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when were you pain free after fusion surgery

L5S1LL5S1 Posts: 51
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:52 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi all fusion survivors:

I had a L4-S1 TLIF almost 3 months ago.

My morning pain and stiffness has been awful (about a 6-7) and I'm still on all my post-surgery meds. During the day when I'm up and about I'm in minimal pain (2-3). At two months the 'during the day' pain was almost down to zero, but then I took off my brace and started PT so the pain crept back up.

So, when does the pain end? When docs/people says that the recovery can take up to a year. They're talking about the fusing, but how long does it take for the pain/stiffness to heal?

Do you remember how long you were in pain after your fusion surgery? When were you finally off your meds?

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Comments

  • I didn't,wouldn't and am not pain free after 18 months. I don't really believe that is going to happen. "Pain free" is a marketing thing.

    The stiffness. Forget it. you'll always have stiffness. Those basic stretching exercises you learned in PT to stretch your back and remove stiffness. Those are now your life long friend. Do them every day. It makes moving after waking much better.

    Now that said, and that is more of a 'my reality check". My pain levels since the surgery are 80% better. I'm fused and released from his care. I'm not filled on pain, nerve, killers and taking depression meds like many. I take a low dose hydrocodone or advil some days. I work out 4-6 days a week. I'm doing almost anything I want. My quality of life is significantly better.

    If you were told to expect a 0-1 pain level all the time. Someone told you a lie...
  • Glad someone asked this question. Today is exactly four weeks since my laminectomy and two level lumbar fusion. My pain is about a 2 when moving. Zero pain when still. I am taking Vicodin in the afternoon and at bedtime. I am glad I got the surgery. My sciatica pain was really bad, and now it is all gone. I just hate wearing my brace, but I live with it. L5S1, I hope your pain continues to diminish.
  • I'm not sure you'll get a true answer to your question because, for those people who are completely pain free, they may not visit this forum any more.

    Having said that, I was pain free after the initial operation healing from 2 level PLIF last July. It lasted for 6 weeks and I thought it was a walk in the park.

    However, it's now been about 9 months post-op and I'm back on the same meds I was on before the fusion. I've also got other pain issues going on that are being investigated and, to be honest, my overall health isn't so marvellous either. Ha! I'm just cracking up.

    At my last visit to my local doctor, he said that in his opinion, he now thinks that I'll have this back pain for the rest of my life now. That's definitely not something I want to hear, especially as I'm trying so hard to overcome it with pain meds, positive attitude, spine injections, gym exercise to strengthen my back etc. etc. So I'm still living in hope that I WILL be pain free after my fusion surgery - eventually!!!!
    SUE
    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 !!
  • I agree with Sue those that are here still have problems therfore your answer will be skewed to the negative.
    As for myself it's been 18 months I have a non-union I'm still in pain but not as bad as prior to surgery.I got away from taking meds on a regular basis 3 weeks post op now I only take oxy on an as needed basis.
  • I'm one of the relatively pain free fusion survivors. I'm now 17 months out and life keeps on getting better and I'm a lot stronger.

    It took 6-7 months for most of the post-op pain to go. I was then able to gradually increase my activities. I was on the strong pain meds for about 3 months and then paracetamol after that. My surgeon aims for 80% - 90% reduction in pain, and I'm about 90%.

    Are you able to walk around the block? That'll help loosen you up as well as regular gentle stretching. Even now, if I sleep reasonably well, I have pain and stiffness when I wake up. Once I start moving around, then it gradually eases and then I can take the dogs out for their walk over the park.

    With the physio, I had to modify the exercises to suit. I still can't lie on the floor and do those exercises on my bed. Some people put a pillow under their back, but I find it easier on the bed.

    Trish












    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • It took me 6 months until the pain was tolerable enough to start tapering off the pain meds.

    By 7 months I was off all pain meds and most of the post-op pain was gone.

    Now, at 9 months I am totally pain free.

