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Help !!

phurrballepphurrballe Posts: 57
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Chronic Pain
I have not posted since back in the Fall. I am a 55 year old lady, worked out almost every day, am a veritable gym rat, and in great physical shape, better than my 20's and 30's, LOL!

My journey began ironically in the gym. I use the leg press and was pressing 300 pounds. I had been doing that weight for a while so it was not unusual. I weigh 110 pounds but very strong. That fateful day in October, I pressed and suddenly felt a huge snap in my lower back. I spent the next 15 minutes just trying to get off the machine. My back did not hurt at all after the snap but I had dibilitating butt, back of thigh pain. I spent the next 2 or 3 days icing, heat pads and taking ibuprofen. It did start to improve a little. After two weeks, however, I sought out the advice of my regular ortho doctor who sent me for an MRI. His diagnosis was spinal stenosis and spondy. I accepted that till I began researching spinal stenosis, which seems gradual and mine was no way gradual. It was a distinct day on a leg press. But I continued with his treatments as they seemed plausable regardless of the diagnosis for the back. I went to weeks of PT, then went on Lyrica for a while and finally had 3 epidurals. All of the aforementioned did little if anything.

In March of this year I asked my family doctor for a referral for a good spine surgeon and was referred to an awesome sugeon at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. With his ecpertise and additional xrays and MRI, we say that a lower lumbar disk had been slid way out, causing the pinching down my leg. By March and April, the pain was getting worse again and starting to affect all areas of my life, which was hard as I am very active. I was also taking 37.5 mg tramadol and 600 mg Ibuprofen, every 8 hours. It had some effect for the first few hours but the last 2 hours left me in pain.

We finally opted for L4L5 fusion/laminectomy. I had the procedure a week ago, 6/2. Thus my post today. I felt much better in the hospital, some lingering sciatic pain and the typical surgical site pain. When I got home, I used the home toilet and it was at that point I felt the pinching pain increase. I have since resolved the lower toilet issue but the pinching pain has become unbearable. I have talked to my doctors and they told me this is all normal, that there was a lot of damage that was repaired and that the nerves will be inflamed and even more sore than prior to surgery, before they get better. I am telling you though, I am very depressed because I was not this bad prior to surgery.

Therefore, am I being truly impatient because it is just a week and I am having dibilitating pinching pain and just need to chill out? I am very worried and expected to feel pain but not this bad. Any thoughts? Thank you so much in advance.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,863
    Spinal surgery is not something that you can anticipate back to normal within a few weeks.
    For many of us, its a number of months and hard ongoing physical therapy.

    I wouldnt even think that much of the stenosis or spondy. That is so common.

    Much more of concern would be the nerve pain caused by the disc pressing on a nerve root. That can take a long time to heal AFTER the corrective surgery is done.

    Think of it this way.....

    Spinal problems and surgeries for the most part are Black and White.

    Nerve related problems due to spinal situations is more gray
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I agree with Ron 100%.

    I just wanted to add, that fusion is a huge surgery and I personally felt worse after my surgery for about 5-6 weeks. Then it turned around for me. As a recovering patient I want to encourage you to stay on top of your pain medication and rest. If you get behind on your pain meds it can be days to get the pain monster back in control.

    If you need a toliet seat riser have some one get one for you (no shame in it). I am pretty sure all I did for 2 weeks was sleep and heal and make trips to the bathroom. If I could take a shower then that would be it for my activity for the day. It would literally whipe me out. Try to be patient. If you are having unreasonable pain call your surgeon and get in for an x-ray to check yoru hard ware. I did insist on it once. Mine was fine but I thought for sure I broke something since I was hurting. I had done some leg lifts and my body wasn't ready.

    As for feeling better in the hospital- I was told by my NS that they bathe the area with medicine before the close. It wears off after a few days, not to mention the meds are usually stronger post op.

    Hang in there >:D<


  • Yup, as others have said, 1 week after your fusion is exteremely early days.
    I was also told that before closing up after the surgery, the surgeon injects anaesthetic so that for the first few days, you are getting relief from that. That can mean that after a week, your pain can get worse before it gets better.

