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Just another recovery question...

So I'm due to have a L5/S1 discectomy in a week. Starting to get a bit scared as it's my first operation but also hoping that it will mean an end to this horrible pain!

I've been trawling the forums to get an idea of preparing for recovery etc and am a bit concerned. My ortho said that I'd be back at work in two weeks doing normal duties or "whatever I felt comfortable doing". I work with kids with special needs and need to lift them or catch them if they fall etc, so I was a bit sceptical about this and having read the threads on this forum two weeks seems a bit optimistic? Would like to hear from those who've gone before about whether two weeks seems right?

Also, what's the incision site pain like? I've never been cut open before so I have no idea what to expect. What are we talking, on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is like childbirth or something :P)? How many days is it roughly before you can move without the chance of it splitting open? :P


  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 04/06/2013 - 10:39 AM
    ...but would think that so much is going to depend on so many things - your age, how much you really allow yourself to heal, how much pain you are in after surgery, etc etc.

    I had a cervical fusion on October, 2012 and although I was in a collar when I got home, I was in absolutely no pain at all and never was on pain medications.

    Two weeks does sound pretty optimistic, but again, I have not had that surgery. I know that the two level cervical fusion I had took longer than two weeks to heal, but yours is completely different.

    One thing that may help with respect to preparing and being afraid and all - I did this - and I am convinced more and more that it really helped prepare me mentally and physically for the surgery - and that was downloading and listening to "Guided Imagery" audio recordings. I found one on Amazon for about $10 called "Preparing for Sugery" - and I started listening to it a few weeks before surgery and brought it will me on my smartphone to the hospital. It was the first thing I asked for post-surgery and I listened to the "Healing from Surgery" section over and over again, especially when there were moments of anxiety or if I could not fall asleep. I am not much into woo-woo kinds of things, but studies do seem to show reduced pain and better healing (and reduced anxiety) when listening to these guided imagery audio recordings.

    Also - one more thing to help you prepare for surgery. A week or two before surgery, I was speaking with the nicest nurse at the hospital where I was to have my surgery. She told me to fabulous tips:

    1) REST as much as you can before surgery day. That means - getting good nights sleep, getting a massage - whatever it takes. People think that they are going to "sleep" during surgery, but surgery is exhausting. So, if you deplete your energy before surgery, it's not like you are going to get it back because you were knocked out for a few hours. So, get rest.

    The night before my surgery, I went in to have a 1.5 hour massage. It was the best thing I could have done in preparing.

    2) DRINK WATER up until the time they tell you you can consume things the night before surgery. Not tea, not coffee, not soda. Water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Surgery dehydrates and you may not be in the mood to drink much water right after surgery, so hydrate as much as you are able the night before.

    It sounds like you have a few more questions to ask your surgeon (or his nurse) before surgery - especially things like moving without splitting open. :)

    I wish you well with your surgery!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • I managed to go back to work at about 3.5 weeks post L5/S1 TLIF fusion surgery on a very part time basis (starting with 2-3 hour shifts....I have a desk job that allows me to stand and work, or move around). I was also still on percoset doing this (10/325, which was my pre-surgery pain med dose).

    As for surgery site pain, I found this a bit rough, but that was more of an issue that the medical staff wouldn't listen to me when I was telling them that I had been on long term narcotic pain medication. They got me out of bed the day after surgery to walk, use the restroom, and whatnot. There never seemed to be a worry about opening up the incision site (I had stitches and surgical glue...I know some people have staples or some other arrangement). I think my incisions are a couple inches long, so bigger than you'd probably have :-)
    1/16/2013 Minimally invasive TLIF with rods, screws, and cage on L5/S1 joint to treat grade 2 spondylolysthesis, pars defect, degenerative disc disease. Dealt with chronic pain & nerve issues since at least 2007.
  • dragonladyddragonlady Posts: 18
    edited 04/06/2013 - 10:49 PM
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and ideas :)

    Francine: I really like the idea of a guided imagery audio recording. I've just been reading about music therapy and preparing a playlist but I think I'll add a guided imagery recording as well because I generally respond really well to stuff like that. I'm also going to follow your suggestion for a massage! I was going to get someone into my home to wax my legs for me before I go in (haven't shaved in weeks and I look like a yeti!) so I think I'll throw in a massage and facial as well, and really spoil myself :)

    StitchGnomercy (love the name!): Wow..a fusion is way more hardcore than what I'm having, and you were up and about pretty quickly. That gives me hope. I guess my surgeon and I will just have to play it by ear (or back :P) I guess. It sounds like it's a very individual thing.

    Next question: Am I likely to have to have a catheter after this operation? I've heard differing things online.
  • That's great about all of the pre-surgery pampering - I didn't do my legs (other than shave them), but thankfully, again, it was winter and I didn't care! haha

    It is so helpful that you are so open to options. Since I cannot name the actual author of the guided imagery audio I downloaded, although I think I mentioned that name of it, feel free to PM me if you cannot find one that resonates with you and I will let you know what I purchased.

    And yes - oh gosh - my music and the guided imagery on my smartphone made all the difference in the hospital. I never even turned the TV on the three days I was in the hospital. I just listened to music, guided imagery, played Words with Friends, texted and emailed people (or responded to theirs) and looked outside at the beautiful views - and slept! I lost my voice after the surgery, so talking at all was just not an option, so I made the best of it with non-speaking options.

