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Spinal Fusion Recovery

LucyMLLucyM Posts: 20
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I'm a new member who could really use some advice or cheering up! I'm 34 years old & had spinal fusion surgery 6months ago now at L4, L5 & S1. This has been the toughest most painful year of my life and am still recovering from my surgery, which has been such a slow & frustrating time of my life. I have degenerative disc disease as a result of having been a beauty therapist for several years, and unfortunately as I am hypermobile this was the wrong profession to have been in and has left me as I currently am - still unable to work, still on dihydrocodeine and recently, as a result of I think having a small fall at home (literally from a squat position to bumping down onto the floor), having referred pain all the way up my spine again.

Has anyone else been through this that can give me some good news? I had no option apart from to have the surgery and it seems early signs are good, ie no constant sciatica pain all down both legs BUT it seems that I am still only able to remain upright for about three hours tops, can only stand/walk an hour, still cannot exercise apart from gentle physio exercises that have only recently been given.... I'm at my wits end as I feel like a 70year old some days. I seem to have a good day then a bad day for no reason and am constantly guessing what to do for the best. I am also experiencing pain now about half way up my spine and am concerned that the degenerative disc disease may already be affecting further up my spine now as I was warned by my surgeons that this indeed could happen, although I didn't think it could surely happen after only six months?

Sorry for such a huge message but I am guessing that someone on here may know exactly what I'm talking about since we're all in similar situations. I just want to be able to work, clean my house, go to the gym, have a family with my husband, but I have no idea when all this will be possible. I have now been told that recovery is likely to be 1-2years...... has anyone else had this op that can give me some hope?!

Thank you.


  • I am not "there" yet, but I do have to say that my physiatrist (PM doctor) has warned me that fusion doesn't always do much for back pain at all.

    I think the physical therapy is a necessary part of the recovery process. However, going to a pain management doctor might also be a good idea, so your pain treatment can be tailored to a chronic rather than acute issue.

    The muscles that need to support your spine when you're upright must be very weak due to the surgery and recovery, it will take a while to get those strong again. My surgeon has told me 8 months to 1 year recovery is normal.
  • Welcome to Spine Health!!! Like HB, not there yet for the lumbar. My surgeon did discuss lumbar surgery with me though, and he did say that there is no guarantee that "the" back pain portion to all this may not go away. That the purpose of doing the back surgery was to stop further degeneration, and release the nerves to hopefully rectify my leg issues. He did add however, that many to most *do* see improvement in their back pain - just no promises for it.

    You had 2 levels fused Lucy. 6 months is pretty well along, but not "fully" healed yet in most cases. Your whole spine is adjusting to this new 'hard' change. Spasms, stiffness, new pains are not out of the norm as your whole body and spine is still adjusting. If in doubt of course, don't hesitate to contact your surgeons office with concerns. I hope you are feeling better soon. Take care, and again Welcome aboard!!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • We had the same surgery it seems. Mine was 9 months ago. I did not go back to work until the 8mth mark. I also still need to take pain meds. I have a sit down job that as soon as I am properly trained can be done from home...Lucky I know.
    I also have pain in my mid back...extreme pain. Mine is all muscular. It hurts and aches..feels like I need to pop it..My TENS unit is a livesaver when I feel like this..That and my heating pad. I sleep with my TENS on some nights.
    Do you have one? I got mine from therapy.
    I also DDD but I know mine is all muscular pain.
    I am 38 years old so not much older than you..I totally know the feeling like 70!!!
    Hang in there...it gets better. I still have occasional nerve annoyance in my left foot but it goes away once I get up and move around. This has also been my bad year as far as health goes.
    This is a wonderful site, full of information and awesome, supportive people.
  • Hey there! Reading your reply was like reading exactly how I feel - thank you. It sounds like we have the exact same mid back pain that feels like it needs to be popped, mine does pop sometimes just when I breathe in! Like you I am thinking that this is muscular as it doesn't feel same as when my lumbar region degenerated, but I am constantly on alert thinking "is this a new pain? what's going wrong with this back now?" etc etc... I do use heat on it which seems to help ease it and often sleep with a hot bottle tucked into the back of my PJ's, and I definitely feel best when have just woken up and the upright time hasn't accumulated yet. I am due to have more physio in about a weeks time so will def ask about TENS, and am hoping that my physio will recommend me to my hospital back class (what is weird is that I had to push to even get a physio referral, apparently on the UK NHS this isn't standard for this op.... ridiculous)!

    Anyway, thanks for your message and hope you're pain keeps improving too. It's great to speak to someone who completely gets what this feels like (esp at our age)! Stay well and have a great Christmas :)

  • Hey everyone,

    Thanks so much for the encouraging messages and for making me feel so welcome :) It really does help doesn't it to speak to people in the same position who have been through this, as I feel it's easy for anyone who has not, or hasn't lived with someone with chronic back pain, to understand how this all feels - mentally and physically.

    I am having physio (which I totally had to push my surgeon for a referral for!) at the moment so like you say hoping that this will improve the muscular strength in my spine and support it much better as time goes on.