    Your body has had quite a trauma by the surgery. It is going to be a few weeks before you start to feel the benefit from it and then a few months before you start to feel anything like normal.

    Meanwhile, get lots of rest, take frequent short walks and give yourself permission to take it easy for a while during this healing phase.

    The good news is that there are lots of friendly people here who have been through the same thing, who are pleased to share their experiences and support you while you recover and heal.

    Things will get better :-)

  • Thank you so much, everyone. I know there are awesome people here because back in the Fall when all this started, I was so impressed with the support and friendliness I saw when I was asking questions then. You have made me feel a million times better today. I am sticking to bed rest, the exercises the surgeon gave me and short walks up and down my driveway and even ventured a few houses down today !! Yay!! I know I was in a panic before and being a baby. Thank you for undertsanding. I was worried I did something to unhinge my hardware and seeing that5 some of you felt the same way calmed me immensely. My surgeon told me all was OK and normal but I wanted to also hear from actual patients so this was awesome. I am glad I posted. Thank you so so much.
    Lee Ellen
  • You leg press 300 pounds and you are only 110 pounds? Ouch. I am about 197pounds but you would probably kick my ass. I am 50 years old. I also had l4l5 fusion. Last time i was at the gym i was just pressing about i think 60 pounds just to get some strength back in to my legs and to help the stiffness in the hips and legs pain after at least 1 year after the fusion.

    You are very early out of surgery so take it easy and dont mess up the fusion by any means. You need to heal and fuse properly and i know its hard to not do what you want to do. Good luck in your recovery. Alex
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • I'm less than a month to go for my own L5S1 fusion. The things that I just read here are exactly the kind of things that I think that I need to know. Thanks for the insights that all of you provided here.

    As far as presses, the only weight I press is the 195 pounds on my poor feet. I seriously need to shed a few pounds!

    Disability retirement
  • Good luck with your surgery, Michael. Please let us know how it all turns out. I am interested in anyone's experiences.
  • after my first fusion, i was told not to lift over 5 lbs or do anything strenuous for 10 months. i had a back brace, a special toilet, i was taught how to get out of bed all of this due to fusion healing. they put bone graphs in your back that is why you have to take it easy for a long time. i had to wear the brace for 6 months. i also had pain afterwards. it is a major surgery and in fact i had to attend a class put on by the hospital before my surgery. they would not operate until you attended. it is one of the most major surgeries out there and if you don't take it easy you can screw up your back and the fusion for good. it is normal to feel pain for a long time. don't overdue it. and my standard answer is that one third get better, one third stay the same and one third get worse. i had my stents removed after 2 years to see if it helped the pain. it did not
    good luck
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • This is what is confusing me a little. My surgeon was very liberal as to what I should and should not do right after my procedure. Basically the instructions were "No BLT" - meaning no Bending, Lifting or Twisting. When I was in the hospital, I felt so much better with regard to the leg pain, knee and foot pain that I had only the surgical site pain, which really was not bad at all. I never had, and still do not have, back pain at all. My surgeon did not put me in a brace, told me to walk, gave me some core and mild leg exercises which actually make me feel better, but it is very hard to not twit in turn in your sleep. Sometimes i wake up and I have done just that. He also did not specify PT but I am going mention that when I see hism this Wednesday for my followup. When i called his office the other day when I first became worried about the return of this pinching pain, and it is much worse than before my surgery, they told me it was normal, that I did not undo anything and to be patient. I am trying...

