While oftentimes frustrating and cause for initial concern, some degree of lingering pain or numbness following most types of spine surgery is perfectly normal. The same is true of numbness that extends to the arms, legs, shoulders, or feet, although there are other factors to consider when determining if it’s normal based on your situation.
Initial Numbness After Surgery
If post-surgery numbness radiates beyond where the surgery took place, it’s likely due to some type of stress that was placed on nerves during the procedure. Numbness felt elsewhere can also be lingering discomfort from the condition the surgery corrected. With decompression spine surgery, for instance, a disc that’s placing pressure on a nerve root is either fully or partially removed, but the nerve root itself may still be sending pain signals to the arms, shoulders, and legs until it fully heals.
Numbness Present Before Surgery
Radiating pain in the hands, feet, and other extremities that was experienced prior to surgery may also continue afterwards until nerves heal. Spine surgeons in Los Angeles often require patients to have other symptoms beyond radiating pain in order to recommend surgery since this type of pain isn’t always immediately resolved or easy to accurately diagnose without a clear source.
Possible Sign of Failed Surgery
Radiating numbness, especially if it was also present before surgery, may be a sign that your surgery didn’t address the true cause of your pain. Most surgeons won’t assume surgery has failed, however, until enough time has been given to see if the numbness will go away once nerves affected by the procedure have healed.
Tracking Nerve Pain Between Visits
Many board-certified orthopedic surgeons encourage their patients to keep track of any numbness or tingling sensations felt anywhere in the body following surgery. Your doctor will use this information to determine what’s normal and what may require further evaluation.
Numbness following surgery is usually managed with nerve pain medications and drugs to manage inflammation and swelling that can also make nerve-related pain worse. If you notice radiating numbness or tingling sensations that suddenly appear or it becomes increasingly worse during your recovery period, let your doctor know.
For more information or to seek a second opinion about recommended spine treatments, call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with an experienced spine specialist.