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Maximummy update at almost 7 months post PLIF L4/L5 and L5/S1 fusion

Dear Fellow Forum writers ......
It is a while since I posted, so here is an upbeat update for people who are behind me and still finding things very difficult.
I had surgery on 22nd February ....... the above fusion with bone grafts, disc out, facet joint removed, cyst in spinal canal removed and veins cleared ....
I went back in for two nerve root blocks at L4/L5 and at S1 about six weeks ago because of continued and bad leg pain and in the last couple of weeks I am finally without leg pain (99% of the time). I see my surgeon for follow up and CT on 27th August and imagine all will be well. I still get tired easily and still cannot have a whole day out anywhere and still have to plan my activities so that I am not up and running from morning till night, but I am now able to entertain and cook dinner every night and play a bit more with the grandchildren.

I am, unfortunately or fortunately, having a total knee replacement on 22nd September .... I am far more pain from my knee than my back now and walking except on the flat is almost impossible. I see my knee surgeon tomorrow for another consultation before the op. to ask various questions and push the point to him that he must make sure all the staff are aware of my back and that the physios are aware of how much, or not, I can do. My main worry is that I will slide backwards for a while but I still have good mobility in the knee and can bend it well (except on the stairs) so I am optimistic I will retain good movement after the op. I also realise I will have to be very dedicated to the post-op excersises.
I have also been having physio for my back and am slowly finding it easier to move more and the physio is pleased with my progress... though some of it makes me ache, I realise I must push through it but my range of movement is improving.

Having cancelled two holidays since the fusion because I could not face travelling and a different bed, we are finally going away in September for 11 days of r&r, good food, a bit of light swimming and the company of good friends. I have ordered wheelchairs at both airports to make life easier and ease being tired out from the hustle and distances in the airports and I am only anxious about the knee pain ... which I cannot do much about whether or not I travel or stay home. Finally a change of scene and not being at home so much.

So .......... for those people out there who are finding life really hard and wondering if things will ever get better .... they do!
I look back and think the following: The first month after fusion is truly exhausting, difficult, draining, emotional and it takes guts to get through it. After six to eight weeks you should notice an improvement, though you will still get really tired very quickly and may still have leg pain and back backache ... I was off the OxyContin at nine weeks. I still take Percocet and Amitriptyline at night. The love and care of my husband has been incredible and I know it made his life difficult too ... I could not have done this alone and I really do commiserate with people who have to .... it takes real guts to get through.

After about four months I was able to see people a bit more, have the odd evening out taking a pillow everywhere to make sitting easier and support my back. After the six month mark I would say I am leading a more normal life, though I still have to be careful. I have had to cut my time at two weddings and have another wedding next week ... will see how I go.

There is light at the end of the tunnel ........


  • I'm so glad to hear your positive update. It's a very tough recovery. I'm 15 months post op and I'm feeling better than ever.
    Sorry your knee is giving you grief but hopefully it will be very successful. I love going to hydrotherapy and there are a lot of knee people there too, so don't worry about your back ,I'm sure you'll catch up when you're removing from that surgery.
    That's great news that you have a holiday to look forward to as well. It sound s like you have great friends and a wonderful husband, I'm very lucky in that department too.
    Best wishes and thanks for your update.
    DDD. Married,Mum of 2, Age 45: 2007 & 2008 L5/S1 Discectomy
    April 2013 L5/S1 Anterior Fusion
    & L4/L5 Artificial Disc Replacement
  • I can relate. Mine was in Sept and really turned the corner at around 5 months post op. Let us know how your knee surgery goes. My right knee is bone on bone. I've been getting gel injections which have helped a bit, but I know replacement is in my near future. I just had Arthroscopic shoulder surgery yesterday. I'm sure you're as tired as me of being cut on!
    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
  • Good to read your update. You are so correct, the process of fusion surgery or any spine surgery recovery is a journey, not necessarily a destination and while the surgeons give anticipated dates of "recovery", they certainly aren't clear enough in the actual length of the process of recovery. It is steps, sometimes, big, sometimes small, but a year post op to really see where you are, and to regain your stamina, endurance, and get those little aches and pains under some control is a realistic picture.
    I am glad that you are experiencing improvements, and that they will continue as you get further from your initial surgery date. Go easy with the knee recovery, pace yourself, and you will get through that as well.
    Enjoy your vacation and take it slow......
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