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Sciatic nerve damage?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,000
Hi everyone,

I am writing about my 17 year old son. A year ago he injured his back while lifting weights at school (squats). At the time he was diagnosed with a strained hamstring as he did not have any back pain to indicate otherwise.

When his muscle strain did not improve, he was sent to physical therapy for a month. He continued to get worse and the pain started to travel up & down his leg. He was then sent to an orthopedic who did an MRI and found he had a herniated disc.

He then went to physical therapy for the herniated disc. He continued to worsen at a steady pace. He then was sent to a neuro-sugeon. We were contemplating trying the shots in the back, but opted for surgery because of him steadily worsening.

He had surgery about 9 weeks ago and he is still getting worse. Two weeks ago they did an MRI with dye and said there was scar tissue and inflammation. But, from what I read that doesn't make sense because he did not have a break in sciatic nerve pain after surgery. It was still there.

He can only tolerate school half days. He cannot sit for long, can't walk far, can't jump or bed over. His walk is affected, he is walking flat footed and raises his hip. His left ankle is extremely weak. He has shin splints. He has some numbness and tingling going down the back of his leg. And of course the sciatic pain from the buttocks down.

The neuro-surgeon wants to schedule a CT Scan. I asked the nurse about doing an EMG and she is going to ask the neuro about it. Do you think it's jumping the gun to conduct an EMG 2 months post surgery?

We don't know what to do here and I'm afraid that he has something permanent going on. When he's 18 in June, he has to remain a full time student to stay under our insurance. I don't see him being able to go to college full time. Do we apply for Medicaid for him????

Thanks for any help and suggestions.

Kim Murphy


  • Firstly I want to say sorry your young son is suffering so much.

    You gut instict here is mine too. I have "? nerve damage" and no-one will do nerve studies yet as it is too soon and I may be making a slow recovery so the tests can give a false result. Makes sense to me so I am happy to wait.

    What surgery did your son have?

    Fusion surgery can take up to 12 months to recover. I have had 3x operations now and can say that following each, I did have nerve irritaion, burning, pain, worse at night, restless legs. This is due to retraction of the nerves during the surgery itself.

    Regards scar tissue and inflammation, I would suggest ( but I am not a doctor) that a degree of scar formation is normal (see the section on scar tissue on this site) and whether it is big enough to be causing your son problems only the doctors know.

    Post trauma (surgery) inflammation, again to a certain extent, think about what they have done and it will take a good few months to settle, just like any other soft tissue injury.

    If he is back at school already he is doing really well and if he can only manage half days so be it.
    He only has one spine and hopefully, once he recovers from this he can live a pretty normal life.
    I had a very bad ability to sit, my back hurt so bad and so did my coccyx. Special chairs, tall stools may help.

    Nerve pain can take ages to settle, even after the cause has been addressed. I am 6 months post surgery and still have huge issues with the nerve although the cause has been dealt with. Waiting game, sadly.

    Can you go for a second opinion?

    Good Luck.
  • Sorry that your son is in so much pain. Sometimes caretakers have a hard time witnessing their loved ones dealing with so much pain. Like the above thread, I can't say that the nerve is damaged, but if he had surgery the sciatic nerve was probably compressed by a bulging or rupture disc.

    I, too, had surgery(microdiscectomy) about 12 days ago and still experiencing pain. The first week was fine, but the old pain has returned, from the buttocks and down to the ankle. I have been told by people on the forum and read other threads about the recovery time for nerve to heal. I have concluded that it can takes a lot longer than expected.

    You say his pain has gotten worse. Worse than before surgery? That does make me worry, but please press on. Have the doctors figure what is wrong. I don't know about medicaid. I have heard that people with medicaid don't get the best service. Please talk to your insurance company and find out how much longer your son can stay on your insurance.

    You found the right forum. Great people here. You might want to post your thread on the surgery section to get more answers.
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  • I feel bad for you as a mom because we would do anything to take the pain away from our kids! I have an 18 year old son and I know this pain you are describing so I know how miserable he is right now. My son attends college and you are right that your son will have a hard time attending school in his condition. If it was my son I would be sure he gets every test he can ASAP and get a 2nd opinion, I know you have to go by ins rules but insist to get this fixed so he can have a good quality of life, he has a good chance of a future w/o pain if you don't let it go too long.

