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Recovery after Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement

Hi everyone!

I've had a L4/L5 ADR a week ago. I've spent 2 days in the hospital and now I'm back home. I'm feeling good. The pack pain is almost not there at all. Leg pain is gone completely. The kind of leg pain that I had pre-op.

Unfortunately, I've been given so little info by doctor and hospital, that I'm not quite sure what to expect. I'm taking it easy, of course. Short walks 3-4 times a day. No Bending, Lifting, Twisting. All the sensible stuff.

But I'd love to hear from someone who has gone through the same recovery process. For instance, doctor prescribed me muscle relaxants when discharging from hospital. I took the first one today. Why? Well, because it says to take "as needed." I've been having there weird pains in my calves for the last couple of days when I stand. When I'm lying down or walking I don't have them. I was wondering what is that? Maybe muscles adjusting? What could it be? And then I started reading about recovery on internet and realized that these are the muscle spasms!

So, you know, I'd love to talk with someone who had the same experience. Because I'm lost and confused.


  • Ugh. Thank you, Liz. I did read that already. I'm still hoping to find a living breathing person to talk to...
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 07/12/2014 - 8:49 AM
    We do try to help while you are waiting for members to respond to a post, most new members don't know where to look for information and appreciate the links.

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I know, I know, you mean well :) All of those links are for lumbar fusion, which is very different from ADR, though. Unfortunately, there isn't much info about ADR recovery. In general. Not just here.
  • HI I would like to here more on your surgery.....I have DDD at two levels and i am not sure my dr will give me the fusion..but ADR sounds very interesting...If you don't mind
  • Hi, Cessy!

    What is a DDD?

    I've consulted with four surgeons from US and Europe and for my case (herniation, rupture) and all of them said, I could do fusion, but it would be much better if I did ADR. Reason being, it's a shorter surgery (1,5 hours), fast recovery period (they got me up the same day, I could walk almost normally the next day) and you don't lose mobility in your spine as the Artificial Disc moves as a natural one. Well, almost :) Nothing can replace the natural disc.

    There is a catch, however. Insurance does not cover lumbar ADR. In Europe it's been done for over 25 years. Here it's still "investigational" as far as insurance companies are concerned.

    Second catch: it's done from the front. So I have an incision on my tummy. But it's small :)
  • cessy6432ccessy6432 Posts: 15
    edited 07/12/2014 - 10:13 AM
    HI I have degenerative disc disease L 2-3 and L4-5.Wow bless your heart ,but sounds like your doing ok.So insurance does not pay huh...Did you have a discogram?I had one two days ago wow so much pain i'm in.Did you have alot of pain with that too?So how are you feeling?I am waiting for my DR too call me ,,to find out if he will do fusion or not..This pain is so bad..How about you were you in alot of pain before your ADR?
  • Jackie BrownJJackie Brown Posts: 6
    edited 07/12/2014 - 10:30 AM
    I'm not sure whether ADR is good for several discs though... I know they do it in Europe, but not in US :( but I think toy do a combination of fusion and ADR here.

    I was in horrible pain. Couldn't walk at all for the month of April :( Feeling soooo much better! It's day 10 after surgery. No pain!

    Only weird muscle spasms in legs :)
  • Hi Jackie, I had an ADR last year at L4/L5 as well as a fusion at L5/S1.
    It's sounds like you are doing amazingly well and it's great that you're not in too much pain. Take it easy and walk as much as you can. Try massaging your leg if you can reach and it should help the pain.
    Do you know what artificial disc they used? Mine was called ESP/LP from France.
    I wish you a speedy recovery.
    Hi Cessy,
    The discogram caused me a lot of pain for a few days and then slowly eased up ( back to normal bad pain!) I know I wasn't expecting the tests to make things worse but it is very helpful for the surgeon. I hope you'll feel better soon and that the tests will help determine a course of action for you.
    I'm happy to answer any questions if I can.

    DDD. Married,Mum of 2, Age 45: 2007 & 2008 L5/S1 Discectomy
    April 2013 L5/S1 Anterior Fusion
    & L4/L5 Artificial Disc Replacement
  • Jackie BrownJJackie Brown Posts: 6
    edited 07/12/2014 - 5:32 PM
    Hi, Hybridhattie!

    Yay! Someone else in ADR club! :) I have Pro-Disc!
    Эhow are you doing a year after?!
    How long did your recovery take?
    But you also had fusion, which is longer recovery time...