    Re: The catheter - you will want to ask your surgeon that. I thought I was not going to have one and my surgeon decided to at the last moment - and I am kind of glad he did. It took some pressure off of me while I was dealing with some minor nausea from the morphine they gave me. As soon as I had them stop giving me that, then I was good to get up and move around.

    Your surgeon can better tell you what his practice is with that and more specifically with you, because I don't think there is a clear-cut "always" kind of response.

    Keep us posted!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • debjiddebji Posts: 28
    edited 04/07/2013 - 5:01 PM
    I'm concerned that your ortho would okay you going back to work in two weeks when you would need to lift/carry kids. I'm two months post surgery (L5 S1 microscopic lumbar discectomy) and my lower back is still tender - every now and then I'll do a test where I'll gradually lean back when I'm standing and I'm not able to get very far at all before my lower back kicks in saying "hey, stop! I'm not healed yet!" It's not a sharp pain, but it's definitely where the incision was made. And I'm making sure I'm not lifting anything more than five pounds or doing any bending. I have a rolling cart I haul my groceries and laundry in.

    It was four weeks before I went back to work and for the first two weeks of work I worked part time. Your energy is definitely going to be lower than normal for a while as your body is going to be working hard to heal.

    I didn't have to spend the night at the hospital and I was pretty drugged up after I got home but the next morning I definitely felt the soreness. It was mostly when I tried to stand up from the futon, my mom had to help me a day or so before I could do it on my own without pain. But it was definitely a different kind of pain than what I had with my horrible sciatica. More soreness than anything. My doctor told me to ice my back 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off and it seemed to help the first few days when it was the most sore. Hope this helps. Please be cautious!!
  • edited 04/08/2013 - 10:03 AM
    seems a bit optimistic that you'll be lifting children two weeks out from surgery. i have not had the same surgery as you, but i did sustain compression fractures to four lumbar and sacral vertebrae 27 years ago when I was 18. a year later i was lifting semi quad kids and it was not cool.i absolutely suffered from the lifting and re-injured my back. doctors tend to give best case scenarios IMO so please, please do what feels right for you post surgery. everyone heals at different rates. i am two weeks out from acdf c6-7 and avid hard core extreme athlete. i have NO PLANS to return to any activity beyond what EVENTUALLY feels safe for me currently and going forward. best of luck to you!
  • dragonladyddragonlady Posts: 18
    edited 04/09/2013 - 11:58 PM
    Thanks so much guys. Your responses have been really helpful and have given me at least the courage to say if I don't feel like I'm ready to do my job 100% safely, and that it doesn't mean that I'm a wuss!

    Debji: I love the idea of the rolling cart. I think I'll get myself one as I can tell this was partly caused by me always looking like a donkey with all the bags I carry :P

    Francine: I downloaded a guided imagery album and gave it a test run. It has preparing for surgery, on the day of surgery, after surgery and one for nausea. The preparing for surgery one was good...except I fell asleep and woke up during the "after surgery" track! :D

    Had my pre-admission appointment today and I think they do the catheter by default. A bit scared about that, but they said they put it in while you're under so at least I'll only have to endure ickiness when they take it out :/

    Two more sleeps to go! Getting nervous now, but can't wait to be pain free! :)
  • Best of luck to you and please let us know how your surgery goes! This is the cart I got: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001UE8ILS/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I also got a grabber which has been very helpful as well: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001B13PC2/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Remember, don't be frustrated if you still have pain after the surgery. That nerve is a stubborn one and will take a while to settle down!
  • Nick_MurphyNNick_Murphy Posts: 171
    edited 04/10/2013 - 3:02 AM
    I haven't seen anyone specifically mention this, but have found it an irreplaceable part of my post surgery requirements. For those of us with dogs and including them in our daily exercise walking programme, the need to ensure a hygienic environment free of pet waste presents a huge challenge when you are in a position where you cannot bend. I managed to find a "poop-scoop" on Amazon that I have found hugely beneficial, and allows me to include my dog in my daily routine without fear of causing damage bending over to cleanup after it.


  • I have to say that I often fell asleep, too - but I knew that subliminally, the info was penetrating my subconscious.
    I was actually thrilled that I did fall asleep because I used it to help me get to sleep when my mind started swirling in the wee hours of the morning as I started playing the "What If?" game in my head.

    I'd turn on the guided imagery (Healing From Surgery section) and before I knew it, I was asleep. I was really grateful for it because I wasn't on and didn't need medications and didn't want to start with any just to fall asleep, if this worked. And, thankfully it did.

    I am glad you're on it and getting so much helpful information.

    Oh yeah - one other thing I did - I prepared an email on my smartphone and had it addressed with everyone who knew I was having surgery. I saved it in the "Draft" folder and when I was wheeled back into my hospital room, I was able to email everyone.

    I was really glad I did that because I lost my voice completely for 35 days, so even people trying to call me - well, I couldn't talk! :)

    I am glad you are doing things to prepare. It eases one's mind when going into surgery - at least on that front.

    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Yeah...this has been ongoing for five years and this last "session" with my back has knocked me off my feet for five weeks now. I'm hoping there's no permanent damage as I've read about that, but I'm keeping my thoughts positive and will accept that it may take some time for the nerve to heal properly.

    The grabber is a great idea - a local "cheapy" shop had them on special last week so I'll get my partner to go and get me one (as he won't be around all the time to be my human "grabber"! :)
  • That email suggestion is a great one, Francine! Totally pinching it :)
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