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nerve pain after surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
Hello all,

I'm 7 DAYS post-op from a microdiscectomy, and I feel much much better overall. Of course I'm still on pain meds, but when I stand upright now, I do not feel that pressure on the nerve anymore causing all the pain I was having.

However, I do still feel some nerve pain, although much more slight then previous, going down the back of my right leg somewhat. It's not constant, but seems to come & go depending on how much I'm on my feet.

The Doctors told me that it will take a while for the nerve to fully heal & calm down, since it was under pressure for so long, & also the surgery itself irritates the nerve somewhat while they operate. I'm being told that it will eventually go away after several weeks at least.

My question: Has anyone else had this procedure & still exp some nerve pain? How long did it take to fully go away?

Thanks for any help. joe


  • Hi Joe,

    I'm 4 weeks post op. L5-S1 discectomy. After surgery my nerve pain was horrible. Worse than before. Thought something had gone wrong, but the Dr. said it vould take up to 8 weeks or more for the nerves to heal. it all depends on how badly pinched and for how long. Now, 4 weeks later, I'm starting to feel some improvement. Not complete relief but enought to think maybe this is going to work.

    Best advice: hang in there and take it easy. Don't do more than the Dr. tells you you can do. if you push it, you'll know it soon enough. Take your meds as needed, and try to rest as much as possible. Walking helps a lot too.

    Good luck!

  • Hi, I am 7 weeks post op and the pain was there for a few weeks, but knowing that it doesnt just disappear certainly was helpful. Now i dont get the pain unless i overdo it, and it is a good warning to slow down. At 7 days, the trick is to not be on your feet except for a few walks a day, then lie down if you can.

    Good luck with your recovery and i hope it settles quickly for you.

    Oh - i find driving (just automatic) sets my leg off completely so i keep that to a minimum still
  • I'm 3 1/2 weeks post op from a l5/s1 discectomy. I am still having pain too, can't straighten my leg, and found that I now have a stabbing pain in my tail bone that comes and goes. I've also gotten some tingling in my left foot when before surgery only my right leg was affected. I called the doc today and he wants to see me next Thursday. I think I'm over doing it, but I do not have the luxury not to work...must pay bills! Luckily, I'm a teacher and all I'm doing this summer is babysitting. I'm going to try not to stand or sit for too long, but I have to drive 30 min. one way to work each way. I just pray that i'm not damaging anything!!! Good luck!

  • My PT told me that nerves heal at 1mm a week. THAT IS SLOW.

    She said i should see improvement in nerve pain until 18 months post op, and not to stress too much till then, but obviously avoid the things i know make it worse...sitting, driving etc.

    Its nice to have a timeline actually. They sure are slow healers.
  • The last few days this thing has been getting better and better. There IS light at the end of the tunnel. i can't believe how much better I feel. I'm leaving in 20 minutes for 4 week follow up with NS. Can't wait to share the good news with him.

  • I had a micro discectomy 8 weeks ago,I'm doing alot better as far as the muscle spasms go, but I'm still dealing with leg pain, the burning,aching,pins and needle feelings. But I can say some days are better then others.

    I think my ns thinks that I should be doing a little better, but I know that I'm better off now then pre surgery, because before I could hardly walk.

    Seems like just trying to clean house, wash my car, just little things sets the pain off. and when it starts it takes a while to calm down. I usually have to take a muscle relaxer and sometimes loratab if the pain gets too bad.

    today has been a painful day, but hopefully tomorrow will be better.

    Many Blessings,

  • Cindy, did you know that little things like 'clean the house' and 'wash the car!!!!' are not little at all. Its huge!!!!

    I am about same stage as you. I was told no sweeping mopping or vaccuuming (so i assume washing the car fits that category too lol). Any housework has to be done with a straight back or dont do it....no twisting etc.

    I think you may need to take it a little bit easier and give your back a chance to settle down. I know for me, if i do something thats a bit too much i get nerve pain too.

    The physio said, if you get the pain you need to stop whatever is causing it.

    All the very best
  • Hi Cindy,

    Just to add to Formerfire's last post, I too think you should take it easy.

    I am managing a 15 min walk in the morn and another in the evening, with strolls indoors during the day. My sciatic nerve still annoys me, but it's not too bad.

    Recovering slowly.

  • I am 10 (almost 11) weeks post op (L5/S1 MicroD) and I still have some nerve pain and numbness. The pain is nowhere near what it was pre-surgery, or immediately after surgery however.

    One thing I have noticed this week at work is that by the end of the day (sitting), I have a pretty good spot of pain behind my left thigh/knee area. This is kind of new. I don't know if I am "healing" and therefore returning to my old ways of bad posture, etc. ...it is annoying, but not unbearable.

