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8 weeks post op & still so much pain!

virginiapvvirginiap Posts: 508
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi fellow spineys,
I am trying really hard to stay positive about my ALIF fusion L4-5 (8 weeks ago today). I do feel better then week one, my mobility is better, but leaves much to be desired. I am in constant pain! My case was complicated, and after long research of NS, procedures & even hospitals I opted for a one level fusion (alif, as I was told would be quicker recovery for fusion)

I now fear that I should have not been so conservative. Two other NS's told me I needed two levels (or at least one level fusion and could possibly get away with a foramanotmy at other... and should be done posteriorly as no matter how tall a cage the ALIF would allow, it could not fully address my foraminal stenosis.....

Prior to surgery I struggled and worked (as much as possible - lost lots of time, epidurals, trigger points, discogram, pain days, melt downs....) you all know how we all suffer while working and pretending to be normal!

Prior to surgery I was taking two vicodin 10 mg within my 9 hour work day, I would also take a flexeril 10 mg & valium 5 mg....this just till I got home. Bedtime was 10 mg oxy & 350 soma, this was my pre operative meds, which started with my last flare up on 12/22/09. I have been suffering for 7 years holding off on surgery doing every alternative treatment out there.

Post op pain has been horrendous! My meds now consist of 30 mg oxy every 4 hours, I try to stretch it to 5 or 6 hours (but its rare that I can handle it) I take 2-3 somas a day and 1-2 valium, to sleep I have to take 30 mg of restoril (which buys ne 4-5 hours). I just finished a 6 pack medrol, for inflammation. Just typing this makes me want to throw up, I thought the surgery would stop the need for all the meds in my life.... I guess I am frustrated, disappointed and confused.

My NS can not understand why I am in so much pain, my pain mgmt doc, ordered MRI and at fusion level I have bulging disc...?? And foraminal narrowing bilateral with stenosis. Not to mention my L1-2 huge herniation which has been relentless for 5 years and extends to next level. But is stable...no change every MRI over the past 5 years shows the same, so I have ignored it. Always focusing on L3-5 for treatment.

I have had several issues post op, nothing tragic but has added to pain, discomfort and I think delaying my recovery.

What do I do now?? Please has any one had similar experience or can provide some advise.... I am just at a loss, sick of being in pain. I cant even sit for more then 15-20 minutes without pain. My leg symptoms are so much worse compared to pre op.

Thanks for letting me vent, felt good to get it out and you guys are really the only ones who can relate. I look forward to your replies.

I wish you all pain free days!


  • Hi Virginia,

    I'm so very sorry to hear of your pain. I can "hear" the consternation in your voice--how could it have happened that I feel worse than before surgery?! I'm afraid I can't relate on the basis of having been where you are but I am just 3 weeks post-op 2-level lumbar fusion (scoliosis reconstruction) and experiencing worse right leg nerve pain than before the surgery. I've had blood work and a CT scan last week which showed everything to be fine--my surgeon was looking for a broken vertebra, I think. I'm on relatively low dose of Lyrica (was 100 mg twice a day and starting today I'm taking 100 mg three times a day). I've put away the oxycodone and Dilaudid which I was taking immediately post-op. My surgeon's PA wanted me to start weaning myself off of the oxy with the plan to switch me down (so to speak) to Vicodin (hydrocodone) at some point. At 1 1/2 weeks post-op I was feeling good enough to say Go for it and we switched pain meds. My leg pain was getting worse but I knew that no opioid pain medicine was going to relieve nerve pain so it didn't scare me to be moved down to Vicodin--it is to control the pain at the surgical site, plus I have Robaxin for muscle relaxer. It's the Lyrica that's helping me with the sciatica in my right leg. I'm hoping that the inflammation and swelling in the area of the nerve root will go down soon so that I don't have to take the Lyrica for long term.

    Is your extreme pain nerve-related? Is it sciatic pain that radiates down your leg? If so, have your doctors ever mentioned taking a nerve-specific medication like Lyrica, Neurontin or any of the other meds that specifically target nerves? Oxycodone never relieved my nerve pain, it just made me not care so much that I was hurting. Yes, it took the edge off the pain but it is not a specific treatment for nerve pain so that's why I'm wondering why no one has apparently suggested a med like Lyrica for you.

    Thanks for letting us share some of your pain and frustration. That's what we're here for--not just to get information but to give moral support to fellow spineys who are hurting. :) Please let us know how things go for you.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Linda, for your reply.
    Yes, I have sciatic pain primarily left, but sometimes right as well, had it prior and now it seems worse. I also have new nerve like pains. I always had nerve pain down the outer side of my leg & shin down to a couple of toes and occasionally on the top of my foot. It now is under my foot as well, Sharp stapping like pain - not in the arch at the padded area below your toes, I think its called the pads of your feet?? , it comes and goes, as with most of these symptoms. Also where my foot and leg meet (front of ankle) often feels like its being cut off (sounds crazy, I know, its a very deep pain and this is on both legs).

