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1 month post-op L4/L5 discectomy - not really improving

After suffering with a bulging L4/L5 disc for almost a year, I had a bilateral discectomy on Jan. 8, 2016. The sciatic pain in my left leg almost disappeared for the first few days but ever since then, the pain has returned to my left leg and has changed. As soon as I put weight on my leg I get a pretty big wave of pins and needles in my left foot and then the pain creeps back into my hip and calf and does not let up until I lye down. Sitting, standing, and walking all seem to trigger the same response. I find this very frustrating as I am supposed to be walking for rehab but walking puts me in pain almost immediately. Prior to surgery my pain was more acute and most days I was able to "walk it out"; plus I didn't have any pin and needles sensations. My neurosurgeon said it was likely inflammation from the surgery but I am concerned about the bio-mechanics of my back may have changed and I am potentially facing a new set of problems. I realize that it's only been a month and I have a ways to go before this surgery can be deemed "successful" but I was wondering if anyone out there has had similar symptoms after surgery and what their resolution was?


  • dilauroddilauro ConnecticutPosts: 12,519

    welcome to spine-health"> 
    welcome to spine-health

    while you may have provided us with
    some information, there is always more to provide.

    one of the most important things
    that members can do is to provide the rest of the community with as much
    information about themselves as possible. it is so very difficult for anyone to
    respond when we do not have enough information to go on. this is not meant to
    indicate that you are doing anything wrong or violated any rule, we are just
    trying to be pro-active and get the information upfront so that people can
    start responding to your thread.

    so many times we read about members
    who have different tests and they all come back negative. the more clues and
    information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong, the
    fact that your test results are negative does not mean that you are fine and
    without any concerns.  many times it takes several diagnostic tests and
    procedures to isolate a specific condition.

    here are some questions that you
    should answer:

    when did this first start

    • at what age?
    • was it a result of an accident or trauma
    • are there others in your family with similar medical
    • are there others in your family with similar medication
    • what doctors have you seen (orthopedic, neurosurgeon,
      spine specialist, etc)
    • which doctor did you start with? (primary care
      physician, orthopedic, ?
    • what kind of doctor are you currently seeing>
    • what kind of treatments have you had? conservative or
      aggressive ?
      • physical therapy
      • spinal injections
      • ultrasound/tens unit
      • acupuncture
      • massage therapy

    what kind of diagnostic tests have
    you had and what were the results

    • mri, ctscan, xray, emg, etc

    summarize the results, please do not
    post all details, we cannot analyze them. how many different tests have you had
    over the years?

    what medications are you currently
    using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)

    • name of medication
    • how long have you been using this?

    has surgery been discussed as an
    option? if so, what kind)

    • is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
    • what is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

    providing answers to questions like
    this will the member community a better understandinf of your situation and
    make it easier to respond to your discussion.


    please take a look at our forum
    rules:  rules">forum

    i also strongly suggest that you
    take a look at our  faq (frequently asked questions) which can be found
    under your avatar or by going to
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    you will find much information that will help you better utilize the
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    please remember that no one at
    spine-health is a formally trained medical professional.

    everything that is posted here is
    based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research. as such, no
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    • analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie
      mri, ctscan, xray, etc)
    • medical advice of any kind
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      exercises, etc

    what could be good for someone could
    spell disaster for another. you should also consult your doctor to better
    understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

    diagnosing spinal problems can be
    very difficult. in many ways it’s like a game of clue. especially, when the
    diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! then it’s up to the
    patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. the doctor is like a detective
    they need clues to help them move along. so, you as the patient need to provide
    the doctor with all sorts of clues. that is like it is here. without having
    information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.


  • jogger61jjogger61 PennsylvaniaPosts: 2

    Dear Randersen,

    I also had L4/L5 spinal fusion surgery-Plate, 6 screws, 2 rods. Prior to surgery I also had two bulging discs that eventually got worse. I bent down one day and the pain was excruciating from my back down to my left foot. The pain was so bad I almost passed out. after seeing my x-ray I decided to have the surgery...the nerve pain was terrible. The surgeon said the nerve was very inflamed and irritated, so much so that he couldn't put a "cage" as a spacer for my lower disc. He used my own bone to fill in the space. After surgery, the nerve pain was better, but just like you it was still very painful almost all of the time. I took Percocet quite often throughout the day and to sleep. Only could lay in one position in bed. When I got up in the morning and stood, the pain would still shoot down my leg and make my left foot tingle. This lasted about two months or so. It took a long time for the pain to slowly subside...I walked very slowly for quite a while. However, at 6 months now, I still get the foot tingle and some minimal pain. The surgeon said it would take up to a year or year and half to heal. He told me to push my rehab a little but not too much or I would be right back to where I was in the beginning. My physical therapist really took it easy on my nerve leg for the first month and a half with my therapy. Keep the faith, it will get better with time. Pray as much as possible and try to remain positive, even though it seems impossible some days. Good luck, Rob

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  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 995

    Hey Randersen...

    I also suffered from very bad sciatic pain down my right leg after my second fusion surgery. Like you I was worried that something about the surgery wasn't right.  My doctor however kept insisting that everything was ok and that the nerve pain would go away once the inflammation had gone down.  It took four long horrible months but the pain did finally go away.  According to my doctor's explanation the nerve healing process is VERY slow and there is really no predicting it from case to case.  Sometimes the nerves bounce back right after surgery and are happy with no issue and sometimes it takes months for them to calm down. He also told me to keep up the walking as much as I could reasonably tolerate as this was important to rebuilding my body strength.  Hang in there... I'm sure your doctor did a good job and soon you will feel like new. 

    Harry - 65 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Thanks for the support folks! I've had nerve injuries before -- just never anything quite as debilitating as this... I'm walking and trying to stay positive.
  • carlafcarlaf Labadie,MOPosts: 27
    Hi All,

    A little whiny and worried: 
    I'm having a lot of pain; worse than before surgery... I want to believe that this is all normal. 

    I have tingling, burning in both knees, sometimes hip-- like a burning in both sides and the right side which the L4/L5 discectomy was done feels worn out. 

    I'm trying to walk and I get tired very quickly; I'm trying to sit and my back just hurts. I really am feeling most comfortable lying down. 

    I guess I'm just scared somehow the disc got messed up again. But I'm not doing anything out of the normal guidelines.

    I am being proactive with my doctors office and they are really kind and call me back with every question. 

    i found out the Herniation was large,  the nerve was "smushed" (quoting their technical word for it
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  • Liz53Liz53 MissouriPosts: 146
    good you at least have the Drs office calling you back,

    maybe be at some point another MRI would reassure you that things are ok.

    in my case 2 1/2 yrs later I had a repeat MRI and discovered a new herniation 

    but I also remember after my first microdiscectomy having similar issues and then my MRI looked fine. Sometimes it just takes a long while to heal.
    good luck
  • carlafcarlaf Labadie,MOPosts: 27


    I'm just probably surprised more than anything! I've never had anything so painful beyond childbirth and you know the trajectory of that -- at least somewhat. 

    Appreciate it. 
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