This has been a question asked by so many members here.
There is no golden rule, but here are some articles that are must reads:
Recovery from Back Surgery
Completely depends on age, the shape you are in, and the operation. [approach etc]
I am 29 years old. In Excellent shape other than the back problems and recently [Dec. 28th 2010] had a fusion at L5 -S1 and a disk replaced at L4-L5.
Because of the exceptional condition I was in physically and my age, I was told full recovery within 3 months. Most people usually take 5-6
Part of the reason for the fast recovery was because I chose to do an Anterior/interior entrance. They did everything from the front and never had to cut a muscle, just shove everything out of the way.
Unfortunately this approach is extremely painful afterwords, or at least has been for me, but the initial back problems that they went in to correct in the first place are almost un noticeable.
I wanted to have both of these done but my surgeon said they could only fuse L5-S1 going in thru the back and to do the disk replacement they would need to go in thru my front. He was worried about flipping me over on the operating table so opted out to separating the surgeries on two separate dates. Fusion first and disc replacement second.
My fusion surgery is on Feb 14th
In my case, it took a good two years for the pain to subside from my 360 degree fusion at L-4 to S1. I was told it would take three to six months, but that was way too optimistic.
Mind you, at the time of my surgery I was 43 and in good health generally. There should be no reason that I could not have recovered sooner. My pain management doctor says my case is, sadly, pretty typical. A two-level fusion with instrumentation is a big deal, much more invasive than many surgeons will let on. Be prepared for a lengthy recovery if this is the type of surgery you are facing.
I recovered much more quickly from a third surgery, a so-called extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) that is much less invasive than the previous fusion surgeries. However, I have had to endure a good two to three months of pain following the XLIF as well.
I'm finally doing much better, albeit it with some flare-ups when I overdo it.
I am surprised at just how much the recovery peroid is down played. I had a L4 to S1 360 with rods. I was told 3 months to 6 months. I am 56 and in pretty good shape. My surgery was also on 12/28/10. It hurts. All the time. But it's a different hurt. I am guessing it will be between 1 and 2 years, before I'm somewhat back to normal.
The Dr's. must be schooled in th 3-6 months time line. They must know that 3 to 6 mons applies if you are 24 and in perfect health and you had a perfect operation. I would rather hear that my recovery will take another 15 months than to think I am not progressing normally. So if any Drs read this please be honest. It would eliminate a lot of worry out here.
On another note, Does anyone else have problems bending forward like when you put your socks on?...almost impossible for me.
Thats when you hear me say Ouchy!.. or something like it.
I had a L3-S1 on Dec 6th 2010 I am at the point now where I have good days and bad days. The mornings are always really bad it is hard to move my legs when I wake up. When that passes usaully after an hour sometimes I can go through a day or two and feel really good with very little pain. The problem is I do to much on the good days and I pay for it ten fold and suffer for the next week. I am hoping for all days to be pain free in the very near future. I am 32 and in good shape an health.
12/6/2010 L3-S1 ALIF
3/2000 rugby injury - shattered compound tib/fib fracture rods and screws
Tore meniscus, ACL, MCL
10 surgeries to fix leg and knee over last 10 years
I had a diskectomy,PLIF L5 - S1 and decompression with Autograft, rods and screws, 2 months ago. The first couple of weeks were awful- severe pain and I could barely move. But the sciatic pain that was incapacitating me before surgery was completely gone. At 1 month, the pain was reducing unless I bent my body even slightly or sat up in a chair completely straight. I found that leaning back a little or lying down reduced the pain a lot. I am not using a brace. At 3 weeks I tried to drive but had difficulty getting in and out of the car, but more pain just trying to sit upright in the car seat. 1 week later, pain reduced enough that I could drive. Most of my pain is in the area where the bone was taken from my illeum (bone top of the pelvis). At week 7, the pain majorly diminished. I take pain medication only about once or twice a day (tylenol arthritis)
only if I need it. I have really felt a major change this past week which completes my 2 months.
The most difficult thing now is since I am not in a brace, remembering not to bend. It does take about 4-6 months for the graft to complete. It is frustrating that I still can't do physical things that I want to do, but it is so much better being able to walk and be free of that severe sciatic pain that went all of the way down my leg. Glad I had the surgery.
I had an L4-S1 A/P LIF on 3/2. I have tension bands anteriorly and rods and screws posteriorly. I also had an L5/s1 lateral recess decompression which was a re-do from an extensive decompression procedure two years ago. I was hospitalized for 5 days. I had the double blessing of a superb surgeon and very generous pain management so the only time the pain was really awful in the hospital was the first night after surgery.
