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Sleeping after surgery?

ohmybackoohmyback Posts: 39
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am just curious about which positions you find the most comfortable sleeping in after lumbar fusion surgery? I am a month out and still cannot get comfortable to sleep. I am finding it extremely difficult to get to sleep and I wake up constantly throughout the night.

I stopped taking all prescribed meds 3 weeks ago due to bad intestinal issues although I am realizing now my meds had nothing to do with it.

It's sort of a catch 22. If I don't walk around alot or get out of the house, I find I am not tired enough to sleep and if I do alot, I'm so sore I can't sleep!

Any advice would be appreciated!


  • I'm 5 weeks tomorrow from an L5-S1 ALIF. The most comfortable positions for me are slightly propped up head (2 thin pillows) and another pillow under my knees. I find I can go to sleep easiest this way. Otherwise sleeping on my side with a pillow between my knees and one behind my back. I do sleep in my back brace as it keeps me from moving the wrong way and definitely reduces pain. I didn't have it for the first two weeks. I was so afraid of moving the wrong way that I couldn't/wouldn't relax which resulted in an inability to sleep well. The brace allows me to relax completely. I do take ambien which works well for me. I've had insomnia problems my whole life so I've taken it before.
    I hope this helps. Pain meds are important to help you heal. No one wants to be on a boatload of meds, but if you can feel better it will help you focus on healing. It is a long process.
    Take care,
    Pat Gibson
    L5S1 ALIF 2-22-11
    Now L4 Retrolisthisis

  • Have you tried using a pillow for your legs?
    If you are lying on your back, place the pillow under your knees. If you are lying on your side, place the pillow between your knees. The pillow helps to keep your spine in straight alignment when on your side, and when under your knees, it keeps some of the pressure off your spine.

    Having said that, I am just one year after my lumbar fusion and I still keep having to change my position during the night because I wake up in pain. I often have to get up and take a little walk, so that I can lie down again and get comfy.

    My problem with waking may be coming from my neck, I am not sure. I certainly get a lot of aching in my arms and also pins and needles and numbness in my hands.

    I do find that walking helps me a lot, and I would recommend that. Some days, even if I feel bad before my walk, after it I do feel better. For some reason I find that walking fairly briskly is better than if I walk very slowly. A surgeon did tell me it is because my muscles are engaged when I walk faster, which supports my spine better.

    Hope that your recovery will continue to go well. :-)

  • I love that name - Oh My Back. I was even thinking about changing mine from Airborne 72 (which is what got me into this condition) to Jeez Louise. That is what typically comes out of my mouth when the pain besets me.

    Sleeping is an interesting subject to me. When I was younger (I will be 60 in a few weeks) I never had any problems sleeping - anywhere and under any conditions. Twenty years in the Army will teach you that rest is much more important than food. So if you could/can sleep, then you do it, regardless of the conditions. However, when my back pain set in and it became chronic my sleep patterns were altered. I would wake up several times through the night (and still do) to reposition myself due to pain. Immediately prior to a multiple level PLIF in January 2011 I had the same concerns that you are expressing - how would I position myself to get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

    Man, was I surprised and relieved immediately after my surgery. For the first time in over 20 years I was able to lay flat on my back and fall asleep and remain asleep for hours. I am sure the medication helped (I never took any med's prior to my surgery so I have no baseline). I enjoyed it. Sadly, that period has passed and now I don't sleep too long without waking and having to reposition and I now have difficulty getting comfortable laying on my side, even with pillows between my knees (previous comfortable position).

    As I continue to tell myself, everything that I am now experiencing is "restorative pain" and I will improve. I am deferring judgement/evaluation of the success of my procedure for several months, if not a full year.
  • I think I slept better when I was 42 weeks pregnant with a 9 pound baby! I find that being on my side with a pillow between my legs and then resting my arm that is up ontop of another pillow. I have to switch sides numerous times at night, which means waking up and moving all the pillows again. When I roll over, its like my body weighs 500 pounds and its always so achy. I have sleep apnea and its been out of control since my surgery. So needless to say I run on very little fuel!
  • is the fact that I have slept on my stomach my entire life. I have some nerve damage (thanks doc) on my hips so I can only lay on my side for a short period of time so I am very limited. I wake up on average 10 times per night, with or without Ambien.

    When I lay on my back, I really feel like I am lying on something. It's like I can feel the rods when I lie on my back. Does anyone else feel this? Seems odd to me but maybe it's normal. If so, will it go away because it's really annoying!
  • Yes, I too feel the lump in my lower back when I lay on it, but it doesn't cause enough discomfort to deny me that position. For me it's a mental issue. If I think about what I am laying on then it bothers me; so I just mentally tune it out.

    It also freaks me out when I rub my hand over my spine and feel it. It's one of those "things" that you would just as soon not know about - like the wound drain that you had immediately after surgery. GROSS!

    By the way, I have not been able to sleep on my back or stomach for two decades (until after my surgery). Sides only and that resulted in a displacement of my hips - one is higher than the other. I also have an AC joint that has weakened on the same side as my higher hip. The end result is a very abnormal posture. I look like I am listing worse than the Titanic. Seems like when it rains it pours.
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