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3 months post op lumbar fusion help anyone

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi All :H ,

Hope everyone is hanging in there and doing well, or as well as we all can. I just had my second post op appt. I have had very little improvement and received very little info. from my NS. At this point I am wondering why I had surgery. I seem worse than before. Don't get me wrong I really like my surgeon, but I am sooo confused. He said no pt until I am fused, but he said I should be pretty much where I am going to be at this point. Then he said soft tissue takes 6-8 months to heal. I told him I am still in a significant amount of pain (back and leg). He then looked at my X-ray and said he wasn't unhappy with my progress, yet one screw looked a little off at the bottom, which may cause problems by digging into bone and nerve. He intensely stared at the films and pointed to that screw and then said "no we will wait and see". "Lets do a cat scan and then maybe PT if you are fused". I don't know what to think. I thought I would be further along. Should I be scared.

I can walk almost a mile. I do pay for it. I am in pain somewhat but do it anyway. I can sit for about an hour at a time but limp for a few minutes after sitting to long. I can sleep without sleeping pills but wake up a few times a night. I only take maybe a pain pill once a day if that. I am on lyrica 75 mg twice a day. Does anyone think at this point I should panic. This is the third surgery and I've also had a staff infection after my first. I am so done with all of this. As most of you all are. I would welcome any thoughts. Thanks everyone. I get comfort just reading your posts.

Take care all,

L4-L5 lami, staff infection (osteomyelytis), 7mnths vancomyocin, mutiple esi, 6 rounds PT, hip surgery for rt labral tear, shattered tailbone removed, L4-L5 L5-S1fusion


  • I hope you completely heal from your surgery. Wishing you all the best. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I am so sorry to hear you are still in so much pain after having surgery. We get to a point where we are excited to have the fusion in hopes to be feeling less pain in return only to find out we may feel the same or even worse. I understand where you are coming from. It is still very early and I'm so proud of you for continuing to walk even though it hurts. I was doing pretty good after my fusion up until about 3-4 months out and then it started to get worse and worse as the months went on. I am at 8months now and just think I may be getting inpatient.

    If you are concerned about the screw, maybe you could call around and see if you can get another doc to take a look at it if you don't feel comfortable with the surgeon you have. I know some docs are reluctant to even look at xrays or MRI's if you had surgery from someone else.

    Did you have the CT Scan done yet? This should give the doc a better view of the bone growth and fusion

    Hopefully, this is just part of the healing process and you will start to feel better and better as the months go on.

    Hand in there and feel free to PM me with any questions, comments or concerns you may have or even if you would like to vent about the frustrations of still hurting after fusion.
  • I have had same issues with big fusion (4 months ago), and my doc says WAY TOO SOON to know success and failure. I am still paying for increasing activity, too--by having lots of pain by end of day. But he says it just takes time, don't panic.
  • You all help so much. Dana I am sorry you are having the same issue I am. I know it is so hard to be patient and play the wait and see game. We put all our hopes into these surgeries and sometimes feel so let down when things don't happen right away. Ming thank you so much for your feedback. Your experience having gone through this is very helpful. I had my cat scan yesterday, so we will see. Today I am flat in bed actually limping as I walk. I can't see how one day I walk a mile and the next I can't at all. Oh well, it is one of those things that I know is a roller coaster. I just really thought I would be further along. I guess I was so sadly wrong. Thanks so much for your support. Unless someone has gone through this it is hard to understand. My family is great, no complaints but still hard for anyone to really know. Spring is here and I really want to get back to living. We will see what the results of the cat scan show. good luck with your apt on the 24th ming let me know how it goes. Take care everyone. Xoxo lisa
  • Hi Charry,

    Thanks for the wishes. I do wish that were the case. I had a cat scan yesterday. NS is thinking from the X ray possibly one screw is misplaced or moved. Some days are better than others. I still have to say over all I was better before my surgery. So I can hope that this is still healing. It is just frightening to think this could have all made me worse. I just have to not panic and hold on, play the wait and see game. How are you feeing? I hope this email finds you well.

