A female asked:
after i had lower back surgery, my left foot is numb. doctor said i have poor circulation and that the pulse in my left foot is slower than my right. he said it could be too much fat being absorbed.
3 doctor answers
Dr. Howard Fox answered
41 years experience Podiatry
I : I thought dr. Christensen's answer was spot-on, but i'd like to add my two cents. In general, the presenting symptom of poor circulation is pain, not numbness. Numbness is a symptom of a nerve problem. When you fall asleep on your arm and it feels numb and pins-and-needle-like, it's because you've compressed a nerve, not cut off the circulation. When you have a heart attack, it's because an area of the heart muscle isn't getting enough oxygenated blood, and you feel pain. People with poor circulation in their legs can't walk because of pain, not numbness. (incidentally, diabetics who frequently feel numbness, burning, etc. In their feet are feeling problems with how their nerves function. It's not circulation that causes this.) if you began feeling numbness in your calves right after your back surgery, i think it's a remarkable coincidence. It's hard to believe you developed "poor circulation" right after having surgery on your back. Nerves that bring sensation from the legs to the brain have to pass through the spinal cord, and any compression to the spinal cord or nerve roots can cause all sorts of symptoms in the legs & feet. As dr. Christensen explained, the nerves in your back could be responding to the swelling and trauma of being manipulated during surgery. If so, this usually clears up in time. When you say the pulse in one foot is "slower" than the other, i'm guessing you mean it feels weaker; less strong. The best way to determine if you really do have an issue with circulation is to have plethysmography done, which is a simple, painless test to measure the circulation in your legs. A vascular surgeon is the type of doctor who would do this. If your circulation is fine and it's just the nerves in your back that are responding to surgical manipulation, you'll probably be fine in a few weeks. If the symptoms persist, acupuncture helps this nicely. Good luck!
Answered on Oct 3, 2016
Dr. Heidi Fowler answered
24 years experience Psychiatry
I : I am a medical acupuncturist and i concur with dr fox'es recommendation. Acupuncture activates stagnant blood and energy (electrical) and circulates qi in various parts of the body. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in china. It is not invasive (the needles are much thinner than those used to draw blood) and complements western medicine very well. The results can be very remarkable. There are many do's and md's who are practicing medical acupuncture in the us now. Take care.
Answered on Oct 3, 2016
Dr. Stephen Christensen answered
34 years experience Family Medicine
I'm : I'm sorry you're having problems with your legs and feet. Unfortunately, without an examination and further testing (nerve conduction studies, repeat MRI of your lower back, etc.) it's simply not possible to determine why you're having these symptoms. Depending on the type of surgery you had, your numbness could be caused by transient inflammation and swelling around the surgical site. Such swelling could compress nearby nerve roots and cause numbness in your lower extremities. Alternatively, it's possible your legs or ankles were crossed or compressed during surgery or shortly thereafter, when you were too sedated to change positions. This could cause a "palsy" in one or more of the peripheral nerves in your legs. Given time, this, too, should resolve. Finally, it's possible you experienced some as yet undetected damage during your surgery that injured the nerves in your back. If that's the case, your numbness might be permanent. You may need to consult a neurologist or neurosurgeon to get the answers to your questions. I hope things go well for you!
Answered on Oct 4, 2016
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