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1 year post alif L5-S1 and desperate

The surgery went well but I had zero improvement in pain. I would like to run a quick questionnaire:

1) Who had a fusion for back pain only (without any radicular pain)?
2) Did you have any pain relief after the surgery?
3) How long did it take until you noticed a different?

I know that it's a long process, but I expected to see some improvement by now.
I can't walk or stand for more than 15 minutes. Imaging looked good. My thinking
is that some people feel the stability right away and maybe in my case the pain relief
will come only after a complete hardening of the fusion.
Alif L5-S1 on June 2013


  • watchyurbackwwatchyurback Posts: 73
    edited 06/27/2014 - 10:57 AM
    Sadly your experience is pretty common. The medical literature shows that fusion surgery is no better than intensive physical therapy in improving pain and functioning. So only about 50 percent to 60 percent of surgical patients notice any improvement after surgery.
    I've been through surgery hell, as have many people in these forums. Take a look around. A fusion takes about one year, so by now you should be fully fused, give or take a couple of months. A complete hardening of the fusion is unlikely to provide pain relief in itself.
    I had about two to three months after each of my three lumbar fusion surgeries. All were for back pain with little or no leg pain. After each surgery I always thought I would never have to have another. I was so wrong.
    You may need to look for other causes of your current pain. In my case I quickly developed adjacent segment pathology, or a breakdown of the disc above the fused segment. I've now had six spine surgeries and regret ever having set foot in a surgeon's office. My spine could not tolerate the abrupt and irreversible change in loads and stresses resulting from fusion and I kept breaking at the adjacent level. I'm now at T10, after starting where you did at L5-S1 back in 2008.
    And now T10 has fractured, probably requiring extension of the fusion all the way up to T3. I have osteopenia, so if T3 fractures, then I'm up to my neck, literally, in fusions.
    I really feel for you. I do hope you will not end up like me, and there's no reason to think you will. Everybody responds differently to fusion, and hopefully after a bit more time your spine will make the adjustment and your pain will subside. It does not always have to turn out bad.
    I wish all the best for you.
  • I had a fusion of my L5-S1 vertebrae July 19th, 2013 still have more pain than before the surgery, now have to take Tramadol 3 times a day. My fusion was also to relieve pain with absolutely zero success, I would have been better off not to have had the fusion. I am able to walk and stand for as long as I want as I was before the surgery just had chronic pain, I am hoping things will improve if not I will be looking for a follow up!
  • I have done many of them but as a brief synopsis ...
    fusions are done for spinal stability NOT pain relief
    and pain relief is a bonus
    ALIF can take upto 3 years to heal
    ALIF can cause more problems than it cures
    any nerve damage done before the ALIF will still be there afterwards and more than likely won't go
    I have had 3 spinal operations and I am in pain 24/7 30 months down the line .my consultant can do no more
    I have cauda equina syndrome and arachnoiditis
    people think that a fusion will fix there pain in most cases ..it wont its a mechanical fix .if you are lucky and did not have any nerve pain before the surgery and the pain is as a result of the surgery it may subside {some nerve damage can be done during surgery } if its only mild it may go but if you had bad problems before then you're stuck with it
    you may also find that you legs play up and your feet may swell too
    recovering from ALIF is not easy just try to be patient
    if your worried ..so your consultant
    good luck
    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
  • I had a 3 level fusion last Sept. I had very little redicular pain, mainly back pain. I have had approximately a 60 - 70% reduction in pain and it gets better each month. I could tell it was a success at around 3 months.
    Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil
  • Well here's a strange thing, my doctor had no limitations put on me prior to my fusion, all I had was pain for about two years finally he decided to perform a fusion of the L5-S1. I have heard mention before a fusion is for structural reasons not pain relief, this was definitely not the case for my surgery it was for pain relief!!
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 06/29/2014 - 6:51 AM
    who are waiting for, or have just had surgery......we do get members who are extensively post op posting in here as well, but by and large, the population are those who are pre surgical, and immediately post op posting. So you can't base the outcome of surgery on what you read here.
    As for why a surgery may not offer pain relief, there are a myriad of reasons, from the area that was operated on, not being the source of the pain, to scar tissue, to not following post op restrictions and limits, to mechanical failure, to waiting too long for undergoing surgery, to not following up with physical therapy and regular excercises, to laying in bed and inactivity. There are as many reasons as there are patients who undergo spine surgery.
    Some patients do experience pain relief post op and while yes, we do tell patients that surgery is not done solely for the relief of pain, it is done to relieve a neurological issue or an anatomical one, some patients still believe that if they undergo surgery it is going to relieve their pain.....or they are told that by their surgeons.
    Most surgeons will tell a patient that they may get some pain relief, usually when there is neurological compromise before surgery, but then again, there are also surgeon's I"m sure , who do tell their patients that all of their pain will disappear.....those surgeons do their patients no favors by telling them that.
  • And I feel great!

    My surgery was a PILF. Mine was done to return stability to my spine. Along with instability, the joint just ached terribly, nerve pain down both legs. My disc was essentially gone, and I felt near immediate relief from pain after surgery. My pain was caused by the 2 L4/L5 grinding on each other and pinching nerves going down my legs.

    My pain I have now is just post-op surgery pain, and I hope to be close to pain free once I'm done rehabbing.

    The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
  • I'm happy to read that you are doing so well.........that's great news and one that we hope to see in the majority of patients who undergo spine surgery.
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