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safescentgirlssafescentgirl Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello everyone! I was so excited to find this forum this morning while looking for a DO'S & DONT'S after ALIF surgery. My surgery was on Wednesday, I came home yesterday and have to wear this brace for 6 weeks. Still in a ton of pain in the stomach/incision area and sore all over. How long will this pain last? Any tips or Do's & Don't you can share?


  • Welcome to SH. I can't really answer your questions as I am presently awaiting a lumbar fusion.Just wanted to welcome you, and let you know how caring and informative people on this site are.I am sure you will receive many tips from posters that have been through this already. How long have you had trouble with your spine and what level(s) did you have done?
    Wishing you all the best with your recovery. Remember to rest, rest, rest,no BLT, and soon walk walk walk.
    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
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    and welcome to S.H. forums. You can read and pick up all kinds of tips. But I'll give you a couple now. You've just had a major surgery and the recovery process depends a lot on how well you follow the directions you've been given. Go slow, even if you feel like you could do more. Try to resist Your time to recover depends on a lot of things. And there will be "set backs" and "flair ups" over the next 11 to 14 mo. The healing process is gradual and don't try to push your limits. It's important that you move. But not over due! And keep asking questions. There are many people that are here to help. More so on the weekdays.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Changes for me from day to day! I have the incision from an ALIF but vein placement changed my surgery to a plif midstream and I have to say the abdomen incision is nothing when it comes to pain. I had my surgery Dec 13th and I did all kinds of preplanning and set up based on tips from others only to find out that my issues were often different from day to day! Example - I need to sit - laying down is where my agony appears while sitting is comfortable. I did get several walkers and have them in strategic places to pull myself up. I need help to get to bed and get up in the morning but otherwise I am pretty self sufficient. I have days where I do absolutely nothing because I am so tired and days when I want to go out for lunch and socialize - I am learning to let my body set the pace and do what feels right!
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    Let your body tell you what you can do. That is, IF it's not tricking you into doing something that might cause you to regret you did it. Sometimes you feel a burst of energy and don't realise that burst of energy was just a temporary feeling of well being. When actually it's not going to last. Don't measure your recovery by the day. Rather than by the week or month.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • I'm 3 weeks post-surgery! I had an ALIF plus minimally invasive PLIF, so I've got the stomach incision, too. My experience is that I've gotten better and better every day, and feel pretty darn good after 3 weeks, considering I just had major surgery ;)

    I say, the stomach incision has been the worst part for me, but it gets better. Mine was really tender for the first 2 weeks. It hurt to use any sort of ab muscles... Like getting out of bed! OUCH! Also, I experienced a great deal of skin irritation, kind of like a BAD sunburn.

    This 3rd week, the pain has really subsided a great deal. As of 2 days ago, I'm able to lay on my side without feeling like my guts are about to spill out :)

    My stomach is still a little tender, but it can be touched without too much pain. Perhaps pain like you'd feel if you press a bruise? And the tissue beneath is hard. As for overall soreness, I'm still sore in the spine, I'm guessing that's the screws and junk talking. Anyhoo, to sum it up, the worst part, my stomach incision started to feel significantly better by day 17 or 18.

    As for do's and dont's, DO wear your brace! It may hurt for a sec on your stomach, but after a minute it'll feel fine, like it's holding everything in. DON'T let yourself sneeze or laugh hard. It will really, REALLY suck. Pinch/rub your nose if you feel a sneeze coming on.

    Best wishes for your recovery! It gets better!
  • I'm 14 months out from a successful ALIF.

    You're likely to have pain for several months. I was 6-7 months before I started to feel "normal" again. Recovery from fusion takes a loooong time and you have to be completely dedicated to getting well again. As others have said, there will be days when you go forward, and days when you go backwards. You need to adhere to the bending-lifting-twisting restrictions until your surgeon says it's ok to do more. Have you got a grabber to pick up things from the floor? It will be your best friend! Don't attempt to drive until your surgeon says you can.

