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Swelling / Pain 7 weeks Post Op - Lumbar Fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,550
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello Everyone! I am new to this forum and am looking for some help. I am 7 weeks post op from a multi level Lumbar Fusion (L4-S1). I am still having quite a bit of pain. Mostly nerve pain down both of my legs to the knee. Also some pain around incision site. I usually ice every night; however the incision from the fusion is always swollen. The area around does not appear too swollen - but the incision itself looks like there is an egg shoved under the skin. It is puffed out that far.

Does anyone else have ths issue? Should i still be swollen and having pain this far out from surgery?


  • Your symptoms sound very typical and you ARE very early on in your recovery. I tried ice, but found it made me uncomfortable, have you tried a heating pad? I LOVE mine and it relaxes my back muscles an just feels good. you might want to try it. Take it very easy and rest,rest, rest! Hang in there and I wish you well.
    p.s. I am 10 1/2 weeks out and my incision is still tender, if you read xMAR'S posts he is at about the same place as me and his incision is tender too. Seems to be a normal thing,
  • Just to be on the safe side, you might want to call your surgeon's office and describe the bump, etc. Perhaps I was just lucky, but I've had two incisions almost on top of each other and neither one was tender past about five days. The surrounding area was a bit puffier than my other back tissue, but nothing out of the ordinary.
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  • I had two incisions on my back and one huge one on the front and never had any swelling or bumps. In this day and age, you shouldn't take any chances with infection. Call your doc. I had tega-derm bandages (like plastic skin) for about a week and a half after surgery, so nothing could get in there to cause an infection. I iced several times a day and it made me more comfortable. As for the nerve pain in the legs, I needed Lyrica to deal with that.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Is this really early on in recovery? How long until things are back to Normal? I am 27 and led a very active lifestyle prior to the injury and surgery. I have my first follow up next week. I have been in PT since 6 days post op, but it seems like we do the same things every time - maybe a few more repetitions. Therapist says I'm getting stronger, I just don't see it.

    I am trying to push myself to get better, but every time I push through the point where my back starts aching, I wind up in bed for 2-3 days in severe pain. It is very frustrating.

    I am still on pain medicine, which is another concern that I have. At 7 weeks, is it normal to rely on heavy duty pain meds (oxycontin and percocet) and muscle relaxers (zanaflex)? These make me really sleepy, so most of the time I am in bed. I get up and around as soon as my husband gets home from work, but it seems like by the time i shower and eat dinner and walk around a bit - i am hurting and he wants me back in bed.

    I don't mean to come across as whiney. I did't expect this to be an easy recovery. I think I just need some reassurance that I'm either on track, or, if i'm not, some guidance that may help me get there. I am just really frustrated at this point and looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. ~X(

  • First off, I don't think you're being whiney at all. Yes, you're younger (I'm 55) and you've been more active, but I can't believe you're in PT already. I wasn't even allowed to think about PT until almost two months post-op. I don't think I would have been able to stand it that soon after surgery. Both my surgeon and my physical therapist (who I had been seeing pre-op) agreed I shouldn't start PT for a few months. I think it sounds like you're making decent progress, but I wonder that they didn't have you take a longer period of rest. I had a three-level fusion and I'm nearly a year out now. I cut my major drugs (fentanyl patches) about two months after surgery. I tapered off on the oxycodone and now I just have some for when I get painful (which can be a couple of times a week). I have had three-four big flares over this past year where I had to go on steriods, Lyrica, and lots of oxy to get the pain and inflammation down. You are NOT being a baby, and I'd say you're on track but I think they may be pushing you a bit too hard. I wonder what others think?

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • I just made this observation in another post this evening: It seems that many surgeons are less than forthcoming and realistic in the time frames they give to patients regarding recovery. Fusion is a BIG surgery and it takes a long time to recover from it. I think if surgeons were more accurate, they would have fewer patients to operate on. (just to be a tad cynical....)

    I had a one level PLIF almost two years ago at L4-5. I was on pain meds, basically the same as yours, for the first eight weeks. At that point, I just stopped taking them. It was at that point that I started to drive. I basically could do one thing per day. Beyond that, it was just too tiring. By the time I showered, fixed my hair, dressed, etc. I was just about ready for a nap! I think it was about 3 months when I started feeling a little bit more like my old self...and a bit longer before I started to feel a bit stronger.

    Other than the PT I did in the hospital, I did not start PT until 15 weeks.

    I think you'll find that your body has a particular time frame for healing and it will do it at its own pace. There is little you can do to hurry the process. You can push, but you usually end up paying for it. I think you'll find that slow and steady wins this particular race.

    Of course, we all heal at different rates...but I think your experience is fairly typical.

    Try to be patient. It is very important to follow your doctor's instructions and to not try to do too much too soon.

    Wishing you an uneventful recovery!
  • Hi Mary!

    Yes, I agree with the others that you are indeed in the early phases of your recovery and expecting to feel better too fast. You had a very big procedure. I think you should call your doc about the egg size lump in your incision. Has anyone else at home looked at it for you? What color is the area? I had a drain in my incision post op to help the excess fluids/blood drain out.(it was removed before I went home) At any rate, it shouldn't be there. I alternated between ice packs and a heating pad for pain relief. A gel ice pack worked best because it conformed to my back. I'm 12 weeks post op and have a nice large heating pad to use when I'm in my recliner. I'm surprised at your being in PT already. My surgeon has had some bad experience with PT's being a bit too rambunctious and subsequently messing up his work. I just walk and do some strengthening with the ole soup cans. I go back to work on Monday and have a new heating pad to use there as well.

    Take care and keep in touch.

  • in your recovery as everyone on here had mentioned. Before you do heat, please ask as my ns said absolutely no heat at all...... slow down your day, I know what you mean about being so active before so it probably makes you crazy to do little to nothing. Walk as much as you can and listen to your body. If what you are doing or overdoing is putting you down for a few days. Gauge what it is you are doing and scale back so that you don't end up hurting. Doing too much will slow down your recovery then making the processes longer.

    Keep your head up and keep us posted- Good luck and take it easy!! ;p)
  • I underwent a Tlif procedure the week before Christmas and also had disc decompression and cage insertion to L5 s1, my recovery has been great so far but I wanted to ask if anyone has had a similar experience. My recovery has been great off the buprenorphine very little pain just aching and some numbness to my left leg so still taking pregablin, however, since I returned to work 8 weeks after the surgery I seem to be very swollen around the abdomen and spine. Has anyone experienced swelling once activity increased? As this has only occurred since going back to work. I am now 12 weeks post op.
  • I had spinal fusion 15 weeks ago, S1-L5.
    The insisting on my abdomen is still painful. I feel like I'm still swollen. The left side, where the insision was done, is more swollen.
    Does this sound about right at this point of my healing process.

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