View Full Version : Thigh nerve damage, numbness, muscle weakness

03-22-2008, 05:23 AM
I am almost 5 months post op and have suffered thigh nerve damage.

The nerve damage has caused numbness and pain like bad sunburn in my left thigh as well as loss of muscle power. I walk with a peculiar gait and have great difficulty getting dressed, putting on knickers, trousers and shoes as I can't lift my thigh up towards my body.

I had a third operation to remove screws that were impingeing on nerves but that was 8 weeks ago and I still have the same pain, numbness and muscle weakness.

My Surgeon said he has done all he can for me and only time will tell if it will ever get better. I no longer need oxycontin but I take Gabapentin.

Has anyone else had this problem and how long does it last?

I can put up with the pains and stiffness in my spine because I know it will get easier with time, but the leg problem is really disappointing and getting me down because if you have a rigid spine you need 2 strong legs to compensate.

03-22-2008, 08:05 AM
Hi Paula,

I totally understand your frustration, as I had a very similar problem after my A/P surgery last June. I'm sorry you had to have additional surgery for this!

I had severe nerve pain in my thigh for about 2 months and could barely move the leg for about 3 months. I used a walker to get around. At my 2-month checkup, my surgeon told me it would probably take 6 months to a year for the leg to come back and prescribed intensive physical therapy, which I did for about 4 months. AFter about 3 and a half months I could walk with a cane. The improvement to the leg was gradual but steady and now I'd say it's about 80 percent back. I stopped using the cane at around 6 months. I still have to take stairs one leg at a time, and I still use my grabber to get dressed. I wasn't able to squat until just recently.

The most frustrating thing about my experience is that my surgeon could NOT tell me exactly what had happened or whether or not I would get full use of my leg back. He said that the nerves had probably been stretched or nicked as a result of the anterior incision, but beyond that he really didn't know how it would all play out. When I was in the hospital and later in rehab, they kept telling me it would resolve in "a couple of weeks" -- but as the leg continued to worsen, I got a lot of blank stares when I asked what was going on.

One thing that helped me was having an EEG test done to determine whether or not there was permanent nerve damage. When the test came out normal, I had a lot more hope that in time the leg would be okay. I'm really hoping that it returns to full strength someday.

I would strongly recommend that you get some physical therapy, as that's what saved me. It's a very tough thing, I know, because you're totally unprepared for it.

Best of luck to you! I'm 52, by the way.

03-22-2008, 08:19 AM
I am sorry to hear the both of you had to go through this after your surgeries. I can't help, I have not had surgery yet but it is a little scary when reading about this kind of thing that can happen. I hope you are able to get through everything and have a full recovery.

03-22-2008, 09:21 AM
I'm having the same problem, although I can walk, but it is often painful. I'm supposed to have a catscan at my 1 year check up (I'm almost 10 months post-op and the nerve damage has not got any better). What is an EEG? I'm so sorry for all people who have to go through this. I didn't expect it and it is the biggest problem I have now post-op. Otherwise, I'd be doing ok. If anyone else has any advice, I know we'd all appreciate it!

loves to skate
03-22-2008, 10:08 AM
Hi Anya,
An EEG is an electroencephologram and I believe it can tell whether or not the nerve damage is permanent.

Hi Paula,
I guess I am fortunate that my nerve pain is in my ankle and foot so it doesn't affect my ability to walk. My spine Doctor told me it is caused by the nerves trying to regenerate. He also asked me if I had pain in my thigh, which I don't. I also am taking gabapentin for the nerve pain and restless leg syndrome at bedtime as the pain gets pretty bad at the end of the day. It seems to take a while for the gabapentin to work so I am going to try taking it an hour or two before bedtime. I am 3 1/2 months post-op. I really hope things will get better for you soon.

03-22-2008, 10:53 AM
Yes, in layman terms, the EEG measures muscle reaction to electrical stimulation (little electric shocks). If the muscles "fire," the nerves themselves are fine and the damage is temporary. The EEG test is prescribed by your surgeon or primary care doc.

