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Does it ever get better?

TraseeTTrasee Posts: 571
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Long time no post spiney friends,

As I posted a few weeks ago, I have returned to work. My job is very sedentary. I am lucky enough to have a sit/stand work station. But I am having a very hard time. By the time I finish work, I am in harsh pain. I have developed burning "spots" on the top of both feet. This is on top on the tremendous pain in lower back and right hip and thigh. I have gone over all of this with my PM and she increased my Lyrica and MS Contin. Taking more of the MS Contin is not working for me. It makes me so sleepy mid shift, I could sleep at my desk. So, I am not doing that during the week.

I am super frustrated with all of this. I am 8 months post-op!! I am past that magical 6 month period and still struggling. I hate complaining and moaning all the time. I canceled my last check up with my surgeon because I am so mad at him. He just blows me off anyway. I feel like I am stuck in a vicious cycle.

Anyone having the same symptoms after this length of time? I used to be such a happy person. I try to remember all the good things I can still do. I still walk and do all of my stretches daily. I wear my tens unit most nights. I have kept up my end of the bargain Da*#it!! When does it get better??

I hope everyone is well. Getting online after being at work all day is just too hard.

Best to everyone and miss you all. Thanks for reading my latest rant.

Hugs and Hugs,


  • First off *HUGZ* to ya buddy!!! Long time no post, glad to see you back! Okay, you know me, I don't sugar coat anything. Yes, we have seen people that get surgery, and within months are good to go, hell I was one of those on my first fusion. Now of course I have all manner of garbage and am dealing with it.

    Sorry to hear your anger towards your surgeon, I can respect and understand that. My hubby tonight suggested after the Neurologist, for *me* to get another opinion after my NS ignored my cracked vertebra! At any rate, I try to plan for the worst, and hope for the best. I did pretty good for 6 or 7 weeks after my last fusion Traci, and here I sit 2 weeks shy of a year post op - results? Caused me to retire early, constant pain and other issues, now my thoracic and lumbar (not be left out I guess?) are adding their part to this.

    I am finally getting to where I feel that even 1 level of fusion makes a dynamic (me talking) change to the whole balance of how our spines work, and interact with our bodies overall. I am getting to where I am listening to my body and 'its' comments and beliefs than doctors. I know they mean well, but they don't live with this crap! I still try to stay positive, as there are others out there with much worse issues or diseases, but my patience with the medical field gets ummm...thin at times?

    You're super people Traci. I truly hope that your pains reduce and get better. Have you tried getting a new chair, changing your 'land line' phone to a headset, adjusting your computer keyboard and monitor? I know with me, sometimes things I do just with the fusions 'physical' changes, I sit different or lay differently and have spasms, headaches etc., and changing some of these things helps me bunches! Please keep in touch and let us know how it goes for ya woman! Great to see ya back with us!!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Trasee said:

    "... I am having a very hard time. By the time I finish work, I am in harsh pain."

    "I am super frustrated with all of this."

    "I am past that magical 6 month period and still struggling. I hate complaining and moaning all the time."

    "I canceled my last check up with my surgeon because I am so mad at him. He just blows me off anyway. I feel like I am stuck in a vicious cycle."

    "I used to be such a happy person. I try to remember all the good things I can still do. I still walk and do all of my stretches daily. I wear my tens unit most nights. I have kept up my end of the bargain Da*#it!! When does it get better??"

    Ditto for me too. I have not canceled my next check up, it is not till January, but have thought about it.

    If I can't find a job in the factory that does not hurt me I may be coming back your way directly!

    So if nothing else I so know where you are coming from sister!

  • I just passed the six month mark for my TLIF at L5/S1. I went back to work full time a couple of months ago (second attempt!) and my pain level gradually escalated, yet my NS keeps insisting that I need to REDUCE my pain medication, thus I just went back on partial disability because he is going in one direction and my pain was going in the other direction. After a week of working a reduced schedule (6 hours per day instead of 12) and reclining as much as possible while I work (mostly on a laptop and a telephone), my pain level has already decreased a bit. I have also done several other treatments and tried some new meds. Anyhow, after about a week of better relaxation, more consistent physical therapy, etc., I now also realize that simple things like cooking and doing dishes (my wife works some evenings and so I need to help out), or anything else where I stand for too long or stay slightly hunched over from things like vacuuming will also set off my back again. Sitting upright for more than an hour at a time is THE WORST thing for me. So is driving.