    Take care,
  • Keep us posted on your ctscan results. I am very impatient and had high expectations of how I would feel only months after surgery. It was such a disappointment when I didn't meet my expectations. I know what you mean about spring coming. The first thing that comes to mind when I think spring is planting my garden and doing yard work. I won't be able to do any of this if something doesn't improve soon.

    Keep in touch and I will keep you in my prayers. You should request a copy of your written report of your ct scan results to keep for your records.
  • Good Luck on your apt today let us know how it goes. I am just waiting for ct results. No news here. I hope all goes well for you. It is today the 24th right?

    Take care,
  • Keep your chin up. Looks like we are about in the same place. I had a two level fusion and discectomy. I still have pain, and still am keeping my hopes up. I know it takes a long time to fuse. My Dr told me that I am now starting to fuse at my last visit. Have next one April22. I havnt started PT yet. Maybe in May he said. I had annular tears in 2 discs and still have one that could cause me problems down the road. But I am better than post op and better than last month. I think that maybe if you hurt to much after walking a mile, maybe you should do several smaller walks. That is what my Dr told me. Not the length as much as the movement several times a day. I guess it made sense to me, that it woldnt strain muscles as much. Hope today is a good day for you. Just be paitient. Its a long process.
  • Lisa,

    I am four months post op--same surgery basically--and have settled back into the same pre-surgery pain level. It got much worse after the surgery, then around month 3 it stabilized and improved, now it is right back to the same exact pain--only worse because it is brought on by minor activity (walking, driving, etc). Before my surgery, my pain would be brought on by playing basketball, running, yardwork, etc. I had a CT Scan and it showed I am fusing--but not yet complete. The doctor said I may need another fusion from the back this time to cut down on all movement in that area. I am starting to think they have tackled the wrong pain generator. I did have a discogram that showed L5/S1 was the culprit--and the other two discs were fine--but I just haven't had any real pain relief--it is still that same compressed feeling.

    I would say that a huge positive for you are your pain med levels! You are doing great! I was on Oxycontin 20mg 2/3 times a day up until last week when I went down to Vicodin only as needed throughout the day (3/4 a day). It sounds like you have really gutted it out absent heavy pain meds. Good for you. On the other hand, they really do improve quality of life--but they are tricky too.

    I am resigned to the long haul. I have heard this surgery can take up to a year or more to resolve itself. It all depends on the rate of healing. I would think (although it seems I can't get a real clear answer on this one)--that the pain level is directly related to the fusion rate. So, the stronger that fusion gets, the more pain relief you will have (????)

    One of my questions is whether or not all the activity is truly good for these fusions. I have a couple of older friends who had their fusions performed in the 70's. They are perfectly FINE now and have been since. However, back then, you had the fusion, and you DID NOTHING for 6 months or more. Now, they have us walking, riding the bike, getting in the water, going to work, driving. I don't know...

  • Thanks so very much for your reply. I am so sorry that you too have gone through the same pain and surgery. I appreciate all the info from you. I find it very interesting that we both have had more pain after surgery. I seem to get no real answers from my NS. Don't get me wrong he is a great guy and very talented but I just want to know am I doing to much or to little. Some people say I am causing myself more pain by pushing myself. I find your comment about people who used to have this surgery in the 70's very interesting and possibly true. I have days that are much better when I just take it easy. But....then you walk out side and a neighbor says to you "I don't know how you can do that, stay in, I wouldn't I don't care what any doctor would tell me. I would do what I want, nothing would keep me down". I just walked back in my house and cried, feeling like all my efforts have been for nothing. Healthy people have a way of making us feel lazy at times.