    I guess I am lucky in that have had about a 90% reduction in leg pains, feet pains, and although these do return occasionally they're certainly not as bad as they were before.

    I will keep my fingers crossed for a big return to normal life at that magic number of one year post-op..... 6 months down, 6 to go!

    Thanks for all your advice and hope you're all having "good" pain days too :)

  • My surgery was 2 levels, but I was 55 at the time. It has been a year and a half since my surgery. I walk 2 miles every day, outside or on my treadmill and I feel great. My only issue is that when the weather turns cold my back gets very stiff and sore. I guess I need to move south!!
    During my early months, I really thought I would NEVER recover....but I did!! Good luck to you.
  • I created a group on facebook call XL TDR. Feel free to join and pass on the info...
  • Dear Sheila, hi! I'm sorry for the huge delay in response but have been away back home in Scotland for three weeks and not been online. My pain got worse and worse over Christmas & NY and I am now back in Essex and have to see my GP this week, but I just wanted to say thank you as just logged on, read your message and felt some hope at last! Not sure what on earth is going on in my back now, the pain is not really even at the site of surgery but in my middle spine, ribs, torso and is SO painful that it is back to feeling like what was desctibed as "referred pain" before they ever even diagnosed my degenerative disck disease. Some nights it's waking me up in pain and I literally lie there rocking and clutching my ribs and waiting for painkillers to kick in - not a very happy new year so far BUT tonight I have my first ever "Back Class" to attend in the physio dept of my local hospital (where I had my surgery), so I am hoping that by strengthening my back muscles under correct supervision that this will do something positive!!!

    I've currently been feeling like I will NEVER recover from tis but your message has just given me some hope Sheila, thanks again :)
  • I wanted to give you a late welcome to SH. I am sorry that you are having trouble after your surgery. I hope that your new class will help you. As others have said it is a long recovery from this surgery. I am very interested in your recovery as I am currently waiting a fusion of L5/S1 and probably L4/L5. Wishing you all the best, and please keep us posted on how you make out.
    gentle >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Hey there Karen and thanks for your message! I will def keep you posted with how I get on at my new class - it is mad as before this happened to me I was a total gym addict and did about 4/5 spin classes a week, and now I'm getting excited to go do a swiss ball based class in my hospital?! This has been such a tough 7months and I'm so desperate to do anything that will help strengthen up this rubbish back of mine though.... have got everything crossed for some improvement as it is still so sore most of the time.

    Good luck with getting a date for your op very soon, will keep my fingers crossed for you, let me know when the date comes through. On the plus side, I can honestly say that even the day after my surgery my leg pains had gone and the lower back pain was more surgery rather than degenerative disc related, so I hope you get some good results very soon too! I think what I am currently going through is my rest of spine adjusting to everything that's now in there and I guess that because this whole section at the lumbar is totally unmoveable, I must move other parts of my back in other ways, which I am guessing is what is causing all this current referred pain?! I will keep you up tp date with it all anyway and you let me know how you go too, we can beat these rubbush backs somehow!!!

    Take care,

    Lucy x
  • That was supposed to say "rubbish" backs obviously - sorry - am typing while lying down on a heat pad and waiting for painkillers to kick in!
  • Welcome to Spine-Health (better late than never...sorry).

    I had a 1-lvl TLIF at L4/5 just over a year ago and I'm doing so much better. It did take a long time and I also thought I'd never feel better. But now that it's been a year, I do feel almost back to normal. I still don't like to lift anything too heavy and can't stand or walk for more than a few hours without resting for a bit.

    I can say that it does get better (if you don't have additional problems, at least) and I applaud you for doing exercises to get your core stronger. That's really key for keeping your lumbar spine healthy in the future.

    Good luck on the classes - I hope they help. having spine problems really is a test of our patience, but that's the name of the game in spiney land.

    Take care and do keep us posted.
  • I was just wondering how you are coming along? I have had lower back pain for over 6 years now and the doctors only wanted to keep giving me pain medication.

    I moved to another state to take a job and found a new doctor and she ordered an MRI and found out that I have a buldging disc and Sponylothisis. My PM doctor did sacriliac injections on both sides and an edpidural steroid injection. 1,000 dollars later and 15 lbs added in 1 month to my 117lb(previous before the shots) 5'2 frame...the shots did not help at all. I think they made it worse. Pain is shooting down my thighs now. I have trouble doing house work, riding on the back of my boyfriends motorcycle. Excercising like a used to. I used to be a personal trainer and my Orhtopedic specialist that I am seeing now figured out that from me leg pressing 220 pounds and wieghing 98lbs I caused this to happen to myself. I am scheduled to have a spinal fusion in two weeks. I'm only 35 yrs old. It's my last and only option as far as I'm concerned. I haven't had children yet and am afraid that I won't be able to carry one if I do not get this taken care of. I don't want to take pain meds forever. I feel like a druggy because I take so many. But I only take them when I am in so much pain I cannot function with my daily duties. I am a little concerned with these posts though about the recovery time. My doctor said they use an X lift now for this procedure and the scar is only 2 inches long and the recovery time is 2 weeks and I'm back to work. sounds too good to be true...
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