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L4/L5/S1 laminectomy with CES and foot drop. Any advice?

LBGChrisLLBGChris Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey guys and gals! So like the topic says, on Sunday I got a long overdue surgery on some severely herniated discs in my lower back. I am 25... soon to be 26!

This is kind of a long story because I have a lot of history, so if you don't want to read it just skip to the end to my questions :) Basically one morning about 3.5 years ago now, I woke up in the worst pain I've ever been in in my life. I got an MRI and they found 4 herniated discs. At the time, surgery was not recommended and I tried a number of methods to relieve the pain including steroid injections (didn't work) and visiting a chiropractor (worked a little). I've been dealing with quite a bit of sciatica as well. I can't remember the last time I put my shoes on pain free and without having to lay down in a bed, or touched my toes standing up.

Anyway, fast forward to Jan 2nd (Saturday). Got in a wrestling match with my roommate and he pulled me off the couch onto the floor and BAM! Terrible pain. Got much worse by 6 hours later and my foot and entire right leg were completely numb with occasional pins and needles. My groin and butt were also completely numb, which scared me doubly. This progressed to horrible pain throughout the entire leg and foot and I can safely say worst pain in my life all over again! I had my roommate take me to the hospital, they diagnosed me with sciatica and a back contusion and sent me home with some muscle relaxers and vicodin... thanks. I was writhing in pain at this point with a numb foot in a wheelchair... I followed up with my doctor on Monday and had to be wheeled in by my roommate. They recommended me to see an MRI specialist and had me get an MRI. They said they would have the doc contact me within 48 hours. I hobbled out of the office without assistance with a 'cane' I had made with a broom handle. Roommate was at work and family is back in Michigan, so I had to call a taxi to shuttle myself home. I got a call from the doctor the same day, telling me I need to get to the hospital as soon as possible and get emergency surgery on my back, because of two severely herniated discs and of course the foot problem and numbness in the saddle region. I had my roommate leave work early and he took me in, and basically they had me in surgery within the next few hours. They diagnosed me with CES at that point, along with the 2 severely herniated discs. This was a different hospital by the way. If any of you guys live near Phoenix, AZ do NOT go to Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa.. they have no idea what their talking about when it comes to back problems. I went to St. Joseph's in Phoenix (the Barrow Neurological Institute) and they took really good care of me.

Now I'm at a hotel with my dad who flew out here, we've been here for about 5 days now. My apartment was too small to get around in a walker. Thanks to whoever wrote the article on post op necessities by the way, it's very true! The surgery seems to have been a success and I'm slowly regaining sensation in my saddle area, my leg is fairly pain free (which it hasn't been in a long time), my foot is still numb but I am regaining some motion and feeling with the exercises they gave me and I'll be starting physical therapy in a few weeks once I come back to Arizona from Michigan. I'm going back home for a few weeks to be with family and recuperate. Unfortunately my job let me go because I couldn't be at work for about 2 months because of the injury, so I'm jobless at the moment. I'm also starting school on the 20th, but won't be able to actually start until February 1st when I return to AZ.

So my questions are, if any of you have been through a similar scenario with CES, how long did it take for you to recover full feeling in the saddle region?

And for anyone with a numb foot, how long does it take to resolve? I am being patient and optimistic that someday I can hike the awesome mountains here in Arizona. That is my goal.

Do any of you pros have any general recommendations for post-op newbies like me? Just any advice at all that you found helped (PT, exercises, pain management, etc...).

Thanks for taking the time to read this and good luck to everyone with their recovery! If anyone needs any support please let me know, I feel like I've pretty much seen it all at this point. Luckily, I've escaped a fusion for now, but the doctor said it is a possibility for me someday.



  • Hi Chris,
    There is so many people here in SH who will probably have some really good advice for you, they have helped me tremendously as we all try to recover and climb mountains before we are probably ready too!!