    Thank you for your understanding. That in itself makes me feel validated. Today I tried to clean the bathrooms, do laundry, shower, went to the store and a little vacuuming. My back is really killing me. I know that is way too much bending. It is just I need to be reminded that I am still healing. I did end up taking a vicodin tonight. I usually just take flexeril everyday and lyrica. Sometimes I wonder if that is just plain crazy though. I think it would be better to just go on the meds and live a better quality of life. BTW I had a discogram also. I had tears and the test showed L4-L5 and L5-S1 both problematic. Hated that test. Interesting about the stronger the fusion the less pain. Maybe I just need to be more patient. I will take your lead on that one. I wonder what my CT scan is going to show. It should be in this week.

    Take care,
  • Thanks for your reply. It seems I take 2 steps forward and 3 back. I push myself so much thinking it will help and end up in pain that evening and the following day or two. You would think that my brain would tell me that isn't working. I just wish my Doc. would lead me in some direction. I can't get a straight answer from him. He tells me don't do to much and no PT, yet on the other hand he tells me some people are working at my stage. So what does that mean. I try really hard but I couldn't work a full day. The pain would kill me.

    Thank you for reminding it is a long process. It is just for most of us we have been battling this for a long time and we can't wait to get back to living our lives.

    Thanks again and take care,
  • You are very normal. You'll be just fine. The biggest thing us Spinal Fusion patients have to remember is "patience". I had a three level fusion, and I wasn't allowed to start PT until I was fused or fusing was showing, and that was at 23 weeks post. THEN the PT I started was really little. All I can say is walk, walk, walk as much as you can. Getting the blood flowing back there helps you heal faster.

    But your surgery was major!!! I am 1 year 1 month post-op, and I'm still healing. My NS told me to expect 2 years. But your pain level at three months post-op should still be pretty high. It does get better, it just takes more time than you were told. If they were to tell us the truth, I don't know that any of us would of had it done. lol:) But walking really does make it heal faster. I still to this day walk 1-1/2 miles per day, ride my stationary bike 3 miles per day, and am finally into some bigger excersises with my PT. BUT it took a year to get here.

  • I'm 2 1/2 years out of surgery and I must say that the 3 month mark was the most difficult for me. I wanted to go, go, go but it hurt, hurt, hurt when I did. I had a lot of setbacks at that point because I was doing things I shouldn't have been. I just needed to be a little more patient.

    I think I was at the same point you are when I was three months out. I was very frustrated and nearly suicidal. I'm good now though.

    I say to just be patient and if things don't improve by 6 months, then worry.
  • Steve,

    Thanks so much for your advice. It makes so much sense and rings true to me. Mainly today. My daughter mentioned to me around 5pm, "you know Mom your a little busy bee today, you haven't sat down". And I realized it's like I'm trying to play catch up. In the mean time I am setting myself back. You just feel so trapped because you have been grounded for months. I push it and push it and then get depressed because I think I am not getting better. I need to listen to my body. It is so hard when you hear insensitive comments from other people. I was telling Michelle about my neighbor. I just had walked a mile I was so happy to be out. Spring is finally here in MI (long overdue). My neighbor says to me, "Hey stranger we haven't seen you in a while. How have you been feeling?" So I tell him I am better. He proceeds to tell me "Well, if it were me I don't care what the doctors would tell me. Or what kind of surgery. Nothing would keep me down, I just can't sit around. I'd be out right away." I just walked in the house and cried. It's like people are telling you that you are weak and they would be so much stronger, or you are lazy. So I think I let that get to me. So thanks for your validation. It is greatly appreciated. I am glad to hear you are doing well now. How is your mobility? Bending and such?

    Have a great day.

    Thanks again.

  • Ask your NS if you can have aqua therapy if you have the facility near you. My NS did Rx this and boy did it help. I walked a treadmill in water and the water was up to my shoulders. It was the best thing for me.

    I hope your pain level decreases soon and don't push yourself to the limit. Take everything in stride.

    I don't want to be a bummer but I wanted to be able to do things fast also and now am paying for it. I fused fast due to BMP and bone stimulator but have been told that surgery was a failure. Too much scar tissue, I over calcify so nerves are encompassed again.

