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please help . herniation and associated pain

sportzfanssportzfan Posts: 9
Hello. I have just joined the board. This is my first post

I have been diagnosed with 2 disk herniations l3-4 and l5-s1. I spent several days in the hospital unable to bear weight on my left leg. I was given an ESI which they had to knock me out to do because moving me awake made the pain unbearable. I was able to come home several hours after the ESI, which was about 4 weeks ago. After the shot, my foot felt very heavy, like it was filled with water. That subsided except for the top of the foot and the big toe. The pain in the big toe is excruciating. I can hardly ever wear a shoe, but can now at least wear a sheet and cover to bed. It seems to be marginally better. I had a second shot (2 nerves I think) last week. I think there was some improvement however the big toe still burns and stings like mad and the top of the foot feels heavy. My big toe is very weak and I cant resist if I push against it. I can still stand up on my toes if holding on to a table. I occasionally get shots of sharp pain in other areas of the foot. I am on several strong pain killers, plus ibuprofen and neurontin. I am scheduled for a third shot, but the doctor, (an ortho surgeon) is advising a discectomy. He says it will correct the problem.
I am hesitant to do the surgery because I am afraid of still feeling the burning foot afterwards. I also dont want to do it too quickly, in case this resolves on its own.
I am not sure how to proceed. I am looking for any and all advice. I am hoping that this will gradually decrease on its own based on the injections. I do not know if I have any permanent nerve damage, but also don't want to risk making anything worse
Thank you


  • Hi sportzfan,

    Welcome to the Spine-Health support forum. You've come to the right place to find empathy, support and great resources of information.

    I'm sorry to hear of your back problems. Your reluctance to rush to surgery is understandable and may be a good thing. You didn't say how long you've been suffering with the herniations and the foot pain but you are correct in presuming time may help the nerve pain heal. Time can also work against you if the nerve is being badly compressed with no relief. This is a judgment call you and your surgeon need to make together. He should be able to give you all of the information you need to make an informed decision about where to go from here. Ask questions, and even get a second opinion before submitting to surgery.

    I herniated at L4-5 37 years ago and have had a large numb area on my right thigh ever since. The acute pain from the herniation resolved on its own after a number of weeks. I had no insurance so did not seek treatment and did nothing special to help my back. Having said that, I have to add that the ensuing 37 years have been tough from the standpoint of nasty backaches nearly every night. Who knows if those might have been avoided if I'd had some kind of treatment, although I doubt anyone would have operated on a 25 year old! I am now 3 weeks post-op a 2-level posterior lumbar fusion and I think the numb spot on my thigh is actually starting to come to life again. It's too early to tell but I'm going to be amazed if it does. As for other surgical results, I can now wear pants that have elastic waistbands that are snug, without pain--before surgery anything tight around my waist caused sciatic pain. I am fighting nerve pain in my right leg, however, I believe that may well be because that nerve was entrapped to some degree for the last 6-7 years, getting worse as time went on. I fully expect that nerve pain to go away once the nerve regenerates.

    I hope you can find an acceptable solution to your back pain and that your ability to work won't be terribly compromised in the process. Being able to make a living is very important! My best to you as you seek a solution to your pain. Keep us updated on what happens. :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • I too have pain issues in my lower back, and it is hard to do much w/ all of this. I often feel like I'm wearing wool socks (or something like them) on my lower body and my legs often feel "heavy". I have a herination at L5-S1 and have had a fusion done on my neck C5-C7. I also experience the sensation that I have ice cold water running down my legs and cold pain shooting out through my feet. So, I all too well know some of what you may be dealing with.And, I've also had 2 spinal injections, but they didn't do much for me. I'm now waiting to hear back from my pain mgmt. Doc tat I called today to cancel my 3rd shot and to see what else can be done. So, no ideas....just sympathy.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health. This is a great site for information, with many articles and videos regarding spine issues, and the members of the forum are great - very knowledgeable and supportive.

    Unfortunately, there won't be anyone here who can tell you whether you should have surgery or not. But we can offer you our experiences, like above, and provide you with additional information.

    For many of us, decision whether to have surgery or not came down to quality of life. Can I stand to live like this for x more months? Is the doc saying that this will improve with conservative treatment? Is this affecting my life to the point that I can't really "live" my life?

    Choosing whether to have surgery or not is a very personal choice and you have to be confident with that choice. And almost all of us have tried all conservative measures before choosing to have surgery.

    In the FAQ section at the top of the page in the Medical Information section, you'll find "What are some questions to ask your doctor during your office visit", "38 Questions to ask your surgeon about having back surgery", and "Preparing to meet with a Spine Surgeon or Spine Specialist". These might be helpful to you as you work with your doctor to make this decision.

