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Calf Leg Weakness - Sudden Onset

kp1221kkp1221 Posts: 18
Any thoughts, please! I have an L5/S1 disk bulge and had back pain for well over a month in my right lower back. I was told at the hospital that surgery would be unlikely and that I just need PT. Needless to say, I had not started PT and have just been recuperating on my own.

Around 3 weeks ago, for two nights, I had this uncontrollable urge to stretch out my right leg in my sleep. It would wake me up as I was stretching it. After that, the pain totally went away in my right lower back, but I developed excruciating sciatica down my right leg. It felt like it was originating in the lower part of my buttock, but my back did not hurt.

Sciatica pain was especially bad in the morning and night and when walking down stairs. My right calf muscle would twitch, especially when the pain was bad and at the end of the day. I also noticed that my right calf was feeling especially weak, causing me to limp and feel tired after walking up stairs. After the sciatica episode finally improved/ended after a week, I still have weakness in my calf. I limp and cannot hold any of my weight on my toes (i.e. cannot stay on the ball of my foot with my weight). Has this happened to anyone else? Will strength come back with PT? Can permanent nerve damage happen this quickly?

Thanks for any insight.


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  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    ....leg weakness can happen.
    I don't know...but with your pain while slurping..maybe you are getting out of alignment during your sleep.

    Couple years ago, I needed to move from second floor, walk up, to first floor.
    I continue to have leg weakness periodically. If I carry groceries or any weight, my legs give out..without warning. Doc told me it to be expected with my lower back issue.

    My walking with a cane helps tremendously. Also, I bought this cart and I keep it in my car, for to load my groceries there and just roll it into apartment.
    Best of luck to you!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Thanks for the advice. I am hoping that the motor nerve to my calf muscle is just temporarily injured and will heal itself with rest, time and physical therapy. I am still taking Naproxen every day. I only had the sciatic pain in my leg for a week...I never imagined this could happen from just a week of a pinched nerve. The herniated disk in my back is not great, but at least the pain is not bad now. I will try to keep going up and down the stairs to a minimum. It is tough with two toddlers...really tough...at least my youngest can now climb up the stairs by herself with me following behind. I truly hope this heals with time...I really want to be active, able to run and able to lift my girls again.
  • Not to scare you, but I had similar symptoms in the beginning and ended up having a fusion done. I had a MicroD 3 years ago on my L5/S1 but herniated the same area by just coughing of all things. It started as mild back pain, then came the sciatic pain and weakness. I waited a month before seeing my Ortho and had an MRI done, my ortho was more concerned about the weakness and not being able to stand on my tip toes and recommended surgery ASAP. I'm relatively young (37) but am 9 weeks post op and still have the weakness in my right foot/leg. Ortho says the nerve was compressed and could take a long time to recover, hopefully no perm. nerve damage was done but get a second opinion asap. Don't want to let the weakness go for too long.
  • After consulting a neurosurgeon, I learned that my situation --calf weakness--and unable to stand on my tip toes--was an emergency, and my doctor removed the disk. It was pressing on my motor nerve. I was told that in some cases permanent nerve damage can happen after just 24 hours and in other cases after 3 weeks, and in others longer. I had 3 weeks of weakness, and I am crossing my fingers that it will be okay with time and praying it will not be permanent. I was told it might take 6 months or more for the nerve to heal. So scary. Makes me want to get the word out to others to please seek medical specialist opinions IMMEDIATELY if they experience ANY leg weakness/limping (foot, calf or thigh) in connection with sciatica or back pain. I thought I was just limping around from the sciatica pain, brushed it off as "normal" initially based on what I had read on other internet sites about sciatica, and had no clue it was because my motor nerve was being compressed/damaged. I also had no idea there was a finite window of opportunity to correct it. I am just sorry I did not act sooner/insist on being seen sooner. Thank goodness for the wonderful care I received with my surgery. I will post a progress report as I heal.

    Kevhead- thank you for responding to my post and suggesting a second opinion. Wishing you a very speedy and full recovery! Please keep me posted on your progress! :)

  • I am so glad to see your update, as I am one of those who likely has permanent nerve damage after experiencing similar symptoms of weakness in my leg. I lacked the ability to put any weight on my toes for at least a month before my first surgery. After herniating 2 more times following that surgery, I had a fusion and have not recovered the function of my left foot almost a full year later. I wish I knew then what I know now. Well, actually, I wish someone had listened to me as I tried to tell doctor after doctor how bad my symptoms were. So I'm really glad your doctor listened to you and knew how important it was to fix. Best wishes as you heal!
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • Thank you so much for your well wishes! I really appreciate it!

    I think it is really important that weakness is not downplayed as just a normal symptom of sciatica or a slipped disc, when, in fact, it is a symptom of a potentially very serious problem. It just may not have any pain associated with it, or even numbness....but it is an indication that something is wrong and needs urgent attention.
  • Hopefully your nerves come back to life and you are able to regain all your strength. I'm hoping more people will see this post and help them understand how serious this condition is. My ortho knew right away when he tested my strength and the look on his face scared me a little. My numbness is almost all gone and I have no pain, but the right foot is still weak. I hope and pray each day that things will get back to normal, good luck to everyone here!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    .....saw neurosurgeon who recognized emergency.
    I too wish you a healthy and healing recovery! Thank you for posting with how things are going

    I wish you very best!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • A question for those who have had back surgery....did any of you have an uncontrollable urge to stretch out your legs in your sleep? I did last night, and semi-conscious, I was even somewhat aware I was doing it, but could not stop myself. Does any one know anything about this?

    My calf, which had been feeling so much better since my micro-d surgery, felt weak to me this morning on my walk. I hope I am just imagining this but terrified that I could have re-herniated. :(
  • Forgot to mention that I am 9 days post op. Thanks!
  • Please know I am not a NS by any means but sudden weakness does not seem like a good sign to me. I am pre op but NS told me if this happens it will be an emergency... a sign my surgery cannot wait. Also, with this being Friday and all, I think I would call Dr office and make sure it is an emergency situation or not.
  • I had this symptom for more than a month before. I went in the docs office and got some cortisone and some painkillers and in two weeks I regained ability to support Te body weight on my bad leg. It depends from person to person.
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