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Who else still having back pain 5 to 6 months post op lumbar surgery?

kathyykkathyy Posts: 580
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I suppose I'm looking for reassurance. I'm 5 months post op and still having to take a half to a whole 5 mg hydrocodone a day. Doc just okayed me to take ibuprofen which does help. Still having lots of trouble sitting at work all day. The pain is now more of a burning than throbbing type and doc is thinking it's scar tissue related, especially because I'm fine when I wake up but awful by 6 or 7 pm. He wants to try PT and deep tissue massage to see if it helps.

I'm really disappointed. I thought I'd begin to get "back to some type of normal" by 5 - 6 months. I wonder how others are doing at 5 -6 months? Doc says alot of my problem was due to extensive cutting to remove a huge synovial cyst wrapped around my spinal column. I don't really care. I just want my life back.

So how are the rest of you guys getting along at the 5 - 6 month level of lumbar fusion? Please include your age as I do thing my 57 years isn't making it any easier.



  • I am sorry to hear you are still having difficulty. This fusion recovery is really hard, isn't it (such an understatement)?

    I am 8.5 months post-fusion and still having difficulty. Mostly left hip, pelvic, abdominal pain though sometimes my low back is a bit achy, too. If I still worked (retired early as school principal - I am 58) and had to sit all day I would be in pain, too. The source of my ab pain is a mystery - some think related to my back/hip, etc but others think it is from diverticulitis which was found on a CT scan last year. I know it had not been a problem until the fusion surgery - maybe the ALIF part messed things up in there.

    Are you doing stretching morning and night - even 5 or 10 minutes to loosen things up? Does a really warm bath help? Have you tried aqua therapy (the kind in a warm therapeutic pool) - it is wonderful! The deep tissue massage can be great, too although you can be a bit sore afterward if they get too aggressive with it.

    Hope you are enjoying our southern spring - although it has been a bit slow getting here this year!

  • I'm 10 months post-op and am 65. I still have pain (especially when I get up from a prone position). It is slowly getting better, though. I feel like I have a load of cement in my lower back. I also had 2 cysts on my spine that were removed along with the fusion of the L4-L5. Warm water therapy was absolutely the best thing I have done...it completely got rid of the muscle spasms! The water temp at the pool I went to was 94-96 degrees and felt heavenly! I do believe age is a factor in the healing process.

    Hope you start feeling better soon!
  • You're probably ending up with more stories than you wanted!! Iam two years older than you and am 15 months out from a one level PLIF. I still have sciatic pain...almost the same as before surgery. Two months ago I had a foraminotomy one level below to see if that would relieve the nerve --- the surgery was so much easier than the fusion -- I didn't need ANY pain meds, in the hospital or afterward. But, after recovering from that surgery, I now know that I still have the same nerve pain as I had prior to the fusion. So I am very discouraged.

    I've had two major spine surgeries within a 12 month period, both of which were considered "successful." I went through months of physical therapy after my fusion. I healed beautifully -- no problems...everything was perfect...except for one little thing...I still have the same sciatic pain that keeps me from being able to walk more than a short block or stand more than a couple minutes. Frustrating!! :S
  • Hi Kathy,

    I am a little shy of your surgery, I am 4 months post-op, 53 yrs old, I had the same surgery as you on 12/18/08, PLIF L4-L5, decompression and a pretty significant sized synovial cyst that wrapped around my spinal column. I got out of my full-time back brace on 3/31 and started PT 3x a week, two weeks ago.

    I still have a lot of muscle spasms which I take zanaflex, flexeril, robaxin; none work, other than distorting my vision (I guess I at least have relaxed eyes!)I have the burning and swelling in my back which is worse now that I have tried to start working again (sitting). I feel like I am weraring an innertube around my body. I'm still only averaging around 4 hours a day at work. I've had the spasms since about 2 months out and though they have started to get better with PT.

    Originally I was told 3-6 months for full recovery, now the Dr is saying it could take 9 mo - 2 years. who knows... we are all different.

    If you aren't doing PT, I would say it might help. I get ultrasound, muscle stim, massage and they are working on the rest of the spine to get everything to start moving again.

    I've been watching your progress since you are right ahead of me. Good luck - hang in there and I hope you feel better real soon!!
  • I don't think that what you're experiencing is abnormal. I had 3-level fusion and lami last June, and yep - I still have symptoms. My symptoms do vary from day to day - sometimes, things seem to be quite good, at others not so good at all (OK, bad...), but most days, things are so-so. :)

    Today, I have low back pain; but that's probably because I was throwing a football to my 28 yo son the day before yesterday (that was really stupid) AND I mowed a whole bunch of grass using my lawn tractor (I love to cut grass - and fusion can't stop me).

