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Still having pain after surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
This is my first entry. I have come to this site many times before my L4-L5 discectomy surgery for information on how it should go. I had been suffering from lower back pain for 13+ years, also suffering from "DDD", and in Aug.08' I began to have severe sciatic pain from my lower back, all the way down my right leg into my calf. My PCP (who is not an Ortho) got me an MRI and said I would need physical therapy for what he called a bulging disc. I went through and failed PT twice and my PCP did nothing more than put me on steroid pack after steroid pack. To make a long story short I finally got to see a Orthopedic surgeon in Jan. 2009, who looked at my MRI from Aug. 2008 and said I had a major rupture and needed surgery.
He gave me another MRI that showed it was even bigger than in the old MRI. I had my first discectomy on Jan 19, 2009 and for the first week I was so happy to not have the sciatic pain in my leg anymore. A week passed and the pain was back and seemed worse than before :''( . I had another MRI done that showed the disc re-ruptured. Being that the disc is degenerative the Dr. said it could of happened from anything, and I did nothing wrong. So he scheduled me for another discectomy on Feb. 9, 2009 :jawdrop: .
Now here I am 3 months later in severe pain. I have serious swelling near the incision and if any pressure is applied to my lower back I fall out in agonizing pain. The pain is still in my leg and lower back but not the same as the sciatic pain was. I have weakness in my legs, a grinding sound in my lower back, and can hardly get around without pain medication. Even having pain in both of my knees now too?. DR. had me on Percocet 10's than decided to take me off and put me on Lyrica for the "nerve pain" which I hear bad things about. I am scheduled for another MRI this upcoming Thursday and hope to get some answers.
Dr said fusion surgery would be next if I rupture my disc again...if I still have one, but he also said he would want to put it off for as long as he/I can. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)

L4-L5 Discectomy 01/19/2009
L4-L5 Discectomy 02/09/2009


  • I am 16 weeks out of surgery, and still have swelling! I had a Lami,at L5 S1, and a Foraminotomy at S1. My back still hurts, and the Dr. said swelling could go on for 6 months! :''( Today I had PT, and she said the same thing! Nerves take a long time to heal, and I still have sciatica if I over do, and nerve pain that comes and goes. Try to relax, and walk and stretch. I find that very helpful, along with lots of ICE! Remember, it takes 6 months to a year to heal from back surgery and it sounds like you have had your fair share! Hope all turns out well for you. sweetpotatoe57

    Lami L5 S1 and Foraminotomy S1 Jan. 15th, 2009

  • Welcome to the board. Sorry for the reason you found us. I hope you found some good information that was useful prior to your surgery. We'll see if we can help you now.

    I hope some of the nurses on the board read your post. To me it sounds very suspicious to still have swelling near your incision. With both my fusion and my second surgery which was a lami/foraminotomy I barely had any swelling...maybe no longer than a week for the fusion, and less for the little surgery. This would alarm me, if I were in your position.

    Are you running a temperature?

    What does your surgeon say about the swelling and your back being sore to the touch? I see no reason why your back should make a grinding sound either...if it didn't do it before. Why is he waiting so long to do another MRI?

    Most patients would be healed by now from a discectomy, with perhaps some residual pain issues. The surgical pain would be long gone. I am really concerned that there is something else going on.

    You probably can't do much now, but if you do end up needing fusion, I would get opinions from other fellowship-trained spinal specialists before going ahead with it.

