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do you have a considerable amount of pain still after 1yr, 3 level fusion?

lynnsyllynnsy Posts: 197
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
It all just gets me soooo depressed sometimes.... It's constant, it's there 24-7, I have good days, but mostly bad days with that dull achey pain. I do my excersises, I walk, I still take 3-4 percocets per day, (only way to stay on top of the pain).

I'm just really tired of it. I am 1 year 2 months post from my 3 level lumbar spinal fusion (plif), 2-6" rods, 6 screws. I know it takes about 2 years before I'm allowed to complain, but I'm SICK of this!!!!

I'm doing alright I guess, I'm basically (trying) to live my old normal life, I get extremely frustrated cause there's so many things I cannot do anymore. I use to be a very active 53 year old woman.

Now, I still can't stand in one spot for more than 10 minutes at the most just cooking dinner, (I sit down between each course), it's still painful to sit in the bath-tub to shave my legs, (I do it, but it puts me on the couch for a whole day. And ladies you know as well as I do, we know we're suppose to squat with our legs to pick stuff up, BUT, we just can't do it 50 times a day, seems there's always something to bend over for!! By evening, I am so sore from bending over all day that I CAN'T bend over one more time!!

I wear my Tens Unit when I go shopping. I still have to use my lumbar pillow while driving, I still wake up around 2:30-3am with throbbing pain, especially when I roll to my right.

I guess what I'm wanting to know, after this length of time, is anybody out there STILL going through the same thing? I guess I'm just needing some support from other spiney's. I know we're suppose to have "PATIENCE" with spinal fusion surgery,... BUT my patience is running thin!! Does it EVER really go away?


  • I forgot my number 1 complaint!! The changes in the barometer KILL me!!! And there ain't a darn thing we can do about "Mother Nature". Is the weather going to bug me the rest of my life?
  • I don't have a fusion, but I can empathize having to squat to pick up things. It's unbelievable how often you have pick up things off the floor.

    Do you have a grabber? PikStick---I got mine at Ace Hardware store. I have two. It can pick up to 5lbs. I even used it as a make-shift mop when my puppy made a mess.

    I got this puppy before my back issue and now i am constantly picking up things so that she won't swallow them.

    Good luck on finding your answer!
  • Hello,
    Although I am only 7 weeks post op from a 2 level PLIF (L4, 5 and S1) I sympathize with you! In the morning I feel really good. After doing simple (washing a few dishes, picking up around house, etc)chores, I am done for. I swear sometimes I feel the hardware although the doc says its just muscles and nerves. I wont know until 6/19 if the fusion is taking so I am trying to be good but it is very frustrating. I dont take any pain pills and havent since week two. The pain is usually always there but not something I cant tolerate. I dont like like "stoned" feeling of pain meds. I can drive but its not a fun thing. I am alright once I get into the store. (for a while). Patience is a virtue, one that I am trying desparately to achieve. Good luck, I feel your pain!!
  • I am 56 and was VERY active before all this too. I was a recreation director and played golf and tennis. Now its a chore to walk down the street. Gained so much weight this past year being immobile. This back stuff is just horrible. Affects us physically and mentally.
  • Ya, I gained 35 pounds from immobility, and didn't start PT until my NS saw fusion only at 23 weeks. But our core strengthening excersises just don't take off the pounds. Recently started the "Low-carb" diet and have lost 14 pounds!!

    And yes I do have a grabber, I put it away a while back, but I guess I just need to bring it back out.

    Heck our weather was so wierd here in Colorado the last couple of weeks, cold, hot, snow, rain, thunderstorms, hot cold snow, rain, all in one day!!! There was a 48 hour period there last week that I actually had to bring back out my cane just to assist me to get off the couch cause I was in so much pain from the changing barometer!!! I even shead a tear or two, cause I'm so sick of it and feeling sorry for myself.

    Please someone say, "it will go away, you don't have too much longer to go"??????????
  • My husband is just one-year out from a L2-5 fusion. he is still in considerable pain. Last CT (5 months ago) showed little fusion. He gets another next week. It is a long recovery!! Terri
  • I don't understand why some surgeons make their patients wait for physical therapy. I started PT at 3 weeks post op and I credit that for my quick recovery.

