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Please help - not doing well after PLIF

maryscoffinsmmaryscoffins Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I am currently 13 days post op from having interbody fixation and PLIF fusion of the L4 L5. I'll try to make this as short as possible. I am not a person who likes taking pain medicine at all, and I was completely out of it during the days I was in the hospital. They had me on oxycodone (3 tablets) every 3 hours, Oxycontin (1 tablet) every 12 hours, and IV Morphine every time I turned around. About a week after I got home, I decreased my medicine to just 1 Oxycodone every 4 hrs and 1 Oxycontin at night to help me sleep through the night. Now my pain is so bad that I could just cry myself to sleep at night. And the worst part is that none of the pain medicine seems to touch the nerve pain that I have in my left butt cheek going down to my knee. This pain seems to be better in the mornings, but by night time is unbearable, and I am at the point that I just don't know where to turn. I thought I was supposed to be up and walking around a half mile or so a day! This was my 3rd surgery in less than a year, and I am to the point of just giving up. And to top things off, we have 3 dogs (2 of which are still puppies) to take care of. My hubby leaves for work at 4:30 am, which leaves me to care for the babies, and myself. If there is any advice that anybody could give me, it would me SO MUCH appreciated.
Thank you for listening,


  • I could not take care of my dogs for the first 3 weeks either.

    As far as the pain is concerned, although I remember how horrible the pain was at that time, especially since they only gave me enough Oxycontin for 2 weeks...maybe you should call your doctor in the morning, if it doesn't get better.

    It does get better Mary!! Please take care,

  • You are vewry early in your healing process. I would take no less pain medicine then what was given to you when you left the hospital. You need to stay ahead of the pain curve and whatever dosing they gave you should do that. A lot of times the doctors put in a pain medicine during the actual surgery that can last for a couple of days, or weeks. Sounds to me like that dosing is finally wearing off. Have all 3 operations been in the same area?

    These fusions can take a lot out of you and the bad thing is most doctors won't tell you this and will act like you will be back up and running in no time. This has not been my experience after 4 spine surgerys. You have had a lot of trama on your lower back and your nerves are probably very angry at the moment. Might be what you are feeling and as Sleeprgirl stated it does get better. How did you do on your previous surgerys? You should probably look into getting some help with the dogs at least for the next couple of weeks.

    I am not a medical professional. Check with your doctor if you have further questions, or issues.

  • Hang in there Mary! 13 days is so early in recovery. In my first few weeks, I just tried to get through the days in 4 hour blocks. Taking my pain meds, taking short walks and trying to sleep or eat a little.

    Have you been prescribed a med for nerve pain? Such as neurotin or Lyrica? Narcotic pain meds aren't much help for nerve pain.

    While I was in the hospital, my neurotin was mistakenly stopped. It felt like hot acid had been poured down my back. Once I got home and got it started again, that pain was much better.

    I now have 3 dogs also, (we just rescued one a week after my surgery). Trying to care for 3 dogs after a fusion is exhausting. Do you have any other options? a neighbor that could help? or a school aged child how could help? maybe installing a doggie door into your back door.

    Hang in there, it is a long road, but it does get better and we are here to help and support you!
  • If your pain is not being adequately controlled, I would contact your doctor and speak to them.
    The surgery you have just had is renowned to be a difficult recovery and you are very early on in that.

    I had the same surgery as you, on the same level. I was fortunate in that my pain levels were not as bad as I expected but I think that I was unusual.
    Others on here say you should take your pain meds regularly, so the pain doesn't get ahead of you because it is very difficult to get control of it again.
    Do contact your doctor and let them know how high your pain is. I'm sure that they will be able to help you over this difficult phase.

    I also find that my pain is worse in the evening, when I am tired.

    Things will get better :-) But be prepared for a very long recovery before you can get back to your usual life. Have you got anyone who can help you with the dogs and some other household things? Give yourself another week or two, and then you should be able to manage much better.

    Do keep talking to others here. This can be a difficult time, physically and emotionally and there are lots of lovely people here who understand and will help you through it. :-)
  • Hi Mary,

    You are early in the recovery as already stated, I can't tell if you're here in the U.S. or elsewhere, but I would get in touch w/ the doc to discuss the pain issues - this alone can stall/delay the recovery. Also, since you're home alone for an extended period w/ your hubby's need to leave early, can the doc perhaps arrange to have an LPN/PCA come to the house for a few hours during the day to give you a hand? If this isn't doable, can you reach out to your community for some help in this regard - house of worship, community services, good friend or relative?

    Perhaps one of the nerve meds can be added to the mix as jayhawk suggested, I came home w/ a 'cocktail' of percoset, valium, flexaril, ultram and fentanyl patch 25 mcg to be changed out every 3rd day -worked really well as keeping the pain controlled. It was suggested to me prior to leaving the hospital that I take the meds as directed (set the alarm if necessary) to allow for a constant/steady stream of pain relief - must have worked since I was able to DC about 10-14 days slow taper off. Also, in the early days, ice can be very useful (15 mins on maximum, 15 mins off, repeat as necessary).

