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PLIF post op. When does the pain go away?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I have been watching this site for awhile, people seem to have a lot of knowledge and know exactly what I am going through. I am looking for help in healing- is there anything else I can do? I am a 38 yr old busy & active mom who had PLIF Dec 23, 2008 to repair a rupurted disc L5/S1. The healing process right after surgery was okay, not too bad but when does the pain end? My disc slipped in October 2008, I sought treament for a month, then went to ER on Thanksgiving 2008, they put me on steriods and pain killers. I went in for two MRI's and finally met with my surgeon mid-Dec, by then it had ruptured and surgery was immediately done. Its been 8 months, 3days since my surgery and I am in pain EVERYDAY. I have been on Norco (vicodin) since November. It hurts to sit, bend, walk anything for any length of time kust kills me. I went back to work part-time, I had a new job just prior to surgery with the hopes of going fulltime. Now since surgery- I can't. I work at a desk and sitting for more then a few hours hurts so bad, as it is I have to stretch, stand and move every hour. I cannot bend, household chores I once enjoyed- I hate! I feel like a burden on my family- they have to do so much cause Mom can't...My low back aches all the time, my legs feel numb at times, and I overall just feel like crap. I have to get up in the morning 2 hours before my children so I can take my pills, drink my coffee and lay on a heating pad...all so I can handle making lunches, getting ready for work and getting my children ready for the day. My Dr. told me to come back for my one year check up in Dec. and that this is normal- this healing takes a year to a year & a half. Seriously...does it really? I go to the gym, I am trying to walk and help strengthen my muscles, I just wanted to see if there is anything else I can do.

So tired of living in pain. :(

Sandy, Oregon


  • ..in this forum. Have you talked to a Dr. about either increasing your pain meds or changing to something else? Seems to me you should not be having this much pain 8 mos from surgery. Trust me when I tell you I know how it feels. I have two active boys and I miss playing with them. Luckily my wife is here to pick up my slack. But I know the guilt associated with how you feel. I am one month from surgery. My problem remains walking and standing. Back spasms are driving my crazy.

    Have you tried using ice to calm the pain?

    Please hang in there. Venting frustrations on this forum is definitely a form of therapy.
  • hi there ACE - Yes I have discussed different meds. I have some for spasms that I take when those begin, but for the most part the only thing he recommends is the Norco, and I take 2 at a time. I have cut back- because I just hate taking them, at this point they are really not even helping, they take the edge off but the pain is always there. :( I am sooo wanting my life back, to feel good again, to be able to fold my family's laundry without bitching about it the whole time. I have tried ice, but it has been awhile - I will give that a shot again. thanks for the reminder :)

    I am looking forward to finding relief from suggestions from others on here and to talk with people who know how it feels to walk in my shoes.


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  • Just remember, with some pain meds you have to take them for a while so that a your serum blood level is high enough to help. I had to take my muscle relaxers for about 4 days before they really started helping me.
  • I had a 2 level lumbar fusion (PLIF) and the recovery was VERY slow. I was in pain for quite a while, although it lessened as time went on.
    Surgery through the back is much more traumatic, as there is so much more that has been cut through and has to heal. It was at least 1 1/2 year2, if not more, to be "pain free" from the fusion and incision. Even then, if I overdid it (as I did) I would be in pain.
    I know it can be frustrating to be patient to heal, but please listen to your body. After my fusion in 2003 I couldn't lift my 1 1/2 year old daughter for about 4 months; very frustrating, but I did what I could and many times someone would pick her up for me and put her in my lap so I could hold her. You have to do what your body will allow to heal. Be careful with the gym workouts, don't strain anything, your fusion still needs to continue. Everything I read says walking is the best thing you can do for your back. As for feeling like a burden I totally understand. I deal with those feelings everyday too. Many of us do. We need to get over that!! No matter what our situation we can and do still contribute to our families, friends and communities. I wish you well,
  • Did you go through a period right after surgery where you had less pain than prior to surgery (if you can separate the "surgical" pain from the pain that drove you to have surgery)? Did you feel like you were making some progress only to have the pain start up again after the first six to eight weeks?

    Or has the surgery made no difference in your pain?

    Have you had further testing since your surgery -- a new MRI or CT scan and/or X-ray?

    The answer you got from you surgeon is the easy one. I'm wondering if you tried to do too much too soon. I notice that you didn't have much experience with back issues prior to your disc rupturing in Dec. when you had surgery. You may have not given yourself enough time for your body to heal before trying to resume your activities with your kids and around the house, etc. This may have caused some further inflammation that you are still being bothered by.

    Assuming your hardware is in place and you have not herniated another disc, etc., inflammation could very well be causing your pain. Doctors often suspect this as a problem and have their patients get an epidural steroid injection to help knock down the swelling...that, or a course of oral steroids.

    Another possibility would be the formation of scar tissue that is now pressing against the spinal nerve.

    It might be time to make an appointment to see your surgeon. You will have to convince him that your pain is more than "normal" healing from surgery, nerve recovery, etc. If you haven't had a new MRI, hopefully he will order one, etc. Just for your own information, it can take a year or two for the compressed nerve to settle down and "heal."

    Reading between the lines of your post, I am wondering if you aren't trying to do too much -- working, going to the gym, bending, etc. If you have never been able to get rid of the post-surgical inflammation, increasing your level of activity is probably just continuing to keep that area inflamed...the nerve has not had a chance to "settle down" and now, instead of having the ruptured disc compressing the nerve, inflammation is causing the same symptoms.

    I hope you can get some answers soon.

    xx Gwennie
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