03-22-2008, 06:09 PM
Thankyou so much for all your replies, I haven't been reading the forums for a while because I thought I was obsessing about everything but I'm so glad I gave it another try!

Thanks Chris, my Surgeon did not mention an EEG but I'm going to get one for sure. It would definitely give me hope if I knew the nerves were still alive.

I have to go back to work in the next 2 weeks, so fitting in the Physio will be difficult, but I do exercises at home and walk on the treadmill and put my favourite CD on and dance as best I can throwing my leg around trying to get the life back into it even though it hurts the skin on my thigh!

It is common knowledge, I think, that nerve damage can occur but I just never thought it would happen. Is it because of my age, maybe?

At the moment, I'm regretting that I put my body through all this, I was so active before.

03-24-2008, 07:53 AM
Hello Paula, sorry to hear about your pain, I hope it heals up nicely. Just wondering, who was your surgeon?

03-24-2008, 06:18 PM
Dr Andrew Cree at Westmead Private Hospital.

03-25-2008, 09:32 AM
It is common knowledge, I think, that nerve damage can occur but I just never thought it would happen. Is it because of my age, maybe?

Hi Paula,

Were the same age and I will be having surgery in a few months. You dont mention how large your curves were, but the larger the curve being corrected, the greater the risk for neurological impairment. With my 80 degree curve, believe me when I tell you Im sitting on pins and needles.


03-26-2008, 04:00 AM
Hi Chris,

My curves were the classic S curve, 42 degrees thoracic and 42 degrees lumbar, causing me a lot of back pain. Some days I thought I was going to break in half especially after I saw how far out of alignment the lumbar vertebrae were. :eek:

I had the surgery now because the curves were progressing and as we age, the bones lose density and don't hold the hardware so well.

I don't know what the degree of the curves are now but they are very small. I still have a rib hump, but it has a different shape and I'm hoping that it will get better as my torso settles into its new shape.

I lean a bit to the left now that I didn't do before, I think that's because my left thigh has lost the muscle strength and that therefore it is not supporting my hip. I'm hoping the physio can help me.

When I asked my Surgeon how many others had this happened to, he said no-one. He is almost as disappointed as I am. I guess I'm just the unlucky first one. You can see on this forum that nerve damage does happen to some people but they are in the minority.

I'm so sorry that I have caused you any anxiety, but there comes a time when the operation just has to be done and with a curve like yours, I guess it's time.

03-26-2008, 05:30 AM
Andrew Cree, I have heard he is great. I am going to see Dr Angus Grey at Prince of Wales in Sydney. I hope he can help. One more question, what insurance company are you with ?

03-26-2008, 05:36 AM
Hi Paula,

Elysia had her surgery just 2 weeks after you on 12th Feb with Dr Cree at Westmead Private. We would have just missed you!

Sorry that this has been such a bad outcome for you. T3 to Sacrum is a very large fusion, Elysia had T5 - L1 - as lumbar was only 23 and compensatory. Hoping that we never have to go through any other surgery's down the line!

Dr Cree has been great with Elysia, friendly enough manner for a surgeon. Westmead Private was fantastic EXCEPT the radiology department. I could KILL THEM!!!!! We went again today for her post op x-ray (we see Dr Cree Monday) and AGAIN they drove us nuts. Dam well 4 hours to get the x-ray report of 2 lines typed up!!! Ridiculous - 5 hours on a day of discharge, you should have seen the fight I had with them!!! They hate me!! They glared at me today, I don't care. They wanted to charge me $100 for today's x-ray - I told them I've never paid before and I'm not paying now! I won!

Gee, there must be something that can be done to help you, even if Dr Cree can't - can't he recommend you elsewhere??

Big hugs from us
Del and Elysia

03-26-2008, 06:36 AM
Hi Jimbo
I've also only heard great things about Dr Cree...from Doctors, Nurses and hospital Physios.