    I do agree with others that you need to do back exercises, as they strengthen your core. I'm not sure that doing them removes sx. completely, but they sure do help to keep sx. from getting all that much worse. I use ice when I have spasms. Trying to stay away from narcotics, although have to use them from time to time, too. I do feel like I have flu-like sx. from time to time (just lower legs) - but I'm thankful that this doesn't occur all too often. I still have difficulty sitting - this varies too.

    Hope you continue recovering, and wish you well.


    BTW, I'll be 50 years old in December.
  • I'm 10 months out of my 2 level TLIF and unfortunately I still have chronic back pain, permanent nerve damage, and scar tissue on the S1 nerve. The back pain is constant and the muscle spasms continue to wreak havoc. I understand how frustrating it can get when the pain keeps hanging around. I guess it comes with the territory but you can overcome this. Just keep following your doctor's advice and continue with PT exercises, and hopefully things will turn out for the better. Take care
  • ...others have said most of it, but I'll just add my 2 cents: I am about 15 months out, teaching again (FT 2nd grade) & still have the nerve pain, sciatica, muscle spasms & constant pain in the fusion site (which is acutually "cut" from L3-S1, for a one-level @ L4/5) I also had a messy synovial thingy which started it all, led to the post-op dural leak, which required the 2nd surgery which accelerated the spondy to require the fusion (3rd procedure) yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah, etc etc...

    Kathy, it just takes a LONG time..NS said "two years" to see where things will end up, what you have gained &/or lost & what you'll just have to live w/, accept & re-frame.
    Take your time. SIT LESS, if you can, or get up & move around more, if you can. I get to move all day (running after 15 7yr olds) but truly, I can't sit to save my life..so maybe that could be making things hurt more for you right now...

    Your glass is STILL half-full! Believe that! Your lovely picture shows sparking eyes & a beautiful smile--you still have those things too! The other stuff will present as it will---just have to wait to see. Truly.

    BTW: I turn 59 in 2 weeks, but in my heart, I will always be a 7 yr old! Oh that I could still MOVE like they do!

    ~Bless you--your life will return..not just yet. But it will. Re-invented somewhat, but will.

  • I'm at 6 months (as of last Thursday) and I know exactly how you feel! It's a long haul, isn't it? Although I'm thankful for the improvements and am doing pretty well I also thought that I would be experiencing less pain, have more strength and stamina to be more active, be able to sit longer,walk and endure more all day, etc. than I am doing now. I want some of my old self/life back too. My Dr. continues to remind me it is a long recovery, it isn't unusual for it to take a year or up to two yrs. to recover and fuse completely. He says patience, patience, walk, walk and give it time, that I'm doing well. I think you are like me, we want to do more, we want to jump back in the fast lane, we are ready mentally and emotionally but our body isn't ready physically. I'm tired of staying so close to home and the comforts I need all the time! I'm ready for a trip to the beach, to go somewhere and do something fun! I know I'm not ready yet. I just started PT and hope to gain more strength and stamina with their help so I can take that step to do more! By the way, I am 54 (I agree with you about the age not helping) and my fusion was L2/3/4 on 10/16/08.

    Good luck with the PT. Let me know how it works for you.

    We'll be fine in time!

  • Kathy - My husband is now 1 year out from his L2-5 fusion. this last week we got confurmation that he has not fused. We've had appointments with 2 local(Atlanta) ortho spine surgeons and are going back to Duke at the end of this week. He's 57 and thinks the rest of his life will be consumed by recovery from back surgery. Hang in there. Terri

    p.s. I beleive that you told me before, but do you mind sharing your surgeon's name again? Thanks.
  • It is so comforting to hear other stories. Yes, I'm impatient. I've always been so fit and in "control" of things. It never ocurred to me that I would end up being so infirmed!

    But.....I have had a breakthrough today. It is so major that I am going to start a new thread just to make sure others see it and might be helped by it.

    Don't laugh but today I took my exercise ball to work with me and sat on it rather than a chair. And today the improvement was significant and measurable. I didn't have to take anything more than ibuprofen until around 5 pm this evening and even then I've gotten through with just one darvoset.

    Clearly, working 8 hours a day sitting at a desk since month 3 postop has been very bad on the fusion site but I didn't think of trying my balance ball until I saw a gaiam balance ball chair. Well, after such a good day, I've ordered the balance ball chair. It's actually rather exhausting to sit on one of these things all day but good for strengthening core muscles and much better on the back!
  • What an interesting intervention! And how wonderful that it worked. I would never have thought of that. How clever you are!

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