    My tummy was sore and swollen for a few months but my scar has healed wonderfully and it can barely be seen. After a couple of weeks post-op, I started putting Bio-oil on it. There are other scar minimizing preparations available.

    I didn't have a brace, but persevere with it and go along with your surgeon's instructions.

    In the early recovery days, you'll need to rest as much as you can, and when you're able to, do lots of short walks. Take your medications as prescribed so that the pain can be controlled. If you feel like it, you can even set your alarm at night so that you take your meds on time.

    Good nutrition is also important during the healing process - there are some articles on this site.

    Hope your recovery goes well and let us know how you're going.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • As a recovering ALIF L5/S1 survivor myself from a couple of weeks ago, here is what I can offer.

    Firstly, not all people and recoveries are the same, even if you have the exact same procedure from the exact same surgeons. For example, I've had ZERO spinal pain from removing the disk, the screws/plate, nothing.

    The first few days home for me, I had to consider the following:

    No BLT, as anyone will tell you. Bending, Lifting and Twisting can be the bane of any ALIF surgery. Your head or reactions to your environment might goad you into wanting to do these things, but stay concious about your reactions to the world around you. One momentary lapse of consciousness about BLT can land you you in additional pain for a few days, or worse, back in the hospital.

    I have a 1 year old at home, and it was very hard not to bend down every time he came up to daddy for playing.

    Your brace... I am not sure if you were given the same type of brace I was given, but mine was called a California Brace, and it is similar to many lumbar braces where there is hard molded plastic for your lower back, and a velcro wrap-around in the front. When positioned correctly, there is another piece that is connected to nylon string that pulls the brace tighter, like a corset, that you can secure with velcro when it's tight. I convinced my oldest son that it was a parachute belt.

    This brace, for me, wasn't mandatory, but firmly suggested to wear for about a week to 10 days. It protects the incision site, as well as provides a bit of support. The support I found was for my core because I had issues with sitting and getting back up.

    That leads me to the core issues. I was able to get up and walk from about 12 hours after the surgery, and wore out the rubber pads on my hospital socks the second day because I walked so much. The biggest issues I had with movement were because of the stomach muscles being so weak, so I kept a cane around me for just those transitions.

    The abdominal strength will come back over time, so keep walking and try to tighten your core/stomach a bit while doing those long walks.

    Alongside the abdomen, you'll find that your surgical site will start to hurt, a lot, as the tissue underneath start to harden. That pain, for me, was pretty bad for about 2 weeks after the surgery.

    I had something else that happened that was worse than anything, pain wise, which was new nerve pain. Though temporary, it was excruciating. A nerve was aggravated during the procedure that caused pain down my right leg, shin and top of my foot. It was so bad that it actually prevented my leg from straightening. I was almost in tears when it flared up. It's all but gone now, and expected to go away completely, but I still get small reminders that the issue isn't gone yet.

    Bending when going to the bathroom. This is something you should remember for weeks and weeks after the surgery... be careful not to bend forward when sitting down. It's not just an issue for a few days after, as it can still be an issue for weeks.

    I have personally been off of the pain medications since about Christmas, which was about 2 weeks after surgery. I take Gabapentin for the nerve issue in my right leg, but I gauge that almost as needed now. Though it helps, it does NOTHING for the pain.

    As for some other thoughts...
    Don't sit, or become a couch potato, for too long of periods at a time. Walk Walk Walk
    Drink plenty of fluids
    Don't watch Jerry Springer
    Do watch Rachael Ray
    Consider putting some items in a shoe box that you can keep close to you (bed or couch) like a novel, magazine, notebook and pen. This way you never have to go looking for those common things that can keep you occupied with something other than your pain.

    My first post after joining S-H is already too long, so I'll leave it here for now. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

    I'm a 41 y/o Male. Back pain and discomfort for over 20 years, and after an injury while in the military. The disk at L5/S1 was almost completely depleted, and it was bulging where it wasn't depleted. I went through 3 epidurals, and one set of facet injections, various medications and therapies over the course of the past 1.5 years, and only became serious about my problem over the past 2 years. The 18 before that, I just accepted the pain, but am now pain free in that area and can now sleep on my left side, have ZERO nerve pain in my left leg, and just have to remember that it hasn't even been a month yet and I'm not fully healed or recovered, but without a doubt, I FEEL GREAT!!!