I'm with GMHBA, they're based in Melbourne. They were the cheapest at the time, they've been very good. They've paid out over $100,000, I'm out of pocket about $7,000. I think I'll be able to claim something on my tax return, though.


03-26-2008, 06:58 AM
Dear Del

The third operation was supposed to fix the nerve problem and Dr Cree was surprised that it didn't. I trust him that he has done the very best he can and he would have advised me if there was someone else who could help me, there's just no quick fix unfortunately.

He just said physio, walking and hydrotherapy. I'm hoping I've got better news for him when I go back in 3 months for another checkup. More xrays, grrrrr! I must be radioactive by now!

I'm starting back at work next Monday 31st, so I'll just stick with the walking and my exercises if I've got the energy!

To tell you the truth, I'm fed up to the back teeth with Doctors (sorry Dr Cree) and xrays and blood tests and Physios, the making of the appointments, the waiting, the parking, the cost of it all.

I must be getting better, I just want to get on with my life!

I hope your daughter is coming along nicely with no complications.

I didn't find any problem with the XRay dept at the hospital. I was lucky in that regard at least.

03-26-2008, 11:26 AM

You did not have big curves at all. My most recent x-ray measured my thoracic at 55 and lumbar at 80 and even now I cant say Im in pain. Its more fatigue that I feel and my standing endurance is becoming more and more limited. Im always amazed when I hear of people with much smaller curves who experience so much pain. My surgeon is proposing posterior fusion of T9 to the sacrum and doing some osteotemies. He feels he can avoid an anterior surgery and correct my curve into the 40s, and I feel comfortable with that. Id be a bit more nervous if a surgeon said he could bring my big curve into the 10-20 range. I think that would put me at greater risk for neurological injury. I hope that the nerve damage you have experienced will prove to be temporary.


03-26-2008, 02:48 PM
Hi Paula

I have almost identical symptoms to you.

I am now just over 2 years post op and I can honestly say hat things have improved a long way from where they were. I am still taking Gabapentin, but down from 2400 mg per day to just 600 and there are days when I feel I could cope with less.

The lifting the thigh thing is still not good, but sometimes I can manage to get up a step with my left leg leading whereas at your stage I definitely could not.

I think maybe these kind of complications are more to be expected with people in my position as I have spina bifida but I guess we all have to be patient in these cases. I think I am probably still improving, albeit rather slower than I might hope...!

Good luck ...

03-26-2008, 08:11 PM
Hi there,
I've just edited my signature. I made a mistake on the levels, I'm fused T5 to the sacrum, not T3.

I've just been to another Physio and he said that after walking around all my life with progressive curves and then being suddenly shifted to almost straight those nerves that were shortened are of course going to protest when they are stretched...nerves hate being stretched apparently.

He is confident with exercises and time, things will improve.

I take 1200mg of Gabapentin daily at the moment and will continue until I see the Surgeon for my next checkup.

Good luck to us all!

03-27-2008, 07:44 AM
Thank you so much for this thread. I am sorry we are all going through leg nerve damage stuff, but it has been really helpful to hear other people's experiences. I am still taking Gabapentin too - I think maybe I should raise my dose since I had originally started tapering it down and am in huge amounts of pain. Yes, my PT also said that we don't realize how much our body has to adjust post-op having been used to being curved for so many years. Our nerves do funny things.

Best of luck to everyone,

03-27-2008, 06:49 PM
Geez Anya

That's lousey still being in such pain 10 months down the track. Can't you go to your local Doctor and increase the dosage of the Gabapentin? Do you take anything other than Gabapentin? My Doctor was keen to get me off the Oxycontin but not the Gabapentin.

Don't be a hero, you can't heal and do the exercises and move about like you need to do if you're in pain.

I'm not in any great pain anymore. The front of my thigh feels just like it's sunburnt, my main problem with the leg is the muscle weakness. And I get the usual aches and tightness in my back and a feeling at the tip of my tailbone like I'm sitting on one of the screws! :eek:

Thinking of us all