Choir Teacher’s Sciatica Pain Gone After Piriformis Syndrome Surgery

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Choir Teacher Overcomes Chronic Sciatica Pain

After more than two years of debilitating sciatica pain, Deborah found Dr. Tollestrup. Deborah agreed to share her story in hopes of reaching others like her still suffering.

Deborah is a school teacher who teaches choir at a local middle school. Two years ago, she was injured sliding down a ride at a water park. As she was sliding down, she became airborne and landed very hard on the right buttock. Right away, Deborah felt like something had torn or ripped deep in the right buttock and there was a radiating pain which traveled down into the back of her thigh.

Over time, the pain increased causing her to walk with a noticeable limp. Sitting became almost impossible. She also started to have pain in her right foot. Sleeping was problematic because the pain kept her up at night.

Deborah was unable to find a doctor to give her any insight into the source of her pain or recommend any solution. Many doctors are not aware of piriformis syndrome. Very often doctors will recommend physical therapy, spine surgery, and narcotic pain medication. Unfortunately, none of these options offer long-term relief.

“The Tollestrup Procedure”

After hearing Deborah’s story and performing a careful peripheral nerve examination, Dr. Tollestrup diagnosed the source of the pain in Deborah’s right buttock, leg, and foot as Piriformis Syndrome. Piriformis Syndrome occurs when the large sciatic nerve becomes entrapped by the overlying piriformis muscle.

Dr. Tollestrup performed an operation he created to remove the piriformis muscle and relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve.  A colleague calls this surgery the “Tollestrup Procedure.” This is done as an outpatient procedure and the patient is able to walk immediately.

By the time Deborah came back to see Dr. Tollestrup at the two-week post-op mark the debilitating pain in the right leg was completely gone.

Walking on the Beach

It is now two months since Deborah had the pressure on her sciatic nerve relieved. She continues to be pain-free. At her most recent follow-up visit, she remarked that her students noticed that she is no longer walking with a limp. One of them even came up to her and said, “Mrs. Fleischer, you look different since surgery, you can see it in your face.”

A fitting finish to this story is the text Deborah recently sent to Dr. Tollestrup when she was in San Diego. For Dr. Tollestrup, this is the most gratifying part of the job!

If you or someone you know suffers from chronic sciatica pain, fill out the form on the right or call Dr. Tollestrup at 702-666-0463.

Nerve Surgery Success After Six Failed Back Surgeries

By | back pain, chronic pain after surgery, Dr. Tollestrup Blog, nerve decompression surgery, Nerve Surgery, piriformis syndrome, success stories | No Comments

Failed Back Surgery Leads to Nerve Surgery Success

Thomas came to see Dr. Tollestrup after he endured failed back surgery six times. His chief complaint is pain and paresthesia involving the left lower extremity.

Pain and Numbness

Thomas’s pain starts in the left knee and radiates down into the lateral leg and over the dorsum of the foot. He also has pain in the calf muscle and the plantar surface of the foot. He states that he gets a lot of cramping in the toes and the arch of the foot.

Sitting makes the pain worse. When he sits, he also has pain in the left buttock and thigh.

He has a strange sensation that is kind of like a tingling from the knee down into the foot. He describes his pain as a “hard ache” most of the time with occasional intermittent painful electric shocks.

Thomas takes a sleeping aid otherwise he doesn’t sleep very well due to the pain. His wife says that he tries to sleep most of the day just to try to get away from the pain.

He has had a thorough workup with imaging of the spine from both his spine surgeon and his pain management physician. Neither of them can find any ongoing pathology at the spine level.

Sciatic Nerve Compression

On physical examination, Thomas shows evidence of compression of the large sciatic nerve at the level of the piriformis muscle in the deep buttock. This is called piriformis syndrome.

He also has compression of the common peroneal nerve just below the outside of the knee.

To confirm this, Thomas had a diagnostic injection of the left piriformis muscle which totally relieved his usual sciatica pain for about 48 hours.

With the diagnosis confirmed, Dr. Tollestrup took Thomas to the operating room and performed a surgery he developed where the piriformis muscle is removed and the pressure on the sciatic nerve completely relieved.

Surgical Success Times Two

After this surgery, Thomas has complete relief of the sciatic pain from the buttock to the knee level but persisted in having radiating pain down the outside of the lower leg and over the top of the left foot.

He went back to the operating room a second time for surgical decompression of the common peroneal nerve, a nerve that can become pinched just below the outside of the knee. After this procedure, Thomas is now completely pain-free of the original pain in his left leg.

Thomas is not being evaluated by Dr. Tollestrup for his chronic low back pain. Back surgery was supposed to relieve this pain but only made it worse.

Stay tuned for an update on Thomas’s low back pain.

