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Recovery from L5/S1 Fusion -- SLOW

John KevinJohn Kevin Posts: 13
edited 05/17/2015 - 4:09 AM in Recovering from Surgery
This is my first posting here. In late march of this year, I had L5 S1 fusion with a metal support installed (I'm now the proud owner of a piece of titanium). My recovery has been exceptionally slow, to say the least.
Here's my scenario. I'm a 53 year old male. I'm in good to very good physical shape, prior to this adventure I was a committed runner; I generally ran 2-3 half marathons per year, with the necessary training being done on a weekly basis (20 miles per week, more or less). About 2 years ago I started noticing pain in my left calf. It was worse if I was standing still; walking, running or sitting mitigated the pain nicely. I did what pretty much any guy would do, and ignored it for a year. At that point, it got worse to the point where it hurt walking, running, or standing. Diagnosed as sciatic issues, I began PT and cortisone injection therapy. It continued to get progressively worse, to the point where my doctor decided surgery was the only answer. The MRI indicated a bone spur, a collapsing disk, and a little stenosis that may or may not have been a problem. During surgery, he discovered a lot of arthritis, two grape-sized cysts, and also noted that I actually have 6 lumbar verteba. He cleaned up the arthritis, removed the bone spur and the cysts, and performed a diskectomy along wiith installing the titanium appliance. He informed that he did "nudge" the nerve during surgery, and that I could expect pain for a while.
Fast forward to today, exactly 7 weeks post procedure. The scar has been healing very nicely, no issues whatsoever. The pain in my leg, however, is still bad. Really bad. I can BARELY walk half of a mile. Pain is on the left side, in the foot, calf, knee region, and left gluteal region. I'm taking percocet (5/325 * 1.5) in the morning and Advil (600mg) in the afternoon, which barely take the edge off the pain.
Here's my question. Given the extent of the procedure, is this amount of lingering pain normal? Can I expect it to continue for another month or so, and then gradually improve? Added to this scenario is that I had to relocate for my job 4 weeks ago (three states away from my old residence), so it isn't easy to get back with my original surgeon. I am in the process of locating a good Orthopedist, but it isn't easy (my employer moved me from an eastern seaboard city where doctors are pleniful to a small town area).
Am I "normal?" When, if ever, should I begin PT? And, longer term, when can I think about running again?
THANKS!
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1

Comments

  • I had the same procedure in December and am 52. I'm back to work full time but its tough. There's always some pain and some days are better than others. I don't know what's normal. Doctor says I'm doing great and fusing but I guess I didn't expect so much pain this far out
  • I had the same procedure in December and am 52. I'm back to work full time but its tough. There's always some pain and some days are better than others. I don't know what's normal. Doctor says I'm doing great and fusing but I guess I didn't expect so much pain this far out
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  • pittpeteppittpete Posts: 19
    edited 05/17/2015 - 10:56 AM
    Advil is an anti-inflammatory and can prevent fusion..Did your Doc tell you to take it?
    Also, i would ask the Doc for the surgical report..What does nudge mean?
    How long was your nerve being compressed for?
    You need to schedule a post-op and have xrays to check the hardware...
    Also walking helps with the scar tissue formation.
    96-Right disc frag L4-L5 disco-On/off back pain,no leg pain/2007-Right herniation L5-S1 unbearable leg pain/08 L5-S1 discectomy /leg pain relieved/14-chronic LBP,rhizo relieves facet pain on right side/15-L4-S1 collapsed,facets shot,PLIF scheduled 4/13/15
  • Thanks Pittpete, I'll discontinue the Advil. I need the Percocet in order to get moving in the morning, but I hate the side effects (e.g. constipation). So, I'll switch to plain Tylenol in the afternoon instead of Advil, and continue to attempt to counter the effects of the Percocet by eating truly heroic quantities of fiber. I'll also get all of my medical records for my new orthopedist.

    Christiben, that's exactly how I'm doing - some good days, some bad days. I agree, I thought that the healing process would be a lot faster. I went for a walk tonight, about a mile or so. I did good right up to about the .75 mile point; after that, it was a real "character builder" getting back home.

