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How long will the pain last?

pepper09ppepper09 Posts: 138
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:29 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am 5 days post op. I had a one level (L5) PLIF. I am very embarrassed to say I don't know what the heck the surgeon did other than putting a bracket in to keep the L5 in place. I guess I'll find out more at my 2 week post op appointment about the details of my surgery.

I have a couple of questions for those who have had a similar surgery.

1. How long does the pain last? Does it get better daily or will there be times that one day you feel good and the next day you are in pain again? Why is recovery so long - 6 weeks to 8 months?

2. Has anyone experienced trouble with brackets installed that have shifted out of place or a screw coming loose? I can't quit thinking about it. Would it take something major for that to happen or could it happen if you don't follow the blt rules? I have been laying in a recliner once in awhile and you can't follow the blt rule getting out of a recliner.

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Comments

  • Unfortunately, the recovery period for such surgery is long. I had a couple more levels than you done, but if you had a PLIF, it's an abbreviation for Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion. That means they put little dowels or cages of bone into the space where your disc was, and spackled it up with a bit of bone morphogenetic protein, some of your own bone, or some of your bone marrow. If you had instrumentation put in, it will be rods and pins that will hold your bones straight while your bones fuse.

    As you can, get out and walk. I remember the first few times, I just went around the block (actually up and down one side of the block) in case I got too tired or painful -- I didn't want to be too far from my own front door. You may have a day when it feels really good to get out and walk and you'll feel great and then the next day you'll be stuck to the couch. It's hard to find that happy medium where you work at getting stronger without setting yourself back two steps, but you'll get there eventually.

    Best of luck to you!
    Linda
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • When I had my one level fusion at L4-5, I took pain meds for eight weeks. It is a very individual thing. My 88 year-old mother-in-law had the same surgery a month after me and she never had anything stronger than a tylenol from Day 1. She refused any and all pain medication!

    I think you will find that the first ten days to two weeks are the worst and then you will start feeling much better. But there will be some days that are worse than others. Some days you will walk too far or overdo somehow and you will pay for it the following day.

    Since you don't know what is holding you together, I can't really comment, but you should be pretty sturdy. It is really important to follow the rules very carefully for the first six weeks. My doctor would not allow me to use a recliner, but I know many do. You are better off lying down propped with pillows when you are not walking. You should limit the amount of time you spend sitting at the beginning.

    Your back will not be completely healed for up to a year. Assuming you fuse at a "normal" pace, you should be stable and reasonably together by 3 months. But you have to keep in mind that once you have a fusion, you will always need to be somewhat mindful of your back...assuming you do not want to go through this whole process again!

    You will need to use good body mechanics, be careful how much weight you lift and how you do it, be very careful with pushing and pulling...and you must remember that the vertebrae that adjoin your fusion will be subject to more wear and tear since they will take the brunt of the torque.

    Try to be patient and give yourself plenty of time to heal. For now, rest and walk, rest and walk. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a nutritious diet. If you were given pain meds by your doctor, take them as directed. You will heal better if you are not in pain.

    Good luck!
  • hey there, i am 19 days post fusion in the same area as you, im not on any painkillers, didnt get put in a brace and had no walking aids. I felt better daily, the first week sucks big time, from then on its better all the time, im now driving too!
    Had terrible pains in my legs which kept me awake all night for a while but by the middle of week 2 that had settled, it was alot to do with not being able to move in bed i think. Im not one to give up though, i dont know if it makes a difference but i will keep going even if something is painfull, i was back in work 8 weeks after breaking my back, and that was in a horse riding school!

    Keep at it, and walk walk walk...ive been everywhere, my partner been putting me in his car and off we have gone to the beach, mountains, cliffs anywhere with a lovely view and a nice walk, its been wonderful therapy for me, to feel the air in my lungs etc, im a very outdoorsy person, and would get very depressed stuck in the house for any length of time.

    Positive mental attitude!!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 10,065
    The actual recovery process for any Spinal Surgery takes some time. Hopefully the doctors gave you a ball park figure on when you should start to see some positive results.
    Even with that, every patient is different, its almost impossible to tell when things should start feeling better.
    1 month, 2 months, 3months in many regards is still way to early to see positive results that stay.
    During that time you may have some good days when there is no pain and then there are those painful days.
    If during the recovery process, you start a downward spiral in terms of physical pain, you might think to start calling your doctor. In fact, its probably a good idea to at least weekly let your doctor know how you are progressing , Good or Bad!
    This all takes time.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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