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spinal fusion l4-5 plus decompression one week ago

kathyykkathyy Posts: 586
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Well, I made it. Had surgery last Tues aft. (About me - am 56. Back symptoms started about 6 months ago. Diagnosis - spondy level 2 and extreme spinal stenosis. Severe and constant lower back pain plus rapidly progressing neurological involvement in legs. Conservative therapy failed.

Surgery took 6 hrs due to an unforseen cyst that had to also be removed. Only stayed in hospital 3 nights.. Prodcure went well. Have had a followup office xray and the screws and cages are in place. Feel hopeful but otherwise like s__t. I have a few questions......

1)Right now I am taking a lortab 5 and lortab 10 4 times a day, down from 2 lortab 10's 5X daily right after surgery. After 7 days i just don't seem to be able to lower the pain meds much more that that. When I try to cut back too much I end up nearly hyperventilating I'm in so much pain and it takes a while to recover. Is this normal?

2) I walk around the house a good deal and sit up 4 -5 times a day but otherwise am flat on my back to keep pressure off my incisions (have one for bone harvest as well) I also use a "magnetic" machine on my lower back to stimulate bone growth. Does this sound about right?

3) When my back gets tired, especially when I sit too long, (I try to limit it to 45 mins at most) my legs start burning. When I get the pressure off the base of my spine, the sensations go away. Anyone had similar feelings?

4) Constipation - ugh!!! I'm really fighting it. Use softeners plus mild laxative plus try to eat fiber. Not helping much. Also am having black stools - NOT tarry at all, very hard. Comments?? Tips or hints?

Anyway, am sooooo glad that this is behind me. Can't tell hou how much. Will appreciate any tips and advice you can share. Kathy


  • Sweetie, I remember how I felt after one week! It's just such an assault on your body that it's going to take a long time to recover.

    1. I don't think I'd worry about cutting back on the meds yet, you're too early out! What does your surgeon advise? Many advise to stay on a schedule with your meds and stick to it. It's easier to stay ahead of the pain than to try to catch up with it.

    2. Yep, get as much rest as you can. Walk around the house slow and easy, lay down to rest, get up and walk, etc.

    3. A lot of people were given sitting restrictions after surgery. Some could sit only 10 min. at a time. I had no restrictions and had no problems with it.

    4. Have you tried prunes/prune juice? It always works best for me. You need to get this addressed as you don't want to be straining.

    I re-read a post I made here one week after my surgery, and your experience seems to be much like mine. You're doing great. Be good to yourself and walk, walk, walk, rest, rest, rest. Many hugs to you today! >:D< >:D<

  • Kathy, so glad you are on the other side with us now. Even though painful it is such a relief to have the surgery over with.

    By all means, it is too early to be cutting back on your meds. I was taking 2 norco 10mg every 4 hours at that point. After about a week I changed to 1 norco 10 every 3 hours. That worked well and didn't make me so rummy :))( After that I just stretched it to 4 hours, then 5, then 6, but this was after a couple weeks.

    As for sitting, I had a restriction of 10 minutes per hour. Sitting puts pressure/stress on your spine. I rested in bed, walked, and only sat for meals. Surgery is exhausting. Get all the rest you can at this point. It sounds like you are doing typically for this stage.

    Stay on top of the constipation too, as it only gets worse if let go. I took colace 200mg a day, miralax at bedtime, and ate raisin bran and drank plumsmart plum juice in the mornings. A dulcolax suppository is a quicker fix if things get bad ;)

    I have a bone growth stimulator as well. It is a donjoy spinalogic that I wear for 30 minutes a day. It provides an electromagnetic field to help fusion.

    Hang in there. It will get better soon. >:D< Cali-Sue
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  • Kathy,

    You are so fresh out of surgery, that you can't expect to feel better than you do.
    At this time, try to limit the time you sit to no more than 1/2 hour at any one time. Then walk around a bit, or lie down, just don't sit.

    You stamina will not return to normal for a while, you need some more time for that. So take short rests.

    Constipation is a problem most of us had, some people believe in fish oil tablets, others in prune juice or stewed prunes, or bran cereal. If nothing helps, try petroleum suppositories.

    Most of all, be patient! You are doing great, but it takes time to completely rec over.

