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Numbness after discectomy

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,550
I am only 3 days post lumbar discectomy (for L5-S1 problem I'd had for a year), but I am able to walk around and my incision really isn't bothersome. I have been sleeping and I feel pretty good. However, I have a totally numb left calf and foot and this is worrying me.

I saw my surgeon twice in the hospital and he didn't seem at all concerned. He said it would disappear in a few days and just kept saying how wonderful the surgery was and how everything was great. But some people say that they can tell immediately that their sciatic pain is gone. I still feel pain in my leg when I walk, in the same places, and this numb foot is just the worst! I'd love to see it decreasing a tiny bit every day, even... but it's not. Is it just too soon?
I expected pain, but not this.

I have a follow up appt scheduled but I hope it's gone by then. Has anyone experienced this ?

thanks
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134

Comments

  • Numbness is actually more expected than pain,IMO.The surgery irritates the nerves a little more.Give it some time but,if it bothers you too much,call your doc.
    Good luck and speedy recovery!

    G. 8)
  • I had a L4-5 laminectomy over a year ago. I agree that back surgery can cause some pretty unusual things. I had complete bladder numbness (though no loss of control) for about 6-8 weeks. As everything healed, my body returned to normal.

    As far as pain goes, I could tell immediately that my pain level was less. However, it was a good 4 weeks or so before all my leg pain disappeared and the strength in the foot returned.

    Give yourself time to rest and heal and stay in communication with your doctor. If he/she becomes concerned, I'm sure you'll be sent for another MRI.

    Good luck!
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  • Hi! I just had my surgery last week. My right foot is still numb. My OS told me that it could take up to 6 months to go away, or maybe never. I really am not too concerned about it though. I feel SO much better. I am able to sleep in bed again and I can sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. My sciatica pain is about 80% gone. My lower right leg is still weak. I am so afraid to do something that will hurt my back again! I can tell that this is going to be a healing process, but at least I am getting my life back.

    Good luck!

    Robin
  • Thanks for comments... My left foot is much much more numb than it was prior to surgery.. I only had some small numb spots and I had pain on the top of my foot. I can't tell if my sciatic leg pain is gone because this pins and needles/dead foot is just so distracting. I walked a bit outside today - I do ok even without my cane - but my leg still hurt in the same places it did before. I know it is very soon after surgery, but some people say they can tell their pain is better. The pain I had when sleeping or sitting was relieved with earlier injections, but the main leg pain was still a problem when walking or standing, which is why I went ahead with the surgery.

    I know that every one is different.I'll just take it easy and see what the surgeon says next week. I could handle some small amount of numbness, but not my entire foot.

    Hope you are all recovering too. thanks
  • Hi phylo,
    I had the same thing happen to me. I have pain as well as the numbing in my foot. It has been 6 months since my last of four surgeries since January 2007 and the numbing has not lessened nor pain decreased. Only time will tell they say and can take up to 2 years to know what is going to return.
    Look up a dermatome chart for the pathways to the nerve roots and you can determine which nerve root(s) are involved. Mine are both L5 and S1.
    I am trying acupuncture to see if that will help. Hang in there and have patience cause you are going to need it. Nerves heal ever so slowly and have their own time frame which is slower than I want it to be. I hope you heal faster than I am.
    Julie
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  • Hi phylo,
    I had the same thing happen to me. I have pain as well as the numbing in my foot. It has been 6 months since my last of four surgeries since January 2007 and the numbing has not lessened nor pain decreased. Only time will tell they say and can take up to 2 years to know what is going to return.
    Look up a dermatome chart for the pathways to the nerve roots and you can determine which nerve root(s) are involved. Mine are both L5 and S1.
    I am trying acupuncture to see if that will help. Hang in there and have patience cause you are going to need it. Nerves heal ever so slowly and have their own time frame which is slower than I want it to be. I hope you heal faster than I am.
    Julie
  • After my first microdiscectomy I had foot numbness and tingling for about a year most of the time. Then it would just go numb when I would walk and after two years it completely disappeared. I also had foot pain that was horrible before my first microdiscectomy and it was still there right after the surgery but was a little less. My surgeon told me that if the foot pain didn't get any better after two months to let him know.

    Well it got a lot better after two months. It would still hurt though if I stood for too long for up to two years and that disappeared also. Long story short it takes a long time for the nerves to heal. I'm back to the foot tingling and numbness thing though after recent problems. I just know from my last experience it will go away in time. It was sort of weird the first time I actually got so used to having the numb tingling foot for a while that it felt weird not to have it when it went away. I'm starting to get used to it again.

  • I am almost 1 month post a micro disc on 3 levels and I am still numb and am learning how to walk with it. Very difficult. Be patient, we all had your fears.
  • Hello all:
    Forgive the length of this post but I want to offer some background and experience

    I am 9 days post 2-level microdoscectomy for severe acute radiculopathy on the left at L4-5 and chronic (many years) moderate on the right at L5-S1. My right side symptoms are completely gone but my left side are not.

    I am also a neurosurgery Registered Nurse and Neuro/Spine Surgery Coordinator for a Level-1 trauma hospital, so I've now seen both sides. I have had the pleasure (and displeasure) of working with more than 15 different neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons of all different skill levels over the last eight years. I have seen and/or assisted in several thousand discectomy procedures so I'm pretty familiar with it.

    That being said, I was fortunate to be able to know and choose my surgeon (and whole surgical team for that matter), knowing his (their) skill level was absolutely top-notch. After surgery he came to see me and we discussed what he saw and did. He warned me that I would experience some "phantom pain" in the same area that I had the pain in before. He explained that the nerves will take some time to heal and that it may never go away completely.

    One of the things we know in neuroscience is that nerve injury almost always takes a long time to heal, and the results are varied. We have seen patients with horrific injuries that even the surgeons don't think are survivable, and one in a while the person recovers. Maybe not back to the person they were before, but at least to a functional level. It takes time. Sometimes years.

    So to wrap this up and to offer hope to those of you suffering with postop nerve pain/tingling/numbness I'll say this. I too am having post-discectomy pain in the same spots as preop. Not nearly as bad, but definitely there. My surgeon (and even his P.A.) warned me that it would be there. Am I worried or freaked out by it? YOU BET I AM! But at least I was warned about it and I have seen in many patients that nerve injury takes time to heal. Maybe months, maybe years. So to all those people experiencing this phenomenon - take heart. It will probably go away. But it will probably take time. Be patient. And take it SLOW! Don't risk reherniating the disk by doing too much too soon. And, if it does happen just know that it doesn't mean you did anything wrong or that your surgeon did anything wrong either. Sometimes **it just happens.
  • Hi Thanks to all for replying, and esp. to neurorn,

    It's funny, but my surgeon didn't specifically give me expectations - We met a couple of times, and I asked him if he thought the surgery would help me and he said oh yes.
    I got most of my information from the web - the good, the bad, and the ugly.... meaning I knew that there could be a wide range of outcomes.

    I saw my surgeon after a week and he thinks I'm doing great. The pain and numbness i'm experiencing doesn't bother him - he said that because the nerve was damaged it will take time to heal but he had that "don't worry, you'll be fine.." attitude. He told me to get back to PT, take an anti-inflammatory, and walk. I am doing all three and I'll just have to take it one day at a time. The tight numb foot is the worst, and it's hard to fall asleep. Last night my ankle itched but I couldn't figure out where or how to scratch it... what a nightmare that was!

    I can't bear the idea that my foot might be like this forever - even 1-2 years is not acceptable. But I guess I have no choice but to be optimistic....
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