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Post-Op L4-S1 Fusion Questions

poolladyppoollady Posts: 154
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had my surgery on March 24. It was supposed to be a 3 1/2 to 4 hours and in the end it was 5 hours. My surgeon told my family he found more damage than expected and did more to make everything better with my back.
Well I came home after 2 nights in the hospital, mine and my surgeons choice, I was ready to come home. Therapy the day before had me walking up and down steps and I was feeling ok for someone who just had 5 hours surgery.
Now the question is, should I still have pain so bad it wakes me up and I just want to scream?
I am on 350mg Soma, three times a day & 10/325mg oxycodone every 4 hours & 5mg Valium every 6-8 hours.
I understand no one here is a doctor, but I was hoping someone who has been through this surgery can give me some encouragement. I am so tired but not getting enough sleep due to pain.
I know several here have had March and April surgery, I hope you all are having a good recovery.
I am calling my doctor in 10 minutes, I sure hope he has some answers to help with this pain.
Hope you all have a great week and I will keep you informed.
Take care,


  • Hi Stacey, I've had two of these surgeries and right after coming home, I did have lots of pain. The first one, I had oxycotin and the 2nd one I have Lortab 10, which may be close to the same thing, but I was having a hard hard time waiting until 4 hours to take another one, sometimes I took them at 3 hours. You've had both front and back done together right? So you're insides were cut from both sides. The pain from the tissue healing and the irritation of moving some would make me scream for sure.

    I'm glad that you are calling your doctor on this. Maybe they can call in something else to help or see you to check the incisions out. Have you checked the incision sites? Are they really red or feel warm and puffy? You may have fluid trapped inside that needs to be aspirated. That can cause extra pain. I had two little holes that leaked fluid in my stomach incision for quite a while and once it gushed out, so that scared me. Seems the stomach incisions are worse for fluid buildup and pressure. Let us know what the doc says.......

  • At least from my experience, it is very normal to be in pain this early in recovery. I was in the hospital a day longer that you and I just had L4-5 fused.

    I had the same dosage oxycontin and I also had hydroco/apap for breakthrough pain. I was also given a muscle relaxer but the first one made me think I was on LSD, so I only ever took one. I was then given skelaxin, but I didn't have trouble with any muscle spasms, so never took it.

    It is very important to take your meds on schedule. Set an alarm and get up to take the night dosage. Do not let the pain get ahead of you.

    I pretty much took my meds, and stayed in bed except when I got up to use the bathroom. At that time, I would take my little walk, so it minimized the number of times I had to get up and down. I would say for me, the first ten days were the worst. I was groggy and dozed off easily -- never saw the end of most of the movies I tried to watch -- couldn't read because my eyes just didn't want to focus that closely and my concentration wasn't there.

    Luckily my doctor did not have any walking requirements. At first I could only walk the length of the house. (I couldn't go outside as there was too much ice and snow on the ground.) Sometimes you read about people walking several miles within a week. Not me!!

    We all heal at our own pace. Do not be in a hurry, especially at the beginning. Let others wait on you. Your job is to rest and walk, rest and walk and take your meds as your surgeon has ordered. There is no award for being first to get off pain meds! Being in pain will actually slow down your recovery....

  • It can take some weeks for the pain to settle down. The nerves are angry from being disturbed, and there is probably swelling, etc., too.
    Sometimes an ice pack on the area can help with the pain. (I used ice packs about 4 times a day)
    I could not take the oral pain meds, as they make me very ill. At 2 weeks after my last fusion (March 18), my surgeon ordered Durogesic pain patches, and I finally was able to get some decent sleep. Getting some sleep made a huge difference in the healing process.
    Make sure that your surgeon knows that you are not coping with the pain and not getting good rest. Maybe he/she can change your pain med to something more helpful.
    I have been through 3 separate spine fusion surgeries, and it just takes time for the body to settle down. Don't get discouraged.....it WILL get better. Everyone heals at their own pace.
  • I am 1 week out of my L5-S1 PLIF. Been home since Wednesday on 2 Perks every 4 hrs. Does some little good. To be honest, I was in such severe pain prior to surgery that any relief I got from the surgery has been soooo wonderful that all other pains seem mannagable.
    As far as sleep goes, I have come to the realization that my body has been through some trauma and it will be some time before I get any kind of regular sleep. I just take what I get when I get it and try to keep up good spirits. The doc said about 12 weeks of recovery and it's only been 1 week.
  • O M G!!!!!

    I was waking up crying in the worst pain I've ever felt (even more-so than giving birth) in my LIFE, every two hours for atleast 5 months!! I had a 3 level fusion in the same area. You've got a ways to go,... cut yourself some slack. It takes 1-2 YEARS to heal from this major surgery. You're perfectly normal in the pain your feeling. Ask your doc for a perscription sleeping med to help a little so you can sleep through the pain. Also, pillows, lots and lots of pillows... between your knees, in the nap of your side when you lay on your side.
  • It's just great to know that it is normal to feel this way after two weeks.
    I talked to my doc today and he gave me two more meds, changed the soma to skelaxin and gave me compazine for the nausea from the tramadol that I can use for breakthrough. So far so good, we will see if it helps. My doc is great to call me back and try to figure out how to help with the pain.
    I hope everyone is having a good day, Take care,
  • I had a TLIF, so I only have an incision on my back, but thanks for asking.
    Take care,
  • I had a TLIF on March 30 Spent 6 hours in surgery. Recovery would have been better, except I was allergic to the tape they used to the tape my eyes closed, therefore when I woke in recovery I couldn't see. Seems like the tape scratched my corneas. Very scarey. Spent 6 days in hospital and now I'm home. Suddenly on Friday, I started having severe right leg pain. Nothing I do helps relieve it.Sleep has become impossible because the leg pain is so severe. I see my surgeon tomorrow to have the staples removed. I will just be glad to have this over with. It is horrible.
  • Hi Stacey, I've been wondering how your sur. came out. I had TLIF on L5/S1 9 weeks ago today. I can remember the 1st 10 days was no picnic. The pain will gradually subside but it takes time and from what I've been told multi-level fusion takes longer all the way around. I my case I felt better on my feet. I would get up at least once a hour and walk in the house. At first I could only do a few minutes at a time and gradually increased it. The worst part was getting to the standing position and then back down, as I'm sure you know. At 4 weeks I felt pretty good and you have to be careful not to do to much. It takes along time for all the trauma to your back muscles to heal. I have had 2 set backs, I tripped on a sprinkler head and almost went dowm on my 5th week. Last week I was in terrible for 3 days and don't know what I did to cause it.
    I remember that I could not find a comfortable chair, sofa, or bed for the first few weeks. It will get better but it is slow. I do believe the walking is a huge help.
    Good luck Stacey......Mike

