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Muscle Spasms Slow Me Down

MarkRMMarkR Posts: 172
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
For the past several weeks, I have experienced slowly increasing pain below my surgery site. This started approximately 2 weeks after my last appointment when my doctor had me switch to a smaller soft corset brace.

I talked to the nurse and it appears to be muscle spasms that are partially due to wearing the new, less restrictive brace, but also because the timing coincides with a huge decrease in swelling.

I was doing really well, but now I have cut back on my exercise. If that doesn't help enough I may have to use some muscle relaxants as well. I'm taking this in stride - it is a huge annoyance, but I'm sure it is just part of the healing process. Hopefully it will subside soon.


  • Muscle Spasms seem to be the worst part of trying to recover. Just when you start to feel better then wham! Here they come. Just know you are not the only one suffering from them. I feel for you. I was one of the lucky ones who didn't have to wear any kind of brace at all so I think it's just part of the healing process. I am looking all over the internet now for ways to alleviate the spasms and will let you know if I come up with anything good. I take Valium and still have them. I don't want to be on valium for a year or whatever it takes to completely heal so I want an alternative and I WILL find one. Hope you come out on the good side and please post if you find a good remedy that works for you aside from the muscle relaxers. But if you need them you need them.
  • Those muscle spasms were totally unexpected, yet my NS assured me the are normal, due to the "new" geometry of thei post-fusion spine & everything now trying to find a new position to support you, etc. Plus all the muscle splitting/cutting during surgery leaves your back muscles (especially the deep multifidis muscles) very depleted (and some of them are now GONE!) so it's only natural that things will hurt as you recover & get more active.

    Valuim is great for relieving the deeper ones. Heat/ice can help the more superficial ones. And GENTLE stretching can also help, if your doc gives the OK.

    I find they are worse at night & in the AM, b4 I get up. Things get stiff & tighen up & that makes them worse. I also have those weird "fasciulations" where my leg muscles will just jump around by themselves! Odd looking, to say the least! Also some now in my thoractic area, as the other spine levels take over the burden of an immovable L4/5 fusion site. But that's OK: that's what the fusion was for, to make that area stable. So you can "reframe" them that way: your body is learning how to accommodate the changes in your spine now & it just takes a long time.

    A good one: for tightening those weak/missing/worn-out multifidis muscles (that run in/out of all the levels of your spine & are terribly cut during fusion surgery) try this: tighten your whole pelvic floor, contract your abs (like trying to bring your navel to what's left of your spine, haha) and hold that for about 20-30 seconds. Release & do it again. Remember to breathe while doing this. It feels good & will eventually "retrain" those weak muscles to hold you up/in again.

    Good luck! And remember: you're only 2 months out on a 2-year recovery. So go easy! Take your time! It does get better, but VERY VERY slowly!

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  • Everyone above has given good advice. Let me add my two cents: Ask for Soma, a really effective muscle relaxant without the addictive properties of Valium.

    My spasms were so bad that I actually arched my back off the bed--thought I was going to bend the hardware the surgeon put in me. When I told him about the spasms, he prescribed Soma, and that was that for the spasms.

    You don't need to put up with spasms.


  • Thanks for all your advice.

    This morning, I went to the pool and just walked around for 10 minutes. Believe it or not, this felt really good. It also felt good to soak in the hot tub and sit at the very edge of the seat with a jet on the surgery site. I sat at the edge so the jet was not hitting the surgery site at full force.

    Regarding muscle relaxers, wouldn't you know we're in the middle of an insurance change. Technically we're covered by the new insurance now, but we have no ID information yet - should be here in several days. I could pay for the prescription and go through all the paperwork for reimbursement, but I think I can hold off for a couple of days.

  • MarkR,

    Let me tell you my experience with muscle spasms. For a solid year after my surgery, every time I had to walk or stand for any length of time, spasms set in. If I was walking I would stop and slowly make it back home. However, last May I started pushing through the spasms. If I had to, I'd stop and do some stretching and then continue walking. As I have said before, in May I could only walk a few tenths of a mile. Today, I walk briskly for 3 plus miles and the spasms don't pay my back a visit anymore.

    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.
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  • I just went through an insurance change myself. The pharmacist told me that I could just get a couple of days worth of meds and pay for it out of pocket and then when I got the ID card, I could get the rest of the RX filled. That really helped me since I am on so many meds that I MUST take daily (thyroid meds, high blood pressure meds--you get the picture. Thank goodness I didn't have to get the whole rx filled at one time. I know I did that for the hydrocodone--she filled 10 tabs at a time for me on that.
  • Here's a different angle. After having multiple lower back surgeries in a a little over a year, my back muscles were on strike. Muscle relaxers only did so much and so much was basically nothing. So my neurologist did a series of Botox injections on both sides of my lower back over the course of a year. This took care of the spasms, allowed the muscles to heal and allowed me to strengthen my core and get things balanced out again. After 4 rounds of Botox I was good to go.

    So depending on how severe the problem is, there are always options.

  • That is awesome about the botox!!! I was wondering why the physiotherapists(MD's) adds mention botox available. Maybe they could give us some in our frown lines at the same time =))
  • Yes, as those back muscles take over the work that the brace has been doing for them, all kinds of aches and pains crop up! Muscle spasms and weird twinges of pain just seem to pop up in new and seemingly unrelated places. I love my ice packs and microwave "bed buddy". I apply right after exercise and ar night when I go to bed to try to prevent muscles from tightening up. I also use a heat wrap (one of the air-activated ones) when I am going to be doing more than usual (like traveling for several hours). It does get better.
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