    My question then is, is a return of the leg pinching sciatic pain, return of it more intense, but still no back pain, something any of you experienced? Is it indeed a case the unpinched nerve is inflamed still and needs time to settle down? i am sure I am panicking and it is too soon for anything but this is far worse sciatic pain than before. Sorry to be a pest here. I am having quite the bad day today and even my meds are not that effective. Moving around helps but they want me on bed rest. I cannot sit though at all. Thank you all in advance.
  • it is weird that some drs say one thing and others day another. i have had 4 surgeries, 2 fusions. the first one was all right but the last one about 5 years ago is one i have not recovered from. my pain is just as bad as before the surgery. sciatic pain, foot numbness, leg pain while laying in bed and extreme pain in the lower part of my back where my first fusion was. my drs obviously were more conservative than yours. did you have to attend classes? i found it very useful. my last fusion did not require a brace and i think i would have felt better if i had one. i live in california and maybe drs here are trained differently than where you live
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • Thanks Terror. yes that was what I felt was weird too. My surgical team was very liberal, IMO. I went to the best in New York , NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, and I trust him wholeheartedly. So his treatment plan post-op sounded fine by me. Personally I was glad he was less restrictive but I never thought i would feel an increase in pain, especially since he uncrimped the nerve that was casuing the problem in the first place.

    I did not have to attend any classes - just worked very hard in building my core and strength which has helped. I am a gym rat anyway so this was not a difficult task. I expected pain and being very uncomfortable but more in the line of surgical site pain and some nerve pain. My surgical site pain is a non-issue and no back pain at all - never had back no. Just this sciatic pain across my left lower buttock, around my knee and into my foot is much worse. is that plausable - unpinching a nerve makes it hurt more? A few residents in the hospital and my surgical team say "yes". - just wanted to know if this happened to otheres here.

  • After your surgery, you are bound to have inflamation from all the cutting of muscles, ligaments and bones. This will take a while to calm down and so you can have nerves that are still being irritated.

    My surgeon hardly gave me any restrictions after my surgery. I didn't wear a brace and he said at 10 days that I could get back to everything!! There was no way that I was ready for that! At 2 months, he said again that I could do anything, including sports. When I asked if that meant lifting my granddaughter and things like gardening and vacuuming, he did say to wait another 3 months before doing that. I am glad that I asked!!

    A doctor told me that my surgeon would tell me that my recovery would take about 3 months but that she would say more like 6 months.
    She was far nearer to the truth.

    Be patient Lee. You are bound to have some good days and some bad days. If you do too much, you are likely to flare your pain up again. Lots of us here have done that on a day when we felt good, and have regretted it.

    Take it easy, it is better to be on the cautious side and have a good recovery than to try to rush it and wish you had been more patient. There are several people on here who have posted that they wished that they had been more careful (even when given the all clear by their surgeons). I haven't read any posts where people are saying that they wish they had not been so careful and got back to doing things earlier than they did!

    While you are healing, and getting bored (bound to happen) come and chat with us. :D

  • Thanks Jellyhall. I will be calling my surgeon again Monday even though my followup is Wednesday. Yesterday was a very bad day while the day before I was encouraged. But yesterday was so bad that the pain left me nauseous and feeling faint. it was that bad. I am up tonite because I cannot sleep but miraculousloy, the pain is not that bad. I am due for meds in 2 hours and usually climbing the walls now to get them but so far, I a ok. I guess it all will be an up and down ride. I want to make sure I did not injure anything with the bathroom incident.

    In 2005 I fell off my roof cleaning gutters. i landed in the hospital for 5 days with 2 broken arms, rib, lacerations to legs and face and a whole host of other things. I almost killed myself. One arm needed surgery to be repaired. I felt more hopeful and less scared after that accident than this procedure. That I knew I would get better - this - well, if I stayed like this I could not live.

    Thank you for the great info here. I need to read "what;s normal". Thanks again

  • and hoping that you managed to get some sleep last night, or are sleeping as I am in the UK and several hours ahead of you. I)

    It sounds like your pain level is very high, and it would definately be a good idea to check with your surgeon. If your pain meds aren't keeping it under control adequately, then he needs to re-think.

    Pain = stress = anxiety = pain = stress ............

    I am cheering you on Lee :H and will be looking forward to your post that tells us that you are over the hump in your recovery.

