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How long is pain medication needed after a fusion/stabilization surgery?

freckles97ffreckles97 Posts: 12
edited 03/04/2015 - 12:37 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everybody...I am new to this forum and wanted to speak to others who have gone through a fusion surgery (mine was L4/L5). I am 4.5 weeks out and thought I should wean off my pain meds this past Monday. My family practitioner placed me on an 8 day wean of taking one 10mg Vicodin for 4 days tapering down to 1/2 that amount for another 4 days. This whole thing was my idea because I just want to start feeling "normal" again. By the following day I realized that I may have made a mistake. I have been waking up at night from the pain and the mornings are just awful! Is this normal? The only other "major" surgery I have had was a C-section many moons ago and with that procedure I was perfectly fine in three weeks. I am not so naive to think I would be fine at this point, but just wondering when the pain will ease off enough to not take theses freaking medications (: Thank you so much everybody....and my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters in back issues...


  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 03/04/2015 - 3:46 PM
    Well, I think that answer will be different for everyone, perhaps significantly so, but here was my experience: I had an L5/S1 TLIF that very closely followed two prior microdiscectomies at the same level. I think I took my pain meds pretty faithfully for a solid 4-5 weeks (setting the alarm at night to take them even). I always tried to start weaning off during the day, or more accurately, I would just slowly stretch the time between doses as much as I could before I started getting uncomfortable and then I would take my next dose. I think by 6-7 weeks, I was completely off anything stronger than some Tylenol. (I was also taking Lyrica for lingering nerve damage though.) I suspect without the other surgeries being so close together, I could have pushed myself a little harder, but by that time I was just tired of hurting.

    I may be totally uninformed, but I don't think that it's a bad thing that you are still taking pain meds for this type of surgery. Obviously, you want to get off them as soon as you can, but I bet you can safely still slow down a bit. Definitely take it right before bed and as soon as you get up as that will be when you are most stiff and sore, IME.
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • really appreciate your response. The surgeons were saying a similar thing ( 6 weeks or so). As you well know; this entire experience is tuff. All of it from the pain pre- surgically, to the pain post surgically. Many months of horrible pain that i left untreated because of my distaste for pain medications. I am an RN, so we are taught to give them to our patients, but the inside story is that we tend to be critical of ourselves if we need them. i have heard of hard core people coming off of them a couple of weeks post Op, but this seems unthinkable to me. i was prepared to have a microdiscetomy when they ordered another MRI and found i had really nothing to work with and ended up with the fusion. I had no time for it to sink in at all. i just knew i had to do it. I feel this may be why all of this has hit me so hard. One thing i am proud of is i finished nursing school last year ...............i am a tuff cookie......just so very tired of the pain..and the hanging around the house for months. ....the thought of going back in and telling my family MD "Oops" I was wrong need more medication for a couple of more weeks"! makes me embarrassed....especially because i am an RN...should have known better.
  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 03/05/2015 - 3:42 AM

    Goodness, I don't think you have anything to feel embarrassed about, particularly since you sound like me....I had hurt so long that by the time I had any relief, I just didn't want to hurt any more than necessary. I think I'd just be honest with my doctor and tell him/her that I need to slow down a bit with cutting back the meds. Give yourself enough time to heal. I know that when I hit 6-7 weeks, I really felt like I started to feel a lot better. The pain lessened, I was finally able to sleep all (or most of the) night and even better, I could sleep in bed again rather than the couch. My personal opinion is to give it another week or so and then slowly try to wean off. There is no shame in still hurting and needing meds. You had a BIG surgery and your body is going to heal slowly, but you will heal. I'm about 5.5 months out now and while I have had some complications, I do feel mostly normal, so it WILL happen.

