3 Months Post Op...pain is back!?

Bilateral Laminectomy L5-S1, spinal stenosis with compressed root nerve, decompression microdisectomy surgery was on Halloween 2018. Now more than 3 months post op pain has returned down my leg past my knee. Very concerned. Was doing well with physio and had a program working out at the gym 3-4 days a week, thought I was on my Way to recovery. Weeks 1-6 after surgery I was in a lot of pain, then started to see positives. Was able to leave house for first time in months ! Anyone else have pain return this long after surgery? Had started to kick the depression I’ve been having for months and off all medication, really don’t want to go back! Already lost 6 months of my life! 




  • challengercchallenger Posts: 2,143
    edited 07/15/2019 - 11:37 AM

    Welcome to Spine Health.

     Have you reported this to your surgeon and possibly gotten updated imaging? mbe worth talking to your doctor about restarting or starting to see if it would help. I know it is hard to keep your head straight when pain starts again, but try not to get downhearted, talk to your doctor and come up with a plan. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.


  • Thanks Chip, I was on Lyrica for months and stopped taking it with surgeons permission in December. Hated the way it made me feel. My Dr says it will take 12-18 months to heal and for me to wait to April appt with neurosurgeon. 

    However that’s still a few months away. 

    Physiotherapist has me on rest and wants me to do nothing but walking until I see him next week. It’s the pain that shoots down my leg past my knees that has me concerned and the leg weakness. Thanks for your response challenger. 

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  • I could not take Lyrica because of the way it made me feel either, I hated it, doctor put me on Gabapentin and I still take it for the nerve pain, it may be worth a call to your doctors office to see if you could start taking one or the other to get you thru. I have been fighting a pretty bad case of sciatica myself this week, I have a L5-S1 herniation that I am trying to avoid surgery on and nerve medication helps me get thru the tough times. Hope you have a good night and are able to rest.


  • What was your 3-4 day gym routine like? Hopefully you were not doing anything that put a weight load on your lower spine, because it is likely way too soon for that.  Or perhaps you were instructed to do this?

    Personally, I would stick to resistance bands (non standing exercises), isometric exercises and body-weight exercises...if any of that, at all. The latter 2 have been extremely helpful in my recovery, but also my physique, and I have had zero setbacks since I have incorporated them. This is a safe, effective and chill way to recover and develop your muscles while waiting for a full return to form.

  • Thanks for the reply’s, my gym routine consisted of 20 min stationary bike, 30 min elliptical, 20 min of stretching, then after a few weeks of this I introduced weights into my routine. Started off with very low weights to strengthen core, 20-30 lbs instructed by my physiotherapist. After a few more weeks of this I started adding more weight, up to 50-60lbs. Machines were seated rowing, pectorals and standing pulley. 

    I’ve now had 10 days of rest, no gym, just walking and stretches. I see my physiotherapist tomorrow. Pain still present, worried I over did things. 

    Three months post surgery and three months pre surgery, six months of being a prisoner to my house. Just want my life back! You’re right though, I guess still early days. It’s frustrating to hear some people are good to go weeks after surgery, back to work, sports, etc. However I guess everyone is different and every back unique. 

    Will let you know how physio assessment goes tomorrow.


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  • Off to see neurosurgeon tomorrow morning for 5 month post op assessment. I’m still not back to work due to pain, can only sit or stand for 20 min at a time. Pain shooting down leg, weakness in left foot. Numbness in right thigh as well as burning/itching, but mostly it feels as if above the surgery (L5/S1) there is awful pain in spine closer to L2/L3. Lateral Recess Stenosis was main cause with disc herniation with compressed S1 nerve root. Anyone out there have any suggestions for questions to ask surgeon tomorrow?



  • Tell the surgeon exactly where the pain is, what it feels like, when it is at it's worst.

    Write any and all questions down and take them with you, if you are anything like me when I get there, I always seem to forget something.

    Hopefully you have not damaged anything, and this is just a bump in the road.

    Good luck and let us know what the doctor says.