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Thank you again , Jellyhall. Yes my pain at times is very high - i tolerate pain very well but this knocks the wind out of me if I just lean or step the wrong way. Does that sound normal a week out? Just asking rhetorically - no one should be able to answer that for me :>) I know each person us different and certainly my doctor is rhe expert and should be the final say. I think I can manage OK through the weekend. My family doctor had written a script for me for Ibuprofen 800mg three times a day whereas the one I am taking now is 600mg. This is all not good to take that much NSAIDs, i know, but if the new script coupled with the tramadol helps corral this some, and I have to just get over this pain for a few weeks, then I can manage. At least till my follow up on Wednesday. I do not want to become the panic-stricken patient constantly calling his office :(

    How do you manage your pain? Your experiences sound exactly like mine too with regard to what our surgeons told us. I posted a thread in the medications forum regarding advice for some different types of meds...thinking of neurontin although Lyrica was awful for me...I hear neurontin has the same properties for nerve pain but a different compound and may not cause te same side effects.

    Jellyhall, thank you thank you thank you - you have eased my mind and I feel better . HUGS!!!!!
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I too was surprised at the additional pain I had after my L4/5 fusion. But it wasn't just a fusion, they had to scrape out bone to make more room for my nerves (stenosis), fix my facet joints (no lubrication, bone on bone) and spondylolisthesis (bones offset from each other).

    They have to do so much and it is major surgery. I found myself also without back pain the first few weeks but the nerve pain was so bad that I had to use a walker. Two nights, in the middle of the night, I tried to make it to the bathroom by myself (with my walker) and couldn't, so yelled to my hubby while I was crying. He popped right out of bed and helped me to the bathroom then downstairs to my recliner.

    The nerve pain after lumbar surgery can be very intense, more so than before surgery and that's what's so confounding. Just hang in there and measure your recovery in weeks, not days. There will come a day when you say to yourself "Gee, I'm feeling only surgery pain, not the previous pre-surgery or nerve pain" and that will be a good day. That's when you know you're on your way to healing. But that can be weeks, even a couple of months, down the road.

    Take care of yourself and if you feel you'd like a brace, talk to your surgeon. He may ok it for sleeping if you feel like you're twisting too much or even just as a reminder of no BLT while awake.

    You've been through major surgery and still in the early stages of recovery, so give yourself some time. Take your meds to keep ahead of the pain and walk when you can. But don't forget to rest, rest, rest to let your body adjust to the new you - your new spine.

    Thinking of you.
  • You really might want to talk to your surgeon about something a bit stronger than Tramadol. That's a baby painkiller - they even prescribe it for doggies. See if you can't get something a bit stronger, perhaps some vicodin or oxycodone, to not only help the pain but help with sleeping. Norco is a great painkiller with some APAP in it and can really help. I've been on it for years and it works wonders for me. Muscle relaxers are also very common after lumbar surgery since your back muscles have to grow back together and get very angry while doing so. I have valium, but there are others out there like flexiril, robaxin and skelaxin that can help. I can't imagine a surgeon not being willing to prescribe these for you while you're healing.

    Generally, it takes about six months to feel decent after lumbar surgery and a year to feel somewhat back to normal. Then, depending on what you do, you could get back to normal or if you overdo (like I am with my new job) can have additional mechanical pain. But work with your doctor with some meds to help if you feel comfortable with taking them. There's nothing wrong with that after such a major surgery, nothing at all.

  • Hi Cathie

    Wow another great positive post for me. Your answer did , oh I do not even know, gazillions for me too. Everyone here has been so helpful and helping me not panic. Your words abour the nerve pain made me calmer. My meds are wearing off and I am due for another does so while this morning was encouraging, now I felt sad so reading you response now was perfect timing.

    You are right - measure recovery in terms of weeks noit days. I was a little better before so that i what I will build on.

    I am going to get a toilet riser. The sitting on the toilet seems to provide irriatation right now. Weird, never even thought of that :(

    I hope you are managing well and please I so thank you for your great information!

