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Foot drop, calf numbness & loss of balance. Could this be permanent?

Hi, I had severe sciatic pain in right leg and foot drop in ankle and toes for around 7-8 weeks. Had revision microdiscectomy 2 weeks ago. I had herniated disc with annual tear in L5S1. Disc had sequestered and surgeon removed quite large portion of fragments. Same thing happened 3 yrs ago. Since initla injury I've had reduced sensation in my foot and very mild reduced motor function. Before the op this time, I had reduced movement in foot/ankle and toes. Could not stand on toes or heel. Some numbness in foot and down right leg. Immediately following surgery, I had complete paralysis of right leg and could not feel anything. All strength was gone. Within around 6 hrs, this had improved a lot. However, since then, I've had more severe foot drop and leg numbness than pre-op. This includes the following to right leg:
- inability to raise foot upwards at all
- inability to move foot to the right at all
- limited strength to move foot left (around 1mm movement)
- slightly more movement to push foot downwards (around 3mm movement)
- can push big toe downwards and upwards (around 3mm)
- cannot move any other toes
- altered sensation in outer leg (all the way from top of thigh to ankle) and entire foot (except top of foot where I have very painful sciatic pain)
- loss of strength in thigh muscle when tensing (left thigh is 3-4 times stronger)
- unable to tense any muscles below knee, cannot tense calf muscle)
- sciatic pain greatly improved compared to pre-surgery, although on far stronger pain killers - the pain is from top of buttock, through the thigh and then nothing in calf or toes, but in top of foot (before surgery, calf pain was the worse pain)
- feelings of numbness in calf and foot
- cannot feel heat underneath foot or calf (if I have a hot water bottle under both legs, I feel it burn left calf, but can barely feel it in my right calf)

I was given a crutch and splint from the hospital when I was discharged as very shaky, frequently lose my balance and have limp. I can't feel my foot very well when walking and walk on right side of foot more than left - it is noticeable that my foot is not flat on the floor and can't put strength through it to walk on a flat foot. When I get tired, my foot drags completely and I have to lift my leg up. I lost my balance yesterday and fell backwards over the sofa and felt severe pain in the incision site and today when foot was dragging, fell forwards and hit my head on the corner of the TV causing big lump.

I'm really worried that it is much worse than before the surgery and haven't had physiotherapy since leaving hospital. I've been trying to walk as much as possible within pain limits (2-r3 x 15-20 mins per day) and use theraband to drop strengthening exercises. I've seen no improvements at all. Is it likely that any of these things will get better or could this be permanent?

I've been told I can't drive until I have regained strength, but need a car for my job. Please could someone give me some advice on what else I might be able to try?



  • WreckbackWWreckback Posts: 2
    edited 12/17/2015 - 8:28 AM

    I feel your pain, thanksgiving 2009 I dropped a set of keys , when I bent over to pick them up I collapsed. The Next day I had complete drop foot and no ability to move anything below the knee. I had an MRI that Friday, while driving home from MRI they called me on my cell phone and told me to call my doctor, and go to hospital. needless to say I was in for the next available surgery due to a Large posterior Para central disc extrusion at L5-S1.

    Unfortunately it took over a year before my left leg could be used as anything other than a prosthetic leg, I was told the Nerve root was so flattened that "IF" it were to ever recover it would be quite some time.

    My advice seek a very good physical therapist and stick with it for as long as it takes.

    My Nerve Damage never recovered, then 3 years later the disc they operated on re-herniated out the right side and impinged the right S1 nerve.
    Having had 1 failed back surgery a second was pointless. 6 years after surgery I have EMG /NCT/NVT confirmed extensive nerve damage in the L5 and S1 nerve roots of both legs. I have also developed L4 and S2 radiculopathy as well and Life is a living hell.

    Developing nerve damage is extremely rare, but it is usually the surgery itself that is the cause of it. My surgery I had no choice due to how quickly and severely I was incapacitated.

    Unless absolutely necessary avoid thinking about surgery, Focus on the very long painstaking recovery in front of you, BUT STICK with it. It may take 2 years before you are completely recovered, and as long as it is not getting progressively worse it is getting better. It may seem discouraging to hear 2 years ! But trust me its better than hearing " not only is it NEVER going to get better, but It is most certainly going to get worse.

    Don't ignore it like I did, if your therapist is no good, find another, or a chiropractor, acupuncture, whatever works, just keep working at it.
    47 Year old Male Degenerative disc, joint, ligament, disease , L1through S1 , FBS, FBSS, e EMG / NCT / NVT confirmed nerve root damage both L5 and S1 Nerve Roots
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,459
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  • Hi Savage,
    Thank you so much for your reply. Did your nerve damage get worse after surgery? I'd wished to avoid a second as I know how awful the first was, but like you, was incapacitated by pain and was bed bound for 2 months. It seems I have weakness from L3 down to S1 but my MRI scans are clear and there is no compression above L5.

    I've been to see a PT and working with him to improve the strength. I'm 5 weeks out of surgery and no improvements yet. I'm working on my leg everyday, but when I went to see the surgeon, he said the weakness has got worse? I don't think I agree, I think the tests in the hospital weren't very accurate. Waiting for EMG/NCS to see what it says.

    Am I right in thinking that nerve damage can be worse after surgery and this is normal?

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