“He has provided me with a quality of life that I thought I lost forever. I now have absolutely no pain in my legs. I am able to walk without pain again.”

Patient's Husband urges friends and family to see Dr. Tollestrup who helped his wife overcome chronic nerve pain

Removing Nerves Relieves Low Back Pain

By | back pain, Dr. Tollestrup Blog, Nerve Surgery, Patient Stories, persistent pain after spine surgery, success stories | No Comments

Low Back Pain Eliminated by Surgically Removing Damaged Nerves

I want to share the story of a patient suffering from low back pain for more than 20 years. His story is applicable to many people dealing with low back pain still searching for relief.

In this particular case, the patient’s low back pain is alleviated when he is sitting or lying down. As soon as he would stand or start walking, he would start experiencing severe low back pain. This low back pain prevents him from walking long distances at a time.

Interestingly, the patient notes that the pain is always located on either side of the spine rather than directly over the spine.

Failed Back Surgeries

Over the years, this patient underwent two separate spinal decompression procedures at different levels in the lumbar spine. Neither surgery gave him any relief.

Luckily, this patient came to see me. After giving him a comprehensive peripheral nerve evaluation, I knew the cause of his long-standing low back pain. My hypothesis is that the pain stems from compression of a series of small nerves on either side of the spine. These nerves are called the superior cluneal nerves.  referred the patient for a diagnostic block of these nerves. This procedure involved putting both the left and the right superior cluneal nerves to sleep by injecting local anesthetic around them. This gave the patient 95% relief from his usual low back pain for almost 10 hours.

Nerve Surgery Offers Solution

Based on the excellent block results, I surgically remove the superior cluneal nerves on both sides. These nerves are relatively unimportant, small sensory nerves, that do not affect the ability to walk or move the back muscles or leg muscle.

By the three-month post-op mark, the patient reports the following:

  •  No pain at all about 75% of the time,
  • The other 25 % of the time, some low back pain when walking but instead of the 8/10 level it had been before, it would be down around a 2-3/10 level.

The difference was life-changing.

Physical therapy may help this patient to further improve. His core muscles are weak due to inability to exercise for the last 20 years. Weak core muscles are a very common cause of mild to moderate low back pain that will usually resolve with exercises targeting these muscles.

If you or someone you know has persistent low back pain I might be able to help them find relief. Please fill out the form on the right or call my office at 702-666-0463.

Tim Tollestrup MD

Nerve Compression Causes Severe Sciatica Pain

By | back pain, Dr. Tollestrup Blog, nerve decompression surgery, Nerve Surgery, Patient Stories, piriformis syndrome | No Comments

Nerve Compression Compromises Quality of Life

Christine suffers from multiple chronic pain issues stemming from nerve compression. These cover the range from severe low back pain and sciatica pain to bladder pain to pain in multiple joints. We will tell her story in segments. Readers can follow her journey back to health with the help of Dr. Tollestrup and his innovative surgeries.

Severe Sciatica Pain

Christine has an aggressive form of osteoarthritis. Eventually, the arthritis pain in the right hip progresses to the point where Christine elects to have the right hip replacement surgery.

After surgery, Christine begins experiencing severe, right-sided sciatica pain. With a history of low back surgery, her doctors assume the problem stems from her back. This despite the fact that MRI imaging of the lumbar spine does not show a problem.

With medication failing to control her pain, she elects to have a newer type of spinal cord stimulator implanted. This is effective for three years. Then the pain in the right leg  comes back with a vengeance.

Pinpointing the Pain

It was at this point that Christine is referred to Dr. Tollestrup by her primary care physician. After completing a comprehensive peripheral nerve evaluation, Dr. Tollestrup concludes that her pain comes from two different pinched nerves in the right leg.

The first location is compression of the sciatic nerve in the deep buttock, a very common cause of sciatica pain called piriformis syndrome. The sciatica pain caused by piriformis syndrome is often missed or attributed to be due to some type of problem at the spine level.

In addition, Christine also has compression of a different nerve near the outside of the knee called the common peroneal nerve.

Rare Find

In the operating room, Dr. Tim Tollestrup finds a very interesting and rare set of circumstances. In Christine’s case, she has an anatomic variation in her piriformis muscle where she effectively has two separate muscle bellies medially joined together into one common tendon.

Understanding this particular anatomic variation of the piriformis muscle is key to understanding why Christine’s previously mild sciatica pain in the right leg became so severe right after the hip replacement. Often when the hip is replaced, the top part of the femur bone, where the piriformis tendon is attached, is removed to accommodate the prosthetic hip joint. Because the piriformis muscle is relatively unimportant in moving the leg, there is often no effort made by the orthopedic surgeon to reconstruct it.

In Christine’s case, however, this had serious consequences because as soon as the piriformis tendon was released, it retracted away from the hip and towards the spine, effectively strangling the part of the sciatic nerve passing through it in the crotch of the two tendons where they joined together.

