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16 Weeks Post-Op - Things Starting to Look Good

MarkRMMarkR Posts: 172
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
It's been 16 weeks since my single-level L5/S1 fusion and everything is starting to look good.

The worst thing is still getting up in the morning, or after a long nap - definite stiffness and pain in my lower back. This usually eases up within 1-2 hours with no help from pain meds.

Besides that, I do have some minor discomfort and pain in my lower back throughout the day, but it is not too bad. Walking and doing my stretches/exercises does not seem to aggravate it very much anymore. I had pain and tingling going down my legs every day, but that has been mostly gone for the past 2 weeks. I am still taking some pain meds, but I think I'll cut back a little more and see what happens.

I still do walking and my exercises every day.

This timing is right in line with what my surgeon told me at my 3 month follow-up: I should expect more pain for the first several weeks of doing my prescribed exercises, but within a month from that appointment, I would definitely feel better (he is not having me do formal PT). It's been 3 weeks since that appointment, and I've definitely been feeling better for the past 3 days.

If I can pass on any words of wisdom they would be:

Be patient and follow your surgeon's directions to the letter. Spinal fusion is a tough surgery to recover from and it will take time. You will have periods where your recovery seems to plateau or even regress. It doesn't hurt to contact your doctor if this happens, but chances are things will get better over time.

The key seems to be not overdoing things - don't overdo your exercising, don't bend or twist until your doctor says it is okay and definitely don't lift more than the maximum weight allowed by your doctor. I know it is difficult to follow our restrictions, especially over a period of several months, but they are placed on us for a reason. Follow those instructions and there will be brighter days ahead. :)))


  • Thanks for the encouraging news , I'm 6-weeks post -op with same sugery with the BMP added in small cages . I'm off all narcs but take acetemetiphene (APAP)2x325 every 8hrs which keeps things tolerable.The one thing this journey has taught me is patience .What do you think is the real expectation for going back to work ?
  • As you have probably heard a million times regarding this surgery ... it depends. It depends on each individual person and their circumstances, but it also depends on what your job is.

    Sitting can still be uncomfortable for me, but I can usually sit for 1-2 hours at a time now. Even if you never had spinal surgery, you should never sit longer than 1-2 hours without getting up and stretching anyway.

    I was unemployed when I had my surgery (and still am). I work in IT, though I am trying to switch careers to writing and photography. I will probably be starting a contract position in the next week where I can telecommute from home. Actually, I've been looking for just such a position for a while now.

    At 4 months, I honestly don't know if I could work in an office on a full time 8 hour schedule yet. I'm fairly certain I could do 4-6 hours. If my job involved lifting heavy materials (e.g. 40-50 pounds), there is no way I could do that now. My surgeon told me not to lift more than 25 pounds, and not repetitively.

    In general terms, I would guess many people could work in an office part time at 2-3 months out, and full time at 4-6 months out. For more strenuous jobs, I'm really not sure - I would guess somewhere in the 6 months to 1 year range. Keep in mind that some people can get back to work sooner, some later.
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  • It's great to hear success stories. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom with us. I too had similar surgery, however not having as good results as you. I am still holding out hope and staying optimistic that it will get better though. In some ways I am better than before surgery so that is a plus.
  • Thank you so much for sharing your success and your suggestions. I am looking forward to feeling better and some days I feel so blah about my recovery. It is nice to see you have made progress. =D>

    One Love,

  • Mark,

    Thank you so much for sharing this--I really needed to hear it tonight. It sounds like we had a similar surgery. I am 4.5 weeks post-op and see the doc this week--probably won't see fusion yet. Your pain sounds identical to mine--this morning I woke up and actually cried because of the pain. That has happened 3-4 times since the surgery. However, this afternoon, I am much better-so it is up and down. Doc put me on prednisone for 6 days--I am on so many meds it is hard to keep track. However, I do have hope reading your post. Thanks again,

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  • really is a virtue.
    Thanks Mark for sharing that with us and hopefully dispelling some fears in those who have not yet had surgery.
    Keep up the good work.
    Blessings Sara O:)
  • I've been following your progress - thank you for the update and I am really happy to hear you are progressing well. I hope to be so lucky. Please continue to keep us posted.

    May I ask what pain meds you are taking?
    And you you know if you have fused?

    Jan 2009 L5-S1 ALIF
    May 2017 ALIF L4-L5 with PLF rods added L4-L5-S1
  • aimless said:
    I've been following your progress - thank you for the update and I am really happy to hear you are progressing well. I hope to be so lucky. Please continue to keep us posted.

    May I ask what pain meds you are taking?
    And you you know if you have fused?


    For roughly the first 8 weeks after my surgery I was on Percocet. I then switched to Darvocet. Once my swelling went down, I started using Soma, a muscle relaxant. When I started doing exercises after my 3 month appt., I started using Vicodin.

    Right now, I take:

    - 1/2 Soma and Darvocet late in the morning, with lunch.

    - 2 Advil around 2-3:00 PM (my surgeon said I could start taking 2 Advil up to 3 times per day to reduce inflammation).

    - 1/2 Soma at dinner time

    - 1 Soma and 1 Vicodin at bedtime.

    I'll probably start the reduction by eliminating the Darvocet and then cut back on the Soma a bit.

    Am I fused at all? We don't know for sure. My surgeon said not to expect seeing anything on X-Rays until at least the 8 month point. I had facet bolts used instead of rods & screws - he said fusion has probably started where the vertebrae are connected/mechanically fused, but the only way to make sure would be to open me up and have a look ... that of course is only done when necessary for people having problems.

    His experience with facet bolts is that patients eventually get bone growth from the BMP in the cage at 8-12 months, and in some cases, by 2 years out some patients get bone growth over the bolts as well. He has never had any patients with "runaway" BMP that overgrows the intended area.
  • Yes, the runaway BMP... I see my surgeon today to review my MRI pre-surgery and discuss hardware. And BMP! ;)) Again, I really appreciate your insight.
    Jan 2009 L5-S1 ALIF
    May 2017 ALIF L4-L5 with PLF rods added L4-L5-S1
  • Mark - I am 11 days out (PLIF S1-L5) and went to get the staples removed today. I told the nurse that I had quit taking the prescribed pain meds and was only taking Advil to help. The nurse said that I was not to take any NAIS (Advil, Aleve etc.) as they interfere with the fusion process. She did however, say that Tylenol would be okay but requested that I continue with prescribed meds as they really do help the healing process.

    I was just suprised that you are allowed to take Advil.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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