    I share your frustration with the attitudes of our NS's. Seems like they are under pressure to reduce meds regardless of the surgical results. This is why I am actively seeking other treatment. I made a list of my current treatment elements at the following post (#15):


    I'm desperate to figure out what is causing my pain in order to resolve it before my NS tells me he can no longer help me. I would be happy to get off of narcotics if something else did the trick. I'm not sure that there is much else for me to be trying at this point.

    Take Care, and best wishes. Please keep us posted regarding your progress.

  • Sorry you're still in big pain. I know you had to go back to work, but it's probably that which is causing the constant flares.

    I'm retired but found I couldn't sit for more than 15-20 minutes at my computer for the first 6 months and so I understand how it is for people when they have to go back to work. If I had still been working, I would have needed 6 months off.

    The only thing I can suggest, which helped me get rid of the muscle spasms, is some gentle basic Tai Chi. I bought some DVDs from Amazon.com. Up until my recent foot surgery, I was doing it twice a day, or just a couple of moves when I needed a "Chi" break.

    >:D< >:D< >:D<


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • I'm sorry you are still having such problems.

    I know it probably doesn't help, but my PT has assured me time and again that 12-18 months is the norm for major surgical recoveries, particularly if you were in chronic pain pre-op. He has explained to me so many times that 6 months would be for someone who had surgery straight away, not for someone who was already deconditioned from chronic pain.

    I'm a few weeks shy of the 1 year mark on my surgery and my muscles are *still* adjusting to this new anatomy. Have you been going to PT? Has your PM doc offerred anything like trigger point injections?? For me, trigger point injections, dry needling, and manual therapy have been a lifesaver in helping to reduce some of the post-surgical pain. It sounds like you've got some nerve pain going on, but if any of it is myofascial pain then maybe something like that would help? It may be worthwhile to ask your PM if there are any pain management things to be tried in addition to the meds.

    Hopefully as your body continues to adjust to the fusion things will improve, but it gets frustrating to continually hear that "it just takes time." Have they done any additional imaging on you to see what is going on? I had an MRI at 6 months out that shed some light on my continuing pain, and just having an answer that separated the post-surgical stuff from the other stuff that is wrong with my back was helpful. It helped me adjust my expectations so I knew better how much recovery to expect from the surgery versus how much of the pain is from a chronic, unfixable source.

    For me, the only way I feel like I'm moving forward to recovery is to stick with the basics of physical therapy, stretching, injections as needed, and meds as needed to help me return to "normal" functioning.

  • I've been wondering how you have been doing and was afraid you were MIA because you were feeling bad. Wish I was wrong.

    There are some lucky people who get "fixed", recover and never have other spine issues. My husband is one of them. He had a lumbar fusion (no instramentation) 30 years ago and has never had any other issues.

    Me? Not so lucky, as you know. It can be incredibly frustrating. Your not asking for the moon, just want to feel better! This chronic pain merry-go-round can be so draining.

    We had our surgeries around the same time. My fusion recovery is going great, HOWEVER, my chronic pain is with me from my first fusion, my back was such a mess, that section of lumbar will always be a problem. Now I have neck issues and other new symptoms, so I know your frustration.

    The crappy part of all of this is how the pain can rob you of your old self. We need to not let that happen, but that can be hard to do some days.

    I don't have any great pearls of wisdom for you, just know that we're here for you. I hope you can find some relief soon. Take care,

  • I too was told what Lala's PT said about the 12-18 month recovery period. The actual fusion heals faster, but it takes the rest of the soft tissue and musculature time to adjust and get used to having to work again.

    However, after my one level fusion, at about nine months, I felt strongly that the surgery had not accomplished what we had hoped, and I started looking for answers. Again, as others suggested, if you haven't had a recent MRI, you might want to start there. Perhaps it is time to get an opinion from a different spinal specialist, if it is possible for you to do that.

    In my case, there wasn't anything "wrong" with my fusion. It was done perfectly and I healed well. It just turned out that it wasn't enough to fix all that was wrong...but it took awhile to determine that.

    I know this is easier said than done, but try not to let discouragement drag you down. Keep doing the things that you know help, and try to avoid those things that cause you pain. It just may be that your body is operating on its own time frame and it is going to take more time for you to get back to something resembling "normal."
  • Thanks for the kind words and suggestions. I am seeing my PM again today. I was in such pain, I had to call out of work on Monday. I am running straight into a brick wall. I see unemployment in my future if I cannot get some kind of relief so I can continue working.

    Poor Gwennie, every time that woman replies to one of my posts, she gets banned. I am feeling guilt over that. What a great mind and great research she cannot share. That's surely a loss for many here.