    I just wanted to say hello and wish you the best as you recover and be thankful that they caught your CES because it could have resulted in some serious permanent issues for you if your treatment had been delayed and you started to loose bowel and bladder control.

    I know that nerves take a long time to heal but the fact that some of your numbness has resolved already and you are young and otherwise healthy hopefully you'll continue on your road to recovery, just take it easy for a while, don't try to do too much at once as you want your surgery to heal properly without any complications.

    Until you start your PT, WALK! do lots of little walks rather than one big long one, listen to your body. Did you have a laminectomy and diskectomy? Hopefully you can avoid a fusion for a while.

    I wish I could assist more, but I just wanted to offer my best wishes to you as you have obviously been through alot. Keep your positive attitude, listen to your doctor and no BLT!!!

    Take care,
  • You are very lucky that you had a crew who had the sense to tell you to have emergency surgery. One of my surgeons took his fellowship at Barrow, so I am familiar with it, and I assume they did a good job on your surgery. Time is of the essence with CES.

    With the numbness, both the foot and the saddle area, no one can say how long it may be numb or how long it might take to resolve. Nerve injuries are impossible to predict, but we do all know that nerves are notorious for healing very slowly. Just try to be patient and follow your doctor's instructions as closely as possible. Don't try to get by or get around something, even if it strikes you as silly or stupid. And all it takes is one episode of doing something wrong to cause problems/damage.

    Be very aware to avoid any activity that requires bending, twisting, reaching overhead or to the side. Do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Avoid riding more than about 20 minutes in a car at a time, and avoid rough roads, bumps, etc. You should not sit for longer than about 20 minutes and some doctors say to limit it to 3 times per day at first...when you're eating, for example. (Mine was not this strict.)

    Basically you just want to be very mindful of your body and how you use it, particularly the first three months. Your want to avoid reherniation and you want to avoid fusion. This will require using good body mechanics, moderation of some activities, using good posture, particularly when sitting.

    While you're home, you might want to take some time to read some of the articles on this website. If you are going to be a spiney, it behooves you to learn all about your particular conditions, and how you can minimize future problems.

    Try to get up on the plane and walk a bit...just to stretch out those tissues. Oh, and I almost forgot...the most basic thing...walk, walk, walk. But don't overdo it. Walking is the best exercise for you after surgery. Try to walk for short distances on a flat surface, several times each day. This is the best activity for stretching out the spinal nerves. This helps to prevent scar tissue from attaching to the nerves as you are recovering. Distance is not that important...and you don't want to walk to the point where you are tired and in pain.

    Good luck in your recovery. I hope things go smoothly for you.


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  • Thanks Sandra! I actually read your story as I was going back through the archives right before I posted. How's everything working out? The first thing I thought of you was, this is a woman right here! Taking care of her kids and special needs children at work and dealing with back pain to boot! Your husband is a lucky guy!

    Yeah I hear CES is very serious and the onset was so sudden to me I recognized it immediately. Luckily I had read a lot about back issues before the second herniation happened so I was already aware of it.

    And yes I did have a laminectomy and a discectomy. I've been finding it difficult to walk recently because I sprained my ankle a few times just trying to get to the car to the go to the hospital that night, so it was a big swollen mess. It's kind of weak from football, I've probably sprained the same ankle upwards of 15 times in my life. So between that and the walker and my back, walks are not coming easy to me right now!

  • Thanks Gwennie! I've read your solid advice in many posts and am glad you had some input for me! How'd you become such an expert on this stuff?

    Thanks for recognizing the plane ride too, I actually forgot to ask about that.

  • Hi Chris---we are so glad they resolved the emergency problem----I have not experienced that but know how serious it can be.---I am a 2 time spinal fusion spiney,and I am 59 years old,so I really just want to tell you I am glad you are recovering,read the posts on here,and listen to your body!I only found this site about a week before my 2nd surgery,and I dearly wish I had found it sooner----it can see you through the good and not-so-good moments.sincerely,Jeannie
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