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L5/S1 Microdiscectomy leading to calf weakness

tjandtttjandt Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello all,

I'm kind of new to posting here, but have been reading a LOT of what others have been having to say. This forum has kind of become a mixture of my bible and source of information, hope and inspiration for my microD issues. Sorry for the book, but I wanted to get as much info out on m story as possible for the best possible replies!

I'm a physically fit person, probably considered athlete level of fitness. Before disc issue, I jogged, biked, did duathlon's, played indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball and bowled. Yes, I'm sure that all of those activities probably led to the L5/S1 issue! :)

I'm one week and one day out from a MicroD on L5/S1 for a prolapsed disc that had been causing severe sciatica in right hip and right calf for about six months.

Woke up from surgery and nearly all pain was gone, probably to be expected because of anesthesia and local pain med during surgery.

Couple of days after surgery I felt really good, very dull and slight pain starting in right hip, and feeling it slightly in right calf, but for the most part, feeling really good.

Fourth day after surgery, felt great laying in bed. Noticed some twitching in my butt muscles, got up out of bed, reached back to flick the sock off my right foot (something I've done since day 1 of the surgery), felt a twinge and the pain flared up immediately in right hip and calf. Very similar to pre-op pain.

Worried about a re-herniation, I scheduled a follow up with my surgeon. I saw him, and he had me to the heel and tip toe walk, and lift the leg while sitting tests. I had full strength in heel and tip to walking. He said he had some minor concern about what happened, but wanted to hold off on another MRI. Said it could be inflammation, scar tissue starting to build up, or possibly a re-herniation. Prescribed prednisone and a follow up appointment in two weeks.

The night of my appointment, I noticed a weird sensation that when I am urinating, my right foot will go numb and kind of pins and needles.

The day after my appointment (yesterday) I woke up and went for my morning walk (1.1 mile loop with one uphill and one downhill approved by doc). Felt ok. Sore, but ok. As the day progressed, I did more walking, mainly all flat, but a total of probably 3 or 4 miles. In the afternoon, I noticed that the calf felt like it was cramped or something, I couldn't press off with my right foot when I strided, and had no strength to even get up onto my tip toes with it.

So now with the whole backstory in place, the questions:

Does it seem likely I would have re-herniated by removing my sock while standing straight, raising the right leg, and flicking the sock off my heel?

I've read a lot about possible nerve flare ups after surgery. Am I too worried about not being able to stand on tip toes and should I wait a few days to see if nerve starts to calm down?

Has anyone had weak calf like this and still been told it's ok to walk by adjusting your gait to accommodate the limp?

Has anyone had this kind of calf nerve issue that has eventually gone away, and if so, just for sanity sake, how long did it take?

Thank you so much in advance for any and all replies. It's so comforting to know that there are others who are going through this same issue and are having success at recovering from it! I would not wish this pain and suffering even on my worst enemies!




  • i too had and still do sometimes have the calf pain that you describe .its normal for this kind of surgery .if you are worried then contact your surgeon ..but don't get too upset about it .it will go but after you have exerted your self it may come back temporary
  • Hi there,

    Anything is possible within 3 months of the microdiscectomy (not necessarily anything specific you could do or not do). I would say you are walking quite a bit for being so quick out of surgery. If you are having tightness, has your doctor told you to not do so much? Ice?

    Walking is great but if you are hurting/sore, maybe split up the afternoon walks to only 1/2 mile at a time every 1-2 hours.

    Icing can also help if your incision area (under the skin) is inflamed but check with your doctor.

    If you re-herniated, it is early for them to re-MRI so I can understand him wanting to wait a little bit. As for the adjustment to overcome the limp, yes, you can do it. I did it but just be careful not to overdo it b/c I found when I did that my hip starting getting real tight. I found if I shortened my walks, I could balance the hip with the leg.

    As for calf pain, I get that. As a matter of fact, I never realized it was related to my back b/c my sciatic pain never came out in a calf-cramp. But it's normal and I still get it now some days.

    Prednisone - follow the prescription. I'm sure your doctor warned you that it may make you quite jittery. Everyone is different but I was on that and I was wired and felt as if I drank a keg of caffeine. It works if it's inflammation though.

    Keep in close touch with your doctor.
    I did reherniate and am now 3+ months out on a revision and was much more careful this time (as was my surgeon). They don't know if I re-herniated OR if there was a 2nd piece broken off and out of site (or that hadn't come out until after they sewed me up). I was different than you b/c I really didn't ever get relief. After my revision, I'm doing better but am still walking, stretching, watching my sitting, etc. But I've not been on narcotics for quite some time. I maybe take 2 tyelnol (pain) and 2 ibuprofin in the am and then 2 tylenol at night.

