For several weeks prior to my TLIF (which I had 11/3) I read everything I could find about recovery, including many stories on this site. Most things I read made me question my decision to have the surgery. Finally, 2 days before the surgery, I decided that most people with positive stories were not writing about them. I knew that I would want to write about my surgery, but especially if I had a good experience.
Now, almost a week after the surgery, I know that I made the right decision. The pain in my left thigh, groin and calf, not to mention lower back, was so severe the day of the surgery that they had to inject me with a very strong painkiller just so I could be still enough for the nurse to start my IV. My doctor found my disc at L5-S1 to be severely herniated and dry and chalky. It was also very flattened out.
I stayed in the hospital for 4 days. It would have been 3 days, but I did have one night of severe muscle spasms that they wanted to make sure were under control. I only had IV painkillers for the first 2 days and then only Vicodin and the occasional Soma. I have been walking since less than 24 hours after surgery and am now up to about 1/2 mile twice a day and sometimes 3 times.
I do not feel much pain at all most of the time. In the evening is when I do feel some pain, but it is never constant. Only twinges of pain directly at the surgery site. I have not felt my old pain since the morning of the surgery. I do find that sleep is easier if I take 5mg of Vicodin and a Soma before bed. I think it keeps me from trying to roll around too much.
Overall, I really feel great 95% of the time. I know that I may still have days ahead that will be difficult and I am prepared for those too. I am very positive that I will make a complete recovery in the near future.
I feel for all of you that have had difficult recoveries. I hope that each and every one of you eventually finds relief. Only someone that has experienced this kind of back pain can really understand it and I certainly do too. And to everyone facing this surgery, I would say to research all you can about the limitations and recovery, but don't let it overwhelm you. Make sure you are completely comfortable with your surgeon. He should be readily available to answer all your questions and concerns.