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Post fusion (L4/L5) activity level Question

I have made a number of posts on this board since the beginning of my problems and it basically went like this:

Herniated a disc in January 2015 and had a discectomy June of this year, about a week later the same disc reherniated and I moved to another state to be closer to family and hopefully receive better care.

I saw an ortho who had a new MRI done and suggested epidurals before broaching the topic of another surgery so soon after the first failed one. Shots did not work and shortly after I started to have signs of incontinence. Monday of last week I went to the ER as my pain was severe and the incontinence was becoming worse. They had me admitted and again requested a fresh MRI. Two days later my ortho decides we would need a spinal decompression of the disc and if need be a fusion at level L4/5.

The surgery was successful and once I was awake my fiancé informed me that the surgeon spoke to him and my parents saying that once they opened me up the herniation was so incredibly large, the MRI did not sufficiently show it. He said it was one of the largest herniations he had ever seen. When he went to remove the parts of disc that were bad the entire disc exploded (ruptured) and he had to remove it all together. They ended up taking bone from my hip and pelvis and using it inside a cage as a "replacement disc" then they fused the vertebra with titanium rods and 4 screws.

I was released from the hospital yesterday and today is the first day without the good IV drugs and I am really feeling it. Just kind of wanted to share my story as it may be coming to an end and hopefully has fixed all my issues. All my leg pain is complete gone and all I have now is surgical site pain, hopefully this did the trick and has given me my life back!

I do have 1 question for all you people that have had fusions, what kind of activity level have you had throughout the duration of your healing? I am trying to walk as much as possible around my house with the assistance of a walker. I am also waking stairs as I have a multi level house, I only do this with supervision. At what point does it get easier to sleep or are you more self Sufficient ?

Thanks for taking the time to read my story!



  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 489
    Best advice is to follow your Drs recovery instructions. Give your body all the time it needs to heal....trying to do something before you've healed enough could compromise your recovery.

    You may have to call Dr's office nurse on several occasions if you have questions, their help in answering your questions is part of your recovery. It seems surgeons give only very basic lists on the do's and don'ts for post surgery.... the basic being the BLT....No bending, lifting, or twisting. When you go in for post op check, they will tell you, if not ask them, what things you can start doing when. I don't think they have a generic handout of that, because everyone is so different in their healing process.

    It's great to know your surgery has given you pain relief! And day by day you will regain a little strength back, but having such a major surgery does knock the wind out of your sails....give it time and you'll be back to sailing through life again.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    ...you had such a successful surgery!

    Isn't it something that such a large herniation wouldn't show on MRI!
    Fortunately, your doctor listened to your your symptoms and you had the surgery!

    So glad you posted to let us know of your successful surgery and not feeling your symptoms anymore!

    If you use the search on this site, upper right on page, and type in about post op recovery, I believe there is a thread started by Ron about the .."in general" ...what to expect after surgeries, re like you said ...when being more self sufficient.
    That should be very helpful.

    But, I would definitely keep in contact with doctor and understand clearly your limitations and restrictions that he has for you as he leads you toward your self sufficiency.

    It seems good you are near family and any support they offer, well...I would let them help :)
    I know if I was family, I'd love to able to do things for my loved one, especially after watching you endure your symptoms and family feeling so helpless.
    Personally, I would feel helping would be like a celebration of you being on road to recovery!
    After all you've been through, you don't want to rush things to risk not healing properly.

    I wish you all the best in your recovery!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 724
    Dear SouffléGrl...

    Your complete recovery will likely take some months... not weeks. But it sounds like you are young which helps a LOT and for sure reading your inputs you are making really good progress and you have a very good doctor. Listen to your doctor... the no BLT is really important... it's not just a catchy phrase. Walking is good and when your doctor says you are ready you can move on to other more specific PT... but don't rush it or over do it. Besides the bone fusion there is a lot of back muscle recovery and muscle rebuilding you will need to do. Besides the walking you might try swimming when your doctor agrees... it was a great boost to me in my recovery... but only when your doctor agrees.

    Hang in there... fusion recovery is a marathon... not a sprint.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • One of the best pieces of advice I can give, besides doing as the doc tells you, is BE PATIENT!!! This recovery can be slow at times. Take excellent care of yourself. Make that your top priority. I have had a few pity parties. It's OK to cry it out. I had a 4 level fusion on June 9, and am doing better every day. But, sometimes it feels like one step forward 2 steps back. Walk, walk, walk. Just be patient!
  • I'm so glad that you are feeling better and I know exactly how you feel about finally getting the problem fixed and being able to look forward to the future.

    For me, 6-7 weeks post single-level fusion was a big turning point. I started to sleep better and was mostly off pain meds (I still take Lyrica for nerve damage). Just getting a good night's sleep in a real bed (as opposed to the couch) made a ton of difference. By 3-4 months I was doing pretty well, but it was the middle of winter and snowy, so I just sort of laid as low as possible. By 6 months, I was mostly back to normal, albeit with lingering nerve damage, but not really terrible pain. I've just now passed the 1 year mark and can say that I feel like I'm stable. I still have good and "Eh" days, but no major pain (so long as I take my Lyrica). I haven't really noticed any change in my nerve damage symptoms, so they're looking pretty permanent, but even that is something that I've learned to adapt to.

    My best advice is to be patient, very gradually increase your activity level (mostly walking) and do physical therapy when your doctor recommends it. You've had multiple surgeries, so it's going to be a little longer to fully recover, but you will.
    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
  • Thank you all for taking the time to respond to me! I agree with everyone's orders to take my time and be patient with myself and do as I am instructed by my doctor! My fiancé and I have been gone from my home town for the last 3 years and now that we are back, my mother is thrilled to be my daily babysitter while he is at work and I am on the mend! (I introduced her to orange is the new black , and watching her watch this show is hysterical and the the highlight of my year!)

    The hospital ordered that I have some sort of home health care PT but my case manager, whom I love ( workers comp) spoke with my doctor and he does not want me working PT at home with anyone just yet.

    I have my first post op appt with my doctor on the 12th of October and I will keep you all updated as to the outcome! In the early months after my work accident I found this site and I have to say, for as much as I love and am thankful for it, I think there are an equal amount of negative posts, dealing with failure and pain that definitely scared me away a little.

    I would love to be a positive advocate for anyone who is going through the motions now to know that, yes it's a tough road, but sometimes the outcome is a positive one.

    I am feeling better every day, although there are times when I swear I can feel the hardware inside me, which I will never get used to! last night I was able to take a real shower with the shower chair (best ever invention) and it made a world of difference in how I felt! I was also able to finally find the sweet spot (a comfortable sleeping position) and almost slept through the entire night! Standing and sitting are the hardest tasks for me at the moment but tonight I assisted in making dinner and had absolutely no leg pain nagging me to sit! I am a foodie and love to cook and to be able to complete a meal without feeling the familiar leg pain was an incredible feeling!

    I hope to make a full recovery and would love to be there for anyone who has questions or is perhaps going through the same things or just be an ear to vent to. My journey was a bumpy and frustrating one and I would love to give back to the people who were there for me! Thanks again for taking the time to read and respond, you people, whether you realize it or not, made a huge difference in the life of someone who was going through hell. :)
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