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Back surgery, Lumbar, L3,4,5 fusion with interbody cages, screws, etc.

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey everyone, I'm new here, don't know if anybody got my post yesterday, so I don't know if it made it there. I had my surgery on Nov. 7th of this yr. (08), still have a lot of pain in my back, and LOTS of pain in my left leg still. I take Vicodin 3 x day, + Valium for back spasams. I was wondering if anyone else has had this type of surgery, & how long it took to even feel half way normal again. I am getting so depressed, can't sleep, hardly walk. I was so active before. Any feedback would be helpful. I just want to get out & start walking again. I think the leg pain is the worst, but the back pain is still really bad. HELP!! Thanks, Linda


  • You had a lot done there. I had fusion @ L-4,L-5 S-1 with screws and rods on Nov. 20 of this year. It took about 3 weeks for horrrible aching in my legs to go away that was not there before surgery but the sciatic pain was gone in recovery. My back hurts and the spasms are real bad while trying to sleep but that area has been badly traumatized by the cutting. I am 41 and was in excellent shape besides the obvious going in. If u want more info id be glad to help what i can. hang in there it is hard and its early dont panic your on a journey here, learn from it and be your best. I write that because I need to here it too. A lot. Merry Christmas, Ed.
  • Hi Ed, thanx for the reply. I still haven't gotten out to walk yet, that really bothers me. The feeling of strangling around my left foot bothers me a lot too. I really want to get off the pain meds, but the doc said that it would be at least 6 months. Don't like that. I do walk around the house a lot, do some laundry, & dishes, but some is almost too much. Most sites I have looked at say at least 6 months to a year for recovery. I am 52 yrs. old, & WAS very active. Not now, getting depressed by the day. Hopefully the pain will ease up a bit soon. Thanks for chatting. God bless, Linda
  • I had only L4/5 fused - that was 5 months ago - so cannot speak to a multi-level fusion. But I can assure you that the feeling of depression you are experiencing are pretty normal. At 3 weeks I cried everyday. I just wanted to feel like myself again, to do things without being in pain or exhausted and to have some semblance of "normal" life! I even went to my family doc and asked him what was wrong with me - he reminded me that I had just had major surgery (2 actually, since it was anterior/posterior) and reiterated that it was a 1 to 2 year recovery. Of course, I had been told before surgery that recovery could take that long but didn't really believe it. I thought "not me, I'm healthy, in good shape, etc. etc.". Hah!

    A couple of things that really helped me were talking to two old friends who are my age or older (58) who had had fusion surgery and reading the posts on this forum from others going through the same thing. One post I read over and over - it was posted by Lakeside and she titled it "The waiting game". I just looked and it is under the thread "Please post surgery patients be very careful ;) UPDATE" back in October. It really helped me to put things in perspective.

    Walk as much as you can - it does help the pain and also makes you feel like you are taking some action to speed your recovery. I walked around and around the house before I felt up to walking outside. And my first outside walk was about 1/2 block, I think. Walk, rest, and eat right. It really helped me to establish a routine each day that except for showering and dressing consisted mostly of walking, resting, and eating. I also kept a log of what I did in terms of walking and activities. As time went on, when I felt like I was making no progress I was able to look back and see that I was doing much more I could do x number of weeks before.

    Sometimes I think the hardest part of this recovery is patience. But it will get better - certainly with ups and downs and way more slowly than you want.

