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3 months post op how long????

DH is 3 months post op from a 1 level (l4/l5) TLIF with disk removal and laminectomy. Although he is somewhat better he is still not good. He is trying to lower his pain medication (oxycontin,oxycodone) slowly, but he is still in a lot of pain, mostly in the sacrum area and burning in his butt. Sitting is very problematic. We even got another car because our older one was too small. This one is better but is still hard to sit. He is very depressed. He took Lyrica for a month and that really messed him up with TERRIBLE side effects and withdrawals. These still occur occasionally a month after he's been off it. We are both very discouraged that we will ever have a normal life without pain. I know he feels like a prisoner in his own home and doesn't see a hopeful future.

Anyone like to share where they were at 3 months post op? Meds, pain levels, mobility. The doctor won't say much other than "you may be one of a small percentage that takes longer for the nerve pain to resolve". Uh...not very encouraging Doc.

Any help would be appreciated.



  • It has only been 5 weeks since my Discectomy and I am in pain also. I can only imagine three months of pain. I am current.y taking Lyrica, Hydrocodone, and Ibuprofin. I have gotten no relief whatsoever from the pain with the Lyrica. I have gotten weight gain however, which is one of the Lyrica side effects. I have scored the Hydrocodone in half because I am almost comatose after this stuff kicks in. Hate living and functioning like this. Driving can be somewhat of a challenge for me also, I find myself sitting at a slight angle in the seat, with the surgery side of my back, a little pushed out from the seat, so it does not bear the the weight. Getting in and out of the car can be a task at times as well. Twisting and turning, and the
    pain goes right down my leg. I am trying to lower the dosage on the meds myself. I do not want to become a pill zombie. I hope that you are able to use some of this information in your quest to pain freedom! Good luck
  • cbavierccbavier Posts: 4
    edited 09/04/2012 - 3:34 AM
    Are you talking about post Op pain or pain from the actual damage to your spine? The Ruptured Disk? The post op pain should be gone after three or four months but the area where you were cut will still be tender for several years,maybe as many as six or seven. As far as pain from the Herniated disk, Back pain. I have been in back pain 33 years and still have a lot of severe back pain. Sometimes so severe I can hardly dress in the the morning. That is why I have the Tens Unit and am scheduled for a Temporary Stim Implant.
  • I am 70 years old and had a 4 level lumbar fusion on June 5 of this year. I am doing great. My walking goal is 2 miles a day but I seldom get in more than a mile. I am out of the brace that I had to wear. I am totally free of the pain I had before surgery. As I am getting lots more active I have some minor low back pain at the surgery site. I have been driving for only a few days, but riding in the car is not painful.

    I wonder how long since your husband has seen his doctor. What does he/she say? I would try to get back to see the surgeon and find out if what is hurting is normal.

  • MaryNMMaryN Posts: 2
    edited 09/05/2012 - 12:35 PM
    I have been on Ms contin, Lyrica and Norco for over 2 years preop so that I could function until the surgery on 6/28. I find myself without the same pain I had preop, but still have pain all across my hip level and when I walk, after about 15 min, it feels like my muscles seize up and then I am very sore the next day...but I am trying.
    I am also trying to reduce my medications, which after 2years, is proving to be difficult without being very sensitive to side effects. My physician is helping me to work with the MS Contin first. I don't know whether I will come off the Lyrica-I started that for some nerve damage I had from a previous multiple lumbar lami. I can tell you I feel it has been a miracle med, but the weight gain is pretty painful. I have also had trouble with my concentration and some drowsiness that has plagued me at my job.
    My question is how long does the fusion really take to heal. I've seen 3-6 months, but how do you know? I have had an xray and will again in Nov., but is that how I will know when to increase activity?
    I've been told not to twist or bend at the waist. Is that generally just for this time frame?
    Also, I would like to see whether anyone else can confirm when to restart antiinflamatories? I believe I see where it says not until the fusion heals. Again, how do I know when the fusion heals?

    Thank you for any input you have and I hope someone else can benefit from my progress.
    Mary Namovice
  • Welcome Mary,
    It can take much longer for recovery than you think. If you have pretty good bones, they say fusion can occur within 6 months. My husband is post op 3 months and his Dr. said he can take anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofin. He still can't lift anything very heavy, say over 10 lbs. We had his 3 month X-ray and couldn't see anything, but dr says it may take 6 months to show up in a X-ray. Also bending and twisting is not recommended for quite a while, don't know a time frame. Walking ALOT is great.

