Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Post-surgery blues: Normal? For how long?

My surgery was 4 weeks ago: I had a 360-degree fusion, fusing me from L4 - S1. There were a few tough spots (for the first week after surgery, the nausea. pain and fatigue was way more than I anticipated), but otherwise, recovery has been very good. I've felt some significant improvements, been off the prescription meds for more than two weeks, walking a lot, and generally optimistic that time and physical therapy will help me though some of the residual pain and stiffness.

Make no mistake, I don't think the surgery will cure me 100%, but I am damn glad I had it.

That being said, I just can't shake the funk I've been in. It's nothing specific; I'm not sad about one thing in particular, it's just that I feel pretty down all the time.

Is this normal? I'm inviting anyone with any experience to chime in -- what was yours like? How long did it last? was there anything specific that helped you keep it at bay?


  • I find it to be true in my case too. Its more just knowing you aren't yourself anymore and knowing things will neer be the same. But it helps having friends and family to lean on and keep in mind though things may never be the same, different can be much better. Change isn't always a bad thing. I am losing my career in the Navy because of my surgery but I know that bigger and better things will await me.

  • and very common for spinal patients to feel this 'down' feeling afterwards, especially during the recovery period.
    Once we can get back to our 'normal' life (if that is possible) we feel better, but if things flare up again, then we are right back down again.

    I think that Brian is correct when he says that just knowing we aren't ourself anymore and that things will never be the same again contributes to this feeling. We are in a period of adjustment and have to learn to accept the new 'me'. That can involve a grieving period for the person we used to be.

    After my lumbar fusion, once I got back to work, I knew I wouldn't be perfect, but was hopeful that I could get back to most things in my life. Within 4 months I realised that I had problems in my neck! That led to a 2 level neck fusion 7 weeks ago. I was told over 3 years ago that after my lumbar fusion, I would still have problems with my back because I had lots of degeneration throughout my spine. I am now realising and trying to come to terms with what that meant.

    You are much younger than me LA chick and so should have plenty of life ahead of you, even if it is slightly altered. 4 weeks after a 360 fusion is so early on. I think that at 6 months, you will be feeling much improved and with that, much more hopeful for your future.

    Try to think of the next 6 months or so as an investment in your future. Use that time to allow your fusion to become strong, ready to get back to your life. Something I did that seemed to give me hope that there would be good times ahead, was to write a list of things that I intended to do in the future. Some of them were simple things like picking up my granddaughter and going shopping, and others were more exciting like flying on a long haul flight and walking on a beach.

    Slowly, I ticked them off. Each tick gave me a real sense of satisfaction and feeling that I was progressing. I don't have the list anymore, and can't remember if I ticked off everything on my list. As I moved forward in my recovery, it didn't seem important anymore as I was too busy!

  • I relate and agree with the replies.

    I suspect that some of these feelings are also a result of the anaesthetic plus the stress associated before, during hospital stay and initial post surgery recovery. (Like a mini post traumatic stress reaction). And the brain chemistry is slightly affected.

    Having a vision of the new or possible future helps focus the mind (and helps to restore the chemistry - the brain is an amazing thing).

    Enough already!
  • Oh boy am I behind!!!!!! I just responded to your email.. Ok, so you had the surgery? HOw are you????? I mean other than the obvious. I hope you are feeling better! I wish I had some words for you of wisdom.
  • at the 6 week mark i was so down anything would have me crying .i was so down and weak.i had ALIF from L4L5/S1 dec 2011 any spinal surgery is hard to recover from and you have had a massive surgery it will take months even years to recover from .i was scheduled for a 360 but because i have already had 2 lots of posterior surgery the consultant only did the ALIF part of the 360..i was in awful pain after the operation and over the last 12 months things have not got much better ,i am tired all the time and still on massive amounts of narcotics .i will never be fixed now there's too much damage...so at 4 weeks your no where near yet ..just don't rush things ..i found swimming was the best thing ..i can't walk the 2 miles a day that you are supposed to !! who though of that one ?? ! .i could not walk that far before the operation ..i have already had 2 ;lots of failed surgery over the last 16 years and its done a lot of damage/i see my consultant in a few days so it will be interesting to see what he has to say ..i think there is something wrong with my fusion due to the constant pain and the fact that i feel so ill all the time ..for me the ALIF was the worst thing i have ever had done .good luck with it and take your time recovery is slow
    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
  • My injury was a result of an assault by a psychiatric patient at work, and most of my blues feelings were resolved once my workers' compensation hearing happened, because I had been incorrectly rated by the idiot primary I got assigned to. Then there was the "usual" preop anxiety, which ranged from the very rational apprehension about something as invasive and radical as spinal surgery, to the absolutely ridiculous, such as my hatred for elastic waist pants! I actually burst into tears at WalMart while buying sweat pants. So the emotions have been all over the place.

