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leg pain after back surgery

i had anterior lumbar fusion l5-S1 in may of 06. Immediatedly developed leg pain, with numbness and pins and needles. told surgeon on 2 separate occasions he ignored my questions as to why this happened. The last 8 months have been hell for me. i am now on 800 mg of neurotin 3x a day. i cannot put any weight on my left leg at all.i had an MRI and a Cscan done , not really a 100% sure , but it looks as though the screw on the left side of the plate in my lower back went down too far and is actually sitting on the nerve going down theleft leg. any advice would be greatly appreciated.
62 Responses
192055 tn?1263559137
Hey, I don't have any experience with this but it sounds like your best bet is to find a specialist (Not sure what spec you should go to)... find a doc that will sit down and talk with you and answer all questions that you may have.
Avatar universal
I can only imagine the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.  I have a problem like that in my cervical spine.  One of the screws anchoring the lower portion of the plate that was put in my neck is angled wrong and is going through a portion of vertebrea and into the disc below and resting on a nerve.  I have terrible arm pains with the pins and needle feeling and then when I lay down at night, my arms go totally numb.  I can have it removed but due to other cervical problems from a surgery done about 30 years ago, my vertebrea in my neck are calapasing forward.  The only solution is for the plate to be removed and rods inserted front and back of  the entire length of my neck.  The Doctors (I have had consultations with 3 different specialists) say they cannot give my any idea if it would even work or what type of results I might have.  The worse results are what are scareing me from going through with it.  Do go for a second opinion with another specialist.  Good luck to you.  Will keep you in my prayers.   Kikko
Avatar universal
I just had fusion L4-5 on 3/27/07.The day after surgery I was complaining about my left thigh being numb.The doctors told me it can be normal after surgery,but will correct itself.I'm now 1 1/2 wks post-op and my thigh hurts to walk on it,hurts to touch it.I called MD who put me on prednisone for 6 days to see if this helps.The fustrating part of all this,they never said this could happen.But me thought I might be developing a clot.I see the MD on Mon 4/9,he will have many questions to answer then.
Avatar universal
Avatar universal
my mom had back surgery about 2 months ago, she has extreme hip pain and says her physical therapist told her it was locked up since she had not walked properly for 3 years. she also told her one of the tendons in her leg was shortened from not walking properly?  would an MRI be helpful to see what is going on.  i would like to see her have a better quality of life.
Avatar universal
I had lumbar fusion L5-S1 3 weeks ago.  I felt great after the surgery, did the walking that was recommended and everything.  One week after the surgery I woke up with excruciating pain going down my right leg.  It has not let up.  I went to my surgeon and he explained to me that during surgery a nerve root was damaged and the myelin sheath is no longer there protecting it.  He told me that the pain was due to the nerve trying to heal itself.  He didn't give me a time frame for when the pain would end, but a close friend of mine experienced the same thing and she said that it took about 6 weeks to get over it.  I can only hope that my pain will go away that soon and not remain.  I have been prescribed Lyrica a nerve pill to desensitize my leg but it really doesn't work
Avatar universal
In 2000 I had a laminectomy at L5-S1, where the damaged disk material was removed from my spine.  After 6 years of chronic back pain I decided to have the operation.  Upon waking after surgery, my back pain was gone.  However, I now had a numb right foot from the middle toe to the smallest toe, and only to my arch.  After 7 years of hopping that it would improve, I gave up.  My surgeon said that the nerve root was affected during retraction.  It is a small price to pay for what I consider a successful operation.  Pins and needles I can take.  The back pain almost drove me insane.
Avatar universal
I had my surgery in '01, L5-S1 discectomy, fusion, screws, rods, you name it.  After the surgery  I felt pain for almost a year.  Since '02 till last December I have been fine, yes I had the numbness in my leg but no pain.  Almost 7 years after my surgery all of a sudden I have excruciating pain in my right leg.  It started with muscle spasms, weakness, and finally pain.  Why after all these years is it happening?  The MRI and xrays say the surgical site looks fine.  I can barely handle stairs, walking, and even driving now.  
Avatar universal
I would like to share my Experience Strength Hope in regards to spine surgery, I’m not a doctor I am a patient and In 1991 I had a fusion (L4-L5-S1) preformed by Dr. James Thomas http://www.makoa.org/scimap.htm which was a result of an unattended birth defect and climaxed when I stooped to pick up a vacuum at work in 1988.
Except for the occasional stiffness due to the lack of exercise or cold weather, I’ve had no real problems with my back; I started driving truck in 1998 (dry van) with occasional loading or unloading when I couldn’t hire someone.
