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Struggling with sleep & shoulder pain even though I had a lumber fusion!

I'm coming up 11 weeks post L5S1 TLIF surgery and am still struggling to sleep. I weaned myself off all medication apart from an antiflamatory in the mornings, an antidepressant at night (prescribed to help me sleep) and the odd dose of paracetamol. I'm currently weaning slowly off the antidepressant as I'm not sleeping & have gained around 20kg since I started taking it in around April this year.

My local dr seems to think if I lose the extra weight, I will gain more stamina, exercise more & sleep better. I'm working on all of those but it's no walk in the park. If I push too hard the worse my nerve pain is & I don't want to undo the good.

I still have some lower back pain & residual nerve pain in my ankle. Both of these I can live with. It's the shoulder pain that's driving me crazy. I've dug into my pain killer stash & have been taking a nightly 5mg endone for the last 3 nights trying to break the pain cycle.

I believe my shoulder pain stems from lying on that side for so long for sleep (opposite side to sciatic pain & disc herniation), & I was wondering if anyone else is having a similar issue? My dr & physio are more interested in my surgery recovery. Might have to try & get my physio to look at it when I see her next week. She's been great with everything else, maybe I'm not persistant enough.....

Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014


  • The shoulder pain could be related to your sleeping position. Have you tried switching to the other side or sleeping on your back? At 11 weeks post op, you should be able to manage sleeping on your back, with pillows tucked under your knees to take the pressure off your shoulder.
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I've tried the other side, which still aches & causes some pain/discomfort which is still a lot less than prior to surgery. I've also tried on my back & even with pillows my lower back hurts/aches after a bit. I've moved into the spare room to ride it out as I'm really restless & driving my husband crazy. I'm hoping my physio has some suggestions too.
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
    Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014
  • Hi! I am now 3 weeks post op and I have had a similar problem to you.

    I have always been a stomach sleeper and always active in my sleep (rolling around and changing positions constantly) but I was instructed after my L5/S1 microdiscectomy that I was to not sleep that way. I tried sleeping for days flat on my back but it was so uncomfortable, sleep became elusive and when I would wake up I would feel restless. I eventually attempted to sleep on my side with a pillow between my legs. I would wake up with terrible pain in my shoulders and my hip from doing so. I had stopped taking all pain medication 3 days post op and was doing well until I began sleeping on my side I had to start taking two vicodin before I went to bed to make it a little easier.

    I eventually found that the most comfortable position was on my side with a body pillow on the front of my body and I would sleep at an angle, half on my side and half on the pillow. It took a lot of stress off my shoulder, gave me the feeling of sleeping on my stomach, and prevented me from moving a lot in my sleep. It is worth a try if you believe the position you are sleeping in is causing your shoulder pain.
  • http://www.spine-health.com/forum/announcements/spine-health-announcements/welcome-spine-health-how-get-started

    You are on a very low dose of Lyrica.........so you may need a dosage adjustment from your doctor in order for the medication to help you more. Do NOT adjust the dosage more on your own. Sitting and standing are supposed to be limited to no more than 15-20 minutes at a time during the first few weeks post op, slowly increasing the time, in very small increments.
    Your surgeon should have given you post op restrictions and instructions to guide you during the first few weeks post op to aid your recovery.

    A body pillow, or an extra long one found in some pregnancy stores really helps to keep us from rolling around or getting into a bad position while recovering from surgery.....
  • I'll try that as I'm pretty sure the pain is caused by my sleeping position. My physio today gave me a shoulder stretch to do which she thinks will also help.
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
    Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014
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