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Coming off pain meds after surgery

Hi everyone, This is only my second post. Looking for support. I have had lower back pain and sciatica for the last 3-4 years. It had recently gotten unbearable in the past few months, so I finally saw an orthopedic, had an MRI which showed a lesion pressing on nerves, but not embedded in my spinal cord. I'm scheduled for surgery to remove the lesion/tumor next week. My primary care doc put me on tramadol 3-4 50 mg a day almost a year ago. Also received nerve block (a shot) every 3 months from Reumatologist for the last year. Neither insisted I have an MRI, but I finally made an app with ortho (didn't need referral) on my own. Now I'm also taking Norco 10mg (2-3 a day) and have been for about a month and a half. Sooo... I'm excited to have some relief after surgery but nervous about coming off pain meds, especially the tramadol which I've been taking a year. I know withdrawals off it are rough because of days I forgot to take a dose. I wonder if the docs will consider how long I've been on it and go slow. I have to work, have small children, and already struggle with anxiety and depression. I eventually want to get off all meds and be able to feel normal again. I really don't like the way they make me feel anyway. The first few months, I feel energized after getting some relief but now they often give me a headache and make me feel tired much of the time. In hindsight, I wish I'd never gotten on tramadol, because my tolorance has increased and I'm having to take them and Norco 10s to get any relief. Any experiences/ advice would be appreciated.


  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 451
    I haven't been on any of the meds you mentioned, but I struggled to get off the ones I was on for almost a year.  I didn't even realize that depression was a major withdrawal symptom of one of them until I was really losing it and decided to research it.  It helps to know what the withdrawal symptoms can be.  I was able to do it without any other meds to help, but it wasn't easy.  I let my support people know what was going on, also helpful to share.  Many praying friends helped too.  But don't try to be a hero: if you are having a hard time, get your Dr on board.  I'm so glad I felt good enough to get off of them.  Now that I've re-herniated, I'm avoiding going back on anything for as long as I can...but I know drugs have their place.  They are a necessary evil.  I wish you all the best in your journey!

  • I have been on percocet solid for over a yr now and on it for a good part of 3 now. I had to go off due to a job I had and for me it wasn't bad I was grumpy felt sick had stomach issue for about 2 wks until it was out of my system. Tramadol is a little different though since it's a antidepressant of sorts it does stay in your system longer. Your best bet is before surgery tell them the length of time you have been on it and that if they plan to take you off of it soon that you have these concerns and if possible want to taper off of them 
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  • Lizzy09LLizzy09 Hattiesburg Posts: 34
    Thanks to you guys for your reply. I was prescribed Tramadol from my gp and I expect him to be fine with me tapering when the time comes to get off of it. He is generally very understanding. 
  • smartens162smartens162 Manitoba, CanadaPosts: 451
    I'd like to add, my nerve pain was not instantly relieved with surgery, so weaning off of meds came a few months post-surgery.  I was super nervous about coming off and having pain come back, so I was cautious and slow in that decision.  As I said, it turned out OK in the end.  Be kind to yourself and don't rush it.
  • lclause66llclause66 Posts: 20
    edited 07/13/2016 - 7:56 AM
    I have been on some sort of pain pill now for about 3.5 years which were prescribed when I originally started having siatica nerve pain up till getting my first L5 S1 surgery, he gave me one month worth and when I asked for another he said "what do want me to turn you into a pill addict"?  I was so upset with his response not understanding I needed to have something because my pain was running about an 8-9 daily!  So I got a referral from my Family Doctor that referred me to this neurosurgeon (bad decision) so I asked the FD for a  a pain management doctor and couldn't be happier!  He is great with explaining why I have pain based off my Xray and MRI scans and does physical tests on me to check what areas of my legs, hips and back pain are the cause.  He has me on chronic pain meds and break thru medication as well, having both work like a dream and he is going to take me off of them and replace with a pain pump, you actually use less medication than oral ones and can wean off them easier because I will not know how much of a dose he will give me after a while and perhaps I can mentally not notice the changes.  I need medication also because my surgeon said I need my L4 fusion done and perhaps doing my L5 again with the L4 using a larger cage thru my stomach and it will heal much faster, my surgeon is not the one who did the first one and my new surgeon does often mention hmm I wouldnt have done it that way and other things that make me believe he knows why my screw broke not long after my surgery, doctors never tell they just question options as if I would know why so ask if you go into surgery.   Also for this second surgery I got an Orthfix what I wear to heal my fusion with electrodes ad magnetic aids, insurance covered it cost $1500 thank god, and only scheduled for 2 hours day for 6 months, I wear it now at least 2x a week just to be sure.

    Got off topic of pain meds but if you need them get a low dose and work your way up if you need to but if the low dose works stick with it.  Plus I have been on antidepressants and anxiety pills for 15+ years for those reasons having both now in a chronic state and so pretty bad so I will always continue those on higher doses. My chronic anxiety and chronic anxiety along with agorphobia (unable to leave the house) and can't handle being around groups of people I get stress very quickly and mind you I WAS never like that before, always outgoing and fun to hang around now people just ask hows your back, my back is the same as last week when you asked and stop asking it stresses me out (ughh) people just will never understand and I won't walk into those types of situations anymore!

    Thanks for reading this and hope it helped a bit on some other things I experienced, husband is a dream and such a great support, I fell the other night and he stayed up with me all night to make sure I didn't get up and walk and possibly fall again which is how I skinned my knees really bad they hurt and I will scars forever!
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  • Lizzy09LLizzy09 Hattiesburg Posts: 34
    Thank you for your response, Linda. I'll be praying for you. Sounds like you've had a rough time. My regular doc put me on tramadol and didn't say anything about me discontinuing them when I told him I was having the surgery(had an app with him the other day). So I plan to continue them as long as I need to after surgery. I'm sure the ortho will also prescribe something stronger but I plan to keep it as low a dose as I can, like you said. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with surgeon. Some doctors do not want to give meds when they are really needed. Most of us would certainly not want to take them if we didn't need them. Them not prescribing them when they are needed is not going to keep ppl from abusing them. They just need to educate ppl on the dangers. 
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