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Need encouragement after L5/S1 laminectomy and discectomy

Gtaylor15017GGtaylor15017 Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:03 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I am 47 yrs old and athletic. I ran 2 marathons and played ice hockey for several years. I had a laminectomy and discectomy at L5/S1 on 3/21/12. I had a a year of pain prior to surgery. I could no longer sit down to do my job (software consulting) and was having lightning bolt pains down both legs and into the feet. My back was also sore. After 3 epidurals, 2 facet joint injections and an RF Ablation did not work, my surgeon suggested the surgery.

After surgery, my toes on my right for were numb. I tried my best to stick to the regimen of simply walking. I've had several set backs. On May 1 which would have been around week 6, I had a huge change. The pain went away to a large extent. The surgeon agreed PT would be good. I took 3 aquatic PT sessions and was given home exercises. At that point, everything went down hill. My feet started hurting again 'shooting pains and soreness' and I got ocassional hamstring shooting pains.

I've been told nerves take a long time to heal. If that is the case, I'll be patient (I'm at week 11 now). I am getting another MRI this week and don't know what to expect. If there is no re-herniation, then what do I do? I can't do any exercises besides walking because my feet hurt. Driving a car really hurts when stepping on the foot pedals. If the MRI shows re-herniation, my surgeon is saying fusion may be necessary. But does fusion do anything to correct leg/foot nerve pain?

Looking for any encouraging words. Life is passing me by and every day is painful.



  • HI Gaylor,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find others whom re-herniated after surgery and ended with fusion. But lets not assume the worst yet until your MRI is complete and you have the results. In the meantime the poster above gave some good advice.

    If the MRI is positive for a re-hernation, then it could be something is back on the nerve and cleaning up the nerves could stop all of your ridicular pain. Fusion is not the end of the world we have many successful fusion patients. One thing that is so key is to stay positive. I know it is hard when you have already climbed the mountain after the first surgery, but maybe this is what is really needed. Some fusion patients will tell you, that they had so little movement prior to surgery, doing the fusion they didn't even notice the loss of movement.

    Anyway I just thought I would stop by welcome you to spine-health. Also to let you know the forums are getting a upgrade Tomorrow so you might not be able to log on till Wednesday, but don't worry your user name and passwords won't change, but the look of the forums will. Please keep us posted on your MRI results and how your doing. Once again welcome to spine-health.
  • Oh boy do I ever feel for you! I'm 2 days post an 8" incision and had laminectomy, disectomy, bone spurs removed and 'cleaning out the nerve root space' on both sides of L4-L5. It is much more painful than I thought and I was told today I'm in the most painful 3-4 days right now. I can't imagine 11 weeks down the road being told I might need more surgery! Although I was told that was a possibility, at this point in time, I just don't know if I could do it again! I haven't seen it yet -but going to get the hubs to take a photo on the next dreaded bandage change so I can see what it looks like. Feels like the incision is an upside down T but it's just a straight line.

    I will also say that at this point my leg and foot pain is gone, completely. I do have different leg cramps from time to time, but I'm having a really hard time getting up or down, so I think that since I'm not athletic like you, my legs are getting a workout - and I ended up with a temp of almost 102 last night, so after a visit to the doc to make sure there is no infection, I'm downing the water and gatorade hoping that is some dehydration.

    Just wanted to say - I hear you and can't imagine how hard this must be on your emotionally. I'll be thinking of you and praying for you! Please let us know how it is going for you!
    I am who I am!
  • Thank you all very much for your comments. I must admit the extreme pain and concern for my future had me in tears for the first time in many years. I am on my 4th pack of prednisone (not in a row). I dont know if it helped, but the past 3 days have shown improvement in my legs and feet. Nerves are such strange healers. I can throw the baseball back and forth with my wife and be fine. But other times, I can put my arm out of the window while riding in the car and the shooting pains will start again in my feet and I'll have to get back in bed.

    I got the cd from my mri. My ortho surgeon is out for 3 wks and I'm seeing a new dr while I await. The new guy is a neurosurgeon at the U of Virginia. I tried to interpret the cd images myself. They look identical to the presurgery mri whereby the L5/S1 disc pops out. i had assumed the disectomy would cut all of the herniated part out and what i would see would be basically a straight disc, albeit smaller. So i am assuming it is reherniated. But my wife, who knows I think too deeply into these things, said there is no way i can be sure it is reherniated and i need to wait for the doctor's opinion.

  • You have done well many patients have those same symptoms and make the same decision when the pain impacts on employment and your overall life style, I had a laminectomy in 1990 and it is not an easy option.

    You will get better each and every day and those days seem long when recovery is in full mode, the good thing is that you have taken control and doing something positive, you could have waited and that in itself is more pain and the same op would need to be done even at a later stage, so your decision was positive.
    Every day you are moving forward away from the person with that chronic pain, you are on the path to improvement which not many here can say, you have embraced what needed to be done and going with it, this will help you and those you love around you, whatever the outcome it will be better than that pain you were living in and looking back reflectively we all wonder how we coped with that everyday constant chronic pain, we did and need to acknowledge how hard that time was and the good things that we did.