    Please keep posting with your comments and questions, and let us know how the MRI turns out.

    xx Gwennie
  • Man i hope you can get some pain relief. I had my micro don november 08 and am doing good some pain but mainly if i sit to long. I have to stay moble and use ice alot. But im on no pain meds except advill when i need. I wish yoyu the best of luck.
  • That is good you are getting the MRI. This is what happened to me and I didn't have DDD. Most surgeons will only do two Lami/Disk before they do a fusion because the chance are another conservative surgery would not last very long before you would be in the same boat.
    Was there and reason you could not take both the Percoset and the Lyrica? Lyrica takes a while to get into your system.
    Try to keep moving. Update us on your results if you would.
  • I sure do hope you get to see a NS soon.How old are you? My NS would not do a discectomy due to my age and DDD.So I had fusions.But..I too have had some of the same pain return. It's disheartening to say the least,and hard to accept.At first I wondered about my surgeons ability,but after reading experiences here and doing some research I have had to adjust my expectations. I still have leg pain,but now in both legs,terrible hip and groin pain,spasms a gogo.I am glad I am in great health other than my spine troubles.I hope you can find relief for your issues.Welcome to the board. Keep us posted on your treatment. Have a good day.
  • Well yes it seems like forever for the next MRI, 3 more full days of waiting. And than another whole week before I see the Dr. The Doctor told me the same things like "it'll take up to a year for nerve pain to heal", "the swelling 10 weeks after surgery is still normal be it that I had two discectomys so close together"(1/19/09 & 2/9/09). The Dr said I would more than likely need Fusion someday, but being that I am only 32, he would want to put it off as long as possible. I can't wait forever. I have heard once you get any back surgery you are screwed for life. I just want to go back to work, which seems near impossible since I am an Auto Mechanic, even though the Dr said I would be able to go back to my job "No Problem". Well I tried when he released me to work and BOOM! More pain like before, and I barely did anything. Now I can barely sleep and when I wake up it's a living nightmare. As the day goes on it's not as bad as in the morning (cause of pain meds), but it's still bad if you know what I mean. I can put up with it if I have to. I do have a Wife and 2 kids to take care of no matter what. I will let everyone know whats up after the MRI from what I can tell and I will let everyone know what the Dr says next week about it too. Hope I don't need to go Doctor hunting again...
  • I agree with Gwennie, swelling and pain to the touch around the incision is not "normal". Have you been back to the doctor to have it looked at? Are you having any discharge from the incision? Are the sutures completely dissolved and the incision healed toegether? All that with or without fever could indicate an infection. That's the last thing you need right now.
    The leg pain and weakness are going to take some time to get better. I had my surgery over 2 years ago and I still have numbness in my lower leg and foot, pain occasionally, but always numbness, the weakness has also improved greatly but it took over a year.
    Hang in there!!!
  • The incision has been healed for a long time now. it was like 2 months ago that the sutures dissolved. I actually had the outside knot until I forgot where I put it for a souvenir. The swelling I was told (by the Dr.)was normal since I had the 2 surgeries so close together...I don't feel that way. It hurts so much when any pressure is on it. Especially in bed (Mornings are the worse). He said my nerve was just inflamed. It's like the doctor doesn't believe I am in as much pain as I am telling him. What do I need to do? Cry in front of him? Tomorrow I am having another MRI and next week I go back to the Doc.

    2 weeks ago he released me back to work and after one day I was in worse pain than before and all I did was change the front brakes on a car. I used a wrench...I didn't lift 100 lbs or anything like that. So needless to say I am peeved. The Dr. won't give me more pain meds for whatever reason. He is the only one I have ever gotten them from, I am not a "drug seeker" like they make people in pain out to be...I just want to function normally.

    I am afraid I will need to see another Doctor. A stranger...but one good thing is my Brother-in-law (who lives over a thousand miles away) is an Ortho. Surgeon and I am mailing him copies of my MRI's so I can get his opinion on what he see's before they say "Let's do Fusion". So hopefully I will stop getting jerked around. Thanks for your concerns. I will post up any new news.
  • I left you a comment about my swelling and pain, and just an update. My MRI looked great, and once again the Neurosurgeon told me, "It just takes time!". He said everyone heals at there own pace, and at this point, there is still lots of inflammation inside. He told me that the pain and swelling will get better over time, and gave me a 6 to 9 months time period. Glad you are getting the MRI, at least it put my mind at rest, as I know that the stress of the pain, and fear of hurting yourself again, causes pain. Its a vicious circle. I also have pain if I lay on my back at times, and I do stretches before I get out of bed in the AM, which does help. Before I was totally stiff, and hurt! I do go to PT, and that has helped, and my son-in-law is a Dr. also, and he said all of this is normal! So, the saga continues, but I am glad you are getting the MRI. I insisted, and was so glad it looked so good. So, there is hope. My surgery was on Jan. 15th, 2009, and I had a Lami at L5 S1, Foraminotomy at S1, and a mesial facetectomy. I hope all turns out well for you! Also, ask your Dr. about massaging your scar. My PT started it at 5 weeks, and my incision area looks perfect. No lumps, or tenderness at the incision site at all. Also, look into flossing to keep your nerves gliding. That also helps. Hamstring, piriformis, and adductor stretching helps, as does the knee to chest before getting out of bed to open everything up. Hope this helps, and I hope your MRI will look great.