    I'm glad I had the surgery--the presenting symptoms of sciatica and lower leg weakness are gone. It literally had felt like my feet were on fire, or I was developing a wicked case of athlete's foot. I couldn't sleep worth you-know-what, and there were some nights I slept (or tried to) on the floor. It was that bad.

    So my mood has improved somewhat since the operation. Currently, the worst of my pain is the "charlie horse" in my left thigh that I had been warned about preoperatively: Charlie horse? Sometimes it feels like the whole durned Kentucky Derby is being run on my left thigh, wish I could hit the trifecta on this--LOL!

    Add to this the fact that it is midwinter here: I'm pretty much housebound, and feel more like it's house arrest. There is no sidewalk where I live, and walking on snow and ice covered streets is out of the question. Dark cloudy days are depressing. Nevertheless, I've been doing my home PT exercises religiously, regardless of how I feel emotionally, and walking for at least fifteen minutes every hour while awake. I actually set a timer to remind myself to do so.

    I'm dealing with all of the "usual" emotions that one experiences following a life-threatening assault (fear and anger,) also the fact that I quit smoking a week before OR (I'd kill for a smoke right about now, and the damn Chantix just isn't cutting it.) I also suspect that it takes way longer to clear small residual amounts of general anesthesia from your system (especially your central nervous system) than just waking up from the stuff. Plus, the charlie horses or Kentucky Derby are necessitating me taking narcotics to this point. I actually tried to wean myself earlier this past week, and the pain was ridiculous. They gave me a pretty generous supply on discharge, and I haven't been through two thirds of them yet, so it isn't as if I'm abusing them or anything like that.

    My surgical approach was an extreme lateral approach to get the ruptured disc out. I think that people who have anterior approaches have to deal with the problems involved with any abdominal surgery, in addition to all the neuro crap we all face. Then they rolled me over to insert the spacer and the clamp and graft channels.

    How I feel most of the time? Considering, not too bad. Of course, there are things that I should never do again that I used to enjoy, but at my age (59) most people don't do them anymore, injury or not.

    My lifelines have been: my Catholic faith--my parish has been very good about sending over the deacon with holy communion and a pastoral visit every week; some office colleagues who keep me in the loop about the current office gossip, even though it's highly unlikely I will return to that specific job (too dangerous for someone with a vulnerable spine,) my husband, when he is home on the weekends (he is a truck driver,) and doing a few little tricks I learned in psych nursing. First of all, I structure my day: I get up at a specific time whether I like it or not, do my first set of PT, and shower (finally worked up the courage to get in there despite nobody being at home, I put the cell phone on the john so I can reach it in case I fall and can call 911.) I get fully dressed, fix my hair, and put on some makeup. Then it's time to have breakfast, do a load of laundry (I've learned to do that with the grabber,) and run the dishwasher (open the door all the way, pull out the bottom drawer with your reacher, and sit on a chair next to the side of the open dishwasher door.)

    Then it's time to do paperwork, and pretty soon it's lunchtime, time for second round of PT, and a catnap (I can use one about that time.) I hook up to my bone growth stimulator, use my TENS for the Kentucky Derby if it's really bad,) and then walk around the house--fifteen laps front to back. Almost time for dinner.