  • Met with neurosurgeon yesterday. He is concerned with nerve damage and possible further disc herniation. He conducted reflex tests that showed no response on a few spots he tapped. Sending me for MRI and EMG, mentioned possibility of 2nd surgery depending on what MRI shows...grrrrrrr so frustrating! Until then stay on Cymbalta and Lyrica, unfortunately they’re not doing much for pain. 


  • Sorry to hear that, hopefully it will not turn into surgery, the only advice I have right now is try to stay positive, I know that is hard right now, but is does help.

  • Thanks Challenger 

  • Thanks David, I’m trying to be positive with continued patience. Just tired of being in pain and putting my life on hold. Thanks for your response. Joseph

  • I am 3 months post surgery from L5-S1 ALIF/PLIF and still experiencing a constant achy feeling around the surgery site.  Was told that the pain achy feeling could be there for months as all the muscles begin to rebuild.  I just started returning to some activity with my physical therapist guidance and it has not been comfortable....its frustrating as I want to be "normal" but know that won't happen for many months. I try to stay positive with the help of my physical therapist who is super encouraging.  My advice is to really stay positive.

  • Joseph, how are you ? I hope everything is ok, wish you luck

  • Hi everyone, back with an update. So had a nerve conduction study, EMG test done, they found no damage however patellar reflex test rated at 4+ as no response on the right side. Neurologist basically said will have to wait for MRI on May 28th to see what’s going on. She also mentioned Meralgia paresthetica for my right leg pain, but this only started when I awoke from surgery which didn’t make sense to me. 

    Thanks for all your thoughts and kind words, I’m trying to stay positive and am just waiting for MRI at the end of the month with a follow up appt with neurosurgeon on June 3rd. Until then just trying to manage pain, do stretching exercises and continue massage therapy.

    Will update when I have more news. 

    Take Care


  • Joseph

    Thank's for the update, I hope everything goes well


  • *Update

    Hi Everyone,

    So had appt with neurosurgeon this morning, he reviewed recent MRI and stated that although there has been some changes there was nothing he can do further. Explaining that there is no evidence of disc herniation in any other vertebrae and the disc previously herniated he completely removed with no evidence of nerve compression. Which is great news, however he could tell I’m still in a lot of pain, doesn’t explain loss of reflexes and feeling in left foot. He has referred me to a pain management clinic as well as for cortisone injections. 

    Anyone here able to shed some light on what pain management clinics do? I’ve heard it can take over a year to get into here in Ontario. What am I supposed to do in the meantime? I can currently only stand, sit for 20 min then need to lie down to minimize pain. Buttocks and lower back still very soar, still not able to return to work and it’s been 7 months since surgery! I know things could always be worse however my level of frustration has gone through the roof!

  • I had microdiscectomy on L4-5 L5-S1 on Feb 28. I was almost pain free(only feel uncomfortable on my right leg when lay down on my stomach).Somehow the pain came back two days ago. I'm going to wait a few days to see if it goes away or will have to talk to the doctor again.

  • *update

    Hello everyone, so after I saw surgeon he was not impressed with results from MRI. Although in his words there is nothing else he can do for me. Referred me for epidural cortisone injection and pain management clinic.

    My physio and RMT also went over results of recent MRI stating that progression of bilateral lumbar stenosis had progressed and annular Tare above surgery L4-L5 disc. 

    Still not able to work after 8 months post op decompression surgery. Physio therapist doesn’t want me doing much with tare but want to lose more weight and strengthen core muscles.

    I’m down 21 pounds since surgery but could lose Another 30 lbs to bring me down to 200lb I’m sure would help.

    Really frustrated and would like advice on how epidural cortisone shots help 1st time or have heard it may take multiple injections to feel a difference.

    I know it’s not the answer but some period of relief would be amazing.

    Thanks for listening.


  • Joseph

    That's great news about the weight, stay with it, I know it's hard. I have had many epidurals, some work the first one and at times I have had to have a series of three to feel relief.

