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chronic back pain after ALIF Spine Surgery L4/L5, L5/S1

Hello, my name is Susan. I have had degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis for years. The past few years the back pain got worse and I was having frequent episodes that was keeping me out of work, not to mention the numbness and pain in my left foot, that was constant.
After a couple of years of weighing the pros and cons of ALIF surgery, I finally decided to walk into the Hospital in which I was employed on May 21, 2012, and have the surgery. I was in fear of losing my job, if I continued to miss work.
My spinal surgeon told me 12 weeks recovery. He never spoke or even hinted that the recovery time could take longer.
I am heading toward the 4 month mark, and am still experiencing extreme pain. I am taking hydros and muscle relaxers around the clock to make the pain bearable, and am still unable to return to work, which really doesn't matter, since I have lost my job, insurance and benefits, since I only had 12 weeks FMLA. I go to my DR every six weeks, and tell him the same thing, That my left foot is still numb, my back still hurts, with addition to abdominal pain to the equation.
I am so frustrated, because, I was never told by my Dr that the recovery time for some is months, and from what I have been reading, and people I have talked to in person, sometimes it takes months, years, to get over the pain.
Each time I go to my Dr, he just looks at the xray and says the fusion is taking place, and I am doing fine.
I am NOT doing fine. I am just now being weaned off the turtle shell brace, I have not driven in almost 4 months, due to the brace and the meds. Have lost my job, and am in constant pain.
I have tried everything to get rid of the pain. I've tried resting and exercise. I've tried not resting so much, and doing housework and grocery shopping......it's the same. The pain returns in full force, an hour or so before my next dose of medicine.
i just do not know what to do, or what to expect for my future.


  • Hello Susan. I am also new to these boards my name is Rob and I can understand where you come from.

    I actually enjoyed my job (sounds nutty right LOL) I was an HVAC Tech and had my accident with 3 steps and wiped out L4-L5 L5-S1 and I just about lost the ability to walk when I went out of work in 1996 After going to more then one Dr and dealing with the pain, I decided to go with the surgery to fix my back. Well after the surgery I was so sorry I did it I had more pain then I could deal with and that was after the morphine push.

    The pain did go away and I was happy as a pig in crap then it all came back with a vengeance and got progressively worse.

    I have Degenerative disc disease stenosis of the disk above the fusion nerve damage.

    The surgery consisted of removal of the discs rods screws laminectomy bone dowel in the front for stabilization and a few other things I have forgotten from that long ago (maybe I just no longer want to remember it) As I stated the pain all came back, the problem was on the left side and now I have lots of problems with my left leg as far as walking and sitting for times.

    I miss doing what I used to do and I also found out that friends do not realize what you go though when you live with pain on a daily basis as we do. I had a friend that is a Chiropractor and he would never understand until he was lifting weights one night and he hurt his neck and he laid on the couch like a little Mary lol I said to him OK now you know what I have 24-7 lol he finally understood.

    If you want to chat some time let me know, I hope you feel better.
  • backache99backache99 Posts: 1,338
    edited 09/22/2012 - 9:18 PM
    first let me say i can talk first hand as i too have had ALIF at the same level as you and i will also tell you that the consultant are always optimistic about recovery times 12 WEEKS IS NOTHING .it took me 6 weeks to be able to shower myself .for the first 2 months i was living like a dead man.it been hard work ..and i can tell you that it doesn't always get esier .it been 9 months since i had my ALIF and my main problem is sleep deprivation {ten years now] and continued back pain and something new leg and foot swelling and altered sensations in my legs and a massive drug consumption !!! .anti life fantastic!!.sue ..don't beat yourself up hun ..rest as much as you can it a long haul not a sprint ,,my consultant was honest with me and told me i would have problems after surgery and my recover would be long and hard and take between 2/3 years ...YES i said years not months try a recliner to get comfy on i use mine all the time .propped up with 4 strategically placed memory foam pillows .a grabber help with things that fall on the floor .like i said there are many posts on here that you should be able to get information from .by the way i am from theUK. ...talk soon
    tony ♥
    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
  • and its not good folks .I thought by now I would be so much better but as I read my last post I am about the same ,but my legs and feet swell my toes are numb I am sleeping for only 2 maybe 3 hours a night then I always wake in pain ,life is boring and hard work .there are so many things that I miss doing .like wearing normal clothing !! I can't even wear normal pants like jeans and things as anything on my lower legs feels like its burning I can't stand it .I have gained weight due to inactivity from the pain and nerve damage .even swimming that I love make my back hurt and my legs and feet swell this was never the case before the ALIF I had ;;nice legs and slim feet for a man ..I hate the way I look .pain just doesn't affect you in the area where you were operated on it affect so much more of your body if it doesn't wreck your mind it wrecks your body ..you can't win /sometimes I feel like I need to pee but as soon as I stand there or even sit I carnt then as soon as I get back on my recliner I want to go again !!! I am 47 not 74 !! the consultant told me this is something that can happen after ALIF .the fusion was needed as my spine was unstable .but as for pain it WORSE !!
    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
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 03/11/2014 - 8:51 AM
    Have you ever consulted with an anesthesiologist? The reason that I am asking is after reading many of your posts, I suspect that you may in fact have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy given your description of the pain and it's effects, the not being able to wear pants, the skin sensations......it is also known now as Chronic or Complex Regional Pain syndrome or Central Pain syndrome......there are treatments for it, and while they may not eliminate the pain, they can get it under better control than what you are describing .....the overall components of the treatments may include some things that you have done previously but there are other procedures they can do to help ease some of the pain.
  • pandqmamappandqmama Posts: 175
    edited 03/11/2014 - 9:20 AM
    Ever looked into a spinal cord stimulator? I had to find the doctor who did them before I learned I was s s can I candidate.
  • on the 26th of this month I am in hospital ..again not for my back for to correct a congenital abnormality of the bladder .I have had to cancel the appointment with the orthopaedic consultant twice .as I have not been available for one reason or another .but after I have recovered from this operation I have an appointment in the next two months to see the orthopaedic consultant I will ask him his opinion thanks for your advice
    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
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