  • Hi. I am 4 months out with a 2 level PLIF and 2 level discectomey and I can tell you that it is all very normal. I am still taking pain meds round the clock. It takes a long time to heal, it is a very major surgery. Walk when you can, my Dr told me he would rather have me walk a little a few times a day than a longer walk once. Keeps the blood moving. Take it easy and let your body heal. My surgery was almost 8 hours. So I know that I have alot of healing left to do. Any questions, PM me. Glad to help.
  • Greetings,
    I'm 2 months out from a 3 level lumbar decompression fusion. And yes, I would say that it would be somewhat normal to still experience pain. We all heal differently. I was told from my surgeon that it could take between 2 to 6 months for the recovery process and it could be 2 years for the fusion to fully heal. Back surgery is a major surgery, don't let anyone tell you differently!

    I had my first back surgery 17 years ago, a root nerve decompression of the L4-5, when I was 25 years old. I had my second surgery at the end of Jan. of this year. Third surgery a week after that; unfortunately, I encountered complication which made my scheduled 4 day stay in the hospital to 3 weeks of hell.

    But enough about me, try to keep a positive attitude, my wife hounds me on this all the time, and don't be discourage. Keep on top of any changes, keep a journal to track your progress. Any changes that cause you grieve let your doc know.

    I wish you and everyone else a speedy recovery!

  • You are so early in the recovery process that pain is very normal, unfortunately. For at least a month - maybe longer - following surgery I went to bed every night with ice packs and microwave heat packs all over me, tucked between the myriad of pillows that supported me on both sides. I did find that something that really helped me was to get up about every 2 hours and walk around just a little (maybe just to the bathroom or to get fresh ice or heat packs) so my muscles did not stiffen and begin to spasm. It was a bit of a pain because repositioning all those pillows and ice/heat packs was a major undertaking - but it really did help. Of course, it resulted in interrupted sleep but...

    (I also found that the hydrocodone I was taking really messed with my sleep - I slept much better when I stopped it.)

    Hang in there - it will get better!
  • Even though I had major complications with my surgery on March 17th I had a little pain in back my doctor said its normal for the first bit.. I think had the other surgeon not cut my main vein and caused a blood clot in my leg 6-8 inches my back would be 90% better than before surgery... I am praying for you a speedy recovery.. I live in major pain everyday but mine is no longer my back it is my leg from a stupid doctor that wasn't paying attention.. God will be watching you and healing you
  • I had a 2 level TLIF 10 1/2 months ago, and it's not uncommon to have a lot of pain the first couple of months post op. Of course everybody is different and so are their healing rates. Others have more complicating factors going on which makes things harder on them. I was hospitalized for 4 days and spent it in ICU, where I was hooked up to a PCA machine which dispensed morphine. I had a drainage tube coming out of my incision and also had a foley catheter so I didn't have to worry about bathroom trips. I wasn't made to go walking at all. During my stay they changed out my Fentanyl patches on schedule, gave me Dilaudid occasionally, and phenergan for nausea. I left with scripts of Norco 10mg 2 tabs every 4 hours, valium 10mg, and my patches were raised to 50 mcg. I know how difficult it is to have this type of surgery, and it will take a long time for you to heal completely. You will probably experience pain flares but you need to let your doctor know if it's worse than usual and if you have new symptoms. Take care and I hope you get better soon.
  • My surgery was 6-1/2 weeks ago. L1-L5 fusion (12 screws, 2 rods, cage). Was in hospital 10 days with 2 surgeries equaling 11 hours). What I want to say is...I also had terrible pain at night. In fact, I dreaded the night. What I started doing was setting my alarm for every 4 hours so I could take my meds. It really helped me. I would always go right back to sleep afterwards. I understand the pain and the frustration. But I have to tell you, at about 4 weeks I did start feeling better. So hang in there! Do your walking even though at times you really do have to MAKE yourself do it. There will be a rainbow at the end of the storm.
  • I had L4-L5 fusion from the back on April 27th, 2009 and am feeling great! Spent 2 nights in the hospital with minimal to no pain meds. Sent me home with percs and flexeril and at this point am taking neither. If the surgery was done correctly, you shuld be feeling minimal to no pain 3 to 4 weeks out (according to my Doctor, and he has been right so far) with some numbness is the opposite limb. I had all kinds of trouble in my left leg for 2 years. I could barely walk and on best days could not feel my left leg from the knee down! Now I have very little numbness in my right calf and left leg is fine. Walking about a half a maile a day with some soreness. Hope this helps someone!
  • I noticed that you had the same surgery on the same date that I did. It would be great to talk to you about your recovery.
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