    Congrats on becoming a nurse, by the way! I am just about to begin a medical coding program so that I can now have a desk job, hopefully from home. I have zero medical background, so that's a little intimidating, but also exciting to try something new.
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • Again...thank you so much. I have had so many people try to discourage me from being a nurse based on my back......I still have no idea how i pulled off my last semester....a wonderful classmate drove me everyday and I did end up graduating late.....My final clinical was completed after my final epidural...i truly limped across the finish line on that one....i remember giving my patients pain medications and asking "what is your pain level from 1-10?" Anything below a 7 and i would think....OH god! mine is worse...what am I doing here?" My MD told me as long as I fuse properly; there should be no reason why I cannot do the job. i will have to use impeccable body mechanics......but that is true for anyone (unless they want to sit in our seats). And i love the idea of medical coding......we need people who have those skills so I believe you will never hurt for work! Lord knows Mds and Rns know NOTHING about it so it really is it's own area of expertise and highly prized by the Docs. Do not let the medical terminology ect... scare you....it is interesting enough to be memorable and you will come along just fine. The more you learn; the more you will not be understood by your family though lol.....my husband is like...."speak English" !
  • freckles97ffreckles97 Posts: 12
    edited 03/05/2015 - 5:02 AM
    one more thought! You said I remind you of yourself...well I know what you mean because here we both are after going through what can only be described as hellish and we both keep "getting back up" and dreaming of a better time when we can work and enjoy our lives again.........getting a little emotional here!...anyway .....you sound like you have made it to "the other side" and that is what i will keep thinking of until I make it too....god bless you.
  • Very concerned about your working situation, Brian. So you said you have 6 months of disability to work with? I wonder if you went and discussed your situation with a grassroots level education institution such as a community college if you could not qualify for an extension? You would be surprised of the incentives you could get for starting back to school. It is kinda scary to start back after not doing it for a number of years; but if i could do it...then you can too. Most institutions will meet you where you are at education wise and they star you off there. Maybe all of this bull doo-doo you have been through is going to redirect you to something you never thought possible.......sheet metal work does pay well, but it is miserable and very physical work......and you do not deserve the physical punishment anymore, Sir! I mean it though......please look into what i mentioned. It really could quite possibly keep you in your home while saving your back ect......and there are so many feilds that are viable and growing areas of study....one that just popped into my head is environmental studies.....a very needed educational skill set....and of course so many others...depending on what you might enjoy.......(:
  • I had a double level fusion in August 2014. With regards to pain medication , I took them consistently for 5 weeks post op.
    After that , maybe once a week. At about 3 months , I ceased altogether. However , I probably had a high tolerance for pain
    given the fact that I had been diagnosed with disc issues 8 years ago. That said, everyone heals differently and no two
    back situations are alike. So I wouldn't be surprised to hear that someone is on medication even a year later!
    My current situation is back at work , since 11 weeks post op, and feeling pretty good. I would attribute my success to walking ALOT right after surgery and getting back in the gym at 13 weeks post op.
    My only regret is that I should have had surgery sooner, so as to avoid those years of agony!
    Wishing everyone a fast recovery:)
    About me: 52 YO HWP fit male.
    Bilateral L5 spondylolysis L5 with grade I anterolisthesis L5-S1.
    Stable multilevel degenerative spondylosis contributing to mild canal
    narrowing L2-3 and L3-4.
    360 ALIF & PLIF L-4 - S-1 on 8/11/14
  • freckles97ffreckles97 Posts: 12
    edited 03/07/2015 - 1:41 PM
    Thank you for the detailed response. I understand the pain for an extended period of time, also. I first began to notice my issues around ten years ago at the age of 35. I live in Colorado and have always loved doing all kinds of outside activities I had just acquired a new mountain bike those many years back when i realized that bike riding was going to have to be eliminated from my list of fun things to do. i feel it had something to do with the stance taken (leaning forward) that really set off the pain episodes. Time went on and eventually skiing had to go, horses had to go, then camping went, too. then my back issues began to take away the necessary stuff...driving, working, cleaning up after myself ect.... that is when i moved on surgery (after doing all those pointless and expensive epidural injections along with months of PT)...you know the drill! Looking forward to hopefully getting my life back. encourage to hear of formally active people such as yourself doing well...it gives me some hope for my future.........and YES I really get your feelings on waiting to have something done and all the potentially wasted years ........i feel you on that 100% God bless!
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