Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

How Can I Relieve Numbness Following Back Surgery?

Monday, 14 June 2010 04:49 PM

Question: I had lower back surgery about five years ago. I don’t have any pain in the back now, but I still have numbness in my left lower leg. Lately, I've noticed the strength in the leg is getting weaker, and the calf muscle looks to be shrinking. Please tell me there is something that may help reverse this. I am a 49 year old male in good health and not too overweight.
Dr. Hibberd's Answer:
The surgery was done to relieve pressure on the L5 nerve root which supplies several thigh muscles, as well as muscles for knee flexion and for movement in the ankle, foot, and toes. The shrinking of your calf muscle represents lack of nerve impulses to muscles and is seen with damage to this nerve root. The numbness to your foot and the wasting of your leg justifies further evaluation to see if the problem can be corrected. It also needs to be determined if additional problems have developed since your surgery or whether this is a reflection of the prior injury to this nerve root.
Thankfully, most of our lower limb muscles have nerve supply from more than one level which reduces disability seen from single level nerve damage. Often an MRI will supply the necessary structural and nerve information, and EMG studies are sometimes helpful in assessing local nerve residual function.

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