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1 month after 12 level thoracic fusion

I have posted another topic with the heading" the weeks after spinal fusion". But thought it may be beneficial for myself & you guys to post a new one a month after as my situation has changed & it will hopefully get some responses & info on this stage of recovery.
So... A month after my 17 hr 12 level posterior spinal fusion, my nice scar from my neck down the full length of my back is healed nicely & itching every now & then, my kids are scared & intrigued by it! My pain levels are hard to judge at the moment, I am on gabapentin, enedep & 20 mg slow release OxyContin twice a day and 20 mg immediate release OxyContin 2-3 times a day so I am we'll medicated during the day & only really notice bad pain when breakthrough med has worn out &/ or after I have done my walk or some 10-15 minute activity around the house. What I now do have alarmingly is really bad pain in the mornings, it is what wakes me up, I'm guessing as meds have worn off while I am asleep, & I now have ally bad lower back pain in the morning I think as this is where there is no fusion & they have a lot of pressure on them now to support my core on their own. So I guess pain is under control reasonably but what I have noticed 4 weeks out is that I get so exhausted & feel so exhausted after my little walks or any small activity of 10-15 mins, really fatigued like my whole body aches like a flu is coming on, is this normal? I am hungry for info on this part of recovery & what I should be feeling & what is right etc, I can't get in to see my doc till next Friday. Also that my pain levels I detailed above is about right, as I don't feel overbearing amounts of pain in the day I want to know if that is because I am we'll medicated or that I should have reduced or no pain now after 4 weeks?
Please let me know your thoughts on this.
In regards to movement now, I still sleep on a recliner as I can't get in or out of bed properly nor does lying on my side work yet, too painful. I can have my morning shower on my own & dry & dress myself which is good , it is slower & I have developed new techniques for this but it works!
I then walk for a little bit as it loosens everything up before I need to sit for a while as I feel so tired after that little morning routine. I squat now to get down to grab something, bending just wont happen yet & my whole trunk/core feels weak & even swollen if that makes sense, I will have to do squat exercises when I can to strengthen my knees & core as this is how I will have to get low for life & work now instead of bending over . I want to start exercising lightly soon to strengthen my arms, stomach but not sure if I should yet as I'm am still sore & tire easily. It's funny, during the day now when I feel ok I get up & try & do a few things I would normally & try & hold things or do things to see where I am at, it seems like I will be able to do most things I did before surgery, just may be a little slower. But I tire immediately around the 10 min mark & fell sore & remember that no, I am not ok.
I just thought I would post this as I want to know if where I am at RE pain & how I feel & movement is right for 4 weeks after surgery? Also if anyone who has had similar can tell me if pain will still be there without meds & how long it will last for & if my feelings of chronic fatigue is the norm after such massive surgery & if this is right 4 weeks after & how long it will last? Should I start to exercise lightly yet to get back strength and or fitness?
I have been told both sides like after such surgery (12 levels & 17 hrs operation) that I should expect and just be recovering doing nothing but resting and keeping my pain meds up as 2-3 months at least is what I will need to even begin to feel like moving to next phase, but also have some literature that says after 4 weeks I should be nearly free from pain and to start moving a lot more. I suppose best thing is to listen to my body and see my doc which I am next week but any experiences from you guys or thought on this situation 4 weeks out would be great .
This site is a wonderful resource & I wish everyone the best in their own situations & thanks in advance for any responses.
Nick, 33 yr old male. Family man w/ 3 great kids, Signwriter/maker/installer, Back Pain recovery enthusiast ! :)


  • Hi I have read you post with much interest as next week I'am having posterior fusion with oestiotomies and bone grafts from T4 down to L3 at Nottingham queens medical center spinal unit. I have been reading the forum for pre and post op info but haven't found many of us having such large multi level fusions.
    Your fatigue levels are a bit disconcerting to me as I already have severe fatigue due to lupus.How much pain relief did you have pre op I'am taking lots of tramadol so I just hope they add in some of the meds you mention to help post op. Did they give you the pain meds to go home with from hospital or did you have to see your Gp for them?
    Are you in the uk?
    Sorry for all the questions. The only advice I can pass on to you is regarding activity post op. I have been told I can't do any bending lifting twisting or driving for 2-3months and no physio will start till at least 2-3 months. Before this stage just a little walking and lots of rest. With this in mind and as you are only 1month post op I think your activity levels seam about right so don't push any more as you could do more harm than good. I also wasn't given any guarantees for being pain free so may be Iyour pain levels are to be expected.
    I hope someone else may have some more advice for you soon, and if you don't mind I shall follow your progress so I have someone to measure my own progress by after my op next week.
    Regards Jude
  • God bless for what you're going through. Have you tried aqua therapy or walk-in a couple laps in a warm pool? It might be too soon but it feels great to not fight gravity. Follow by hot whirlpool bath. That's my favorite form of exercise right now. I would say you're doing quite well considering. Good luck!
  • Hi Nick,