  • Got the MRI done today. Came home and stuck in my copy to see whats up. Looks like the disc is ruptured again (having bad DDD it was expected I guess)and there is all this white area in a GIANT void that I didn't really see after the first surgery's MRI from point of entry to the vertebra?. I know I am no Doctor or Rad. Tech but it doesn't look good to me. I will know more next Thursday when I see my surgeon. I am in no hurry for a fusion or to try the same surgery for a third time but it looks like I have no choice.
    Now I have tons of questions...first one is money$$$. Should I apply for disability now? Temporary? If I have a fusion how can I pay my bills if I'm out of work even longer. Should I go to another Doctor? Wait for fusion? Or get it over with?
    As you can see I am stressing out!!!!! ~X( I will keep you guys posted. I need a REAL vacation!!!!!
  • Sounds to me like the Fusion is necessary at this point in time, and that your lack of going that direction is probably why your Doc is reluctant to prescribe more pain meds. Doc's always want to see a patient be pro-active in correcting their issues and in your case that would mean now opting for the surgery.

    Best wishes and keep the faith, hopefully soon your saga will conclude...at least for awhile anyways.

  • Hello!

    I feel for you and I know exactly where you are. I have had 14 spine operations. I have had everything from T12 to S1 fused, plates in and then taken out, osteomyelitis of the spine (a staph infection in many of the vertebrae with screws in them L1-2,L3-4, hence the removal of the plates and screws), 4 separate debridements, spinal cord stimulator implanted and removed (removed when they found the osteomyelitis), and so on.

    I have also studied for and was a awarded a doctorate in physical anthropology with a specialization in osteology, particularly age-progressive phenomena affecting the spine and sacroiliac. So, I understand your problem from a couple of different perspectives.

    First, Padora's Box is opened, meaning once you have the first surgery there is no going back and you are in for a ride...regardless for what they do now. I am so sorry for you, because it sounds like you are experiencing what is referred to as a "failed back" or "failed back surgery." What most doctors won't tell you is that there is a very high probability that nothing they do will help.

    Degenerative disc disease isn't really a disease at all, it's a process. One that with the proper treatment, none of it involving surgery, can be allayed and the effects (pain, stiffness, etc.) reversed. But they don't tell you that either.

    Epidurals rarely help. Many use them to establish the severity of the condition, almost as a diagnostic criteria. If they don't work they say "See, it didn't work...so now we have to look deeper." Steroid injections can actually do more damage than good.

    A minor spina bifida of L5 is not that uncommon and in and of itself may not cause much of a problem, often the actual opening is so small the spinal cord doesn't protrude at all and people remain asymptomatic their whole lives. It's the repeated surgeries and the swelling that concern me, as I am sure they do you!

    A white spot, will sometimes indicate a "hot spot" or an infection, usually also indicating a hematoma, this deep post-op it should be something that concerns your surgeon, if it causing increasing levels of pain and getting bigger, he or she should be notified at once of your concern. If he shows little concern you may have the wrong doctor!

