Sciatic pain following microdiscectomy at L5-S1.

by Joel
(Webb City, MO)

Did your xray look something like this?

Did your xray look something like this?

I have had a fair amount of low back "flare-ups" over the last 20 years (I am 48). Until this year they had always been limited just to the lower back. However, this year I did something that caused an episode that create much more significant issues. Pain down the back of legs, numbness, etc.

After several months of chiropractic care and then physical therapy and epidural injections I had an MRI. Result was a severely "extruded" disc at L5-S1. So a few weeks later I had a bi-lateral microdiscectomy and laminectomy. Surgeon says surgery went great, but there was more "stuff" that had to be done than he expected.

I am now almost 9 weeks post op and still have sciatic and lower back pain. In fact, I have all sorts of symptoms that I didn't have prior to surgery. For instance I have numbness, tingling and pain in my feet. Including burning pain around my ankles. Many days very significant pain down the back and outside of my legs. I have had an epidural injection since the surgery which slightly helped and I have also started physical therapy. Which I know is good for me and making me stronger, but it often flares up my nerve pain.

The surgeon and PA don't seem overly concerned, but admit this is not exactly normal. The explanation I am getting is that the nerve has been compressed for a long time and was also very irritated by the surgery and sometimes it just takes a long, long time to heal and recover. Some people recover very quickly, others it takes a long time.

I am trying to have confidence in this theory and be patient, but it is not easy. Especially since in many ways I feel worse than I did prior to surgery.

Any thoughts? Could all this be caused by the nerve being irritated/damaged and it just needs time to heal?

Thanks for your time.

Hello Joel,
It's not a happy story and I share your concern.

A little question, not really for your benefit, but for the many others who will be reading this page. This site has approaching 40,000 pages read per month. Did any doctor, chiro, physio, PA, physical therapist give you exercises ten or fifteen years ago, that should be done daily, and did you do them?

Chiropractic Help is about helping folk with prevention so that they don't reach your tale of woe.

Firstly decompression surgery is always potentially difficult; and you probably didn't have any option, because pain down both legs (prior to the surgery) means conservative treatment will quite likely not help; certainly not quickly. So, yes, perhaps you just have to be patient.

Do a couple of little tests for me. Sitting in a kitchen chair, ask your spouse to gently raise first one leg, and then the other, parallel to the ground, and then slowly flex your head onto your chest. What happens?

Standing on one leg, raise first your big toe, and then stand on your toes, raising your heel. Repeat with your other leg. Can you do it?

These two will give me a pretty shrewd idea of where you are, and neither will aggravate your condition.

I unfortunately leave in a few hours for a three week break and will unlikely be able to contribute further until after that.

Meantime ask your surgeon if you can start some very gentle exercise; I recommend on your bed every morning before arising.

Dr B

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