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How long after surgery before you should start to worry

I am going on 6 weeks post op from a discectomy at L4-L5. Disc material was removed from both sides(through one incision) due to a central broad based disc bulge that has caused nerve pain in both legs at one time or another for 2 years. My nerve pain(mainly in the right leg) was minimal before I went in for the surgery. But it was still enough to have an effect on my lifestyle. Within a week after surgery I had nerve pain mostly in the right leg return to a point that was worse before surgery. Since then it has died down a little bit but is still a little worse then before surgery. Over the last few weeks it hasn't changed much. It is not a constant pain, but it is definately still there. Now that my surgical pain and swelling is much improved, I can say that so far that I am no better and no worse really from the surgery. At my 3 week post op, my surgeon didn't seemed concerned about the fact that I was having nerve pain at a level worse than before surgery. And I understand that there isn't too much he could say or do at that point since it was still so early. But now 3 weeks later, I am starting to get concerned and discouraged. It seems like my pain has just set back in just like before. Also I start light duty activities starting next week and so I am afraid of my pain level increasing more once I start becoming more active. My next appointment is not for another 3 weeks and I am worried that he is just going to brush it off again.

I know there are people who wake up from surgery with no pain and never have problems again. I also know that there are people whose pain never goes away or gets worse due to a reherniation. I see a lot of people talk about how long it took for them to get back to "normal". Some people talk about being pain free after 3 months, 6 months, or even a year. People use the word "pain" for this but never really specify whether it is pain from the actual surgery, back pain/stiffness, or nerve pain. I know it can take a long time for the nerves to "heal", but I didn't have a great deal of leg pain before surgery so I guess I just thought that I really didn't have any serious nerve damage since my pain wasn't bad and so it would be no problem afterward. I always associated those with continuing nerve pain or nerve pain that took a long time after surgery to go away with nerve damage. And I associated nerve damge to those who had a great deal of truly debilitating nerve pain right before surgery. My last debilitating nerve pain episode was over a year before I had surgery. But maybe I am wrong about all of this. What I do know is that I still don't feel right. So how long before I should really give up on my surgery being a success and start pushing for my surgeon to really reevaluate my case? Thanks


  • DNiceDDNice Posts: 1,962
    edited 10/26/2012 - 2:59 PM
    Well, you summed it up toward the end. Some people wake up no pain, and never look back or question the surgery. Others, wake up, no change or increased pain....try to be patient and become a little jealous of those people that did well.
    I would say at 10-weeks if you are still concerned, ask your surgeon if it is worth doing an MRI to make sure you didn't re-herniate. It is not uncommon (I know they say 5-10% chance but I just feel like it is higher). Even when I did this my surgeon said....no it's early, let's give it until 3 month mark. I told him that I didn't feel right about it. I told him the entire reason I did the surgery is because of how bad I was and the risk of losing bladdar/bowel combined with extreme pain, lost of feeling, weakness in the leg. I told him I would be angry at myself if I waited and found out in another month that something was wrong. He agreed and I was right, I re-herniated.

    Could it be the increased activity is just increasing your pain temporarily? I know as you start increasing activity, you can create inflammation. Have you found icing or anti-inflammatory gets the pain level lower again? Seems like you started doing well and then experience increase in leg pain. It could be irritated nerves, scar tissue hitting the nerve, reherniation, or just inflammation that comes with the increased activity. But like you said, if you don't feel right...tell your doctor that at your next appointment.
  • of surgeons don't want to admit that there may still be something wrong and will keep brushing you off hoping you will leave and go somewhere else. They do not want to do more tests and usually won't. I have had this happen once in the 4 surgeries I've had on my back, lumbar. This surgeon also did a fusion on me in the cervical area. He just brushed me off in a office visit and thn I couldm't get any more visits with him. My wife and I both felt he was a great surgeon but didn't go through the how to handle your patients school. Anyway, I would also suggest that you be firm with him and tell him something is wrong and you would like a MRI or whatever test you feel would help discover why your still in pain. If he blows you off then start looking for a new surgeon.

    I'm not saying that this is what is happening to you but I am throwing it out there so you can use it however you wish. Lots and lots of members on this forum have found their surgeons turn a blind eye to patients that still have issues after they have worked on them. It sounds strange but happens fairly often.
  • DNiceDDNice Posts: 1,962
    edited 10/27/2012 - 2:32 PM
    And if he does ignore you, see if you can work with your general practitioner to order the MRI.
    One reason my surgeon was against the MRI initially is because I didn't fall or do anything that would indicate I re-herniated. So he claimed insurance would give him and me a hard time.

    Anyhow, at 3 months (it was 10 weeks) he said ok b/c I was actualy worse than before the surgery.
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