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Is this "normal"

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,322
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Now that the family and travel issues are a thing of the past #:S Im just curious about a few of my recovery symptoms. I am nearing three weeks post op L4-S1 fusion
I dont visually swell, I never have and I dont bruise real easy so its hard to tell if I am injured or if something is wrong. When I blew out my knee it didnt swell at all, and after surgery on my knee I had no swelling, nor did I swell after wisdom teeth, and barely bruised after this fusion. So like I said its hard for me to judge.
Questions are:
My forward ROM is aweful, I am so stiff it feels like I had the strongest rubber band possible attached and it just wont bend forward very well (i am still on BLT restriction but this is ridiculous on forward motion)
Second I feel like I am now a Transformer. When I stretch,like arching my back with arms over head or move its like my back could change into a car. Its like I feel the hardware. Am I feeling it or am I feeling inflamation. Does that feeling go away?
Any input would be great, I dont know really what to expect and feeling like a giant lego isnt something I am used to. thanks alot
Erica :)


  • Hi Erica,
    I think at 3 weeks it is too soon to tell what the outcome as far as feeling will be.
    I would be a bit careful about stretching to such but you also have to remember that your muscles have probably been cut for the surgeon to access your spine so dont push it just yet.
    You may want to use some heat pad on your back muscles to releive them of the stiffness but only if you ahve feeling in your back.
    Blessings Sara O:)
  • Erica, you are sooo early out yet. It will get better. I totally understand your description. For me I felt like my muscles along the sides of my entire spine and buttocks and down thighs were tight and spasming. Very stiff feeling, but hey like you said, no BLT, so don't try to stretch them just yet. Also I had (still have) this tight odd feeling in my lower spine, like a vice is cinched around my bones. Yep I guess it is, its called hardware ;) My NS says this feeling will go away eventually. It becomes more obvious and annoying when I am active. At this point, I wouldn't exactly call it pain, but just a stiff uncomfortable feeling. I think our bodies just know when there is foreign material inside.

    Hang in there and follow all your doctors instructions. You only get one chance to do it right. Good-luck in your recovery. >:D< Cali-Sue
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  • Erica,

    I completely understand your feelings related to ROM and stiffness. Between honoring my BLT restrictions and being stuck in back braces, by the time I was at 2 months, I felt as if it would be impossible to bend over, no matter how hard I would have tried (though I did not do it at that time).

    At my 3 month appointment my surgeon lifted the BLT restrictions and gave me a set of stretches and exercises to do (he is not sending me to PT). Having done these stretches and exercises everyday for the last month, my ROM forward is much better, though I still can't touch my toes yet when bending over (I used to be able to do this before surgery).

    I think what you are experiencing is normal. I have not had the hardware feelings, but my fusion is a single level with 2 facet bolts instead of the "normal" 4 screws and 2 rods, so I don't have as much metal in me as you probably do.

    My guess is that you are feeling inflammation - at 3 weeks I would be surprised if the internal swelling has receded yet. For me, it did not go down until approximately week 7 or 8.

    When my inflammation feeling went away, it was replaced by a different pain/discomfort due to muscle spasms - my muscles were finally free to move a bit, even from small movements. Now that I am allowed to do some stretches and exercises, this feeling is starting to fade also.

    Throughout your recovery you will experience different feelings of pain and discomfort. I know it's hard, but the best thing to do is follow your instructions to the letter and be patient. Most likely, the only thing that will happen if you push your recovery and overdo things is prolong your recovery. Everything will work out, it's just going to take longer than you want it to.
  • I completely understand your concerns. I too am wound pretty tightly. It is because of not bending in a month now. I requested PT this week so that I can start working on that feeling. I am still restricted to no BLT at this point. Also, when I do bend slightly I hear and feel this mechanical sensation, clicking and popping. Anyway, I am pretty sure that your concerns are normal but write any questions down and make sure to ask your doc next time you see him/her.