    The numbness in my left foot does seem to be slowly getting better which has been the most aggrivating part of the healing process.

    My doc told me at my 8 week visit that by Christmas, the pain and numbness should be a memory. He reiterated how long it takes nerves to heal and that you can aggrivate them as you heal...and that sets them back a little bit more.

    Good luck
  • Hi All,
    I'm new to this site and sure need to hear from others going through this nerve pain.I'm post op 8 1/2 weeks(May 08) L4 fusion and 6 1/2 years post op L4,L5,S1 Fusion. I've had siactic pain coming from the L4 again going down my right leg for a year now and had nerve root injections, but no improvement. I also have a screw that broke at the L4,which we decided not to touch at this point. My Dr. recomended the new ALIF going through the front of the abdomen. He went in on left side over the pelvic bone. Now I have no feeling in the inner part of my left leg, constant nerve pain, cannot walk without a cane,(was using a walker)PT 3 times a week and cannot sit long. My Dr. said the same things I hear from all of you about the nerves healing. I also have Muscle Atrophy in my thigh, which is taking a long time to get back to normal. Boy that is so much post op information, but It is real and I wish I did not have this surgery.

  • Hi everyone, I'm new to the board. I've found this thread really useful - thanks. A lot of places on the internet say that the leg pain should go immediately after the op. For me that just isn't the case. I'm 5 weeks post op now (10 weeks post another op, but reherniated). Back is a bit better, but my left leg still has pain in the back of the thigh and calf. There has perhaps been some improvement over the last few weeks, but its hard to tell. I'd love to hear from people who relate to this, and hopefully who have improved.

    Good luck and kind thoughts to everyone.

  • I had surgery 2 days before you. Only my microdiscectomy was on L5/S1. I still have similar pain to what you described. I actually have more back pain than before, but less leg pain, but the leg pain is still very much there. It has also moved into my other leg. I've been worried that I've reherniated my disc. How did you know that you reherniated yours? Was it intense pain? I had a very busy weekend this past weekend and I'm hoping that I'm just having more of a flare up. Good luck...you're not alone in your worries!
  • Glad to know I'm not alone! My reherniation was a nightmare. I had just had an MRI scan a few hours before it happened (my doc said to get in touch if the leg pain worsened - so I did, but it turned out to be nothing). A couple of hours after getting back from the hospital I slipped it while taking my socks off (I lunged for them without thinking). As I'd just had an MRI scan I felt as if I couldn't possibly complain so I just prayed it was all part of the healing process! (Although I knew it wasn't). It wasn't officially picked up for another 3 or 4 weeks.

    Its hard to give definite advice, as all disc herniations feel different - but for me it was so sudden that with benefit of hindsight it was obvious. One minute I was generally ok, the next I could barely walk. I couldn't sleep, pain killers did nothing, I couldn't stand up straight, I couldn't find any comfortable position.

    If you aren't sure, I think you are probably ok. Also if it didn't come on suddenly, then it is probably something else. If in any doubt though, go get it checked out.

    Recently I've had new pain in the front of my legs and all around my back (like simple back pain). My physio has put this down to general swelling of the operation site especially now that I'm getting more active. This is easing off again now. Perhaps this is what you are getting?

    I hope you are ok. All the best, Eric.
  • Hi Joe,
    Just to reiterate what's been said here, my nerve pain essentially went away after 2/5/08 discectomy, but returned about 5 weeks later, right about the time my DR said it was okay to return to 'normal' physical activity (no running, lifting, twisting). I had some issues with scar tissue developing into the same nerve point as the disk goo had been.

    Things are much better now with patience, daily stretching, walking, some core training, etc. nothing too exotic. A good diet and posture helps too. Stay positive. I had heard it could take up to a year and longer for it to entirely get back to normal (if that's even what it gets back to, considering the lifestyle change required to heal properly).

    Dave in Colorado
  • Hello all, i must be one of the lucky ones had my op last Friday on L4 and L5 and the pain was gone straight away which was in the two legs down to the feet.They do say the longer the wait for the op the more damage is being done to the nerve and subsequently a longer recovery time.Walked for 40mins today with no problem in the lower back or legs but was told not to lift anything for 3months!Don't know if thats going to be possible as like most people there's a heck of a lot of bills in that time to pay.Keep the faith and hope you all recover because it is hell.
  • I posted a similar thread as I was in much more pain following my op (L5S1 discectomy) and was worried that it wouldn't go away. I'm now at 3 weeks post op and my leg pain has now gone almost completely. I've now got an aching back around the op site and an inexplicably painful shoulder but am off the really strong pain killers and feeling like I've turned a corner.
    So hang in there!

