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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

You are not making too much out of it. Unfortunately, it is a very real problem that lingers well after surgery. Some people are lucky and emerge from surgery without nerve pain...but it seems like they are in the minority.

In your case where you had a dramatic disc rupture, and one of a large size, it would stand to reason that you have more trauma to the nerve. Nerves heal very slowly and are easily ticked off by the least little thing once they have been assaulted. Simple tissue swelling will increase nerve pain.

I ruined a simple surgery to decompress a nerve by sitting too much in the early days post surgery. I was pain-free for the first time in years the day after surgery, but a couple days later there was a family emergency that required me traveling 45 minutes from my house and hanging around an emergency room and then hospital for the better part of a week, traveling back and forth every day. Timewise, this was before my surgeon had even cleared me to ride in a car...but I had no choice. As the week progressed, I could feel nerve twinges start up and then grow in intensity. I could feel the swelling increasing and I felt helpless to do anything about it. And by the end of the two week emergency, all my symptoms were back, just like I'd never had the surgery. The surgeon put me on steroids...I may have had an ESI --can't remember now...but the damage was done and I continued to have the nerve pain.

Anyway, I digress. ;) After my last surgery, the PT and I calculated that given my height and the location of the numbness, if I followed the standard time for healing, we wouldn't know if the nerve damage was permanent for about 1050 days -- over 3 years! Now most surgeons will tell you that if you haven't recovered within 12 months, you probably won't...but I know in my case at least, that is not true. I am almost 2 years post surgery and I am still regaining feeling in my feet. My point is that nerves take a long time to recover. But you should see baby steps-worth of progress.

I would suggest you have the injection -- it may be just enough to calm down the inflation and get you over the worst of it. If not, I would try neurontin. Usually insurance carriers now make you try neurontin and having it fail before they will OK paying for Lyrica. Lyrica is more expensive -- it is the new sister to neurontin. Advantages are that it is formulated in such a way that you can take less of it, and therefore there are fewer side effects for most people. Some people have very good luck with one or the other. Neither one did much for me. But it may be because I didn't have a therapeutic dosage. When the dosage went above a certain point, I would develop swelling and then would discontinue it, so I may just never had enough to do any good.

If the doctor doesn't think you are ready for PT, if I were you I would lay off the exercises and stick to walking. You should take a number of short walks every day as walking is the best way to stretch out the spinal nerves and to help to prevent scar tissue from attaching to the nerves. You don't have to go far; even several laps around the house or just pacing through the house will help to stretch the nerves. If walking hurts, shorten your stride; slow down the pace...experiment with mixing things up.

Regarding the steroid injections and Medrol packs: too much steroid affects healthy tissue. Some docs say 3 injections every six months; others say 3 within a year. Mine said the amount of steroid was so small that it wouldn't be harmful...and I ended up having more than that because we were trying to figure out some issues that weren't being confirmed by MRI, so I had quite a few nerve blocks, etc within an 8 month period. I discovered that there is a type of cataract that forms due to steroid use. Aha -- no one mentioned that to me. So, I'll be dealing with that in the future.

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