    Any way, I need those of you that know me and are friends, to pm me with your email addresses. I will probably stop using this site as I once did.

    Best Wishes to everyone.

  • I am sorry to hear you're not doing so well. I was thinking about you the other day and wondering how you were doing. I'm about to reach my 6 month mark on August 2nd.

    We both returned to work about the same time and I did okay at first but have been having problems the past month as well and fear I may have to schedule an appointment with my surgeon, who had released me completely at the end of April.

    You're not alone :) I hope you managed to get some relief at PM yesterday and things get better. Will be sorry if you don't check in occasionally to let us know how you're doing.

  • when you go thru so much with recovery and such and still in pain...
    Hope your pm can get a combo of something so you don't fall asleep on the job...
    Do you have to stay on alot of hours...perhaps you can cut back...
    I too had severe pain start back up after 7half months after fusion..my screws came loose....
    the ones in my back(ones in head always loose
    i was fused so doc took all the hardware out..and i felt great....
    it takes some ppl's bodies longer and my spine and neuro's all say it does take a good yr and more to recover....pls try stay positive...
    and would love to keep in contact with you so send me your info...
    but really pls stick around and keep posting and stop in chat if you see me around...
    take care lady
    neck,bone spurs pain started 04, back issues and fusion l4,l5 06~hardware removed.
    good few yrs. 09 pain sharp, numbness feet,legs, diagnosed fibro, neurop. legs.lung issues.
    daily goal do good thing for someone.
  • Hey girl! I am really hoping you will stick around! You are a couple months ahead of me and I have been following your recovery.

    I am struggling returning to work also. I keep thinking this will be the week it gets easier....okay, this week....

    It is so difficult and sometimes I just want it to be over!

    Hang in there! We are here for you to support and encourage you along the way! I really hope you will stick around! I know I can't do this alone!
  • Follow up; I saw PM Tuesday. She was kind enough to do SEVERAL trigger point injections. She amped it up with steroids and prescribed a medrol pak. So more steroids. Now mind you, I have not used steroids in 10 months due to my fusion. I swelled unbelievably on Wednesday. I could barely bend my ankles. My fingers were basically useless, they were sooooo fat. I had to have Lasix prescribed to reduce the swelling and add more potassium to balance electrolytes and stop muscle cramps.

    My PM was very concerned at this point in my recovery. She would like another Dr (anesthesiologist) to do a series of ESI's and see if that solves soft tissue problems. If not, she is referring me to a Neurosurgeon. She wants to leave imaging requests to them for the time being. She seems to think (as I do) that my previous surgeon is failing to see past his work to my ongoing and new symptoms. She is a very compassionate person. That is so rare in the medical community now.

    So another week in hell. I wonder if it will be like this when I die? One big round of visits to Dr's. }:) Maybe I will get a pass for enduring this in life. LOL

    Hope everyone has a safe and happy Sunday.

  • Gretchen,

    I am sorry to see you're having problems again. I know this recovery has been the hardest and most frustrating thing I have endured. At least from a physical and mental standpoint. I do hope your surgeon is able to get to the bottom of your issues as well.

    Please keep us posted. I am not going anywhere quite yet, but feel free to message me with your email.

  • Sorry you had another hellish week.

    Glad to hear you have a PM who cares and wants to help you find some relief. I know you are so frustrated at this point, you have been through enough. Its time for you to feel better.

    Thinking of you/take care,

  • Lisa,

    Thanks! And lots of hugs. I know you go through it daily as well. We've both been through enough! Just keep plugging along. This too shall pass!

  • As I am reading your post I am sitting in my recliner with not one, but two heating pads! One for the neck, one for the lumbar.

    All I did was a few minutes of gardening before the rain comes. I am trying to laugh about it, but the little angry pity monster is threatening to come out.

    I'm usually pretty good about being a "1/2 glass full" person but my husband has all day to work on his car (he's completely rebuilding a 68 Camaro) while I got to spend 10 minutes on my hobby and now have the heat pads on.

    Don't get me wrong, my hubby works hard and deserves to do what he enjoys, I just wish I could.

    Keep us posted on how you are doing! I hope I didn't hijack your post with my "wah wahs", LOL. Lisa
  • Hang in there, as you know we are all here to support and if needed console each other, on our trip down Recovery Lane.
    With the meds it all hit or miss, til you find the right combination that works for you.
    Any chance maybe you can take more time off work, without being wrecked financally. until doctor finds the right combination of meds for you.

    take care, and best wishes

  • Lisa,

    You can hijack my posts anytime you need to wah-wah! The simplest things seem to be the ones that set us back every time. I hope you are feeling better.