    Hang in there!
  • Welcome to Spine Health, I had L4=S1 fused with screws and rods, etc. Mine was a TLIF and it's been over 7 months. I had a hard time with back pain and sciatic and I understand how you feel. It's frustrating not being able to do much and recovery can be a tough journey. It's still early for you and I hope you will be able to start PT to help you along soon. Also, the cold weather may be giving you a hard time, a lot of us are combating that. I didn't do well with my recovery, and I think in my case, being deconditioned was a contributing factor. I never exercised and had a sedentary lifestyle, and it's not good for anybody. If you are able to walk at some point, just take baby steps at the beginning. Try not to overdo things and wind up giving yourself a setback. I really hope things work out for you and that you come away from this recuperated and happy.
  • Hey everyone, thanx for the replys. I feel like I'm starting on the "upswing" finally, the pain is still quite bad, but I think the leg "squeezing" is the worst. I'm so afraid that I'm twisting, or bending too far, so things won't mend, but then again, I don't want to just sit & do nothing. I'm going to try to walk more, little by little. Sure seems like it takes a while to even feel a little "normal". My husband is great with taking care of the house, & me, so I feel very blessed. I hope I don't need any additional surgery for the "squeezing" in my leg, I don't know what that is all about. Didn't seem like it was that bad before surgery. So ya all keep talking at me, & maybe I'll get through this. He did say 6 months to a year. I've also gained about 20 lbs. Nice. Merry Christmas to all! Linda P.S. I am still taking Methadone, 10 mg 2xday, & Vicodin E S 3xday, & Valium 5mg, every 6 hrs.
  • You are doing great.
    It is a big surgery and it will take time to get over. Forget out the pain meds, in fact maybe some slow release ones would work better for you - something to tlk to your Dr about.
    I had L3-S1 done last May and a few weeks ago I started at the gym. Ok not doing weights and things but the treadmill, some light weights,and exercises.
    The more you can move around now the better for you later but that doesn't mean walking for hours a day. If you can make it to the end of your street or 10 houses up and back 6 tiems a day that is a good goal to start with. You know what you can do so just slowly increase it every day.
    Try not to sit too much as that doesn't do you any favours.
    The squeezing may juat be tight muscles but it is worth mentioning to the Dr as I am only guessing here. I have not heard that mentioned before but we all tend to feel things differently.
    Yes depression is part and parcel of this surgery and dont feel bad if you want to ask for antidepressants sort term.
    Have you been given any exercises to do? That helps mentally as much as anything as you feel you can do something for yourself. DO you have a brace? (I didn't).
    Also water therapy is great and you should be ready for that by now. SO even just walking in a heated pool can do wonders.

    I really hope things improve for you soon.
    Blessings Sara O:)

  • in Sept. 07, L3-5 fusion, except I didn't have the cage, just the rods and screws. It does take a while to get it back together.

    While I'm not 100% better, my back and leg pain is 1000% better than it was before the surgery. I still take vicodin as needed (mostly when stressed and/or at work), and also take lyrica and effexor. I feel an occasional twinge down my leg, but no numbness or tingling like before.

    My goal, before my surgery, was to jump on the trampoline santa brought my daughters 2 years ago. I DID IT!! This past summer. No flips or tricks, but bounced up and down and also some butt bounces.

    Hang in there. I know it's hard. Don't be in a rush. Have you started PT yet? I started at 6 weeks, and it helped me get moving.

    Things will improve. You've come to the right place for help and support. Also, if you think something isn't right, call your surgeon's office. That's what they're there for.
  • I had a 360.. Anterior/posterior fusion 3 months ago tomorrow, cages, rods, screws, BMP, etc... And I feel great, except my incision site on my stomach still gives me issues. Back is fine, front is crappy. It takes a while with incisions on the stomach, which I already knew from my csection with my son, but it is still annoying. If it weren't for the pain I have lower down my back, underneath my fusion site, I probably wouldn't need any pain meds... But I still take at least 8 Percocet a day, generally 2 at a time. I stopped the Valium now that I am going to start physical therapy... Hope that will reduce the need for painkillers.

