Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Permanent Nerve damage ??'s

backpain3bbackpain3 Posts: 45
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone, I hope you are all doing well. I have been told that I have permanent nerve damage for L4-L5. I had fusion surgery on L4-L5 6 months ago and woke up with drop foot and my whole left leg was and is still numb and burns, along with my butt. I had an EMG done the other day and the neurologist said that I have permanent nerve damage to 4 of the 6 muscles/nerves that come from L4-L5. Does anyone know what this means, as in does it get better, does it get worse? Will I eventually lose control of my foot/leg? I also have severe scar tissue around the thecal sac and nerve roots. Also, does the damaged nerve cause the pain in my back, or is that the scar tissue? I have been to my pain management doctor and he is recommending a Spinal Cord stimulator, I told him I would at least try the trial. Thanks for your help!


  • Hi Backpain3! Well, just for consolation, I'm 2.5 yrs out & pretty much live w/ the damage you also seem to have: scar tissue around thecal sac, nerve roots & of course, the hardware. My tests have also shown "permanent" (whatever that is..) damage to the L4/5 nerve roots & I also have the dead foot, numb leg & burning/tingling/numbness in whole rt leg.
    So far it has stayed about the same for a year, sometimes flares up & once or twice I've almost fallen due to leg weakness, but I still teach FT & can drive short distances, etc. I don't think scar tissue, in & of itself, causes pain, but it can bind to local areas like nerve roots, etc & that can cause pain b/c of the "tethering" effect. I also was told by my NS that scar tissue can impede the flow of spinal fluid which contains nourishment & allows the nerves & roots to move more freely than if they are all bound-up in the scar tissue, as mine are.
    I'm just letting things alone for now--I can still walk great, I'm careful not to fall (I do trip now & then) & try to focus on what I can do rather than what I used to be able to do.
    You are still very early out of your surgery. I started to feel better, or at least more constant, after about 1.5 yrs. At that point, I think you know what's healed & what you just have to either deal with, try to fix or leave alone & live with.
    I am scheduled for a CT & MRI in June, as my pain levels have increased lately & NS thinks there could be some deterioration @ the L3 & S1 (above & below the fusion) which is also very typical as the fusion b/comes more solid & the stress is transfered to adjacent levels.
    Good that you're being proactive & seeing a pain mgnt doc. I hope you can get some relief.
    Nerve damage is not fun. And meds don't help a lot.

    I do find that ice (good old ice!) can help w/ the back pain. But the nerve pain--well, that's another issue, as you're finding out!
    Good luck & keep us posted! Hope your fusion is going well! That is the main thing, after all.

  • generally means just that. You most likely won't get rid of that damage and you will be stuck with that numbness and pain. There are meds that can help (sometimes). Unless your scar tissue continues to grow or you have a condition that will worsen (like DDD) it probably won't get worse, but you should talk with your doctor about this. I awoke from my first fusion surgery thinking my right foot was pressed up against the bed rail, as the outside of my foot was numb and burny/tingly. Well, a year and a half later, it still feels like that. The surgeon thought it would get better, but it never has. At this point, it is likely that it is permanent.

    All the best to you.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • have permanent nerve damage at S1 on both legs. I had 3 surgeries and had the same nerve pain the entire time, but was told to "let the nerves heal". Was finally given an EMG and the results were not good. Immediately, my neurosurgeon changed his demeanor, looked at me sadly, and offered an SCS (spinal cord stimulator) or an implanted pain pump.

    Long story, but I now have an SCS and can't imagine life without it. I am still on meds, but without the SCS, I don't know how I'd live with the 24/7 burning/searing pain.

    I haven't had too much additional deterioration, although my bladder is now considered "flaccid", which means I can't tell when I have to pee all the time, so I just regularly go (every 3 hours or so. I also have to "bear down" to empty my bladder, which is working well. No self-catheterization in my future yet, thank goodness.)

    Both legs are numb hips to toes and my balance is not great. My feet feel like marshmallows and I must wear "safe" shoes that provide excellent balance. No more cute shoes, no more stylish footwear. lol

    I did retain sexual nerve function and thank God daily for that!! I get up to 36 hours pain relief from the release of intimacy, so I am ever so thankful.

    I hope your SCS trial is a success - I wish it worked for more folks. I feel like a massage chair on the inside and the burning nerve pain is still there, but more like it is across the room rather than blaring and taking over all my senses.

