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L4-S1 spinal fusion--4 weeks post-op

Step on a crackSStep on a crack Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I thought I would heal a bit faster than I have. I think that I am INVINCIBLE!!! I am 30 years old and the doctor seems to be impressed with my healing. He said my age is wonderful thing. That said, I have a lot pressure/pain in my sacrum. After sitting or standing for about 30 minutes I have to lie down or recline to relieve it. Is this normal? The muscle spasms in my back are awful and I still have nerve pain in my left leg. Although, it is not as bad as before surgery. The surgeon said that my L5 nerve root was "crushed". I was not given a brace to wear. The surgeon seems to think that it would weaken my core muscles. But I worry that I am moving to much and that I won't fuse. What has been everyone else's experience?

My employer wants to put me a desk job when the doctor releases me to go back to work with restrictions. How long do y'all think before I am able to do that?

Any comments or stories shared would be wonderful!


  • I had my L4/L5 fusion about a week before you.

    You will be told by most people on here that you have just had a major surgery and the recovery is renouned to be long and require a lot of patience.

    It is perfectly normal to find sitting especially but also standing, uncomfortable after about 30 mins. After surgery I could only sit for about 10 mins before I had pain, and that was normal. I was told to try to extend how long I could sit comfortably. I can now manage about 30 mins or so, then I need to get up and move about or lie down.

    Pain in your leg is also normal and is probably due to nerves that haven't settled down yet.

    I don't wear a brace either as my surgeon thinks they cause the core muscles to become weak.

    I can't comment on how soon you'll be able to go back to work, as I haven't got to that stage either.

    Take care, and follow the rules. Be patient and give yourself time to heal from this.
  • I I have had 2 spinal fusions,and it just takes a long time to get back your strength and stamina.At 4 months post-op,I still ache when I have been standing more than a few minutes.If I sit more than about 30 minutes,I get very stiff.I wore a brace both times,and I still wear one when outside puttering or in the car a long time--it actually feels better!I still take 2-3 hydrocodone a day.Please try not to hurry yourself-I know it is hard,but I promise you will heal easier if you take it easy.Best of luck,and please keep us posted on how you are doing!Jeannie
  • I concur with jellyhall,

    I am 2 weeks post op L5-S1 decomp and fusion/rods screws also with crushed nerve. It was that way for a year. These last two weeks have been bad, with lots of pain and can't sit, stand, or lie for long. Today is the first day it is not as painful, but still a 6. Thursday will have my followup and see new pics. I too think this is normal for us folks with severe nerve damage, which can take up to 2 years to recover and then maybe not even 100%. My doc says about 3 mos for my situation, hope he is correct.

    My only disagreement is the belt. Hospital gave me a $400, high quality, heavy duty one, with velcro tabs that have several cords on each side that allow for a snug fit. The belt restricts your movements, so you don't move to much without trying real hard to do that. Your core muscles will rebuild with walking and PT when you are ready for it.

    I too worry if something is wrong from me or the surgery. They didn't fully align the the grade 2 slip, which was bone on bone, due to the need for further bone scraping. They said this is best solution for me. Corrected about half the slip, but plenty of room for the nerve now.

    Sometimes you can have pain from excess fluid that wasn't all drained before the tubes were removed and hasn't dissipated yet.

    I think we are OK and just in a hurry to get back to our lives. I am 59, but still bored as ---- sitting around the house.

    Good Luck,

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    If you are on some kind of paid disability while you are out of work I would stay out until you feel substantially better. Returning too soon could cause more discomfort.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • The healing process is a frustrating time and it'll take quite a while to start feeling "normal".

    I'm 6 months out and still have problems with sitting for any longer than 30 minutes and I have to get up and walk or do something else before sitting down again. Same thing with standing. However, I'm not getting so much muscle spasm as I was earlier in my recovery.

    You're much younger than me, so perhaps you'll heal more quickly. Sitting puts a lot of pressure on the spine.

    I didn't have a brace and walked as much as I could every day - sometimes a longer walk, other days had to split up the walking into about three sessions. I saw my surgeon last week, and he said I've got a solid fusion. Surgeons have different protocols with the healing process. Follow what your surgeon has recommended and the BLT restrictions. I had a domestic service to do the cleaning every week and it was worth every cent.

    Let us know how you're going over the next few weeks/months.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Jellyhall,

    It is good to hear that you didn't wear a brace either. I seem to be on track with everyone else. Have you been back to the Doc since your last post? How are you doing now?

    Step on a crack
  • Ken,

    I am glad I am not at two weeks post op!! The surgery pain is definately better now at 5 weeks than it was at 2 weeks. Do you take nerve medication? I take Lyrica. I have been on it for over a year and tried weaning myself off of it last week. Bad idea!!! Because my nerve pain is not as bad since I had surgery, I though that I could reduce the amount that I take. What I learned from my experiment: I STILL HAVE NERVE PAIN! haha Lesson learned.