    One Love,

  • I am restricted, and I do stick to the restriction, when checking my ROM at my first post op they checked what ROM I had so when I do stretch my arms up I am not exceeding anything the doc saw and I make sure not to. I start PT this week. YAY! I was in PT for three months after my knee and well lets face it, it sucked...but after three months I was so much better and was able to climb to the top of Diomand Head in Waikiki (bought a shirt to prove it and wore it the day of back surgery haha, my own encouragement is a really old rag of a tshirt) But the feeling that wierds me out isnt so much my forward ROM and feeling like they attached a car belt that wont stretch, I figure that will take some PT to get back. This feeling like a tiny machine in my back is more of my concern I guess.
    Im just not sure if I am actually feeling the hardware or if I am feeling inflamation, like I said I dont visibly swell so I never know. Its something to ask the doctor, I have a lot of metal in there now, and I only feel it in the backwards arch ROM (which no I do not extend past what I was told)
    Also has anyone had the Bone Growth Stimulator, and if so did it help fuse faster and how long did you have to wear it a day and for how long? I cant figure out if it makes me light headed or if something else is? Anyone know?
    Erica :)
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  • When you all sleep do you wake up do you feel like you slept like a statue. I am soooo stiff in the morning its as if I didnt move all night and my hip bones burn at first when I wake up. Wierd, all of this is wierd !!!
  • Erica,

    When I wake up, I am usually stiff and sore. This happens whenever I sleep for more than 45 minutes to an hour. The pain is limited to my lower back and seems to be focused a little below the surgery site. I think this happens because of lack of use of the lower back muscles. Some of this may also be due to getting older (me, not you) :)))

    The stiffness usually goes away after an hour or two. The pain decreases pretty quickly, but at 4 months, I'm still never completely pain free, even with pain meds.

    Going back to your original post, I forgot to mention that by 4-5 weeks I had an occasional hour here and there that were completely pain and discomfort free - something that feels strange to me because I have barely felt that way for almost 20 years now. Since my swelling went down, I no longer have these brief pain free periods, but the overall pain is much less.
  • The stiff ness will slowly improve but it is something you should get used to for a while. You will "sieze" up when you sit/lie still for a while and will need to mobilise to get it moving.

    At 3 weeks you are very early out so chill and go with the flow, each day will throw different things at you.

    I read another post of yours. How is your drop foot? I am curious as you say you had symptoms for 12 months and I wonder if you can feel any improvement yet?
    I had disc compression for 6 months. Tis why I ask!
  • Mark! you are a blessing, and so quick to help others through sharing your own experiences. You really are are a God send. Thank your for all your continued support :)

    My drop foot came on real fast when I twisted and threw my disc from .03 mm to a sudden 1.3 cm September of 07. At first I was throwing my shoe off my foot and dragging it, stubbing my toe and the numbness went from my knee to big toe although there were a few areas that were not numb, so it was a little patchy in the way it decided to go numb on me. It was my pereneal nerve that caused the drop foot, but it was the pinch at my sciatic that caused the pereneal to go to sleep, and there was no guarantee it would repair after surgery.
    Since surgery I have regained the ability to move my foot at my ankle and I can walk heel to toe which is what we hoped for the most. My shin muscle wants to cramp at times but nothing like it used to, it used to crank my foot inwards and to undo the cramp it felt like I was about to break my ankle. I no longer have that cramp, I have what I think is just that muscle awakening and the pereneal trying to send the right signals and its also very weak as it was in a coma for a year. As far as sensation, it is gradually coming back in some areas and it could be as long as six weeks before I can really say if full sensation will return. I have one numb patch in my shin with no sensation returning yet, but my foot feels like pins and needles so Im hopefull for my foot. Im okay with the loss of skin sensation Im just happy I no longer have drop foot. That was a major reason I went into surgery. Do you have drop foot?
  • as full on as yours, Mine is an intermittant weakness, I stumble and trip. I have loss of sensation and altered sensation, from burning to ice blocks, hyper-sensative - numb and my back pain, although is improved, is still really reactive to movement.
    I am getting impatient now, I am 3 mths postop!
    How long did you suffer with that awful foot drop? Was it a whle 12 months?
    Did you get nerve conduction studies done?
    I wonder if I should seek them?
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