On 06/31/07 while del. Plants in CO. I experienced a “popping” sensation in my low back area while lifting a roll up door on my trailer, after my del. I spent the rest of the day (14hrs.) loading empty plant racks.
After a couple of weeks and an equal # of doctors It was determined that L3 was slipping out and to the right front.
We added L3 to the Fusion by removing all of the old hardware and putting in all new matching pins and screws, the surgery was performed on 04/23/08 by Dr. Michael Trainor of Prescott, AZ. And except for a Dural Tear, http://www.allaboutbackpain.com/html/files_links/spine_complications_dural_tear.html went off without a hitch.
I am however experiencing some pain in my right upper leg and occasional numbing of my right foot. I’ve spoken to Dr. Trainor and when he was in there he found 3-4 pcs. of vertebrae which dad been rubbing the nerves. It’s my understanding nerves are like elec. Wires in that they have a protective coating and if allowed to keep rubbing against bone they will become “Raw” or “Frayed” and will continue to send false signals to the brain causing us to feel pain that may or may not really be there. These nerves sometimes take several weeks to regenerate the protective coating.
I hope this info will help with post surgery frustrations. If your surgeon is not clear with his/her answers than you need to tell them you don’t understand be politely FIRM and there’s always the “NET”.
God Bless and good luck to us all for a speedy and complete recovery…Wes    
Avatar universal
I  had back surgery May 31st of this year. I had fusion on L5 removing it all the spine. I was in such pain for YEARS and it was a SO GREAT to be able to WALK without a WALKER. Finally, Back pain was at a minimun. But...right after surgery, MY LEFT LEG WENT NUM, SWELLING. My doctor also said it was normal and would go away. Well, it hasn't YET!! I know its still SOON, but...i am really having a hard time. I had a Venus Doppler done to rule out blood clot, he did say it was so much nerve damage and went so long to have surgery that this would take a while. I have had 4 spinal epiderals. None of them worked. Now, from walking with a limp, my back pain has re-occured. Can't win for losing. Now, don't get me wrong, I THINK I HAVE THE BEST DOCTOR, SURGEION, EVER!! I do everything he asked me too and trust him COMPLETELY!! I just worry about my leg, if it will EVER GO AWAY!! Yes, it is better and i am thankful, but...this keeps me from walking normal, doing any kind of excersing, for when i do its SWELLS SO BIG and it keeps me from doing alot. I don't know what i'm gonna do, i go see my surgeion every 3 weeks now, and he did say last appoitment, may have to go back in, do surgery again. I'm having a Grandbaby in Novemeber, don't really want to do it now but, i will do whatever he says. I KNOW HOW IT IS!! IS IS AWFUL! The leg pain is terrible, but...like otthers have said, it is NOTHING compared to DISKS BEING ON NERVE but....it sure scares me and makes me wonder how long this will go on!!!
576875 tn?1217991125
I had L5-S1 micro surgery in 2002.  My doctor is the best neurosurgeon in Texas.  I ruptured two discs and he repaired them both.  I walked ttwo miles every day for two months following surgery and MRI showed both had regenerated.  I still have some pain in my left foot and toes but nothing like it was.  My surgeon told me it was due to bruising of the siatic nerve when the discs ruptured.  I cannot even imagine what you are going through with a screw damaging that nerve.  I would consult another surgeon immediately to see if a repair can be done to your fusion.  You will still have pain but not nearly what you must be experiencing now.  Good luck and God Bless.
574633 tn?1314212993
Girl I have had two back surgeries on L5 S1.. Right after my first surgery I devoped the same symptoms that you did.. My doctor did an MRI and found that a couple of bone fragments had lodged into the nerves from surgery... 7 Days later I had my second surgery...It was wonderful... I have been pain free in my legs and my back since.. I don't know if thats the problem with you or not... It also sounds like it could be your syotic nerve...Good luck and keep posting.. Hope you get better soon...~~Casper
Avatar universal
I just had surgery on my cervical spine this last thursday. the doctor said that they would have to fuse vertebre 4 thru 7 of my cervical spine where they would have to take bone from my hip and fuse it to my neck. My problem is that my hip has been draining ever since and only just recently starting draining yellow stuff the last two days. My left hip has been very swollen and painful to the touch. Now I have severe pain up and down my left leg. This is the hip that the doctor took the bone from. I would like very much to know what septis is and what does smoking or not have to do with anything.