    I wish you all the best with your decision. If you do choose to have surgery, it's very important that you're 100% confident in your surgeon and trust him/her completely.

    Take care and please let us know what you decide and keep us posted as you travel through your spine journey.

  • Thank you for all of the comments and support. I am scheduled for a third injection this coming week and am hoping for relief. I have read where these injections can take 2 weeks or more to work in some individuals. I am surprised that they are doing them so quickly, but I guess it cant harm anything and may actually help. I wish I had a crystal ball and could see into the future a bit. I have been in so much pain that I am ready to just throw my hands up in the air and say ok Doc, cut me and lets see how it goes. If it wasn't for this terrible foot pain, I wouldn't feel too bad.

    Thanks to all for the responses.

  • sportzfan said:
    Thank you for all of the comments and support. I am scheduled for a third injection this coming week and am hoping for relief. I have read where these injections can take 2 weeks or more to work in some individuals. I am surprised that they are doing them so quickly, but I guess it cant harm anything and may actually help. I wish I had a crystal ball and could see into the future a bit. I have been in so much pain that I am ready to just throw my hands up in the air and say ok Doc, cut me and lets see how it goes. If it wasn't for this terrible foot pain, I wouldn't feel too bad.

    Thanks to all for the responses.

    I wanted to report back that I had the third of 3 ESI injections 10 days ago. I don't really think there is much relief.I am wondering what the experience here has been with the time it takes for relief. I am having a hard time judging how long to wait before surgery. I am caught between just wanting to try surgical intervention to finally feel better, and waiting to see if the shots give me relief. My left foot on the right side and in the big toe feels extreme burning sensations most of the time. It is nearly impossible for me to wear a full shoe on my left foot most days. I saw my ortho surgeon yesterday and he again reviewed my MRI with me. He then ordered a second MRI, this time with contrast dye. He wants to review it before making a final recommendation. There has to be some realistic time frame to consider. I do not want to damage the nerve further by waiting,and I don't want to jump into things. I really want all of this to be over by the holidays. Any comments are appreciated.
    Thank you

  • Everyone. After going through the PT, the ESI injections, 2 MRI studies,a Mylo gram study and the opinions of 3 surgeons, I went with the surgical option. I had a multilevel laminotomy (L4-5) and (L5-S1)
    I had the surgery performed by a neurosurgeon.
    His comments were that the L5-S1 herniation was worse than it looked on the MRI and required a laminotomy and removal of a herniation, but that the L4 area only required the laminotomy to achieve decompression.
    Pre op, I had pain radiating down my left leg, and behind my thigh and calf. across my knee, over the top of my foot and down the right side of the foot into the big toe. Drop foot was present and I had weakness in the big toe along with a heavy burning sensation.
    Today, about 2 and a half days post op, my pain is greatly relieved. As you can imagine, my back hurts like crazy ( the incision is about 3 to 4 inches ), but the radiating pain is greatly reduced. I do still feel some heaviness in the top of the foot, but that is also less.
    I am hoping that over time, this pain totally resolves. I am looking for comments on how you protect your back after this type of surgery. I was told a lumbar corset is optional after this type of surgery, but I think I want to try one to see if it helps me stay straight.
    Any comments appreciated.

    Thank you
  • Welcome to post-op. I hadn't read any update that you were going to even have surgery, but it looks like you made a good decision.

    Like you, mine was worse once they got in there and had to do more than expected. My scar for a 1-level TLIF is 7 inches. Unbelievable.

    It's a good sign that you're posting only 2.5 days post-op - are you still in the hospital?

    I wore a corset-type brace and was grateful for it as it was a constant reminder for me not to bend or twist - I didn't need any reminder not to lift. So if your surgeon says it's ok to wear one, you might find it comforting.

    You're so early out from surgery - I'm glad you're feeling some relief but be prepared for some bad days along the way. You might just steadily feel better, but my experience was that I had some really bad days in the first few weeks. It was only a sign of healing and nerves coming back to life, not a sign that the surgery was unsuccessful.

    Now at almost a year out, I'm feeling pretty good. I still can't stand or walk for extended periods of time, but much, much longer than pre-op.

    Thank you for updating us and keep us posted on your recovery. You'll probably have days where you'll want a question or two answered or just want some support. We'll be here for ya...recovery is a long row to hoe and you're just beginning. But it will get better with time, just try to measure your improvement in weeks, not days.

    Take care sportzfan and it's great to hear from you.
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