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Old 08-11-2005, 09:27 PM   #1
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Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

My question is this: say a nerve has been permanently damaged and doesn't recover after surgery. Do you still have functioning MUSCLE that you can control in that limb?

Here's the quick story: had back pain for years, then ruptured the L5/ S1 disc during a core yoga class. I walked in, crawled out. Had a microdiscectomy on 7/28. Note: prior to the microdisc I had back pain and leg numbness to the knee -- no leg pain. I've posted here before, so sorry if you've heard my tale.

Now, two weeks after the surgery, additional parts of my whole leg are numb, down to the foot. The parts that were numb before are still numb now. I walk with a severe limp. I am not panicking and am trying to give it time to heal because I know it can take months or years.

I can't flex my calf or stand on tiptoe now. There is no strength at all in my right leg. How/ where did it go? The muscle is still there -- I just can't make it work. Will I ever be able to? Will I be able to strengthen that leg or is it impossible because the nerve itself is damaged and therefore it won't get the signal to react.

Just lying here festering and hoping for some guidance. Throw me a bone.

- MMM

 
Old 08-11-2005, 09:54 PM   #2
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Post Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

[COLOR=Blue]Prior to both of my surgeries I had substantial nerve compression, which caused a great deal of weakness, foot drop and the inability to flex my foot. After my first surgery the microdiscectomy I noticed almost immediate improvement to the leg pain; but it did take about four weeks to regain strength in my leg. After my fusion (four years later) for a collasped disc it took a couple of months to regain strength in my leg. Though, I was able to flex my foot again about 2 weeks post surgery. (Prior to surgery it was like my foot just hung there like a dead fish.) So, the nerve compression (which was confirmed with an EMG prior to surgery) was quite severe. As far as your situation goes .. I wouldn't panic yet -- I know it is very scary --- when I started noticing the change in my left leg and then when it kept progressing; I really freaked out. Physical therapy can be really beneficial post surgery to regain strength lost prior to surgery, in addition you will learn exercises you can use for life to keep your back strong. Has your Doctor mentioned physical therapy?? I know many Doctors like to wait until 6 weeks post surgery. Did you have an EMG (a nerve study) prior to surgery? This helps to determine the extent of nerve compression. Lastly, I would definitely call your Doctor and let him know the weakness has increased and see what he recommends. Your surgeon may want to do an MRI to see what is going on. If the weakness continues you may also want to ask about an EMG. Keep us posted on how you are doing. [/COLOR]

-Jo
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Old 08-12-2005, 05:08 AM   #3
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

I'm one year post-fusion and still have nerve damage from the surgery. It causes tremendous muscle issues. My foot/ankle/leg is numb and feels like it's swollen all the time. Nothing seems to want to function properly. I'm told it can take years to come back or it won't come back at all. Everyone is different though. Here's hoping you come out of it sooner than I am.

 
Old 08-12-2005, 08:31 AM   #4
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

After my laminectomy, I still have numbness down my leg and into my foot. I started experiencing muscle issues as well. My PT told me to picture it this way - the muscles are reacting to the damage to the nerves. The muscles protect the damaged nerves - that's their job, so to speak. I felt like the muscles in my leg weren't working properly and weren't supporting me correctly and she explained it to me that way. It's almost like they're wrapped around the damaged nerves protecting them as they heal (I know this sounds weird, but it made more sense to me). The muscle in my lower back felt rock hard and I had cramps in my calf muscle sometimes and in PT they would massage it along the nerve path to loosen it. It makes sense if you think about it. It just takes time.

 
Old 08-12-2005, 09:27 AM   #5
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

Thank you so much for your responses.

Jo -- I did not have an EMG done before the surgery. I sort of wish I would have but I just didn't know enough to insist on it. I saw my surgeon at the 10-day post-op mark and he said three more weeks of resting then I will start PT (so that will be at the five week mark). I explained the situation to him and he said it should heal, but of course there is the possibility it won't. He seemed a little dismayed that none of the feeling had come back. I'm glad to hear that you slowly got better following your surgeries. How would you say you are doing now? Are you walking without a limp?

Rhonni -- I'm sorry to hear that you still have the nerve damage. Did you see any change at all from when you had the surgery, i.e. did it get better for a while and then just stop, or did it just never get better?

Rsrush -- Thanks for the description from your PT. I'm definitely going to ask a lot of questions when I get in for PT in a few weeks. I guess I'm still a little confused -- can you "work" your muscle that is protecting the nerve? I mean since the muscle is still there, it's just not reacting. Can you do leg lifts, lunges, that sort of thing or once it's gone it's gone?