    Lumbar fusion with interbody cages and hardware is a really common surgery among those who reach the point of surgical intervention... And especially here. It's probably one of the most commonly performed. So there are PLENTY of people here who can offer you insight and support.
  • Thanks for all the advice! Today was the first day that I have gone outdoors to walk for any distance. I feel so set back, gaining weight. The trails I used to do 4 times a day, I could hardly get 1/2 way down 1. I guess it all take time. Pain is quite bad. Do you guys think Vicodin E S 3xday + 10mg. Methadone 2xday is a lot of pain med still? Has been 7 wks, tomorrow I had surgery. I had a lot more done, just didn't put it all, 9 things in all. I see a lot of you are on stronger meds, I thought. Who am I to know what is strong, doesn't seem like mine are strong enough!! LOL All I'm doing tonite is laying in bed with pillows! Too much in one day I guess. Take care, God bless, Linda
  • Linda, pain medication varies greatly from person to person. Also, since you are 7 weeks post op, I am assuming you've been on meds for at LEAST 7 weeks... The body builds up a tolerance to narcotics over time. Also, the healing process is always filled with ups and downs, and if you are going to physical therapy, you will most likely have an increase in pain around that time... I wouldn't worry too much about the amount of pain meds if your doctor hasn't said anything to you. Take comfort in the fact that you are under the supervision of a doctor, and if there were something wrong with it, they would adjust your dosage accordingly. As long as you are always honest with your doctor, then whatever you are doing, based on their instructions, is what is right for you. If you trusted them enough to perform surgery on you, then I'm sure you trust them enough to medicate you :)
  • Hey, Lo! Thankx for the note. You said you had a 360 degree fusion, I was wondering why they didn't just cut in your back. My incision is from the middle of my lower back to my butt :jawdrop: I wish I could list everything I had done, the doctor called my husband while I was in surgery, & told him that my back was a mess, I had fallen out of a tree. He told him to go ahead with the multi level instrumented fusion (he was goint to try to do discectomy's but it was too bad)I was pretty bummed to say the least that when I woke up, my husband told me what I feared worst, they had to fuse everything. They are good docs there. I'm just not one to sit around, this site is great for feed back, & to see how everyone's progress is. Let me know how you are progressing, your pain level, etc. Do you find yourself bending & then realizing that you did? Any feedback would help. God bless, Linda
  • I too was very active until my back finally gave out for good and I was fused L5/S1 and I haven't been the same since. It will be 6 months post op on Jan 1st and I can understand your frustration with wanting to get out and do the things you used to do. Keep in touch and try not to get too down on yourself. It takes time to recover my surgery especially a major surgery such as yours. I pray you will have a speedy pain free/less recovery.
  • I remember how hellish those first 3 weeks were! Pain was bad, learning patience was horrible, cabin fever was bad. When I really couldn't walk and was down from being inside, I would make my husband take me to the craft store or any store really and I would ride the scooters. I just needed to get out in public, I didn't care where. Walking is great exercise, but don't do it if it makes your leg pain worse.

    Feelings of depression are normal and expected. Don't be afraid to ask for meds if needed. I don't know about feeling "normal" anymore, what the heck is that? :)

    I think getting out in the world(even in a scooter) might help your spirits a bit, just don't overdo it and exhaust yourself. The biggest thing I've learned about this whole thing is patience. One doc said to me, "Your back didn't get bad in one day, why would you expect to be better that quickly?" It is a very, very, long process and everyone heals on their own unique timeline. I'm still in that process(I've had a few complications) but I know I WILL get better.

    Remember-SH is always here for you, we know what you are going through. And always update your doctor, even if it's just a call to his nurse.
  • 3 1/2 years ago, I was in an accident and had the same thing done and it's been a year and a half since my second surgery and I'm still not doing well unfortunately. It's very different from patient to patient I think and it's basically just a waiting game. Over time it gets better ... maybe not what we would expect it to be but better than it was before the surgery. It's such a difficult process and I applaud you for pushing through it because I know that it's miserable but in the end you can see how strong you are. People used to tell me this crap all the time but I refused to listen. Now that I've gone through it and see how far I've come I see how much I've endured. One more thing ... medication is here for a reason and I suggest that if you're in a lot of pain then of course take it. But I had way too many doctors around me who would hand it out like candy and it screwed me over in the end. just be so careful because we actually NEED the medicine and it sucks when it becomes another battle. God bless!
  • Hey there everyone! Did a little too much yesterday, Sore!! Couldn't find my "claw" I call it, did too much bending. I hope that isn't hurting the fusing, I do have to have an MRI done soon, I called the nurse & asked her about the leg pain being so bad, so I have to do it. I hope I didn't mess things up. Still taking Vicodin ES 3xday, & Valium 5 mg. each 6 hrs. Methadone 10mg. 2xday. Sure seems good to go to bed at night & get off my feet. You really couldn't explain that to someone who didn't have this surgery. Does seem to ease up a bit if I'm not too active. Patience is the key. I'm not real good at just doing nothing. I sooooo appreciate being able to talk to everyone. I'ts hard to talk to a significant other about this, don't want to complain, or feel weak in their eyes. It really is a big decision to have this surgery done, I did put it off for a long time, I surely hope it helps the pain. Thanks again-God bless, Linda
  • Yikes! Sounds like quite a mess you've got there!