  • Hi Guys,
    I had no one to look after me Post Op. so I had to drive 10 days after Posterior Inter-body Fusion at L5/S1 (Rods and Screws}. I also had to drive Four Hours there and Four Hours back to have my 12 week check. Sitting for that long when I have Scar tissue on the Nerve was so excruciating. Sitting is not good. I to have had times where I have started to feel good , before I even began to come off the Meds and landed myself back in bed feeling like a total idiot. It is , I agree , the times when I am down and out or have over done it that I pull my head in.I know I have a tendency to self sabotage , I can just see myself in this cycle. I would never have imagined before this happened to me , how long the road of recovery would be . I even had to undergo a second Major Operation before I learnt to start to care for myself . I am such a slow learner and being impatient does not go well with Spinal Re-Hab. I do really understand when I read what everyone is going through. We are the Masters to some degree of the quality of Recovery we are going to achieve . Write more , I love to read and I learn , ever minute I learn . Thankyou so so much EVERYONE !
  • Am at 4th week post op. Amazing how we all learn so much from threads but should be told via doctors etc for recovery period. I thought I was re-herniating disc as the pain started coming back at about two week mark. Was very worried and still haven't seen surgeon for follow-up.

    However in reading and then asking around it appears the steroid stuff the surgeon places during discectomy wears off and the feelings do start to come back. Some of it is nerve memory but most is from scarring, bruising, irritation and stretching. And this can be from the original injury and/or during the procedure. Apparently it takes a long long time to heal nerve's which was a relief to hear - and the longer and more severe the pain was then the longer the nerve healing process. Am waiting eagerly for a few weeks to pass to improve some more - but am sighing a huge relief at knowing this info.

    My surgeon is a fan of leaving as much of the disc intact and removing more of the bone to give freedom to the nerve. And he has a very good success rate by all accounts with people traveling all over the country to see him. Always question a surgeon's beliefs about how they do their surgery as I originally thought most surgeon's took as much of the disc away

    Anyway, thought someone might like the info here.
  • You are so right when it comes to the surgeons having different beliefs. That's how we have advances in neurosciences! I love my NS because he isn't caught up in the "open the book and follow it word for word" club. He is writing his own chapter in neuroscience history!

    During surgery nerves are tugged on and pulled out of the way as if they are inanimate objects almost. Can't damage a nerve if it's pulled out of the way temporarily. So once those steroids and anesthesia wear off ... look out!!!

    Glad you have such an awesome outlook!

  • Hi Dave,
    I was wondering about the scar tissue . I am 5 wks now from my micro surgery, pain started at 11 days in leg and bum like before surgery . From day 2 was walking gently , staying upright, no sitting and doing gentle stretchs with Physio's recomendation 4 times day. By day 5 I was walking mile a day slowly and continued .

    Then I thought there is something wrong by week 4, so they did an MRI scan and found more than usual scar tissue!!

    I just don't understand where it comes from? what factors cause it? And will it get better?
    I am fine on meds and have cut down by half. Doing about 3mile walks now and increased my exercises, Eat healthy ,I am slim.

    What did you know about the scar tissue ? My surgeon mentioned something but I forgot what he said.
    I would really like to get of the meds but have to be patient. Just wish I knew what caused the scar tissue.
    Interesting to read all different points great stuff!!
  • I'm 3 months post discectomy. MOST of my sciatic pain has gone, but I seem to have plateaued. How do I know, other than an MRI, if I've developed scar tissue that's keeping the pain level from dropping further? Sitting for extended periods is still fairly painful, though nothing like before the surgery.

    Am I just being impatient?

    Your opinions would be appreciated.

  • I also have scar tissue from my fusion that is causing me pain forever. It is around the nerve I guess and my PM Dr. said they don't like to take it out because you'll just get more.

    I think it is caused by the surgery itself. When they cut the tissue it grows back, and I think it just over grows, similar to if you cut your skin. You can end up with scar.

    It seems that they would be able to go in and remove it though, and that it wouldn't come back as much. Otherwise, what is the point of having surgery, if we only end up with pain all over again for the rest of our lives from the surgery itself?

  • I have 6 screws and 2 rods in my lumbar region from a fusion.

    They put in the biggest screws there are I think, I can feel them in my back. How did you know that a screw broke? I've heard that it happens, so I'm paranoid that mine will break because I try to be as active as possible with exercising and stuff.

    Is it like excrutiating pain, or just pokes through your skin or what?

  • Hi :H I think the fact that your sciatic pain has gone would be a good indication. Personally I think judging by the stories on here about scar tissue you don't have any.

