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Leg pain post microdiscectomy

Erin4EErin4 Posts: 8
I had a l4l5 microdiscectomy 3 1/2 weeks ago. For 9 months I had horrible pain from a disc herniated to the left side. I tried physio, chiro, physiatrist, etc.

Like most, I was made to assume the back pain would linger but that the leg pain would be gone right after the procedure. That has not been my experience and I'm finding it so difficult wondering if the surgery was unsuccessful, or if I reherniated, or even if the problem was in my SI joint all along. I woke up from surgery with horrible leg pain. After 3 pills of some fabulous (narcotic) source I was able to walk and discharged home. That pain remained for about 4 or 5 days and then I started feeling better each day and becoming more active. I still had the pain but it was more of a bad ache in the leg. I dectrased my meds a bit and I was walking 1 or 2 kms per day and even did a short car trip (passenger). Then exactly 2 weeks after the procedure I was back to feeling the exact horrible nerve pain down my entire left leg again. I'd say it's worse than pre surgery because I have the recovery pain on top of the old feeling. I'm back on the NSAIDS, percs, ice and rest.
Needless to say I am beyond depressed. I gave up my job to stay home with my 2 little boys (almost 2 and 4yrs) and now we have had to hire a babysitter to come everyday because I physically can't do 90% of it.

I guess my question is: Had anyone else experienced this? Is this normal to feel just as bad or worse at almost 1 month post surgery? My surgeon is on vacation this week so I've had no luck getting answers.



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  • I forgot to mention the main reason I'm so concerned. The surgeon told my husband (while I was still out) that it was a very small piece of disc protruding and he removed it. The rest of my disc looked great and my nerve looked great. This sounds to me like a simple and straightforward surgery...then why would I be experiencing such debilitating pain? Makes me think something was missed :(
  • SpineyKD23SSpineyKD23 IllinoisPosts: 89
    I am sorry to hear of your struggles. I had some reoccurring pain after my second and third surgery, but it was not as strong and persistent as what I had before surgery. It is hard to say whether something was missed or if the nerve became very irritated by something you did- you may not recall doing anything, but something could have caused it regardless (I have no idea what I did to cause my latest flare up). You are doing everything correctly, try to take it easy, but don't become idle- walking helps you heal and prevent scar tissue. Can your surgeon's nurse do anything for you? Sometimes you have to be very persistent about at least getting medication to keep the pain under control. Maybe they could at least tell you if and when they would consider doing a second MRI to check your status. I have heard many stories on here like yours- you are definitely not alone, but I wouldn't call it normal. I'm sorry I can't be of more help.
    25 years old: Herniated L4-L5, L5-S1 December 2008. L4-L5 microdiscectomy Sept 2010. L5-S1 microdiscectomy March 2012. Redo L4-L5 microdiscectomy Sept 2013. Redo microdiscectomy Oct 2015.
  • Thanks SpineyKD23. I am 99% sure I re-herniated. It's very intense pain when I stand for too long. I described my symptoms to the nurse today and she agrees. They are sending me for another MRI. I live in Canada (Toronto) and the wait time was 3 months for my original MRI. I'm hoping it might be sooner since it's a post op MRI ordered by my surgeon vs. family doctor but the nurse didn't have any idea about wait time. Anyone else from Toronto have any idea about post surgery MRI wait times...I'd love to hear! The date will come in the mail.
    I see that you are only 24- so sorry you've had to deal with so much at such a young age!! How are you doing now? Do they think your last surgery was a success? I feel so nervous about another surgery since it obviously took so little to re-herniate...what are the chances it will just keep happening?
    Luckily I have lots of pain meds left and my doctor is great for getting back to me when I need more but I just hate taking all these pills. I was almost as excited to be pill free after surgery as I was to be pain free. I keep wondering what is going on with my liver and stomach. I'm sure everyone on this site knows where I'm coming from!
  • SpineyKD23SSpineyKD23 IllinoisPosts: 89

    Oh my gosh I know what you mean about taking pills- I hate it. It has to be terrible on the stomach and liver.
    Thanks for asking about my condition, I had an MRI 2 days ago and I just found out I have reherniated L5-S1 so I will be headed to pain management. Hopefully I can have some success with injections- anything but pills because I refuse to do that unless I have to, especially at my age.
    It is hard to answer your question about the success of my surgeries- each of them where successful in getting rid of my sciatic pain short term. When I say short term, I mean 1-2 years. Unfortunately I have continued to reherniate and I am know I will end up with a major surgery like a fusion or disc replacement at some point. BUT I don't want to scare you because my second and third surgery honestly could have been avoided- I refused to accept my limitations so those two injuries I unfortunately could have avoided. This recent injury I didn't do anything, it just reherniated on its own. I think had I been more careful I still would have reherniated (just because I am so young, I have a lot of life to go), but it would have been at later date. I do not regret my surgeries at all. The stat I have heard is that you are 25% more likely to herniate a disc after a surgery than a normal person, but everyone is different.