    FYI - Everyone's recovery is different and most of the people that I spoke to did not need strong pain meds after about 3 months which is why I was so worried and posted my original question. Unfortunately, others never get pain free and need to remain on pain meds indefinitely.
  • Hi. I had a fusion of L5 S1 and discectomy at the end of July. I had no pain apart from the wound site, was sent home 2 days after the op with just paracetamol and diclofenac and I only took paracetamol for a couple of weeks and then stopped. Since then I have had no real pain unless I overdo things. I was walking 5 miles a day on the treadmill until a week ago but have reduced that as I had a week of niggling pain which has now gone. The fusion has corrected the vertebrae slippage from before the op so I can now sleep lying down without my muscles seizing and the morning stiffness has disappeared. I was told mine was a mechanical problem due to the lack of disc and so the fusion has stabilised the area.

    Meryl
  • noni9nnoni9 Bend, ORPosts: 2
    Five weeks out from L4-S1 spinal fusion. In so much pain, I can't stand to walk in the hall of apartment. I've been out of Percocet for 36 hours. When will the pain end. My daughter says I should be off pain meds and able to walk 3000 steps per day. I am so depressed.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,940
    Hello noni......
    I am sorry to hear how miserable you must be feeling.

    As you have added onto a very old discussion thread......may I please suggest you start your own discussion?
    More members will see you there and be able to comment with their shared experiences.
    Sue
    Spine-Health Moderator
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 798

    Dona

    Don't be depressed a LOT of people have a lot of pain and are on pain meds for many months after fusion surgery...  it's a BIG surgery... and 5 weeks isn't really that long.  You can see from the posts above a lot of people were on pain meds 6 months or more after surgery... and in my case I was on pain meds for 4 months before my inflamed nerves finally calmed down enough to get off them.  Some people are lucky and get of the meds in a couple of weeks but for most it is a lot longer.  For some of the lucky people your daughter is right... they heal super fast... but those cases are very rare... and most folks take a LOT longer.  Everyone is different  and everyone heals at different rates... don't be upset by it that you are taking longer than your daughter expects... it's perfectly normal.  It is good to walk everyday if you can as it will help in rebuilding your back muscle strength... but you need to listen to your body... and walk only as much as you can tolerate slowly building up more and more and step by step as you get stronger. If walking is difficult try small walks 3 times a day instead of once a day as that will give you more distance without the pain.      

    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Not to be mean but unless your daughter is a doctor and one who deals in orthopedic stuff at that then I wouldn't listen to anything she has to say. I had a one level lumbar fusion and wore my huge back brace for three months afterward. I walked with a walker the first couple of weeks and then began slowly walking short periods without it. I fatigued very quickly and had plenty of pain. My surgery was fairly minimally invasive. Now I just got out of my big back brace one week ago tomorrow and wear a smaller brace that the doctor called a corset brace. I had my first physical therapy since the surgery last Friday and it seemed easy enough and then my husband helped me get the movement right on Saturday and Sunday morning I awakened very stiff and sore and even had some sharp muscle pains.

    I'm a chronic pain patent due to psoriatic arthritis and I take one Percocet every six hours for pain. 

    Now I'm sharing my story with you and of course everyone is different and we all heal at different rates but it sounds like your daughter expects way too much too soon.
    Good luck.
    Jennifer
  • Had level 8 lumbar fusion 6 months ago.  Day 1: threw out the pain killers.  Relied on Tylenol.  Day 2: chucked the body brace.  Used walker to lift and lower myself (not to walk) for three months.  Stayed as active as possible while scar tissue began to heal.  Pain free at 5 months.  Fused at 6.  Back to normal activities.  Age: 69. 

  • noni9 said:

    Five weeks out from L4-S1 spinal fusion. In so much pain, I can't stand to walk in the hall of apartment. I've been out of Percocet for 36 hours. When will the pain end. My daughter says I should be off pain meds and able to walk 3000 steps per day. I am so depressed.

