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Recovering from L5S1 surgery

In early May I started with a bout of sciatica that I wrote off as a flare. Turns out that within a month I could barely walk, and had a micro surgery on July 19th. A few days before that I accidentally fell in my living room on the right, and bad, side.

I was grateful to awake from surgery (before the surgery, for a few days, I was on a morphine pump) with no pain, but found it hard to deal with the numbness in the right buttock, calf and foot. It's improved everywhere but the foot. It's still awkward to walk, but I have next to no strength to do anything like put on or remove shoes, much less drive.

So I'm on extended medical leave from my job. A major, I think, depression has set in. As my wife works, and the kids have been away and now back in school, I've been terribly alone. We have no family here...mine's one the east coast, hers on the west. I miss going to work, although it seems as if they're doing OK without me. I'm worried I won't gain the strength to use the right foot for driving.

I've been able to go to church since late May. One attempt in June was a disaster, as I couldn't sit or stand without level 10 pain. I watch Mass daily, but it's not the same.

I loved walking, and usually did 3-5 miles per day when I could...now 100 feet wipes me out. Everything from walking, which I am scared to do by myself, to showering is exhausting.

It's certainly not that I wish the pain would return...the night of the fall, my wife took me to the ER, and I explained that on a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 20...ER offered little help, so I almost took a whole bottle of Demerol. So I don't miss the pain, but am struggling with this recovery...the physical changes, loneliness, uselessness, and such.

So I'm seeking advice on how others dealt with this. Thanks.


  • Hi DJ, I'm casey. I'm also going thru whaat ur going thru. I know how it feels to be "weighted down" with recovery, not being able to enjoy life as we watch others go on with their lives. I feel for u, I really do...idk your view on antidepressant therapy, but for me it helped. I've also begun doing things for the church and such from home (paperwork, etc) to still feel a part of my old life. I walk as far as I can and the next time maybe just a step or two more. Last week I was squatting to get a pair of shorts from the basket and lost my balance and toppled backwards. Luckily I had a dr appt the next day and nothing was damaged (so he said), but it instilled a fear in me and a panicky feeling that I will never get better. Reading from this site helps, finding new hobbies and keeping a journal of ur progress can help u see what progress ur making. Feel free to PM me if u need to talk more, but if nothing else, know that what ur feeling is quite typical when ones physical well being is altered. The emotional well being isn't far behind, we just gotta stay one step ahead! Praying for u....
  • DJDDJ Posts: 15
    edited 08/20/2012 - 2:38 PM
    Thanks much. I've been feeling a bit better. Some of the scar tissue seems to be reawakening, but nothing that a few Aleves don't fix.

    The worst part, as I extend my walking, is that my right foot hurts so much it sometimes keeps me awake at night. I'm hoping this goes away! Driving is a challenge...a few blocks and it starts to fatigue.

    Thanks for your kind words.
  • I had L5/S1 fusion a year ago march. It was my 3rd fusion. I had a difficult recovery as the disk had to be replaced (dsicovered after they got in) and a ligament was stretched so I had continuing pain. I was unable to walk the distances I used to.

    It is always a slow process to recover. I am always anxious to get back to normal but I am not even sure what that is now!! One very wise doctor who knew me well, when I asked if I could start doing my normal activities told me "Healing takes energy too." I have always remembered that.

    I take anti depressants and they do help. It can be very lonely. This is a great website for talking with people who have the same issues and you will find you are not alone.

    After my 2nd fusion it took me 3 years to get back on my time trial bike but I never gave up. I am back not being able to ride it again after the last fusion but am still working towards that. Not anytime soon because I have another fusion in my future.

    What does your doctor say about your right foot??

    Good luck and keep me posted on how you are doing.

    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.
  • Hi,

    Another spiney here. What surgery did you have done? You say micro but not what was done. If you had a disc herniation that was repaired you may very well have another. Let us know what was done.

    It does take a balancing act at home to keep from going nuts especially if you were a active person prior to all this. Most of the people here were very active which makes it hard to have it all taken away from you, even for a short period of time. Some of us longer then others. I have found it really doesn't do ANY good to dwell on what was but to figure out how to move forward again. It can be very hard.
  • Thanks all so much.

    How have you dealt with the challenge of driving?

    My doctor didn't recommend PT. He said I could do what they do at home, in terms of exercise and walking. Walking is excruciating...especially the aftermath.

    My worry is that my work sick leave is dwindling, and I'll have to go back, but worried about taking a two ton vehicle on the road for thirty miles!
  • So late last week, my 8 year old asked why my right leg was so fat...I just laughed.