    Be well, and may your recovery be swift.

  • I am also recovering from a big surgery. My anterior access required thoracotomy, so it's more complex than a standard ALIF, and I also had a posterior minimally invasive instrumentation. I still have pain from the thoracotomy but it isn't overwhelming anymore. I also have low back/hip pain.

    I tend to err on overdoing it vs. underdoing it, because I can always rest later but I can never regain time lost to rehabilitation. I'm the opposite of someone here, I need to recline, sitting too much is very stressful.

    3 weeks post surgery the only thing I can't really do is pick things up off of the floor. Other than that I am independent with regards to daily living- although I haven't tried any housework or anything yet. I will go back to driving my kids to school next week.

    I am set to start physical therapy ASAP and really looking forward to having some help directing my rehabilitation. Will you have any help?
  • cjp1986ccjp1986 Posts: 42
    edited 08/25/2012 - 1:27 PM
    Hello i am new here. I too am going to have a lumbar fusion soon. I had the discogram, (pain,pain,pain) on 8/22/12, and i go to see my spine surgeon on 8/28/12 to get the results of this test. He told my husband that i would have to have the ALIF, but my hubby dont remember all he said. Yes I am nervous about the surgery. I am a 56 y/o female. I had a hit and run car accident in 2007 with lumbar pain for a few weeks and then it went away. Then a year later it started back. I worked as a nurse in the hospital on 12 hour shifts. Some mornings it was all i could do to make it to my car in the parking deck. Then drive 32 miles home, then climb 15 steps to get into the house. Last november 2011, I injured my back lifting a pediactric patient, from wheel chair to bed, 3 times in a 8 hr shift. This is when i began the very next day to seek treatment from my doctor. My PCP, gave me lidoderm patches and Tramadol. This do not help my back pain. So in February 2012 I went to see a ortho dr, and he sent me to his partner who is a spine surgeon. I was sent for an MRI which showed, Osteoarthritis, DDD, Scoliosis in thoracic and lumbosacral spine, Spinal stenosis, and 3 bulging discs,
    Well i have been throough the spinal injection times one, no relief, then 6 weeks of physical therapy, no relief. In fact i got much worse. Now i have low back pain and pain radiating down into my right buttock and the back of my right thigh. Sometimes the pain is so bad i cant sleep, sit or walk.
    So now i will find out on Tuesday 8/28/12 when i will have this ALIF done. I have also applied for SSI disability and was denied. Do now I have a lawyer who is working on my disability case. I am glad i found this site.
  • i too had ALIF last dec and i was in hospital for 6 days {of hell} and then when i got home i was unable to move off my recliner for at least 6 weeks [other that to use the loo ans shower .even showering had me in tears ! i was defeated very easily .i have found recovery from ALIF extremely hard work .its been 9 months now an i am still in a lot of pain and recovery is very slow ,i asked my consultant and he told me that it will be 3 years FOR ME to recover as well as i am ever going to .i have had 2 previous surgeries and they were of poor quality {that's being kind to the consultant} so the consultant that did my ALIF had a lot of crap to sort out and he had done his best ,but warned me that pain would continue as the spine was damaged through degeneration and poor surgery .ALIF is a big operation and you must not rush your recovery ,i have found swimming helps relax me .as walking hurts like hell ! .you will find your own way of coping with the ALIF but its a life changing operation .good luck
    tony {UK}
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • leftback04lleftback04 Posts: 1
    edited 09/13/2012 - 10:52 AM
    Not too sure what people have been doing but my surgery was pretty normal. I had an incision by my tailbone and was pain free as soon as I was awake. I didn't have to wear a brace or anything like that, only downside was I was in no pain what so ever that I forgot I'd had surgery and kept bending over.