    Going down the road to a fusion is never a decision to be made lightly but I understand why you are considering it. The pain gets so bad you will do anything to alleviate it, even submit to a major surgery in the hope of relief. I can't tell you what to do, I am not in your skin, but weigh the decision and get a second opinion. Just tell your orthopedic surgeon you would feel better if you had another orthopedic surgeon or, better yet, a neurologist look at it. The reason for a neurologist is obvious, they are more into the nerves and less into the cutting...and they understand the spinal cord better!

    I would definitely ask for a consult with a neurologist, and do some research and find out who a good one is in your area. Then beg, borrow, and steal to see him or her at once. They will definitely look at things from a different perspective and if they say you need the surgery, you can be assured that you are on the right track.

    Good luck, take care, and have that swelling looked at immediately!

    Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.

    PS, Sorry about any typos but I wanted to get this right out to you!
  • Its not that I don't want a fusion, if there is a chance to have less pain I am there. There has been a few "succesful" fusions right? My doctor said he wanted to put it off as long as he can since I am only 32, but does age make a difference? Does that mean I have the wrong doctor? I will see about seeing a neurologist asap. This is so stressful in so many ways. Thanks for the concern.
  • You are definitely hard core! I'm somewhat confused by what Prof. John had to say about the neurologist. I think the person you may need to consult with would be a neurosurgeon. There's a difference. Am I wrong? I may be, God knows I have been before now!
  • I had a fusion that failed, but it was also a last resort short of putting in a pain pump/stimulator. I think you are still young enough to go for it man. I always said that I would never recommend it to anyone unless we were in the same boat and guess what...we are. I have had three surgeries, 6 go's at PT (including traction/inversion tables), steroid pack after steroid pack, pain killers/muscle relaxants/nerve meds on & off for 8 years (I am only 25), 80 epidurals and acupuncture. I think you could say that we have both exhausted all of our options. My best advice would be to make sure you want to do it, but I think it's a good decision. You never know unless you try. You are truly hardcore my friend being through all of the crap you've been through. I give you lots of credit because I know how hard it is. We will probably never be 100%, but hey I guess feeling a little better is better than nothing. Best of luck man! Let me know what happens.
  • This Thursday back I go to hear what he says my MRI says. I left his nurse a message telling her "it's ruptured again, and I see a whole mess of solid white stuff that wasn't on my MRI after the first surgery" (probably whats keeping up the swelling, no idea what all the white is) and that I still needed pain meds since they wouldn't give me more til they saw "proof" I still had something causing pain =)) . What A**holes I know. She said "you don't know what you are looking at on the MRI...how can you read it"? And I'm like hey...I have had so many MRI's I know what a rupture looks like, I know what desiccated disc look like. I have a library of disc of my MRI's from over the past 13+ years.
    So she prescribed me a expensive medicine called talwin nx (never had it)that my insurance wouldn't cover without a doctor override (which he didn't do??? X( ), and I couldn't afford it since I am not working as of right now (food for kids or new meds?...DUH). So I called his nurse and asked her to at least prescribe something that is covered like the percocet 10's I was on that worked ok for the pain, but no...she calls in a script for loratab 5's...anyone who knows pain meds knows those don't do crap for real pain like mine/ours =)) . So needless to say I am a little pissed at my Doc. I don't want to have to take pills, but I don't want to be in pain to the point of tears anymore either :''( . So yes if he says surgery again I am there. But I will need to see another Doc for a second opinion since this Doc is seemingly more about his wallet than my pain getting relieved. I'll keep you all informed. Happy Memorial day to all!
  • I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, it ALWAYS comes down to the dollar. Quality of care has seriously gone down the tubes in the last decade. I take MS Contin now. Since you have acute pain all over again they should have at least put you on 10 Lorcet/Lortab. I hope you at least got to enjoy Memorial weekend. I can't tell you because the MRI is not in front of me, but the white could be scar tissue along with the new rupture. Definitely let us know how it goes. Sorry, it seems like everyone is having problems getting the right prescriptions lately! Hang in there.
  • Well it's official. My Surgeon says it's a major rupture again, and since third times the charm we will be doing a lumbar fusion. He also suggested I get some epidural shots until I get everything arranged and we set the exact date. The shots never helped before and the last one I had before my last discectomy surgery some how "ripped" a hole in my dural sac and gave me a spinal fluid leak and luckily my Surgeon found it and repaired it while he was in there doing his thing. So I'm a little sketched out. The reasons I have to wait is unfortunately financial. I have been out of work so long now the money just isn't there to be out of work even longer. My Wife, bless her heart has been the rock during my struggle, and we just found out she is going to have a full hysterectomy at the young age of 33. God has chosen to humble me for some odd reason, but I still have faith God will help the way he always has...if you get my drift. I feel like I'm losing my mind!!!!
    Life is never easy, but that's what life is about...facing obstacles head on, and maybe not at first, but conquering them eventually, and feeling great for doing so. I'll keep this topic going when I get farther down this long road I am on.
  • Holy cow! I wish you all the best. A fusion is a long recovery, but when it works it's well worth it. I'm so sorry that you have another rupture, but at least you know now. The waiting game sucks. I wish your wife the best of luck with her surgery. My fusion was through the abdomen so I feel for her. Back surgeries with hardware are especially expensive! I know how tough it is to struggle with money, owning a house and being out of work. I don't have any kids, but I can imagine the added financial strain. I can't imagine what you are going through right now physically/mentally, but we are all here for you. When is the surgery scheduled?
  • So sorry to hear you're going to have to have another surgery! -And your wife too! So much for a young family to go through. You family will be in my prayers. Keep us posted on how things go.
  • God never gives us more than we can bear -- but I'd say he's given you quite the load! You are so young to be burdened with such painful back troubles. Stay positive that this next operation will be a success and you will slowly get your life back. I hope that you and your wife have a support system of family and friends to get you through this tough time -- don't be to proud to reach out and as for help -- you'll be there one day for the people who are helping you now. It's easy to say not to worry and try to relax but I understand how hard that is when you have financial woes and are out of work -- I just lost my job two weeks ago due to my back issues.