    Hope all is well,

    Step on a crack
  • Jeannie,

    Thanks for the advice. At 4 months post-op are you able to ...do housework, grocery shop, etc.? At 2 weeks post op my surgeon told me that I should wean myself off of the pain med by my next appointment, which was at 6 weeks post op. I go to the surgeon at the end of this week. I too still take 2-3 pain meds a day. I would not be able to NOT take my pain meds. I hope he doesn't think that I am a druggie.

    Step on a crack
  • SpineAZ,

    Unfortunately my injury is a workers' comp injury and I have no say whether I stay off of work or not. I don't see how I would be expected to go back to work at this point. I will see at the end of this week if the doc agrees with me.

    Step on a crack
  • Trish,

    How much were able to walk as your healing progressed? Did you do Physical Therapy? I wish I could afford a housekeeper. My husband and I live about 600 hundred miles from family and we are on our on. We have a 5 year old son and thankfully my son and husband are very helpful. They are my angels!

    Step on a Crack
  • I have an appointment next Monday when he will x-ray to check things are where they should be. I think he will also send me to physiotherapy. I should have gone a couple of weeks ago but my incision was infected. That is all sorted now so full steam ahead :-)
  • There is sooo much pressure on the surgeons who prescribe pain meds. Everytime a celebrity OD's it makes it so hard on us. I am 9 weeks post op 360 L4-5 fusion and I am not even close to being off my meds.

    If your surgeon is uneasy with refilling your meds, ask if he would be willing to refer you to a Pain Management Doc. These docs specialize in helping with pain. My surgeon perscribes the meds to leave the hospital with and after that refers to pain management.

    I still have difficulty sitting and standing. I have been in PT since 2 weeks post op and I am active. Now I am starting to schedule time to lay down and decompress into my day as I was just doing too much. It seems to be helping.

    Went out of town for just 2 nights this weekend and came home and slept most of an entire day! I couldn't believe it! I didn't feel that tired while I was gone....I guess adenoline was keeping me awake, because once we got home, I could not stay awake.

    Hang in there and let us know how you are doing! Shari
  • I just started nuerontin. Haven't been on long enough to give an opinion. I have gone out shopping more the last two days. I don't drive. I feel good while out but pay for it overnight. Still think that is progress. I expect 6mos to a year on my nerve damage recovery. Nerve was pretty beat up. The time is my estimate, a gut feeeling. Dr said 3mos, but don't know if he meant just starting to feel better or pretty much back to normal. I was told it will never be 100% normal or pain free. We will see.

    I do as much as I can and some bending, but only with brace on and try to dip at the knees as much as possible. I won't stay sedentary, it's not in my nature. Dr said not to baby it, do what I can and I will know if I did to much and then readjust. It is the darn sitting for any length of time that is the most frustrating. No chair works and I have a 4 inch thick coccyx on my chair I sit at the computer with. I can't lay in bed all day/night and walk every minute I am not sleeping.

    Good luck on your continued improvement,

  • Wel, the dr said back to work i go "light duty" and only 4 hours a day. I think it is still to early but the doctor doesn't seem to think so. I am pretty much exhausted after four hours and the rest of my day is spent resting and going to PT. Ugghh. How is everyone else doing?
  • Wel, the dr said back to work i go "light duty" and only 4 hours a day. I think it is still to early but the doctor doesn't seem to think so. I am pretty much exhausted after four hours and the rest of my day is spent resting and going to PT. Ugghh. How is everyone else doing?
  • I've just realised that I didn't get back to you last month - sorry.

    I've been doing PT for a few months and it's been trial and error. If an exercise hurts too much, then I don't do it. Walking every day with my dogs (off lead)in the park is my main activity and I do lots of stretches and deep breathing (as for Tai Chi and Pilates). All this helps to strengthen the core muscles.

    At two months out I wouldn't have been ready to return to work (I retired a year ago so didn't have this pressure). When I had the laminectomy in 08, I needed 3 months off work.

    Can imagine how exhausted you are after 4 hours work - can you ask your doctor for more time off?


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Step on a crack,

    A little over 8 weeks post, similar surgery, see below.

    Crushed nerve also. Still a fair amount of back pain and left foot pain. Pain is very high when getting up in middle of night or morning. Cane used half the time. Started work 2 days ago, draining. The nerve is going to be the long term problem. My doctor does have me on a brace, but the hard plastic piece is now out. Makes it easier to wear under shirt at work. I go backwards if I squat to floor, gave that up. Still can't tie shoes.

    Good Luck,


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