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L4 L5 Decompression and Fusion

sreksssreks Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:50 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
How bad is the post surgery pain going to be? I am hearing
from coworkers that have had fusions that it's not to bad,
or the pain is excruciating. I am trying to prepare myself
for this somewhat scary experience. The only encouraging thing is that everyone I know that has had a back fusion has had a good outcome (10-12 people).


  • Hi Sreks

    Post-op pain varies with each person.

    I had an anterior (ALIF) fusion on L4-5 in 09 which is successful. My pain was well controlled in the hospital and when I got home. I was able to walk the next day, slowly and I didn't have much energy for quite a while afterwards. The leg pain was gone pretty well straight away after surgery, but I had a very restless leg for a few months, which was relieved by walking and by Gabapentin which is a nerve pain medication.

    Recovery takes a long time and can be very frustrating because we want to get moving quickly, but that's not possible. Bone takes a long time to grow. I would say that it was 6-7 months before I felt "normal" again. It's very important to rest and walk and observe the bending-lifting-twisting restrictions. One has to be totally committed to the recovery program - it's a time when we really need to nurture ourselves and let others help us.

    Good back care is essential afterwards and I've had to modify my activities. Just recently I was feeling so good and thought I'd increase my exercise and now I'm paying for it. I haven't damaged anything but the back is telling me to rest and slow down.

    I got myself into as good a shape as I could prior to surgery; ie a nutritious diet and no excess weight. This isn't possible for everyone as we all have different levels of pain and mobility.

    There's two very good threads at the top of this page on Post-Op Must Haves and How Long Will It Take (recovery). I'd encourage you to read them. Good preparation is essential for recovery.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008

  • I had L4/L5 decompression with fusion using cage, screws and rods. The bone graft was taken from my bone that was removed during the decompression/laminectomy.

    I was expecting excrutiating pain afterwards, but am very happy to say it wasn't as bad as I had feared. There was pain, of course, but it was bearable and I was off pain meds much quicker than I had anticipated. Some people are not as lucky, so I think it is a good thing to be prepared for really high levels of pain.

    I would say my outcome has been good. I am definately very much better than before my surgery. I do still have pain and symptoms in my legs and feet, and also problems and pains from my thoracic and cervical spine. I think it is just starting to hit home that I will always have some degree of pain. I was told that with all my problems I would always have back pain, but I think I didn't really think about what that meant.

    I just keep telling myself that I am very much better than before, and that the surgery was successful. I think without all my other issues, I would be feeling great.

    When is your surgery?

    I notice that you are a new comer to Spine Health. Welcome! :H

    Do keep asking questions and get to know us better. We are a friendly bunch and the support you will get here will make an incredible difference during your prepartion and recovery. It is so good to talk to others who 'know' what you are dealing with.

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  • My hubby had no pain pills after coming home from the hospital and he is 66. Six and a half months later, he still is pain free and back to most of his former activities. Other people seem to have pain for a while that gradually eases. And some seem to have less pain but still do have some discomfort. So it is subjective.
  • My surgery is this coming Wednesday, I have been going through the list of things that I will need post surgery (the thread on this site).
    I still have a lot of anxiety, but once I wake up from the surgery I will have to focus hard on recovery. I'm not very patient when it comes to this kind of recovery, but I also know that if I'm not patient I can mess it up. My pain has been manageable so far, nothing like many posts on this site. thanks again for the information and support.

  • If you are not a patient type of person, this will stretch you! I suggest that you get some things to pass the time while you are recovering.

    How about those books you have always meant to read, those DVDs you have meant to watch, music to listen to. Arrange all things you will need to use in a place you can reach them without bending. Things like clothes you will wear, drinks, food and plates etc. The first 2 or 3 weeks will be the worst, but the recovery is long.

    My surgery was in March, and I found that recovering over the spring and summer was a good time for walking and enjoying the fresh air.

    Do let us know how you are doing, and if you have any questions, we will do our best to answer them.

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  • OMGMyAchinBackOOMGMyAchinBack Dix Hills, Long Island, NYPosts: 15
    Hi. I am having decompression surgery in 04/11 for severe stenosis and a herniated disc. I had revision surgery (PLIF & ALIF) @ L5/S1 in 06/08 and my ortho surgeon (of HSS) believes that I am having pain from the hardware and plans on removing it during the decompression surgery. He hasn't mentioned fusion or additional hardware at the new site (L4/L5). I have severe osteoporosis as well which isn't helping. Anyone ever been in this situation? If so, what happened, how did you do? I am hungry for info.


  • First week was not as bad as I had anticipated, the pain was not that bad, but I did have a little ball of novacane slowly being run into the incision for the first 3 days. PT had me doing stairs 3 days post op. I am being very careful not to bend or twist or do anything to aggrevate it. My old leg pain is gone, but I do have a little pain radiating from my pelvis in to my gleuts and quads, other than that and the incision I feel pretty good.
    The doctor said everything went as expected, but I did have more bone spurs than expected.

  • First week down, quite a few more to go, but it sounds like you are doing very well.

    Keep it up! :-)
  • Terrific that your surgery went well and that most of the leg pain has gone. You will feel pain in your back and other areas for a while.

    Resting and walking is all you need to do in the early stages of your recovery. Your doctor will let you know when you can do more.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Feels great to have all the 22 staples removed, those things were a real pain. I seem to be doing better than I should be doing. The Dr said everything looks good with the screws and rods and come back in 6 weeks. I am going to go back to work part time March 14th, hope I am not being to aggresive. The Dr is giving me a real loose leash and I will have to be careful not to over do anything. My second Job is firefighter for the city I live in, I have some time make a decision on retiring from that. The Dr said I can continue that after rehab. Has anybody on this site done that??
    I forgot to mention that once I started on the treadmill everyday my progress was increadable.
    I am doing 3-4 miles a day. Thanks again for the messages of support.

    SREKS (Steve)
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