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Post op questions about a spinal fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Wow, am I glad I found this place. I have a few questions regarding post op of L5 S1 fusion. No hardwear but my own bone graft and a 5 inch insion. I have DDD and I chose to only have a single fusion at this time even though L4 L5 is pretty bad.

I'm 5 weeks out and I'm still dealing with a significant amount of pain. I expected to be further along by now. My pain meds are Lortab 5/500 and I still take 4 to 5 a day. In the morning I feel as if I've been beat with a base ball bat over night and pain around the surgery site increases as my day goes on. I am staying very active, (light house work, grocery shopping, sewing, cooking, lots of walking, ect..) Am I doing too much? Not enough? If all I do is walk and lay down, I can do without the meds, but I am one who believes in pushing myself and I am a pretty active person anyway.

I have been seeing a massage theripist that is amazing. After an hour on her table, I have about an hour of feeling like a normal person. Something I haven't experianced in about 2 1/2 years.

Any advice is appriciated. I have other quesitons to anyone who wants to educate a rookie.


  • Hi there, I am post op 4 weeks of an L4-S1 fusion with hardware. It sounds like you are pushing yourself way too hard.

    Did your Dr. tell you no bending, lifting or twisting for at least 3 months?? Especially without any hardware for extra support during the fusion process I am very concerned you are doing yourself harm.

    The fact that you wake up in such pain could be telling you to take a break. Also, are you using pillows, under or between the knees?

    Hope I don't sound like I am lecturing you, but I have been through 2 lumbar fusions now (and a future cervical) and have learned so much from this site. It can be easy to over-do things, I have been lately with kids' birthdays and holidays and my body told me to slow down. Today through the weekend I have deemed the "do walking and resting and take care of myself" time.

    You may want to check with your Dr. about how much you are doing. You also stated that L4-L5 are "pretty bad", this could also be causing a lot of your pain. Once you have a fusion the discs above and below take the brunt of force. Obviously I am not a Dr. so please just take my comments like they are, from a non-rookie who has been through this already.

    Hope I was helpful in some way, you will find this site has many caring, supportive and knowledgable people.
  • Thank you. I know I needed to hear this. I guess I don't fully understand what slow down means. For me, I have really slowed down. No, I did not know that I was not to be bending down. I have a brace that prevents me from going too far but it doesn't prevent me from bending all together. I didn't know if I should be doing some movements just to keep my muscles from total weakness or if I should limit my activies more. I think I got my answer.

    So how are you doing? What is your pain level? What activties do you do durring the day? How much up? How much sitting? How much laying down?

    I might be able to return the favor on the cervical fusion. I had a C4 C5 fusion about 8 years ago. It was a breeze compaired to this one.
  • Sometimes we need to be reminded to knock it off and slow down!!! Myself totally included.

    My pain levels now are minimal after this last fusion, if only the cold weather would stop!!. The no bending, lifting and twisting restrictions are frustrating, but are there for a reason. I found that even with my hated brace, I can still do stupid movements with it on.

    I have a 5 and 8 year old, but hubby has been helping as much as he can with the bus-stop, etc. He does a lot of the food shopping and laundry. Even with help, there are so many little things that have to be done that can make you tired.

    I rarely lay down during the day, more like recline with my heat pad, if needed. I have a ranch, so no steps, but I seem to walk back and forth all day long!

    Just remember, we are all different, have had different types of surgeries, etc. Listen to your body and take care of yourself. By the way, this surgery (2 level ALIF) was a "breeze" compared to my 2 level PLIF six years ago. But I think that is making it easy for me to over-do!

    Feel free to PM me if you want, Lisa
  • Based on the list of what you are doing--perhaps cut out the grocery shopping--too much lifting and bending. I'm 5 mo. po after plif and 3 lami's and finally feel more like myself of 2 years ago. Some one on this website told me that fusions heal at a snail's pace and be patient. It was the best advise that i received. The surgeon also instructed to 'listen to your body'--i thought that was so lame; but it turned out to be so very true.

    I finally decided to lay low for 2 months and so glad i did; but it has been only recently that i can go the the Y and do some semblance of an exercise routine that i'm used to doing. Try a heating pad for 1/2 hr several times a day or ice if more comfortable. You're right about the walking--i think my dog and i know every tree in the neighborhood!!

    Best wishes to you and Merry Christmas...

    7/09 PLIF L4-L5, Lami's L3,4,5
    Severe anemia post-op and syncopal episode w fall on my head and respiratory arrest--all resolved!
  • Thank you for the advice. I am sleeping with pillows and I will resist the urge to get out and do the shopping. The weather has gotten so cold I have thrown my walking schedule out the window. I'm walking so much in the house I'm sure my carpet will be thread bare by the time I'm over this.

    Lay Low? What exactly does that mean? Just wrapping christmas presents can be torture. I've watched every movie ever made and my dogs are getting sick of listening to me.

