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Post-Op Spinal Fusion L5-S1

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am a few days past the 5 week mark post-op. I had a minimally invasive surgery, which involved 2 incisions, one on the right and left, they were 4 and 5 inches and involved no cutting of the muscles. I had the fusion after being diagnosed with a hereditary (or from childhood) spondlolistheis at the L5-S1 level. After trying a variety of different conservative treatments, my back worsened. I went from one fracture to 3 since it was first discovered. I am an athlete, and they gave me the ultimatum to walk away or get it fixed after allowing me to complete my season courtesy of Norco. I had the surgery as a I said over 5 weeks ago. As soon as I was in the recovery room, I was ready to walk. When I was moved to a regular room, I immediately got up and used the restroom by myself, and walked laps around the hospital that night, the same thing happened the next day and I was cleared to go but my pain got worse. The PCA didn't work well because my veins kept collapsing and I had 3 failed IVs. At the end of my 2nd day, the pain got dramatically worse, and I stayed 2 more days and needed a walker to get around. Once I was home, I would walk almost everyday for an extensive period, at about a week and a half I managed a 2 hr straight walk. My pain was very minimal so I only took my meds (Percocet, Valium, & Skelaxin) at night but I was taking my Lyrica was prescribed because my nerve pain was worse than the surgery pain post-op. I felt great around weeks 3 and 4. Now, I am in much more pain. I have stopped walking unless necessary. I am in pain pretty constantly. I heard there are set backs, but I am just worried because my 6 week x-rays are this week and I am afraid I am not healing as fast as I originally thought. I am DETERMINED to be back at 6 months for my track season!

I was just wondering if anyone could give me their experiences with this surgery, and how they felt afterwards, etc....


  • Oh BTW, I also had the surgery because my disc had severe DDD.
  • Hello Ruth
    you seem to have made a remarkably quick recovery - to start off with. But from my experience 5 weeks is still very early days to be thinking you will be pain free. Two 5 inch incisions are not really minimally invasive and you will need to recover from this as well as what has gone on inside. Maybe you felt so good so soon because of the medication you were on.
    I would say you need to be much more gentle on yourself. You have had a pretty major surgery and you need to get over that before pushing yourself as hard as you seem to have been doing.
    I had two major surgeries, one in April last year and one in April this year and I am still struggling with the pain. I too am an athlete so I know how hard it is to not be doing things!
    I hope your pain eases very soon.
    Take it easy.
    Brian (London UK)
  • I had the same surgey 6 wks ago, and I have to admit that I'm pain free from the surgery. But, I still have unrelated osteoarthritis pain. I'm just guessing, but you might have worked a little too hard, too soon. I'm glad that you have a doctor's appt. next week. Hopefully, your x-rays will show that you're fusing well, and your doctor will just tell you to take it easy for a few days. Please keep us posted & PM me if you like.

  • rutherje said:
    I heard there are set backs, but I am just worried because my 6 week x-rays are this week and I am afraid I am not healing as fast as I originally thought. I am DETERMINED to be back at 6 months for my track season!

    I was just wondering if anyone could give me their experiences with this surgery, and how they felt afterwards, etc....
    I am 6 months post-op MIS-TLIF L5/S1. Although I am not a success story, I do know that at 5 weeks it is too early to judge how you are doing. 2 hour walks at 5 weeks is a lot. Your body is still healing and you might need to take things at a slower pace. L5/S1 is a difficult segment to fuse and my PT said that her L5/S1 fusion patients took much longer to heal. Hang in there and see what your doc says about your symptoms and progress.

    I too was a runner so I know how frustrating it is not to be your former self but as I was told it is better to take things slow.
  • Hi
    I am an athlete, and I will possibly be requiring surgery for spondylolysis. As some athletes posted on this topic I am seeking advice pre op. I am a very serious track sprinter, and I would like to know how does surgery affect performance long term. I am 21 now and I am in the perfect scenario to run fast. I'm a finalist at university, with everything an athlete needs around me. If I decide to get surgery (invasive-with a Pedicle screw inserted) will my back ever be the same. Advice from any athlete would be amazing (doctor can't give me it), what was it like mentally, did you perform better etc.

    Forums like this are great.
    Merry Christmas
  • Hi everyone,

    I am a 21 year old university football player looking for some advice regarding my spondylolysis. 5 years ago I had this same back pain and missed an entire hockey season and it healed on its own eventually but now I have been forced to abandon all exercise and possibly my next football season due to this condition. The symptoms began to appear in August 2010 and eventually lead to the point of pain where I could no longer run/stand/sit comfortably. I have been doing physical therapy attempting to strengthen my core and also doing running on the treadmill in our school's hydrotherapy pool. I have also been biking to try and maintain my physique and limit the boredom of no organized sports or lifting weights. I am at the point where the option is becoming apparent with the doctor that I can wait it out and see if it gets better or get spinal fusion. My pain has subsided in the meantime but whenever I try to do anything athletic it immediately resumes and becomes debilitating again.

    Im looking for some advice as to what you can do exercise wise post-surgery and down the road. Im not looking to get back into playing football again because I fear the impact will only lead to more problems but I would love to get back into hockey and squash. Is this possible?

    Please share your thoughts with me, I appreciate it.

  • Hi-
    I would think a 2 hour walk could give you a set back. I'm doing quite well at just over 3 weeks at 64 years old. Here is my cut and paste from another forum to compare notes ...

