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Overcoming Foot Numbness Post-Discectomy: A Guide to Recovery


8.9 - Will Foot Numbness Go Away After Discectomy

Foot numbness can be a distressing symptom, often arising from spinal conditions such as herniated discs. For many, undergoing a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy is a viable solution to relieve pain and discomfort. However, one question that often lingers is whether foot numbness will go away after this surgical procedure. This article explores this common concern and sheds light on what patients can expect after a discectomy.

Understanding How a Herniated Disc Can Cause Foot Numbness 

First, it is essential to understand the relationship between foot numbness and disc herniation. When a disc in the spine herniates or ruptures, it can exert pressure on nearby nerves, including the sciatic nerve. This is the longest nerve in the body, running from the lower back through the buttocks and down each leg. Compression of the sciatic nerve due to a herniated disc can lead to foot numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain.

The Role of Discectomy in Alleviating Foot Numbness

A discectomy is a surgical procedure that aims to remove part or all of the damaged disc, thereby relieving pressure on the affected nerves. While a discectomy is primarily performed to address pain and sciatica resulting from disc herniation, it can also have a positive impact on foot numbness. However, the degree of improvement patients experience can vary significantly.

Factors Influencing the Resolution of Foot Numbness

Several factors play a role in determining whether foot numbness will completely subside after a discectomy:

  • Severity of nerve compression – The extent of nerve compression before the surgery is a critical factor. If the nerve has suffered prolonged compression, the chances of a complete recovery may be lower.
  • Duration of symptoms – The duration of foot numbness before the discectomy can influence recovery. Patients who seek surgical intervention early tend to have better outcomes.
  • Individual healing capacity – Each patient's body responds differently to surgery. Some individuals may experience a rapid improvement in foot numbness, while others might require more time to heal.
  • Post-surgery rehabilitation – Proper post-operative care, including physical therapy and exercises for sciatic nerve pain, can aid nerve healing and improve overall outcomes.

Post-Discectomy Recovery: What to Expect

It is crucial to have realistic expectations regarding post-discectomy recovery and the resolution of foot numbness. Here is what patients can anticipate:

  • Immediate relief – Many patients experience immediate relief from leg pain and some reduction in foot numbness right after the surgery.
  • Gradual improvement – In the weeks following the discectomy, foot numbness tends to improve gradually. However, the rate of improvement can vary.
  • Nerve healing – This is a slow process, and complete resolution of foot numbness may take several months or longer. Patience and adherence to medical advice are vital during this period.
  • Rehabilitation – Engaging in physical therapy and prescribed exercises can promote nerve healing and enhance recovery. It is essential not to rush into strenuous activities too soon.

When to Seek Further Evaluation

While a discectomy can be highly effective, there are cases where foot numbness persists or returns after initial improvement. If this occurs, make sure to seek further evaluation from your healthcare provider. Potential reasons for ongoing foot numbness might include:

  • Recurrent disc herniation – In some instances, the herniated disc might reoccur, necessitating additional treatment.
  • Scar tissue formation – Scar tissue around the nerve root can lead to persistent symptoms.
  • Nerve damage – In severe cases or when there has been prolonged nerve compression, complete recovery may not be possible.

While a discectomy can provide substantial relief from the symptoms of a herniated disc, it is essential to recognize that the resolution of foot numbness varies among patients. Patience, adherence to post-operative care, and realistic expectations are crucial as the body heals. If foot numbness persists or worsens after a discectomy, consulting with a healthcare professional is the best course of action to explore further treatment options. 


If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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