    If your present surgeon says there is nothing else he can do you may need to get another opinion, sometimes a fresh set of eyes can be a very good thing.


  • *Update. Got into pain clinic today, Dr had me scheduled for epidural cortisone injection for Aug 28th, recommendation of purchasing a inversion table. Also gave me a shot to try and freeze area around my S1 nerve. He believes the scar tissue from surgery has attached onto my nerve and is irritating it. Doesn’t believe a second surgery would help but just cause more damage. After I left the clinic my phone rang and there was a cancellation and am now scheduled to have epidural injection tomorrow! 

    Fingers crossed this brings relief as August 16th will be one year anniversary of off work and life put on hold. Anyone else have experience with this injection? How long it takes to work and how long does it last for? I know everyone is different and results vary but would like to hear other people’s stories. Thanks!


  • Epidural injections can be very helpful for some and not helpful at all for others, I have had so many that I lost count, I was able to put off my first fusion surgery for 5 years with epidurals, they eventually stopped working and surgery was required, I don't know what your doctor recommended, but a lot of times the injections are given in a series of 3


  • *update

    The Epidural Steroid Injection had no effect for me. In fact it was quite an awful experience. There was 3 needles injected after the 2nd I mentioned to the dr it was very painful and I felt warm and felt nauseous. He told me to hang on and don’t move. I felt the 3rd needle and then pressure on my spine and the. Passed out. The dr said it’s called a vasalvogal reaction. Basically body shuts down due to distress. I was fine after about an hour and discharged.

    It’s now been 10 days since injection and no relief from pain. It’s also been over a year now since my life has been effected. Have another appt at pain clinic but very frustrated.

    I have been having other symptoms that seem to align with fibromyalgia? Does anyone else here have experience with it?

  • If you will go to the arthritis health tab at the top of your screen and go to arthritis types, there are a lot of good articles there on fibro.


  • *update*

    I have now been told that adhesive arachnoiditis is what’s causing my issues after dr has now stated after one year since surgery that the surgery failed. Have been for two rounds of spinal lumbar injections, having 6 needles today was not fun. Dr says if this round doesn’t work then they want to consider hydro dissection. Does anyone have any experience with this procedure?

  • I had the same surgery in 2009, then fusion of that same level in 2012.

    Been in pain mgmt for 7 years, and I can tell you, it's no picnic, as you're learning.

    I've had every procedure known to man, and rarely does anything work for me, or not for long. What HAS helped is doung Mckenzie exercises EVERY night. Gently at first then continue to build up. Strenthen core with some yoga (light). 

    That and Tramadol, Salonpas patches has kept me going for the most part.

    Hard to keep your chin up but you'll get there!


    Hello everyone, 

    Was back at the pain clinic on Wednesday, Dr stated that as back surgery failed and now 9 steroid epidural injections haven’t helped, he had ordered a new MRI, which I got in quick, is tomorrow. I believe they will do a MRI with contrast and looking from the axiel perspective trying to see how much adhesive arachnoiditis there is and exactly where. 

    My pain levels have been very high lately, dr had me on extended release Hydromorphone as well as Cymbalta and Nortriptyline, plus meds for blood pressure as pain has elevated them up to 165/105. He also booked me an appt with another dr for hydrodissection in October but I really can’t imagine waiting that long! Does anyone here have experience with hydrodissection and what was the outcome? Also, we’re there any side effects from have this procedure. ?

    Thank you group, it is great to know others are going through miserable periods of there life and some do get better. I’m only 43 and just want my life back!


  • June 2020 Update: was back in hospital last week, multiple texts due to new pain and bladder retention. MRI showed stress fracture on left side of L5. Along with Compressed nerve roots and a disc tear above that. 

    Not sure what they will do for the fracture but to me knowing stability is becoming an issue at L5-S1 due to compression laminectomy and microdiscectomy already and now this maybe a fusion does make sense? 


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,459


    I have 2 fractured vertebra at T10-T11 and was told there was nothing they could do. Are your bladder issues related to L5? That would definitely get my attention if it does.  


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