    Reach out to the members here whenever you need a little morale boost -- we're here for you -- and I'll keep you in my prayers.
  • It's me again. So I have decided to go ahead and schedule my fusion surgery asap instead of waiting till after my wife's hysterectomy. I just got out of the emergency room, I was having excruciating pain, and leg weakness upon awakening in the mornings for the past week or so, I had fallen to the ground from some serious muscle spasms 3 times in the past few days, even while going pee. And all my surgeons nurse says is "waiting on insurance", and "if the pain is so bad go to the E.R.". So I did and what a waste of time. Waiting on the insurance to approve my fusion so it won't be so much money out of our pockets is getting to be a real pain in the butt...literally. :S
    Anyways I found out what the giant white area in my MRI is called...Seroma. That's what all the swelling is near/under my incision. The Internet says it should be drained if the seroma is causing added pain (which it is), and I don't know why my surgeon just blew it off like it's nothing. Everyone says go to another surgeon, but I am skeptical of an unfamiliar face cutting on me you know. I feel like my surgeon is an ass at times, but I liked him from the get go. Just because I'm in the boat I'm in doesn't mean he put me there. He is very thorough, and looks you in the eye, and seems to care but lately he seems like he don't give a crap by letting me sit in pain for so long. I know doctors are busy people but come on already. So hopefully the ball is moving along and I can get this fusion done and over with. I thank all of you again for your input and concern. I will let you know more when I get the date of my surgery. Speaking of which the surgeon said the way he does fusions I'll only be in the hospital 2-3 days...is that a normal hospital stay for a fusion? Thanks again. Talk to you all soon. :H
  • I'm sorry you are having complications and so much pain. Hopefully you will get approval soon and will be able to move ahead.