    Yeah, agree with your daughter.  Sure, people heal at different rates, but not RADICALLY different rates.  The pain will end when you decide it will end.  I literally dumped my "official" pain meds down the drain first day home.  Went to Tylenol.  You have to start out by compartmentalizing your pain.  Your mind creates pain, technically it's an illusion designed to keep you from "over-injuring" yourself.  However, you know you can do stuff anyway -- to do nothing (and keep taking pain killers) is a lousy idea.  My surgery was 10 hours.  Week in hospital.  Two weeks after coming home I was "really needed" in a face-to-face meeting.  My wife drove and throughout the meeting, because I was focused on the issues at hand, zero pain.  Focus on something else besides your surgery.  Keep active -- do a little bit too much.  Get rid of those pain killers and go on extra-strength Tylenol.  Get up.  Walk.  Do stuff whenever you feel crushed.  I like your daughter's attitude. 
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 798

    scrannel said:

    Had level 8 lumbar fusion 6 months ago.  Day 1: threw out the pain killers.  Relied on Tylenol.  Day 2: chucked the body brace.  Used walker to lift and lower myself (not to walk) for three months.  Stayed as active as possible while scar tissue began to heal.  Pain free at 5 months.  Fused at 6.  Back to normal activities.  Age: 69. 



    David

    What is a level 8 lumbar fusion??


    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 10,060

    scrannel said:

    Had level 8 lumbar fusion 6 months ago.  Day 1: threw out the pain killers.  Relied on Tylenol.  Day 2: chucked the body brace.  Used walker to lift and lower myself (not to walk) for three months.  Stayed as active as possible while scar tissue began to heal.  Pain free at 5 months.  Fused at 6.  Back to normal activities.  Age: 69. 

    I like Harry am curious about what is a Level 8 fusion?
    Plus, while you actions may have worked for you,  would NOT recommend this for anyone who is coming out of surgery. Before you take any drastic actions, you always need to discuss with your surgeon.

    You may have a pain tolerance that is above most people, but getting rid of the body brace.  That could just be asking for trouble.  Pain free at 5 months, good, fused at 6 good, but you do not understand the potential impacts of not using the back brace.  Again, I assume you are talking back brace when you said body brace.   There are definite mechanical reasons why back braces after specific surgeries are used.  

    Word of caution.  I would not recommend following this person's actions right after surgery.   Too many pitfalls, which may not be immediate, might not even show up for a long time.   But when you consider the amount of work that the surgeon put into a level 8? fusion, why risk just throwing all that effort away.scrannel said:



    noni9 said:

    Five weeks out from L4-S1 spinal fusion. In so much pain, I can't stand to walk in the hall of apartment. I've been out of Percocet for 36 hours. When will the pain end. My daughter says I should be off pain meds and able to walk 3000 steps per day. I am so depressed.

    Yeah, agree with your daughter.  Sure, people heal at different rates, but not RADICALLY different rates.  The pain will end when you decide it will end.  I literally dumped my "official" pain meds down the drain first day home.  Went to Tylenol.  You have to start out by compartmentalizing your pain.  Your mind creates pain, technically it's an illusion designed to keep you from "over-injuring" yourself.  However, you know you can do stuff anyway -- to do nothing (and keep taking pain killers) is a lousy idea.  My surgery was 10 hours.  Week in hospital.  Two weeks after coming home I was "really needed" in a face-to-face meeting.  My wife drove and throughout the meeting, because I was focused on the issues at hand, zero pain.  Focus on something else besides your surgery.  Keep active -- do a little bit too much.  Get rid of those pain killers and go on extra-strength Tylenol.  Get up.  Walk.  Do stuff whenever you feel crushed.  I like your daughter's attitude. 


    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 10,060

    scrannel said:


    noni9 said:

    Five weeks out from L4-S1 spinal fusion. In so much pain, I can't stand to walk in the hall of apartment. I've been out of Percocet for 36 hours. When will the pain end. My daughter says I should be off pain meds and able to walk 3000 steps per day. I am so depressed.