Avatar universal
On July 8th of 2007 i went in for surgery, I had a lower level disc decompression discectomy on two level's(L4-5 and L5-S1). I had to go back to the hospital four day's later because i was very ill, my doctor ordered my third MRI and CT mylogram,the results of these test's showed that i had four tear's to the dura which led to spinal fluid leakage ( massive headache's and nausea). My doctor was very confused by this and ordered surgery immediatley to correct the tear's. I was in the hospital for another week after the surgery partly because i developed a very bad iilius (bowel ubstruction) due to all the i.v. morphine and other meds they had me on. I was at home for about 12 days when i started feeling sick again, my doctor told me to come in asap! When i arrived he dicovered that i has a major staph infection, he put me in the hopital that day and i had 3 more surgeries in the next 5 day's to clean the infection out, it was so deep they called it a bone infection,all told i was in the hospital 10 day's on this visit. After going home i was placed in the care of a home health agency(which i cannot name at this time) they came to my house and showed me how to do my anti-biotic infusions thru my pic-line. After a few day's i started getting very ill and called the home health nurse to find out what to do, she said she was 5 or 6 hour's away from me and i should go to the E.R..I went to the E.R. and they gave me the all of the normal stuff(regalin,finagrin,etc) and i started to feel better so i was sent home. I had lunch and was feeling a little better, but when i did my 2 o'clock infusion i got sick immediatley so i called the home health nurse back, she called my doctor's office and they informed her to come see me,she did not,instead she told me that if the anti-biotics were making me so sick that i should stop taking them,so i did as she requested,and i started feeling better almost immediatley. The next day my doctor's office called to follow up with me and i informed them i was feeling better because i stop the anti-biotics, they were very up set with me and told me to come back in right then. Upon arriving at the hospital my doctor discovered that because i had been off the infection meds for three day's i developed septisemia(infection in the blood due to the infection spreading) once again my doctor put me back in the hospital right then where i stayed for 6 day's recieving massive amount's of anit-biotics to get the infection back under control. Upon being released from this hospital(my doc believed the infection was under control again)they sent me to a re-hab facility ( i had no choice in this) I was in the facility for 6 weeks,3 of which i had a vac-pump attached to me 24 hour a day sucking out fluids. When i was released from the re-hab facility i went home and was still on about 11 different medication's, i was home from the hospital for 3 weeks when i got very ill again and had to go back to the hospital for 4 more day's due to complictions from so many medications(very low potassium,very dehydrated and malnurished). Finnaly after a few more weeks under the supervision of my infectious disease doc i started feeling better and today i am ok. They still say i may have to have a fusion in the near future(no way if i can help it). I like most of you suffer greatly and daily from nerve pain in my right leg, the most annoying of which is the numbness in my thigh and down into my toe's, with spasm's that can still send me to my knee's, but i hope to do all that i can to deal with these issue's on my own with a healthy diet and as much excersise as my broken body will allow. My story is kind of a horror story(the worst case scenario if you will) so again i say my thought's and prayer's go out to you all and i pray each of you get better soon, sincerely, david............
Avatar universal
I had a Lumbar Disectomy & Spinal Fusion of my L5 / S1 on August 18th. The recovery took about 8 weeks, and for every good day, I would suffer about 2-3 days of excruciating pain where I couln't even walk up or down the stairs. Now, nearly 6 months later, I have more bad days than good. I have so much pain in my right leg, starting with numbness in my right glute down to my right foot. I also have a new pain in the middle of my back, almost feels like a cramping charley horse pain. I can't sit or stand for more than 30 minutes. Short walking distances make for a restless night with severe leg pains. I used to walk 2-4 miles everyday before the surgery, now I can't handle much more than a circle around the block. I can't handle the narcotics anymore and stopped taking them 3 weeks after the surgery. My surgeon says I need a 2nd surgery to remove one of the pins. I was laid of last week and my insurance ends at the end of this month. Which means no insurance for the 2nd surgery. Not sure what to do next. I'm 38, single parent and this back surgery has put me into financial ruin.
Avatar universal
im a 37 year old female suffering for many years with Degenerated Discs. Many minor treatments to start injections, therapy, IDET etc. Got to the point couldnt handle the back pain anymore. Surgery completed on February 23,2010 woke up and wanted to worship the ground my spinal sugeon walked on till about 6 hours post op.I had an ALIF(anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) L4-5 L5-S1. Incision is just like a Csection.However, 6 hours post op my belly began to get large. Nurse tells me oh darlin you got some gas you will be fine(pss umm i am a nurse myself, info i didnt share with them)I knew i didnt have gas.I began to have serous abdominal pain and finally got another shift nurse to llisten and look at my belly and yep you got it i was fillin up with blood. Needless to say back into surgery #2 and blood transfusion d/t the large amount of blood i lost.In recovery i had begin to feel horrible pain from my right gluteal area all the way down my leg into my ankle.I was in ICU for some time and discharged home from ICU that Sunday the 28th. im using a walker no strength really upset an down. i see my surgeon for my follow up this monday the 8th and i know im gonna hear oh you just had surgery it will go away. my question has this happen to others, does it go away, and are there suggestions to help with relief. Im takin Valium for a muscle relaxer, Vicodin ES for pain nothing helps tho.my back pain  is totally gone im so excited, of couse i have to be gentle till i heal or it does hurt cuz of the hardware i have 4 titanium screws used,please help. i got to get back to work ASAP and a normal life.