    I however do a vast amount and I knew, as I just did not have any relief, still have same sciatic pain down leg and bum as before my operation 6wks ago. My MRI at 4wks showed up on the scan.

    The not sitting down seems quite common and probably will get better on it's own in time. The only way to find out is get a scan. Seems unnecessary at this stage for you . I would just wait and see and try be a bit more patient.okay ;) zolenniaq
  • I'm 13 months post op...yes 13 months. And that was the 2nd surgery for the same area, L5/S1. I was fine for 8 weeks afte the second surgery, except for the numbness in my foot. The pain started to come back gradually in my right foot to a point that I couldn't walk at all and ended up in a wheelchair for 2 months. I couldn't swing the leg withouth excruciating pain. I was improving little by little every month but never went away. I've seen every doctor immagineable. I was getting worse again and went to see a new neurologist who prescribed a new MRI. Found a bulge at L5/S1. But he is sending me for transferaminal injections into the S1 and l5 nerve root. I had my second one yesterday. I'm praying to god this helps. Over a year with burning and stabbing pain, and no enjoyment out of life or with my family anymore. It gets you down, very very down. Sometimes I feel like maybe life just isn't worth living this way anymore. But maybe these injections will do the trick, maybe this is the turning point in my road. Good luck to the rest of you. I hope your pain doesn't last!
  • I had a discectomy L4 / L5 4 days ago, 3.5 hour open surgery, Doc said it was the biggest prolapse this year, after 2 hours wake up time and 4 hours in bed I was on my feet (just couldn't pee lying down) anyway although very sore all the sciatica pain was gone, I had full feeling and movement, felt great! However 4 days later I'm getting sharp shooting sciatic pain through my buttocks but only whilst getting up or sitting down, once up or down I'm fine. anyone else had this? does it go? or am I overdoing it or something else? :?
  • It's great to read of all the others that have blazed the trail. I am 3 weeks post discectomy now and still have days where I seem to have irritated things by the prior days activity. Just pushing it a little too much!(Bit of pain in the back of my calf & hamstring). I get a little worried now and then that something has pooped itself, but after reading the threads on here it just seems like all part of the healing process. Time seems to be the best healer of all! :)))
  • I am 5 weeks after MicroD on L5/S1. The pain seems worse to me although an MRI shows no disk herniation and no bone spur. It does show a swollen ligament.

    I am on Neurontin which does block the pain somewhat but not totally. The surgeon has suggested I do epidurals to get the medication directly on the nerve. (I had epidurals before the surgery.) Another Orthopedist and Neurologist agreed with this approach. Unfortunately when I called the doctor that did the origional epidurals, his next date for the procedure is two weeks from now.

    Right now I have an appointment with an osteopath to see what she can do.
  • I am new to this site and so glad that I found it after some searching the net. I am only 6 days post-op for L5-S1 disc op and I so needed to read what folks were saying. The first few days were good in that I had only minor discomfort at incision area and the pre-op flashing pain was gone. I still had numbness in my lower leg and foot but figured that would take time to heal. Of course during this time I was mainly lounging around, watching soccer (my love), movies and playing video games.

    And then came day 5 post-op which meant venturing outdoor for some fresh air and a car ride! Like many of you, that is when the renewed pain came back and I was getting worried. I even tried driving as I would like to return to work in another week but that was a HUGE mistake as I completely overtaxed my right leg. (of course, the doctor didn't give me any insight to any of this which is so disappointing.)

    Turns out this type of pain is quite expected and, although I am in pain, it seems to be normal as the nerve begins the healing process. I am not happy to hear that it could take so long but such is life and I can at least stand and walk for more than 2 minutes at a stretch.

    I appreciate all that have written as I was able to glean a little from each post and know that the end is in sight even if it is months away. As jaba01 states, time will be the biggest healer.

  • I have been reading all your comments about nerve pain from scar tissue for sometime now and I appreciate all the pain, frustration and questions you all have. I had back fusion surgery (L5-S1) 2 years ago, and after 3 months of feeling relief the exact same pain came back, leg, thigh and groin pain. MRI showed scar tissue from surgery pressing on Sciatic nerve. I have now had 5 ESI injections. It makes me so angry and frustrated that after going through such a tough surgery, I am still dealing with the same pain and that I was never informed this could happen. Ortho surgeon will say it is SI problem, NS will say it is scar tissue, PT says it is because I have been misaligned for such a long period of time. The problem is, who do we trust? I must admit, the PT has been the most beneficial with his manipulations. Well, thank you for letting me read all your comments and I wish everyone a successful recovery!

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