    Yeah, agree with your daughter.  Sure, people heal at different rates, but not RADICALLY different rates.  The pain will end when you decide it will end.  I literally dumped my "official" pain meds down the drain first day home.  Went to Tylenol.  You have to start out by compartmentalizing your pain.  Your mind creates pain, technically it's an illusion designed to keep you from "over-injuring" yourself.  However, you know you can do stuff anyway -- to do nothing (and keep taking pain killers) is a lousy idea.  My surgery was 10 hours.  Week in hospital.  Two weeks after coming home I was "really needed" in a face-to-face meeting.  My wife drove and throughout the meeting, because I was focused on the issues at hand, zero pain.  Focus on something else besides your surgery.  Keep active -- do a little bit too much.  Get rid of those pain killers and go on extra-strength Tylenol.  Get up.  Walk.  Do stuff whenever you feel crushed.  I like your daughter's attitude. 

    Contrary to what is said, pain does not end when you decide it will.  I need to stress to everyone, that will this person was able to work things out for themselves, DO NOT FOLLOW this path.   There could be too many potential dangers involved.  Pain medications can be the only defense for some.  Scrannel, for whatever reason, your body did not have pain that required the need for narcotics.  

    There are plenty of medical studies that document that your mind does not create pain and it has nothing to do with any illusion.   If you were to ask 100 doctors/surgeons they would agree that pain medications are an important piece of the overall recovery process.  And I would not jump so fast at extra-strength Tylenol.  That has many associated risks

    The total recovery process is a complicated set of actions, that all work together in creating the desired end result.   Exercise, activity is part of that, but again, all within reason.  Before you start to undertake some new set of exercises, make sure you have your doctor's approval first.

    Bottom line, so much boils down to common sense.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • jodieddieojjodieddieo Royal Oak, MIPosts: 18
    I was hoping an admin would weigh in on this. 
    I question the legitimacy of scrannels post to have a level 8? surgery and have NO pain seems inhuman to me. 
  • shemphilsshemphil Louisiana Posts: 1
    I had a spinal fusion on my l5 s1 on March 14, 2016. I have been off my meds since May 26, 2016. I still have some pain but it's nothing I can't deal with. I take an aleve here and there. I am still required to wear my back brace tho until June 7th. I believe I will continue to wear it when I drive tho and if any pain comes back stronger than current pain. I have been in pt since 6 weeks post op. My herniated disc was sitting on my sciatic nerve something awful. I never had back pain tho until post fusion which was a big worry for me. My pain went down my left leg so I had a disectomy  Feb 16, 2015. A yr later had the fusion and now have some back pain. I'm hoping the pain is gone by 6  months post op. I had the disectomy  a yr ago bc I could not walk. Had the fusion this yr bc I could not sit up at all without extreme pain. I can say that I will choose this back pain over the other 2 sciatic nerve pain. I am a mental health professional  and I did not like the side effect of meds. The withdrawal symptoms were the worst. I thought I gradually decreased the dosages but I guess not gradual enough.  I went from taking morn, noon, eve, night dose to the next week taking morn, mid day, and night dose to the next week taking morn and night dose to the next week taking night dose. This was one of the worst months of my life. I cried all the time, didn't think about hurting myself but was very ok to go to sleep and not wake up. I felt worthless and developed depression for the 1st time in my life all due to these withdrawal symptoms. Bc of course I felt fine on all this meds but I didn't lime then effecting my brain/emotions. I need my brain for my career. Needless to say, May 26th I went to the Pharmacy and gave them back their gabapentin, oxycodone,  diazapam, and trazadone. I also stopped taking the benadryl for the itch and is still going through the withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia. It is 3am and I am wide awake. One of the things listed as a symptom that can occur after coming off a lot of these meds. Be careful  with the meds is all I'm saying.
  • I had spinal fusion T10- L3 and I am 16 months into my recovery. I still have a lot of lower back stiffness. I stopped medication with in 6 months because of back spasms. Now, I stretch, and roll the muscles along my spinal with two lacrosse balls taped together. That seems to help a lot. I workout 5-6 days a week and that includes CrossFit 4-5 days. 
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 798

