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8 months post micro.. is that to be expected

I know you really can't answer my question, but on the same token maybe you can. I am 8 months post microdiscectomy L5 S1, I do not have another appt with my surgeon until April and I can't not make another one unless it is approved so I am asking. I still have a very numb tingly outside of my foot on left side. I still get shots of nerve pain in my foot leg here and there. The numbness varies from freezing to just annoying. If I do the sciatic test on the chair it just makes my foot go kind of nuts. Is this normal, to be expected or something that should be gone by now?



  • Saw your reply in another post. I am 4 months post-op now. Up & down, up & down. That seems to be my story. 1st month was great, 2nd not so much. 3rd month big-time impovement, strengthening, range of pain-free activities expanding. Now entering 4th month, almost done with PT. So now here we are again with the tingling & numbness. Also some noticable swelling. But no pain, which is good. Still almost constant hamstring & calf tightness. Its such a crazy balancing act. Do too much, get symptoms. Dont do enough, get em too. That fine line of activity is tough to walk. Had a "too much" PT session day after thanksgiving, and I felt like this for 4 days. Which is a whole lot better than when I did the same thing at 6 weeks, and felt like this for 3 weeks. So if it lasts less than a week Ill consider it a win. Also the activities here at work, which totaled 7 hours of machine work in 2 days, were huge compared to a full on 2 week setback from trying to do the same thing for less than a minute at week 4. I feel like I have to safely test the limits, or else how to know whats ok & whats not. I have a big vacation planned in the summer, still a full 5 months away. I still have most of my goals set for then. I wanna be able to fish, hike, drive my boat around and be able to truly enjoy it. The past 2 summer vacations have been full of pain & limitations. Also I try to stay away from the meds. Take naproxen still 2-3x per week. Only take tramadol or vicodin 1x per week or less, only on the worst days. I still rate my worst days as max 10% of my normal pain pre-surgery.

    Would you give a summary of your 8 months? What do you do, your PT, what meds you still take, or any info you can give would be very relevant to me. also, what is the sciatic test? Thanks!!
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • Hi there,

    Nerves can take up to 2 years to heal.

    Please do not panic yet, anything could change.

    I had nerve damage which never healed and I have become used to it now.

    Best of luck !
    2 level Discectomy 2000 open surgery
    L4/5 Discectomy & L5/S1 Laminectomy 2005- (Cauda equina) open surgery
    5 x joint injections 2012
    Discogram Dec 2012
    Dec 2012 - 360 Lumbar Fusion L4 -S1(BMP), Disc replaced L3/4, Bilat trocanter injects
  • nkaynnkay Posts: 105
    edited 01/02/2013 - 6:12 AM
    Hey there thanks for the reply!!! Like most I suffered excruciating pain. L5-S1. MRI showed very large disc extrusion impinging my sciatic nerve. Also facet artrosis and bone spurs. I have a tear in my L3-L4 and a tiny extrusion there as well. I lost tremendous strength in my left leg within a couple of weeks and couldn't even get up on my toes so I had surgery at the 6 week mark. Went for WEEKS of PT, no big deal really he did dry needling which hurt like HELL. Did my exercises etc. Can't say it really helped. At my 3 month surgeon check up I explained when I exercise my legs get heavy, back very stiff, foot numb etc. He kind of expected me to come in and say wow I'm all better. I have a follow up with him in April. Currently I go from extreme numbness to shooting pains in my legs(now both) and bottom of my feet. I can function, geez compared to the pain I had prior of course I can! LOL Somedays my back hurts somedays my legs just feel very weird, like this nerve electric annoyed stuff. I have jogged up to a mile, but my foot goes terribly numb and I can tell I have some foot drop issues, not drastic but I know it's there. I can sit in a car, walk etc but I an NO WHERE near what I used to be! I was marathoner and had just done my first 70.3 prior to this. I haven't gone back to the doc for pain meds although I prb should, because frankly it's a pain. I'm afraid they will send me for injections and I don't want steroids! My husband has some percocet from a surgery that I cut in half if I need something. I have osteopenia and I know steriods aren't the best. I'm at the point that I'm wondering if this is just normal? I don't want to run to the doctor and him say well it hasn't been a year yet and you're not on the floor crying.

    I hear you, one step forward one back! This is so frustrating!!! I know someone who got hit by a car and broke her back yet she's back to normal! SERIOUSLY?! i want this all to go away and my old body back.
  • nkaynnkay Posts: 105
    edited 01/02/2013 - 6:16 AM
    2 YEARS????????? Why do I keep hearing so many different answers? My surgeon told me when I go back in April if I am still having nerve prbs more surgery may be needed. He's an ortho though. I'm wondering if I should see a neuro
  • Oh Ben.. the sciatic test is when you sit on the end of a chair and raise you leg out straight, then curl your head down,(hope I"m explaining this right) it usually produces pain in that leg if it's sciatica. It will make my foot tingle but I'm not crying like I was so another reason I don't go back to doc.
  • that sounds alot like one of the many stretches the PT taught me, plus I got a bunch that i used pre-surgery too. always stretching.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • I have been told 2 years also from my surgeon & PT. 6mo to 1 yr for the internal swelling.
    L5S1 REMOVED herniation. Years of pain & compression. Microdiscectomy complete!! Trying to be super smart & safe with recovery!
  • I was told 2 years by two separate orthopaedic as I had Cauda equina and emergency surgery. At first I had no feelings in my legs at all and now have (5 years later) just a numb right foot and patches. This has not changed in the last 3 years so I'm inclined to agree with the 2 year rule HOWEVER, everyone is of course different and all issues should be reported and not ignored.