    That surgery sounds like a crazy amount of stress to your body. I'm 7.5 weeks post op from t9-12. I can't imagine having done my whole thoracic spine. My surgery was in the Philipinnes and take-home narcotics/opiates are illegal there and frowned upon. This has forced me to listen to my body as it heals. I'm in my 30's too and was athletic. It has been hard not being able to lift anything more than 5 lbs and to have to creep around slowly for short periods of time. I read that your muscles are only 40 percent healed at 6 weeks and 80 percent at 8 weeks, so take your time. I read that fusions take even longer to set. Listen to your body and let it heal, there are no do-overs on a surgery like that; however you heal is what you will be stuck with forever. I'm on Lyrica and tylenol so I really feel my pain if I'm overdoing things. As long as I don't overdo things I can feel my body getting a little stronger each week- celebrate the ridiculously small improvements because things like being able showering yourself ARE a big deal. My heart goes out to you and your family. Good luck on your recovery.
    1 in a million
  • trivedisitestrivedisites Posts: 3
    edited 03/17/2015 - 7:15 AM
    All the best Evsolutions, I hope you will get well soon. Aqua therapy is amazing through my personal expirience...You can try, may be it helps you too...
  • gfishggfish Pittsburgh PAPosts: 158
    really it is. I have a fussion from T4-T10 and its been 4 months. I think a normal life is gone. On days that I feel, maybe i can just try harder. push myself. That night I pay big time. can barely walk because of the pain. And yes its because of the new strain the spine has to deal with. My back is still numb. You can stick a pin in me and i wont feel it. Your fusion was very large. I dont take pain meds, I can drive and dont want to feel like im in a cloud. My doctor said at 4 months thats all I will be on the healing side of it! I told him what? This is it, I cant bend, life, wipe my rear, walk up and down steps. Even getting dressed is a chore. Most of the time i sleep with my clothes on. Im 50 years old and this is not where I wanted to be. people have knee, hip and other joint replacements done. They are fixed and done. Im not looking for pitty, thankfull I can still walk. But the thoracic spine plays a big part. As we both have found out. Only time will tell how you will heal. try not to get down, Thats the hard part.
    Greg fisher
  • Ok, here is my story. I was on the back of a motorcycle and flew out at 50 MPH on the freeway. They found out that I fractured my T12 and had Scoliosis in my T11, which was awesome news to here while in ER. Anyways, they told me I needed spinal fusion to for sure fix my back. They went in and fused me from T12 to my L2 and I know have 10 screws and 8 rods in my back with a scar over a foot long. they told me I had to wear my brace for 6 weeks, well that lasted for a about 4 weeks. It was so hard on my back when I would sit down and I felt too stiff.

    My first month was awful (4 weeks), I could move well and my muscles were extremely sore and tight. I couldn't wipe, put on shoes&socks, and anything at would require me bending over. I will say that month (Jan) I did get off the pain pills 3 weeks after back surgery, so that was good. I didn't want to depend on them and I wanted to be more aware of my body so I would know if this is how I was suppose to feel. I was tired a lot and weak, i would have to pace sometimes because my hips hurt so bad from them taking the bone marrow. I was not comfortable to sit at all. I did walk as much as i could to relieve the pain and i found that moving helped me manage my pain.

    month 2 (Feb) I went back to work part time on the 13th and that was a lot. I was exhausted after working 4 hours and would go home and sleep. My back was still tight and especially in my love handle areas which was weird to me. I told myself that I had to move more now. So I started the elliptical and build up to doing it an hour everyday from the 14th- until march. Well, towards the end of Feb i over did something and I went into some serious back spasms and was put on muscle relaxers. That went on until the middle of March. Even though I had the spasms, I continued to stretch and do the elliptical. They went away and the stretching has been great because now i can touch my toes when i bend down.

    March 27th rolled around and I have my 3 mo. check up. The doc. didn't really have a lot to say and I asked him what I could now do since it had been three months. He really didn't say. I showed him that I could jump up and down and touch my toes and he about died, so we did and x ray to see how things looked. There were no changes and the screws were holding strong. I do still have some numbness in my back and I don't know if that is due to the surgery. I told him I wanted to start running and lifting again and he said ease into it and if you have back spasms again you are doing too much. \

    I think my biggest issues are muscle tightness at my incision and lower back tightness. Currently, I still have trouble putting on socks and pants. I am lifting weights again, and I am running on the treadmill at a 6 mph, and I did a small box jump and it didn't hurt in my back! I am also planking a lot and just started practicing sitting up and not log rolling, which is super annoying because I am so use to log rolling. I have been doing it for 4 months! So I know I am getting better but I am taking this one month at a time and not weeks. Every month I am stronger. I would encourage everyone to stretch as much as you can and listen to your body. Work on every range of motion so you don't get stuck. I seriously feel that movement has helped me recover faster. I still feel like I had surgery but it I am not in the pain I was Jan-Feb.

    I am 29 female, Fitness coordinator, very active.

  • gfishggfish Pittsburgh PAPosts: 158
    edited 04/22/2015 - 7:00 AM
    I to stretch. Age, health, the injury and doctor make a big difference. Your op was no walk in the park. Im glad you are doing very good and getting strong. But my Doc told me I am just stabilized, Like putting a steak in the ground and tying a tree to it.
    That I could not be fixed, Im lucky to walk. Most of us have some big hardware here. But I do enjoy the reading and like to see who is getting better. Its a great site, Its someone to chat with thats has been there.
    Greg fisher
  • After lurking for the last 4 months I decided toare an account. On may 22 2015 I had spinal fusion to correct my 48.8 degree curve from scoliosis. I am fused froom T2-L1 currently home in the resting phase before my first post op at the end of the month. my pain levels are greatly reduced, I feel infinitely better but I know this is just the beginning of a long arduous journey back to full health. To give some history, I was a competitive swimmer ages 5-17, cigarette smoker from 17-January 31 2015, practiced muay thai feb. 1of this year to may 20 and can not wait to get back to it. I am 24, 6'0 after the 37 degree correction, and eat a strict healthy fresh themed diet. I don't drink alcohol, but I do worry the 7 years of cigarette smoking will hinder my healing. I used marijuana as the only source outside of exercise and stretching to alleviate my pain only receiving pain killers after my surgery. I will be more than happy to answer any other questions
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