On return home, pain was well-controlled w/ Norco. My surgeon predicted I would be off of pain management by three weeks after surgery. It wasn't quite that fast, but nearly - just about 4 weeks. After that, I took tylenol 2-3 time daily. I haven't used anything at all for about two weeks.
I started working half-time (from home, propped up in bed) at 4 weeks.
At 9 weeks, I am essentially pain-free, I walk every morning for about 45 min. At my 6-week follow-up, my surgeon cleared my to go back to the gym, albeit with some pretty narrow activity restrictions.
At this point, I am delighted with the outcome and have no regrets. I feel like my doc gave me my life back. Sometimes when I dwell on it, I even get a little teary - I feel that much gratitude.
Info in my sig
At 13 months doing very well. Fully fused and doing pretty much what I want. Not to recommend it, but I quit PT early (too strenuous at that time)and just started to do as much as I felt comfortable doing each day. 60 years old and not 100% pain free everyday. But, mild and tolerable w/o any pain meds. Some days no pain at all. Best decision I ever made. The right diagnosis and Dr is critical. I was off narcs at 3 months. Five to six months is to soon to judge success for many. I would say it took nine months to really start feeling good. I still have a lot of arthritis in spine, so it is not going to ever be painless.
I had a discectomy at l5-s1 in June 2010, same level fusion 7 days later, hardware replacement 4 weeks after fusion due to infection. And am now 5 weeks post op from an anterior fusion on the same label worked on all three previous times. Recovery takes time a relatively long time because the bone has to grow and become healthy. Four surgeries in less than a year have taken their toll on my body, and the sciatic pain is still there. I am 33 years old and was in very good physical health. I just want to encourage you to know that taking it easy is Essex tail for a while and following the doctors recommendations is key. I began to feel better the first week and being very driven I tend to over due it to fast. I was released from the hospital the day after the last surgery, because I was walking a couple of hours after surgery and was feeling great. The first three procedures were done by the same surgeon from the posterior, but Dr.EDITED performed the last one, he is an amazing surgeon and very caring. All that to saymthis your recovery is going to depend on your ability to be disciplined and follow directions, along with keeping your head up and not falling into depression while you recover. You can do this, just be ready to invest time and effort and not expect a quick fix.
Post edited to remove name of medical professional and or facility. by The Spine-Health Moderator Team
Hello~ I am glad to find this site. It is helpful to know that others are going thru some things that I am. I had a fusion done on 3/25. Prior to surgery I was having leg pain for years, not realizing it was actually my back. In Nov. the back pain started along with the leg pain. Went to Dr, pain management then surgeon. Had the epidoral done, did not help at all. Before my surgery they had said approx. 3 months out of work. After surgery, they said the back was worse than they thought. They fused my spine, I have 3 rods,and they had to take out my ligaments, which was a surprise. Immediatly after surgery my leg pain was gone! I started PT a few weeks ago. The pain I am now in is bad. My mornings are awful, I feel like my legs wont work, I literally shake with pain for the first hour. When the meds kick in, I start to feel better. If I lay in bed too long, it is worse.So, even though I am so tired, I have to get up early. Then at night I get such bad pains in my leg. It goes from my lower back, down my right side of butt,the back of right thigh, to knee. It is a burning, sharp constant pain. So I basically have a 2 hour window of feeling "not that bad". I take flexeril and percoset. They had me on vicoden which helped more, but they wanted to wean me off the narcotics. I have a bone growth stimulator that I use every night for 1/2 hour ( I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere here) and also a tens unit. I feel like I have a ball in the center, lower part of my back. It gets worse when I walk. It is so tight there,and the "ball" feels as if it gets in my way of movement. The PT says that I am very tight in my back, and she started massages that HURT! She says that I am having alot of leg pain because my nerve is either twisted or scar tissue. Does that sound familiar to anyone? I am due to see the Dr next on June 22 and return back to work on June 27th. I am extremely nervous about going back to work and not being able to make it thru the day. I drive an hour to work. Does anyone else here have alot of pain while in a car? I have a pillow pet (dont laugh..lol) that I use as back support, but the car is like torture. After about 10 minutes I can't stand the pain. I only attempted to drive once to see how I did. It was a 10 minute ride and I wasn't even off my street yet and the pain was almost unbearable. How in the world am I going to return to work and also drive an hour there, an hour home? Is anyone else out on disability and how long have you been out of work? My fear is that I work in PA and I am under FMLA (family medical leave act)and after 3 months of being out, you are terminated. They would have to re-hire you, but not get your current position and lose all health benefits. Is anyone else in the same or similiar position? I'd love some feedback. Thanks so much for "listening"