    I've found the following to be helpfu
    - walking frequently but shorter distances (and flatter surfaces)
    - Drinking enough water throughout the day
    - Rest (I am working full time but if I start feeling leg pain, I stand to work and then if needed, I go and work from home where I can work lying down).
    - icing helps (no more than 10 mins at a time)
    - I started PT 6 weeks post op...I found that helped a lot! I am still doing my PT exercises at home but these you need to be cleared by your doctor to do.
    - sometimes a hot shower
    - sleep with pillow under my knees if I sleep on my back (or pillow b/t my knees if sleeping on side)
    - remember no twisting, bending, lifting. This means log roll to get out of bed, careful on bending for things that don't seem to be a big deal like laundry, vaccuuming, dishes, etc.

    Sounds like your doctor is taking you seriously which is great.

    Sorry this is long...it's late so I am just doing an info "dump" based on my experience.
  • one other thing...if he does eventually re-MRI (which usually they will wait for the 3-month mark to get a better image), he will probably ask for an MRI with and without contrast. With contrast allows him to better distinguish scar tissue from disc material.
  • Hey DNice, thanks for the in-depth reply. Your longer one hit a lot of things right on the head. I actually ended up in the hospital on Friday in excruciating pain, right hip on fire, right calf on fire, right foot pins and needles and numb.

    My doctor actually came in on his day off to examine me, and did order an MRI with and without contrast. Turns out that they see either a hematoma or a re-herniation in the same area, and I'm having a 2nd surgery tomorrow morning to go in and clean it up.

    It may sound odd, but I'm actually relieved that they found something that was causing the trauma and are going to fix it. This close out from my first surgery, they say there really hasn't been much time for scar tissue to develop so I should be in good shape there.

    Like you, I am going to take my recovery a little more cautiously this time. Walk a little less far, be extra careful about any twisting or bending, etc.

    The key for me I think though, stool softeners! After my first surgery, I waited on taking stool softeners, and my first two BM's I had to strain quite a bit. Turns out that when I had the pain come back, it was after a BM that I didn't have to strain on, but was just standing up from. My un-professional guess is I probably re-herniated by straining on the toilet. So this time I'll be ready for the constipation that the pain meds bring along with them as well!

    Hope you continue down the path of a full recovery!

  • Tim...sorry I missed this. Thinking of you today.

    I completely understand the "relieved they found something". That was me! Until then I thought "darn, I'm a baby about pain or am crazy". So yes, finding something means that there's a chance to do better 2nd time.

    I'm giggling at bit at your stool-softener point. I had similar thoughts. I almost was going to ask my doctor if I could take a laxative if the stool softener didn't work b/c I was fearful that "pushing" too hard could be a problem. Luckily stool softeners, lots of water, and 5-10 min flat surface walk every 1.5 hours kept things moving for me 2nd go around.

    I was cautious on brushing my teeth (not leaning to far to spit), I puked after the 2nd surgery and was scared that was going to cause me to re-herniate so I wouldn't eat anything for the first 26 hours to avoid puking, I now get in "position" to sneeze to make sure I'm in a 'back neutral' position.

    I didn't drive for 6 weeks post op on 2nd surgery. I was not even in a car for 2 weeks until my 2 week post op (and of course the ride home from hospital) and then the rest of teh 6 weeks I would be a passenger on an "as needed" basis which I found was for sanity to get out of the house...I went for 'car rides' 2 miles to get a cup of coffee.

    I felt if I was going to do this a 2nd time, it was my last chance to avoid a fusion so I had to give it my best shot. This meant having people "yell" at me if they thought I was reaching too far or doing something I shouldn't. I hated being policed but I loved it because it's amazing how much bending, twisting, lifting, unncessary things we have to do that our "gripper" tool can't pick up or do for us.

    I'll keep an eye out for your post "post op".
    I hope this went smoothly.

    Just for positive - I'm more than 3 months out and still doing my PT (on my own at home), walking regularly, drinking, and still following the rules. My doctor said he'll talk to me at month 6 but both of us are feeling good about where I'm out for 2nd surgery.

  • Thanks guys I really found this very useful. I am 6 weeks and having the calf muscle weakness due to see Surgeon in 1 week still lot of pain and numbness
    Larger paracentral herniation at l5S1 with nerve inpingment
    Microdisectomy november 23 rd 2015
    Faucet Joint Injections January 2016
    S1nerve root block Jan 23rd 2016
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