    I got "promoted" from using a walker to using a cane to tolerance, and have been amusing myself by looking online at some of the truly blingy canes available. Until I was forty, I was a professional ballet dancer, went to nursing college after I retired from the stage. There is one cane on one website that has a--I kid you not--sterling silver swan for a handle! I doubt I'll get it (about two hundred bucks,) but it's fun to look and drool--LOL! Maybe I can menace my husband into getting it for me for Valentine's Day: I injured both knees in the incident as well, and I know for a fact that knee osteoarthritis is going to be my constant companion henceforth.

    I also amuse myself by thinking up ways to make myself more comfortable and a little more productive at home without exceeding my restrictions (they still haven't taken me out of the brace yet.) For example, for those women with actual CURVES (even though I'm still skinny, I do have a noticeable and defined waist compared to hips,) how about redesigning that chairback brace which is suitable for a cylinder body, nipping in a waist? Maybe they could call it a DonnaJoy brace?

    Recovery is real work. Don't kid yourself about that. And don't be hard on yourself if you're feeling a little down in the dumps: You've been through a lot. We all have.

    Do the best you can to try to hang onto your sanity and your sense of humor. If you can manage it, try to get some friends to get you out of the house, or make an appointment at a day spa for a manicure, pedicure, and facial. A little pampering, and a little retail therapy, never hurt anyone!

    I'm not a spinal diagnosis. I'm a human being with a spinal diagnosis.
  • I love your SOH, and what you said about the cane with the swan=shaped handle makes me think of the walking stick I ordered online that has a realistic Yorkshire Terrier's head at the top, complete with hair bow. Perfect for dog lovers like me. I don't use it much anymore, since I've graduated to a rollator walker, which is a lifesaver for distance walking.

    I hope your version of the Kentucky Derby becomes a thing of the past. Muscle spasms can be so painful, and I've had them not only in my left paraspinal muscle but also the front of my right thigh. A PT prescribed a wonderful exercise for the thigh spasm, so I hardly get them, and when they occur they're milder than before.

    Best wishes with your recovery, and don't overdo it.
  • I remember coming across a study in my research on this that 20% of fusion patients suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a former army officer, with numerous mates still in the service, I found this link amazing.

    It is a traumatic experience, emotional, life changing. And the recovery is slow.

    I hit the wall at 6 weeks - I was steadily increasing my activity, it was all looking good. But I had a huge increase in pain. Naturally my thoughts went to all the bad places, the spacers had moved, the screws were coming loose etc.

    With the added pressure of my wife being due in March, I really want the recovery to work so I can be up and about.

    The surgeon and I have a good relationship where I can email him all my questions and he gave a nice quick reply that 6 weeks was common for more pain, due to the increase in activity, that I was coming off the meds - advised to get more xrays, see my GP and take it easy for a few days. I did, it is all fine and he put my mind at ease on this matter.

    I have had my kindle, playstation, cable TV, iPhone, and have been running my blog - all with the aim of keeping me busy and to avoid any 'funk' Still its tough. There's no denying that. I get so frustrated that my pregnant wife has to do everything, its killign me!!

    I figure if you're aware of the issues, of the mood swings, that's the first step in countering them. Put strategies in place to mitigate this, and keep reviewign how your feeling.

    Good luck!!
    PLIF L5 S1
  • I had C5-C7 ACDF surgery on March 30th of last year and I have to say, the surgery was the best thing I did. No pain afterwards, no problems swallowing, etc. My neurosurgeon after follow up and x-ray released me back to normal activities on June 30th of last year. Normal activities for me are lifting weights and taekwondo. I've struggled alot with post-surgical blues. I was lucky that I didn't have pain afterward or the trouble swallowing, but yes, I am different. In taekwondo I'm not as coordinated as I was and am alot slower. I still have numbness in my right hand and shoulder weakness and the surgeon said it could take up to 18 months to get back to normal IF the nerves weren't permanently damaged. Slowly I'm regaining strength when I work out but again, it's slow progress and I'd like to return back to "normal" and lead as normal of a life as possible. For me, it's just the concept of loss that has me down...I lost alot of the abilities I had before my neck went bad.
Sign In or Register to comment.