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Post op questions

nd2078nnd2078 Posts: 31
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone. Here is a condensed history. I have an very physically demanding job. In 2006 I had my first herniation. My Doctor did a bilateral laminectomy at L5-S1. The surgery helped, and had no problems for 2 years. In the spring of 2009 I herniated L4-L5, and ended up having a second laminectomy. The surgery worked fairly well, I was mostly pain free until late June. I've had standard care, went back on pain meds, and muscle relaxers. I've had nerve blocks (both selective, and facet). Nothing has worked, and the pain is no better. My overall pain level has increased a little bit over the past month.

My neurosurgeon has been trying to avoid fusion since I'm only 32, but today he thinks it's time for fusion. I'll be getting a discogram soon, and most likely schedule the surgery (assuming a positive discogram).

My questions are about the recovery. I've read a lot of stuff here, but if anyone has had fusion I'd really appreciate hearing your story. Mostly from the point of getting out of the hospital, to 4-6 weeks post-op. I'd like to know mostly the day to day stuff like, How much help did you need from friends/family? Did you have to use a cane/walker? How much time can you spend not laying down?

I also would like to know if you had a discogram, how much did it hurt?

Sorry this is a little long, but would really appreciate anyone sharing their stories with me.




  • Nathan,
    I can’t give you much in the way of post-op experience for lumbar surgery. Not yet anyway, I’m having a TLIF at L5/S1 in Nov. I had a 2 level cervical fusion in 2009 and know people that have had lumbar fusions. Your back notwithstanding, assuming your in ok shape you shouldn’t need a cane or walker. In fact, you’ll probably be up and walking no later than a day after your surgery. You’ll also be told to walk as much as possible, so long as it isn’t painful.

    The biggest problem with day to day stuff I found was the lifting restrictions. Rule of thumb is usually nothing heavier than a gallon of milk (8-10 lbs). If you live alone, it would be a good idea to have a friend or family member stay with you for a few days after you return home. Certainly longer is better. Cooking, cleaning, laundry etc… can be a bit of a challenge.

    The best thing you can do is prepare in advance. Stock up on food, especially prepared meals or cook and freeze some meals so all you have to do is reheat them. Definitely get caught up on cleaning, laundry, yard work etc… Check out the post for post-op must haves. How soon are you having your surgery?

    Good luck,
  • Well as you know everyone is different in their recovery. But you wanted to know so I will let you know how things were for me.
    Discogram...I don't remember much from the actual procedure cause I was doped up but I remember hearing someone yelling out..and it was me..lol.I had pain for a week after my discogram...it actually flared up sciatic type symtoms on my rt side which I had never had before..after a week that went away.

    I had a PLIF on L4,L5 and L5,S1 on March 1st of this year. I still have pain everyday. But it is better than before surgery and different. My pain now is at the surgery site itself...and I sometimes get nerve pain down my leg. I am still off of work but am trying to go back to a sit down only type of job. There is no way I could do any type of job that had me bending or lifting things. NO WAY.

    I had my husband home helping me after surgery. I could do much the first couple of weeks other than get up to the bathroom and make small little walks around my house with a wheeled walker. I did buy a cane and used that if I went out to the store or something..that of course was like over a month post op. I had to wear a large brace for 3 months.

    I would say a toilet seat riser and a grabber is a must...I also had this thing called a bottom buddy that was a life saver in the bathroom department...lol..cause hey!! ya cannot bend over after surgery..esp with a big ass brace on.

    Hope that helps..Like I said..that is just MY experience.

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  • fusion of l5-s1 and laminectomies of l2, l3 and l4 on july 16th. was in a wheelchair and used a walker for the first few days. the graduated to a walker for the 2 weeks i was in the hospital. i am 50 years old and in fairly good shape. was using a walker at home for the first 3 weeks and then graduated to a cane and still use it. pain at surgery sites is subsiding. unfortunetly the facet joint pain i had pre-surgery is still there. however i am able to stand more upright and get around well with my cane. minimum recovery for fusion is 6-12 months.