    Majohns86

    I had L5-S1 fusion almost exactly 18 months ago... Jan 19, 2015.  I can honestly say that is wasn't until the past 5-6 weeks that I really felt strong and solid in my back. Prior to that I would experience various daily pains and discomforts with different movements or positions of my body.  I wasn't in constant agonizing nerve pain like before surgery... but it was certainly noticeable pains... and not normal.  Several times during the long recovery period I doubted that I would ever be normal again... but my doctor kept reassuring me... "give it time".   Since 4 months post-op I have not taken any pain meds... and I walk every day for 30 minutes... and I swim 30 minutes/800 meters 4-5 times a week.  If I don't do the walking or swimming... I tend to feel tight and stiff in my back... something like you I guess.  The swimming is the best... I really like it.. maybe you should try it as well.     

    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • Scarnnel .. where or what is Level 8 Lumbar Surgery?  Which discs/ vertebrae were included in this fusion?

    I cannot say I agree with throwing away pain meds.  During a period of high pain and trying to avoid pain meds, my blood pressure went sky high, a result of prolonged pain.  I have spent my life avoiding pain meds for all conditions, but after that I would never consider it again. It is too high risks on a vital area of my body that could have brought on a stroke or even a heart attack.

    Always follow doctors recommendations on your medication Noni9 and L5S1.  Nobody else is qualified to advise you and need to be told that.  If your doctor says you should be off the medication, he wouldn't still be prescribing it!

    AJ


    L5/S1 herniation Apr 2013
    nerve root injections Oct 2013
    L5/S1 discectomy Jan 2014
    L5/S1 nerve roo &, facet joint injections & edpidural Jan 2015
    L5/S1 revised discectomy, L4/L5 discectomy & Wallis Inswing Stabilisation L4/L5 May 1st 2015

  • danapughddanapugh Lebanon, TnPosts: 8
    I totally agree with the swimming.. I started swimming at 4 weeks post-op.  I walk a lap and swim a lap with a flotation belt to keep me from tiring so quickly. I can easily do 1 hour and 15 minutes now of constant movement.  No more pain or stiffness.  No more pain meds. I try to swim at least 3 days a week since I went back to work at 8 weeks post-op, but I really like to swim every day if the weather permits.  I have also used the local fitness center if the weather is bad because they have a heated indoor pool, which is super great for exercising and swimming.
  • Hello All! I had an ALIF on my L5S1 completed in October 2015.  I am currently 10 months post opp and feel really good.  I can't complain.  It wasn't always like this though.  I didn't start feeling strong in the lower back until around 6 months, then it was like someone flipped a switch.  I can run, do the elliptical plus many more things.  I still am stiff in the lower back but stretching helps.  I also have terrible flexibility but I can deal with those things as long as I am pain free.  Don't get me wrong if I do too much lifting I can be sore for a few days.  At this point I am so glad I did the surgery and hope I will continue to grow stronger everyday!  
  • home4schoolmomhhome4schoolmom South Carolina, USAPosts: 8
    edited 08/26/2016 - 12:08 PM
    I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses! I am 5 months today post ALIF L5-S1 due to a fall. I was able to come off pain meds and muscles relaxers by 5 weeks post op and off the nerve meds by 8 weeks post op. I can say I have been very pleased with my progress.

    Most days are good! Up to walking 3 miles a day as well as being able to do more things here on our farm every week...still limited on lifting and bending, but will get there.

    This week has been a tough one. Seems like if I do too much I hurt worse,  but if I lay around too much I also hurt more!  Mentally it has gotten to me today. I came to the forum just to see if I am doing ok for where I am and I guess I am!

    Massage therapy has been SO very helpful and I will continue therapy every two weeks. I had a massage yesterday and it has helped some. I think I may break down and take a muscle relaxer tonight and see if that helps...I had just hoped I was done with meds.

    Thank you all for responses. It helps on days like today to know others are having good days and bad days too. I have to remind myself I was flat for 4 months prior to surgery and I am only 5 months post op....this is a long haul!

    I hope everyone has a good day and is good to themselves.  Let's give ourselves a little leeway to get through these tough times and heal. Hugs and prayers.
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