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After surgery, how long did you need strong meds?

My surgeon’s staff tells me many people stay on narcotic meds for 6 months or more after surgery like mine. (Straightened scoliosis, fused T12 to S1.) Three week’s after surgery, I am now taking only one or two 10mg Oxy per day. I feel like I will be able to get off of theses soon. Is there a wide range of medication need after surgery? Am I being overly optimistic in thinking I can get off of the Oxy very soon?




  • Moogy,

    The length of time someone needs strong opiates post oo depends on many different factors, the complexity of the surgery, your overall physical condition before and post OP,  if there is nerve pain involved, and honestly, the mindset and determination of the patient to recover, before and after surgery.

    Spine surgery is tough, physically, mentally and emotionally, and like scoliosis curves can vary hugely in degrees, the types of spine problems, their complexity can shorten or prolong each persons recovery.

    If you feel ready to try managing with less pain meds that's terrific, and your doctor should support that. If you still need them for a time, then so be it.

    You'll know if it is the right or wrong decision.

  • I completely agree with what sandi says above.

    I had a full lumbar fusion last December: L1-S1 for degenerative scoliosis. Tapered down off the narcotics, and was totally off of them in two weeks.

    I then switched to Tylenol, which barely touched the pain, but stuck with it and then tapered off of it as well. Currently on no pain medications. I feel fortunate, I know others on this forum struggle with chronic, intense pain.

    I am dedicated to performing my stretches every morning, and walking daily. 

    Good luck to you in your recovery!

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  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 1,033

    Also agree with sandi & steffie,

    A year ago and a handful of days I had a fusion from T11 down to S2 and fixation to the pelvis. Within 20 days I was off all narcotic medication and off Tylenol shortly after. I'm still on Celebrex but that is for arthritis pain. I have no spine pain whatsoever. As stated above, we are all different. we can never expect the same results as someone else.

    Slowly I've been able to return to my fairly active lifestyle and have continued to get even better. I know I won't be able to return to what I was before, but I will never keep trying.

    be strong Moogy

  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 941

    Moogy - Please listen to your body.  If you force yourself to just be off narcotic meds, you can do yourself additional damage.  I was proud of myself that I was cutting back on pain killers a week after my neck fusion (C2 to C7), only to go into a severe pain crisis.  My neurosurgeon ordered me to return to my post op prescribed level of pain killers. 

    For complex/multiple level procedures, the pain can get worse a few months after surgery.  Along with myself, I know several people that found pain levels getting worse about two to three months after surgery, before starting to resolve around six months.

    Everybody is different.  I hope for our sake, your pain continues to decrease and that you can continue to decrease your level of narcotic meds.  Don't take more meds than you need.  The guidelines you were given by surgeon sound reasonable.   

  • Thanks for all the advice and information. I have had trouble getting a refill on my Oxy. My surgeon is out-of state, and the Texas pharmacist says he can’t fill the script, even though the surgeon overnighted the Rx on the security paper. Early last week, my in-state PCP didn’t want to provide meds—she said the surgeon should do it. So this weekend I have been super-skimping on taking the Oxy since I am almost out. Friday afternoon, my surgeon talked with my PCP on the phone, and the PCP nurse called me to schedule a visit Monday morning. Who knows what she will be willing to prescribe now. Last week, she firmly refused to get involved at all. Wish me luck.

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  • Moogy,

    It is appalling you weren't given a months worthy of pain meds. The surgery you had was extensive to say the least. A lesson learned here. You need to communicate with whichever doctor is prescribing your pain meds. Otherwise, you are left in this situation. Your PCP won't prescribe pain meds while you are still under the surgeon's care.


    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 941

    Moogy - I'm so sorry for your sake to hear that you are another victim of being denied pain management care.  I was checking news updates for the state of Texas and it appears that CBD Oil is difficult to impossible to get in Texas.  Please do NOT take no for an answer from your PCP tomorrow.  Plead with her that you are caught on the short term with no pain management tools.  One drug that is not opioid that has helped me in the past with opioid withdraw and pain is Librium.  In my state, doctors are no longer allowed to prescribe benzodiazepine with opioids.   

  • I saw my PCP today, and she pretty much pretended our discussion last week never happened. Instead, she focused on the combination of meds I was given and their interactions. She blamed the bad prescribing on the residents at the teaching hospital where I had surgery, since my surgeon agreed with her that some of the meds were inappropriate. 

    Apparently she and my out-of-state surgeon came to an agreement of what should be done. She said he was very nice and very smart. She is taking me off the Oxy, giving me Narco instead. This is ok with me. She also told me to avoid taking the muscle relaxers I was given, because of interaction with one of my routine meds. And she has referred me to our local pain specialist, but that will take a while.

    She gave me a month of Narco. I will see my surgeon again before they run out, and if he gives me meds I will fill them in his state instead of bringing the Rx back to Texas, and then at some point I will see a pain specialist. Even if I don’t think I need him, I think I will establish care with the pain doctor, in case I have later problems from this surgery.

    This last weekend was difficult, managing with insufficient pain meds, but now things are looking better for me.

    Thanks for all the input and support.

  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 941

    I think Narco contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone.  Please be careful on the amount of acetaminophen you take a day.  The max recommended dosage of acetaminophen has recently be lowered.  Acetaminophen can do liver damage. Please make sure none of your other medications contain acetaminophen.

  • I had a fusion on my L5, a cyst removed that was pressing on nerves, discs had to be fixed and screws placed for stability and the doctor gave me only 50 or 60 pills i believe. Even though he knew i was used to taking suboxone regularly before surgery. Im miserable taking a pain pill every 4-5 hours. It still hurts two weeks out and my right leg and foot are still numb and they hurt badly.  It  worsens quite a bit when standing

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