    I was fused at 6 weeks and I go in for my 3 month on April 24th, which the surgeon said he will lift all restrictions and allow me back to work. (Couldn't return on lite duty due to my duties).

    As far as pain, I only had pain that 1st week post surgery.

    Now I do get aches, had a hellacious ache other day from cleaing my car out in my upper back, had to sit and relax for a bit and it went away.

    Do you feel your pain is from the actual fusion/hardware/surgery or pre-exsisting problem from pre-surgery?

    Also after a year you have every RIGHT to complain. What does your surgeon/primary doctor say about your ongoing problems. A 3 level fusion is major spine surgery, any fusion is. You expected some sort of relief and it appears you have not gotten that yet. Your surgeon should be jumping at you to figure out what is going on to help you recover at a more acceptable rate.

    When did you begin PT as well? As I stated above I do not understand why some surgeons make their patients wait for fusion and others do not.

    To build STRONG, supportive, effective bone you need some sort of muscle building/stretching/using exercises.
  • Boy, you sure hit home with me with this post! You are not alone... I deal with the same issues on a daily basis. I know I am only 4 1/2 months post op, but it drives me bonkers being down.

    I am so looking forward to being able to shave my legs in the bathtub again... lol. You have come a long way to be able to do that! I'm still having to shave my legs, lying down on my back. At least my legs are starting to limber up and I can do it without my "turtle shell" on. Trying to shave my legs with that thing on was quite a chore.

    I've tried to set a "routine" for myself, but the weather seems to interfere with that. Any time the barometric pressure rises or falls... I feel like I have severe arthritis. (This seems to be common, from the other posts I have read). I am really glad I live in Arizona. I didn't realize how much our barometric pressure rises and falls until my surgery... lol. It's crazy feeling like you are a weather meter, but I try to find humor with it. My hubby picked up some heating wraps for me, which REALLY help when my joints start aching.

    Patience, walking and stretching... those are the three areas I try to focus on each day. I've also started to journal my progress since my surgery. Seeing how far I have come since surgery is really amazing. Laughing has always been my favorite medicine, so I try to find humor on TV and online.

    I hope today brings you extra smiles with some laughter.

    I'm hanging in there with you!
  • I am 2 years out after a 5 level fusion. I can honestly say I am almost completely recovered, a far cry from where I was after a year. I was a little shocked to read you are still taking percocets after a year. My doctors gave me 120 percs with one refill and that was it. I take a tramadol once in a while and have been after a few months. Have your doctors given you any reason why your still in so much pain?

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • What levels did you have fused? I had a 2 level fusion on L4-S1 wiht 2 titanium rods, 6 screws, and cage. It will soon be my 1 year anniversary and I have had continuing pain. I've been on Fentanyl patches for over a year and take Percocets for breakthrough pain. I am a candidate for having a stim or pump implantation later on so I can deal with the pain better. I totally relate to what you're going through and I hope things will get better some day. Take care
  • Wow, thanks guys!! It sounds like I'm "normal" with my recovery. Yes, I've been doing PT since I was 23 weeks post-op. (My NS didn't want me starting PT until he saw fusion). And I tell you what, during that time of waiting for PT was so frustrating!! I was wanting to get started on PT, cause I was wanting to get better NOW, but he wouldn't allow me to. Oh my fusion is L,3,4,5&S1.

    The only time I feel pretty darn good is on the days when there is clear sky's and sunshine for atleast 2 days in a row, no fronts coming in, no percipitation. It seems the weather messes with me more than anything. Also if I bend over a few too many times in one day.

    If I don't take the percocet, it hurts all the way from my fusion area to the muscles at the top of my back to where I can barely walk, in fact I walk "hunched over" like I have "old lady syndrom", lol:) and I'm only 53!! So into the kitchen I go to get a pain pill, and as soon as it kicks in, I'm walking straight again!