  • One of the hardest part for many of us is to just let go and rest. If wrapping presents is torture, then DON'T DO IT. Anyone worth it will completely understand.

    As a Mom of 5 & 8 year old girls, neither has complained that the beloved train isn't under the tree, or the lights outside stink (of course, poor hubby has a dreadful head cold). Needless to say I scrapped the idea of any cookie baking. Probably won't even get to do the x-mas cards. Guess what? I learned from other tough times at the holidays that life goes on and no one loses sleep over a missed card or cookies!

    The boredom of recovery can be quite tiresome, that can be why so many of us do more than we should, we are bored out of our minds!! Try to take it slow, for your own sake, Lisa
  • Are there any books you have been wanting to read,or reread? Magazines can be expensive,but stocking up on those is good too.I weave,crochet,paint,etc. so I do have things to work on,but sometimes I think I need to be up doing something constructive-that is when the frustration sets in----try to be realistic in your expectations,its not easy,but you can do it!
  • Did you ever have a discogram done?

    I was only going to have L4/L5 done until the discogram came back telling us that although L4/L5 looked the worst it was really S1/L5 that was giving me all the grief!

    Maybe it's not just the overdoing it but also the next level...
  • my first spinal fusion was L3-L4-and this one is L4-L5----so I am asuming it was the extra stress right below---do you feel sometimes you are afraid to move?
  • Really rest as much as you can, for the first 6 weeks I lay down 1-2hour , went for a walk (1km on flat), sat in a raised chair 5 min at a time, lay back down again. Walked around house sometimes made dinner or made kids lunches.

    This is one shot at healing nicely really really rest and meditate, watch funny movies, visualize and heal.

    I have been a person that has had to learn to slow down and also ask for help...big learning curve. Blessings.
  • I had a disco gram scheduled and my surgen called a few days before I was planning on going in and told me that recent studies have shown that it can cause a more rapid degeneration of the disc being tested. At the time, I had decided that I would have the obvious disc fused and later go back for the one in question. Now, I'm not so sure that was a good idea.

    This is my third back surgery, (fusion C4 C5, Lamonectomy sp? L5 S1 and now fusion L5 S1) This one was terrible. I woke up in such bad pain the nurse had to hit me with 5 injections to get on top of it. I've never been like that post op and in the recovery room. Roomer has it that my surgen is very conserviative on the pain meds and I wanted to ask if anyone else suffered like this. The pain continued to be excurication throughout my stay in the hospital (3 days) and at home for the first two weeks. The pain did subside slowly put it was a duzzy getting through that first few days. I'm very reluctant to have L4 L5 done now due to the long recovery time and the death grip the pain had on me.
  • I don't know if I'd call it afraid to move. Afraid to cause the shooting pain but not in fear of causing damage. The pain around the surgery site is sometimes really bad but what scares me is the numbness in my foot and the censation of heat.

    I had another busy day yesterday with a Chistmas party at the nursing home that both my mother and grandmother are in. I just couldn't let them down. I actually loaded myself up with double pain med and away I went. Stupid maybe but these two women have been relocated from a life time in Texas to Missouri. Only a Native Texan would understand the sorrow they suffer. I too am a native but I made the choice years ago to relocate. I got home and it took a long time to get comfortable enough to relax and fall asleep. Today I treat myself with lots of R and R.

    How long between were your surgeries. How bad was your pain? The doc wants to go back in a year and I just don't think I can go through this again.
  • Honestly, your schedule is more of what I'd like to do. My husband frowns when he comes home and I am down or resting. He likes to see progress from when he leave to when he arrives and I really don't want to seem like a lazy one. I guess that is my own stupid fears. I explained to him what I've learned from all of you on the web site and he has encouraged me to slow down. I am my worst enemy and I do push myself way too hard. I'm sure that's why I'm recovering from surgery right now.
    It really helps being able to talk to other people who have or are going through the same thing and can offer advice. What huge help. THANK YOU
  • it has been 2 years since my first fusion---it was painful post surgery,but alot of that was soreness---I was so glad to not have the pain in my back and leg that it didn't seem so bad----it was quite a while before my muscles regained strength-I am very active,but also 59 years old.it sounds like you still have issues with your leg?be sure to let the dr. know!
  • Hi all
    I am due for L4-L5 fusion etc in March of 2010 and to be honest Im not worried about it from reading all the comments. What does worry me is what I will be able to do once I get home. My fiance is offshore on an oil rig a lot so I will be on my own. Can someone enlighten me on the things I can do for myself once I first get out of hospital? Can I do things like, make a cuppa tea, shower myself, toilet myself etc?
    Thanks in anticipation of your answers about ANYTHING!!
    PS Im a kiwi!
  • Ark,

