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Post-op Lumbar back pain, one year later, I feel worse help...

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Lower Back Pain
I underwent an L4-L5 laminectomy / discetomy for a ruptured disc that was pressing on my sciatic nerve cause pain down my right leg to my knee. After surgery, my recovery was very slow, and although the pain from sciatica went away completely, my back never recovered from the surgery. Now when I sit in a chair for to long, or stand up for long periods of time, I feel as though my spine is being compressed and the longer I stay in that position, the more uncomfortable it gets. After I stand up, I have to do so slowly to give my back time to adjust to sitting straight up otherwise the pain will be terrible. I have also noticed that bending straight over and picking up objects directly in front of me is painful, and I naturally am leaning to one side of my body to pick up an object on the ground (instead of leaning directly over like touching my toes). It has been over 1 year since my operation, and according to my doctor, I should have been fully recovered by now. Does anyone have any advice for me? What type of doctor should I go see (the last surgeon who operated on me was a neuro surgeon). Any useful information would be greatly appreciated, as this is really effecting my life. Even carrying my backpack around school gets uncomfortable.


  • Hi Dogboston. I too am about a year out from L4-S1 fusion surgery and laminectomy and still have way too much pain, probably more than before the surgery (there were two operations, a so-called 360-degree fusion).
    My neurosurgeon said the same thing as yours. It's taking too long. I'm taking longer than normal to heal. Blah blah blah.
    It turns out your outcome and mine are actually the norm for fusion surgery. I'm now seeing a pain management specialist who has seen thousands of fusion patients. He says I should expect two years post-op before I can feel "normal" again. And that's assuming no new problems, like disc pain, degeneration at adjacent segments.
    I've been on disability for over a year. The pain and inability to do what I want to do are killing me.
    I can only suggest you ask your neurosurgeon for a referral to a good pain management doctor. And be wary of any pain management specialist whose only arsenal consists of pain killers. There are many other ways to deal with chronic pain. Sometimes opiate painkillers as one part of an overall pain management program are a good idea.
    I can also recommend lots of low-impact aerobic exercise (it increases blood flow to your spine, and back muscles, promoting healing), walking as well as Pilates and appropriate strength and stretching exercises. Get those endorphins going!
    Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
  • I don't believe you had a fusion, but a lami/discectomy, right? You really should be feeling better by now. Unfortunately, it is fairly common to have one of two things happen: either the disc has reherniated or it is possible that a small fragment of the disc was left behind at the time of surgery and it now is pressing against the disc. However, your description of the pain almost sounds like your back is now somewhat unstable or perhaps you have bone rubbing on bone.

    One thing I might mention: you really aren't doing your back any favor by bending over in the way you describe. Once you've had any type of back surgery, you need to be very careful to use good body mechanics and move in ways that put the least amount of pressure and stress on your spine. From now on, your back will be more susceptible to injury and you need to pay attention to your posture, and to how you move.

    Look for a fellowship-trained spinal specialist. This can be either an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon who has additional training in the spine and back and who devotes his/her practice to issues of the spine and back.

    Good luck. Hope you can find some help.
  • I am 16 months post L4/5 fusion and still in a ton of pain. I had a MRI done a few months ago and it showed L5-S1 bulging (affecting exiting nerve root) with an annular tear

    So my surgeon recommended an ESI, had it done 8-25-09 and I think the PM Dr hit a nerve. I am now in as much pain as I was before surgery, back and leg pain with numbness. I am so affraid that this could be permanent nerve damage.
  • I had L3-4 discectomy 6/20 & again on 6/26/08 for herniated disc. In Aug of 08 I was hospitalized for over a week for inflammation of those disc spaces and the nerves. I was advised there was a pocket of fluid that had formed around the nerves that was causing the same type of pain that I had before surgery. I was sent home on bed rest until a discogram and EEG could be performed to see what else was going on. The EEG showed peripherial neuropathy in my left leg and the doctor said the neropathy was coming from L5-S1 mostly. The discogram was a very painful procedure and I pray I never have to have that test again.

    Oct 1, 2008 the neurosurgeon performed a PLIF at L4, L5 and S1. I awoke from surgery in the most pain I had ever been in in my 46 years of life put together. The pain from surgery has passed as it is now almost the end of Sept, almost a year after my surgery.

    The branch of business where my husband was employed was closed without warning and our insurance was terminated the day before my surgery but since the ins had already approved my hospitalization and surgery, they did cover the Oct 1 hospital stay. Since then, due to the surgery on my back, RSD and COPD, I'm unable to get medical insurance and Social Security approved my disability on the first submission. The problem I have is my Medicare won't kick in until Nov 2010. I live in TX and there are doctors all over the place but none of them will see patients unless they are insured.

    My pain is as bad now as it was before surgery but since the doctors had to stretch the nerves so much on the right side of my spine, the left leg isn't the only one that is painful, it is both legs. The only relief I get is staying in bed and taking pain pills. My PCP has been reluctant to give me the pain pills before he is afraid I will become addicted. My life has gone from being active, working, water sports, walking 8-12 miles a day to lying in bed most of the day because the rods in my back feel as if they are being driven through the seat I'm sitting in and the nerves in both legs are screaming. The lightening and burning in my legs are unbearable almost all the time.

    Anyone out there with suggestions that might help will be my hero.
  • Since you're still having pain, the first thing I'd do is see a pain management specialist. Before hopping into a surgery again you need to exhaust all other options such as physical therapy, spinal injections, heat/ice therapy, TENS unit, etc. I had a microdiscectomy in 2006 and a year later had horrid pain in my back and legs again. I exhausted ALL options though before finally consenting to a fusion surgery. I STILL have really bad pain--so nothing's a guarantee. I don't mean to be discouraging, I just want you to know there are other options out there and you may be one of the lucky ones that the injections and PT helps (and for the majority of people it does!). So I'd ask for a referral to PT and pain management before seeing another surgeon. JMO...
  • Hey there

    Looks like we're in the same boat, judging by your school bag comment!
    I'm 18, a year ago I had an L4/L5 Laminectomy/Discectomy also. And like you, I still suffer from quite bad pain. I know it's quite frustrating to go through a procedure only to suffer on the other side. The thing is, there isn't any real reason to panic, because a lot of people our age have quite a strong inflammatory response after such an operation. I'd suggest going to a specialist to discuss your options, i.e an MRI or a cortizone injection, I'm on the waiting list for mine!

  • apologies -- and thanks Gwennie17 for pointing out -- dogboston did not have a fusion surgery. I'm guessing here that some of the pain is from the laminectomy, which involves a lot of injury to the spine muscles etc.
    I hope you are beginning to feel better.
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