    Question for any and all: how long do people take off from work following spinal fusion surgery? My doctor was exceptionally vague on the recommended period of time - he said I'd know when I could go back to work.
  • I had 2 level L4-S1 PLIF April 13 2015..Doc said i'd be out minimum of 3 months...
    Get the surgical report for you..
    Walking is also the best exercise to keep scar tissue from trapping the nerves.
    96-Right disc frag L4-L5 disco-On/off back pain,no leg pain/2007-Right herniation L5-S1 unbearable leg pain/08 L5-S1 discectomy /leg pain relieved/14-chronic LBP,rhizo relieves facet pain on right side/15-L4-S1 collapsed,facets shot,PLIF scheduled 4/13/15
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  • I'm a 60 y/o that is 7 days post op from L4 L5 S1 TLIF. Incision site is healing nicely, but I'm experiencing the same symptoms as you...when I walk I have pain from lower back, across butt cheek, and down leg. I feel as though I'm having to relearn how to walk (right side only). Worse pain is at night and getting out of bed. I'm sure a lot of this will resolve over time or I'm hoping it will. I'm walking daily, but trying not to overdue it (though I'm unsure about what overdueing it is...). I'll be reading this forum posting to see what happens to you. Good luck.
  • I am 53 years old and two weeks ago I made a spine surgery with TLIF system in the L5-S1. I eliminated a herniated disc and extrageron impaired, placing me a titanium implant bone. In turn they placed support four titanium screws and bars to give better support to the column. And ten day in my house all been in pain. Sit, sleep and walk is painful. My doctor has told me that with every passing day the pain is mitigated but has not been so. I recommended I walk twice a day for 15 minutes I go increasing the time with the passing of days and as I feel better. For now I'm not taking medications with Tramadol Acetaminophen alone if I have a lot of pain. Now, I have constant pain just to sit and walk. At bedtime also just trying to find a good sleeping posture. Several night I had to get up and walk as it has been presented to me a sharp pain in my left leg. Writing from Caracas-Venezuela busacando somilares a forum to share problems and got this in English. If the translation is bad please excuse me. I have faith that with the passage of time the pain goes away. I think there is common point is the walk. Walking as it helps a lot. The point is, do u stra slowly and I despair because he wanted to run
  • Recovery seems to be a "three steps forward, two steps back" proposition. Mornings are an unmitigated disaster for me - I have to wake up at 5:30 AM and take my pain pills, so I can lurch out of bed by 6:30 and hobble to the shower. I'm a train wreck until 8:00 or so. Surprisingly, however, after that I seem to to pretty good for the rest of the day. The folks at work commented today that I seem to be moving a lot faster than I did a few weeks ago, so I'm going to take that as a positive sign.

    It still seems to me that the sciatic pain that I'm experiencing on my left side, especially first thing in the morning, is actually worse than the paint experienced prior to surgery. After reading this forum that doesn't seem to be too uncommon, so I no longer think I'm the only patient in orthopedic history to go through it. I'm still counting on what my surgeon said - it will really start to improve at about the three month mark (I'm at 8 weeks on Friday, May 22).

    Here's something new. Both before and after the procedure I've had pain in my left foot, and numbness on the superior lateral region of my left foot. The pain is still there, but the numbness seems to be morphing into itchiness. Not garden-variety itching, either -- this is a major league, high-yield, "scratch it until you hit bone" sort of itchiness. Is this common? And is it indicative of the nerve healing?

    Thanks!
  • christibencchristiben Posts: 121
    edited 05/21/2015 - 4:19 PM
    I went back to work after three months but it was really hard. Went back out for three more weeks and at five months. Its getting better but a struggle. I'm also in a new town at a new job. I'm surprised they didn't fire me. I'm trying to workout more and increase muscle tone. Energy is still a problem. I take a Tylenol three about midday. I miss my strength and mobility.
  • I'm still out of work recovering from a fusion of L3,L4, L5, & S1 on February 3, 2015. This surgery was a revision of a failed L4, L5, S1 fusion in 2013 where my screws slipped most of the way out of my L4 vertebra and made the spondylolisthesis even worse than it had been pre-op. I think that having to invade those muscles a second time has made them slower to mend. My surgeon also had to use bigger screws this time! I think we just have to keep walking and be patient. I, too, really start to struggle at the 3/4 mile mark.
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