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Will numbness go away without surgery

Pain_is_mePPain_is_me Posts: 69
My right leg has been numb from the back of my thigh right down to my heel, outside half of foot and 3 smallest toes since shortly after the sciatica hit in early July. It was very painful for a few weeks then just complete numbness. The heel hurts some times as if I've stood on a hard surface too long but its not too bad. I have lost reflex in my ankle and cannot push up on my toes. I have walked with a limp since the injury which was just from being crouched over gardening for too long.

I've read in here about people having numbness after surgery and it can take 2 years to get the feeling back. But my concern is will the feeling come back for me without surgery? Will it heal on its own?

I have a herniated disc (L5/S1)and arthritis in my lower spine causing sciatic nerve impingement. I went to PT for 4 months with no real improvement but had to stop anyway as my insurance will only cover 20 sessions a year. I still do some stretches but don't find it helps, I only keep it up so I don't get too stiff and lose muscle. The pain is the same and its awful. I haven't been able to go to the office to work for months. I work on a laptop at home in bed lying down. This is getting very depressing as I miss the social atmosphere at the office. I would love to be able to improve enough to go back without surgery.


  • Howdy Pain_is_me,

    Unfortunately, none of us can answer that for you. From having multiple surgeries (Ulnar) to move that nerve in my right elbow, wrist and palm, it took over a year for all my feeling to come back - but the nerve was deemed "not damaged" after that surgery. When my C6/7 herniated, the strong 'slap' of the disk into the exit nerve was deemed to have damaged the nerve. My C5/6 herniated slowly, so post surgical, all feeling came back within days! See? You can never tell!

    I am over a year and a half out, and no feeling has improved along the C7 nerve root. Your doctor would have to do testing of your nerves to see if they are damaged, that coupled with "how" bad the nerve is being irritated and such. Have you asked him that yet? I hope you can avoid surgery, but the final on that will be between you and your spine specialist in the end.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hey there,

    Your symptoms sound similar to mine, other than my herniated disc was due to a morning stretch and it was quite instant and painful.

    I have no feeling in my left buttocks, perineum (groin), back left thigh, left heel to outer toes. When it happened, I lost ankle reflex and couldn't push up on my toes or even walk on my toes as my left foot was fall.

    I had a microdiscectomy that failed. Not sure if I reherniated or if there was a piece left behind. I had a 2nd microdiscectomy and can only tell you my experience. After the 2nd surgery, it took about 2-3 months but I can actually push up on my toes and I no longer walk with a limp. I had to do PT to build up to that. The feeling hasn't come back though which is disappointing. However, my pain levels are down.

    I don't know if your numbness will subside with surgery. I don't think your surgeon can guarantee it either. There are so many factors and the nervous system is quite complex. I have been told 1-2 years before my feeling will come back but I was also told that there is no guarantee b/c the nerve may have been compressed too long or taken too hard a hit from the initial herniation.

    I will say I was hesitant on my 1st surgery but b/c there was a real concern that my bladder nerves would be impacted, I felt I didn't have another choice that was really great. They could have tried ESI (epidural injection) but the mass was so large that you couldn't see my sciatic nerve. We tried steroid (oral) before the surgery but they did nothing. I was also house bound.

    After the 1st surgery, I had great expectations but they didn't come true...I really felt no difference. I did find out I reherniated (or had another large piece of disc pressing on the nerve). I did a lot of research and found a new surgeon that I felt I could have a lifelong relationship with.

    I went for the revision surgery (redo of the microdiscectomy)going in with the expectation that I was trying to reduce my nerve pain (back and leg). It worked...I can now go to work. I have to make sure I walk throughout the day and alter b/t sitting/standing. I can now ride in a car for an hour without needing pain meds. I can walk without a limp.

    Can numbness go away without surgery?
    Can numbness go away with surgery?

    Neither can be answered. The lower back needs time. Sometimes the disc material can shrink/dry out and it only needs to come off the nerve a little to get relief. But it takes a lot of time. I just want to share with you both sides...it doesn't necessarily come back with surgery either.

    I opted for the surgery only b/c my world was closing in on me. Even going for a cup of coffee was a dreaded event. Going to get gas in my car and the mail at the end of the driveway was a production. I tried to 'wait' before my 2nd surgery and things didn't improve.

    Surgery vs. no surgery is a personal decision. I don't advocate jumping into lower back surgery without trying things but I'm also not a doctor and each situation is so different.

    Are you on any meds for the pain?
    Have you spoken to your doctor about options?
    - ESI
    - Medroldose pack (oral steroid) or prednison?
    -Lyrica/neurontin which is a nerve blocker to reduce the pain that comes with the numb leg? (these do have side effects)

    It stinks...sorry you are here but I hope some of the things I mentioned help.
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  • Thank you both for your responses. Dnice, like you said in your message, I too feel that my world is closing in on me. I have to work from home, I can't drive the 2 hrs to visit my daughter and grandkids, going out for milk is an ordeal and even to visit someone nearby is hard and I have to leave early due to the pain. I feel like I AM pain and it controls my life and what I can do. I am taking Lyrica 150 mg in the am and 100 at night. I also have Tylenol 3 I just take when I need it but it doesn't do much for the pain and it puts me to sleep so I don't take it too often. I did 4 months of PT with little results and my insurance wouldn't cover any more so I had to stop.

    My GP is the only doctor I've seen yet except outpatients and clinics. She has no sympathy or compassion. Every time I see her she tells me how everyone has arthritis and everyone has some back pain, I just need to learn to live with it. She goes on about the evils of pain meds and how it doesn't solve the problem (I know this) but she doesn't offer any other options. I have been referred to an orthopedic surgeon but don't have appt until April. I have also asked for referral to pain management but still waiting for that appt as well. My doctor tells me the specialist won't be able to do anything for me either but I'm choosing to ignore her and hope for the best. I have to get a new Xray in March before my appt and I think I will keep a pain log so I can show the doc more clearly how I'm feeling every day.
  • Pain_is_me said:

    My GP is the only doctor I've seen yet except outpatients and clinics. She has no sympathy or compassion.
    Your doctor doesn't, in my opinion, deserve your loyalty. If you have a choice for another GP I'd switch. Your GP could, if they wanted, get you an appointment with a specialist within 1 or 2 weeks just by calling and requesting it (that is in US, not sure in other countries).
  • Unfortunately I am in Canada and its never that simple. Unless it is deemed an 'emergency' we have to wait. I was told when I had my CT scan that if it showed certain things she could get me in faster but apparently my problems are not considered urgent no matter how much pain I'm in. Which I'm sure she doesn't believe anyway because she thinks I should be able to get along just fine without any pain meds and just 'live with' the pain - which she claims everyone has. And I do have my name in for a new GP but in my province there is a shortage of doctors so it could take years... no one is taking new patients. My only chance right now is my boyfriend who said he will talk to his doc the next time he has to go in and see if he will take me. Apparently he at least has a better bedside manner. Here's hoping.
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  • Any chance your GP can refer you to an orthopedic spine doctor or neurosurgeon? I don't knwo how old you are but I do know you owe yourself a visit to a specialist just to be sure there isn't more that can be done.

    I would even consider saving money to take the drive (if possible) to the USA to just pay for the specialist.
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