Leg pain and nerve pain in the feet post lumbar surgery
by Joel Howard
(Webb City, MO)
Neck problems can cause pain and weakness in the legs.
Leg pain and nerve pain in the feet post lumbar surgery are a difficult complication.
Hi, you were kind enough to respond to my questions about an issue that I am having in my cervical spine, so I am hopeful you will answer some questions I have about a lumbar condition. I guess you can tell that I have neck and lower back issues, much to my delight! :)
Anyway, 7 months ago I had a microdiscectomy at L5-S1 with very limited success. My back and leg pain did go away for a while. I was able to walk long distances almost immediately after the surgery without much pain or irritation in the legs. However, within days of the surgery I developed odd spasms in the arches of my feet and nerve pain in my ankles. Especially on the inside. After 6 or 8 weeks post surgery the pain started coming back in my legs. Mostly my right leg, but some in my left too. Don't get me wrong, I hate that pain, but there is something else that bothers me more. For the past few months if I do much of anything physical (like rebounding basketballs for my son), my right leg will (in the upper thigh) will get a heavy, dead sort of feeling. Like I might be unable to move it. In fact, if I attempt to raise my knee up actually feels heavier than the other leg. This feeling is very unsettling and concerns me about my long term future.
My surgeon is very conservative and not quick to overreact to something but he did order another lumbar and thoracic MRI. I have not had one in almost 6 months. I don't have the results back yet, but will soon.
I guess my real question after all that explanation is...can all of that be caused by nerve compression in the lumbar region? Am I in danger of permanent nerve damage? I have been very active and athletic all my life until this surgery. Now just walking a significant distance puts me in pain.
I know it is a lot to ask for some sort of diagnosis based on what I have said, but any thoughts would be appreciated.
I very much appreciated your feedback on my neck situation. You have a great website, that is very helpful.
Thanks for your time.
Hello again Joel, The answer is yes, the dead feeling in your right thigh, and difficulty raising your knee can certainly be caused by nerve compression in the lumbar spine. But higher, affecting the femoral nerve.
Have your knee jerk reflexes tested, and bounce on each leg; does the right leg tend to give at the knee? The femoral nerve stretch is difficult for you to do at home, but the surgeon will have done it; find out if it was positive.
Frankly, in my opinion, you went back to long distance walking far too soon. After major surgery a period of rehabilitation, with gentle exercise and perhaps swimming was the way to go. You were badly advised; or did it against orders?! But that's water under the bridge and there's no going back.
Now something far more difficult; very occasionally and it's unlikely in your age group, a problem in the neck, or surgical complication can affect not just the nerve roots passing to the arm, but the spinal cord itself. Then pressure in the neck can cause these difficulties in your leg. It's unlikely, but needs to be considered.
I wish I were nearer Joel, but South Africa is some distance from Missouri! But there are plenty of good chiropractors in your neck of the wood. I'm not sure that you're a chiropractic case, though. Not now. But you might start looking around for a very experienced and thorough chiropractor in your neck of the woods.
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1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.
2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.
3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree.
Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.
4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.
He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.
5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.
6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.
7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.
8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.
9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.
10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.
11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.
12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.
13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback
since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he
has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments
he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?
And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.
Greetings, Dr B. You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.
Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.
You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.
The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my ebooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a chiropractor, you'll love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the price without telling me.
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Issue #47: Life without medication/ Eight coloured foods
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