes there is inflammation that needs to go down. I would think the cortisone would help with that.

    You could try taking Lyrica or neurontin to help with the nerve pain to see if that helps.

    You should try to continue with your rehab just as though you were not having nerve pain...if you can. (I was not able to continue the walking).

    You can keep calling your doctor or going in to see him to try to find out what he thinks is going on.. This is of limited use if he is being vague or has no idea.

    You can ask for a new MRI to see what's going on. It is possible you have reherniated the disc, or something has slid and is causing compression or irritation on the nerve. (sorry--I'm kind of writing whatever pops into my head as I'm going along).

    Have you had a flexion/extension X-ray to check for spondylolisthesis? That would be another possibility. If the disc is shot, it may be that the bones are kind of crushing the nerve.

    I know in my case when the pain goes back and forth between legs, it is due to instability at the L5-S1 level....

    so, I've run out of ideas, at least for now. Unfortunately, there are not any easy answers.
  • yes, my leg pain alternates. But I sometimes think that the body can only focus on one pain point at a time. So when my right leg is "bothering" me, I don't think about my left leg.

    I think some of it has to do with relying on my right since my left leg is running weak right now. I'm hopeful PT will help.

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