    I am so sorry to hear about your MRI wait- that is crazy! I complain about waiting 2 weeks. Be persistent!! One time I even went to the ER because the pain was so bad and I was able to get a stat MRI. Not sure if that's an option for you.
    25 years old: Herniated L4-L5, L5-S1 December 2008. L4-L5 microdiscectomy Sept 2010. L5-S1 microdiscectomy March 2012. Redo L4-L5 microdiscectomy Sept 2013. Redo microdiscectomy Oct 2015.
  • Well I got my MRI date and it's 2 weeks from now so at least they prioritize based on circumstance.
    I tried not taking any pain killers this morning and going on my little morning walk without them and it was not pleasant! I lasted 4 hours this morning and am now lying down with a percocet. It's the exact pain I had prior to surgery so I'm definitely gong to be in a similar situation to you.
    So sorry to hear that you reherniated. Keep me posted on your progress with injections or whatever else you try.
    I'll post an update when I get my mri results.
  • Hi Erin! I was 99% sure I had reherniated after my microdiscectomy twice after my surgery. One time I even felt a pop before my symptoms returned. I had an MRI after each time, and turned out that the problem was inflammation. So it's definitely possible that you didn't reherniate.
    L4/5/S1 scar tissue removal surgery, plus unexpected L4/5 microdiscectomy #2 October 2015
    L4/5 microdiscectomy May 2015
    2-level ADR C4-6 (Mobi-C) February 2015
  • I was having a bit of a meltdown after 2 sleepless nights with burning pain down my leg that my friend finally said "that's it I'm taking you to the ER!!". I spent the day there yesterday and they did an emergency MRI because they were worried about cauda equina (I think my bowels and bladder were a bit off because of anxiety the past week
    ..but mentioning it got me the MRI!!) ....my MRI was clear. NO reherniation. Honestly I was shocked. I think it's good and bad news because now I'm back to square one. I guess I'll trt to keep in mind that it's only 6 weeks post surgery and try to be patient until I see my surgeon for a follow up in a month. It's hard when everyone had me believe my sciatica would be gone immediately. I'm still thinking of possibly looking into epidural injections. I keep having doubts that maybe it was my SI all along. They didn't use contrast on the MRI and couldn't give me any detail so I'm looking forward to getting more info from the surgeon. It's just a long wait. Did they spot inflammation on your MRI?
    Thanks for the responses.
  • georgiamamaggeorgiamama Posts: 1
    edited 09/22/2015 - 10:14 PM
    Erin, I could have written your original post! I'm nearly six weeks post-surgery (L5-S1 microdiscectomy), and my leg pain is about the same -- if not worse -- than before the surgery. It is incredibly frustrating. I also have two kids and am really tired of being out of commission. It's going on a year since my sciatica started last fall. The irritation is in a slightly different place than pre-surgery, but it's definitely still the sciatic nerve. I thought this was supposed to go away!! So, seriously -- no reherniation on MRI? That's good news, but it's beyond frustrating. Would love to hear what your surgeon has to say. I see mine on Monday --

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  • Georgia mama
    Your situation really does sound exactly like mine. I have some good news that will hopefully give you some hope. The past 2 days I feel like a different person. It is the weirdest thing but my pain has just lifted! It's still there but SO mild that I've been able to just take ibuprofen a couple times a day and it's gone..and I've been going out. I drove for the first time and went grocery shopping yesterday and a walk to the park (with the babysitter since I can't lift)...but believe me I couldn't do these things last week. It honestly happened so fast it is so strange.
    That means it took 6 weeks for the inflammation to settle. You have hope. I also felt like my sciatica was in a slightly different spot...or the pain wasn't following the exact path it did pre surgery.
    I bumped into a guy on the street who had this exact surgery years ago and he told me he took months and months for his nerve pain to go away.
    Today I feel some of the old pain back again so I'm going to mostly lie in bed and ice. I think I just did so much the past 2 days my body is reacting. It's going to be a long road but I think this is just how some of us heal. ESPECIALLY with small kids because we aren't really resting even when we think we are.
    Have you had any "good days" at all? I honestly had none from the first week until 2 days ago. Hope that helps. I'll keep you posted as I'm sure this is going to be a bit of a roller-coaster recovery.
  • fixedffixed Posts: 1
    edited 09/25/2015 - 8:12 AM
    After physical therapy, my leg pain and hip pain had increased. Because I have been strength training and athletic for most of my life, I realized that it was due to muscle imbalances.
    1) lower back pain is due to spinal erector weakness. Hyperextensions will relieve this pain.
    2) hip pain is due to weak adductors. Sitting adductor machine exercise will relieve this pain.
    3) pain in the lower leg is tight hamstrings. Stretch using freemotion calf machine.
    These three exercises are the opposing muscle groups to some of the exercises your physical therapist recommended. Most PT places don't have the equipment to do these exercises, but most gyms do. They will immediately relieve the pain, which will come back until the muscles get stronger which can take 2 months of going twice a week. Check if it's ok to do them with your doctor. If ok, you will be surprised at the immediate relief.


    There are many different causes for back pain. There has not been one definite reason for these problems, each situation is different.
    Before you try any supplement, herb, over the counter item, exercise program[/u], mechanical aid, brace, etc [u]always consult with your doctor to make sure you get their approval. For many spinal patients, standard gyms are not always appropriate. Many rehabilitation centers have both aquatic and exercise facilities. What makes these better than other facilities, is that you have therapists and technicians that watch over you. This way they make sure that you are doing the correct things for your condition and not to do anything that can cause potential harm.
    Some of these products may be very effective, but no two individuals or medical conditions are alike. What works for one, may cause trouble for another..

    Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator

    Welcome to Spine-Health
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