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Lumbar Fusion in January...still in pain but was discharged by doc today

msyilmazmmsyilmaz Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi All other Fusion Patients!

Short medical history: Diagnosed with DDD at 19; multiple epidurals over the years; emergency discectomy/laminectomy at L4/L5 April 09; additional epiudurals fall of '09; spinal fusion January 10 L4/L5/S1. In therapy 3 X a week, but still in massive muscle spasms/pain. Still unable to sit longer than 20 minutes or do regular daily activities. On Skelaxin, Vicodin, Naproxen daily.

I went to my surgeon today and he discharged me with the advice that I would always be in muscle pain and I needed to learn to cope with it. If I start having radiating pain, call him. Otherwise, continue with therapy, but I'm on my own from this point on.

I guess my question is...have I hit the wall? Is this really all that is left...just learning to cope? How are you all handling it?



  • And I should also note that I am almost 36 now...been battling this most of my life.
  • Hi...I've not had a fusion so I'm not sure I will be of much help.

    But I do suffer lower back issues. I'm almost 12 weeks post op of revision microdiscectomy (L5-S1) and I would say that while I don't expect to be 100%, I do expect to get my pain down to a 2-3 on a regular basis and I do expect to be able to sit for 30-60 mins at a clip....but probably not for a few more months.

    Do I think you've hit a wall? I hope not.
    It generally can take up to a year to heal. Did you start to fuse? I assume you must have since he released you. Did he refer you to a pain mgmt doctor? If not, I would consider it b/c you'll want to know how to reduce your meds safely.

    I know others will chime in.

  • Well, he's a cheery sort, isn't he? I would say it is much too early to make such a broad statement, particularly if it is mostly muscle spasms, etc. Of course none of us on the board are doctors...so take what we say with a grain of salt!

    I've never really checked this out but I think surgery must come as a package with a certain number of post-surgery appointments included in the price. Often the six month check-up is the final one where they cut you loose...but all that really means is that from here on out, you get billed for each and every appointment. I suppose some surgeons really have no use for a patient if there is no more surgery in the near future, but that has not been my experience. I've been seeing my current surgeon once per month for over a year. I gave him the opportunity to cut me loose, but he indicated he wanted to keep following me.

    What are your main problems as you are in recovery? Do you have any pain in your legs or is it mostly in your back? Do you have a PT that has lots of experience with spinal cases? What does he/she think of your current situation? Sometimes they know more about problems of recovery than the doctors know.

    I wouldn't even think of feeling discouraged until you are at least six months along...and then it would just be mild feelings. It can take a good year to start feeling significantly back to something resembling normal...getting stamina back, etc.

    You have had a big surgery. It affects your movement and posture, and all the little spinal muscles and soft tissue have to relearn their function and position in the new structure. The fascia which is like a big spider web that holds everything together makes adjustments too.

    There are various ways to approach your pain in recovery. You could try acupuncture or bodywork. You could find a physiatrist to supervise your recovery or some people switch over to a pain management doctor. I don't know enough about your situation to be able to make a suggestion. I am just pointing out some of the possibilities. If you still like your relationship with the surgeon, you could keep checking back with him...but from what you said, it doesn't sound like he might be very helpful at this point.

    Do not get discouraged. Keep walking, eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and resting. Keep to the restrictions, limiting bending at the waist, twisting, reaching up overhead or to the side, pushing and pulling, etc. You should be very careful until about six months...then just mindful attention until you pass the one year mark. By then things should be nicely healed and the bone should be strong at the fusion sites. Try to maintain a positive attitude. Recovery is a long haul, full of discouraging moments, at least for many of us.

    Please post with your questions and comments or when you just want someone to talk to who understands the pain and what you are going through.

  • Gwennie17...Thanks so much!

    I don't think I ever healed properly from the first surgery before having the fusion (2 major procedures in 9 months). My physical therapists are great, but they have been trying to get my muscles to relax for over a year now with absolutely NO luck! I have incredible pain sitting, standing, bending...pretty much the only position that works is laying fetal on my side. My doc says that with my history and with my arthritis, coupled with the fact I wasn't in great shape to begin with, will probably mean I will always be in some level of pain. After the fusion, I can finally feel my leg (which I am so grateful for), but I wasn't expecting this much muscle pain/tightness/spasms.

    He pretty much stated that the days of working 40+ a week are over and I need to change my entire lifestyle. I was just surprised that he cut me loose when I'm still in therapy, still in pain, and still considered "disabled" by my insurance company and my job.
  • Hi,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health have a look around you will find many any a similar situation as yours, but not exactly. I don't really think at the 3 1/2 month mark is time to release you. So my biggest concern at this point in time is, are you fused? Who will be managing your care from here and till you are fused and prescribing the meds you are taking along with therapy?

    But I do say hang in there without a doubt your body is still recovering from surgery and you have a lot of healing to go. This is the part that you will find many here in the same situation as yourself. Anyway I just wanted to stop and welcome you to spine-health. Take care.
  • I'm 6 months out and still have muscular pain and I think I probably will continue to have some. I still have some leg pain, but nothing like it was pre-op. I can walk without pain and that was my goal.

    My understanding is that anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen don't help the fusing process - perhaps others here can help out.

    My surgeon aims for 80% - 90% healing for his patients, but this would be determined after a year or so.

    I'm surprised that your surgeon has discharged you this early. I saw mine at 5 weeks and then at 6 months. He wanted to know whether I'd fused or not, and I have.

    I don't think you've hit a wall yet, or I hope not. What I have learned the hard way is that you can't speed up the healing process. I found too much physio gave me pain flares, so I had to ease back and do what I was comfortable with. I found lots of walking and gentle stretching was the best. I'm now concentrating on core strengthening with some Tai Chi and Pilates exercises and I keep walking every day.

    Take things steadily and eat as healthily as you can.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Others have said just about everything I had thought.

    Something else I did wonder about was what sort of chair you are sitting in.
    (20 minutes is a very short sitting tolerance for over 3 months)

    wishing you well and continued healing so that before long, you will be aware that things are much improved :-)
  • I sure am surprised he released you so soon-as others have said,6 months seems to be the defining time of checkups---but I know I will continue to keep in contact with the office even after that. How do you feel about him?Don't be afraid to speak up!This is your body,and your life,so if this doesn't feel right,say so!!
  • I would also like to know about what kind of chair you are sitting in. I am able to sit in my recliner for a few hours on a heating pad. But a regular office chair forget it..lol
    My doctor has the reputation of hanging on to his patients forever..so another MD told me(he didn't know I was a patient since I work for the same company) I am happy about that. I saw him 2 week post op then a little past 6 weeks, and will see him again in 4 weeks. I am glad he is following me closely. The other day I called his office to see if he thought a Lidoderm patch would help my leg pain. I was shocked when the phone rang and it was him on the line. I said "Oh doctor I didn't expect you to call me back..He said..Thats what I am here for." I am fortunate to have a kind and caring surgeon.
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