    Everyone has helped me so much in just 2 days.

    Lee Ellen
  • HI,
    Just read your post, and I do agree that this will take some time to heal...A toilet riser helps me alot, in not only sitting, but getting up again! My dr also told me to always try to keep my shoulders and hips in alignment...like when you roll in bed, try to lift a bit and move your hips, instead of the usual roll. But it may be too soon for that for you. I agree that Tramadol is liking taking nothing..would ask your dr for something else...it does nothing for me either...
    I could not sit in a recliner (and still can't for long) a firm chair was best for me, though not as comfy as being able to stretch out. Also, have you tried to put pillows under your knees when you lay down?(this makes your spine "pull" less) If on your side, put the pillow between your knees, and it helps keep you more aligned. I hope these little tricks can help...believe me, been there done that...but sometimes the little things help the most! Hope you're getting help from all of us in the same situations... Try to smile today!
  • at your stage in the recovery, I couldn't sit for more than about 30 minutes in an upright chair before the pain started again.

    I was very lucky that we had a bed in the lounge, so I could lie down whenever I needed to, but still be among the family. We had that there for the first 2 months and I used it quite a bit of the time. Lying down gave me a break from sitting or standing, so a different position to relax in. My husband put the tv up high, so I could watch it from the bed. It was also lovely to have a different place to relax during the day from my bed at night.

    I agree with Frannie about the pillows between the knees while lying on your side. Place it under your knees if you are lying on your back. That will take some of the stress off your spine.

    By really taking it easy during the early days of my recovery, I was very fortunate to not need to take heavy pain medication. If I over did it, I would go and lie down for 30 minutes or so, which often meant I managed without them.

    Hope that you are having a good weekend.
    Do you have family to help you at home so that you can really take it easy?

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Thanks Frannie. The suggestion about posture is perfect. I have een making a conscious effort to stiffen my core muscles when walking, turning in bed, sitting on the toilet and it really does help. It is a conscious effort though - not something you normally would think to do. I see my doctors this Wednesday so I am armed with a list of questions and medication questions.

    Thank you all so much again. I actually feel better today - little steps ~
    Lee Ellen
  • Hi Jellyhall

    I have family living a block away and a boyfriend who has been phenominal. I was staying at first at his home but it became tough since I was so incomforatble with gas, diarrhea and of course the leg/nerve pain that I knew he needed to sleep better. His toulet was very low too so unless I get the riser Monday, I will stay at my own home, which one toilte is a good height. He has been here most of the time helping me dress, shower etc...

    I doi stand to type this :>) and just to walk every hour as pr my orders from my surgeons. I cannot sit at all yet., I tried numerous configurations for sitting and have not been successful except if I somehow wedge the left leg higher than the right (that is the one with the nerve pain). When I stand use the alignment strategy from Frannie plus hold my core rigid. That seems to help me walk better.

    i have to say today was better as the day progressed. I am not supposed to take pain meds till 7:30 and at this time (3 hours still) I am not in unbelievable pain. Little and what you told me earlier "measure your recovery in weeks not days" is my new mantra.

    Lee Ellen

  • most people say that after the 3rd week they start to feel like they are climbing out of this pit of pain.

    The day will come when you are able to offer your experience and advice to others who are early on in their recovery journey.

    This is like a relay race, and we each take a turn running with the baton of support to others. Then, once we are able to return to our lives, we pass it on to others. (For me, I am staying rather a long time, because I have other problems in my spine. My spine is rubbish, but my dentist tells me I have wonderful teeth! I'll just have to keep smiling to show them off!! :D )

  • Awwww thank you Jellyhall. Turns out my good fortunre from today slid downward tonite but it always gets worse tonite. Yes I will certainly stick around afterward to share my experiences. I think someone her eis having fusion surgery in a few weeks and he felt this thread was very helpful to him.

    i do not regret my surgery even though right now my pain is much worse than pre-op and I cannot even sit at all nor stand even more than 10 or 25 minutes. The thing I figure is my doctor shoved the slipped disk back into place so further damage would be minimized.

