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Worried my microdiscectomy has failed--please advise

tabletopjoettabletopjoe Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm 35, in fairly decent shape and had a microdiscectomy for a very large L5/S1 herniation back on 8/4. For the first few days, my leg pain was totally gone. Then, it began coming back. I noticed it most when I would get up from laying down. Definitely nowhere near the severity prior to the surgery, but troubling to have it resolved and then return. After walking around for a bit, it seems to go away until the next time I get up.

My doc said no PT until after my first follow-up (a month from surgery). I've read a lot of people on here who started much sooner.

I've had very limited mobility in my left leg from the herniation for nearly 4 months, so it's been a long time since I could fully extend my leg in a normal stride while walking. Should I be doing the 'hamstring glide' exercises from PT at least?

I've read a lot of stories on here of people finding their symptoms fully resolved after surgery, and I'm really worried that mine came back after only a few days. I'm pretty sure that I haven't reherniated my disc as I've been extremely careful. I had been walking up to a total of 2 miles (total, not all at once) throughout the day, but the nurse told me that I was overdoing it when I called and attributed that to the return of my pain. I've since dialed things back quite a bit and it seems to have had no positive effect on the pain.

So am I one of those people destined to have leg pain for the rest of my life or is this just part of the healing process? I'm also worried about what I've read about potential scarring of that region and don't want to encourage that by being too inactive. Anyone have any suggestions for me out there? They'd be greatly appreciated.


  • Welcome to spine-health and to the other side of surgery.

    I completely feel your pain and frustration as I am 5 weeks out from a 2 level discectomy/laminectomy L4-S1. You are very early in recovery. Nerves are very agrivated during surgery and take a long time to heal after surgery, especially the longer they have been compressed before surgery.

    Do you have any nerve damage (numbness tingling)?Is it burning, sharp pain, does it go all the way down your leg? Do you also have back, butt, hip pain?

    I was told at my 5 week check up that I am still not to start physio, to just keep walking for now, and we will re visit the option in a couple of weeks.

    I would ask your doctor about the "hamstring glide"

    Sounds like you are doing everything right, by being careful and walking. Keep it up.

    Please keep us updated on how you are doing.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Or tingling to speak of. If I'd woken up from surgery with this degree of pain I would be so worried. It frightens me that for the first three or four days after, I had no pain in my leg at all. The pain for the most part is a pinching in the back of my leg, mostly above the knee. Prior to surgery, the pain was very intense in my butt and that would radiate down from there.

    I'm also getting muscle twitches in my calf And the muscle there sometimes feels tight. When I awoke from surgery, that too wasn't the case. One of the first things I noticed was how 'free' moving my foot around felt. Just seems strange it would improve and then go back to this and I don't know how bad it'll get from here.
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  • Hi Joe! I know you are worried and that is so understandable!

    Are you taking any meds for nerve pain such as Lyrica, Neurontin or Cymbalta? It makes a huge difference.

    Often surgeons will put some steroids/meds on the damaged nerves after they untrap them and before they sew you back up. It helps with the pain coming out of surgery, but wears off quickly, this could be what you are experiencing.

    Surgeons have very different opinions re when and if to start PT. My former surgeon starts you out with PT right away. I am having a different surgeon for this surgery and he doesn't. He wants you to walk but that is it.

    I don't know.....I did everything right and by the book after my fusion but 2 months post op I blew out the level above. :(

    Hang in there. It is still so early in your recovery and nerves get angry about being trapped but they usually settle down with time. I am now having calf buring pain since my myelogram one week ago. Praying it settles down!

    Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery.
  • Appreciate the response. I wish you a speedy recovery as well. Spoke with the office today and they're going to do an MRI on Friday if it doesn't settle down by then. Can't imagine I re-herniated but who knows. I've been reading about piriformis syndrome--how that muscle can irritate the nerve. It somewha makes sese to me that it could be the culprit as the muscles on the sides of my hips have felt really weak and sore when im walking or laying on one side for long. Not sure if there's a link there or not.

    I've been taking neurotin since before the surgery but haven't seen any real benefit as of yet.
  • Hi there...I didn't read everyone's replies but can offer some insight.

    My experience was PT wasn't to start until 6-weeks post op. Until then, walk in 10-15 min increments several times daily to keep scar tissue off the nerves.

    The other thing, is as you heal and are more active, you can be having inflammation. Has your doctor spoken to you about trying a steroid (medrol) pack or prednisone to make sure it's not surgical inflammation?