    I don't know, maybe my age has something to do with my healing. I do take calcium+D, B-complex, B-12,extra-D, a multi-vitimin and 2000mg-fish oil (tip, that helps remarkably well to aid in bowell movements) I love milk. I do my excersise routine for 15 minutes everyday, I walk 1-1/2 miles (almost) everyday, depending on the weather.

    And I haven't seen my NS since he saw fusion taking place, he said "you're going to be just fine!" And I don't plan on seeing my PCP until I'm 2 years post. I have the opportunity to be able to e-mail him and my PT whenever anything serious comes up.

    So I guess I just need to hang in there another 10 months, and see where I'm at at that time. If I still feel this way, I guess it will be time to get either another MRI or CT scan. I'm really scared to have either one of those done, cause I don't want to be told something bad. I don't EVEN want them cutting my back up again, NO WAY!!!!
  • Hi Lynnsy,

    Coincidentally, I just posted similarly, and then looked down and saw your timely post.

    I am 49 yo, and was a very active runner and weightlifter until ~3 years ago. I had a 3-level fusion last June, and I'm having many of the same issues as you. In short, the chronicity tends to "get in your head"...it's very hard to understand the variability in symptoms - let alone the symptoms themselves. Because I do not myself understand them fully, neither can I communicate them to my NS - or to my wife. Nobody really "gets it"...I know precisely where you are coming from.

    For me, pills don't work - they merely put me out there in -la-la land - and I have 2 full-time jobs, so I don't have time to be zoned out. The world goes on - whether we're going along or not - and for me, narcotics simply don't take away the discomfort I feel anyway - if I have PAIN, then I take them, but it is the daily discomfort - fatigue, malaise, inability to move the way I used to, all of that stuff) that has turned my world on its head.

    My wife often tells me that I need to accept this "new me"...I know precisely what she means, but doing this is easier said than done. I can understand why people with spinal problems become severely depressed - the chronicity itself not only alters the body - but the spirit as well.

    I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon, please understand that I am merely trying to be pragmatic - and show you that I understand (unlike most others) your place....you are in the same place as many of us, Lynnsy.

    Hang in there, and God bless!

  • Jakotsu, you have done remarkably well - so nice to see such a wonderful success story.

    Your comment that Lynnsy's NS should be "jumping" to determine the cause of her symptoms after 1 year is very interesting...to my point below, I think that many NS only deal with what they can see on MRI, CT, or myelography, and the other stuff kind of escapes them.

    My recent myelogram was "clean" - and so because my NS doesn't see anything surgical, he assumes that my outcome is a good one (perhaps it IS from his perspective - I won't argue with that!). But he does not see my discomfort day to day. He doesn't see me struggle as I get through my life.

    Sorry for the negative posts, but I have very strong opinions about the mind-body-spirit connection - someone needs to write a book on this stuff (I'm too busy, or I would start one)!

  • Lynnsy,

    I'm curious about your 3 level fusion. You indicate that you have 6 screws. Normally they insert screws at each vertebrae in a fusion. Did they skip a vertebrae in your fusion. Normally a 3 level fusion would have 8 screws, 2 screws for each vertebrae. For my 2 level I had screws at L4, L5, and S1. They must have jacked you up pretty good with 6" rods. My rods were about 3" long for 2 levels.

    Perhaps you should consider having your hardware removed. Once I became unscrewed, the weather no longer has a major effect on me. I no longer have any back pain since the hardware removal. I still have moderate neuropathy in both legs and feet and hope that one day this to will go away.

  • there are two screws in each vertebra. 3 vertebrea, 6 screws, and two six inch rods oh ya, and the stabilization bar in the middle. (I am the "bionic woman"!) And my surgeon already said, "they'll be my best friend for the rest of my life", oh joy.....

    Now I'm curious, maybe it has something to do with age, or circumstances of infection or something of why they take them out? I have seen where some people do have them taken out. (oh, God, the thought makes me sick to my stomach!!) I'm 53, how old are you? And yes, I was actually talking to my husband last week about getting the d#$@* titanium out of me, he said "No Way!!" I'm not letting you go through that again!!
  • It it is any consolation, the hardware removal surgery is usually easier than the hardware installation surgery!