    Good luck!


  • Sounds like you are about on track with most people here from what I have read.
    Be gentle on yourself and dont overdo the sitting even if it is comfortable. You are better with a lot more short sits then a few longer ones. The same goes for walking. To start with do slow shorter walks and let yourself build up naturally. When you get more energy you will feel like going longer and yes- no longer like a snail. :D

    Nap or sleep as much as you can as it is this that promotes healing along with exercise.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • Hi Kathy,
    I'm afraid that you are expecting way too much way too soon. Spinal Fusion is a huge piece of surgery -- I had your exact surgery (minus the cyst) at the exact same spot, including the iliac bone harvest (this gave me burning pain for at least a month). Try to stay on top of the pain, get lots of sleep (your body needs it to heal, plus you'll be really tired for awhile, until the anesthesia gets completely out of your system), don't sit for more than 10 minutes at a time, go for lots of short walks and *USE A FLAT GEL ICE PACK* to reduce the swelling. Your body is really traumatized right now, and you need to respect that. If you don't, you will certainly feel your body loudly protesting. I had lots of weird pain symptoms for at least six weeks after my fusion, including brief shooting nerve pain. Your decompressed nerves will take awhile to "plump" back up and heal. Try to be patient while your body recovers from the surgical assault.
    Big gentle cyber-hug and best wishes,
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  • I'm new to this site and I'm about to have L4-5 fusion on Tuesday, July 7. This recovery time everyone's talking about is really scaring me. I'm wondering if my short-term disability will be enough and how long it will be, realistically, before I get back to work.

    Of course, I can't do my job now, because my job requires being on my feet 8 hours a day and the pain I'm in now made that impossible. I've already been off almost 2 weeks on medical leave.

    I've been diagnosed with severe disc space narrowing at L4-5. When the neurosurgeon showed the MRI image to me, it looked like there was NO space at all! :P
    You could see a normal disc, then a pancaked one, then another normal one.

    My problem was caused by 20 years of working as an EMT and Paramedic... at age 35 (I'm now 48) I was diagnosed with that L4-5 disc bulging and managed to turn it around with 3 months of physical therapy. After that I could manage any recurrence of pain just by doing the exercises and stretches I learned in therapy.
    But in March of this year, I started to have back, butt, and leg pain that would not resolve with exercise and it got rapidly worse over the following months. That's how I landed in the neurosurgeon's office with him telling me there was only one definitive way to resolve this.

    I would like to hear about recovery from anyone who has had this particular procedure at this specific site and what their experience was. Some folks I've talked to that I know say that practically as soon as you wake up in recovery, you realize that your old nagging back/butt/leg pain is gone. I'm to have titanium rods/screws, as best I understand, and bone graft. I will also be using the device that allegedly speeds the bone healing.

    I've prepared my bed with a brand new memory foam mattress (it's nice!) and loaded the fridge with super easy (& healthy) foods.

    Also, any opinions about the difference between neuro and ortho surgeons??

    Thanks for any advice/reassurance!! (&sorry for being so long-winded! #o


  • Firstly hope you are now well on the way to recovery. I had the same operation as you on 23rd April 2009 after suffering (and I mean suffering) for 12 months. 2 nights in hospital and 1 week of not standing or sitting for 2 long and I was well on the road to recovery.. My surgeon recommended that by the end of the 4th week, he wanted me to be walking for up to 3 miles a day (and I stuck to it rigidly) and by the end of 8 weeks, walking up to 5 miles. I went back to him 2 weeks ago and he is extremely pleased with my progress and will allow me to be back riding my horse in another 4 weeks. (I admit I have now been sitting on her for 20 mins at a time with no pain)!!!the biggest problem for me was the constipation - oh my God was that bad. My husband and I have just come back from holiday where I swapped the walking for swimming (too darn hot) and the only slight and I mean very slight problem is that with prolonged sitting my left foot starts to tingle and goes very cold.

    I am 57 years old, very active and very positive about health. One further thing was I had a cancer scare 2 weeks after the op. (lump in the neck, benign) and had to go back into hospital for a further 2 days for removal!!. Its not been a good 6 months, but I feel I have got my life back.

    Good luck
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