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L5-S1 microdiscectomy recovery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone - I'm new to the site, but glad I found it. What a wealth of information! OK, so I had a microdiscectomy 4 weeks ago and overall I feel a lot better. The leg pain is 90% gone, with the exception of first thing in the morning and random jolts of pain. Pre-surgery, the pain was in the back of my leg, into the upper calf and sometimes down to my foot. The pain was constant and got worse with movement. The effected leg also was substantially weaker than the other, and also had some numbness and pins and needles.

Since the surgery, the pain has mostly subsided, but the pins and needles has actually gotten worse, and the weakness is still there too. My doc says it can take several weeks for the nerve to recover, but I have also heard of some cases where the symptoms are gone completely after surgery. Is this normal? When should I realistically expect these symptoms to subside? Will they ever?

Thanks for any advice or info in advance. Tony in Chitown


  • And no solid diagosis. You will have to trust the doc or your own body on that one. But, I will tell you this:

    I had a discectomy in September of 2000. The leg pain went away almost immediately. I was good for about another year and then I started having other pains in my low back and legs. I tried a couple series of steroid shots, reduced some stresses and felt better. I had some periods of time, weeks and months, when the pain became unbearable again. I visited my NS at the time who said I should have a laminectomy to make room for the discs. Even though I was having partial paralysis and other problems I put it off stating that I would not have surgery until I just couldn't stand it anymore. I even went on to climb ancient ruins in Central America, go tubing, horseback riding etc.

    Now though, I cannot take it anymore. The disc has ruptured again leaving very little cushion between my vertebrae and causing severe low back pain. I had a discogram on Thursday and it looks like fusion is my next step. Surprisingly (to me) I am feeling at peace about it.

    One Love,

  • Welcome to Spine Health! I had a microdiscectomy 5 weeks ago yesterday at L5, S1, so I can relate to what you are going through. My pain was on the right side, right hip, and right leg. I also had numbness and pain in my right foot. After the surgery, the majority of the side and leg pain was gone, but the numbness in my right foot continued. In the hospital, my NS came to see me and said the numbness would last "a few weeks." He said since the nerve pain/numbness lasted for that long before the surgery, that's how long the nerves would take to get back to normal. However, when I saw him for my post-op visit at three weeks, he said it could take 3 to 4 MONTHS for it to go away because nerves are coming back to life and growing. For what it's worth, I also talked to a guy in the NS office lobby (you know how everyone talks to each other) and he had the same surgery with numbness that lasted 8 months. I think it all depends on the extent of nerve damage before hand and how long it lasted.

    Two weeks after my surgery, I drove for the first time, and the pins and needles in my right foot got worse. I had numbness in my right three toes and a few inches below my toes on the bottom of my foot, and the right side edge of my foot was in pain. I called the NS's nurse and was told the nerves would continue to be numb with some pins and needles and even new pain as the nerves heal/come back to life. This may be what you are experiencing as well. The best thing I can advise to you is to call your NS's office and talk to them about it.

    On the bright side, I had tremendous numbness and tingling in my right pinkie toe before the surgery and after. It was more annoying than anything else. But I have noticed in the past week or so that only one evening do I recall being annoyed by that numbness. It had been a constant annoyance, and now it's almost gone! I still have numbness/tingling in my foot and sometimes my leg, but I consider it a good sign that my little pinkie toe is almost back to normal. It's a small victory, but I'll take it!

    One thing my NS said to do was stand flat-footed and then roll up on my toes and then back down. Do that for a count of 10, and do it three times a day. I try to remember to do that, and I think it's helped my foot/toes. (DISCLAIMER: Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine...) I noticed I couldn't walk on my toes (on my right foot) after the surgery, and now I can for a few steps. Another tiny victory, but I'll take it.

    I hope this helps in some way! I would love to hear how you are progressing since we had surgery around the same time. Please don't hesitate to send me a Private Message.

    Best regards,

    PS: To Stephanie: BIG HUGS TO YOU for your upcoming surgery! >:D< >:D<

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  • Thank you Stephanie and Haylie for your comments. I tend to think the doctors don't really know when or if the nerves will fully recover. My surgeon told me beforehand that I may just "learn to live" with certain things when it comes to the back and the sciatic nerve. I was in and out of PT over the last year and I was never really able to get my condition under control. It might have something to do with my passion for playing ice hockey though. My ultimate goal is to be able to play again in some capacity, even if it means I need to slow it down and take it on more recreationally.

    At this point, I would be happy to go for a run or work out at the gym, so I'm not getting ahead of myself just yet. I meet with my doc for a 6 week follow up later this month, and I look forward to getting to the next phase of recovery. BTW, I am 40 as well.