    Glad the Lyrica works for you. It is a miracle for some, for others like my husband, the drug from hell! He also is trying to taper the opiates down and it is tough. So, just take it slow and be good to yourself!

  • Thank you so much for your post, Marcy!
    I appreciate your info...does confirm some of my thinking.
    You know, I am so impatient sometimes, especially with myself as I bet a lot of us are out here. We really do neec to take care of ourselves for a change and perhaps our bodies will tell us when we are ready to go!
    Keep thinking of moving forward, expect a backward here and there and start again.
    I'm sure many of us have been "type A" and are not used to being out of control of things.
    Mary Namovice
  • CherylCCCherylC Posts: 185
    edited 09/08/2012 - 2:01 AM
    Hi Marcy

    I had TLIF at L4/L5 end of November last year. Had a few problems immediately after surgery that slowed my recovery down and also had some nerve damage at L5 which has left me with a slight foot drop. I now wear a brace on my left leg to stop me from hurting my foot. That being said - at the 3 month mark I was still in a lot of pain and had major issues driving my car because I couldn't get the set into a good position. Like you - I bought a new car that was easier for me to drive.

    9 months down the track and the X-rays have shown that there is no bone growth whatsoever. The reason for this is that the cage migrated forward and there was not enough left between the bones to allow the fusion. We knew this had happened early on but the ns hoped that there would still be enough for it to work.

    Throughout my recovery I have still had major problems with my right hip, sacrum, both legs and feet. Further testing has shown that I also need to have a fusion at L5/S1 so he is going to do a 2 level fusion in the next few weeks.

    My story aside - give it time. Make sure that he does his exercises and walks as best as he can. Nerves can take a long time to recover especially if they have been compressed for a while.
  • BkinsBBkins Posts: 364
    edited 09/08/2012 - 3:59 AM
    Sorry to hear you and the hubby are having problems.

    TLIF surgeries usually can cause a lot of nerve issues. It is one of the reasons that a lot of surgeons hesitate to go in through the side like that. Going in through the side allows surgeons to put cages into the disc space without having to open up the front and do a 360 operation. There are a ton of nerves running along the sides of our bodies, at least along the spime. This may be why you hubby is having nerve issues. I am guessing these nerve issues were not there before the operation. You don't say what all was done other then the disc was removed.

    There are other nerve medications out there that may help although I can understand your feelings of not wanting to try something else. Unfortuately most of them take some time to build up tp a level that helps. I am currently taking Neurotin and am dealing with trying to get used to the side effects. The good thing is in the short time I've been taking it it does seem to help. I've been told that I need to get built up to a higher level then I am taking which I am not looking forward to. I am taking 300 mg 3 times a day and the Dr. wants me to go up to 600 3 times a day. Oh boy I can't wait. Most of us go through the issues of getting used to these drugs.

    Right now may not be the time to be stopping the pain medicine your husband is taking. You body will tell you when its time to start tapering down. If the pain medicine in its full strength was helping I would continue to take it. It really doesn't sound as though its time for the hubby to stop.

    You guys are probably feeling like you shutins at this point. I would suggest start inviting friends in to visit and if your husband can get out of the house, even for a short time it will help. Start asking him to go fix something for you or do whatever you guys used to do. In other words try to get his mind off his situation. Back surgeries can and do stop your life as you knew it. It is up to you to create a new life and not dwell on what you had. What you had most likely will come back with the passage of time. Has the doctor said anything other then your in a small percentage, blah, blah blah. As you have probably read you are still early in the recovery process especially if your dealing with nerve issues.

    I had a 360 done 3 months ago where 2 more levels were added to my single level fusion in my lower back and I'm not doing as well as I was hoping. I still need to use a walker to get around and a lot of my muscles feel like butter. This is after 6 weeks of PT with a spine specialist. My situation is somehwat different than most in that this was the 4th time surgeons needed to go in through the same hole as it were. I had a lammi first, then a fusion, then a revision fusion, and finally 2 levels added to my fusion. 2 of these surgeries were 360ies where they cut open my front and back together. The first 360 was a 7 hour operation and the 2nd was for 10 hours.