    They did a 360 because I'm so young. The younger a person is, generally the more physical strain their body is put under. Also, the longer the fusion needs to last. They went in through both sides to be secure, and also because they removed the ENTIRE disc. They had to do a radical discectomy along with my fusion because I herniated the same disc twice. A lot of people don't realize this, but it's not typical to remove every speck of a disc with a fusion... They generally remove most, but NOT ALL of the disc material. You can't get all of the disc material when going through the back... You can get much more of the surface space, and actually all of the disc, when going through the front. BUT, my surgeon doesn't like putting hardware on the front or sides of the spine, only the back. So she combined all the best techniques to get it done for me. I also had to have a fragment of the disc excised from a ligament along my spine, and a bit of scar tissue removed along my L5 nerve root, from my previous surgery. For a simple one level fusion, it was quite a complex surgery... My Neurosurgeon is very good, though! I definitely feel soooo much better now than I did before surgery. Everyone I had seen before her just wrote me off because of my age. Thankfully she cared enough to actually take me seriously and treat me.

    I tend to do things I shouldn't... It's hard. At 22, you really have a hard time "taking it easy". I want to go out on the weekends and go shopping, or go to the beach, or hang out with friends. I also have a son who will be 6 in February, who is QUITE the handful. I am lucky that I haven't messed anything up by doing the things I do. I have signs of fusing already, when I had my 2 month x-rays. My pain level is actually pretty low... I still have to take the Percocet regularly, but it controls the pain a lot better than it did pre-op.

    It's a long recovery process, but I definitely am glad I went ahead with the surgery. I hope you're feeling well today, and I wish you the best with your healing ! :)
  • Literally. I had L3-S1 fused on November 19th - well, kind of. They were able to place the rods and screws, but there was too much scar tissue from my microdiscectomy from the year before, so they couldn't remove the torn discs and get the new implants in. So, four days later, on the 24th, they opened me from the top of my public bone to the bottom of my left ribcage and took out the torn discs, put in the dowels of cadaver bone, some of my own bone marrow, and some BMP. I am depressed. I want to be better yesterday. I walk with a cane, but it's been so cold with the rain blowing sideways, that I don't feel much like doing anything. I DO, however, HAVE TO DO THIS TO REGAIN MY HEALTH, so I WILL continue to get out there and move. To tell you the truth, I feel worse when I stop moving than I do when I was moving. I hope and pray you get back in shape too. For me it is largely the nerve pain. I have no feeling in my right foot. They tell me the pain is temporary, but I don't think they know for sure.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hi Linda, glad to meet you here on Spine Health. I had a one level fusion in August of this year. The first 2 weeks were very painful, but then started to get better very slowly. Recovering from fusion surgery is a full time job requiring focus on health and nutrition, exercise in the form of walking, and following our physicians instructions, including limitations. If you were instructed no BLT, then please don't BLT. You only have one chance to do this right. If something is damaged or undone, it is not simple to fix it. I recommend you only do what can be done without BLTing.

    I know how boring and depressing this recovery is. I felt so helpless, anxious, and depressed starting around week 3. What did help was when I was able to get out and do some things for my health and recovery. I started going to the YMCA at 4 weeks out to do pool therapy. It is a great gentle form of exercise to start with. I also walked from day one and was walking about a mile by 4 weeks post-op. I encourage you to keep walking on a soooth flat surface, no hiking yet, and just gradually increase your distance. I found walking actually helped my post-op sciatic pain. I actually lost some weight with these activities, as before surgery, pain in my hip prevented exercise.

    Have you discussed the strangling leg feeling with your surgeon? How about trying meds for nerve pain such as lyrica or neurontin. I have never taken them, but many here on SH have had positive results with them.

