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Nervous about my spinal fusion coming up

Linda76017LLinda76017 Posts: 44
edited 01/25/2016 - 10:38 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am 63 and will be scheduled within next week or two for fusion of l5s1. I have heard the pain is pretty bad. Any suggestions for comfort while in hospital and at home appreciated. Can I sleep on my back comfortably?

Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
Postoperative Care for Spinal Fusion Surgery

Liz, Spine-health Moderator


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I just had spinal fusion surgery on 1/8/16...L4-S1. So far I'm having a fairly "normal" recovery--you know, good days and bad days! I can only speak for myself, but one of THE smartest moves I made was to ask my doctor for a prescription for a hospital bed rental for when I returned home. Between the post surgical weakness/pain and a husband who is a bit of a restless sleeper, I figured I would need as much latitude in bed in terms of positioning, getting up (not to mention bothering my hubby when HE is trying to sleep!!
    I've been sleeping on my back pretty comfortably--you'll likely be bandaged up back there until the stitches/staples come out. That little extra padding goes a long way in the beginning! My stitches came out last Thursday, and I've still been able to sleep on my back without a problem.
    The second smartest thing I did was to purchase a "booster" toilet seat with handles and a locking feature for stability. I didn't find out until after the fact that my insurance MAY have covered this purchase, so if you're going to look into that, you might be able do it through your insurance carrier.
    Best of luck with your surgery!
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 722
    Nervous is normal... we've all been there... I'm your same age and I've had 2 lumbar fusion surgeries in the past 3 years and I can tell you that it's no walk in the park... but not impossible. Plan on the first couple of weeks being the worst and then plan on anywhere from 3 to 12 months for a full recovery. Some people bounce back faster but they are the lucky exceptions. Whatever your doctor told you regarding a recovery time frame... you should double or triple as the doctors are always trying to be optimistic. Having a family member or someone who can help you full time the first couple of weeks would be a big plus... otherwise maybe see if you can arrange staying in a rehab center during the initial recovery after your hospital stay. Going it alone the first couple of weeks would be pretty tough otherwise. If you haven't already found them there are several lists on this forum which detail out suggested hospital and recovery must haves... have a look at them and bring/buy what you think makes sense for your case. In my case I found a walker was one of the most useful items during the initial part of my recovery along with a hospital bed like Kimmy noted above so I didn't have to put up with my wife's snoring. Speaking of sleeping I didn't find it a big issue to sleep on my back during the initial recovery as long as there was a good layer of gauze padding included in the dressing over the stitches.

    Being knowledgeable by using this site to help educate yourself BEFORE your surgery as well as to address questions/concerns with folks who are going through the same issues is a BIG plus... it's kinda like AA therapy for busted backs. Be sure to take advantage of it... both before and after your surgery. Recovery can sometimes be a long road and having soul mates helps. As a caution please note your nerve pain may or may not go away immediately after surgery. Don't panic... as sometimes it takes weeks or even months for the spinal nerve inflammation and pain to subside. Hopefully you will wake-up essentially pain free and have a "normal" recovery like Kimmy, but that isn't always the case. Good luck and keep us all informed on your progress.
    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
  • You mentioned a lot of great points. ..the one I got a real kick out of was the advice to double/triple recovery time...oh LO RD you are so right! I said to my husband (and absolute angel) last night that I didn't think my doctors were completely forthcoming about "real deal" recovery. Like you said, they don't want to add to pre surgery anxieties for anyone, I'm sure. However, I am only saying I'm having a"normal" recovery after having made several calls to the doc about various things that were going on after the surgery which, had I known were to be expected PRIOR to my procedure, may have caused less anxiety for me AND for the doc's office staff who were probably getting sick of hearing from me!
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • I can tell you my own experience with fusions...about me.. I am 55 ,I had a L5-S1 fusion in 2007 and on 1/8/16 I had very extensive surgery.. a L2 thru L5 laminectomy and Fusions from L3 thru L-5 all with hardware. The L5-S1 hardware was replaced because of a broken screw , loose screws and a fracture in the fusion.....Every ones pain and tolerance for pain is different.. The first fusion in 2007 was very painful.. you should have very good pain control in the hospital, most if not all doctors make sure of that...don't be afraid to ask for pain meds...I can say that the recent surgery I had was very extensive and very painful for the first week but I have a very noticeable decrease in pain daily since surgery on the 8th. I am now 3 weeks post surgery and feel pretty good...I still need to take pain meds but not the need to take as much as in the beginning.. that to also decreases. I was only able to sleep on my back for the first 2 weeks, to painful to sleep on either side.. The best thing I do is follow doctors orders.. just because I feel better, don't mean I can ignore what the doctor tells me what I can and cannot do.. Fusions take a long time to heal. Beginning tomorrow I will be using an external bone growth stimulator to help with the fusions fuse better than they would if I didn't use one...good luck and just take all the time needed to heal
  • I'm 23, I had my first fusion of L5S1 in 2013.. It was terrible for me. But everybody is different.. I could not sleep on my back, just my left side. I couldn't roll over to my right either. To this day, I still cannot sleep on my stomach... I was unable to walk the first 3 or so days. I don't remember a whole lot from the first week because of pain and the pain pills keeping me asleep. I bought a shower chair which helped in that aspect, so I could wash myself. Though, everything else my husband had to do. Dress me, toiletries, etc... I used a walker and a back brace for the next 3 months. It wasn't until I was 6 months post-op that I was able to do everything on my own again. The doctors don't know why I had such a hard time recovering. Even with proper physical therapy.. I'm about to have my second spinal fusion, L4L5 on Feb 3, 2016... and honestly, I'm terrified. I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but this is bad. At least for me it is... I'm much younger, so typically I should be able to bounce back real quick, but I don't.. My problem is I AM afraid to ask for pain meds... I don't want to seem like I'm dependant or anything..

    I really hope you have a better time than I did/will have.
  • PlumbTuckeredOutPlumbTuckeredOut Philadelphia, PAPosts: 325
    I had 2 lumbar surgeries. I'm not sure of the names for them because the initial plan was for one thing but everything was different once they "opened me up". That was back in the "olden days" in 1998. I had been in such horrendous pain since I was 8 years old, and I was 32 for the first surgery, it was a piece of cake! I experienced such relief I think I could have slept on a bed of nails!

    Move forward 10 years, 2007 and I had my second lumber surgery. I was not in a bunch of pain but I was having a lot of trouble walking. Again, easy surgery but I was 10 years older. I wasn't in loads of pain but I was weakened. I'd say it took me about a month to get back on my feet. I could take care of myself, cook meals, sleep, do stairs.... I was living in a really rural area of Maine.

    Now, almost 10 years forward again and it's my neck that's up next. I am incredibly independent. I HATE asking for help so I do push myself to do all I can as soon as I can. Before getting involved with a pain clinic 18 months ago I was anti-pain meds. Now I worship them for the life they have returned to me.

    My best advice, take each day as it comes. If one day is horrible it doesn't mean the next will be too. If you have a wonderful day be careful not to push it! I found a walker to be helpful- and now I depend on a service dog but he's short! He's supposed to help me pick up things but someone that was lost in our translations! Most important thing I have found is to work on staying positive. It's really easy to become depressed post surgery. Make sure you discuss this and any issues with your doctors!


    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by...... (Robert Frost)
    I still don't know if I should have taken the one that said, "Caution! Dead End" (Me)
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