Sciatica Pain Gone

By the one-week post-op, Christine tells Dr. Tollestrup that 95% of her original sciatica pain was already gone. At the 6-week post-op visit, she notes that her original sciatica pain was 100% gone.

Christine’s sciatica pain is 100% gone after nerve compression surgery*.

Christine has other chronic pain issues, including fairly severe left-sided sciatica pain, which she is continuing to work with Dr. Tollestrup to solve.

If you or someone you love has chronic pain, Dr. Tollestrup can help. Fill out the form on the right side of this page or call the office at 702-666-0463.


We do not guarantee any specific results or outcomes for surgery, should our practice work on your behalf. Information on this website may be used as a reference for successes we’ve achieved for our patients, and not as an assurance or guarantee for similar results in all instances.

Nerve Compression Causes Severe Sciatica Pain

Peripheral Nerve Surgery Offers Hope After Failed Back Surgery

By | back pain, Dr. Tollestrup Blog, Nerve Surgery, persistent pain after spine surgery, piriformis syndrome, success stories | No Comments

Nerve Surgery Heals Patient After Failed Back Surgery

Shelley is a woman who came to see Dr. Tollestrup after she failed back surgery multiple times.  She had pain complaints involving her low back, pelvis, and legs. Before meeting Dr. Tollestrup, Shelly endured failed surgeries and ineffective treatments.

Her story is painful reminder of how getting the right doctor to perform the right surgery is the key to relieving chronic pain.

Painful History

Shelly had three spine surgeries before to coming to see Dr. Tollestrup. After the third surgery, Shelly became aware of severe pain and buzzing in her left leg.

As time progressed the pain in her left foot became worse. Eventually Shelly was given a diagnosis of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome Type 2 (CRPS II). The assumption was that there had been some type of injury to one or more nerves during the disc replacement surgery.

Shelly tried everything – spine injections, ketamine infusions, various medications, physical therapy and finally a spine stimulator. None of these options gave her relief.

By this time, Shelly’s worst pain was the skin of her left thigh. Shelly’s pain management doctor referred her to a local spine surgeon, who ordered a discogram which was positive at the L3 level. Based on that finding, the spine surgeon recommended a fourth spine surgery which was scheduled for May 1, 2017.

Social Media Leads to a New Option

While waiting to undergo her fourth spine surgery, Shelly discovered Dr. Tollestrup through social media. She made an appointment to see him a month before she was scheduled to have back surgery again.

After putting Shelly through a comprehensive peripheral nerve evaluation, Dr. Tollestrup was able to break down Shelly’s various pain complaints.

Based on his detailed understanding of peripheral nerve anatomy, Dr. Tollestrup knew that the pain in Shelly’s left thigh was not coming from a problem involving her L3 intervertebral disc. The simple reason for this is that Shelly was experiencing pain in an anatomic distribution rather than a dermatomal distribution. When a nerve root is pinched at the spine level, it produces pain in a dermatomal distribution (see dermatome picture).

Shelly was experiencing pain in an “anatomic” distribution rather than a “dermatomal” distribution. When a nerve root is pinched at the spine level, it produces pain in a dermatomal distribution

Shelly’s pain clearly conformed to an anatomic distribution. Anatomic distribution describes the actual part of the body that a specific nerve innervates. In the case of Shelly’s left thigh pain, the pain perfectly approximated the anatomic distribution of a nerve called the “lateral femoral cutaneous nerve”, or LFCN for short.

One of Shelly’s secondary complaints was left sciatica pain. Based on her physical exam, Dr. Tollestrup diagnosed her with a left piriformis syndrome which is compression of the big sciatic nerve in the posterior pelvis by the piriformis muscle.

In order to confirm both diagnoses, Dr. Tollestrup sent Shelly for two diagnostic blocks which gave her temporary relief.

Peripheral Nerve Surgeries Successful

The next step for Shelly was surgery. Dr. Tollestrup performed two outpatient surgeries on Shelly the same day.

To address the severe, burning nerve pain in the left thigh, Dr. Tollestrup located the damaged nerve and disconnected it. He then removed a long segment of the nerve and buried the upstream end in the muscle deep in the pelvis.

For the sciatica pain, Dr. Tollestrup removed almost the entire piriformis muscle.

One week later, Dr. Tollestrup saw Shelly back in clinic for her first post-op checkup. She was happy to inform him that the horrible, life-altering pain in the left thigh was completely gone. Surgery also eliminated the left sciatica pain. Shelly’s countenance actually looked different. She looked brighter, happier, and more alive. Dr. Tollestrup refers to this as removing the pain mask.

