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Tight Toes and other recovery questions at 3 months

triplespiralttriplespiral Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi there,

I had a microdiscectomy at the end of September. It was about 8 weeks after my L5-S1 disc herniated. For such a routine and quick surgery, I have been surprised by my long recovery. I needed about 7.5 weeks off of work and after 3 weeks I had to get back on steroids. It has now been over 3 months since the surgery. I start physical therapy this week (grr...stupid insurance). I'm working again and I'm so pleased not to have that electric nerve pain anymore although I do have a persistent dull ache in my lower back that I hope I don't have to live with forever. I know there's no "normal" recovery. However, I have some questions about ongoing issues...

1. I still can't bend down to pick things up off of the floor. When might this get better? This has been making life difficult for long enough. The EZ Grabber can't do everything!

2. My back is VERY tight in one tiny little spot about 4 inches above my incision. I have no idea what's up with this but it bugs a little. I can't stretch it obviously since I can't bend down. Ideas?

3. Because of the tight back, I can't sleep on my stomach. I haven't slept comfortably in over 6 months. Will I ever be comfortable on my stomach again?

3. I was never one to get pre-menstrual cramps that I can feel, but now oh my goodness it sucks so bad, I have to spend a day or two lying down every moment I can. I guess the cramps get my back muscles in a spasm. Will this ever get better or should I go get some lady hormones?

4. And my most pressing question ...
The neurosurgeon casually mentioned that I had some permanent nerve damage of the S1 nerve. The pinky and ring toes on my foot plus my calf cramp up when I walk. At night, the two toes feel like they're being pulled in by a rubber band and it keeps me awake for hours. It isn't pain, but it's definitely still not ok since it keeps me awake. Is there hope for a change? Is there something I can do to lessen this feeling?


  • And also I apparently don't know how to number a list.
  • Sorry, I don't have any answers for you, but I do have a question :-)
    did your surgeon tell you you had permanent nerve damage because of your symptoms, or was there another way he decided this?

    I hope that there will be a way to help you.
    I am also getting bad stabbing and burning pain along with cramping in my toes on my right foot and calf.

    (2nd and 3rd toes)
  • Hi my PT lady told me to rub Vitamin E oil directly
    on the incision area .What happens is the mussel heals
    in a weird woven (hope I spelled that right) way and if you rub the oil on it work it in up and down side to side each night it will get into the mussel
    and unravel it and that will help might help you loosen up some ...Hope this helps ...cocoa butter also works she said
  • Before I had a laminectomy/discectomy, I was told it would be 3-6 months for recovery, and I needed 3 months off work. It takes several months for the constant back ache to go - it's all part of the healing process.

    Once you start physiotherapy, if any exercise causes you severe pain, let your physio know. It's better to start off gently.

    Are you able to squat down to pick up some things, as well as using the grabber? That's what I did for both surgeries. You could possibly do some gentle squats now to strengthen your legs. Squats was one of the exercises I was given in the hospital after the fusion.

    The physio will be able to massage the thoracic area of your back and give you exercises to help loosen you up. There are exercises you can do standing and sitting to help this. One is to cross your arms across your chest and give yourself a hug. Another is one of my Tai Chi exercises where you stand and imagine you're a tree and your arms are the branches. Provided it doesn't cause you any pain, you could start very very gently moving your body from side to side and then bring in the arms, making circular motions above your head. Have some relaxing music on while you're doing this. This is very good for the thoracic area. Once again, only try this if it doesn't cause pain.

    It could take many months to be able to sleep on your stomach comfortably again. It's all to do with the healing process. In the meantime, sleep on your side with a few pillows for support. I'm 14 months out from fusion and it's only recently that I've been able to sleep on my tummy comfortably.

    I would talk to your doctor about the pre-menstrual cramps. You can get an anti-spasmodic medication to help. The doctor may suggest hormones. I went through this when I was young.

    It's possible that you may have some nerve damage. Did your neurosurgeon suggest one of the nerve medications like Lyrica or Neurontin? It might help.

    Are you walking as much as you can? Your physio may suggest hydrotherapy.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • I found that the assistance provided by physical therapy and stretching everything out, did wonders for eliminating most if not all of the lower back pain once I was healed up from surgery. Tiny adhesions tend to develop in areas around surgical sights, and when I finally get the okay to stretch things out, those admissions break loose and I feel much much better.


    Oh and the more physical activity I can partake in, the fewer cramps I have (both menstrual and muscular).
  • Regarding the nerve damage, he said based on my lost reflex that the nerve was damaged and at that point (I want to say 2 months after surgery) it was likely permanent.
  • Ok, thanks for sharing. I'm hoping that's the case for me, too. :)
    I started PT today and she was surprised by how tight everything is. I heard lots of, "THAT's a stretch for you?" when I wasn't even leaning into the stretches. We're working very gently but I'll make sure to keep up with all the stretching at home.

    In more exciting news ... I went 13 minutes on a stationary bike!! I'm so excited. My first not-walking exercise since July!!
  • I'm bringing this up again in case anyone has anything they can share with me ...

    How do I get rid of the tight toes?!?!

    My pinky and ring toes are perpetually cramped. Sometimes it isn't so bad and other times it keeps me up all night.

    I'm now at 5.5 months since microdiscectomy on L5-S1. Just this past week or so I have felt significant improvement. Squatting isn't too bad (except that the left leg doesn't quite bend correctly so it's not a real squat) and I am walking so well that I have started to skip a step on the stairs occasionally! Yes, that deserved an exclamation. It was that exciting. Still with the walking and now I'm in a water fitness class with the elderly. I'm female, 30, used to know how to exercise what seems like very long ago.

    Any ideas on the toes?! Please???

  • How are you doing?
    I'm a L5S1 Microdiscectomy & revision microdiscectomy patient. I'm a little over a year out from my 2nd surgery. I can tell you it is a slow go but each day/month I feel as if I'm progressing. My situation was pretty bad.

    I do get significant cramping in the feet (both but generally my left foot). I used to get this before I herniated (suspect it was a sign of things to come) but now it's quite frequent.

    My tips:
    - Advil
    - Walk (with shoes)
    - Try not to walk barefoot, I find the more I walk or stand barefoot, the worse it is
    - Water...lots of it. The more water, the less I have problems with cramping of the feet
    - stretching. I used the PT stretches.

  • Thank you for your response and tips. I do notice that barefoot walking makes it worse, so that's a great reminder to grab the good slippers when I get home. I have PT stretches that I have been keeping up with, but they're mostly for stretching the IT band and hamstrings. Can you tell me what stretches are worked for you for the foot cramps?

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