    Good luck!

  • This is to much .....

    How can you have marshmallow feet if your numb from the waist down?
    cherish22 said:

    Both legs are numb hips to toes and my balance is not great. My feet feel like marshmallows and I must wear "safe" shoes that provide excellent balance. No more cute shoes, no more stylish footwear. lol
    If you could get laid and get 1 1/2 days of pain relief, I know what I'm doing everyday with or without help.
    cherish22 said:

    I did retain sexual nerve function and thank God daily for that!! I get up to 36 hours pain relief from the release of intimacy, so I am ever so thankful.
    My oldest is off to the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Regatta tomorrow. Wish us luck, I'll stop in when I get back on Sunday.

  • Linda put it clear and well. I was told mine was permanent after 2 detailed EMG's. I guess there are certain patterns, responses etc. from our nerves that tell them that? Mine is related to the Cervical Spine, but permanent is permanent right? Of course like anyone, I hold that piece of hope that they are wrong, but my body says otherwise!

    Like was said, if the agent causing the damage has been removed, hopefully it won't get any worse. Nerves are fickle critters, and they don't like being slammed, pinched, crunched, and they let us know it! Sorry you are going through this, and I wish you better days ahead!!! :)


    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks for the comments everyone. I am going to see another Neurosurgeon to see what his opinion is as it appears the NS that did my surgery said he can't help. I want to make sure there is nothing that can be done surgery wise, or maybe there is BMP overgrowth. I went to see my PT guy and he actually said to me 'what do you want me to do?' I will be looking for another PT person also. I am waiting to go for my psych eval for the SCS trial, I imagine this will take awhile. The hardest part of this is the not sleeping. I have a hard time with narcotics as the side effect is not sleeping well. I am now on Nucynta, which helps with the leg pain, but not so much with the back pain, which can be severe for days at a time. One question I have, is does the muscles affected eventually get weaker? The neurologist did mention that he could tell I was losing muscle mass in my calf. I am hoping that the PT can help with that. Thanks again!
  • dave said:
    This is to much .....

    How can you have marshmallow feet if your numb from the waist down?
    cherish22 said:

    Both legs are numb hips to toes and my balance is not great. My feet feel like marshmallows and I must wear "safe" shoes that provide excellent balance. No more cute shoes, no more stylish footwear. lol

    To clarify, I'm not in a wheelchair, I have some degree of numbness laterally (S1 dermatome) hips to toes. I thought it was just my 4th and 5th toes, but a recent evaluation showed I have numbness going in to my 2nd toe. I only feel my big toes FULLY, if that makes sense.

    When I shave my legs, for example, if I were to nick myself, I would not feel it. And since that has happened quite a few times, I can tell you that I find out about it by noticing a trail of blood on the floor and tracing it back to myself. i have to be super careful with things like that.

    When I am barefoot, it is scary because if my balance gets knocked off the inside of my feet and I'm "balanced" on the outside portions, I can fall right down as my feet are not accurately reporting back to my brain "where they are" in space. Poor proprioception, is what I'm told.

    I am thankful this does not appear to be progressing.

    Does that make more sense? I couldn't tell if you were joking or seriously questioning my post. lol

  • 5 1/2 years ago i ruptured a disc and had to have surgery. That was done by an orthopedic surgeon. I ended up with drop foot and chronic burning stinging pain in my right foot. This is 24/7/365. I since have seen a neurosurgeon 2 years ago to have 2 discs removed in my neck and fused with titanium cages with cadaver bones. He told me the damage to the L4/L5 nerve was permanent and there was nothing he could do about it. He suggested trying the nerve stimulation implant but I did not want the invasiveness of a foreign device being implanted. I still live with the burning, stinging pain in my foot. I take gabapentin 800mg four times a day. It helps a little but also makes you feel a little spacey. To sleep at night I have 4 or 5 vodka drinks at happy hour, eat some food and then lights out for about 6 hrs. Once I wake up I can not get back to sleep because of the pain. My balance is affected also by this condition and have had some falls resulting in heavy bruising. Thankfully I haven't broken an bones yet. I did install an Acorn Stairlift on the stairs leading down to my finished basement where I spend alot of my time. This condition has changed my whole life by limiting the activities I once enjoyed. All days are bad and then some days are so intense with the pain that those are my really bad days. I feel your pain!!!
    James R Dobyns
Sign In or Register to comment.