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L5 hemilaminotomy,partial S1 hemilaminotomy,L5-S1 foraminotomy,thecal sac decompression

I would just like some reassurance and advice from fellow peers who have gone through spine surgery. I have had chronic pain for 4 + years. Turns out I had very thick ligaments hiding the nerve compression at L5 and S1 levels as well as the thecal sac. All the MRI's I had over the years showed no problems. I finally found a neurologist that saw very minimal compression. So, I was initially just supposed to have an l5-s1 foraminotomy but when they opened me up they saw more compression along the nerve root. Dr said I had a ligament stuck to the nerve as well. OK fine. It has been 10 WEEKS since the surgery and I am really getting depressed. I was given a time frame of 18 months for my nerves to heal....UGH !!! Being a busy person who works full time and is a wife and mother..etc..it's so HARD for me to not be able to do what I used to. I felt as though I was "getting better" (@2-3 pain level for about 3 hours in the morning)but then I was sent to Aqua Therapy 2 weeks ago. Driving and sitting were extremely painful for me before surgery and now STILL after 10 weeks since the surgery IT KILLS to DRIVE and SIT !!!!! The Aqua therapist pushed me too hard (told her i was in a lot of pain) and after only 3 PT sessions..I feel like my recovery was pushed back weeks !! I have since stopped PT and the dr said he wanted to see me right away (well his right away is a week from when I called the dr to tell them PT was killing me). So I will see the dr this coming Monday. But what will he say ? Be patient ?? I know in my heart there is more wrong with me. Maybe compression at another level that is hidden..compression in the seat bone area ? maybe? I am afraid he will tell me AGAIN that I have to just be patient....I cant ..at 10 weeks post op I feel that I should not still be in constant pain regardless of activity level. And to ad insult to injury...my work disability insurance company is giving me such a hard time. They say I have extended the amount of time they allow for the surgery I had. OK , did they have their back sliced open and have ligaments and bone removed !!! It's so frustrating !!! I am a hard worker...i worked through all the years of pain..but they make me feel like I am doing something wrong bc I had surgery and am still suffering !! WOW..this turned into a venting session.. Sorry. I would appreciate any feedback , advice, etc about the surgery and recovery ....... TIA !!!!!!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 04/25/2014 - 7:43 AM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I am so sorry you are suffering.. I had a similar surgery eight and a half months ago.. only L1 thru L5 and S1 for Stenosis.. and went through 8 weeks of rehab and therapy with a professional.. And, it was working and I was full of hope.. Two months ago I totally relapsed.. and worse.. You are a lot younger than I am and will recover in time.. Listen to what the therapist tells you, go slow, and listen to what your body is telling you... Don't hesitate to get a second opinion.. if you feel you are not progressing.. This is no easy deal... try to stay positive, get help, and get better..

  • Thanks Carl. I saw the doctor on Monday. I asked him loads of questions to which he didn't have many answers. He did however prescribe me Valium to help with the spams and severe anxiety I am having as a result of continued pain. He also prescribed me a pain cream. It's compounded with several different meds. I received it in the mail yesterday. Seems to be helping just a little so far. I also asked what other diagnostic tests can I have to address the sitting problem ??? Do I have nerve damage ?? Can you please tell me why when I sit it feels like I'm sitting on a hot knife? He said .. 1 thing at a time.. Ok sir. :(
  • First, breathe...................now, breathe again.........nice and slow, deep breath in and another out, through your nose...........I can read the anxiety in your post.
    Your surgeon is 100% correct........recovery from spine surgery is unlike any other surgery out there, unless it is open heart surgery.... You are correct, your bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles were all moved, cut or sewn back together........the recovery from spine surgery is a journey, not a destination.. You will have times, that things flare up, and the pain seems to be more than what you want it to be. It is part and parcel of recovery from spine surgery.
    Increasing your activity levels in aqua therapy is going to hurt.......it is supposed to , to some extent. Stopping therapy is not a good idea. You have to retrain the muscles to support your new spinal alignment.....You are ONLY 10 weeks post op, so you are exactly where you should be in regards to recovery. It is a process, and it is agonizingly slow at this stage.
    The increased nerve pain is because nerves were compressed prior to surgery......it is going to take some time before that settles down, and the medication that your doctor ordered should help. If it does not help, then there are other medications that he can try to get you some relief for that pain........
    Learning to sit and drive again is going to be painful, so there are a few things that I did that helped.....I had a large black garbage bag put on my seat.....it made it easier to slide into and out of the seat......I also bought a cushion that I put under my seat to raise me a bit and even out my hips......I changed the angle of the steering wheel so that it was easier to grip.......
    I went for smaller trips, and gradually increased the distance and time that I gave myself to get there and get what needed doing done......I even stopped on the side of the road if I needed to stretch. It helped.
    You have to learn to push a little past the pain. I know that it hurts, and it is not what you want to hear, but at points during your recovery, you have to learn to cope with the pain and work through it.....break the task into smaller pieces, move things around to make it easier for you to accomplish....as the restrictions about bending, lifting and twisting are relaxed, take things slowly......don't just jump back into what you were used to doing before......
    This type of surgery can take 18 -24 months or longer before you are back to where you were prior to surgery. This does not mean that you are unable to work or do things that you would do at home, but you do need to slowly work at increasing your stamina and endurance.....


    Post op Recovery
  • yazzgirlyyazzgirl Posts: 7
    edited 05/01/2014 - 10:41 AM
    Thanks for your input. I am seeing the doctor again tmo. The pain cream maybe is helping a little. I had to drive to a funeral yesterday and by the time i got there i was hysterical crying bc of the pain. I understand I have to do PT but I told the therapist to go easy on me like the dr said but she didnt ! I dont look like I have anything wrong with me so I guess people dont believe me. I have been suffering almost 5 years, so the anxiety has taken control of me . One day at a time :-(
  • Saw my doctor again today. He , as well as my pain management doc and orthopedic have been scratching their heads (or banging their heads ) :) I am still suffering in a lot of pain. The doc asked me if I ever had an Si joint injection this past Monday when I saw him. I said yes and since I was hysterical crying I didn't elaborate. Today, I was more level headed (Valium helping me) and I told the dr ... I did have an so joint injection last feb. And I did have pain relief but not for very long. So the pain doc did an RFA to the Si joint since I did have some relief. I remember after that , the pain slowly progressed back to where I started. So , knowing this now ... Doc wants me to go to he ortho to check me out for possible SI dysfunction and probably get another injection from PM DOC . I know in my heart there is something else wrong with me. My husband mentioned to the doc that he hears me crying in my sleep all throughout the night because of the pain. So , all systems go to try to pinpoint if it's the SI JOINT. I have not had an easy time with this. My MRI , ct scans etc have never been helpful at showing problems. I had to keep searching the internet and going to about 18 doctors (having had many injections, chiro , diet change, acupuncture. I just want to finally be pain free. The doc told me he did clear out the extensive nerve compression. He is concerned about my pain levels and limitations still. I'm glad he is willing to still work with me to try to rule out other issues. So if the SI JOINT is the problem he will operate. I guess I'm just sharing this story to make myself feel better. I feel very alone in this constant pain struggle. It doesn't help that I look "normal" and people don't believe me. It's like pain is a hidden illness and I feel sometimes very discriminated against. Thanks for listening. ❤️I can't live like this anymore :(
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