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pain 2 months after lumbar fusion

My sister (age 71) had a lumbar fusion (one level, L5-S1) on June 30 and is now 2 months post op. She is still dealing with a lot of debilitating pain. I feel so helpless and frustrated because I just don't know what to say to her. I have not experienced this kind of pain. I could use your counsel.

She quit taking Dilaudid about 3 weeks ago and is now on Vicodin. The original pain vanished with the surgery, but the post-op pain is still very bad. I asked her what percentage of the time she feels ok (not necessarily good) and what percentage she's miserable. She says it's about 50/50.

What do you think of this at 2 months out? What kinds of things can I say to her that might help? One big problem is that her friends are clueless about this kind of surgery and they are being kind of mean to her for "whining." They seem to think she should be fine by now. She is really spiraling down into a horrible frame of mind.

Any help and advice from those of you who've been through this ordeal would be much appreciated.



  • 2 months is no time at all recovery from a fusion is years not months it should take around 6 months to get over the operation and feel a little better and then another 2 or 3 years to get to be as good as the fusion will ever be .anyone that tells you different is wrong and as your sister is 71 she is very brave for going through such a massive surgery what kind did she have ALIF/PLIF TLIF ???? they are all nasty surgeries at her age recovery will be very hard work and she should get as much help as she can get I am half her age and 3 years down the line I am still in awful pain ,and my life has changed massively .as your sister got a recliner ? if not she should get one and use pillows to get comfy .and as for pain relief she will need them for many months the pain from a fusion is HELL .I send her my best wishes and hope she has the strength to cope
  • ColoradoRobCColoradoRob Posts: 11
    edited 08/19/2014 - 6:47 AM
    I am a 54 YO male who was in fantastic shape skiing, golfing , wakeboarding and playing Ice Hockey up to 2 days prior to my surgery L4/5 S! Fusion! I am now 8 weeks out today and I can tell you I still can hardly do anything! I am still in a ton of pain and am sore 24/7 from all the muscles being cut in half during this surgery. I would listen to what "pinkfloyd" said ! The best relief I have found is swimming. I would recommend your sister gets in a pool with a couple of noodles and just float around and work her way to a little breast stroking and light wading, kicking while floating on the noodles. It's very little effort and strain while still being able to keep the torso from the BLT's ( bending lifting twisting). She will feel better knowing she is at least doing something physical.......I am now up to 650m (26 laps in a 25m pool) just after a few weeks. But like I said I am a younger guy with a immense physical sports related background and I'm still dying of pain some days.......Gd luck to her and let her know she will get better but she needs to get moving regardless of the pain!

    Word of Caution There is not one exercise that is good for everyone. Before anyone tries any of the exercises presented by other members, review it with your doctor. only your doctor can approve or disapprove of a given exercise. While the majority of the exercises presented by members are safe, you should never make that assumption. I know for myself, who uses aqua therapy, if I was to start in with the breast stroke, I would be asking for big trouble. Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator
  • I need a lumbar fusion, near my S-I joint. I went to see the neurosurgeon, and everyone in his waiting room said: "don't do it."
    I was told to hold off as long as i possibly can....people just have no ROM once they are fused.
    Lumbar is a tough one...I had to have 4 levels fused in my neck, thanks to a drunk driver.
    I am only 52, and I am losing the use on my left arm, 4 years post fusion.
    These are tough and not natural to have hardware in ones body.
    Europe has soft artifical discs, and the USA is at least 7 years behind them.

    I hope she feels some kind of relief. Try ICE. I use it more than anything, along with PENNSAID, my husband rubs in.
    Its work just to keep your mind from going "negative", on the bad days.

    I use to swim as therapy, and now, my left arm is not working and it irritates my neck, so I had to back off.
    I rode my bike for years, and had to alter the bike seat and handle bars, so I was not leaning on my arms.
    Right now, I cannot do either.

    I would also have her see a D.O. Doctor of Osteopath. They do great things, without needles, drugs or surgery....if you can locate one that does actual "hands on" work.
    "For we walk by faith, not by sight"~ Corinthians
  • as much as is being hinted at. It depends on the level of the spine involved, and it's motion prior to fusion. Twisting, bending are still easily done for a one level fusion in the L4, L5 areas. It may limit some twisting or bending on higher levels, L2-L3 for example.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 08/26/2014 - 7:51 AM
    Fusion surgery takes months to recover from. The first acute post op period of three months is the most difficult, recovering from the surgery itself, the physical demands of getting around, being tired and not able to do most of the things that we are accustomed to doing, then the secondary phase of 3-6 months, we see little improvements......but a year is usually the time frame given by most surgeons regarding feeling more like ourselves prior to surgery.

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