    Did you have the leg pains? Do you know what they are? Thank you for the tip :) I get the spams only when I stand still, so I have to march in place :)) even in the shower :) haha

    Guys, what's a discogram?
  • I think leg pains come from the surgeon touching off nerves. Mine was greatly helped by Lyrica and massaging the area. My toes and legs occasionally still hurt when things get inflamed. I do remember marching on the spot helping as did standing on my tip toes holding on to a chair for balance.
    I would say that recovery is still on going even after a year but my situation is further complicated by scoliosis and I have ongoing issues with thoracic spine. I have to say that my lower back where I had the disc replaced feels great. It never slips out of place anymore and I can walk great with almost no limping now.
    A discogram (my simple understanding) is a diagnostic test done to check out if they can recreate your symptoms. They inject stuff at high pressure into certain discs to see if they have the correct ones prior to surgery. They need you awake for the procedure but knock you out straight afterwards. I don't remember too much except a little scream that escaped my lips!! It doesn't fix you and it's not pleasant but a small procedure compared to surgery.
    DDD. Married,Mum of 2, Age 45: 2007 & 2008 L5/S1 Discectomy
    April 2013 L5/S1 Anterior Fusion
    & L4/L5 Artificial Disc Replacement
  • Thanks so much for answering guys!I am on day 6 post discogram it's worst today..wondering if i should call DR ...any ideas?
  • Hi Hybridhattie

    I wanted to know about your fusion .Any info would be great thanks!
  • alberg76aalberg76 Posts: 1
    edited 08/20/2015 - 5:50 AM
    Hello everyone ,

    I'm 39 years old and have been dealing with lower back and leg pain since Oct. 2011. After many injections and physical therapy that didn't help me, I had a lumbar discetomy on L4/L5 in Feb of 2012. It worked for alittle while but i was never 100%. I was in/out of work for the next couple of years because of flare ups that caused pain in lower back and radiating pain down my left leg. I also experienced severe numbness and tingling in my leg and pelvic area. In November of 2014 the pain became significantly worse. After running tests (mri, emg, xrays, discogram) , the neurosurgeon decided to perform ADR surgery on my L5/S1 disc in Jan 2015. I was doing ok for alittle while after surgery and even went back to work 4 weeks after surgery. The numbness and tingling in my legs was gone during that time. Then about 6 weeks after returning to work the pain started coming back to the point where it is worse than ever. I'm experiencing severe lower back pain and severe pain radiating down both legs this time, I also have severe numbness and tingling down both legs and in my penis. My Dr can't find any nerve being pinched and doesn't see any movement of the artificial disc. He's telling me that he doesn't have a diagnosis for me and is sending me to other Dr's to see if they can see something that he doesn't. I'm not sure what to do at this point. This problem is affecting everything in my life. If anyone has anything they can share with me to help please don't hesitate to share.

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    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
  • mssassypants76mmssassypants76 Posts: 5
    edited 06/15/2015 - 11:18 AM
    I'm sure you've heard that we're all different and our bodies all heal at different rates. Make no assumptions about the procedure that you just had, this is in fact and huge surgery. You're definitely going to have some bad days and some good days in between there. Just being honest.
    I think our expectations stem from the fact that were given a time line or we hear stories about other patients doing so well right off the bat and we think I should be further along.

    I myself am 16 weeks post op and I feel like I'm FINALLY turning a corner in recovery. I still have pain and back spasms on occasion. My legs get extremely tired and I have to sit down on a regular basis. I'm still nowhere near where I would like to be in physical therapy; but part of this comes from learning to be patient with myself and listening to my body.
    TLIF w/ Facetectomy March 2013
    ALIF with disc implants and hardware revision February 2015
  • damire80ddamire80 Posts: 1
    edited 08/20/2015 - 12:17 AM
    i am actually 3 weeks post op. i had an L4-L5 ADR! i was in hospital for a week and they wanted me to do another week of rehab, but i was feeling pretty good so i came home and did the rehab with my regular physio. (i live 2.5hrs away from the hospital where i had the surgery) my days consists of sitting for half and hour, standing for half and hour and do regular small walks. i am due to see the surgeon on the 23rd of sept so i am off work till at least then. i am a bit confused on why you would have been given a muscle relaxant!? you want to strengthen them! same as not allowed to wear a brace. i don't have an answer on why your calves hurt, with me i have a left groin strain that is only starting to go away. i get back pain towards the end of the day, but i think i can slowly SLOWLY getting better.... good luck with your recovery, if you want to talk about anything feel free to shout out! hopefully this helps

    Please click on link for helpful information
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Liz -spine-health moderator
  • Hi everyone, 

    I'm thinking of having adr surgery done L5- S1 reading everyone's comments it sounds like it's better to get adr surgery than fusion. I had fusion surgery done in my 20s. Right now very bad pain in both legs, spasms, I call them leg cramps in my calves and pain in my back. Did MRI I have 3 herniated discs but L5-S1 is the worst. 
    Thank you for sharing 
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