    Tony (backache99) you need to give someone a slap. I was given the wrong info after my op and was made to lay in a hospital bed at home for 6 months. After this time I got to go to physio and they told me I should of been doing physio in the 2nd week of recovery.Also I had a very good surgeon EDITED look him up and he told me DO NOT SWIM FOR THE FIRST YEAR! I'm back playing football within 8 months. A good tip is to get your Physio and your surgeon on talking terms as they often communicate better with medical professionals.

    Post edited to remove name of medical professional. by The Spine-Health Moderator Team
  • cjp1986ccjp1986 Posts: 42
    edited 09/14/2012 - 6:55 AM
    ok my surgery will not be an ALIF. On monday sept 17th, i will have a 360, (front and back) 2 level fusion with cages, screws and rods. After the discogram, the surgeon told me that i have 2 herniated disc and one of those had slipped over onto the one below it. And the spinal stenosis, was causing the radiating pain in my right hip and the back of my right thigh, due to nerve inpingment. I already have my back brace, and i am packed and ready to go.
    Wish me luck and Good Luck to all of you having upcoming surgery. Surgery will be on L3-4 and L4-5.
  • you all the best with your surgery. Hope that the surgery alleviates your pain and stabalizes your spine. Do you have help at home for when you return?

    Hope that everything goes well with your disability as well. I too injured myself transferring a patient, and have been unable to return to my job.

    Will be thinking of you on Monday.
    >: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
  • Good day to all and thank you for such an amazing resource!
    I had an AFIL a month ago, in the AM as I get out of bed my pain is still as bad as before the surgery. Through the day it subsides a bit, however it is still painful. Is this normal that I feel as prior to surgery?
  • KrystalN12KKrystalN12 Posts: 14
    edited 01/13/2013 - 4:36 PM
    Welome to SH. I'm 5 weeks out and am fortunate to say that I have had no spine pain since surgery. The abdominal incision was really painful for the first two weeks. The log roll was the hardest thing for me to do. When I got home I tied a rope to the top rail of the bed. I pull myself up into the sitting position, turn my torso and legs at the same time and then get out of bed. Much easier than the log roll. I learned that trick after my hysterectomy.

    I can't believe how far I've come in 5 weeks. You really do have to be hyper to NOT aware and overdo it as you feel better. I'm feeling sore in my stomach area today after doing some light house cleaning yesterday. Aside from walking, I haven't done much today. Listen to your body. When it tells you to sleep, you need to sleep. A lot of healing takes place while you sleep.

    Try very hard not to get sick. I had a virus during me 2nd and 3rd weeks post op. Not fun.

    The boredom has hit me really hard during these last two weeks so try to have some interesting things that you can
    read, watch or listen to while you recover. I know I'm nowhere near healed but I am very encouraged by the results of my surgery so far. Take care.

    L3-4 Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis
    L4-5 Ruptured Disc
    DDD throughout Lumbar spine
  • SoberbabeSSoberbabe Posts: 5
    edited 01/24/2013 - 6:11 AM
    Finding these support groups are great! Last March I had a hysterectomy and hystersisters.com saved me from going nuts.
    We were hoping with that surgery that the grapefruit size fibroid outside my grapefruit uterus filled with fibroids was the problem for my sciatica. Well, woke from that surgery with my sciatica really pissed off. Then I had to wait for a steroid injection 4 weeks, because doctor wouldn't do it that soon after hysterectomy. since then I have been injected and placed on numerous medications from pain management and had insurance deny me ALIF surgery last
    Finally, got authorization for surgery. Had on Dec 13th. Was in hospital 2 days, a lot of pain. It was hard for them to control it because I'm already on morphine ER, oxichodone, soma, Valium. I'm still taking medication and my sciatica feels like it's gone away, but have very painful calf and foot pain on both sides. Yesterday, they did a sonogram and ruled out clots.

    I have tried to everything they tell me, sometimes I overdo, and or unerdo. Being on this kind of medication is driving me crazy because I also am a

    recovering alcoholic, 24 years. So, I have pain, but don't feel right being on it. And believe me their is no freebie high with the medication, because it's doing

    what it's soppose too. But I have to be careful, it does put thoughts in my head, and I don't want to loose my sobriety over this.