    I just had an Anterior L5-S1 fusion, standard 2 plates, 4 screws and cage. Over 31 years I had 2 Laminectomies at the same level each lasting
    15 years. Finally, bone on bone led to a fusion at the same level. Now, I'm just over 3 weeks out and walking a mile a day with some leg pain and lower back pain here and there. My surgeon didn't feel a need for PT and BLT ( bending, lifting and twisting) were absolutely not in the post op protocol. I noticed above, someone was bending forward rather than from the knees, twisting and stretching. How far out of surgery were they?
    I'm also still taking pain meds but a third of what I was taking. I'm 64, in excellent shape but it isn't likely I have 40 years left ... lol ... I was curious what advantage the posterior added to the anterior only. With scarring after 2 back surgeries, my surgeon felt it best to leave my back alone. Does anyone know why both entries are done in some cases, only anterior in other cases. Thanks so much!
  • I had my first back op in 2005. After several operations on my right hip as a child resulted in being crippled for three years in my teens luckily this was corrected by an amazing and pioneering surgeon to whom I am extremely grateful! It was made clear the damage was too great for the miracle to last forever! In my early 30's I began to experience severe back problems, due to compensating for the huge mistakes and subsequent disablement my spine was compacting and several discs were bulging and one had completely disintegrated and by this time I was also in desperate need of a hip replacement. Immediately after my surgery and for a couple of months it felt as if it had solved my problems. However, my symptoms returned and were worsening! I was taken back in for injections directly into my spine in order to cure the pain. It was then decided that I should have a total hip replacement to see if this would help - I knew this procedure would be necessary I was lucky it lasted out till I was 35. Albeit a fantastic job on the hip my back continued with constant chronic pain. I would love to tell you there is happy ending to this story!! After investigation the Dr discovered that that my spine had fused at the back of the cage they fitted however the front was not fused! I then underwent the second op but this time they went through my stomach, another structure was built around the offending disc and further bone was removed from my pelvis and placed where the spine had not fused. That last operation was on 6th March 2010 yet the pain continues, its unbearable and relentless! I wonder if there is any hope for me? My left hip is now in need of replacing! I suffer with stabbing pains through all my joints numbness tingling down my legs and toes my lower back is agony! Other problems have started in my neck, shoulders and elbows, my arms go numb and tingle like an electrical current is running through them and my fingers go completely white and I actually have to bring them back to life under a hot tap. I spend my life on morphine and painkillers and feel as if I have been left for dead. Im 39 not 89. Is there anyone there?
  • I just had a spinal fusion at L5 S1 on 3/20/12, and so far this is my experience: (here is my blog) I hope someone can relate or I can somehow help someone...I had such a hard time finding someone to relate to prior to surgery, it was all horror stories. Good luck everyone! check out my page please, thank you!


  • Hi Alician -

    My post from last year is up above. I'm quite older than you, had a laminectomy at
    L5/S1 in 1980, then same disc in 1995 … Last June, Fabien Bitan in Lenox Hill fused the same level. Never need PT. It was a tough road, took Percocet alms 2 months and titrated off. They did an ALIF rather than open the back up a 3rd time in 32 years. All went well, now 11 months out, I'm great. You would never know. I have an ocassional sciatica on the left side from 30 + years of nerve damaged but the Dr said that can take a year and a half to go away completely if it does. That's because the tissue around the nerve softens from the lack of movement do to the fusion. But that takes some time. Being left with a touch of intermittent sciatica that is mild isn't an issue. I could if I choose down the road to get an injection to see if it would dissipate. The ups and downs you have are normal. I had them also. 3 jumps forward , 1 back but that also changes to full steam ahead. I read nightmares also and not many good results are posted. you just can't dwell and run away with the negative thoughts as the positivity is a big + in healing. Be patient!!! Where was the procedure done?
  • Thank you for all your helpful posts, I am 54 years old, had my surgery (L5 S1 Fusion) 3 1/2 weeks ago with 5 small incisions, was up and out of bed 4 hours after surgery and back home the next day. I thought I was going to be feeling much better sooner than I expected, but some days the pain is so bad, I feel like curling into my bed and not moving, but I don’t do so. I had a very bad set back this week. I am a very active person and I was getting frustrated until I read this posts. It has been a long journey and I am glad I found this site. It gives me hope that the pain will go away. I am walking 1 mile every day, and doing my PT exercises, but I think I am doing too much. I realize my surgery was only 3 ½ weeks ago and it is too early compared to what all of you have gone through. I guess I have to slow down and smell the roses! :) Thank you all.
  • I can totally relate and started walking 2-3 miles after 3+ weeks only to realize …
    " What was I thinking? " … so cutting to the chase, don't try to break any records. A mile a day is a great accomplishment after a fusion. You've got time to build. I never went to PT, didn't need it. I'm in excellent shape, 65 years old and have been mistaken for 50. Mother's genes I guess. Even so, it took 6-9 months for me to say, I feel myself again … plus mine being an anterior approach, that cut didn't make life easier!
    Now, I'm back to a normal active life!
  • I just finished reading your blog. It is fascinating reading and lots of great information. Thanks for doing it.

    Too bad about your tattoo. Did you have it before your accident?

    I am going to have a 4level fusion in two weeks and I am 70 so I expect my recovery will be a lot different. But your great attitude is inspiring and I too have a positive attitude.

    The most discouraging thing for me was the close up pictures of your brace. I was hoping it would have some air vents. Yours looks to be a solid piece of plastic. I will have to wear one for 3 months...all through the summer. Uh la la it is going to be hot and sweaty. I wonder how many inches I can sweat off of my waist ha ha

  • Thanks Barry, that encourages me to not give up. I get frustrarted but I am glad I joined this place.
    I slowed down a little but I am still walking and doing all the good exercises. :) I know it is going to take time,but I want to say I am 100% myself one day! and I know that day will come.
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