    Do you live in a remote area? Is that why you see your docs so infrequently? I went to see my surgeon about every 3 weeks -- guess I required a lot of hand holding!
  • I just read your recoverys and it sounds similar to mine. Two weeks ago I had a episode where I have been having extreme back pain again. My ortho gave me medrol steroid pack. I took that and a week later, was not better except the inflammmation was almost gone. I woke up two weeks ago with a pain in my right hip that felt as bad as it did post op after fusion. Since then, I have still felt like I have mechanical pain even though the xrays shows everything in place. I had to see my personal Dr for this cause my ortho was out of state for a week. My personal Dr even had MRI cause he wanted to make sure nothing was serious. My MRI shows that I have another bulge and some edema. So I see Ortho on April 22. Guess I will find out whats next. :''( I dont know that I can take much more. I guess thats why I feel for Lynnsy. It gets so old.I sm only 5 months. Good Luck to you both and say a little prayer for me that it isnt anything that I have to worry about! :S
  • Lynnsy,

    The hardware removal surgery is a cake walk in comparison to the original surgery. I went home the following day after driving the nurses nuts all night long cause I couldn't sit still. I went on a 2 1/2 mile walk 2 days after the surgery. I was back at work after two weeks off. I had the surgery due to drop foot in my right foot and the hardware kept snagging on my muscles in my back, plus the neuropathy issues. The drop foot was cured instantly and I haven't had any major back pain except for some SI issues occasionally. You've done the hard part already. If its possible to provide some relief, you should seriously consider it or at least discuss it with your surgeon. There are some blocks they can do to determine if the hardware is causing problems. I'm 5 years younger than you at the ripe young age of 48.

    Now, as for your fusion, I'm still perplexed. You state above that your fusion was from l3 to s1. That's 3 levels or 4 vertebrae. If they put two screws in each vertebrae, you still have a vertebrae missing some screws. 4 vertebrae equals 8 screws. The length of the rods sounds excessive to me. That would be like 5 to 6 levels on me and I'm not that short (5' 11").

  • I am a real "short" woman, ha.. I am 6'2", I use to be 6'2-3/4" before surgery. I modeled for 12 years of my younger life, so I'm a "tall drink of water" as my Uncle use to say. It could possibly be the reason for my bad back, my brothers and Dad are tall also, (Dad is passed away) and they have always had back issues also. My baby brother (51) had a 2 disc replacement I think about 15 years ago, and still has issues.

    Not to mention, I'm one of those women that can (use to be lets say...) "move mountains", from making huge rock walls, to rock ponds, dragging dead (that I shoot, I'm a hunter) Elk out of the woods, they weigh about 800-1000lbs. The last straw that really injured my back was picking up a trashcan at work that weighed around 125-lbs from the bottom of the trashcan, up 4' to a dumpster. "POP". I'm one of those women that (use) to always say, "there is nothing I cannot do"!!! no more.... From my surgery till now, laying around for a year, I've become a big pile of moosh,... I hate it!! and in deep throbbing pain everyday 24-7, a completely numb left inside thigh, sciatica pain in both butt cheeks everyday... My Neuro said, "oh that'll go away in time". Well HOW MUCH TIME???

    OK, enough... How far were you after your surgery when you had the hardware taken out? Did you wait the "perverbial" two years? What were the circumstances of why you had it out?
  • I forgot to answer your question. At the beginning months post-op, yes, I was in to see my surgeon about every 3 weeks. It was very hard scheduling an appointment with him because he's one of the top Neurosurgeons in Denver. I also had a visiting nurse that came to my home twice a week, which myself and my husband absolutely LOVED!! She was awesome. She came for about 3 months. But once he saw fusion taking place, (23 weeks) he didn't see me anymore, his words? "You're going to be just fine, your fusing great!", and turned me over to my PCP.

    And yes, we are remote, we live in the mountains so it's quite a haul to drive to the city. Not good for sitting that long.

    Did you have your hardware taken out? If so, why, and how long did you wait? What were the circumstances?
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