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How long can I expect to be on pain medication?

RachelSRachelS Posts: 16
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Pain Medications
I am five weeks post op L5/S1 TLIF. I just ran out of my Percocet 10/325 and have been switched to Tylenol 3 (I'm allergic to Vicodin, so this was my doctor's second choice). There are no refills on this bottle of T3 and I don't see my surgeon again until the end of June. With that said, I'm wondering how long people usually are on their pain meds after this type of surgery. I'm assuming I'll be calling my surgeon's nurse to give me refills once I'm done with this bottle (or calling much sooner if the T3s don't work, as I've heard I'm going to feel like I'm on nothing, which makes me really nervous for tomorrow and after). At what point will my surgeon send me to a pain mgmt doc, or will he just keep doing my meds?

Thanks for any information you can give me on this. I'm really clueless when it comes to the meds, and I don't want my doctor thinking I'm a drug seeker. :)


  • your not a drug seeker ..you have only just had an operation ..and a massive one too! don't worry about medication issues ..just contact your doctor and reorder some more pain killers ..anyone thats has your kind of operation is GENUINE .YOU will be in medication for a long time yet ..unless you heal dramatically ..don't worry !
    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
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    ..pain doc to you? surgeon may need to be reminded, since,my experience anyway, surgeon forgets stuff after surgery is completed. They start to scrub their hands for next surgery. :)

    And yeah, very good idea to let someone know if you need more or something else..more effective for pain.

    Like Tony said, you had big surgery. The surprise would be if you didn't need anything.

    Hope your healing is smooth and you feel better soon.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    I know that with most surgeons, they will take a patient out 4 weeks, perhaps 6 weeks, but after that, you would need to have another doctor take care of your medications.

    As Savage indicated, your surgeon should be able to put you in touch with a Pain Management doctor or a Physiatrist who will be able to work with you in terms of additional medications.

    Many doctors like to look at a 2 month post surgery as a cut off for narcotic pain medications. But that is only a general statement. Depending on your surgery, how you initially started to heal, physical therapy sessions, etc... that time period can change.

    But one thing for sure, give yourself plenty of time to make sure that you have medications available. Many times getting an appointment to see one of the above doctors can take some time.

    My suggestion would be to start discussing this with your surgeon and their office, having them help you get to the next doctor and to ensure that you will have the proper pain medications during this phase.
    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
  • What I learn from my surgery is after 2 month I called my Dr and nurse told me it won't be filled Cause There was no more the Dr could do. So I had to find my own Pm Dr That took 3 weeks to see him. So I had to go 3 weeks with out any meds. worse 3 weeks in my life.

  • Thanks so much for all your comments. There is a pain mgmt doc at my surgeon's office, so I think I will talk to my surgeon's nurse and ask her if she recommends I start seeing him. The only good thing about this is I used to work for my surgeon, so I'm still pretty friendly with everyone there and they've been very good to me. We had bad storms today, so today has been terrible with the T3s. They are knocking me out and I'm only taking one pill each dose. Yet while they are knocking me out, they aren't touching my pain at all, but I don't know if that may be because of the bad weather. I'm going to give it the weekend and if I'm not feeling better, I'll be on the phone Monday trying to either get my Percocets back or something better than this... and something that won't knock me out.
  • I would say you are probably in good hands :)

    If these T3 do work (which will surprise me if they do) don't wait until your down to just a a few days of it left before you call. You don't want to end up waiting to be seen & not have anything.

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • Hopefully it will all work out, but I'm not feeling too optimistic about that. I just know there's got to be something better out there that is not Vicodin to help with the pain. I am not sure what they have against the Percocet, especially since I was only taking one 10/325 three times a day. They worked great and actually made me pain free until it was time for my next dose. I was allowed to take them every four hours and was also allowed to do two tabs instead of one, but I had it down to one tab every eight hours, which I thought was pretty good. So glad I found this forum. It's nice to know I have a place to go to talk... while my husband has been more than wonderful, I'm sure he's tired of hearing about my back. ;)
  • Rachel I'm in the same dilemma in a couple of ways.

    First off, my fiance` is at her breaking point hearing about my back pain. It's all I talk about anymore. And why wouldnt it be? It never leaves me alone these days.

    I just told her last night I was no longer going to mention my back. I'm only going to say "I don't feel good". We just got engaged last month and I can tell she's sick of it already (i got further injured right after the engagement). I'm only 30 and we havent had sex in a month.... Yeah, if I don't deal with this soon I'm not going to have a fiance` anymore. It's like people that are not suffering cannot understand why you don't feel good. Chronic is the key word -

    Also, my medications havent been touching my pain in some time. I'm scared to ask for anything else at the chance of being cut off and labeled as a seeker. The stuff they've tried has not helped. I cannot keep going 1 month between appts. and things not helping.

    People who drug seek are asking for meds like - Percocet, "Roxi 30's", stuff like that. I've been educating myself on drug seekers lately because I personally need something, whatever it is, and I refuse to be called a seeker. They often say things like "I'm allergic to such and such medicine" I need "X" medicine. There's a whole forum dedicated to opiate abuse. It's sickening for CP patients.

