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healing time for lumbar fusion anyone?

Laur en PainLLaur en Pain Posts: 47
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I was wondering if anyone could give me some input on the healing time of a lumbar fusion with hardware. I had a fusion at the L5 level for DDD in December 2008. I was in a back brace for 3 months and then did about 2 months of PT. I am still having a lot of pain in the lower left side of my back but all my scans have showed that the fusion was a success and everything is structurally fine. The neurosurgeon told me that I should be feeling better by now but that he had the same surgery years ago and it took him a year and a half to 2 years to feel good. Well, the 1 1/2 year mark came and went, almost on to to 2 years now. I was just wondering if anyone has had this type of surgery that did end up feeling better after a couple years or if that is just a bunch of bull. I feel like it should have had some effect by now, right?


  • I'm almost two years out from a one level fusion at L4-5 and I still have the same symptoms I had prior to surgery. I had a second, smaller surgery last Jan. in hopes that it would take care of the problem, but, alas, it did not. I have continued to pursue the cause without a lot of support from my doctor, actually both my surgeons, who told me nothing more could be done surgically, and that I should do the SCS trial. I told them I was not interested at this point because my pain didn't make sense to me and I felt there was a reason for it that just hadn't been found. I started this search at about six months out from my fusion surgery and I am still searching. The good news is that I believe I am one nerve block away from finding my answer.

    While I think what your doc said about it taking him 1 1/2 - 2 years to feel "good," can be the case, generally this is a process and you should be feeling gradually better, gradually regaining strength, etc. It sounds like you have had your pain all along.

    Do your MRIs show any epidural fibrosis (scar tissue)? Have you sought any other opinions from other specialists? I would not give up the hope that you will still recover, but I think I might start looking for some answers from some other sources.

    Some nerve damage can take up to two years to recover, but this is approaching the outside boundary, according to what one reads from the "experts." Otherwise, it seems to me one should be recovered by the two year mark.

    xx Gwennie

    Have you had your hardware checked to be sure it is tight and in place? Have you asked if it might be causing a reaction in your body, or whether you're feeling that kind of pain?
  • As I am sitting here thinking about it, it hasn't been almost 2 years, duh me! Only almost 1 year. I guess the question still remains the same though, do I take the chance of letting myself have hope that I may one day feel better? Gwennie, thank you for your response. How many nerve blocks have you had? I have had 2 ESI's that were unsuccessful and have an appt with my pain management doc on the 19th to discuss whether or not to do the third. I have done some research myself and it seems that after at least 2 failed ESI's that I may be eligible for a nerve block. I want to talk to her about this because, same as you, I just feel like there is some underlying cause for my back pain. It remains mainly on the lower left side. Before I had the fusion, the neurosurgeon told me that there was some nerves that needed "cleaned up" and told me after the surgery that that was done. I really feel like the nerve block may be the right thing for me because the majority of my pain is just in that one area. I am constantly searching for an answer and have tried what feels like a million different treatments, meds, specialists...etc. Did the nerve block help you at all or have you not had one yet?
  • More and more I am beginning to believe that back surgery does not relieve pain.

    Did it fix my sciatica and CES issues - yes.
    Can I say that I don't have a backache anymore - no.

    That said, I do have hardware issues and I'll be getting that taken out in the next year or so (when I decide I can't tolerate it anymore). But I honestly don't think I'll ever be rid of that general back ache that never seems to go away. But thne, it's only been 15 months for me.
  • I had surgery for two level PLIAF the same time as you. I recently had my hardware taken out as it could be causing my pain. I still have pain. Am waiting to see if it gets better. Not much better than before surgery, but am hoping hardware was a problem. I do know that it can take up to two years to heal. I would give it some more time and also just for peace of mind get a second opinion. Hope this makes sense.
  • iowarobin,
    When they take out the hardware, do they replace it with something else? This may be a stupid question, but what holds you together without that? Lauren.
  • When they take it out, you have the fusion of the bones that holds it all together. Your hardware is only needed while the fusion is going on.

    I read over the last few days that some people have had injections into where the screws are to see if that maybe the cause of their pain. If it is they may then remove the screws, provided the fusion has occurred. I take a calcium supplement caltrate which includes vitamin D which the body needs to absorb the calcium at twice the recommended daily dossage simply to ensure the bone growth is 'helped' along (if thats possible). I take other multivitamins, glucosamine etc at higher dosages for the same reason.


    My physiotherapist would love you. You said "More and more I am beginning to believe that back surgery does not relieve pain.

    Did it fix my sciatica and CES issues - yes.
    Can I say that I don't have a backache anymore - no"

    He just said to me only 2 hours ago that back surgery will not fix back pain but can fix any structural issues. So he would say you are one of the lucky ones to have achieved what the surgeon set out to do.

    Doesnt help you (or me for that matter) when we are still in pain hey? I suggested inanother post that surgeons and patients go into surgery from 2 different perspectives. The surgeon wants to fix the structural problem, the patient wants the pain fixed.

    After all, if the pain is fixed, do we really care if the disc is degenerated or whatever if it doesnt give us pain? I am sick of hearing people say "the surgery is as structurally successful as possible if it doesnt rid me of the pain which is the thing stopping me enjoying my life. And then they go on now about pain having a certain amount of psychiatric component (some is in your head) not because you are weak or mad or whatever, they say its
    because we are brought up as a society to believe that pain is bad so you will always expect to have the pain etc etc - BLAH BLAH BLAH hey? They just go on and on. Just fix my pain mate is what we say. Wish they would just simply say "sorry mate, cant do, it never will be fixed no matter what surgery or surgeon you see" Then we can go deal with the depression that causes. God life is a b...h sometimes.

    Best wishes....
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