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Major numbness in leg post-op L5-S1. Help!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:29 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone.

I'm new to this board. I had L5-S1 microdiscectomy and laminectomy three days ago. Surgery was prescribed as I was having major numbness in leg, and foot, and serious pain on the calf. I also lost reflex in foot.

Since the operation, the numbness has been increasing considerably, much more than it was before. Every morning since the operation I wake up feeling my leg more numb and stiff, with decreased mobility. I can't find a good position to sleep on, and I wake up increasingly numb, tingly, with a bit of pain radiating down to the heel.

I am very scared. I don't know what I can do. Any suggestions?


  • I think you should call your surgeon. It might be nothing to worry about, but it doesn't sound good.
    There is always pain and tingling during the healing process, lots of stuff was moved around in there. The nerves are inflamed and irritated, and when the nerves aren't happy, nobody is happy.
    Try to rest, and call your doctor as soon as possible. Hopefully, everything will be fine. Good luck!
  • Welcome to the boards here, and to the community. I would reccomend also talking to your surgeon about the pain your having post op. It could be like jeq said, nothing too much to worry about but its always good to talk to your surgeon and relay what your feeling. In the first few weeks, heck even now at four months, I have what I call the symptom of the week. Its normal, as Ive seen many on here have increased pain at first due to inflamation around the surgical site, nerves and the like. I had pain enough that they got my inflamation under control in the first week with a steroid pack and that was for me a god send, and allowed me to get off pain meds a week later. Talk to your doctor and try (know its hard) to not get too worked up over it, your so fresh out of surgery that this could be inflamation causing pain. Its normal to feel tingles and twitches etc..hang in there. Keep us and your doc updated, and welcome to spine health. Best Wishes
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  • Thanks for your replies and support.

    I paged the hospital, and they called me back within minutes. The neurosurgeon on duty called me back. This is what I was told:

    Right now it is too early to tell if anything is wrong, since I just had the procedure done three days ago. The entire area is very swollen, because there's been muscle cut, and bones and disc tissue removed. Until the swelling decreases in the coming days, I won't be able to start noticing any improvement.

    It does make me feel a bit better to hear this, but it's very unsettling that after going through such invasive operation, today I feel my leg is more numb and weak than it was before the operation. It scares me and makes me nervous about the healing process. The mind has a way to race in all sorts of directions when you are afraid.

    I know that everyone's physiology is different, and everyone reacts differently to surgery. Some people find relief right away, some people do not. Is there are percentage for this? How long until folks start feeling the surgery made a difference?
  • it was the swelling. Are you icing your back? If you put a towel barrier between your skin/dressings and an ice pack (maybe a plastic bag too to prevent wetness), the ice can help the swelling go down. Your nerves get more compressed from the swelling. Hope you continue to heal and feel better soon!


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • There is no way to answer your questions, even though it is something we all wish we knew the answer to. First as you stated, everyone heals differently. Everyone starts out with a different situation -- a nerve is more compressed, a foramen is more plugged, etc.

    My surgeon told me a story to illustrate how there is no way to predict who will heal perfectly and who will end up with problems. He operated on one person who had a lot of nerve compression. He and his assistant had a terrible time getting the nerves untangled and freed up. They had to tug and pull and he was very afraid that the patient would end up with some problems. That patient recovered quickly and was completely pain free. That same week he did the same procedure on another woman. He said the surgery was textbook perfect -- everything went perfectly -- the nerve was not entrapped -- no pulling or tugging was involved. He was very pleased that it had gone so well. The lady recovered, but a week later she called him to report foot drop, something she had NEVER had prior to surgery. There was no logical reason for why this occurred, and he was as mystified as anyone. So he told me that a surgeon can do a perfect surgery but there still is no guarantee that everything will turn out the way we want it to.

    For the type of surgery you had, some people feel great relief immediately. Some gradually start to feel better and some recover and feel as they did prior to surgery. It is a crap shoot.

