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Seeking advice! Sciatica w/out pain, only numbness? Doc says surgery needed.

Hi All,

This is my first post and I'm hoping to gain a little more insight into my situation. Here's the rundown:

3 weeks ago I lifted a heavy TV the wrong way and hurt my back. It wasn't too bad at first with just some sharp pain in my lumbar area whenvever I tried to bend down at the waist. It felt like I might have just pulled a muscle back there. A few days later that was replaced, seemingly overnight, with severe numbness and intermittent nerve pain in my left leg. Specifically, numbness of the left buttock, hamstring, and along left side of my genitals, and nerve pain down my left leg, primarily above the knee. The pain would come and go and usually flare up if I walked around a lot. It also popped up in the middle of the night/early morning when sleeping. The pain symptoms were virtually gone within a week.

By the time I saw my primary physician 1 week after the onset of symptoms the pain had subsided, but the numbness was the same as when it began. I was prescribed oral steroids (methylpredisolone) which had no effect. My follow up after the steroid regimen also confirmed that I had zero nerve reflex in my left ankle. I was then directed to get an MRI and follow up with my neurosurgeon.

At 3wks since onset (yesterday) I met with the neurosurgeon. My current symptoms are very minimal pain, which means a very slight nerve "ache" on occasion, again usually when sleeping or moving around a lot. It kind of feels like when your leg has fallen asleep and is starting to wake up. The numbness in my left buttock, hamstring and left side of genitals is still there, but maybe 10% or at most 20% improved. Sometimes I can't tell if it's better or if I'm just accustomed to it now. My calf and left foot has a slight tingle sometimes and overall feel sort of weak.

My meeting with the surgeon went like this...

My MRI showed disc degeneration at L4-L5 and herniation at L5-S1 with extruded disc material. The surgeon says that he is surprised that I'm not in any pain given the MRI results. He is recommending surgery to remove the extruded material and release pressure on the nerve. His reasoning for pushing for surgery so soon is the fact that I'm only feeling numbness and no pain, which he feels indicates that the nerve is being severely compressed, is no longer transmitting pain signals, and is at risk of permanent damage unless the stray disc material is removed.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm hoping someone here has had a similar situation. Most of the posts I read involve severe pain symptoms that persist with numbness, as opposed to some pain which was primarily replaced by numbness. I'm seeking second opinions regarding surgery but in the meantime would love to get some feedback here as well.




  • joanljjoanl Posts: 41
    edited 01/22/2013 - 10:12 AM
    When it comes to back surgery, getting a 2nd and even a third opinion is in order. I would go to the head of neurosurgery at a teaching hospital. Do your research. Get someone who does not "need" to make money on your surgery. I hate to be so cynical, but it's your back. Everything I've ever heard is that surgery is the last resort when you are in excruciating pain. Again, get those other opinions before you go under the knife.
  • Hi, I am no doctor but numbness is severe and your doctor is right. I am surprised you haven't gone for emergency surgery as my Doctor said as soon as I experience numbness or the 'saddle' area ie: genital, buttocks area and/or in my legs. I needed to go straight to A&E (Accident and Emergency) as soon as possible.
  • While you have minimal pain now, you will probably have a lot after the nerve is decompressed. If you are loosing feeling and strength don't wait to long. I have permanent nerve damage in my left arm and have visible loss of muscle though other muscles have compendated and I can use my arm what appears normally. I am left handed and the strenght difference between left and right is significant with left much weaker. Every surgeon I talked to said "surgery is to stabilize and prevent further damage, not for pain."
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • AlikhusroAAlikhusro Posts: 1
    edited 01/25/2013 - 3:42 PM
    Hi, I also went through the same situation, one day in morning I woke up with severe pain (before thisI had back pain on and off for 3-4 months) that I could not even get up could not even move so I called 911 those people had to break door lock since I was unable to move after that they took me to Emergency. They gave me Steriod Prednisone and Pain killer Hydrocodon and I was discharged after 3 hrs I was in lot of pain in the left leg I was feeling numbness in left leg and all the five toes of my left leg were numb. I could not stand for straight 5 minutes so much pain I was having in left leg.Then the next day I took appointment with Primary care physician and she referred me to physical therapy so I went to physical therapy 3 times a week the physical therapist showed me streching excersizes, and also did ultrasound and traction and used to ask me to hold my big toe up and he would push it towards downwards and could easily push down without much resistance from me.I went to physical therapy for almost 1 month I did not see any immediate improvement from the physical therapy but as time passes I was feeling better but still my left left leg had pain when I walk more or stand for long time.Then after 1 month of physical therapy I took appointment with neurologist he asked me to take Lumbar Spine MRI and reffered me to Neurosurgeon.My MRI report showed at L4-L5 there is large central disc herniation which is compressing my nerves and also there is Disc bulge at L5-S1 and also loss of disc signal intensity at level L4-L5 as well as L5-S1 and L1-L2.The neurosurgeon suggested me for Microdiscetomy but I wanted to avoid surgery so I waited for 1 more month , Now it was almost 3 months since my leg pain first started which was on Nov 1st week.Now the pain was reduced and almost all numbness also gone in my 5 toes of my left leg but I feel I have weakness in left leg since I could not walk on my left heel Iam also scared since my nerve is getting compressed so it may damage the nerve. Recently I took appointment with few more neurosurgeons which is scheduled in 1st week of february for 2nd opinoin of having surgery or not and if they think I still need the surgery then I will go for it.From what you have said I dont think your condition is that serious but I am not a doctor so I cannot say what is right or wrong, it is always good to consult with 2 or 3 doctors before reaching any conclusion if all the doctors think surgery is good option then go for it .I think it is better to have surgery earlier instead of waiting 2 -3 months(going through all the pain)and then have surgery and I am also not sure weather it is good to keep the nerves compressed for so long'.
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