Honestly, lying here wondering all these things is the absolute worst part. It is so hard to just decide to give it time and to let it go.

 
Old 08-12-2005, 10:54 AM   #6
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

I had a microdiscectomy about 10 months ago. I still have numbness in my right leg, particularly below the knee and at the ankle. After surgery, I still walked with a limp. My muscles weren't working properly because I had walked with a severe limp for months when I was in pain and the muscles were basically not being used. After about 2 months I first began physical therapy. At that time my physical therapist put a great deal of emphasis on strengthening my leg muscles. It helped a lot. Walking has also helped tremendously. I no longer walk with a limp and my leg seems to be functioning at about 95% even though I still have numbness. I hope this helps.

 
Old 08-12-2005, 08:40 PM   #7
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

mmmartino - yes, you can 'work' the muscle. I am doing pt and working the muscles and am swimming and walking. I still have numbness and tingling, and pain. However, I am exercising and being careful and sometimes at pt I only get massage if there is tightness in the muscles, but I'm increasing the workouts each time, just slowly but consistently. My surgery was in February of this year and it seems like it's taking forever to get back up to speed but slow and steady wins the race. Just take your time and do it right. Back down when it feels like you need to and go ahead and push yourself when your body tells you it's ok. You'll know - you know your body best, and if you overdo it - you'll know that too! :-)

 
Old 08-12-2005, 09:29 PM   #8
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

mmmmartino - I had sciatic nerve trouble before my surgery. It's now gone but the opposite leg/foot/ankle is numb and in a different way. The surgery actually caused my numbness. The nerve was exposed too long during surgery.

 
Old 08-13-2005, 12:56 AM   #9
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

[QUOTE=mmmartino]Thank you so much for your responses.

Jo -- I did not have an EMG done before the surgery. I sort of wish I would have but I just didn't know enough to insist on it. I saw my surgeon at the 10-day post-op mark and he said three more weeks of resting then I will start PT (so that will be at the five week mark). I explained the situation to him and he said it should heal, but of course there is the possibility it won't. He seemed a little dismayed that none of the feeling had come back. I'm glad to hear that you slowly got better following your surgeries. How would you say you are doing now? Are you walking without a limp?
[/QUOTE]

[COLOR=Blue]I was doing great. I had regained MOST of the strength in my leg and was walking 1-2 miles 5 days a week and doing my strengthening exercises every evening. However, a few months a ago I took a couple of pretty bad falls and REALLY started to have trouble again. However, the pain was mainly centered in my lower back with VERY intense muscle spasms. I did start noticing some changes in my left leg again (just general weakness). However, that has since improved. I have a small tissue mass over the instrumentation and because of my continued pain and spasms my surgeon wants to remove the instrumentation. My spine is completely fused and stable. I have to say given the extent of my nerve compression PRIOR to the fusion I NEVER would have thought I would have regained ANY of my strength let alone MOST of it. Generally speaking I do not walk with a limp anymore, I do still walk with a slight limp after I over-do or when I am really tired. But, I have to say the surgery has really helped. Please, keep us posted on how you are doing.

-Jo [/COLOR]
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Last edited by Fiona_Jo; 08-13-2005 at 12:57 AM.

 
Old 08-23-2005, 04:29 PM   #10
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Re: Please help! Does nerve damage also mean the muscle won't work?

Hi. You asked a good question. I had surgery a year ago and still have weakness in the leg and foot but it has gotten better. Right after surgery I could lift my toes again and put my foot out in front, not drag it behind, whereas before surgery I could not lift the toes.

Six months post op, my leg went from 20% strength to 50% overnight (after a bad pain flareup for 3 weeks). And each month I gain a little more strength in the leg. Not the foot so far.

I do walk with a limp still. And my leg will totally give out and not support me sometimes. The PT said that is due to nerve fatigue and common. I was told 3 years to heal with a 90% chance of regaining use of the foot. So the outlook IS good. Hard to believe in though. Has anyone here healed in 3 years?

Doctor said it is common with this to make small improvements each month. To be patient. Also, he said that those who exercise are the ones who heal. the PT explained to me that to regenerate that nerve, you need to exercise and get blood flow to it. Walk. Swim. Water aerobics. Whatever your body can do. She also said building muscle aids blood flow which aids the nerve in healing. Hope that helps. I know it's hard to be patient. It sure is hard to exercise with a limp. And with pain. The pain has been horrendous.

Frnakly, I can't see someday getting the use of my foot back when it has been a year already of limping. But the doctor says he sees this all the time. Sees people worse off recover if they exercise.

 
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