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Lower back spams 5 weeks post op from L5 S1 microdecompression

I had a large herniation of the L5 S1 disc. I underwent micro depcimpression surgery the end of February. I am almost 5 weeks post op. Over the last few days I’ve been experiencing continuous low back spasms. I have tried ice, heat, ibuprofen, muscle relaxants and my doctor increased Gabapentin from 900 mg a day to 1200 mg. The spasms make walking, sitting and lying down extremely painful. I have just started physical therapy for light stretching and massage for my leg which upon standing my hamstring muscle tightens to the point I cannot walk. My doctor advised the nerves are irritated and with medicine and therapy things should improve. Has anyone else experienced this during recovery? 



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,528

    You are experiencing what almost every spinal patient goes through after surgery.  During the recovery process, there are bound to be some ups and downs, especially with nerve pain.  Nerve pain can take much longer to heal then the actual disc repair.

    Please take a look at  Recovery, the most important phase - Patience

    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Thank you for your response. It is very helpful to know this is all part of the recovery process and to stay positive during this journey to recover and regain strength.

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  • jenp9299

    welcome to spine-health

    learn how to use spine-health - take the system tutorial 

    as ron said what you are experiencing is pretty normal, nerves were moved and stretched during surgery, they are looking for their new normal after being decompressed during surgery, the increased dosage of gabapentin should help given time, pt can also be invaluable in helping muscle spasms.
    from experience, it gets better and keeping a good attitude even when you are hurting goes a long way.

    good luck with your recovery and keep us posted.


    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Thank you. It’s so nice to have this forum to discuss our ups and downs of recovery. I have therapy today so I will bring up the spasms and see how they can help me. I

  • Update my physical therapist had a heck of a time trying to relieve the spasms but told me to use my Tens machine all weekend and walk as much as possible. My surgeon prescribed Valium which has helped to take the edge offf. The Tens machine has helped a lot. The spasms come back a few hours later but I’ll take any amount of freedom. My upper hamstring is still really tight and still constricts upon standing. I’m guessing that will just take time. My surgeon also mentioned they want to do a MRI on my neck and upper back to rule out any issues. I am waiting for insurance to approve and hopefully get that taken care of this week. My last MRI last week for my lumbar region showed a mild bulge on the L4-L5 with a mild forminal bilateral stenosis. There is a mild bulge of the L5-S1 but surgeon said that was normal since she removed a large herlniation. There is a mild to moderate neural forminal stenosis. I was wondering if this may be why my hamstring is so tight. Therapist says the nerves are irritated and surgeon didn’t think it was of concern. I’m just hoping I continue to get better. Positive thoughts and I am excited to leave the house to go to therapy.

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  • Hopefully your MRI comes back clean, muscle spasms can be painful and hard to get rid of, but it sounds like you are on the right track with medication and PT.

    Stay the course and keep that good attitude.

    Keep us informed


    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Good news my upper neck and thoracic MRI did not turn up any new issues. My doctor is still perplexed why my upper leg muscles immediately constrict upon standing and walking is becoming difficult again. It’s not as bad before surgery but still there. The next step is to do 3 weeks of aggressive physical therapy and then regroup to determine whether an injection may help. Doctor says it could be sacroiliac joint, nerve irritated exiting to my upper thigh or more research to try to figure this out. I asked if from my last MRI whether the left neural forminal stenosis was causing this even though radiology stated mild to moderate symptoms. They didn’t think so but I’m not too sure. Time will tell now I completed 1 week of therapy and can tell I’m getting a little stronger. Leg not changing so anxious to see if next week whether anything changes. I’m also thinking of trying to find a second opinion on this situation if my doctor continues to say they don’t know why this is happening. 

  • My left leg still having issues with thigh constricting when I stand and try to walk. Physical therapist recommends riding stationary bike for a few minutes and build up time as long as I can take it. I do my other stretches twice daily and stretch a lot on my leg. I am going back to work in 3 weeks and so nervous about the pain and my inability to stand, walk or sit too long. I saw my surgeon the day of surgery but won’t see her until early June. I’m hoping no problems but making a list about my leg. I just wish I could walk normal again. Has anyone gone through long term leg pain? Has pain improved over time? I’m on gabapentin and I’m using vitamins and supplements to help. It just is so hard to be so inactive but I’ve learned we all have to fight this no matter what. I have my days I just want to give up but know that is not going to help my situation. Any stories or thoughts I’d appreciate.

  • jen

    In the grand scheme of things you are still early in recovery, you are tired of hearing that by now, I am sure of that, you said that your herniation was large, so there was probably quite a bit of nerve involvement associated with it, during surgery the nerves were decompressed, moved and stretched, surgical pain goes away fairly quickly, but nerves are slow to heal, and ther is really not anything you can do to hurry them up.

    Your question about led pain, after my last surgery in November 2018, I woke up with both legs hurting, really weren't bothering me before surgery, the left leg cleared up pretty good after about 3 months, my right leg has finally started feeling pretty good, but my right foot still bothers me, but does seem to be improving, so as I said nerves are very slow to heal. In your earlier post you said that your dosage of Gabapentin had been increased to 1200 mg, that is still a fairly low dosage, so you may need another increase, you didn't mention anything about a muscle relaxer, they can be very helpful with the problems you mention, those are thing's you need to discuss with your doctor.

    Take care and keep us posted


    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Thanks for your post and how long it takes these nerves to calm down. I’m glad your nerves are starting to calm down. I get the foot issues. I still get numbness and figured that may not come back. I’d be okay with that just hoping for the leg recovery. I took your advice and left a message for my doctor to discuss the increase in gabapentin. I had 1 prescription of Valium for muscle spasms and when I spoke to the doctor’s office the nurse advised this will be my last refill. I was advised this would be the only refill since they don’t want me to become a drug addict. I was shocked when they assumed I’d want Valium for a drug addiction. I’ve only had 1 script and it helped me though spasms that happen after physical therapy. I’m going to discuss this with the doctor when I receive a call back sometime this week. The last thing I want to do as most of us feel is to depend on these drugs to get through the day.

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