    Good Luck and God Bless
  • Lisa,
    I want to start by saying I love the new pic.

    I know what you mean about pushing yourself and doing too much when you feel a little bit better cuz you are playing catch up. I overdid it constantly and tried so hard to push through the pain as I was doing indoor and outdoor chores. I just kept repeating to myself what my surgeon had told me "there is nothing that I can do to hurt the fusion. He said I needed to be more active and not worry about hurting anything he did in surgery". So I listened to him and did things I knew I probably shouldn't and it hurt like heck. I rode my 4wheeler one night in Sept 08 for the annual girls' ride and didn't feel the same afterwards. My pain level was intense and constant afterwards. I also pruned my gma's blueberry bushes. I hadn't been done in 9 year since my gpa passed away. I was tending to my garden all summer, raking the yard and push mowing. All of these things caused great pain and would leave me immobile for 2-4 days afterwards but heck he said I couldn't hurt my fusion and I was just hurting myself by not being active. He even ordered a CTScan in Nov 2008 and the radiologist report said everything looked good and I shouldn't be feeling this much pain. I just need to increase my activity level even more so my body will generate endorphins to fight off the pain naturally. He said I hurt so much cuz I'm dependent on pain meds. So fast forward to 3/24/09. I got sick of hearing it was all in my head and I'm just lazy. The surgeon convinced my husband the same thing so he was harping on me to be more active too and I was just a wimp. I finally decided to get another opinion and seen a highly recommended neurosurgeon in our area and he found that I had not fused and I have 2 fractured screws. Now I have validation in my pain. My husband and family understand why I hurt so much but it took hearing it from another professional who pointed all this out to my husband on the same ctscan that I had in Nov and was told everything looked great.

    If you feel something isn't right with your body and your healing process and you aren't comfortable with what your surgeon is saying to you, please take my experience and get a second opinion from someone not affiliated with the office of your surgeons. I am not saying that all of you are dealing with failed fusion. I'm just stating that if my surgeon hadn't told me I couldn't hurt my fusion, I would've been more careful. I don't know if that is what caused it. I beleive I wouldn't have fused anyway and the screws would end up breaking from the pressure of the empty disc space.

    I keep my spiney friends in my prayers everyday.
  • So very exhausted tonight. It hurts to just breath. I have been so very negligent to myself today. I pushed it all day and into this evening. My daughter and her friend wanted to go out, my parents wanted me to meet them in the afternoon I drove an hour round trip there. After that I had an hour to come home, take care of my dogs, drive another 40 minutes to meet my husband and test drive some cars (that included getting in and out of vehicles). By the time this was over I literally couldn't drive home. I broke down and had to be driven home and leave my car where it was at. What was I thinking? To hell with the damn doctors pushing us and making us feel lazy. I can't get out of bed to use the bathroom right now. I would rather hold it. So that all being said. Lets not let them push us around. I have been through this doctor trip for many years. I took care of my Great Aunt (I was her medical power of attorney) and my mother was seriously ill for 16 years. I also have a degree in Hospice. Medicine is business, no different than any other business. What they need to remember is we are their customers. We pay them to treat us. It is our medical insurance that keeps their practices going. I have actually physically grabbed a doctor once and asked him if he would treat his mother the way he was treating his patients. To all of my friends out there please remember this. You are the reason the doctors have a job. This is the business they wanted to be in. My cousin who is an MD laughed the other day and told us that he and his partners talked about Lions for 2 hours while their patients waited for them. How sad! Doctors need to be fired when they are not doing their jobs properly. Just like any other person we hire to do a service for us.