    I was a failed MD but I never got any relief but I also never had an 'incident' that would make the doctors worry. That being said, we 'stayed the course' for 6 weeks. Part of this was because an MRI so quickly (with and without contrast) would be better if we could wait for the 3-month post op point.

    So, where does that leave you?
    - Talk to your doctor about your concerns
    - Log/journal what you are doing/activity vs. how you feel and what it takes to get the pain levels down.
    - At the next appt (6-weeks) tell the surgeon you are worried. If he says, don't worry, politely thank him but tell ask him what the game plan is. If it's wait and see, tell him you need more than that.
    I actually told my surgeon, I would be mad at myself if I left his office without setting a deadline on when we'd re-MRI. I asked him how long should I try PT for before we re-MRI? I asked why not reMRI at the beginning to make sure I wasn't doing more damage. I did get agreement at 10-week post op which was between my 6-week mark and his 3-months post op. I had re-herniated(or there was a piece left behind).
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  • Hi, I returned home yesterdsy from surgery to remove a really bad herniation on L5S1. Pre-surgical symptoms are totally gone right now but like others have posted, it is because the surgeon coats the effected nerve with steroids which makes it feel better post-op but I was warned it could wear off in a few days to a week and nerve pain can return as the nerve will only heal a half to a full inch a month so if you imagine it runs from your foot to who knows where, that could take a long time to heal. Surgeon said it all depends on how damanged your nerve was and it can take months to a year for the nerve to full heal after surgery. So, please have hope that this is part of the healing process and ask your doctor if you are unsure of anything.

    My surgeon also does not advise PT until after my follow up with him-around 3 weeks post op.

    Please dont let you get this down, I pray it gets better for you.
  • Hey guys!

    I'm just over a week out from my (this should sound familiar) microdiscectomy of a massive L5-S1 herniation. I was hoping to follow up with Joe and anyone else who had the heart-wrenching panic-attack of feeling their leg-pain return acutely about a week after surgery a few months ago.

    That is (shocker, I know) exactly what happened to me this morning. The pain is about 1/2-2/3 of what I was experiencing at its peak, and I've continued to take Gabapentin (primarily because the numbness in my right foot never went away completely after surgery), though potentially not regularly enough to have an effect on the nerve. I'll probably start taking some of the pain medicine again next week, but I'm reluctant to start, partially because I want to toast in the New Year tonight, but primarily because I'm not allowed to drive while on Percoset and can't get to work any other way, and frankly the narcotics were never that effective anyway.

    I've been walking a lot - at least an hour a day, sometimes more (doctor said walking was unlimited), but no PT. And I've probably sat more than I should have, so I was terrified that I'd reinjured myself.

    Anyway - I would be incredibly grateful for any reality-checks from those who went before me - especially because I have a knack of injuring myself right before 3-day weekends, so it'll be awhile before I can get help from anyone on my end.

    Happy New Year - hope it's feeling like a fresh-start for all of you right now!

  • hi there, you are doing a lot of walking for a week or so out of surgery. In one breath, I say good for you. In the other breath, just be sure you are on relatively flat surfaces and not doing too many hills.

    As you have higher activity and the surgical numbing medication wears off, you'll get more pain.

    Remember to take it easy. Back surgeries are not like others. When you start hurting, take it a little easier. If you want to walk an hour, split it up into 4 15 min intervals.

    If you are still hurting, have you tried icing your back? Not sure if it's ok b/c you are so soon out of surgery so be sure to check with the doctor or make sure you have cloth to protect the incision.
  • it sounds like all of you guys are doing really well ! I wish I was doing as well. I had a microdiscectomy 8 1/2 weeks ago and I still can't walk more than 100 feet or stand up for more than 5 minutes. I've been doing PT for 4 weeks and it doesn't seem to be helping. I'm very worried that I'll be crippled for life ! When will this nerve ever heal ? Also, I've been favoring my good side and my spine is so out of whack that I have some major scoliosis going on.
  • Sorry to hear that you are having problems 8 1/2 weeks from your surgery. The last post I did on this thread, I was 5 1/2 weeks out.

    I still was not doing well at all a couple of weeks later, so asked my doctor for a new MRI. I had a reherniation and my disc was full of scar and collapsed. I am now seeing a new surgeon and will be having an ADR at L5/S1 in 5 weeks. I am 6 months post op from the discectomy/lami.

    Keep letting your doctor know how you feel and see if you can have a new MRI to see how things are going. Nerves do take a really long time to heal, depending how long they were impinged and how badly.

    Wishing you all the best, hope that things get better for you. Please keep us updated.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
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