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Disc Fusion (L4-5, L5-S1) Recovery

Hi there,

I hope this message finds you well!

5 years ago I had a microdiscectomy at the L4-5 level. In 6 weeks I am having a double fusion at the L-4 & L5-S1 levels. I am curious about recovery experiences. If anybody would like to share their experience or give any advice that would be great. I am a 31 year female, healthy (other than my back) and have done anything and everything for my back thus far (yoga, pilates, exercise, physio, stretching, acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, cupping etc.). Surgery is my only option for my pain level etc. I am currently on the Butrans patch (narcotic) and take T-3's for breakthrough pain.

I have been told that I will have a 6 month recovery. 3 months of recovery without physio and then after three months physio & exercise.

A few questions to ponder: How did you feel after the surgery? How long did it take you to go off your medication? Did you dose down on your meds right away? When did you start walking? What were you like after a month, two or three? Any advice or suggestions on recovery is welcome:)

Thanks so much:)



  • Recovery will be much the same as your original surgery. I went through L4-S1 in 1999 at the age of 27. Went through 6 months of recovery, it took a while to recover since I was to stubborn to listen to my surgeon about quiting smoking and continued to do so for the first 3 months after surgery.....if you smoke quit now!

    I was walking 2 days after surgery. My recovery plan consisted of walking a couple miles a day. At the time I was still in the Army so this was no big deal to me, but it was extremely important in my recovery. The pain immediately after was pretty rough, to the point that they had to strap me to the bed in the recovery room as I was kicking before coming out of the sedative. The morphine drip did nothing so they ended up giving me shots of demerol directly to my hind end that did the trick. Leaving the hospital they gave me T3 for the pain thats it. It was a rough couple of weeks, but with the help of my wife and the dogs I got through it.

    If you go into this with a positive attitude you will do much better. Remember that there are a lot of people out there that go through this same thing and never have issues, of course they do not come on here to tell people how well they are doing. So you never hear most of the success stories.

    Fusion L4-S1, T8-T9 herniation.
  • tiyottiyo Posts: 4
    edited 11/23/2012 - 3:41 AM
    Keeper, thank you for your thorough response to this question.
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  • No problem.

    I am more then willing to help folks through this. I find its always tough when you find these places online. Most of the people that come to these forums are looking for help with lots of pain. Its rare that you get someone that has had a very positive outcome to these surgeries come out and say "I am doing great!"

    After my surgery I had 7 + years of great relief, I was playing soccer year round at a very high level and had no issues, working out and generally lead a very healthy life. Of course things seem to have caught up with me, but I am in much better shape then some of the folks I have read about on here.

    I cannot stress enough on how much a positive attitude helps when going into this, sure there were times I felt like crap, but I never let it stop from doing something I wanted to do. I may have paid for it a little the day after, but its been worth it so far.

    Fusion L4-S1, T8-T9 herniation.
  • Davey16DDavey16 Posts: 31
    edited 11/23/2012 - 8:54 AM
    I had the L4 to S1 two level fusion done on the 6th Sept 2012. with decompressions @ the L4 L5 and partial S1, I was up and walking the next day although gingerly, Left the hospital after 4 days just on Tylenol 3's. I now walk for several miles each day, I am now doing household chores, but you have to know your limitations, I still have some nerve pain in my right thigh and taking meds for this, It was 3 weeks since I took a tylenol 3 (and only one ). I saw my surgeon after 6 weeks and asked him about physio, and he was not too enthuastic about this, just said continuje to do what you are doing (walking () and build up to doing more gradually he wants to see me again in Jan/2013 with a view to returning to work
    protocol. Pre surgery I was unable to stand more than 5 mins and could not walk more than 200 yds without extreme back/hip/buttocks and burning in thighs and legs. I still have some nerve pain but I think over time this will diminish, Overall I am extremely happy with the results of the surgery. Read through the tips of things needed post surgery, must for me is a grabber and walking stick.pm me if you need to know more and i can be more specific

    Davey 16
  • Hi there, I had an L4/5 fusion in 1998. They had me walking (a bit!!) the day after, and added walking as the days went on. Others have posted how important walking is to recovery, and I completely agree. You'll walk further as you recover. Just avoid all the "don'ts"... like lifting and bending until they let you.... but you won't want to for awhile anyway. Pain wise, for me, it was only recovery pain and the primary back pain was gone after the surgery. I remember the first week being really rough, and lots of T3's; but by the end of my first month post op i was hardly taking any. If my memory is right... at around a month or so i might have needed a dose every day or so; but mostly if i'd tried to do to much. After i rested from whatever i'd done by overdoing it (staying on my feet too long or something..) i felt fine and recovered quickly from the bout of pain. At 3 months post op I was back at work (office job). My entry to work though was running a 3 day international conference for 600 people!!!! I did it though lol! Needed a lot of rest at the end of every work day... was tiring going back but as long as i kept my life in balance i was fine (rest/excercies/fun!!/work). By 6 months it was only an odd pain killer (say after grocery shopping grrrrrrrr) I do recommend pulling the trolley from the side next to you!! and at 1 year post op I felt confident enough about how well i was doing to go back to horse riding. My fusion was completely successful; and I only started having new problems about 12 years later due to adjacent segement degeneration.... thus I'm back on the site for a bit of advice about rhizotomies... but the fusion gave me my life back!! And let me be an active Mom for several years which was all I wanted after years of pain.... By the way... I was about your age when I had my op! Good luck to you x
    L4-L5 fusion 1998; ACDF C4-6 2008; DDD
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  • i was at L4/L5/S1 the operation took 4 hours .when i woke i was in pure hell the pain was undesirable .i have never had pain like that in the last 16 years of pain .it was so bad i asked them to kill me !! .in fact they were going to put me back to sleep if they were unable to get my pain down to a rate at which i could tolerate .i was on diamorphine & ketamine &diazapam .i had one hell of a night in the recover room {i too ill to go to the spinal unit } after one night i was stable enough to go to the spinal unit .but the pain was still very bad all i remember was crying a lot .after 7 days i came home and spent the next 6 weeks on my recliner ..only moving to go to the loo..its been nearly 12 months and i am stiff still in loads of pain i have leg and feet problems which i did not have before the surgery.all in all its not been a good year .and i have just found out .that my consultant has told my doctor that i am unlikely to get any better ....i wish you lots of luck and a better recovery than i had
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
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