Shelly feels great after peripheral nerve surgeries.*

Shelly’s story is a cautionary tale. Her spine surgeon misdiagnosed the true cause of her left thigh pain. A fusion of the L3 and L4 vertebrae would not have given her any relief from her pain. In fact, it probably would have made it even worse. It also would not have fixed her left sciatica pain which was due to compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle.

If you or someone you love has failed spine surgeries, injured peripheral nerves might be the problem.

Call the office at 702-666-0463 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tollestrup. Or you can fill out a form on the right hand side of the page.


We do not guarantee any specific results or outcomes for surgery, should our practice work on your behalf. Information on this website may be used as a reference for successes we’ve achieved for our patients, and not as an assurance or guarantee for similar results in all instances.

Peripheral Nerve Surgery Offers Relief from Sciatica Pain

By | Dr. Tollestrup Blog, piriformis syndrome, success stories | No Comments

Peripheral Nerve Surgery Relieves Sciatica Pain

Stephanie is a patient who came to see Dr. Tim Tollestrup in hopes that he could help relieve her left side and sciatica pain.

History of Scoliosis

Seven years ago, Stephanie underwent spine surgery with straightening and fusion of the scoliotic spine. The surgery was 5 hours long and involved both an anterior and posterior surgical approach to the spine.

After surgery, she had resolution of the pelvic symptoms as well as her low back pain. The surgery did not relieve the pain in her legs. In addition, after surgery she had an internal sensation of “numbness” in the left leg. She has had repeat imaging of the lumbar spine since surgery and her spine surgeon has no explanation from a spine standpoint for the persistent symptoms in her lower extremities. Stephanie also felt like her left leg was weaker than the right leg.

About six months ago, Stephanie had recurrence of the left-sided sciatica pain. She underwent injections with her pain management doctor which resolved everything including her posterior knee pain and joint pain.

Tollestrup Procedure

Stephanie came to see Dr. Tollestrup when the injections stopped working and her sciatica pain became unbearable.

Upon examination of the peripheral nerves, Stephanie showed signs of multiple compressed nerves in both legs. In particular, she showed signs of a left piriformis syndrome, the source of her recurrent sciatica pain.

Stephanie went to the OR where Dr. Tollestrup relieved the pressure on her sciatic nerve at the level of the piriformis muscle as well as an additional nerve near the outside of the left knee. This is a surgery invented by Dr. Tollestrup. Other surgeons refer to this surgery as the “Tollestrup Procedure.”

By one week post-op, Stephanie new that her original sciatica pain in the left leg was gone. She is now anxious to see what else can be done for some of the other pain issues she is having in the left foot and right leg.*

If you or someone you know has sciatica pain, Dr. Tollestrup can help. Please call the office to schedule a consultation 702-666-0463.

After years of suffering Stephanie is on the road to recovery thanks to peripheral nerve surgery.*


We do not guarantee any specific results or outcomes for surgery, should our practice work on your behalf. Information on this website may be used as a reference for successes we’ve achieved for our patients, and not as an assurance or guarantee for similar results in all instances.

Nerve Surgery Offers Hope to Patients Suffering from CRPS

By | CRPS, Dr. Tollestrup Blog | No Comments

Understanding and Beating CRPS

Dr. Tollestrup Explains How Patients Suffering Can Be Cured

As many as 200,000 people in the U.S. suffer from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. This is  a chronic nerve disorder that occurs most often in the arms or legs after a major or minor injury. CRPS is a condition that wreaks havoc in patients of all ages. Most patients feel they have to live the rest of their lives in pain. 

In this post, Tollestrup explains how patients can beat this condition through peripheral nerve surgery. CRPS is also referred to as RSD.

CRPS is not a disease in the sense of diabetes or coronary artery disease. It’s better to think of it as a medical condition like fractured bones. The pain involved is simply the clinical manifestation of one or more injured nerves in 90% of patients.

It simply takes evaluation of the patient by a surgeon who understands peripheral nerve anatomy to diagnose the specific nerve injury or combination of nerve injuries. The physician needs to then the apply the proper surgical treatment to correct the nerve damage. In these cases, the patient will usually get better.

CRPS is not something that you have to live with like diabetes. It’s something that can be fixed, like a broken tibia! Just like the pain of a fractured tibia resolves once the bone has been properly set and has time to heal, so the pain resolves once the nerve injuries have been properly treated and given time to heal.

Jason’s Story – How Jason Beat CRPS Through Nerve Decompression Surgery

CRPS is cloaked in a shroud of confusion primarily because almost everyone currently involved in defining and “treating” the condition have no real understanding of peripheral nerve anatomy. For these doctors and other medical professionals, CRPS is and always will remain a mystery.

If you or someone you know has been given this “dread” diagnosis, there is another option besides just accepting the fact that you have to live your life in chronic pain. Please call my office to set up a consultation 702-666-0463.

Tim Tollestrup MD