    Now that all that ranting is over (sorry my cousins comment just was the last straw) I will now say thanks so very much for the advise. I will ask about aqua therapy Tina Marie. and Ming your a doll. I hope you are feeling better. We have times that we grieve and I really mean grieve. We grieve for our bodies that are not functioning like they should. We feel one way on the inside but the body feels something else. I feel inside like a young women but my spine makes me physical feel about 100 and that's just not fair. But....then we have to wake up the next day and learn to adapt to this way of life until something comes along to help us. And I believe something will come along. I am so glad you keep trying, that means your spirit is a fighter. For me personally I would rather have my body broke than my spirit. I read something once and it said the reason God is not always fixing our bodies for us right away is because he is busy watching after our souls. Because our bodies are short term are souls are forever. So I try to keep that in mind and not get depressed. I know everyone has different beliefs so it's Ok I just thought I would through that out it helps me sometimes. I am so tired to I am going to sleep. Good night all my spine friends I do think of all of you.

  • I HAD surgery a little over 2 and half months ago, this is my second i had in 2006 l-4 l-5 s-1 now had l-2 l-3 l-4 l-5 s-1
    terrible pain i still have numbness on mt rite shin my knee is bothering, my back and left buttocks is still numb, but i wuld say for the pas 3 weeks i have been walking in the water at the pool 2 min from my house .. and believe me it helps ,then i sit in the hot tub.but then throughout the day the pain comes back i also have no patience. But i will not give upm trying to be positive i cant drive to long because ohh it hurts,After my first surgery i went back to work like an idiot no pt, but now i am doing it the rite way i also had screws stuck in my bones took the surgeon over an hour to take out my bones were bleeding for 2 years did not know , the first surgeon took disc out and did not even put bone in , i see these big holes empty spaces very depressing for me!! it will take time i also would love to garden cannot do anything!! i look forward to my daily walk in the water, it gives me motovation,Today i go to the doc to see if i am fuseing its been 6 weeks since i have seen him!! i sure hope so i would love to start PT, but we shall see but honestly guys the water helps!!good luck to all
  • My mobility is good. I can do just about anything. I run at least a mile every morning on the treadmill and ride my bicycle about 200 miles a week. There really isn't anything I can't do, I just choose not to because some things do cause a little discomfort.

    Hang in there. It's a long road to recovery and it took me over a year to feel somewhat normal again.
  • Good Luck Claudia with your apt today. Please let us know how it goes. I sure hope you are starting to heal. I keep hearing about how water therapy helps. I will ask my NS about it. Please keep us posted about your apt.

    Take care,
  • That Steve really gives me hope. To hear you are doing all that is such an inspiration to me. I can wait 9 more months if that's what is takes and do therapy. I don't care. I just want to know there is a light at the end of the long tunnel.

    Thank you I needed that today.

  • I relate to what you write.
    I hope you aren't carrying a baby around--that can add to the pain?
    I have moments of utter frustration (at just over 4 months post-op of multi-level), but I have to trust to wait. I have been doing light exercise since I got home from surgery, and went back to gym today (with very modified exercise routine). I know I will pay for it later, but I have been having days where I pay for it even if I don't exercise. And since exercise is good for me, might as well do it. But when I hurt, I HURT. Yesterday, a rainy day, was awful. Ached and hurt horribly. Today, sunshine and much better. But I still walk so stiffly and feel like I have the torso of a very very old woman--so I understand how you feel.
    hang in there
  • Lisa,

    I noticed that you are only three months into your recovery. You had major surgery, and even under the best of circumstances you need time to recover. What you described that you did on the day you got so tired, made my head spin. I am 11 months post-surgery, doing very well, but even I would not attempt to do what you did. Please, explain to your parents and the rest of your family that you are still recuperating, and it will be a long while before your stamina returns and you can do everything you used to. Don't feel guilty when you say "NO!" and take frequents rests as you need it. Take all the time you need. Your health is the most important thing right now.

    Please, take good care of yourself.

    Best wishes,

  • Thanks so much for the advise. I just keep forgetting what my body really has gone through and push. Actually, yesterday everyone my Mom kept telling me to go home and I was nuts. It is really me that should take full responsibility for my actions. I did nothing today but lay around because I am sore and just exhausted. Thanks for your good wishes. How are you feeling 11 months out?