    Best of luck
    2 level Discectomy 2000 open surgery
    L4/5 Discectomy & L5/S1 Laminectomy 2005- (Cauda equina) open surgery
    5 x joint injections 2012
    Discogram Dec 2012
    Dec 2012 - 360 Lumbar Fusion L4 -S1(BMP), Disc replaced L3/4, Bilat trocanter injects
  • It's no good that issues are still happening. One would not expect nerve pain to be triggered by position of body at 8 mths. That suggests that the nerve is being pinched still. Cause can be from events such as sitting with nerve compressed; or blood supply pinched off; or compressive mechanical damage, etc.

    An EMG study can quantify the extent of the nerve damage to see if it is progressive (ongoing). If its ongoing then there is squishing of a nerve that is continuing to happen. So the nerve may experience future and / or permanent damage unless freed.
    See http://www.spine-health.com/ask-a-doctor/chronic-pain/healing-chronic-pain-and-nerve-damage-after-surgery for more info.

    When you go back to the surgeon, request diagnostic tests to find out why you have this nerve pain still.

    Check out;

    The nerve pain can be reduced / eliminated with nerve pain medication. There are a few common ones used. Lyrica works well with me but not for everyone. These medicines do have side effects that you can find about by searching the web. And need to know about before starting them. this masks the root cause, but cause may improve, so meds may be temporary.

    You don't mention a MRI? Has a recent one been done? If there's a loose bit of disc there, it can move and press on either sides nerve which could explain pain in different legs maybe?

    Are you able to swim for exercise? Have you discussed non weight bearing exercise with surgeon? Swimming can help keep the internal scar tissue soft and flexible. I was instructed to swim with goggles and snorkel to prevent twisting.

    You probably know all this stuff and read all of the websites articles, including discogram testing.

    In reality, your not too bad. And want to be better. Try to understand via your surgeon, what your risks are of further nerve damage. The EMG will help there. Locate root cause with MRI, discogram, diagnostic nerve blocks, etc. Soften scar tissue internally. Discuss with surgeon and find out where pain is being generated.
  • Thank you for your response Dave! No I have not had a recent MRI because well I've been waiting to go back to the doctor because I didn't want to go back too soon. I know I probably really need one, but that I have to convince my doctor of. I will get the usual, here are some steroids, anti inflammatories, pain meds, try that first.. sigh. I don't currently have access to a pool so I walk and try to jog a mile, which I know is most likely bad for me, I miss it.
  • You shouldn't have to convince a good doctor to want to use diagnostic tools to find the pain generator.

    All you should have to do is say you are in pain for an extended period and that something is wrong and what does he propose to do about to locating it. 'Lets try this' is not diagnosis, it's guesswork. Should you stay with a doctor that only uses guesswork?

    It doesn't sound like your getting much detailed professional advice and guidance for your recovery from the surgeon or PT. Sorry if this is incorrect. My guys are excellent and know exactly what's going on, what needs to be done next and what advice / instructions to give me.
  • Unfortunately that is the military health care system. Thanks for all your advice, I will keep you posted.
  • I see. I feel for you. Must be tough. That's what we have to work with.

    But still, you are in pain and have been for an extended period and something is wrong and what does he propose to do about to locating it? That's the question to ask!

    Take care.
  • I'm not quite as far out as you...this month would make six since my L5S1 micro, but my right foot, ankle and below, is pretty numb most of the time. Frequently the three small toes get awful nerve shoots of pain. The Neurontin helps a bit, though it makes me feel weird, so I don't take it much. The biggest challenge is driving, as I worry about not having the reaction time I might need.

    My doc said pretty much the same as said here. That healing from bruising will take a while, and that, because my injury was severe the numbness may be with me up to two years, though he said he'd be surprised if it lasted past one.

    Best wishes.

  • nkaynnkay Posts: 105
    edited 01/10/2013 - 3:48 AM
    I've been avoiding going back because I do not want to take Neurontin or be put on an anti depressant! I mean no offense to anyone on them at all, it's just not what. If I lie down and sleep yes I feel better first thing in the morning BUT.. then the day goes on and I'm back where I started. I just thought this would be simple, I mean cut off the dumb disc and get back to my life. Any of you have you knee give out on you? I'm wondering what that's about too.. I can be walking and my left knee just kind of buckles.

    Great pain free day to you all..
  • Hi nkay, Im so sorry you are having a hard time. It sucks when you are dealing with back issues then something else hits out of the blue. I have been having sciatic pain that runs down outside of right hip and knee and can be excrutiating. This started after my microdiscectomy of T7-8 in May, 2012. Back at beginning of Dec. I fell for some unknown reason and landed on my knees hard. Two days later my left knee hurt so bad and could not bear weight. I went to ortho who did MRI and said I had so much arthritis and fluid that he could not see if I had torn cartilage or broken something so I am having arthroscopic surgery on Jan 18 to see what problem is. I have had knee issues almost as long as back issues. Never thought that maybe they go along hand in hand before your post...hmmmm

  • nkaynnkay Posts: 105
    edited 01/11/2013 - 4:09 AM
    You know it's funny how after this disc went many pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I for years found my left leg was weaker than my right. You could literally see it on the bottom of my running shoes. My achilles and ankle had this weird buzzing feeling. I had knee issues, etc.. I could go on on and on. But now that it was my left side that was impacted from this nerve impingement it all makes sense.
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