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Scar tissue cause of pain 5 months post op?

kathyykkathyy Posts: 580
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everybody. Haven't posted too much lately because I've been back at work full time and just exhausted when I get home but hope all my spiney friends are well and surviving tax day!

Here's my latest development....starting at about 4 months post op I recognized an escalation of back pain. Now, at 5 months post op it is really awful. On top of that, doc's office downgraded my meds from lortab to darvocet recently. So as I preach, I didn't mess around (that's what the doc gets the big bucks for.) I called the doc's office and asked to see the doc, explaining that my pain was increasing (I was originally scheduled for a checkup at 6 months but was still a month shy of the half year mark.) They worked me right in and today they did a complete xray workup.

Findings - hardware in place and alignment is good. Xray positive for bone development although fusion not yet "complete." Doc says I am one of a "subset" of people who have problems with scar tissue causing alot of pain. He has ordered me into physical therapy. I will say that he was very concerned and wants to see me again in 6 weeks. Was also very sympathetic. He has allowed me to finally start back on ibuprofen (YEAH!)

Question-(sorry so wordy)-has anybody else experienced this? Honestly, I am is so much pain at the end of the day after sitting at a desk for 8 hours that I feel like I could take a bottle of hydrocodone and still hurt (not that I would, mind you.) I am determined to work through this and do whatever I have to do to make my back "loosen" up and get back to some kind of normal. Will greatly appreciate any feedback and/or advise any of you can give me. Am starting to get discouraged. So what's new? Don't we all?



  • I have not - that I know of - had problems with scar tissue in my back but do have problems with scar tissue around my abdominal incision (I had anterior and posterior fusion). It can be really painful at times. However, I must say that if I sat 8 hours a day my back would be in agony - and I am months ahead of you (and not too much older). I don't know how you do it. I imagine those poor muscles are getting stiff and cramping and it must hurt like crazy - even if you did not have scar tissue. Or - maybe I am just a wimp. (But I have a friend who is a just over a year from her fusion and is very, very active - and I am sure she would say that sitting at a desk for 8 hours would give her pain!) I think you are wonder woman! But am very sorry you are having so much pain.
  • Kathy,

    I hear you, my friend. You may or may not know my story--but I am 5 months in exactly. I had a CT Scan done at 4 months because the physical therapist did not think I was fusing due to my ongoing pain and lack of range of motion. The CT Scan showed I am fusing well--the doctor said it is textbook fusion and wanted me to get back to living, do the things I love, and even said I shouldn't have any restrictions. I have cut my pain meds in half the past month or so--but am still on way too many meds for my liking. I have the same kind of pain I had pre-surgery but the doctor says there is no way I am not fixed. I can see where he is coming from because I was clearly L5/S1 totally gone, with the rest of my back fine as confirmed by the discogram, MRIS and such. I really should be OK by now. There are a few things I am placing my hope in. First, that I am not yet totally fused. I have heard again and again on this board that it could take a year or more to solidly fused and until then you are still experiencing movement that causes pain. Second, perhaps the muscles around this area are weak and the pain producers. Third, there are the pain meds that really wack up your pain tolerance. Well, last week, I went all out and tried to work through the pain--did all kinds of stuff, almost as active as I was pre-surgery (well, the doctor did lift the restrictions so I thought I would go for it). I have backed way down because of the pain since.

    Is it better to keep going through the pain including bending to start getting motion in that area and breaking down the stiffness and scar tissue? I don't know. How does your doctor know you have scar tissue problems and how is PT going to help it? I hear you about the end of the day issues. I also hear you about the stiffness--I really had it last week when I was very active--it felt like someone poured concrete in my back.

    I know this doesn't help too much--but we are in the same boat. My back is very sore all the time, more so when I have been active, sitting is painful, especially prolonged. Ice helps, the hottub works wonders which makes me think my basic problem is stiffness in that area--even a hot shower works almost as well as pain meds. It is strange. I am still not happy I had the surgery--but it has "only" been 5 months. It seems that this board is the only place that suggests that people should still have pain at 5 months--maybe we are kidding ourselves. My doctor was shocked I still had pain--the PA said she can think of only one or two others who have responded as poorly as I have to this particular surgery. Now, I've been through other health issues that may be contributing--blood clots that forced me to take blood thinners which certainly don't help the healing--but still. Hang in there.

  • One more question--why was your doctor so concerned about scar tissue and why did he suggest that it was so rare? Isn't scar tissue expected in a surgery of this magnitude? Also, I was not showing fusion on X-Rays--but did show clear fusion on the CT Scan. I have heard that it isn't until you show clear fusion on the X-RAY that the fusion is really solid. In other words, you can show fusion on CT since it is more detailed, but not as much on X-RAY. I think it is all guess work--the PA showed me the CT Scan and I could see some clouded areas that I suppose we could say are bone growth--but who knows. Was the surgeon thinking he was going to have to do a clean up surgery on the scar tissue?
  • First, regarding scar tissue, you are right in that scar tissue is to be expected. But some of us form scar tissue differently than others. My daughter found this out after a c-section. Apparently, my scar tissue tends to form in dense clumps (there is a more medical term for it)and it could be felt by both the pa and the doc. It's very tight and dense and tends to cause alot of pain. The solution is physical therapy and deep tissue massage and movement to help keep it from being so tight.

    No, no clean up on scar tissue - at least not at this point. And I am now allowed to take ibuprofen which is WAY BETTER than what I am taking. He wants me to start swimming and believes that with some effort on my part, physical therapy and patience I'll be much better at the year mark. I was walking but as luck would have it, developed plantar fascitis! And in the last 2 weeks on not walking my pain level has been much worse so I'm sure the walking helped keep me more flexible.

    I'll keep you updated after I start PT. I am thankful and ready to try anything. The pain was so bad that I had convinced myself that I had a failed fusion so I was relieved to know that I definitely have bone formation where it should be and that the titanium is still in place. This is such a new thing for me that it's hard for me to tell what is my "new normal" and what is a danger signal, if you know what I mean. At least my doc got me right in and checked out all the structural things. That was a big relief to me!
  • I was diagnosed with scar tissue 9 months post op after a TLIF of L4-S1. It was found on an MRI after I complained of the pain being worse than the usual. The thing is that I never experienced the pain letting up during all that time, and then all of a sudden it got worse. My doctor had my do an ESI to see if it would help, but it just made me worse for a couple of weeks.

    Is your doctor planning on ordering an MRI for you? That is the only way to know if you have scar tissue going on. Do you have a past history of it, and is this the reason why he said you are susceptible to it?
  • I have pain around my scar like a stinging feeling. My Dr. said that it was from scar tissue and has giving me trigger point injections. They only help for a few days though.
  • You know....I have a burning feeling behind my knee, but "stinging" is more appropriate. I don't know what is really causing the stinging.

    I just had my 2nd microdiscectomy.
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