    You probably have AWESOME teeth! And a caring heart t match :)
    Lee Ellen
  • Do you have cats?? I have issues very similar to you and have had surgery very similar to yours also but I am fused L1 to S1. I also take tramadol and ambien. I have had 3 fusions and each one has been different in the healing process. Recovery is slow. I was very active like you before my surgeries and I am sure that helped but they really kicked my butt. My last surgery was march 28 and has been the toughest to recover from. Still too much pain as far as I am concerned but some different things were done once they got inside. I have to look at things differently. Instead of my running mileage I have a pedometer to see how far I walk. Gotta have goals no matter how small. Good luck and let us know how the recovery goes.


    Spinal stenosis, spondolysis, spondolythesis, L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion with instrumentation and bone graft from hip, L1/S1 fusion with replacement disc put in and a nice bolt from my spine to my pelvis; PT, accupuncture, prolotherapy, many cortisone injections, 4 rhizotomies. Currently on tramadol.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Thanks Jani. No I do not have any animals. I used to have a veritable farm as I rescued anything. But I work in Manhattan and live on Eastern Long Island so my commute each way is 2 hours door to door and felt that I was not home enough to care for all the animals I had. I would not even guess how I would take care of them now after surgery.

    I had a very bad night but feel a little better again today. I took my 4:00 dose of tramadol/ibuprofen and just before a muscle relaxer but I am still in marked pain. Last night was Hell though. In my life I have not felt pain like this....hopefully this is the healing process that everyone forges through. I remain hopeful that it is.

    I see my surgeons Wednesday for follow up and removal of staples and sutures and I will be bombarding him with questions.

    Oh this is so much a hiumbling exeperience :(
    lee Ellen

  • I recommend that you write all your questions down.
    It is so easy to have your thoughts get side tracked when in front of the surgeon, and forget what you meant to ask.

    I have kept my various questions and things to discuss sheets from my various appointments on my computer, and it is a very useful record of my progress.

    Keep healing :-)

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Thank you (again) jellyall. I actually am puttin it all on my Blackberry, Second time I saw hime before my surgery to re-discuss what he was going to do, I had all my questions on my Blacknberry and was reading them from there. Age of technology :>)

    I just got up before and if I keep my entire upper torso (from hips up) rigid, I can walk OK. I am no tsure this is what they have in mind though but it plays along with the BLT instructions. Sometimes I get messed up and get lazy and move a little while walking and the seering pain shootsa down from my butt to my knee. It is crippling! This is what I want to ask if I should be worried about ...I guess it is OK but just need the surgeon to say so..

    Hope you are doing OK today.
    lee Ellen
  • Sorry you are in so much pain. I am too as I am here typing this. I see my surgeon on wed also. Hopefully for an injection to ease the pain. At 11 weeks post op I am way past the normal fusion pain. I hope all your questions get answered. Keep in touch.


    Spinal stenosis, spondolysis, spondolythesis, L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion with instrumentation and bone graft from hip, L1/S1 fusion with replacement disc put in and a nice bolt from my spine to my pelvis; PT, accupuncture, prolotherapy, many cortisone injections, 4 rhizotomies. Currently on tramadol.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • If anything I have learned about my journey with surgery and chronic pain over the past 5 years, is how little they understand. What works for some people does not work for others. Do your research, use the best doctor ( consult with a few) with the most experience you can find, and expect a long rehab.

    You may also want to try alternative treatments before surgery like acupuncture, Feldenkeis, massage, Pilates etc. I also believe in creating a individualized plan for those of us living with chronic pain, and am creating my own now. It helps me feel like I am in control of my life and treatment not the doctors. This has been really important to me to know I have choices.

    For example, acupuncture does nothing for me, but is great for my friend. Why? They don't know. My neurostimulator really helps me, but it is no quick fix either. Research and use this forum. Lots of knowledge and experience to be found here! And I send my support and hopes for a good outcome! Hang in there.


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