    I personally responded well to opiate treatment in the beginning and up until around December of last year. Now it's not enough. Something has changed and it's maddening. The Norco are still taking care of my muscular pain, but the nerve pain is maddening. I need something with little side effects and good pain relief.... Whatever it is.

    I wish you the best with your pain journey. It's not easy, that I know. CJ
  • Oh, and for the original topic discussion -

    Nobody can answer that question. To be honest, I couldnt care less how long I'm on SAFE (being the key word) pain medicine. I've long since accepted the fact that I'll never be normal again. Now I'm only looking for as normal a life as possible. If it involves medicine, so be it.

    Only when (if you're taking narcotic) you find yourself taking meds to get high - feel good - however you want to say it, should you worry about a problem. If you find yourself abusing your medicine, get it in check. Tell someone, like a family member. If that doesnt help seek a professional.

    When I began narcotic treatment I wondered about addiction. I struggled with the idea of becoming an addict. What I've learned is that it's not the medicine that controls addiction, it's you. Control your meds and you'll never have a problem.

    I quit smoking last year so I know very well what it feels like to be an addict. Once I accepted I was only smoking because I was addicted, kicking the habit was so much easier than I could have imagined.
  • Only 5% of people who take narcotics become addicted. CJ, I think I've seen you on here before so forgive me if I give you the same advice as before. I think you must be managed incorrectly, it doesn't look like you are getting the help you need if your world is revolving around your pain. Have you tried Neurontin/gabapentin, great med for nerve pain! Its been really working well for me for my nerve pain but my pain is of course multifaceted, complicated. I hope you find something that will give you back your life!
    Rachel, I work with a surgeon who will manage people's pain for only 6 weeks and then he sends you to your primary doctor. I would definetly call and get something set up. They are required to manage your pain! Do NOT wait until you are out. I see people who do that all the time, they wait till they are out and then they come to an appointment with me (I'm a hand therapist) and say, "I just took my last percocet this morning, I need more medication" or some are even starting to have withdrawals. I can't do anything about it except get them connected with the nurse who then deals with the refills (and I DO try to advocate for the patient and say, ***** is really having a lot of pain and needs something. But it drives me nuts that they wait that long. Sometimes the doctor and the physician assistants are unavailable and for percocet, you need to pick up the script in person it can't be called in so sometimes you are just out of luck! So anyway, let them know before you run out, ask them what their policy is too, you can always do that and use your primary if you need to in between the surgeon and the PM doc, he/she may be willing to get you a script to hold you until you can get in. If your primary doc won't do that, I think you need a new one because for CP patients, I think its absloutely necessary that your primary doc believes/understands that you are having pain and has empathy and compassion even if he/she isn't the one managing it (which I think CP patients should not be managed by primary care anymore than those with rheumatoid arthritis should be managed by primary care).
  • I have found so far that my T3s are working just fine for my pain, which I am surprised about considering I'm just now 6 weeks out. I'm only taking one pill three times a day, and sometimes only two times a day. I'm really happy so far with my progress. I just started therapy and my range of motion in my back so so good that my therapy is only focused on my left leg, which has major loss of sensation due to S1 nerve damage.

    CJ, I'm sorry you are going through what you are going through. I was also going to suggest you look into Neurontin or Lyrica as it sounds like you are having a neuropathy. I feel bad for you that you have the bulging discs. While surgery is no fun, I really think surgery is better than them not being able to do anything at all. It is no good to have discs pressing on nerves.

    I was not worried about getting addicted, but I know that a lot of people are labeled that way and I certainly did not want that. Thankfully the T3s are working, so I don't have to worry about asking for something more potent. And I also used to smoke (I quit right before my fusion). While I've actually maanged that ok, I have substituted it for chocolate and regular pepsi (feel good food). Since I'm able to get out a move now, plus started physical therapy, I am going to be moving more and I will stop all the junk food and lose some weight. I have to because my doc said if I didn't, I risk having an accordian effect on the other discs in my back, and I don't want to go through this ever again.

    Thanks again, everyone! Hope everyone starts to feel better soon. :)
  • Why do you say you will never be normal again?

    Have you had surgery yet to try to fix the bulge in the disc? Like removing part of the disc pressing on the nerve? Or any surgery at all to get releif?

    Sorry if i missed it on your previous post posibly if you did have some kind of surgery that might have failed,
    But if you did not have surgery then it would be premature to think you can never be beter and normal,

    I was your age 29 when i 1 st started to have back issues same time frame i got married, My mri never showed anything to realy fix with surgery so for me it was a long battle with pain and not knowing what the future holds for me,

    I was divorsed 2 years later as i realised wife was not suportive at all and i did not want anyone who was not suportive as i seen no future with her being that way,

    So me being 51 years old now i can say if she is not behind you and is not suportive now it will only be worse after you get maried,

    So if you need surgery do it now while not married and see if she stands by you during your recovery, If she dont then it was never ment to be, If she does then you have a beter chance it will work in the long run,

    But if you need surgery and she sees you not doing anything about it then i might see her point of geting tierd of hearing about it,

    As i said i have no idea if you had surgery or not and if you done everything it takes to try to get beter or not,

    So i am only giving that advise based on that,

    Best of luck to ya!
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
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