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MRI only shows scar tissue, but...

LonelygirlLLonelygirl Posts: 29
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:52 AM in Lower Back Pain
I had an L4-S1 PLIF last Oct and recovery went pretty well. I finished PT about 3 weeks ago. But...I'm still getting a lot of constant dull to strong pain in my legs in addition to more than a little pain in my back and hips. The surgeon and PM docs think the scar tissue may be a contributing factor. The PM is giving me an injection on Monday to help "clear up" the scar tissue. He also started me on Neurontin (ramping up to full dose over 3 weeks)...he wanted to do Lyrica but wonderful Tricare insists I try Neurontin first and suffer the side effects.

What I'm wondering is if I'm the only one out there who is still in pain despite a relatively clean MRI. I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep due to mostly local pain, i.e. around the incision/hardware area. I still can't sit/stand/lay down for extended periods of time (30 min or less without pain on good days).

I rarely make it to work by 0730...standard time for active duty air force folks...due to the combination of restless sleep and meds (Soma too)...it's getting old both for me and for my co-workers who I hate to jerk around. A few days ago I had to sit down with my commander and explain why I couldn't accept a job he had worked to get me...I wanted to craw into a hole and die rather than disappoint him.

What gives?! I'm sick of hearing that I should be feeling much better by now..I'm not. Anyone else out there [been] in this situation?


  • I kind of wonder if maybe you are still having aches and pains from all your nerves,muscles, etc. being aggravated during surgery. It takes a year to feel better sometimes and up to 2 years for some of us. Everyone heals differently and at a different pace. Fusion is a major surgery. Do you have more pain or feel worse than before surgery? Or do you feel better? Do you have new pain in different areas? Sometimes we get new pain after surgery or same pain lingers awhile or sometimes pain moves around. It can be caused from pt,just regular daily movement or doing too much and healing of the fusion.

    Try to walk daily as it's the best thing you can do.I can see where sitting might still bother you so try to sit, stand, walk in increments. It's better not to sit too long anyway at first so maybe you can sit, then walk around, stand, then sit. Just a thought from experience, not advice as you need to ask your dr what is best for you. Oh yea, as time went on I didn't feel or notice the hardware as much or often. I still feel it at times but it rarely bothers me now.

    I can tell you feel bad not being able to hold your weight right now. It must be extra hard trying to keep up the schedule the military expects and requires. I'm sure you are on restrictions, so please take advantage of them while you can because you need them right now. In time you will gain strength, agility, and be able to hold your position down better. You didn't mention your job duty. Your commander must appreciate your hard work and think highly of you to offer you that job. Keep him informed and do what you can, you'll be ready for the next job he offers you in time! By the way, thank you for your commitment and time served to keep us safe! I hope you feel better each day,week, month.

  • Sorry to hear your still in so much discomfort.How long ago was your OP.??
    I have had the same 10 weeks ago.I still have constant pain on one side above where it feels like the bottom screw head is.
    I wonder if the metalware with a lumber fusion is perhaps so shallow that it is often invasive.And therefore is often removed asap once fusion is comfirmed.
    Some of the old hands may know more .
    Hope things improve for you asap.

  • Thank you both for the replies. I feel sheepish talking to my PM doc because the pain isn't really better than before the surgery. It does move around, which makes me feel even more stupid when I try to explain it to the doc. I do walk quite a bit and move around as much as I can. I work with great folks who often go to the staff meetings to spare me the 1-2 hour sit sessions :)

    I did have to turn down the job but am interviewing with another unit commander next week. He's apparently already aware of my situation so I feel better sitting down to talk to him and I think we'll be able to find a place for me where I'll be able to contribute. That's all I really want is to feel like I'm making a difference again.

    I know it takes time to heal. And I know I'm impatient. I'll try to take a deep breath the next time I'm about to go postal.

    Thanks again for the replies!

  • I had the very same operation last July and I'm in exactly the same situation as you!

    As well as my back, I have experienced pain in other areas and I'm still trying to get to the bottom of why it's been particularly painful for the past week or so in my back, fingers, right elbow, left knee and toes. Very strange that. Perhaps the osteoarthritis I had in my facet joints (that were removed during the PLIF) has spread to other parts.

    Anyway, I digress (sorry!). I too have issues with scar tissue as this last operation was my 3rd and after discussing all my symptoms with my surgeon, I am now booked in to have spine injections (to one of the screws and sacroiliac joints). I'm having it done with sedation. BTW, my last MRI was also 'fine' and no reason could be seen that would indicate where my extra pain is coming from.

    I agree that walking is one of the best things you can do, but are you able to do [gentle] swimming as well, because that's also brilliant exercise for the back.

    Hopefully your pain medication will kick in soon and give you sufficient relief for you to be able to carry out your duties more comfortably. I just wanted you to know that you're definitely not alone with this.
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
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