    Hang in there. It does get better. You are still very early in your recovery. Keep doing your job of resting and healing, and let someone else do the majority of the chores. If need be, just let them go. It is that important to your recovery. >:D< Cali-Sue
  • Good morning Cali-Sue. I was wondering (new at this) how everyone put down everything they had done at the end of their post. I could name a lot, (I had a lot of damage from a fall), but don't know how to do that. Thank you for the words of advice, yes, I do more than I should, but when you feel better, you naturally do more. I'm really trying to walk more, but it is so icy where we are (Michigan), I'm afraid to go outdoors, so I walk indoors. We don't have a YWCA here. I don't know what's up with the leg pain, it's getting very annoying. I don't have prescription drug insurance,& I'm sure that Lyrica is very expensive, because it is new, & no generic made yet. I will ask the doc on the 19th of Jan. about the leg pain. He is gone a lot, seems. I want to try to cut back on the Vicoden ES, hope it will work out ok. I feel like I can. I only take the Valium when the spasms kick up. Otherwise, it seems better, it has been almost 8 weeks. I know the first month was a real drag, lots of pain. Good luck with your journey, good to talk to people about this. I have a wonderful Church family also. God bless, Linda
  • I'm having a PLIF at the L4-L5 level next Monday, and y'all are providing excellent information...and encouragement...that'll really benefit me...thanks
  • Skinmyheart, I too, had multi-level fusion L3,4,5 on Nov.7th of this yr. Let me tell you it isn't anything you would expect painwise, but it does get better. I never thought the nagging pain would let up, but after about 3-4 weeks, I was walking a lot more, & doing a lot more, & getting more sore ~X( ! I found the best thing is to let someone else take care of things, & you rest, that is the only way that you will get better. It is soooooooooo hard to do, especially when you feel better. I am having trouble with my nerve pain in my left leg, I don't see my neurosurgeon until Jan. 19th, they tell me when I call & ask about it that it is normal, sure doesn't feel it. I remember the first week, I would lay in bed, so much pain I would just cry, my husband didn't know what to do. He felt so bad. It does get better, patience is the key. Just rest, rest, rest, & walk when you can. Take your meds. Don't let the pain catch up with you if you think you can get off them soon, NOT! I tried that, doc said, most people stay on them 6 months or so, I thought to myself, I will not! But you really need them, & can get off when the time is right. Hope this helps, I'm only 7-8 weeks out, feeling sore, but I can walk quite a long distance, even in deep snow. So just be patient, & vent on here, it sure helps. God bless, Linda
  • Hi Linda! I just registered after looking to find some info for myself. I had the same fusion surgery done on 7/01/08 and have been on only 800 mg. of Motrin for the past 3 mos. That sure isn't cutting it! My neighbor's son had his done about 2 yrs. ago and has been in so much pain that he saw his physician who believes that his fusion may have moved..............that's what I was trying to find out - if that were possible. Anyway, it's not an easy road to travel. I stay very active but the pain is most intense in the a.m. when I wake up and am so stiff. I've been doing pretty well after all of it but for the past 2 mornings have had the same pains return as before surgery for the spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. Swimming is a great help if you are able to do it. I am still very cautious about lifting heavy objects or moving anything like a chair. Best of luck to all of you who have had this procedure done or are expecting to do so. I'd be glad to share any info with anyone looking for any.
  • Hi,
    I had my surgery 3 months ago and had two fusions L3-L5 and rods and screws and a lamenectomy. I thought I would be farther along than this, but I am ok. I don't have leg or back pain that I had last fall, but I do have muscles that just won't quit. I know it takes time, but sometimes I feel like I have a brick in my back or sometimes I call it bicycle handlebars when it gets a larger area. It is awful sometimes. I can walk and do some housework and drive, but sometimes I overdo and pay for it.

    I know I'm doing better, but that patience thing is so hard. I am doing pool therapy as well as treadmill and bike and stretching things. I still take 1-2 vicodin a day and an anxiety med to relax a few times a week, I did not do well with muscle relaxants.

    I hope you are doing better by now, let me know. Thanks

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