    I have also been having like raw, rug burn feeling on top of my feet (I have had this feeling after my discogram in April, but it was in my inner thigh area and has mostly resolved only feel it occasionally) I often feel like there is a BP cuff around my lower leg/calf. My left leg has become hypersensetive, even to air, if touch my belly gently I get chill like sensation up & down leg, and travels up where the hair on my arms are standing. So strange, really any touch will send a sensation down my leg.

    Numbness, happens on and off all day, I can't even sit on the toilet without legs going numb, starts in feet pins & needles, quickly goes up my leg to buttocks. Sometimes one leg and sometimes both, and I literally can't not move. I keep the walker nearby... scary stuff! Right now I have my left leg wraped in heating pad & it feels good.

    I had tried lyrica a year or so ago and got really dizzy from it (funny I can handle 180 mg of oxy but could not tolerate lyrica . Post op no one (PM nor NS) suggested any nerve meds.

    My PM doc is sending me to another NS for an opinion, and its actually one of the NS's who urged me not to do the anterior approach, but what he offered was me being out of work for a minimum of 6 months, the NS & ALIF procedure said 6-12 weeks, which I now see is unrealistic for me. 5 inch incision straight down the center of my abdomen. 6 weeks was a pipe dream.

    I am so happy that your recovery has been nothing like mine!
    I hope you continue to get strong and better with each passing day.

    I will speak with my NS consult & PM about some of the other nerve meds you mentioned.

    Again, thanks for your reply. I hope you have a restful night sleep and awake to comfortable level 2 or 3 ......

    Ps I know I am fortunate and I thank god everyday - things could be do so much worse, I met a lady (nurse) at one if my doc's, het mom went for an XLIF, and is now paralysed from waist down, I think of her and feel so bad and little to complain....... praise God, I can feel all this...
  • I am 8 weeks post-op PLIF. surg. date 8.25.2010
    Virginia, i read your post and sooo many similarities. I had a PLIF fusion,removal of discs L4&L5 screws, rods. First two weeks a medical nightmare of pain level never experienced B4. Then I noticed my R leg sciatica nerve pain was virtually gone,like a miracle. Then last week R leg top of thigh muscles like concrete,same chills as u described to the T.I started feeling i should have had an anterior fusion because i lay on incision site or brace is against it in recliner and feels like a softball in my spine. I am 105lbs. 5'1 and read that thin people w/posterior fusion absolutely feel the hardware. Like u i figured go for 2-3 weeks of surgery pain to be out of CHRONIC pain in low back & entire R Leg.I am still on major meds, I tried Lyrica, it is terrific for nerve (sciatica) pain, however I had side effects.I felt validated reading your post, like i am not the ONLY ONE. My surgeon said this type of recovery is sometimes 2 steps forward,3 steps back.I cared for my husband last year for a total knee replacement (and 2 total hip repl. 5 yrs. ago)his recovery is what i expected~ each day, week ,a nice forward ONLY progression til 3 months and he was out of ALL pain. I can relate to you, on many levels, my pain is not as bad as yours,Did u get L5 L4 removed? L5 is the culprit disc that can press on sciatica nerve and i know pre-op it was relentless aching Leg pain. Sure hope today is a better day for you..
    Write me anytime~ Julie David
  • Hi Virginia,

    I hope today finds you better than yesterday, but I understand if you're not. I just wanted to say that a thankful attitude goes SO far in helping a person deal with pain and debility. To go for back surgery and come out paralyzed is always a possibility but we never think it will happen to us. I'm sorry for the lady who experienced this tragedy. At the same time, I'm thankful to God for His care over me during this delicate surgery.

    About the nerve pain meds--the first time I tried Lyrica (when I was doctoring for my cervical spine herniation) it worked wonderfully well but left me slightly dizzy all the time. I couldn't tolerate that because I was working. Now, with this surgery and the nerve pain I'm having, I jumped at the chance to try Lyrica again and it is a God-send for me because it controls my nerve pain. I figured if I'm a little loopy it won't matter because I'm around the house 90% of the time. The great news is that after a period of days I got past the side effects and now I barely notice them. If you are willing to try it again and work through the side effects, I'm betting they'll go away. You're having such horrible nerve pain and I just think you need a medication specific for that.

    Hoping today is a bit better for you than yesterday.

    Gentle hugs,

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
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