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post op lower back pain after spinal fusion: 7 months

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello out there. I had back fusion surgery over 7 months ago at L5-S1. I feel no pain reduction whatsoever. I have done physical therapy all along, but that hasn't helped either. I take vicodin at times to get some pain relief, but even that doesn't help much. Should I be on a longer acting pain medication? I don't want to live on pain meds the rest of my life, but since my pain is always 3 to 7 and averages about 5 throughout the day, I need to control the pain. I have toasted the facet joints down there, so that's not the problem, either. What could still be causing the pain? And what can I do about it? Thank you for any suggestions or advice! Bop


  • What does you surgeon say? Have you been able to start PT? Is your pain the same as before surgery? Do you hae a good pain management physician to help you diagnose the problem?

    Good luck. Terri
  • I cant believe that after having a fusion you still have no pain relif at all in your back. That must totally suck having to go through the pain of surgery only to be let down like that.
    When did you start your PT? I'm just wondering if you started too early and pushed a little too hard and aggravated your back. Did you have any relief at all directly after the surgery?
    I was living my life with my pain at a 7 level daily. When I overdid things it would get higher. Now, a month after my PLIF, my pain daily pain level has dropped to a 2-3.
    Maybe you should seek a second opinion or sit down and talk with your surgeon and tell him the surgery hasnt helped at all.

    Good Luck.

    Christina :)
  • Even if you had done too much the pain should not be nagging you 24/7. My advise to you is also to seek a second opinion.

    At 7 months wow you are way to advance for constant pain.
  • Is the pain actually in your spine or is it in the muscles supporting the spine? Some pain we have is simply because our muscles are weak while other pain does come directly from the nerves.
    Go back and see your specalist but keep a track of anything you do that agrivates it etc.
    Have you had Oxycontin SR. This is a slow release 10-12 hrs twice a day that is used to keep the pain at bay, rather then taking something when the pain kicks in.
    ASk your Dr about it and I hope things settle for you.

    Oh and can you have a week where you do nothing but rest and walk???? Then you can get a better idea of anything you are doing to trigger it.

    Blessings Sara
  • Hi Bop, sorry you aren't feeling any pain relief.

    Are you able to pinpoint whether the pain you have now is basically identical to your pre-surgery pain or is it different in any way at all? This is quite important in determining whether your surgery has had any positive or negative impact and/or what may now be causing your pain.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • is along the lines of these other guys. At 7 months you should be doing quite a bit better. Sounds like you've been working it too hard. Thats absolutely one thing us spineys can't do, is take it for granted (because some days we feel like we can move mountains) that everything is so good, that we try doing things we use to. NOT!!! I also agree that MAYBE you started PT way too soon, so that could be aggrivating it.

    I had a three level fusion 23 weeks ago. And was JUST released to start PT at 20 weeks. My Neurosurgeon would not give me the "A-OK" until I was "mostly" fused. I wasn't allowed to do squat!!! Which I thought was smart and very conservative. Frustrating, to say the least..... I was ready to "Rock-n-Roll" at 16 weeks. But only allowed to walk, walk, walk.... And that I did, and do everyday 1-1/2 miles everyday.

    Sounds like you need to get back in to your Doc, and see if maybe something has happened. Don't take any chances. I take STILL about 2-3 percocets a day, especially if I just had PT, I'm sore for about 2 days aftarwards.

    I decided three days ago (while my husband was at work, he trusts me now that I'm not going to do anything STUPID while he's at work, well...) I was feeling so good that I decided to go our back on our property, hand cut these 3' weeds, then proceeded to take the lawn mower "up the hill" mow, after taking down the weeds, (so that consisted of PUSHING the mower up hill) I only mowed down maybey a 4'x7' area back there. Then stooped down to spray each weed stump (after I manually cut them down, then mowed them down) But just doing that LITTLE tiny bit of work, using muscles I haven't in 23 weeks. I was down for the count for 3 days. Needless to say, my hubby was pretty mad at me. But it sure looks better back there!!

    We just have to face it, this is an extrememly long, long long healing process, even when you think you're feeling "on top of the world", your not!! Please get in to see your doc, and please please "take it easy!!!" You don't want to have it re-done do you? eeeeeewwwwwwww :(
  • Thank you for your comments. In response to your comments, I did not start PT too early. I waited 3 months to start it.