    Wise your wife, you do need to wait and not read into thing that may not exist with pain 1 +1 never makes 2 it is as simple as that, try not to invent things to worry about concentrate all you effort on getting better one day at a time, which is more than you had before. Those who have had this done know how hard it was and we all have the same fears and apprehension as you are having now, it is the initial stage and will pass, keep taking the meds pace well and smile, hug your wife it is not easy for her enduring all that pain of you suffering and being unable to help, she is worried also.

    Take care and well done you, the start of a new you, the improved version.

  • Thanks for all the comments. I had 3 decent days in a row and thought things were looking up. Yesterday was not very good and today Is worse. My feet are burning again and my left hip hurts. I'm thinking the left hip issue is due to nerves as well.

    I just received the MRI report:

    L5/S1 - Interval laminectomy with persistent diffuse prominent disc bulge that is no longer asymmetric towards the left but with persistent contact along the anterior thecal sac and the right S1 nerve root sleeve with mild adjacent epidural scarring present.

    Impression: postsurgical changes L5-S1 with persistent prominent diffuse disc bulge. Persistent multilevel inferior neural foraminal stenosis. No new focal disc protrusion. No nerve root clumping.

    Anyone venture to share their opinion on these findings? Does this mean I'm headed towards fusion or need to let the nerves heal?

  • Met with a new Dr today, a Neurosurgeon. Nerve root for the right side is very inflamed. Wants to go conservative path and try epidural injections to calm the nerve down. Hopefully that will do the trick. L5/S1 disc is still 'pooched out as he calls it. If epidurals dont work, we might talk fusion. I definitely dont want fusion

  • you have good results with the epiderals. After your surgery did you have a period of time that you felt better and then all of a sudden started to have symptoms again(when you started PT), or did you never get any real relief after surgery?
    Hopefully given time the nerve will settle down and the inflamation will dissapear and you will start to feel better.
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • I can't pinpoint exactly, but I think when I began to feel better at week 6, it may have coinsided with a dose of prednisone. Then PT started and I went down hill fast and I figured I irritated the nerves. I felt good for about 3 days about 2 weeks ago after taking prednisone, but again, it didnt last. Like many on these boards, I try to keep my spirits up, but am very sad. I was extremely active and had a very good job, but cant work and now my walking is very slow and painful. I get the feeling when talking to surgeons, that procedures on the back are a crap shoot.....sort of like 'well, lets try this and if doesnt work, lets try that'. If the shots dont work, I assume fusion is next. And I have no idea whether fusion would even help. I want so badly to be able to post positive results soon. But dealing with pain everyday, being awakened at night by shooting pains in my legs, and not knowing the future is a mental grind.

    I do know that if I ever get better, I will do whatever I can to help those I know in chronic pain.
  • The tortuous shooting pains have returned. Most of the evening last night, I had some shooting pains in my legs and feet, one of which put me on the ground. This feels like torture. I never know when it will come. Slept very poorly last night because I had the pains intermittenly. Pain Mgmt clinic told me yesterday they couldnt get me on their schedule for 3 weeks. That really brought my hopes down. And of the shots dont work, fusion is next and I simply dont know how that is going to help. Is it just me, or does it seem like a big roll of the dice? I'm a shell of the man I used to be. My poor wife and kids.
  • Hey Gtaylor15017- I am so sorry you had a difficult time lately- I really feel for ya. to deal with the shooting pains- have you tried any distraction techniques? I use to think they were quite lame, the thought of them. Distract me from this pain? how??? but, it does help me sometimes. I visualize alot, have an interesting sense of humour, and distract myself. doesn't always work-- but when I think back, it did help during some drastic times for me.
    Wishing you the best,
  • It has been 6 days since my epidurals. Halfway through day 5, I began feeling positive change. I was able to walk without immense pain and to walk a little faster. My mood changed drastically as I was able to finally find some light at the end of the tunnel. My feet were feeling better. As I prepared to go to bed, I started to feel some pain again. Once I went to bed, it seemed like everything came back. I was getting the sporadic hamstring and foot shooting pains And they woke me up. I am now sitting here at 2 am praying that it is just a slight setback and I'll get another positive day tomorrow. But I am so scared. This 1.5 yrs has been a nightmare for me and my family. They were all so happy to see me smile again and now I'm hoping this is just a normal process after a post surgery epidural. Anyone have any advice or past history with something like this? Thank you all for your past posts. They have helpful.

  • bookcatbbookcat United States Posts: 66
    helped me keep the ability to walk. I have had 3 separate lumbar fusions over the course of 5 years. Before the surgery, I would be in major pain with similar leg symptoms and sciatica in both legs. I have lost sensation in my feet from another medical issue so that wasn't much of an issue. I had a laminectomy at L4-5 before my first fusion surgery. I had almost immediate or immediate pain relief after all 4 surgeries. I still have lumbar spine issues, including pain, but the quality of my life improved dramatically compared to pre surgery.

    Please consort keeping an open mind about the possibility of a fusion. In recovery, which takes months, it does help to do one day at a time and keep a positive attitude. One other thing you might consider is whether you are depressed. Surgery is often followed by a shorter but difficult depression, which just seems part of the recovery process. It certainly can affect one's ability to deal with what's happening.

    I wish you well and can say from personal experience that fusion surgery results can be extremely positive.

    PLIF L1-3 6/13
    ACDF (C5-7) 8/12
    PLIF (L2-5) 2003/05/08
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