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Numbmess in leg when driving

Hi, I am a new member to this forum and am really helping someone can offer me advice/may have/be experiencing similar symptoms to myself. I noticed a numbness appearing down my right leg, that then travelled across my foot, culminating in my right toe, whilst driving five years ago. This numbness means that I can not feel the pedals properly and know how much pressue I am exerting on the pedal. Also my foot stars to slip off the pedal and I have to look down to know where my foot is!! The problem first occured when I was in the late stages of pregnancy. The numbness always starts with a cramping sensation in my right buttock. I also find it uncomfortable to lie on my right side (lower hip) to a varying degree. An EMG study identified mild weakness on the right hand side. These findings were thought to be consistent with a right L5 radiculpathy and needed to be confirmed with an MRI scan. I was turned down for funding for an open Mri scan (they are now only available for the clinically obesis) not claustrophobics!! I suffer from severe clautsrophobia and did not manage to stay in the scanner for the full lenght of time needed so part of the results were visible. The scan showed a bulging disc on the left hand side but nothing on the right to account for the numbness I experience. As I am 43 and have had firbrositis in my shoulders since I was 17 and narrowing of the discs etc. all the things to be expected from an aging spine the bulging disc is not a surpise! I do suffer from lower bache ache which I am guessing is radiating from this left hand bulge, however it is an ache and not pain and is controllable with exercise. The back ache has certainly improved as my young children have got older. I was told the left hand bulge would not be causing the symptoms on the right hand side. I have had two lots of Physiotherapy on the NHS which were useful but did nothing to improving the numbness. I was also prescribed Gabopentin, which had emblazened accross the box " do not dirve" on these tablets!!!!I have now been referred to a surgeon who is suggesting an operation which is 60-70% effective in improving chronic pain (lamonectomy). I have two young children and the recovery time for the operation is not something that is feasible at this time. However, pain is not my problem. Numbness and a weakness in my leg is the problem when I am driving. My right toe is permanently numb all the time but this does not cause me a problem outside of the car. Clearly it is the postion of driving and flexing of the foot that is ageravating the problem (my surgeon is not a bliever in piriformis and does not see this as a consideration). It is my understanding from reading this site and others that surgery is a last resort after non evasive tecniques have been tried. As I AM NOT in pain and I know how lucky I am not to be and I have a good quality of life, apart from the problems caused by not being able to drive safely, I am very reluctant to go down the surgery route. I understand seeing a chiropractor, injections and spinal cord stimulations but all be options to try. None of these have been suggested to be my the doctors I have seen and I have made the suggestions to them. I feel very cheated that because of the length of time this problem has gone on for I am concerned that any nerve damage/compression might now be permenant. The first consultant I saw said that I did not need to have an MRI scan as the results of this would only be needed if an operation were to be a consideration, which he said it was not. Several years on and another opinion suggests otherwise. Does anyone else out there suffer from lower back ache and numbness down the leg and foot when driving but is otherwise not in pain?!!! Also, how easy is it to see a Chiropractor on the NHS? If money were not issue, I would of course, tried this on a private basis, years ago! I have always tried to stay positive, but there have been periods over the last few years when I have felt very down about this problem as it is effecting my ability to drive sately and confidently and of course this had had a big impact on my life and that of my familiy. Any experiences/advie would be welcome, thanks.


  • Dear Numbdriver,
    I am sorry you are experiencing numbness. I also have a lot of numbness 7 months after lumbar surgery. Fortunately, you aren't in pain (I'm jealous) but I also experience ache and pain down the L5 S1 dermatome pathway when I drive. I am also afraid of not being able to control the accelerator/brake at times with the numb big toe and foot. Have you tried breaking up longer drives? I got out and walked every 20 minutes when I returned to work. It is a bother to plan to stop all the time, but it helped me a bit. Do you notice a difference for longer and shorter drives? Do you have a lumbar cushion and seat that doesn't rise up into the nerve? Unfortunately, the L5 S1 nerve root problems I had stemmed from a huge herniated disc in the lumbar spine. Have you seen a really good occupational therapist/physiotherapist? Sometimes they have good suggestions. Make sure you get an older, experienced person recommended by someone you trust. I feel for you! It is hard to take care of the family when there is a problem. Also-I did an MRI premedicated with Valium because I am a bit claustrophobic myself. I hope you can get some help so that you feel more confident and safe when driving yourself and your family. Best of luck!
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Thankyou so much for your kind response and suggestions. I have not tried the things you have suggested and so will give them a go. The numbness can start anytime from the end of the road!! to 10-15mins into the journey so longer jounreys have not even been an option for quite some while now! I now fear there is a psychological element of fear involved as well because althought I try not to think about it and am hoping the numbness won't start, I guess in the back of my mind I am waiting for it to!! I would not consider surgery without trying other forms of physical therapy first and I find it very concerning that so many people who have had lumber surgery experience numbness in their legs/feet afterwards! Numbness is something that I do not need anything else of and I certainly do not need to be in pain and worse off than I am now! I am sorry to hear that you have, like so many others on this site, terrible pain. It must be truly awful and so depressing. I find it worrying that all the "professionals" I have consulted have been very non plussed about the driving issue. The only response being, "its's up to you wether you drive or not, but probably best not to, oh and don't tell your insurance company!!" I hope you find a solution to your pain and numbness problems soon x
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