    I was wondering how many of you have the leg pain and is it part of recovery we go thru? How long?
    When did u stop taking pain medications and the muscle relaxers?

    Please help with some support, I really could use it!
  • Hello all, I had a multi level fusion and ADR via the 360 method (ALIF & TLIF).
    The first two weeks were awful!! No sleep, agony and 11 whole days and nights of hospital. By week 3 I was already majorly improving and went back to work. This is my 3rd week back to work, I'm no longer on meds, doing physio twice a week building core strength and muscle and feeling great!!! Still a very small left leg nerve ache but other than that feeling like I did years before my problems. I'm hoping my recovery continues on this path xx
    2 level Discectomy 2000 open surgery
    L4/5 Discectomy & L5/S1 Laminectomy 2005- (Cauda equina) open surgery
    5 x joint injections 2012
    Discogram Dec 2012
    Dec 2012 - 360 Lumbar Fusion L4 -S1(BMP), Disc replaced L3/4, Bilat trocanter injects
  • I'm 6 weeks today and only sharing my journey in hopes that it could help others manage their expectations better than I have. I was led to believe that only a couple weeks of pain would be it and I'd slowly get back into my routine and even be back in the gym with light weights within 2-3 months. I can say without hesitation that my pain levels haven't changed for the better in a month. Some moments are better than others, but in general I have the same level of pain and forced to stay on pain meds since I need to be able to work (in bed with laptop or home office). The past two days I all of a sudden have a lot of nerve pain in my glutes that I hadn't had as noticeable last week. It's really uncomfortable.

    My sleep is ok for the first part of the night, but like clockwork I'm in significant pain that wakes me up for the rest of the night with every move I make. Waking up in the morning is a chore. It's like my entire body is locked up and I have to walk, ice, medicate and hot shower to get my body to a place where I can function through my day.

    Had I known that it's reasonable to be in pain longer than the surgeon explained early on I wouldn't be so down and frustrated, but it's a constant battle to try and be positive when I'm in pain all the time and going on little sleep for 6 weeks now.

    I hope others recover quickly and with minimal pain because this downright sucks, but I hope my experience is helpful to anyone who is about to go into surgery so they can get their head wrapped around it before they go in.

    Good luck to any of you.
  • shirleyajsshirleyaj Posts: 12
    edited 05/08/2014 - 4:10 AM
    Hi everyone, well, here I go again. I have had 8 previous fusion surgeries. I am fused from L1 through S1 and C2 throughC7. Now I have what they call kyphosis in the T11 through L1. I also have degenerative disc disease. I have to go to the PACE clinic tomorrow to have all the pre-certs done and talk with the pulmonologist. All of my surgeries have been scary, but this one has got me on edge. The surgeon says to do the ALIF he will go through my side, (with the possibility of collapsing one of my lungs to get access to the spine and when that's done they will turn me over and do the PSF. I have been researching the side approach, but not with much luck. I was hoping one of you would know something about it. I know they will tell me tomorrow, but I just want to look for my own piece of mind.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Welcome Message

    This is an old post, for best responses and support I suggest you make a new post, you can do this by clicking on 'create forum post' on the left

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Hi, I'm nervous and excited at the same time. I'm realizing that every person has such different results. I will have help after my surgery thank goodness. What is the best kind of chair/recliner to sit in after I get home? It's nice to be a part of this group and to know I can post after my surgery. Thanks!
  • Jacob76JJacob76 FreshfordPosts: 1
    Hello, My wife is going to be having an ALIF operation and I wondered if I could ask you how long it was from the consultation with the surgeon prior to actually having the operation? Did you go on to have a pre op and how much help do they offer post operation with useful medical furniture for the home? Have you been offered any home help or have you been left to recover on your own? My wife is utterly terrified, we have two small children and I run a business. I am trying to get ready for it and be as organised as possible but it would be really useful to know some of these points. I must say that this forum has been a God send in terms of advise and support and will no doubt continue to do so. I really hope that you have a very speedy recovery and that the pain eases soon. Thank you Jacob
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