    The pain now does not emanate exactly from the bad disc area, as it used to before the surgery. It is now on the sides of the disc, perhaps in the muscle straps there. The pain also goes up the muscle straps to the mid back area at times.

    So I walk a lot and do PT with no lessening of the pain. It's so frustrating. The muscles are certainly strong enough by now back there to support everything. I've done enough superman back stretches to last a lifetime! But nothing seems to work to rid myself of the pain.

    So far, my ortho just says it takes time and that I still might see some pain reduction in the future. But I'm going on 8 months here by the end of July and still no pain relief, so I'm beginning to doubt him. He takes X-rays every time I go in to see him every 3 months, and he always says everything looks fine. But still the pain!

    I would do anything to rid myself of this pain, but I've tried surgery, I've toasted the facet joints, I've exercised, and I still have about the same pain level--an average of 5 throughout the day--as I did presurgery. I'll check into different drugs, but a lifetime on drugs to control pain sure doesn't sound very appealing.

    Anyway, thanks all for your comments and suggestions. If any changes, I'll let you know. I'll start posting on the pain boards from now on to learn as much as I can there. If any of you have any other suggstions or advice, I'd like to hear them. Bop
  • Hi Bop,
    I'm so sorry to hear that you're still in pain. I don't have any encouraging words of advice, but wanted to let you know that you aren't in this alone. It sounds like we must have had our surgeries about the same time. Mine will be 8 months at the end of July. I had a fusion at one level (S1/L5) and an ADR at L5/L4. I am now in more constant pain than I ever was before surgery. Before surgery I had some days that were AWFUL, but I had some good days in between. My pain wasn't constant before like it is now. Now, I very rarely have an time that my pain level is under a 4-5 and by the late afternoon my pain level is almost always pushing close to 7-8. I too, have x-rays every month and my NS says everything is fine and I should be better. But, I'm NOT! He doesn't have an answer to why the pain and even took my off of percocet 2 months ago because he said I should be better. He prescribed Darvocet which does absolutely NOTHING. I finally convinced him to refer me to a PM doc the last time I was in there. I want to get to the bottom of why I'm having this pain....and in the meantime, I have got to have something stronger than davocet to control the pain.
    I am in water therapy and have been for months. While I'm in the water, I get pain relief. It's usually down to about a 1-2 while I'm in the water. But, as soon as I get out, it shoots back up there.
    My heart races all the time and my physical therapist says that it's from the constant pain that I'm in.
    I'm a work comp case so I'm at the mercy of my NS and don't have the luxury of going to see someone else.
    Sorry to be so long winded, I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone in this. Hopefully we'll both get some answers soon and can get on with our lives!
    If you'd like, please feel free to PM me.
    Best of luck to you & God Bless,
    ~ Deana
  • Hey Bop,

    While reading your second follow-up to your post you described a problem I had at about the 2 month mark following my 2 level fusion last year, mine was my SI Joints.

    It is now on the sides of the disc, perhaps in the muscle straps there. The pain also goes up the muscle straps to the mid back area at times.

    You might be experiencing some issues with your SI Joints. When you get fused, the lack of motion can and will place additional stress on the joints above and below the fusion. The next joint below L5/S1 is the Left and Right SI Joints. Ask your Physical Therapist if this might be the problem. If it is, they can give you exercises to help alleviate the problem and if necessary physically manipulate the area to get everything realigned. SI Joint pain can be very similar to the pain you experienced in your back prior to the surgery.
  • Hi Bop63,
    I am sorry to hear about your story, not too different from my own. My PT suggested SI irritation too as the fixed part of the spine transfers the slight movements over the SI joints instead and can mimic disc pain. Anyway long story short, I tried an SI belt but no joy. Have had 4 months of deep tissue massage only, can walk less than 1/2 mile day and I can't walk staright to save my life!
    I am nearly 6 months post op but if I have no answers by 8-9 months I will seek a second opinion.All I want is to "picture" a reason as to what may cause the terrific pain - I know that no 2 docs will say the same (exactly) but you would hope they would have a suggestion as to your pain trigger. My surgeon told me they can never be really sure.
    Also, I can't remember if you said you had seen a PM doc, You ought to go at least see what he says.
    I'm right behind you, literally, 2 months and if I am honest, more pain than before but now at least I feel a little more stable...6 screws and 2 rods later though!
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