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Permanent nerve damage?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
I have a disc pressing against my L5-S1 nerve area, giving me pain down my leg since September. I was originally scheduled to have surgery in February but I am thinking of pushing it to May. Is there a chance that I will have permanent nerve damage if I do that? If not, how long does it take before nerves are permanently damaged from the herniated disc?


  • and welcome to the forum. You will find a ton of support and understanding from all of our amazing members here. Your question is a tough one because everyone's body is different so it is hard to tell when permanent nerve damage is going to kick in. Have you talked to your doctor about pushing the surgery date from February to May and if so , then what does the doc say? You might want to think about making a list of your symptoms , your questions , concerns , etc...and taking those to your doctor to get some answers. None of us here are doctors so we can't really give you any medical advice , the only medical advice that you need to follow is your doctor's. I wish you the best of luck and please do keep us posted as to how you are doing and what you decide to do. You are not alone in all of this , we are here with you. If there is ever anything that I can do for you then please do not hesitate to just let me know. Take care....Miki
  • Your question is one we all ask and wonder about, and it is one that doesn't really have a specific answer. Even looking at imaging tests, it is difficult for your doctor to know the extent that the nerve is being compressed. Even if he could tell, there is no way of knowing what might be causing permanent damage. A nerve can look terribly mangled and there can end up being no damage, and conversely, a nerve can look "fine," and the person ends up with significant damage. And there is no way a surgeon can judge how things will turn out.

    Many people who have herniated a disc choose to wait and see if things will improve on their own, without a surgical intervention. It can often take 6 months or longer for the pain to start to lessen.

    Assuming that you do not have bowel or bladder involvement or foot drop, most surgeries are done for pain relief. In the majority of patients, whether you have surgery immediately or choose to try healing through rest and conservative treatments, you will end up at about the same place five years down the road. I am speaking of lumbar disc issues. I do not know anything about cervical discs and how they respond.

    What are your reasons for waiting?
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  • Hi

    So sorry to hear of your pain.

    I had pain in my right lower back for a few weeks and the physio couldn't help. I went off to see my doctor who tested my ankle reflexes which were normal.

    6 days later on the Monday night I had horrible pain starting in my thigh and it went down the nerve and by the end of the night my right foot was numb. Saw a surgeon and had an MRI on the Friday and was operated on on the Tuesday am!

    Not only had my L5/S1 become "old and shot" a very large lump had come away and was sitting next to the nerve. My ankle reflex is also badly compromised and my back is overcompensating all over place.

    I had my surgery on Nov 11 but the feeling in my foot is just this week at 75% and that was after only 1 week of it being numb. I am also having 2 hands on physio sessions a week and 1 pilates rehab a week.

    For me waiting for the nerve to come back has been horrible I thought would it would be ok when I woke up I didn't really think it could take the 18 months the surgeon warned me - I was wrong!

    Something that has helped me in my nerve recovery is done by a physio and it is called a straight leg raise with traction-done a lot in Oz!

    Hope this helps you make your mind up. I didn't really have a choice but now I am feeling more like me I realise how unwell I have been and for how long.
  • I have had the same problem you are describing, mine got so bad I went to the hospital. The on call neurosurgeon told me I was a canidate for surgery but he suggested I try more conventional options first. I first did the epidurals , 1st one nothing, so then before my second I started some traction which helped alittle, then my second epi. I had my first appointment with another surgeon the day after my second epi. I was feeling better because it was still alittle numb so I couldn't really complain about my symptoms properly, so he told me to continue with the 3rd epi. Before my third one I started having severe pain again so I called the surgeon hoping to be seen immediately only to be told it would be like a month. So There really wasn't much to do but wait and pop lots of drugs. I finally recieved the third epi and the pain seemed to be getting much better so they started me with physical therapy. I still have very accute pain if I move a certain way or if I walk too much or stand, but I still can not perform normal functions like putting on a sock, that brings exteme pain. So I have another visit to the surgeon in 1 week. I have no idea what he will say but I am better considering when I went into the hospital I couldn't even walk, my foot was numb and my ankle started to turn. I have all the feeling back just the underlying sciatica is still bothering me. I was worried about permenate nerve damage too but I guess the Dr. isn't. I would try some other things first, alot of people feel alot better with the epidurals. I'm still not sure I want surgery, but I know if this is what my life will be ,then I need to try it. I'm not satisfied with not being able to do normal things. My back pain started in Sept. was in the hospital mid Nov. and I'm still not scheduled for surgery. Why don't you try and reschedule for march and try some other treatments in the mean time, if they start to work you can always cancel the surgery. It's just that if things start to get worse at least your already scheduled. I just get so freaked out because everyone says to avoid surgery at all cost so I'm still confused. Good luck let me know how it works out. P.S. not sure about insurance but mine would only pay for surgery after trying conventional methods first. You may want to check it out.
  • Hi! Am new to site and tapping in from Hong Kong. Have extreme pain in left lower back and non-stop spasms in gluteal area with pain radiating down left leg. Am going to see my physican for referral to neurologist tomorrow after a year of this, and trying pain specialist, Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and osteopathy. have tried gentle exercising - makes it worse! Am now having to take tramadol and two sleeping pills at night as in so much pain. All started 18 months ago when was being treated for breast cancer with drugs that included taxotere. After the first chemo dose, left thigh went totally numb, and during the next three was very painful. As had previous suffered myofascial pain and had successful nerve burning treatment, went back to this surgeon who put me "back together", including Botox in my leg. Taxotere is known to cause problems to muscles and nerves. Was painfree for four months. Even my oncologist agrees have neuropathy. My physician took me off diazepam because he didn't want me to become dependent. Am hoping a neurologist is the best path. Didn't have any such problem before chemo. Have got through being depressed about it all, and now want action!
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  • Hi Lorna

