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Numbness in foot after back surgery
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Numbness in foot after back surgery

I was diagnosed with a herniated and "sequestered" disc and subsequently had a microsurgery discetomy peformed in the L4/L5 S1 area. Prior to surgery, the symptoms were severe back pain and numbness in the left leg and foot.  The doctor said it could take up to a year to regain strength in the left leg and foot and for the numbness to disappear.  After 12 weeks post surgery, she said she would give me a prescription for physical therapy.

It has been a little over a month since surgery and in general I have been feeling well with most days having no back pain and only slight numbness in my left foot. ( I have typically been very athletically active, working out 5 days/week, skiing, tennis.  I am 52 y.o.)

I am currently limited to taking walks only and try to get in a 45 min. walk each day and the doctor said no activity for 12 weeks beyond walking and stretching excercises that were given to me . Each day I am a little more active in doing things around the house. I was emptying the trash the other day and didn't realize that the bag was heavy. I didn't experience any identifiable pain at the time however, I over the last day or so, I have experienced new numbness in my foot.  It comes and goes.  Today, it seems to be minimal however yesterday there was a lot of numbness and tingling in my foot.

My question is whether the nature of nerve damage relating to my type of problem is something that "comes and goes" with good days and bad days or whether if my "newer" numbness likely means I have done some new damage.  The doctor said that it woukd take time for the nerve to be restored to it's natural shape and that it was flattened out from being compressed.  I am considering going back to see my doctor but wanted to wait a few more days to see how things develop.  Or..is the nature of this such that if I am experiencing numbness, it means there must be a new problem.  Thank you
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Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with your doctor.

Without the ability to examine you and obtain a history, I can not tell you what the exact cause of your symptoms is. However I will try to provide you with some useful information.

It sounds like from the description above that you had a radiculopathy: The spinal cord is encased by bones called vertebra. Nerves start to form as they come off the spinal cord and exit through holes formed between the vertebra. If a nerve is compressed on as it exits through these holes, particularly in an area called the nerve root, a radiculopathy results.

When the nerve root is damaged from a herniated disc or arthritis or other causes, surgery is often done such as in your case. As your doctor has mentioned, recovery is slow. Symptoms could potentially fluctuate based on the position you are in, how much you have exerted yourself, and so on. However, if your numbness had resolved completely then returned, it would be possible that there is a new problem, particularly if the numbness is in a new location on your foot. Possible causes could be either some additional herniated material, some scarring forming around the surgery area (though this would not happen within a month of surgery), etc. So I do agree that you should be evaluated by your surgeon to ensure that there is not a new problem that would require surgical intervention, though given that your symptoms sound minor and are intermittent, this seems less likely.

Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions, I hope you find the information I have provided useful, good luck.
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