    I didn't get relief after my 1st surgery over 3 years ago. They told me the nerves had to heal as I had a bad situation prior to emergency surgery so I had PT, waited for the nerves to heal,more epidurals, limped and compromised my life with severe pain, after a few more MRI's my Dr. mentioned a fusion in my future but suggested I wait until longer if I could.....long story short, I waited too long and then I had no choices left. I had the fusion and finally the pain is better! It still takes time for the nerves to heal, especially after so long, but I wish I had done this sooner and my Dr. admitted he probably should have done this beforehand. However, I am much older than your son and had many more problems so you can't compare my results with him.

    We can't give you medical advice, just help you with support and experience we've had. If it were me I'd tell the are fighting for your son, the best results for his future, whatever it takes to get him back in life because he is too young to live like this! Explain you want him to run any and every test to find the best solution, get other opinions and then decide what is the best treatment for your son. One persons surgery might be fixed with epidurals or a less invasive surgery, everyone is different.

    Good luck and let us know how your son is doing.
  • Thank you so much for the replies. It is just nice to talk with others about this. I have been worried sick and can't sleep at night because I'm so worried about him.

    He had a laminectomy / diskectomy L5 S1 the first week in January. I know that the doctor removed the bulging part of the disc and shaved down some bone. She is known to be more conservative in her approach.

    He is worse now than before surgery. Last March he only had hamstring pain, and his situation gradually worsened since then. We opted for surgery when I found he couldn't walk far without great pain and started to have difficulties getting in the car.

    Surgery didn't interrupt his worsening (he did not have any relief after surgery). Nor was he dramatically worse after surgery. He's just continuing on a decline.

    I suppose that is why I'm so concerned about nerve damage. I wonder if he should have had surgery sooner than he did. From what I read that could be why he surgery might be unsuccessful. I think we should have seen some improvement by now.

    His physical therapist said that his gait is worse now as well. Before the surgery he was walking flat footed, that is still the same but now he is also lifting his hip when he walks. I asked her if he had "drop foot" and she said "not yet." She also said that he now has a lot of weakness in his ankle that he did not have before.

    Thank you again. I know that I am going to have to learn everything I can to make sure he is getting all the treatment he needs.

    Kim, Brandon's Mom
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  • :H :H good luck and god speed . i have had sciatica for three years and i have seen no help in sight, but there is hope as i have seen others that have recovered fully w/no pain at all overnight. just keep doing the best you can and try to stay positive , and the lad too. he is way too young to have all this . i have had a lot of cat scans,epidurals,pt,and a mylogram , but the real identifier in my situation was a discogram that showed everything and the docs waited for yrs. before doing this. it might be something for this situation to discuss w/doc as i am not one.

    keep the faith
  • My son is going in a week to have some test done. He is having a CT Scan, EMG, and X-ray. Hopefully it will be good news, but in any case it will be nice to have some answers. I will keep you all posted and thank you again for the responses.
  • I was quite surprised when you said that the PT said "not yet" when you asked if he had it. In my case I developed it straight after surgery. Problems lifting my feet off the ground, over compensating with the hip. I now use a leg brace as it was initialy labelled as temporary & all part of the heeling process! if it hasn't improved soon get a second opinion - I will now have to wear this brace full time for the duration unless I can get onto a trial here in the UK for a nerve stimulator & so far I think there are only two places in the whole country that are doing them! In your sons case things might well get better over a period of time I was told that nerve damage can take upto 12 months to heal but once you ahve crossed the 12 month mark then it is considered to be permenant. Good luck with things & don't give up !!!!
  • Good luck next week! I hope you find answers with a good treatment plan for your son.
  • My son doesn't have "foot drop" but he does have weakness in his ankle and he is walking flat footed. He is 2 1/2 months post op (I wrote original post in this thread).

    Anyhow, I'm wondering about his leg weakness. When he's sitting down, he cannot lift up his leg (knee up). Same as when he's standing, he cannot lift his knee to chest. He can lift it enough to get up the stairs, so that is good.

    He does not want to trade bedrooms with his sister so that he could avoid stairs altogether. Maybe if things get bad enough he will. He does have pain going up and down the stairs but he says he'd rather tough it out than trade bedrooms! I just hope that him doing stairs isn't causing any harm. Is that something I should be concerned of?

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