    You've certainly been through it all!
    Well done on going to see someone and I hope you get some permanent relief.

    Let us know what the neurologist says.
    Sara from London
  • I would say YES. I believe my now pernanent nerve damage was a result of having to wait an extra 2 months for my op. I have had two L5/S1 op's and athe first one was undertaken within a week of having the symptons. I made a full recovery. I had a second op a year ago after waiting 4 months to have it done and now 12 months later have permanent nerve damage.
  • I just wanted to share my experience with you seeing as most of the people commented have had lumbar issues and not really cervical ones. 

    In jan of this year i work up with my neck in a tightened and stiff position. It felt like i had slept on it wrong. I couldnt turn my head without it locking up really bad. That happened for about two weeks and then went away. After a few weeks it came back. Same stiffness and everything. Then i felt sharp pain in my right bicep. Almost like when you touch your toes and you can feels your hamstrings hurting. And it was only when i was sitting up like in a chair. 

    As time passes on my forearm and hand would go numb. At this point im at about the beginning of March. Tried ice packs and heat and nothing helped except for laying down on my stomach. I was a delivery driver and i started to notice i couldnt remember stuff very well and i would get some serious headaches to the point i would puke and have to leave work. 

    So beginning of april rolls around and i finally told my husband im going to the er since it only seema to be getting worse. Go to the er and they do an xray and some neurological tests make sure im not having a stroke. They gave me some pain meds and steriods and told me to alternate ice and heat and that my xray looked fine. Well nothing worked. So i went back to the er a few days later and they gave me a steriod shot and some valium and torodol shot.(anxiety and pain meds) boy ill tell you what. I felt GREAT for the next 3 days. I thought the steriods and muscle relaxers did its thing. I was wrong.

    So mid april i follow up with a neurosurgeon the hospital referred me to. Its not until the end of april that i have any testing done to figure out whats going on. They did an emg and nvc on me.  had a follow up appt about a week later. Follow up appt comes and they tell me i for sure have a pinched nerve in my neck and want me to come back for an mri. Come back for my mri. Also complained about pain in my lower back and my leg going numb so he ordered me another mri for my back.

    Come back mid may and the doc looks at me and says you have a ruptured disc. One of the biggest ones ive seen and we need to get you in for surgery right away. So im like okay i fill out my surgery paperwork and go to check out. Ask them about my mri for back. They still havent gotten around to it. So i come back in two weeks for my med refill. This is about beginning of june. He tells me again i need surgery and i end up filling out the same paperwork again. Go back up to check out give her my surgery papers and ask again about my mri for my back and she tells me it expired on may 24th. Ill resubmit it for you so i said okay.

    They call me back to schedule my surgery for 6/16/17. Surgery wasnt bad at all. I do have a gnarly scar on my throat though. Recovery wasnt as easy as i thought it would be. (My dad had the same surgery and said he was able to go back to work the next day.) Well they had me on some pretty good pain meds in the hospital. I was discharged on the 17th. 

    I had to wear a neck brace which sucked. On the 20th i got into a car accident and was not wearing my brace.(it hurt worse to wear it than not to) so my husband immediately took me to the er they scanned me and i was okay just some whiplash. Never took off my collar after that. Go back on june 27th and checks me out and everything looks good he said. Asked again about my mri and she told me the same thing again. Did another xray on july 3rd went back on july 5th and said my xray was good and that i didnt need to wear my collar anymore. 

    So here i am. August 4th. My pain and numbness had subsided post surgery but now im having symptoms of neuropathy in my legs and arms. I finally go in for my mri and nerve testing on my legs on the 7th. The electrical shocks and deep achy pain are the worst at night time. And im now working with restrictions and have to sit and take a 10 minute break every 2 hours. If i stand for longer than that i cant bend over or squat down and ill have electrical shocks in the top of my butt shoot down into my leg and cause me not to be able to move for a good 5 minutes.

    I hope this helps you in your decision. If i was you i wouldnt wait. My process was about 5 1/2 month long. 3 months before i even went to the er. And im starting to get the pain and numbness back in my right arm and i think its because i have nerve damage from waiting so long and how hard i worked with it being pinched.

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