    Hopefully you will be among the lucky ones.
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  • I hope you're feeling better soon and to do the icing as said earlier. I hope the numbness and pain go but still follow up with your own Surgeon and see him as he may have a treatment for you or take another MRI. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Were your leg and foot numb to this extend before surgery, or it get worse.

    After my surgery, I was in the same situation like you, I couldn't move my leg. When the recovery nurse woke me, the first thing I said was, 'I can't feel my foot'. Immediately she notified the surgeon, and he came to access it. I failed the pin test or any commands. I just can't move my foot. An MRI was done, and within days, I had another surgery. The problem was re-herniation and fragments found. After that surgery, the leg and foot pain and numbness left.
  • I, too have had a LOT of worrisome things going on during my recovery thus far . I posted all of it, but my computer got hijacked, and much of it disappeared. In a nutshell: numbness increases exponentially after the surgery, was told to ice and take ibuprofen, and eventually, it just went away. On the third day home, while moving in bed, I felt an explosion of pain in my lower back (felt like everything broke), but mechanically, everything was fine, but to this day if I move a certain way while in bed, I have this same explosion, and I find it very difficult to get out of bed without getting the same pain. HOWEVER, after sleeping around 3-4 hours, MOST times, this symptom disappears for the night. My pre-op pain was back almost immediately, but after 3 weeks in water therapy, I am finally beginning to feel relief, and today I got my own tens unit, which will hopefully get me off the pain meds I'm still on. (my surgeon told me I would be off work for at least 6 month post op, but I am determined to prove him wrong!) I started out post-op taking one step forward, and 10 back, but I am close to taking 3 steps forward and 1 back now. As you can see, everyone is different. I was practically afraid of every little buzz in my back, but as time goes on I am getting used to it. Don't be afraid to call your surgeon (most likely you will talk to his/her pa, but they know what they are talking about). Many times I felt like I was being blown off, but I think it was just because the things that were upsetting me were nothing to be getting worked up about. But, just in case, call them for whatever you feel you need to, they will know if you should worry. Also, even if they blow you off the first time, if the symptoms persist, call them and tell them again! Maybe something is normal for one period of time, and after that amount of time, it needs to be looked into, (such as the numbness). I'm rambling, but I hope I got the point I was trying to make across!

    Take care!

  • 1 major thing did after surgery was to ice the lower back every 2 hrs to keep down swelling still do 5 months after micro in l5-s1. I did have and still have days where i feel weaker then othersbut at first after sugery i feltstronger with every passing day un till i hit what seems to be a platue. But i does take along tiime for verves to heal. I did have intense burning in my foot like if you have ever gotten your hands really cold and them pu them under hot water. I have abig ice pack that i got from the pharmacy its about 12inches by 24 inches the gel type. I just asked the pharmasist for one.Hope you get feeling better.
  • To answer your questions, yes, my leg and foot were numb and painful before surgery for several months, but it's different now. Pain was worse before surgery. Numbness is worse now than before.

    Today numbness got a bit worse, and the weakness increased too. Before surgery, the pain in the calf and the weakness in ankle and back of knee made me limp very noticeably. Saturday/Sunday I noticed that at least I was not limping. That was the one single improvement I noticed after the procedure.

    Well, I started limping again today. :S

    I'm worried, as I feel a very noticeable decrease in control of the leg.

    Last night it was awful. I couldn't lay on my back, as it increased discomfort and leg numbness. I had to carefully move around, time and time again, to stay on my side.

    Through the day I noticed how pain, weakness and numbness were slowly but surely increasing. I can move my foot and ankle, there's no foot drop, but the leg down the knee feels completely asleep, mostly in the heel and foot.

    Also, for whatever is worth, I felt a very mild spasm from the back down the buttocks a few times today. It lasted a few seconds every time. Not painful, but weird.

    I called the doctor, and assistant mentioned it's too early to tell, but it's probably the inflammation of the lumbar area. I'm adding ibuprofen, in addition to the pain medication, as they suggested. Getting very worried. :SS
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