    Went for surgical follow up, and he noticed the leg looked swollen. Thinking it a muscle problem, he squeezed my leg all over the place, and hit a spot when I screamed and about jumped into the ceiling. He consulted my internist, and within 5 minutes was having an ultrasound.

    Within another 10 minutes I was getting shots in my stomach and getting a script for Coumadin. Turns out I have a major blood clot in my leg.

    How many of you have dealt with this in your recovery? I have these dang shots for 7 days, and will probably be on the blood thinner for 6 months.
    edited 03/09/2013 - 2:40 PM
    I'm female, 31 years old and had a L5,S1 4 weeks ago.
    It all started with a very bad sciatica on the left leg and foot. I could not walk, stand or seat for not even 3 minutes. Lying down on bad for 9 weeks until I decided to do the surgery. Tried Epidural injection, which did not work at all, tried spinal decompression, but stopped in the middle to do the surgery.

    Pos Surgery was EXTREMELY painful, the first 48 hours I was in extreme pain and extreme weak.
    As recommended, I started walking after the second day, but 5 minutes was too much.
    Started increasing the time of the walk a little bit everyday and today, after 4 weeks I am walking 1 hour a day. Still with no BLT - bending, lifting, twisting, but overall I'm feeling good.
    The only thing that I'm complaining, and wanted to ask if anyone had this, I'm having kind of cramps on my left calf during the night and I am waking up every day with my left calf extremely tight. It looses up after a while, but it is umconfortable.

    I'm having my 6 week pos surgery check up in 2 weeks, and I will check with my doctor.
    But as I said, overall I"m great, came back to work within 2 weeks, going to church, going out to eat.
    Driving is the most difficult thing for now.
  • EmilyEEmily Posts: 112
    edited 03/10/2013 - 4:01 PM
    I am 2 years out and still get those if I've spent too many days sitting instead of walking. I'm sure it's the sciatic nerve or something that gets irritated and tightens up the muscles. If I walk and do my stretches, it's fine.
  • Hi
    I had L5/S1 disc replaced 6 weeks ago and started with pins and needles/numbness and pain in my left leg and foot 3 weeks after the op and it won't go away:-(
    Has anyone else experienced the same and if so how long did it last
  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 03/15/2013 - 11:40 AM
    Hi DaveC. I had pins/needles/numbness/and pain resulting from surgery. Nurotin helped me tremendously in that regard. If you are currently taking a nerve medicine, don't give up on it because it does take time to work. The only thing that does somewhat concern me about your vomment is that this started 3 weeks after the operation. It could easily still be nerves that just need some time to heal, but I'd still suggest giving the surgical nurse a call to discuss it. Better safe than sorry.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Cheers for the quick reply allmetal,
    Yeah it didn't start till 3 weeks after the op, I'm wondering if it's because I spent those first few weeks basically sat about in pain not doing much and then began doing more physical activities?
    How long did it take for your pins and needles/numbness to disappear?
  • mhalfpennymmhalfpenny Posts: 1
    edited 03/15/2013 - 12:47 PM
    Hello everyone. This is my first forum. I have been reading alot of your notes. And alot of your notes sounds like what I have been going through. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy. I have just a tad different I had my first surgery 4/24/2011. felt great even came home the same day. 5 days into it I had to go back in I ended up with a spinal leak! Thats when the world has ended for me. Since then I have not been doing well at all... Bed ridden for over 35 days only aloud to sit up for 15 mins a day. (Bed Pan) Which I think made the 2nd surgery worse. My tail bone is now sticking almost of of my skin. It hurts to sit Cars and walking are so over rated.. My doc says this is normal tail bone. but every other person looks at it and looks aways. its black and blue from sitting on it rubbing along jeans. So I cant wear jeans and the scaita nerve is so inflamed that I been going to the ER altest once a mth To get a shot. I have 12 injecctions and have Lyrica and other nerve pills which none of them work. But the doc says there is no more he can do. We can put man on the moon but cant fix are spins?????Or is just in my head...I need my life back. I have 5 grandchildren that are ready for the Grandmother back to play...Like dancing and running and cartwheels. I even like to walk. But now I cant even sleep let alone walk. has anybody had this happen to them? Please help.....
    michelle halfpenny
  • I'm so sorry this has happened to you. How many spine specialist have you seen? If you have seen less than two I'd say try another one. I will say your comment that sitting on jeans is leaving you bruised is concerning. Have you shared this with your primary care doctor? I wouldn't think the bruising would be spine related since your surgery was so long ago. I hope you are feeling better soon.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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