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Chronic sciatic pain : reviews on effectiveness of tens for damaged sciatic nerve

I'm 35, and I've been struggling for about 8 years now w/ chronic sciatic pain from a herniated disc L4L5 that collapsed sciatic nerve & was undiagnosed for about a year, then diagnosed in 2005, microdiscectomy (spelling?) 3/28/06. With little to no relief. Have tried PT, many injections, traction, meds (narcotics, anti anxiety, lyrica, norflex, meloxicam), reike, massage, trial for implanted electrodes? (not a fan), counseling, and others I can't currently recall. At this point the assumption is nerve damage & possibly interference from scar tissue.

- am currently trying a tens unit again but have some ?'s on placement for leg & foot pain?

- also considering having nerve burned but am reluctant to have another procedure & am unclear on side effects or negative impacts associated with procedure?

- first time trying a forum but am encouraged by the fact their are others struggling w/ some of the same issues and empathize for those in a worse position but am open to ideas, encouargement, & thoughts on how I can improve quality of life, thank you for any response if even just an encouraging word as most of my friends have a difficult time understanding severity and limitations from chronic pain including some of my own family.
- even at times doubt myself and feel like I should just suck if up and learn to be stronger.

- any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated. Thank you, Sam


  • Shell2ySShell2y Posts: 77
    edited 11/17/2012 - 10:08 AM
    The tens machine is an interesting topic for me. My history is pars defects on L4 L5 first diagnosed thirteen years ago with some slippage, initially causing manly intermittent sciatic pain. For many years I managed it by taking ant-inflammatories for flare up periods, physio and I found the tens machine just great. But as things progressed with the slip increasing and the disc being "shredded to nothing" then I went into constant pain and ended up needing a fusion with the lot (instrumentation, laminectomy, and interbody graft). However I have read conflicting articles that the tens machine is not recommended for lower back now. My daughter coincidentally has a small tens machine at home for pelvic pain and she finds this great - but my suggestion would be if you are using the tens for sciatic pain at least in the first instance go to a physiotherapist experienced in back issues and using tens, and have them advse on if you should use it, as well as placement and duration of time on. Good luck
  • Nerve damage can often be quantified by an EMG study (see the articles on this website).

    Lumbar nerves can often regenerate (it's painful though). The nerve damage can be permanent and the chances of this generally increase with the time andi amount the nerve is compressed.

    Do you have numbness, burning pain, severe tingling, muscle weakness, muscle atrophy (shrinking), inability to walk on heels or toes, foot flopping when walking? Can you describe your pain in more detail?

    None of my surgeons have mentioned tens to me for nerve regrowth.
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  • PicassoPPicasso Posts: 7
    edited 11/18/2012 - 3:44 PM
    thanks for responding shelly. I am seeing a pm doctor but just recently got tens unit. I have been experimenting with placement - such as just below buttock on nerve bundle and top of thigh to help direct current, as well as bottom of foot and calf, behind knee and calf.
    This can give some relief but onlywhen lying down but as I'm sure u know some help & relief w/out meds is great but have some issues with muscles tensing & cramping after using it (especially in hip) but am using it on a trial basis & if the relief causes more pain then I can just chose to not use it.
    Thank you again for your reply.
  • Thanks for responding Dave,
    Have not bad an EMG but have heard of them. I'm not sure about nerve regrowth but am using tens for pain relief.
    Have not developed foot drop but my nerve pain in leg & foot has definitely increased & spread over time.
    To describe pain more thoroughly- I have had some atrophy in muscles in back and feel my left leg is definetly loosing some strength (probably from less use as I tend to stand & lean on RT and in most cases lead w/ RT leg). I have some burning, numbness, & tingling in leg and foot. Shooting pains that start in back or hip & usually reaches toes. I also occasionally have a very sharp pain in big toe & bottom of foot (like a needle pushed through tip of toe & arch of foot). Cramping in foot and hip. Consistent dull ache in hip & low back.
    My leg and foot burn & feel swollen almost 90% of the time everyday. My foot feels like a ballon & lack of feeling due to pain which causes some clumsyness & apprehension but has no visible swelling. The pain is usually right below buttock, back of thigh, behind knee, back and lft side of calf, & basically my whole foot and all my toes excluding pinky toe. When pain is at it's worst it's hard to distinguish where it starts & ends in foot. When I first started getting symptoms it was only a couple toes, calf, behind knee, narrow path behind thigh and lots of hip & low back pain.
    Thanks again for responding Dave. - picasso
  • And discuss getting an up to date MRI and possibly an EMG, so you and surgeon can understand the risks of not having another procedure vs risk of a procedure and your options. Based on my experience (see profile by clicking on name), I too would be real concerned about likelihood of permanent nerve damage.

    In the meantime, see your doc and explain the current pain relief is just not cutting it.
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  • PicassoPPicasso Posts: 7
    edited 11/22/2012 - 3:37 PM
    Thanks again Dave for taking the time to respond and for your advice. I did have another MRI less than a month ago & it showed another bulged disc in same spot (L4L5) but without any significant explanation to as to what is causing such severe pain in leg & foot. Actually the bulge is more significant on RT side now (currently have pain in lft leg, foot,etc.) and is touching sciatic nerve on the RT side. I pray it doesn't get to be the same as lft side considering the pain & issues I have w/ lft side. There is a slight bulge on lft side as well but not touching sciatic nerve. There is some indication that the scar tissue from surgery is causing some of the issues but dr still thinks there must be some nerve damage considering the amount of pain & how long it has lasted. I've started seeing a neurobehavioral therapist & have only seen her a few times but it is helpful to have someone to talk to about pain since very few of my friends understand (& family) what chronic pain is like.
    Thank you again for your advice & I hope things continue to improve for you. It sounds like you have really put forth a lot of effort into your recovery & that it has paid off. Have a good thanksgiving.
  • babybjewbbabybjew Posts: 4
    edited 11/27/2012 - 6:24 AM
    i had back surgery in may and at least i can stand and walk. I dont want to risk another surgery the doc wanted me to try chronic pain stimulator (not) i would not have had the first one except a bone was on the nerve causing me not to be able to walk. Now i can walk just cant stand for long periods or walk very far without some leg or nerve problems in my legs. so the doctor gave me something for the nerves in my legs. I was having pain down into my right toe and it also came from nerve problems. So to all my friends you limit your pain by limiting what you do. Be sure to get you a lawyer and fight for your rights.

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