How long does it take a nerve to heal?

Hey all,

After herniating my L5-S1 14 months ago, I finally had my microdiscectomy four days ago. And like a lot of others on this forum, I’m super paranoid about reherniating and have been as careful as possible. 

Pre op, my pain was entirely in my left buttocks and back of my leg. Now, post op, my leg pain seems to be centered around my calf/ankle area. I’m making sure to do everything necessary for recovery (good diet, rest, getting up and moving every 30 mins), but the leg pain is pretty intense, even with the oxycodone and ibuprofen my doctor prescribed me.

A lot of posts in this forum seem to indicate that the longer a nerve was damaged, the longer it will take to heal. So I guess my question is about how long should the nerve take to heal itself? If I herniated 14 months ago, should I expect a pretty long period of discomfort before turning the corner? 



  •  I had a really bad L5-SI herniation for three months.  Pain was barely manageable even with heavy painkillers. After surgery a discectomy  the pain went way down but It took about 6 weeks for my nerve pain down my leg to finally settle down. This is the part they don’t always tell you.  Took another 5 weeks for my back to loosen up and get more strength.  I’m back to cycling 10-15 hrs a week. Riding road and Mnt bike.  I still to this day  2 years later have a little nerve damage which still causes a tiny bit of numbness under my pinky toe but overall I feel great!!   So I can only imagine if you had a pinched nerve for over year it's going to take a lot longer for that nerve to heal.  Just remember recovery is not straight line you'll have plenty of ups and downs but overall you will get better in time. Good luck in your recovery and stay the course!!   


    Brian (-:

  • Welcome flydebs54 we’re glad you’re here!

    I am sorry that you have had to go through with all this. Nerves take time to heal, my doctor says up to one year, I have heard others say that their doctor said up to two years, I have had several surgeries and they have all been different where nerves are concerned, from no pain when I woke up to 4 months of pretty intense nerve pain after surgery, if it gets too bad, there are nerve specific medications that your doctor can prescribe.

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    Have you read the article Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery on Spine-health? It offers a lot of practical tips around what to expect before, during, and after surgery. You may also want to check out the video How to Prep Your Home for Spine Surgery Recovery, which also has some great tips.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

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  • Thank you so much Brian and Chip. I think this is what I needed to hear. I’m really in my own head about this whole thing and this forum has already helped to calm me down. I’ll check out the links now. Thank you!!!!

  • I can understand the struggle with your mind, in my opinion that's the toughest part of recovery, I tried to keep busy with something, reading, games, TV or whatever you enjoy, but sitting around thinking about the pain and when it's going to get better does not help.


  • Update:

    Yesterday was 12 days post op. I was a normal recovery day (laying down, walking, wearing brace, etc..) when my left leg started to hurt while laying on my back. Over the course of the next ten minutes I had 8/10 sciatic pain take over the entire leg. I got up to try and walk it off, but couldn’t make it 100 ft from my house without having to turn around. I put ice on the surgical area, but found that laying on my back was simply too painful. So I rolled into my right side. Within an hour the pain had subsided and only my calf was hurting. I stayed there for the rest of the day with the calf pain.

    This morning I woke up and felt a little better, with mild sciatic pain (2/10, pretty much the way it has felt since the surgery). Even did my morning walk. However My leg pain returned as the day went on, eventually reaching about 5/10, and feeling worse when I sit up.

    Called my surgeon and he’s ordering me an MRI. He thinks it may have reherniated. I can’t think of anything I did that could have caused this to happen. I’ve been as cautious as possible. I’m beyond stressed right now.

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  • Sorry to her this. I do know that I had flare ups for over 5-6 weeks after surgery but not quite that bad as your describing. I remember calling my surgeon as well paranoid about a reherniation but was told just give it time. Time was the best medicine but was the hardest to take. Hopefully this is just a little flare up with maybe the muscle just spasming next to you sciatica nerve or the nerve still trying to heal and things will calm down soon. 

    Hope things get better. 


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,555


    It's only been 12 days and nerves can take up to 6 mos. to heal. A lot of times, nerve pain can be worse after surgery because the nerves have been compressed for so long. Hopefully the MRI will not show a herniation.

    Take care and keep us posted.

  • Thanks all. I found that removing a small pillow I had under my back while laying in my easy chair greatly reduced the pain in my leg. The sciatic pain is still there at all times, but is a very dull 2/10. Not sure if this is a sign for optimism or not. 

  • I should also note that I’ve been experiencing muscle spasms in my leg.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,555

    Just keep remembering, time and patience. It takes time to heal, even nerves. Same with the muscle spasms, they will react to the nerves. 

    Hope you feel better,

  • Mine took 3-4 months before it completely fell from view/feel 

  • UPDATE: Now 23 days post op and still in a lot of pain. Got an MRI the other day which showed a reherniation, so I’ll be getting another microdiscectomy. Lucky for me, the surgeon wants to do it ASAP while my incision is still somewhat fresh, so it looks like I’ll be back on the table in a little over a week.

    Until then, I really have to closely examine my daily routine to figure out how this happened. I’ve been so careful not to bend, lift, or twist, but I’m so tall (6’ 3”) that I’m probably bending more than I realize to get in and out of the car, on and off the toilet, etc..

    I’m bummed, but happy that I don’t have to wait too long to get another shot at this.

  • Sorry to hear that, I re-herniated after my first surgery and like you was trying as hard as I could to be careful, surgeon sais it just happens sometimes when that vertebrae settle after surgery. Good luck on your upcoming surgery.


  • charryccharry Posts: 220
    edited 06/19/2020 - 2:33 AM

    Wow. I hope surgery goes well .take care. Charry

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