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My L4/5 microdiscectomy journal

Had my micro at L4/5 yesterday.. Woke up unable to feel my right leg or move my toes. It has gotten slightly better in the last 10 hours so I am trying to tell myself that there is no reason it won't get better. But this is the exact same thing that happened after my L5/S1 and I ended up with permanent numbness from my butt to my toes. My surgeon this time said word for word same thing as 2005: "well it's not typical but I see no reason why it SHOULDN'T get better." I want to believe him but I'm scared. I am pretty devastated about the situation. My surgeon saw me once post op, said he was coming back, and then called from the car. I was crying and very upset. He was giving me a whe lot of platitudes until finally my husband said, "but is this a normal result?" And he said no. But then he said people occasionally get feeling back.
I can't feel my foot at all, can't lift or push on big toe, can't walk on heels and can't feel when he pokes me with a paperclip. Good news is my back doesn't hurt... And that is, of course, a bit of good news.

I'm really disappointed in the whole experience. I received virtually no discharge instructions and had to ask the nurse about sleeping, ice, walking, pain meds, etc.

I'm trying to let go of the fear and anger so I can focus on healing but it is hard. I'm really scared that the nerve was permanently damaged on top of the s1 damage I already had.


  • mmmartinommmartino Posts: 35
    edited 07/04/2013 - 10:18 AM
    Well it's the 4th of July and although it's not exactly how I wanted to spend the holiday I am feeling better now that the surgery is behind me.

    My foot is still completely numb and I have no feeling from my knee down on my right leg but I am seeing tiny glimmers of hope. My husband has been touching the top of my foot and my toes with a paper clip and I can now feel it dragging across the top. I can lift my toes up about a half inch off the floor, but can't balance on my heel without my foot slapping down again. I'm walking with a walker but today I took a turn around the living room without it. It's hard to walk because I can't sense where the floor is BUT I am feeling more optimistic. It's really all I can do...just believe and have faith that I will get feeling back.

    I took a shower today and my husband checked the bandage. It felt good to change clothes but it wore me out. I took a little nap and have my appetite back. I'm taking Norco every four hours and started the anti-inflam this morning. Have not had a BM yet so I added in Colace. I'm wearing my back brace all the time.

    Sitting up is difficult as I still get queasy. I can definitely feel the ache around the incision. My surgeon called last night and said it was good news that I showed a little bit of improvement with feeling. He said he hopes I will see some big gains within a week. I really hope so too. I have to fight a rising panic that it won't get better, and remind myself to stay positive. I can't get up or down stairs yet.

    let's see...what else...I have virtually no back pain except for a slight ache. I have to remind myself that I could not have lived with the pain the way it was, and that I was taking a chance on nerve damage with or without the surgery. It's scary that I can't move my big toe up or down and that there is no strength in it BUT at least this way I know the nerve isn't being pressed on and so I hope it will heal. I am really taking it one day at a time and it's nice to know that my only job right now is to not give up.

    here are some things that help: meditating, deep sleep whenever I want, the grabber, lots of water, the cool breeze in my room, tons of distractions and good movies. Writing helps. I'm going to try to write every day to chronicle how I feel. My husband also takes a video of me walking every morning so I can see if I make progress. I'm looking forward to stepping outside today and making a circuit around the garden.

    Never, ever give up.
  • I'm moving around without the walker around the house but still can't go up and down stairs. It's just too scary not being able to feel where the floor is.

    I tried to sleep on my side a little bit last night but the minute I like on my side I get this deep throbbing ache in my groin. It is the same whether I lie on my left or my right. I have no idea what it is.

    Trying to move my big toe and Chris says that it's getting a tiny bit stronger. I can't tell at all. If I'm not watching myself try to move it then I don't know if I'm moving it or not. It's strange to have my whole leg feel numb. I had gotten used to the numbness down L5/S1 (butt, calf, outer toes) but now to have the whole thing numb is disturbing. But I am trying to keep my spirits up. So very grateful to be on the other side of the surgery, and to have my husband and family around me.

    I don't know if I'm supposed to be adding any vitamins to my diet. I'll have to do a little research.

    I got virtually no discharge instructions so I've been reading some stuff online and trying to figure it out myself. I'm really disappointed in the surgeon's office and how I was handled. Tomorrow I"m going to write to their office manager.

    My plan is to stay in bed for most of the two weeks after the surgery, with occasional small walks and foot exercises with resistance bands. I'm going to get as much deep sleep as I can and keep my anxiety levels down, and try to stay positive. After two weeks I will try to take short walks around the neighborhood. I really hope that I'll see some strength and feeling return in this first week.
  • VixWilxVVixWilx Posts: 2
    edited 07/12/2013 - 12:50 AM
    Hi there,

    I was just reading your post thought I'd tell you my story. I herniated my L4/L5 two years ago (50% herniation, really bad). The doctors rushed me through surgery and actually told me if I didn't have it I'd be at risk of kidney failure. So one month after my MRI (but three months after the herniation) they performed a discectomy and inserted a Wallis ligament. I was 29 at the time and an active, fit person but had suffered from back pain for probably three years. It was done in a UK NHS orthopaedic hospital and I was out within 24 hours.

    Unfortunately I still suffer from slight nerve damage in my left foot from the disc herniation. After the surgery I had constant pins and needles, and severe weakness and numbness. Now, I have hardly any pins and needles and can feel most of my foot, with some slight loss of sensation down the back of my calf and big toe. However it IS slowly getting better.

    The limp and weakness in my foot means I can't run or jog any more, but now it is two years after the slipped disc and I go to spin classes and have been swimming every week since i had the surgery (front crawl only!!). The Wallis ligament/ discectomy completely changed my back pain - I hardly suffer from it any more! I can sit for long periods of time now which was impossible before. I have only had one relapse (a couple of days of not being able to walk) after I tried an intensive course of hot yoga - I have since returned to pilates.

    The only other side effect I have noticed is regular bad nightly leg cramps - I had never ever had leg cramps before. Sometimes they come on in Pilates but I can usually work through those.

    Overall I think the surgery had a positive effect but I was told by the surgeon that nerve damage heals at a glacial pace. Walking was the best physio I did. I lost a lot of muscle mass in my left leg from the nerve damage etc. and built the strength back up with walking and regular physio sessions.

    Don't let this get you down. Get physio, take walks. I take cod liver oil and glucosamine daily. Have regular foot massages - this actually works. Either from your husband or from a reflexologist.

    You'll get a tiny bit better every day, you just have to be patient.

    Best regards,

  • Thank you SO much for writing and telling your story. It is so inspiring to hear from other people who have had improvement in their healing, especially someone who is active like me. The first disc I ruptured (in 2005) I actually did in the middle of a Yoga class! It was awful. This time around I couldn't point it to anything specific. In the 8 years since the first surgery I managed to get myself to a point where I had learned to live with the limp and the nerve damage. It didn't stop me from swimming, weightlifting, even running and hiking. I can't WAIT to get back to doing that.

    This time around I am seeing some improvement, which gives me hope that it will continue to improve. About four days ago I could suddenly feel the floor under my feet -- I could tell that I was standing on carpet, and then later could feel the pavement outside. It was an awesome feeling! And just today I managed to walk on my heels with my toes lifted for about 20 feet, and I went on a short walk. I feel like there is a chance that I can actually believe the surgeon when he says it can change and there's no reason for the nerve not to heal.

    The fact that my back doesn't hurt is AMAZING. I would almost happily live with the nerve damage just to have that horrible back pain gone.
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