    I will definitely keep you posted on my recovery and I hope you don't mind if I have a few questions along the way. Thanks again for the feedback, Tony
  • Welcome to the boards Tony! :D

    I had a disc/lami on l4/l5 & l5/s1 on July 11th, so I'm at 13 weeks out. I'm 38, so I'm very close to your age.

    My right foot was pretty weak for several weeks, up to around the week 8 point, while my right foot (big toe and around that area) is still numb. Just curious if you have been going to PT? If not, then I would definitely ask my Dr. why you've not been recommended to a PT or not? Believe me, the stretches and exercises they show you are wonderful. Yes, I know some people know how to do all the stretches etc... but actually having a person specialized in that area who can pinpoint specific spots, give massages if need, give you electric stimulation, etc.. is wonderful wonderful wonderful :))(

    Feel free to ask any questions you may have, but get to that PT! :))( That is of course if your DR. feels you're to that point.

  • I'm on a very similar time frame to you, having had a discectomy L4/L5 just over a mth ago. Same as you pain wise,basically gone from leg but still got some numbness and the odd zapp of pain down the leg now and then. I just saw my surgeon 2 days ago and he said it will all take some time to settle down. Get into the pool, PT and walk heaps. I had muscle wastage in my left leg, which only exercise & time will fix. Surgeon said take it easy till after Xmas then you should be back running on all 8 cylinders again.
    It sounds quite normal for the nerves to be tender for quite a little after the op.
    I even had a little ride on my MTB yesterday, so there is hope! :)))
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  • Tony,

    Welcome to spine friends and, back in 2005 I had an L4S/L5S1
    microdiscectomy with an drop foot also with that radiating pain down from my hip to my foot. For me after surgery i had instant relief the pain down my leg was gone and, I did not have a dropped foot any longer thank god. The only nerve damage i have is that my big toe is numb. I'm very happy how things turned out. My neurosurgeon told me it could take up to over a year for the nerve to regenerate.

    It sounds like you are doing pretty and, I would talk to your doctor and see what he says. It sounds like alot of us who have had this sugery have alot in common. Tony I wish you the best and, I hope your leg is pain free very soon. I still feel that i was very lucky. I went to rehab and, I would suggest to everyone who has had this procedure as well as getting into a walking program to stay active. For me it makes a big difference when i can walk and do my stretches. So good luck Tony and, just take ot one day at a time.

  • Thanks Dan - I did not start post op PT yet, but I was told after my 6 week follow up I can get started again. I did about 3 months (cumulative) PT over the last year, plus I did my own PT in between. I know how important PT is and I look forward to getting to that point again. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories, it really helps.
  • moved to tony's update thread.
  • Hi all,

    I had an L5-S1 microdiscectomy in March of 2008. As everyone on this thread, I was in intense pain for weeks (living on the floor getting by on highly addictive pain killers).

    Once I found the right kind of doctor, I was taken in for surgery in 10 hours. I ended up going to an orthopedic spine specialist, not a NS. All seemed to go well, apart from the nerve damage.

    I was told I would be back to 100% in a few weeks.

    It's been about 10 months now and I am mostly pain free, but have numbness in left two toes (smallest ones) calf, and part of the buttocks. There's no pain, but there is substantial weakness. This has caused my gait to change, leading to painful heel spurs or fat pad atrophy (my feet hurt when I walk).

    I am trying to find a doctor who can help me become a bit more mobile, as I still need to get around to work. Orthodics? Cane? Other?

    I am thinking about going to a PM&R specialist, but wanted to see if anyone had any suggestions for the type of doctor I should see. I am pretty much ok, apart of only being able to walk at the beach or with Keen sandles (don't work well in a business setting).

    Thanks in advance and good luck to all.

  • Hi everyone,

    I'm 20 years and had an L5-S1 microdiscectomy 6 weeks ago. The pain is practically gone, but the nerve is still causing lots of trouble. Keeping my leg straight, I can't lift it more than 2 feet off the ground without feeling the nerve pain. I've been doing Karate for fifteen years, and prior to this back problem I could keep that leg straight and lift my foot next to my face. Getting that flexibility back is my goal right now (and not re-injuring).

    The doctor who did the surgery was an orthopedic surgeon and he said after six weeks I'd be completely back to doing everything again...maybe he's a little too optimistic, or he exaggerated to sell the surgery...I don't really know. I'm definitely not at that point.

    Does anyone have tips for regaining flexibility or speeding up nerve regeneration? So far nothing I've done in physical therapy has worked.

    I wish you all the best with recovery!



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