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Ankle weakness/numbness - 1 year out of surgery.

I had a microdiscectomy on L5S1 almost 1 year ago. I have had a long struggle with pain since then as I had significant nerve damage after a piece of the disc cut into my nerve. I am on a low dose of gabapentin which keeps me sane, but by no means completely comfortable. For about 8 months my ankle and foot were weak and tended to roll on me, and my foot felt like it was on fire. Then one day they started to feel strong again and I started to see a decrease in the burning and stabbing pains in my foot. As for my ankle, I notice that when I stress it, it will get tired quickly but in general it felt normal.

After the 1st of this year I decided to get on with my life, pain and all. I used to ride horses before this happened and I decided I needed to find out if I could do it again. So far, other than just being a little bit more sore for 2-3 days after riding, I haven't had any obvious trouble. In fact, when I ride I have zero pain and it lasts for about 3 hours afterwards. It is a much needed relief - mentally and physically. However, my ankle has been problematic and it goes weak and rolls in the stirrup on me about 10 minutes into riding. I have wrapped it up to help, but that doesn't completely fix the issue.

So here is my question: what is causing that? Is it that it is partially "turned off" from the nerve damage so the muscles that are in there are working overtime to support it and they get tired easily? Or is it that riding is irritating the nerve and my ankle is shutting down? As of my last MRI, I didn't have nerve compression, so I wouldn't think that the nerve would get worse from riding unless it was just getting more inflamed due to the increased blood flow to the area.

I find this to all be so confusing. If my back is causing the weakness, then I don't understand why my ankle would get tired when I try to isolate it with exercises or why the nerve would be irritated if it is no longer compressed. If the muscles in my ankle are the cause, I don't understand why all the exercise I have done with it hasn't made it stronger.

I go back to the doctor next week and she mentioned something about ordering an MRI if my foot was still giving me trouble. However, I have to pay for it out of pocket, so I want to understand what is actually happening and if it is worth the money to do. I just had an MRI in November so it seems like a waste of money to do it again if no new symptoms have occurred.

Does anyone have any insight on this?
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