Question: Will I Be Able to Feel the Hardware in My Back after My Spinal Fusion?
Answer: There is some chance that you will feel your instrumentation after surgery, but it probably won’t cause you pain.
screw removed after a spinal fusion – shared with permission
It isn’t common to feel the hardware in your back, but it does happen, especially early on while your body is healing. You also may be more likely to notice it in cold weather:
Patients who have had surgeries such as joint replacements, fusions or plates or screws implanted might also notice more cold-weather pain. “Occasionally there is some aching around the scar, which can become worse in cold weather, although this is more common with patients who have a metal implant,” according to sports medicine specialist Dr. John Hoffman of Orthopaedic Specialists.
The discomfort might be especially noticeable first thing in the morning or after you’ve been sitting for long periods of time. Keeping the troublesome area warm with heat pads or hot water bottles can help. source
From what I understand, people who are very slender are the most likely to feel their hardware. I was nervous about this because I’m very petite, but (knock on wood) I’ve never felt anything back there, either through my skin or internally.
Also, just because you can feel the metal in your back doesn’t mean that it will be painful. Most people who can feel (or hear) their metal seem to find it annoying or uncomfortable – not painful. And in cases where the instrumentation does cause pain, it is possible to have spinal hardware removal surgery.
hardware removed after a spinal fusion – shared with permission
This question was originally posted by Claire, who wrote:
I am 13 weeks post-op spinal fusion L4-L5. I am still very conscious of the incision site and the feeling of the muscles and hardware in my back. I also get extremely achy in this area. I was just wondering if anyone was experiencing this? Also are people aware of the hardware or is this something you don’t feel in time? – Claire
I shared my personal experience, and so did Jamie:
I do not have site pain from the hardware. However, I do have an occasional crunching and crackling feeling around the surgery site (hardware). I asked the doctor about this and I was told that it is scar tissue healing around the hardware and that it would subside in time. I would ask the doctor about the pressure you are feeling. I would guess it is part of the healing process. – Jamie
Does anyone else want to chime in with an answer for Claire? Please feel free to do so in the comments below!
And if you want to see something really cool, check out what Pip (@the_pepper_mint on Instagram) did with her hardware after she had it removed:
Talk about a conversation piece, right? Be sure to check Pip out on Instagram – she’s a true inspiration.
For more commonly asked questions, visit my Spinal Fusion FAQ page.