    I just keep waiting for the right combination to come along. Being off work anymore just isn't an option. Wish it was, but being home is boring as heck, anyway.

  • Traci,

    Glad to see you are sticking around after all! As far as 'does it ever get better'..? I think the possibility always exists for better!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Traci,

    Its been 4 years since the infection that destroyed my spine, and 3 years since the fusion which stabilized my spine. It took me 13 months from the fusion to really begin to get better. Better then what you might ask? Certainly, better doesn't mean back to normal, normal meaning before my spine infection. I'm not to sure there are many fusion patients that ever get back to where they were prior to their back issues.

    For me, better meant I could function on a level that I was happy with. I think I have reached that goal. I walk 4 miles a day, 5 days a week. I play golf, badly, but I play 9 holes 3 or 4 times a month. As the day goes on, the pain increases so I have to plan for that. If I have to go out in the evening, I need to build in some rest time. I have constant sciatic pain but I can live with it.

    I truly hope you will one day soon reach a "better", one you can live with.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,865

    I can speak from experience and say that things do get better. Sometimes, the time it takes to reach that point may be longer than people or even doctors anticipated.

    As long as their is some forward progress, even a little neutral areas is ok. When things start to take steps backward, thats when you need more attention.

    With my various surgeries, each one had a different time table when I started feeling better. For me, my cervical surgeries responded much quicker than my lumbar ones. But there are many out here who have had more cervical problems than lumbar.

    Going back to work, even after a lengthy period of time is difficult. I am pretty convinced that those spinal surgical patients who return to active jobs have better overall time in recovery. I believe that is because PRIOR to their surgery they were in an Active environment and when they RETURNED to work, that helped them get through the days.

    For those desk related jobs (like myself), it was difficult. Like you said, you really just cant keep on taking medications to get you through the day. But it is so uncomfortable.

    Things do and will get better. Will they be the same as before? Probably not, but your body and mind will adjust. The most important thing for you to do is to always keep in mind , a forward and positive approach to every day you wake up.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Hey I'm new here. It is great to find a site where everyone understands. No one knows what we go through. I had my first back surgery 2 years ago when I was 29 and my second one about 9 months ago at age 31. I hurt everyday. I have a 4 year old son and I can not play with him the way I want to. Sometimes I feel like a bad mom. I can't run and go play at the park with him. Sometimes he ask me if my back is hurting. The bad part is I am a health care provider and I know what my furture could be. I had a great surgeon who has become a great friend. He recommeds fusion of L4/L5 and L5/S1. I don't know if I can emotionally go through antoher surgery. It is so hard, people without this condition do not understand. I work part time, but I stand most of the day and I'm in pain when I leave. I don't take anything stronger than Tylenol so I really suffer. The strong medication makes me sick and puts me in a daze. Hello to all I'm glad I found you- I wish I had answers, but unfortunately I do not. I think if I hurt this bad at age 31 what will I be like in 10 years. I get scared. Are there any more scared people out there?? Does any one know a good mattress- I can't sleep at night for the pain??
  • Welcome to SH Sophie! I don't know what the future holds. 10 years ago I didn't feel like this. My problems began a short 4 yrs ago and it feels like an eternity. What chance does your surgeon give for success and lessening your current pain? If you trust him, get all of the information possible and make a decision that best suits your life. Good Luck.


    Thanks for the input. I try so hard to stay positive. This seems to be the place where all of my uncertainty and frustration rolls out. Probably because of the understanding here.

    I am a glass is half full person. I try to see the bright side. I just haven't had a lot of that lately. On a another note. I am returning to work on Monday. Going full out full time. I will medicate as necessary and see how it goes. I have plans for the future and don't want to go the disability route anymore. I am using the old 12 step thing; one day at a time.

    I have used a lot of energy and time this past week in aquatic therapy with additional swimming. I also added some additional stretches to my usual routine. I know I am the only person able to change my condition at this stage.

    Thanks to you all. Not sure what I would have done without the ability to vent.


    P.S. Dick, I am only looking for "better" that I can live with! You said it best. I know it will never be like before, but if I have managable pain, I can learn to live with it. :) Thanks!
  • Hope all will go well for you at work on Monday.

    I know you're doing everything to help yourself, so keep up the swimming and sending you more >:D< >:D< >:D<


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

    I hope you are doing allright being back to work. Been thinking about you. When you have a spare moment let us all know how you are, spineys are rooting for you!

    Take care,

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