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Post surgery pain at 4 weeks

emray8eemray8 Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Lower Back Pain

I am new to this but am desperately looking for someone who has been in a similar situation.

I have had some back problems over the years (I'm a paramedic and past firefighter for 25 years). I fell out of the back of the ambulance and landed on my butt and hit my shoulder in Dec 07. Most of the tx at that time focused on my shoulder but I did also have some lower back and right hip pain. In the fall of 08 I began to have lower back pain and went to chiropractor. He helped some but then said he could do no more. In Jan of 09 I saw a spine specialist and she did an MRI. She said I had a slight tear at L4 L5 and a slight bulge at L5 S1. She said both were not a big deal and that I should be able to continue with my profession for as long as I liked. I did do some physical therapy at that time.

On June 21st 09 I was doing CPR on a patient in the back of the ambulance and felt something move in my lower back. A MRI the next day showed that the slight bulge was now larger and pushing on my nerve root. I went through steroid therapy and then PT. No improvement but now I also had numbness and tingling in my right lower leg and foot. My workmans comp Dr. (I've known him for 18 years) sent me to a neurosurgeon and he had my do more PT. At the end of August we all decided the tingling and numbness was only getting worse so I made the decision after talking to both doctors to go ahead with a disc removal. On Sept. 10th the Dr. remove L5 S1 disc totally and put in 2 spacers and a stabilizing bar. He also cleaned up some of the rough bone pieces. Using these pieces he made a paste and built it up around one of the spacers. I was released from the hospital 3 days later. My post surgery instructions were no lifting or bending. Walking and activities as tolerated. I was also given a prescription to start PT 2 weeks later. (I have been on tramadol and valium since June and he continued these.)

First week was rough but I expected that. My husband stayed home with my and I did ok. I walked 8 to 10 min 3 times a day and moved around as suggested so I didn't get too stiff.

I started PT 2 weeks ago and my pain has only gotten worse. We have backed off to a minimum and I also began going to the YMCA for walking in the water and such.

I still have constant pain in my back (2 or so in am, up to 6 or so by pm) with meds. My question is: Is this normal for being 4 weeks post surgery? I also have worsening numbness, pain and tingling in my lower right leg and foot. I see my surgeon on Tuesday but I'd also like to hear from people who have "been there."

Has anyone out there had similar surgery? I know everyone has different reactions, but I really didn't expect this much pain this far out.

Also, I was told that this was my only chance to go back to working as a medic. Now everyone I talk to says they can't believe that I really think I can go back. (my job description requires that I be able to lift 100 lbs and carry people up and down stairs.) Anyone think this is possible or am I in denial.

I would really appreciate any and all comments.

By the way, I'm a 47 yof who before this was in pretty good shape. I used to run 10 Ks and lift regularly.




  • i had 3 lami's and fusion of L4/5 12 weeks ago. at 8 wks i saw the neurosurgeon and was told to do anything that did not cause pain. am still finding that what i consider simple activities will cause pain --esp the next day--so i back off. my guess since your pain has greatly increased by pm--that you need to rest more and--i hate these words--take it easy some more. the ns stated listen to your body!!
    have found that the heating pad for .5 hr is terrific, even during day. i'm a disabled rn and we medical people expect that 'we' should heal faster!! beat wishes to your recovery, mugs
  • Keep a diary of yor daily activities to see if you can pin point what you have been doing when your pain starts to increase. Share this info with your PT and Doc. In my opinion you should be farther along in your recovery.(I am not a doctor, just my experience).

    My wife will not give up, she insists that if you keep looking someone out there can fix the pain. As she found this web site very informative.

    She claims I did not communicate well post surgery with my doc. That is why 9 years later I am still having severe pain.
  • From your description of the procedure you had, I assume you had L5-S1 fused, right?

    If so, I am surprised you started PT so early. Pt is one of the big variables with spine specialists. Some don't even order it, believing it often does more harm than good. Some start it early in the process and some wait until four months, or later. But unless you were just doing mild stretching, I am surprised that you started at two weeks.

    Just based on my experience and on those of others I have known through the years, I think you are expecting WAY too much too soon. Most people are just walking at 4 weeks...walking and resting. My surgeon was also one who had few instructions and just said "If it hurts, don't do it."

    From your description, I would say you are doing too much and need to back off and wait a bit longer before restarting more activity. Healing from fusion requires a great deal of patience. It takes far longer than any of us are anticipating. If one is impatient and does too much, there are set-backs. It is almost like when you have a skin wound that is healing nicely, then the scab is knocked off and you almost have to start the healing over again. To me, fusion is similar. It is a couple steps forward, and then one back. If you push it, it will be many steps backward, and you will start again.

    I would say that if you are going at a "normal" pace, you will start to feel more like yourself around three months and will begin to regain strength more around six months...and you shouldn't be testing anything until you are at least a year out. You have to be sure that fusion is strong and completely fused; otherwise problems will arise now or down the road a bit.

    Some people are able to go back to strenuous, physical employment, but I would like to see statistics on the numbers. I'd be willing to bet that group is definitely in the minority. Hope I am wrong, but that is the impression I have.

    Please try to be patient and give your body a chance to heal and recover.

  • Thanks for your comments. Sounds like I may be doing too much and expecting too much to soon. \

    I'll see what Doc says tomorrow. He isn't the best at giving instructions. He also doesn't seem to understand what my job involves. Hopefully he will talk with my primary care worker comp doc who used to be a medic himself.

    Interestingly enough, my pt guy told me this am I could be back at work in 6 to 8 weeks.?! I really can't believe it.

    I did start a rehab swim class today that felt great. They only let me do about half the stuff, but it felt so good to move. Even if it was only gently.

    Anyway, thanks and I will definately keep coming here. This is the best site I have found. I love the chat room. Gave me some laughs when I really needed them.

    Thank you all,

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