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Weening Off Pain Meds

Hello everyone. I'm new the forum. I've been lurking for awhile and trying to educate myself as to what I can expect during my recovery. I'm 3 weeks post op from a laminectomy and spinal fusion at L2-L3. The procedure was a success and I'm recovering as expected, according to my surgeon. I'm currently prescribed 10 mg of oxy and cyclobenzaprine every 3 hours as needed for pain. My family has a propensity for addiction. The oxy scares the hell out of me and I'm trying to ween myself off of it but it seems that I can't. I tried to go a whole day without it and that was an excruciatingly painful mistake. Is it common to stay on pain meds for longer than 3 weeks? Is it safe to assume that I'll be addicted at some level and have to deal with withdrawal? If so, how can I differentiate between normal pain and pain associated with withdrawal? I know that I'm very early in the recovery phase and that all cases are different. I'm wondering if some of you could share your experience with weening off the pain meds.


  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Rather than stopping all at once try to cut back. Maybe take 5 or 7.5 mg and stretch it to 4 or 5 hours. Then next week cut back again. I've been told that if you're taking it to control pain, you're not likely to get addicted. I've been on Norco for 3 years and am able to control it.
    Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil
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  • to your doctor. They will understand and will most likely help you as much as possible by giving you a different mg or different medication to provide relief.

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I had a Tlif in July and told myself I would only use pain med's for a month. I have had a very painful recovery which led me to a pain management doctor. He was very upfront and told me with this type of surgery I would need medication for A while. I honestly do not think or feel I would be addicted.

    I feel that if you follow the doctors orders and take it as prescribed you should be ok. I am greatful that i have access to pain management. I do believe that the med's help me function and increase my recovery. Good luck and keep your doctor posted.
    40 year old mom
    Tlif July 18
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,349
    edited 10/16/2013 - 3:48 AM
    You are still pretty fresh out of spinal surgery. It takes time for the body to start to heal and recovery from this. Many surgeons figure anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks that some level of pain medication will be required. There is no hard fact with this, it varies between doctor, patient and the type of surgery.

    If you have any fears about the medication you are on, I would contact your doctor, as EMS Guy said. Many times going cold turkey is not the solution, a gradual slow down is a better route. But still, only go by what your doctor will tell you to do.
    Everything we are giving you here is based on our own personal experiences and not formal medical statements.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 10/16/2013 - 5:41 AM
    I know I was terrified of addiction. I mentioned it many times to my surgeon and he assured me we'd work together to make sure that didn't happen. I ended up with more surgery than expected an had tons of meds post op. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital and 3 in a inpatient rehab hospital. I remember very very very little of the 3 weeks after surgery, but when my memory began I can remember requesting to start reducing the Oxycontin and the doctor came in to speak to me. He was very honest,explained that reducing meds too quickly could jeopardize healing and actually cause more problems. Together we established a reasonable "plan". The plan involved months... I was so nervous/concerned because it involved months, but surgeons know what is usually necessary based on surgical procedure and medical history. I've since had more surgeries and have had to take narcotics for weeks,and I have always been able to come completely off of them. Don't worry yourself too much over it. Speak with the doctor and make a reasonable plan together. Another good resource is your surgeon's nurse... Best of luck on your healing!

    **and I do feel compelled to add that I realize not everyone can or should come off of narcotics, especially those who have chronic pain issues that can't be "fixed" in other ways. We all have to do what is best for us.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,349
    Pain medication has its purpose.
    When used as Directed , it is invaluable as part of your recovery
    When Abused it can be more of a problem than your spinal one is.

    My physiatrist always tells me this about pain medications and fear of addiction.
    It is safe to use them when it is necessary, it becomes a problem when you want them
    I've asked her, but how will I know?
    Her response is You may not, but I will

    That is just one thing I love about my pain specialist. We have monthly appointments to see how I am feeling, what the next step will be on how am I doing with pain medications.

    This is just about one of a thousand reasons I could give about making sure you have a good relationship with your doctor(s)
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • It is very important to take the medications as perscribed and always talk to your doctor before changing the dose. You could change the outcome of your surgery by not following what the doctor prescribes. Plus you and your doctor will be on the wrong page.... he will think your having all this pain while taking the medications he perscribed.

    Trust your doctor and talk to to him or her... you will do fine.
  • Charmed Life 13CCharmed Life 13 Posts: 5
    edited 10/18/2013 - 10:57 AM
    DGROVE, I had the same issue and was really worried about weaning off meds. I had been on all kinds of medication, pre-surgery, for years...I mean 10+ years of narcotics. The biggest thing for me was thinking, "after the surgery i'll be able to get of all these drugs!" Well not so fast. I agree with everyone; take as needed. My Dr told me the worst thing you can do during recovery is A. to just stop taking some of these medications cold turkey and experience withdrawal symptoms at the same time as surgical recovery and B. Don't stop taking the medication just to stop and let the pain get ahead of you or out of hand. If you feel okay, discuss with your Dr. about tapering off. I was able to taper off and stretch the times a bit very slowly and got off all narcotic meds. My Dr actually helped me figure out a taper. It's definitely not something done overnight its taken weeks and because i'm still recovering from surgery I was told NOT to rush things just for the sake of getting off all the medication. First we stretched the time a bit (even if it was only half hr) between doses, then we started to cut dosage but only a little, then slowly cut back day dosage for a week or so and then try to stretch time more and then cut dosage again, etc....It took longer than I would have wanted but I'm happy to say I did NOT have any withdrawal effects from going off the narcotics because of the taper and I'm off all narcotics.
  • Thought I'd update my thread. I'm still on the meds. Tylenol just isn't enough sometimes. I'm still taking 5 MG of Oxy and 5 MG of Flexeril per day. I take them in the evening because I'm really sore by the end of the day. I'm having a hard time with patience. I'm 6 weeks post op and while I know that's not a lot of time, I'm really tired of lying around. I'm usually an active person and doing nothing is killing me. Seems the only activity I complete anymore is eating Oreos... I've gained at least 10 lbs. I have my 6 week checkup tomorrow where I'll get new xrays and they will check to see if I'm fusing properly. Also, I'm hoping that they release me back to work and physical therapy. Ugh.
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