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recovery from L4-L5 microdiscectomy

I am just under three weeks from a L4-L5 microdiscectomy. My MRI from 2012 showed a small herniation at L5-S1 as well. Because it was so slight on that MRI we only repaired at L4-L5. Prior to surgery I had drop foot and severe weakness...unable to lift toes or toe walk. I was able to heel walk. At this time I am still having weakness near the back if my leg and pain on the outside bottom if my foot. I am also having numbness on the outside of my lower leg. Should I request a new MRI to rule out an increased herniation at L5-S1? Has anyone else had foot pain following surgery? I am also having burning which I have been told is normal-ish. Anyone else have this? I don't know anyone else who has had this procedure so any input is appreciated. Also how long until I should notice an increase in strength. I am 5'9" female athlete if that helps. Thank you.


  • A little more info would help.

    Did they not do a discogram on you before the surgery?
    How big of an incision was made? How was it closed?
    Are you using ice or cold gel packs? Are you doing any PT?
    What caused the herniations? How long were the nerves compressed?

    -sorry for all the questions-
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hi
    I am 7 weeks post-op and no improvement to my foot drop or numbness yet

    I am told it could be six months before i see improvement

    But i do however see strengthening of my foot, still drops, but foot will stay up when i flex my ankke now

    Still numbness and maybe INCREASED NUMBNESS but i think my foot i getting stronger since the surgery

    I had lamenectomies of three levels. L3-4, 4-5 and L5-S1

    Lets have faith that we will get better in time

    But i have NO PATIENCE for this SLOW SNAIL PACE nerve healing

    Take care
  • Did they not do a discogram on you before the surgery? No they did not do a discogram and no updated MRI. A little history: I was in the ER on 9/5 for severe sciatica pain. Got Rx, pain got better...mostly. Started noticing some other symptoms. On 9/7 was a little week, but could still heel walk and walk on toes, just had some lingering pain, but was starting to feel leg weakness. By 9/10 I was unable to move my toes, lift my toes, walk on my toes and had severe weakness and foot drop. Consulted with surgeon on 9/11, had surgery 9/12. Didn't do a new MRI because all of my symptoms could be explained by L54-L5, which had a pretty significant herniation according to my 8/2012 MRI. There was a very small herniation at L5-S1. The decision was made to do surgery on L4-L5 so quickly because of my rapid deterioration and like I said, it explained all the symptoms.

    How big of an incision was made? How was it closed? My incision is about 3" and closed with Steri-Strips. The incision looks great and I had no problems.

    Are you using ice or cold gel packs? Are you doing any PT? Yes, I ice for at least 20 minutes/day. I have had 1 PT session so far and have another today. Right now the PT is concentrating on getting at least a little strength back in my big toe. I was given at home exercises, which I have done without fail.

    What caused the herniations? How long were the nerves compressed? Not sure what caused the herniations. Had an initial problem in 7/2012-8/2012. I had physical therapy and 'recovered' nicely. Was told PT worked, wouldn't have to do surgery at that time, unless I made the choice to do so. I had very little symptoms until about June of this year. I tweaked my back a little bit at the gym, took some time off and was a-ok again, until about August. Then I'm not sure what I did, but pain would come and go and then on 9/5 it all came to a head with a trip to the ER. My guess would be the nerves would have been compressed anywhere from a year to a couple of months.

    My biggest problems are: A. the muscle weakness. It has come to the point that I don't even know if it's worse or the same and I'm just getting used to it. B. the foot pain. I feel like I have a marble or golf ball under my skin on the outside of my foot. If I put too much pressure on it or walk on it for too long it causes my toes to not work as well ... they will not curl under as well,or bend as well. It feels like they are locked or have a rod in them and it makes it very difficult to walk. I feel like this is hampering my recovery since my toes feel pretty good until I either put a lot of pressure on the outside of my foot or walk too much. The rest of the nerve pain I could deal with, I didn't think it was so bad. They gave me an Rx for the nerve pain, but it has not made the foot pain better.

    Sorry for the lengthy response. Does this additional information help?

    Again, thank you for any input.
  • Hang in there. I had two micro d's earlier this year, and the pain and numbness in my foot was not much better after three weeks. My Dr said that things often hurt at three weeks that don't hurt at 6 weeks, and he was right. I still have numbness in my foot after 7 months, and that may never go away.

    My leg was so weak initially that it would buckle under any weight. I started doing strengthening after 2 months, things like stationary bike, wall squats, single leg squats, and a LOT of stretching. Just keep working at it and don't give up.

    But do continue to ice and rest for a few more weeks, and it may change drastically. Mine did after both of my surgeries. Good luck!
  • Jamie
    You described FOOT DROP and its symptoms to a T
    But i wish yiu did not have it though
    Its a horrible feeling to have

    I started to fall and tried to break my fall and ended up with 2 broken toes, thats the only time i was grateful for the numbness, because i felt no pain when i fractured them

  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
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    - As a bonus, Spine-Health provides these patient forums. Here is where you can meet thousands of other people who understand and can relate to your situation. You will soon become part of the Spiney family who provide comfort and the advantages of a Support System. You are now part of this family that is approximately 20,600 International members and growing daily.

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    All of this will help make your threads better and improve the times and quality of responses you will receive.

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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
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