Avatar universal
i am 30 years old was in a car accident in april of 09 had surg sept 22 09 had a interbody fusion 4 rods 2 cages and 6 screws l4-s1, i still am in so much pain that goes through my hips legs and ankles feet..does it get any better i had a mri show the 2 disc above it are now bulging and nothing seems to help any advice i dont sleep much cause the pain and the meds dont help
Avatar universal
Hi there,  I am 38 and had 7 years of back problems I have had an interbody fusion, but not so many rods and screws in 2008.  It takes almost 4-6 months just for the pain to generally subside and you to feel like you can just about "get through the day".    Even then, your pain will greatly increase if the weather is cold and any stress, emotional or physical is experienced.  The soft tissue  and nerve healing takes an EXTREMELY LONG TIME and you can be tender and painful for the better part of 1 year.  I am now 1 yr 7 months from surgery (my second),  I had a collapse 6 weeks after my first surgery and the recovery time I noted with more impediments, takes longer.  It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for you to have a support structure, basically someone on hand for the the first 6 months to do almost everything for you, I didnt and hence had to have a second surgery.  The next concern is that if the above two discs are bulging then your surgeon must make a decision based on your pain levels and the meds you are taking, particularly if you are not getting any pain relief, if to operate again.  I must warn you though that if they decide to operate again, your second surgery can get very complicated.  I lost alot of blood and had to have a transfusion in my second surgery due to the first set of impediments grafting into my nerves and muscle and going back into that area causes ALOT OF TRAUMA, hence the longer recovery time.  I can say though, having gone through a traumatic 2nd surgery, I am walking and very much on the mend, and now looking forward to starting back work in a hopefully a few months.  
1.  If you have a lot of burning, it is the nerves, put ice which give relief it also aids the healing of the nerves.
2.  A hot water bottle also helps
2.  When on the bed prop pillows properly on the your back and to the left and right of you so your movement is restricted during sleep, this is very important as it helps prevent injury to the nerves, the tissue and shifting of the impediments and lastly for comfort.
3.  If you have not been prescribed  muscle relaxants, GET SOME.  it gives great relief in conjunction with pain meds and will aid sleep.
4.  Make up your mind that office work is out of the question for the next 2 years, and house work out for the next year or so - none of this is important, your health is.
5.  Dont lift anything, dont pull anything, and be careful twisting and bending.

I hope this helps, I truly do wish you better, as I have shed enough tears over the years with the level pain I experienced and know what you are going through
Avatar universal
Hi everyone, Oh my god. Im now really afraid after reading all the stories of your post op pain.
I had a L4 fusion with a cage, rods and screws only 14 day's ago.
6 days post op i started experiencing strange feelings in my right foot then pain in my right calf followed by my thigh and hip the next day, now every day and night its so bad im climbing the wall's. im on Tramadol and its barley touching it.I can't even stand for longer than one min in one spot because of the pain, im so scared it will not go!!!! The hospital just told me to carry on like normal once i had my back brace on!!! and that it should go. does anyone know how much exercise you should be doing ie walking.  I know i should not lift or bend but i feel im in this blind.  has anyone experienced this pain in right leg post op that had gone after a period of time, if so please let me know for my sanity!!!
Sending everyone healing Debbie xxx
Avatar universal
Hi Alison
I was sorry to read your story but im the in the position now after having a lumber 4 cage rods and screws fitted. the pain developed after 10days leaving my just short of going crazy, im on tramalol, ibrufen and paracetamol only just lifting the pain 50% i cant sleep or stop moving my leg, its itching, stabbing, crawling, the pain is so bad. i see you wrote your story in 2007 what was the outcome, no one seems to write the outcomes.