    you can see my surgery blog here: https://myspinalfusionsurgery.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-spinal-fusion-surgery.html
  • Hi, Yes, the discogram hurts, and has a high false positive. Both of the pain managers, plus two of the (4) surgical consults I had prior to L/4-L/5 PLIF fusion said discograms were crap and they don't use them anymore as a valid testing device. I had in home help all day from various family members for a solid (6) weeks. It really afforded me the chance to rest, sleep and heal in an un-rushed fashion. I know how fortunate I am to have such good family and friends to help. I used a walked in the hospital, a cane for about a week when I returned home, a raised potty seat, didn't get the hang of a grabber, but lots of people like them. I had a brace for (6) weeks (surgeon said, merely as reminder NOT TO BEND) NO BLTs (bending, lifting or twisting). For the first 2 weeks, I went from sitting for about 10-15 minutes, to walking around, to lying down for 1/2 hr or so with ice packs on my back.....and repeat. By the 3rd week, I had my sister take me out of the house on a couple of errands (me not driving until after 6 week check up). By 4th week I was walking about 12 blocks (6 up and 6 back), by 6 weeks I was walking about 2 miles every other day. I was off hard meds (morphine) by 10 weeks and back onto flexieril at night only. By 3 months I was off all drugs, only taking advil after 2 x a week PT, which I am currently doing now until 6 months, which will be end of November. I currently have NO PAIN, just aches and stiffness after PT most days. IT IS A MIRACLE.
    Hope that helps. Private message me if you want to talk more. Best, mel v.
  • Hi,

    It seems I only have had a little done as I read the post.

    My one fusion L4-L5, was really hard at the hospital and that started because of no pain meds.

    After leaving hospital...I took the medicine every 4-6 hours. My nerves where shot and I just moved into a new home. I was driven to a new home, new town and the surgery. I did not feel comfortable being alone and not familiar.

    I just shuffled across the floor. I always reached my destination. You just are going to move slower.

    Be careful not to drop your pants when you stand up from the toilet...I had to call someone more than one. Your strength will be limited. That reminds me of taking stool softner.......you don't need any problems with that >>> not now.

    A toilet seat with arms is great. Wiping.......well that is dificult!!!

    You will be alright. Kinda like getting it all done in slow motion :)

    I did not have a grabber and I always dropped my remote. Eventally with my feet and I always got it.

    Warmeing t.v. dinners and lunches until I started cooking in 3 weeks.
    You must have someone help around the house. Dishes take forever and you can not fill the dishwasher until 3 weeks.

    I still get tired with the dishwasher. I don't get tired cooking. You just need time to be able to relax. That is what I think is the best. If you could hire someone a day or two to come over and help....that would be great.

    I had to do that because I couldn't keep up with the demand. Shopping, I did that the second week........I would not recommend that until 2 months if you can get away with that.

    What I found the hardest was sleeping in a bed with someone. I don't recommend that one bit. I wanted my Husband close, but not that close.

    I grunted and growned all day. I still do sometimes when the muscles hurt. I am bouncing most of the day until I get tired.

    When you get tired, lay down and rest if you can.

    EVERYTHING was heavy and still a pot of water is heavy. I get very tired of picking things up off the floor.

    I was working, only answering the phone two days after. I should not have been. The stress of not doing it was worse.

    I was afraid of doing everything. I anticipated pain and there was none :)

    I was afraid of what to expect and it was so much easier. Just very different for about 3 months.

    Yesterday, I worked for 10 hours...I felt great!!! The next day........poor muscles. Today is a pretty good day.

    So I say, when 3 months hits, you will be feeling pretty darn good. You will know why you had the surgery within a week and that is the best part!!!

    That wraps it up for me :)
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  • Yeah,
    Fantasic for you!!!

    You were walking like crazy so soon.

    Horray, I need to start walking :)

    Glad that you are doing GREAT!!!

    I am really feeling terrific too...... I am so happy that I had the surgery!!! Just like the neck, best decision!!!
  • I am currently almost 7 weeks double fusion. Let me start by saying choose your surgeon and hospital carefully, it can really make a difference, not just skill wise, but also personality. I was in the hospital for 5 days. My surgery lasted 6 hours. Had a CSF leak (same place as one with discogram) and that made recovery the first 3 days awful! Still up walking next day-just headache from hell and severe nausea/vomiting. I used my PCA more for headaches than surgery pain. Once the CSF leak symptoms subsided felt 100% better! The last 2 days in the hospital I took 2 doses of pain med a day.
    Came home taking 1-2 doses of pain meds. The worst part for me was sleeping on my back with the staples. Am not allowed to sleep on stomach so that was tough. Used a walker for the first week. Was doing great then my leg gave out standing and I fell. No damage to hardware, but a definite setback.
    I am a very active, independant person, so hate needing help and not being able to get out and go! Fatigue took about 4 weeks to get over. I have a problem with feeling good then over doing it and pay the next day. I was told to slow down by doctor!
    Very glad I did it. The mental recovery is worse for me than the physical recovery. I did come home with home health and home PT so I think that helped! I am not pain free, but so much better than prior.
    Good luck!
    By the way, the discogram is brutal-can't lie about that.
  • Thanks for all the input. It sounds like this new adventure is going to be so much fun lol!! At this point I'm just ready to get it over with, as most of you know being in pain all the time gets old. My Doctor said normally he won't do a discogram, but wants to make sure it is 100% justified so the insurance company won't freak out. I'm going to print the "must have list" and start getting to work.

    Thanks again to all, and best of luck.

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