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Muscle cramps associated with nerve damage.

I have had two microdiscectomies. The first was in 7/2011 after waiting about 10 years to do it L5/S1. The second was in 8/2012 not waiting at all to have it done L4/L5. I have been experiencing severe muscle cramps in my calf and foot. It started about a few month before my last surgery. I am told that it is due to nerve damage and a spinal cord stimulator has been suggested. I am very reluctant to have this procedure. I was told that I could try to manage the cramps with epidural injections if I didn't want to have the SCS. I am taking Lyrica, Robaxin twice a day and Lortab at times. The cramps are mainly at night which makes sleeping a challenge. During the day my muscle is very tender from the contractions during the night. I would appreciate suggestions and input.


  • My story is very similar. (You may like to read my profile). I had cramps like yourself.

    As I understand it, the brain cramps these muscles as a protective mechanism as it believes that damage is occurring there. In reality, the damage is occurring in the nerve root at the exit of the spinal canal. The body is telling the brain something is wrong, please fix it. Drugs like Lyrica, limit these nerve damage signals getting from the spinal column into the brain.

    My GP increased the Lyrica dosage until the signal no longer reached the brain. For me this dosage was quite high. Max dose allowed. The nerve pain stopped and cramps went away. However, the side of the calf took some time to settle though.

    We are all different, and adjusting medications is serious stuff. What worked for me may be bad for you. Work with your doctor to find what works for you. Bottom line - I'm saying its potentially possible to get rid of those cramps and a lot of the nerve pain. Others here have found similar medications worked better for them than Lyrica, but you seem to be fine with it (do you have any of the side effects listed for it?)

    I would suggest you request an EMG study (see FAQ glossary of terms and website articles). This will quantify the nerve damage. If the nerve damage is ongoing, the source needs to be found and addressed appropriately before damage becomes permanent.

    Always get a second opinion (I got 3). Hope your pain /cramps are addressed. Please let us know how things go with you as we are interested to follow your progress.
  • ive had some similiar issues before & after having discectomy for a herniated disc that collapsed sciatic nerve. The nerve tissue regained it's shape about 3 months after surgery but the pain has persisted for about 6 yrs now. Besides narcotic meds, lyrics gave pretty good relief (maybe 20%) which i know doesn't sound monumental but every little bit helps. It can also aid in sleep when taken at night. Norflex also helps to relieve muscle cramps but is a muscle relaxant. I'm using a tens unit and have been experimenting w/ placement but can give similiar relief as an implanted stimulator , which I was very reluctant to get, but you should go through the trial since if it alleviates pain significantly then it might be a viable option. Be wary of any implanted devices though, I researched the spinal stimulator & some people really struggle w/ leads moving & scar tissue forming & interfering w/ nerve as well. My pain is in calf, ankle, foot, & toes & seems to be spreading and the only things that really work besides some meds is stretching, massage therapy, tens unit (to some degree), but also I use aboot and leg sleeve that can be filled with air and compresses foot, calf, & thigh. This can only be used in bed but can also give some relief. All pain is different so try as many low impact procedures & therapies as possible before doing procedures such as injections and implants to reduce pain & hopefully narcotics as well. Good luck. - Picasso
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  • Oops, i misspelled lyrica (lyrics)
  • Hi Kim :) I use to have horrible (like scrap me off the ceiling) muscle cramps at night! I tried so many things & nothing worked.

    A friend told me to eat a banana & drink a glass of milk before bed as muscle cramps can come from low potassium and/or calcium. It works!!! :) I also love licorice and would eat like 5 or 7 strings of it a day. Turns out it depletes potassium levels.

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • @DaveFusion please forgive my ignorance but is an EMG the same thing as a nerve conduction test? I've had a nerve conduction test in the past, between surgeries actually. I don't think it was very conclusive.
    @MsHumptyDumpty I've had my electrolytes tested and all of my levels are great but I will certainly try the milk and bananas. I know when I was heavily into Judo I always had a big glass of milk before going to bed. I had charlie horses back then but it was for a different reason. I worked out for hours and had a lot of lactic acid built up not any nerve damage back then.
    @Picasso I am on 75mg of Lyrica twice a day. I was on 1200mg of Neurotin day before the Lyrica. I am already overweight, big surprise and Lyrica is not helping! I would like to get some of this weight off not add to it but I also know that I can't function without sleep. It is just frustrating.
    All of this is nothing new to any of you. I really appreciate everyone's help. There are very few Dr.s that I actually trust. I do however trust my Chiropractor. I have not told him about the suggestion of the SCS. He is the one that recommend my Neurosurgeon to me. I have been happy with him but I am unsure now. I plan to visit my Chiropractor for a suggestion on getting a second opinion and his thoughts on the SCS.
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  • KimwKKimw Posts: 11
    edited 11/23/2012 - 2:58 AM
    Okay, I talked to my trusted Chiropractor and he feels that it is a little soon for a SCS. I must admit that I feel the same way. He is setting me up with a pain management Dr. I know the Dr. he wants to set me up with. This Dr. has done two of my epidural blocks in the past but I have never formally been one of his pain management patients. I really have no idea what to expect. The appointment may take a few months to happen because he may be back logged. I'm okay with waiting partly because I am a little nervous and because I trust the opinion of my Chiropractor who thinks this guys is one of the best around.
  • I talked to my trusted Chiropractor about the suggestion of a SCS. He agrees with me that I am not quite ready for it. He is going to set me up with a PM Dr. The PM Dr. that he wants me to see has actually done a few of my epidural blocks so I know him and really like him. It may take a few months to set up or I may be able to see him sooner. I am not formally one of his PM patients so that is the reason for the possible delay. I'm a bit nervous because I don't know what to expect.
  • Kim, Have you tried the milk/banana idea?

    Hope you can get in sooner :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • indeed cramps got worse after both my surgeries (micro-discectomy both times at same level).
    I would get feet cramps before my back issue.

    After surgeries, not only would foot cramps be horrendous, my calf would also cramp and LOCK up. So painful.
    I would try hot shower, muscle relaxer, and walking (but could barely stand the pain to put pressure on the cramped leg/foot).

    I have found that drinking lots of water has kept my cramps manageable. I really do drink 8 big cups of water a day (so probably 10-12). I also found stretching regularly (1x/day) helps using the stretches i learned at PT. And then, if I get a cramp, I have found Advil or some other anti-inflammatory, can take the edge off so if I'm feeling the slightest cramping, I will take advil (2/day) b/c I believe it's my back feeling inflamed which is aggravating my already damaged nerves.

    Good luck
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