    IMHO, you're being too hard on yourself - 3 surgeries in one year regardless if they were all spinal procedures or not is not an easy time of it at all! There isn't any 'right' or 'wrong' way to recover from any surgery - it's individual to the person trying to get better. Now isn't the time to do comparisons on how far you've walked, walk as far as you're able, rest and then later on walk a little more if you can, if not, try to walk a little farther the next day. It's baby steps in the beginning, but slowly, you'll find your endurance gets to be a little more & better each day.

    You've found a good place here @ SH, only a fellow 'spiney' knows how it goes during the process of surgery and the long recovery that follows. Please know we're here for you, whether you need to vent or have a question - someone here is sure to have experienced something similar and will offer their support & input.

    TC & gentle hugs,
  • Mary,

    I had almost same surgery as you. I was not able to cut back my pain meds for about 6 weeks. Once the pain takes hold, it is so difficult to get back under control. I took my meds as prescribed and was able to tolerate enough to walk as instructed. That is of course, what I was told were the best steps in a long recovery. This is by no means medical advice, but being the weekend, it may be best to contact your surgeon 1st thing Monday.

    Best Wishes,

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I agree with everyone. You are very early in the recovery process. While we all hear the stories from "super patients" who are cleaning cars at one week post-op (for example) that is the exception and not the norm.

    Everyone's surgery is different, even if it's the same procedure. So if some of your nerves have been irritated or were manipulated in surgery or you have swelling near the nerves this coudl all lead to some of the nerve type pain you have.

    The suggestion of a nerve med is a good one. I take gabapentin (generic for neurontin) and specifically asked for it pre-surgery. It has not wiped out nerve pain but has made it much more tolerable {my surgery involved an incision on my side just above my hip and that causes some nerve pain down the thigh, so the neurontin has helped with that nerve also].

    Be sure you are taking medications as scheduled and not just when needed. Pain medication works best when you keep a constant level of it in your system. So if it says take every 6 hours then take it exactly as scheduled. Eventually when your pain lessens then you can decrease the frequency of pain meds.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I'm sorry you have just had surgery and have to look after your babies also. I can't imagine how difficult that must be for you. Can you contact a relative to help you? I recently found a support group the same ones that supply meals on wheels and they offer a Personal Support Worker to come in and do housekeeping at like $27. to clean the house.

    Please contact your Dr. to help you. He can even offer a referral for Home care or another medication. You just had major surgery and the process for each person is different in healing and I wish I could help you more but I haven't had surgery. I pray you will soon have less pain. Come here for support. I would be lost without support for almost 2 years I've been here with chronic pain. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Welcome to Spine Health. At 13 days, I was still in rehab after that surgery. I agree with all the advice mentioned above. It took me at least two months to slowly taper off my pain meds. I was in a great deal of pain. I did not have nerve pain after this fusion, but did after my cervical fusion and the addition of Lyrica helped a great deal.

    Best wishes,

  • Thinking of you today, hoping that you are getting through the days and getting some pain relief! Hang in there!
  • After my TLIF, I too was surprised by the strong nerve pain that I had unexpectedly in my right leg and spend a couple of weeks unable to walk without a walker.

    I think the nerves and muscles just get angry at the violation and want to let you know.

    Everyone here has given you good advice on meds, help, etc., so I won't reiterate what they've said. I just wanted to tell you that what you're experiencing at this time post-surgery isn't uncommon. But, as always, feel free to call your surgeon if you feel something is wrong. They'll either confirm what was said here or make some further suggestions.

    Hang in there - you've just had a big surgery and it comes with a big recovery.

    Take care,
  • Thank you everybody for all your posts, I appreciate that so much! In answer to one of the questions, my first surgery was May 28,2009 and it was a Laminectomy. The 2nd was July 23, 2009 and it was also a laminectomy. The last one was May 3, 2010, and this is the one, of course, is the most painful. After the 1st and 2nd surgery, I really thought I was strong enough to go off the pain medicines after a 1/2 weeks. BIG MISTAKE! So I did call the neurosurgeon this morning, and the hubby is going down to get new prescriptions for me. I think they are indeed adding the vallium, for the nerve pain. The hardest part of this whole thing is the impatience. We have a 25th anniversary cruise planned for the end of October, and sometimes it feels like I'm never going to make it. So thank you all for everything that you're doing here. You give us all hope that this may pass!
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Valium will help as a muscle relaxant. There are other meds such as neurontin/gabapentin and Lyrica that are available for nerve pain (if your doctor agrees it's a viable option)
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Mary,
    I know you might not want to hear people say "Oh your so early in your recovery." another time..lol..I just want you to take from it that we have all been there. And what you are experiencing is normal. Patience in this recovery is hard. It takes a ton of it. The recovery is not fast at all so I hope you have a ton of hobbies to do while you are recovering. Good luck and we are here when you need advice, to vent or just to chat.
  • Thank you everybody for all of your input and kind thoughts. As of today I am 5 weeks post op now, and slowly getting better.....I think! I am not on pain medicine every day, but sometimes the sciatica, and the intense pain, is unbearable. It's just really great to have such supportive people. Thank you so much!

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