    I did get a good call from the assistant at my NS office today. My cat scan results came back. I am clear to start PT. I am FUSED. Yeah. I am so happy.=D> I was surprised that it happened at 3 months but no complaints here. It is a great relief. So at least I know that. I think I will sleep better tonight.

    Thanks and wishes and prayers to all,

  • Hang in there!, releif will come soon. Sorry for all your pain, but I know what it is like. I am 9 months post lumbar surgery and 6 months post cervical surgery. My first surgery was a 3 level fusion, L4, L5, and S1. I know what you mean about sitting, standing, & walking. I still walk stiff and with a limph right after standing, and then the stifness goes away. After my second surgery (ACDF), I had WORSE problems. I have swallowing problems ever since.
    If I were you, don't do anything that cause you pain for at least four months post-surgery. Then maybe the NS will order rehab. Rehab is SIMPLE exercises that you can perform at home. Wish you the best. BE Patient. Keep us updated of your progress.
  • That's good news you're fused. I hope you can feel better with aquatherapy if they have a place near you. Best wishes and God bless. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I am so happy to hear that you are fused and now you are able to start pt. Congrats! <:P
  • well the doc took an x-ray, i got all excited because i can see there r no more empty spaces anymore like the feirst surgeon left mre nothing but a big hole my bone ... any way just knowing that i am fuseing made my day!! 2 weeks i start pt and then i can stop wesring the brace... doc wanted to stad me at aquarobics then therapy but as he know i have been walking in the water for 3 weeks so i guess well start pt first i still have numbness i some areas bu because iof the surgery i went through it will take a long time soo please lisa find a gym by yr house and start walking it does help!!think positive and you will be fine for sure !! i only wish i could walk on the treadmill but i am not doing anything against doc orders remeber this is my 2nd surgery!!
  • I have been reading all the posts here and find them very inspiring and helpful. I just found this site and I am liking it very much. My name is Brenda and I shattered my T11 and cracked the bone above it while tubing in February.
    I had the displeasure of spending my anniversary and Valentines Day in the hospital. My husband and I have done this every winter for the last seven years. That is now a winter sport I won't do again. I am a few weeks away from the three month mark. I guess I am lucky in that my husband took a leave from work to stay home and help me. I am able to do almost everything for myself. I only really need help in the bathroom. We went to the home and garden show last Friday for a couple of hours and that totally wiped me out. Afterwards we went to dinner.
    I was really hurting and didn't think to ask for a table
    and not a booth. Silly me. I had a heck of a time getting
    out. I am still in a brace. I was in pain most of the way
    home. Even after taking my meds. The rest of the weekend I
    stayed home mostly in bed. I was so bored it wasn't funny.
    But, I am trying to do as the doctor told me. At this point
    I am not doing pt or working. I go back April 21st for a
    cat scan and hopefully will get the news I've been waiting
    for, I can go without the brace. Although the thought of
    that scares me. I am afraid I will do something to cause
    damage or a delay in healing. My husband and my sister got mad at me when I told them I took a shower after my husband
    left the house and I was home alone. They are so worried I might fall, hurt myself and not be able to call for help.
    Since we are trying to adopt a child from China I don't want anything to mess that up. Congratulations on the fusion.

  • Brenda,

    I am so sorry to hear about your accident. It sounds like you have a wonderful support person in your husband, and how fortunate that he can take time out to care for you. Bones heal much faster than nerves that is the good news for you, from what I have been told. Not a physician. But that is by everything I have learned. None the less, it is hard to rely on someone else and very scary. Congrats on the baby. Please keep up posted and take care of your self. I found out I was fused and went right to vacuuming and a ton of stuff I was in bed all day yesterday and could not walk up my stairs again in severe pain. So....the lesson is, there are set backs and take your time.

    Take care all and thinking of you. I will be mending from my lack of intellect....or slip of

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