    There are many doctors doing a minimally-invasive type of fusion where the patient is only in the hospital overnight. Otherwise three days is fairly standard....
  • make you feel bad ..but i was still having very bad pain 18 months after my operation ..and now i still get constant pain all day and night {managed well with pain killers } but pain wakes me every night after 3 hour sleep and i have been told that this is how my life will be for ever now ..and i am only 43!!
  • Well I have my surgery scheduled for June 15th @ 7:00am. I am a little nervous but so happy that the possibility of being out of pain is getting nearer. I know I can still be in pain, or the surgery could fail again but I am going to stay optimistic about everything. So far it seems like I am getting worse with each day (more pain/trouble walking, not being able to sit up but for a few minutes, and laying down just plain sucks!) So I will let everyone know how it goes once I am able to sit up at the computer. Thanks again for all the support!
  • Monday morning the 15th of June I had my Level 1 Fusion at the L4-L5 level, and was out of the hospital on the morning of the 17th (A bit to early for my taste)and, so far so good. Some slight nerve pain has comeback and the surgical pain is no joke. My incision has been "bleeding" and I am getting worried. I know they stitched me up from the inside out and put steri strips on it. Probably along with some glue, but the guaze has been getting completely saturated and has had some of those strips come off. Gonna get new ones today because they are supposed to take them off in 2 weeks not a few days. I have some major bruising in a sort of "V" shape around the incision...Doctor says it's probably from the retractor they used. He also said my disc pretty much cleaned itself out the rupture was so bad! I am in a brace 24/7 except for when in bed or showering. My legs are still pretty weak, but I feel way better than before. The hospital stay was good except for the part of the nurses waking me up every 2 hours the 1st night, and every 4hrs. the 2nd night. I had a cathater in when I woke up, a mobile pain pump with two leads that ran down the sides of the incision dripping some kind of "numbing" med and one lead got pulled to much and was leaking so my back pain came quick to the side the pump was not working on. Another thing they had in me when I woke up was a "blood drain" which was supposed to suction up any fluid build up. I think the hose got clogged on that thing since I am having so much drainage still. I hate the fact that I have to basicly do zip for a long time (3-6 months). Hope I can keep my sanity. I go back for my post op in 10 days so I will keep everyone informed! Gotta go walk for a bit.
  • Best of luck with the fusion! Yes, it is normal to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days. They will probably bring in the physical therapists the day after surgery. Don't be surprised if you have a catheter in when you wake up in recovery. I don't know how they expect someone who just had major back surgery to try and go in a bedpan...it's impossible and they won't let you walk to the bathroom even with a nurse probably until the third day. Do you know if they are going through the front or the back/both? Make sure you do all of the physical therapy after you get out of the hospital and take the meds that you have/are given and you will bounce back quick. I'm here if you have any questions. I've been there! The fusion was the toughest surgery I've ever been through, but I played it by the book and was back to work in 4 weeks instead of the projected 6-8. Even though in the end my fusion failed, having confidence in your doctor is half the battle =) Hang in there!
  • Well it's been 6 weeks and so far so good. The sciatic pain is gone but my back muscles have a ways to go. Especially after 3 surgeries in less than 5 months. Doc says everything is where it should be, but I am having this curvature in my spine that wasn't there before. Doc says it's my body adjusting for "comfort". It's not very comfortable. I am out of my brace. Allowed to lift 25lbs. and about to start 6 weeks of PT. The only time it's hard to deal with is after laying down. Doesn't matter if it's for 5 mins. or all night. When I get up I feel like I did the first time I got out of bed after surgery. After I'm up for a bit I do ok. I'd trade my old sciatic pain for lower back pain any day! They are supposed to put me on a better muscle relaxer but my insurance is requiring a Prior Authorization from my Doc, and that's almost taken a week and still hasn't gone through. I could just go pay cash but I'm still out of work. What do they think...I'm made of money? I'll keep you all in touch with my situation after some of my PT ( I'm hoping for some water PT). Bye for now.
  • Hey, that's great! Sounds like you are on the road to recovery.

    I remember your story, and you've had a rough time. I'm glad things are looking up for you. :)

    Best wishes,

  • Glad to hear everything went well! Best of luck with PT. Take care of yourself and don't push too hard =)
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