    I am on oxycodone and Neurotin and do PT 3 times a week. It has been a long and grinding process so far. It is very depressing but I guess the key point here is to not give up and get stuck in a hole. It is very easy to be depressed and if you see your husband falling into this I would urge you to get him some medical help. There are a lot of people out there who are worse off then what you guys are experiencing if that helps you any. Back issues can and does take away your former life but usually its for a period of time only.

    I will say again to try to change up the situation and get out and do things. It is most likely not the time to be cutting back on pain medicine.

    I wish you luck and hope you and your husband feel better.
  • backache99backache99 Posts: 1,338
    edited 09/08/2012 - 4:38 PM
    it will take at least 12 months to recover and you will need your pain killers for a long time .you have had major surgery and healing take its time .my consultant told me that in my case my recovery will be around three years due to previous poor surgery
    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
  • Thanks to you all for responding. Hubby is doing better. The car is helping and he is getting out a little more. He starts PT tomorrow and is continuing to try to lower his meds. Before surgery we traveled full-time in our RV, so when we are able to leave Texas, he must be off the oxycontin as prescriptions cannot be filled out of state. Thus, he's been relying more on hydrocodone. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. You've all been through so much. I have new respect for those of you who persevere thru this tough stuff with such great attitudes.

  • I personally didn't realize the extent of what my body went thru for the surgery. I tried to watch several videos, but became ill at the viewing. I figured I had a great surgeon, I knew the hospital and my confidence in the procedure was excellent, I figured I would leave it up to the team. I had instructions that included what not to take from pills to vitamins due to the fusion. I had instructions of what I couldn't do for 30 days and 60.

    What wasn't clear was the true reason why. I figured I could easily do the walking, once up and about. I had been hiking and backpacking for years. I used my treadmill that was able to have a zero incline, and begin at a very very very slow speed. It has a very wide belt and long arms. I didn't realize the importance of such things, until my control board expired and I had my parents "closet" treadmill brought to my home. I couldn't use it. I begins at an incline and at high rate of speed, not to mention that the belt is thin and the arms are flimsy. I bought a new control board.

    I thought the instructions given, "30 minutes of walking or as tolerated", meant "at least" 30 minutes, more if possible. I could do more....well on my good days, until the good days stopped coming, because I had done too much too soon.

    I figured that "do not lift more than 10#" meant that if it was "at or under", good body core movements, I could do UPPER body work, Wrong again....everything is connected to the back muscles and fibers that run down along the spine.

    Bottom line: The surgery basically "sprained" everything along my spine and I had to treat it as such. I wasn't. The stronger I allowed my back muscles to get back to normal, muscles that some may have been over worked from compensating for pain and others that had been "lax" due to the same pain. Last but not least the spreading of the muscles, fibers and everything else that surrounds spines, during the surgery, were affected. So the twisting and turning, bending and reaching, were straining what was already strained. This doesn't help the healing factor.

    So the instructions are REST, by not twisting, turning, etc....the best you do that the muscles surrounding the spine will get a chance to heal, then comes the Physical Therapy, when everything is ready. The PT is strengthen back those muscles to hold the spine in place again the way it should be. The exercises that will be learned, will be a life lesson, not just until you feel better. Good posture, strong cores, etc will guide the rest of your life and how to live it. Depending on age and diversity of the injury, will determine how well you will heal, how long it will take, and what the final outcome will be. I have learned that no matter if 2 people have the "exact same" surgery, in the "exact same place of the spine", same diagnosis, same surgeon, same everything......think near as twins, it doesn't mean you will heal the same.

    Once I "learned" the lessons above....took a home nurse visit, a couple of calls to my surgeon's assistants doing the "ugly cry", a friend who is a massage therapist, basically a few "2 x 4", "come to Jesus", conversations, I have been doing my best to follow all the rules, now past the 60 day mark, still doing them, in hopes of helping what I may have hurt. Doctor's visit is in 2 days. Hoping I get the " you didn't mess up, except time of repair will take longer" diagnosis vs "too bad, so sad, you've messed up royally". Regulating my Gaberpentin (4800mg down to 2400mg) for my nerves is easy and manageable, even now knowing that it is part of my weight gain...I'd rather have the nerve damage at a manageable pain level. My nerve pain I can manage, the back ache, knife piercing pain along my lower back, when I wake up, sit too long, or realize I bent, twisted, reached....etc too much, that is taking my breath away, and worries me most.
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