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Post L5 S1 multidiscectomy... normal?

MellyMMelly Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Been lurking for awhile and just need some experienced back surgery input...

Had ongoing (about a year and 1/2) lower left back pain and right quad sciatica and hip/bursa pain following a 4/10 MVA. Finally got away from my primary care Dr. who insisted it was a fitness issue, and went to a ortho-back specialist mid-August that diagnosed me with SI Joint issues on the RT side(hypermobility) from the accident. Not two days after that and before starting PT for the SI joint, I had excrutiating pain in low back, right quad/hip and additionally back of left leg with hamstring (could hardly stand to sit)and left calf cramping horribly and continual left leg spasms. I thought maybe I needed potassium or something, but then within 2 days the entire back of left leg from butt to heel went numb (more like asleep) but with calf pain remaining and walk really affected. Ironically after that episode right side and low back weren't hurting. Went back to ortho-specialist and he sent me for a MRI, then radiologist requested a 2nd contrast MRI because he couldn't tell what was going on from the first MRI. MRI follow-up showed "something" massive at L5-S1 covering entire disc, (reason for the second MRI) and down into sacral nerves. Met with a neurosurgeon that afternoon who was pretty sure it was a ruptured disk from my history. He seemed suprised I could walk and was mostly pain free from what the MRI showed. Because of the size and location (into the sacral nerves) I had a microdiscectomy 2 days later on Aug 31.

Post surgery in hospital, we know I am allergic to dilauded and the neurosurgeon said it was one of the largest ruptures he had seen in all his years.. it blew on the right, but all the disc material went to the left and down into sacral nerves. He said most of the disc was gone - that he thought got everything and the nerves were really aggrivated. He gave me a 1 page large-font 6 bullet minimal list of post-op instructions and told me to take it easy for 6 weeks for annulus to scar, surgery to heal properly and reduce risk of reherniation. (glad I had this site to learn what to do and what not to do since the post-op instructions were so poor)

This is week 5 weeks post op. I have been very careful and have had excellent family caring for me and the house so I could recover. Pain has been pretty managable (a huge blessing) with ice, ibu and the rare vicodin and lorazapam? for spasms - but I am still left with S1 issues which are keeping that left calf muscle tight. Walking is getting better (not so much of a gait) but toes are still a bit numb. Incision looks good.

I saw the neurosurgeon last week for my first post surgery appt - he is pretty unconcerned with the things I am worried about and I get the idea that everything is gravy in light of the fact that he caught it before bladder and bowel function were affected. He thinks that post surgery I am doing as well as can be expected and these things take time. I am ok with that and I am grateful that I have low pain and can walk pretty well. He gave me the "Your Back Manual" brochure and circled some stretches to start in 2 weeks.

The worry list: I have had increasing muscle spasms in legs (not painful except for left calf) and the right sciatica has now returned that had disappeared post rupture/pre-surgery. I know the nerves take time to heal, but I don't know if what I am feeling is healing sensation, normal, or new injury? I just started driving again (kids to school, short trips) but it is still very uncomfortable to have pressure on the incision area and right leg sciatica increases dramatically during and post driving. Sitting carefully in a chair is very uncomfortable (makes my butt ache) into tail bone. I can only tolerate that for about 20 minutes unless it is the recliner. I have had some tingling - pins and needles feelings that come and go in the "saddle" area the past couple of days when sitting that I didn't have before. I am now extra worried about the bladder/bowel function - since neurosurgeon was so concerned about it before surgery.

Thanks for your wisdom and advice.. mostly I am hoping people can relate and tell me these are normal things, or if there is cause for concern.. (hate second guessing Dr.s but sometimes you have to really advoate for yourself)

~ Mel



  • The lumbar spine discs carry a lot of load. Gravity compresses those discs. Are you doing anything to uncompress* them?
    I can definitely relate to the weird nerve tinglings and sensations. I still get them, especially after riding my bike.

    *totally made up word
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Uncompress.. sounds like a good one.. I would have to say reclined in recliner and possibly walking as long as I haven't done too much sitting in a chair or car. Once the tailbone and low back ache starts it seems to take a day of rest (reclined and little activity) to get out of the discomfort/pain zone. Don't have a hot tub or pool accessible which I think would really help..

    Got to start PT this week.. Got some very basic micro stretches, a little massage and TENS-on-ice this week. We didn't really talk about decompression, just trying to modify positions to try and find one that doesn't aggrivate symptoms. Therapist says as the nerves get inflamed with activity - it is not unusual to have increased nerve symptoms - but they should recover with rest, position change, ice.. if they don't or stay, then it is time to worry. (Why couldn't the Dr. have said that??) In the mean time I feel more confident about healing with the PT assistance.

  • Hi, the surgery does take time. In had that surgery twice. If you have big concerns by week 10-12, you can always ask for an MRI but it sounds like you are showing improvement which will keep happening for at least 6 months.

    PT helped a lot. I lost a lot of feeling and while that never came back, the strength in my leg and ankle did so I no longer limp. The spasms can continue for a bit, especially as you increase your activity. Ice, ibuprofen, water alwYs help me.

    Good luck on continued improvement!
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