    my first fusion was the same you have just gone through. You are definitely doing way too much, I wasn't even allowed to sit upright in a chair even braced for longer than it takes to eat for a month or two. I had to wear the brace all the time except when in bed or the shower. All of the movement and activity that you are doing will slow down your healing and actually prevent a solid fusion from forming. The hardest thing I have ever had to do is learning to do nothing without going absolutely nuts. I don't want to lecture you, just please slow way way down. Stop going to the massage therapist any movement no matter how microscopic in the area of the fusion will prevent healing. It will take at least 6 months to get a good start on the bone repair, and a year before it is remotely solid. I was 22 when I had mine done, and the doc kept me in bed solid for 3 months, from 3-6 months I was allowed out of bed a little at a time until I was able to be up for about 8 hours. I was braced until somewhere along the 8 month. It was hard, but I opted for the bone to bone graft as I didn't want any hardware. After I healed I didn't listen to the doc, went back to working construction, the fusion lasted right at ten years and then I suffered a castastrophic failure, I literally went to bed fine, and when I stood up the next morning I went numb from the waist down. Rushed to the doc, and my fusion was just gone, fell apart and wreaked havoc on my spine. Now I suffer from chronic pain and will need more surgeries to keep me stable. Please, please for the longevity of your fusion, health and hopefully a tolerable amount of pain SLOW DOWN. BTW your doc needs a kick in the butt for not giving you detailed recovery instructions. Good Luck
  • akanae said:
    Honestly, your schedule is more of what I'd like to do. My husband frowns when he comes home and I am down or resting. He likes to see progress from when he leave to when he arrives and I really don't want to seem like a lazy one. I guess that is my own stupid fears. I explained to him what I've learned from all of you on the web site and he has encouraged me to slow down. I am my worst enemy and I do push myself way too hard. I'm sure that's why I'm recovering from surgery right now.
    It really helps being able to talk to other people who have or are going through the same thing and can offer advice. What huge help. THANK YOU
    Hi Akanae

    I'm sure you've slowed down by now. I'm 2.5 months out now and have found the healing period so frustrating but have accepted all the help offered and I have a cleaning lady come in once a week. I've had to work hard on my attitude. Sitting down for too long is still a problem. I'll probably need to have L3-4 and L5-S1 fused at some time but won't be in a hurry to get them done.

    Do try and make your husband understand how SLOW the healing process is. I have a friend who did too much looking after her adult family post-op and the fusion and discectomies haven't helped.

    Having the fusion has been one of the best decisions I've made because I can now walk without pain.

    Keep walking and resting and do ask for help when you need it.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Do start your own thread as your post could get lost amongst this one.

    Yes, you will be able to make a cuppa and shower and toilet yourself afterwards - they make sure you can do this in the hospital before sending you home.

    The sticky at the top of the page on post-op must-haves is essential reading. You won't need everything but I found the grabber and dressing stick very helpful. I froze 6 weeks of meals ahead of time and arranged all the things I would need to be at waist height.

    Trish (from Western Australia)

    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi there
    thanks for that. I am new to this site and not sure how to start my own post. Also, maybe Im being thick, but where is the list of must haves?
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084

    On the main page where you see a list of each topics you will see a box at the upper right that says "New Topic". You can hit that button and it will bring up a box for you to start a topic. Also, on the same page, the first topic posted is "Post Op Must Haves"

    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Hi Julie
    I am new to this forum to and can fully understand the pressures we put ourselves under, 'to keep going' 'show others our improvement' and the difficulties in coping with what we could used to do and what we are physically able to do at the moment to get back to get back to 'normal' asap.

    The best advice I have been given was under pain therapy which was to get out of the 'crash & burn' mentality and to be honest with yourself - working out what you can do without exasperating pain levels so that you can get some consistency. With all the best will and support in the world from friends & family only you know how you feel. It may be that the 'normal' base level of what you can do at the moment may be frustrating low (& we all know we are our own fiercest critics) but consistency is the key and then working up from there; it really helps get a more solid positive way of going forward steadily. A book I would recommend is Coping Successfully with Pain by Neville Shone; it's not a pancetta for all ills but there are some useful coping strategies & most of all, written by someone who's been there.

    Hope this helps & things are getting easier, Aunty Roo.(UK)
    Posterior lumbar L5/S1 fusion, decompression & disc replacement due Jan 2010
    Isthmic Spondylolithesis L5/S1 & degenerated disc
    Cervical C5/C6 partial disc protrusion
    Lumbar and cervical facet joint syndrome
    3 x cervical facet joint injections
    1 x lumbar facet joint injection
    1 x lumbar radio frequency denervation
    1 x diagnostic cervical & lumbar nerve block
  • you are quite a bit further in recovery than me-less than a week-but have you every set an alarm at night to take pain meds? I have had to do that to keep the med in my system---also,does your Dr. know you are getting massages? You really might think about checking on that---I hope each day brings you better and better!
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