Many kind regards Debbie
Avatar universal
I had a distectomy around L4/L5 to remove the pressure on the right sciatica nerve in December '09. I'm 28 years old. It was emergency surgery as I arrived at the surgeons office in a dire state having spent a week without eating and sleeping and just screaming with pain. At the time, I really had no other choice but to have the surgery. Since then I have been Lyrica tablets for residual sciatica pain down the right leg. I tried to wean down on it, but this failed. After about 6 months, when I wasn't improving and going back to a normal, drug-free life I went back to my G.P. I had lost faith in my surgeon and wanted to go back to basics...i then had 3 epidural injections, which also failed. But worryingly what has been happeneing for the psat 10 months are terrifying leg spasms in right leg. All I have to do to set one of these spasms off rotate my right foot anti-clockwise [which often happens unknowingly when I'm asleep] and i go into an excrutiating spasm. I can feel twitch twitch twitch of the nerve in right leg...then lock....my muscles lock and the pulsating pain in the leg is unbearable. I usually can't breathe during these episodes because of the severity of the pain, and i just hope and pray they will pass. I have been to so many specialists in various fields at this point that I feel I could be qualified as a medic myself! To date, nobody has been able to solve the problem. I'm terrified of the spasms, what happens if one happens while I'm driving for exampe? My life is very difficult since the surgery and it's easy to get depressed when you don't see an end in sight. What I fail to understand is how someone cannot determine exactly what it is and a course of action, given that so many people suffer from a similiar condition. Judging by all the posts on here, many people have been given the 'long-way-round' towards a solution and I can't see why some medical person somewhere hasn't come up with a solution? Perhaps they have and I have yet to find it, if you've found a solution, I'd be so grateful for help!
Avatar universal
My wife had undergone spinal fusion(L5-S1) 10 days ago..After the surgery an unusual numbness developed on her left leg and even the 3 toes..Her surgeon said everyhting will be alright but it will take time...After reading these posts now i'm bit scared whether it would go or not!!!..she be able to walk like normal person...i hav so much worries...As some of the post desribes it could be related to nurve demage...then if somthng like tht happen how can ve diagnose tht and wht is the best treatment for tht..and let me clarify tht how long normaly people take to walk properly after the spinal inplant....
God bless u all...wishing u all a speedy recovery...
Avatar universal
I had 3 surgeries in 13 months. Front and post cervical spine (C3-C7/ C3-T1) and post lumbar (L4-5-S1) all with fusions. My neck is still feels sift and I experience a lot of muscle pain as well. My lower back is still in a lot of pain as well...even after 7 months. I was discharged from physical therapy because they could not justify having me there...they say I know all the exercises already and they cannot help me anymore…even though what they were doing twice a week was really helping. My pain is still intense and at time I do not know anymore what to do. When I lay down it's sometimes it gets worse. I still take Oxicodene sometimes up to 6 pills a day. I am a Kindergarten teacher and my job is very physical...bending and twisting constantly. I read your posts and they are not to promising. My X-rays show liquid in my spine and my doctor thinks that the pain is coming from scar tissue. Anybody experienced this as well? I will have an MRI again next week.
1520972 tn?1291092882
I had an accident in 2008, tv was dropped ontop of me, unfortunately I was arched backwards looking up and the tv crushed my spine. I had a prior laminectomy L4, L5 in 2003. My discs were no shape for this accident. The largest herniated one L5 impacted my nerve. I went in for ER surgery. The spasms were like my legs being unscrewed from my body. Surgery was a blessing. Dr. said he saved me, I could still walk, but not without muscle spasms, feeling of rocks in my feet, twisted ankles, buttocks lock up, i.e. He said it was the nerve and it would take time. was determined to get better, i got worse. Went to pain mgmt, he said I had spinal stenosis, arthritis, degenerative disc disease and the back of an 85 yr old man. I had injections for the scar tissue, injections of steroids, i.e (6 in a yr) 11 medications. Physical Therapy made me worse. I ended up with a medtronics neurostimulator spinal implant, which works great on my muscle spasms. I love this machine. However, my upper back started acting up and got worse and worse. I had 7 MRIs, EMT, and another opinion. He recommended surgery. He said i had disc fragments pressing into the nerve, in several places. And why no one had seen it in my MRI. He showed me. But for the surgery he would first have to remove all disc fragments from the nerve and then he would have to do a spinal fusion since there was no discs left supporting my back. Well here I am 6 wks later after interbody spinal fusion and my right leg now has locked up into spasms just like before. I turn my neurostimulator on and pray that he will tell me on Wed this is not forever and the nerve is repairing itself. I walk when I can, and I get worse and worse till my legs and back are completely locked up. Its been a nightmare,you are not alone. I don't really know more until Wed....I am not giving up. I am 49.
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