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.
Like most of you, I had a spinal fusion in my lumbar region and had a laminectomy. I’m 53 years old and since having the surgery almost a month ago I haven’t felt much relief. In fact, I feel a new kind of pain, in that I can feel the metal in my back. Especially where the cage is and it feels like I’ve got a fist stuck in my back all the time. I don’t know if this is normal or not. I don’t know if I’m just hypersensive to the metal, because I am a psychic and a medium, but I just know that it causes me pain and a lot of discomfort. I’ve had many sleepless nights lately.
I had my fusion one year and 7 month and still in a lot discomfort for more stretch or core that I do I cannot see any changes.. when I move I can feel the screw moving .. I don’t know at this point what doctor can do for me..I have appointment with my surgeon the June 21 ..praying that nothing bad to my back happen.. I’m depressed.
how was your doctor visit? any improvement?
I am 50yrs old- 2 weeks after my S1-L4-L5 fusion. It was a Posterior + Anterior surgery. The operation is sometimes called a 360 Spinal Fusion.
History: I’ve been at war with L4/L5 herniated discs that attack my left leg since I was 19 yrs old. 4 Epidural Lumbar Steroid Injections over 6 years, 1 Lumbar Laminectomy/Discectomy in 2019.
Affects: I have foot drop (left) from nerve damage. I was talented in ignoring, tolerating, and masking the sciatic pain, …but the bad discs were damaging nerves that whole time.
Now/Post-op: The bad flat discs are gone. The cages and screws have opened areas around the nerve roots that I haven’t had in decades. Week 1- My legs went through waves of a dull, ache/burn. Week 2- Burning is gone now. I only take the Gaba & Norco at night.
MY QUESTION: Now, after a walk (About 2,000 steps) I feel a crunchy/grinding pain above the sacrum and I have to lie down. Is that normal? Am I pushing it too soon? Or could it be part of the body’s adaptive healing process?
Thanks for the forum. I’m a MommyRunsIt fan now.
You remind me of myself 2 weeks after surgery. Based on my experience, yes you are pushing too soon. I had l5-s1 360 fusion in March. About two weeks, I was trying to push 2000 steps a day. Exhausting and painful. Got a earful from my surgeon (and my wife too). I let go and let my body dictate what I can do. One day at a time. There is going to be ups and downs. 3-6 months for soft bone to cover the cage. But all the patience is worth in gold. I am now almost 7 months out. Walking 4+ miles every day. Good luck and wish you a speedy recovery.
BTW, I am 67 years old and had a serious spondy- went through the same sequences of attempts to ignore, treat, tolerate before succumb to severe sciatica and relent to surgery. Looking back, I wish I had opted surgery earlier.
OMG I had a laminectomy at l4-5 April 2018 a year later I got a little relief I decided to go back to the gym in 2021 when they opened the gyms here in CA and I got so bad it just came one after three week of working out! I’m 65 new Dr. by the way wants to do a 360 and fuse me from L3 to S1 I was trying to avoid all that work in the beginning that’s why I opted for something more minor hahaha it was just as bad he opened my back and developed a hematoma from that for 10 days it bleed! and the laminectomy was done wrong according to the new doctor! I have weakness in both legs numbing feet and toes buttock hurt when I sit, nerve pain from both side and back of my leg inner thigh hurts and cramps on my feet toes thighs and calves I don’t know if it’s related but it has to be!! I really don’t know what to do? the hardware and screws looked huge with plastic or rubber disc in-between…Please help…Thanks
Sharon Hubbard says
I had a fusion of L3 to L4 to L5. I was in so much pain before surgery I could barely walk with a cane. Post op over 6 months now and that horrific pain in left side of left calf, foot, left butt and hip are now numb and it’s not going away. I feel the hardware in my back all the time, sometimes very painful after sitting. My left leg, hip are still weak. I have toe, foot and leg cramps on my left side. I’m going to my surgeon tomorrow and I bet he says “give it some time” with no help for pain 24/7 and muscle spasms often. I don’t know the answer but I will get someone to answer me and give me some help.
Christie Barnhorst says
Finding this blog was so timely for me. I picked up so many good ideas, calming thoughts, and insight that has helped make my journey easier. This surgery and recovery are the difficult. But as the days go by, each one gets better.
I had a spinal fusion in 2018 from T4-L3 I think, and then I had to have more surgery in 2019 when the screw/rod at L3 popped out.
It’s been a year and a half and I still have so much pain. Lying down in certain positions (usually on my side) causes sharp pain in my shoulder blades, standing or sitting for long periods of time causes aches, and it’s overall terrible. I can feel the hardware (at least I think I can) when I press on the middle of my back/side and it causes a lot of pain.
Seeing my doctor again at the end of the month but it’s driving me crazy :/
nic Calkins says
I can understand that. I’m 2 in a half months put from my L4 L5 fusion and when I flex my back muscles I can feel.what seems like the screws on either side giving me sharp pains also the top of my foot burns a long with the dull burn that goes down back of my leg quite often but it does come and go
My spinal fusion (T12 – S1) with hardware was in June of 2019. I won’t lie, it was very painful both physically and emotionally. After suffering with terrible back, hip, and leg pain for over 10 years caused by worsening scoliosis, and spinal
stenosis with nerve compression, I made the decision to have the surgery. I learned as much as
I could about the procedure and researched stories of other patient’s personal experiences before making up my mind, and I am so glad I did. Had I not
done so, I would have been terribly unprepared and overwhelmed to say the least. I progressed well in my recovery for the first 7 months and was told
by my surgeon that I was healing well with no complications. That was until one of the metal rods
Broke in two around L4 and 5. I had surgery a second time for the hardware revision. That operation was nowhere near as painful as the first and so far I have had no further issues. I go back next month for my follow up visit and expect a good report. All things considered, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat to feel the way I do right now which is completely pain free and off of all pain medication aside from an occasional ibuprofen for minor muscle aches and stiffness . My range of motion is somewhat limited and I have had to make minor changes in the way I perform some of
my daily activities, but everything is a trade off. I am now back to enjoying the things I use to enjoy doing because now I’m pain free! It’s been a long, slow, and difficult journey to recovery, but it was so worth it for me. Surgery is a personal decision to be made by an individual and their doctor, only you can make that choice. I would just recommend that if you do decide in favor of surgery, do the research and educate yourself. Preparation is key.
Lou ryan says
How are you progressing.. I just had L2 to S1 fusion going through anterior lateral and posterior. Do you feel
Christie Barnhorst says
So glad I saw your post. I just had – end of March T10-S1 fusion, anterior and anterior then anchored into my pelvis. Almost identical history as yours. I too studied and researched the surgery. And still, I too have found it somewhat overwhelming.
I have fallen a couple times as my right leg nerves are still coming back. Sometime my leg just collapses. But it is getting better. And the pain I have now is my body adjusting to a new spinal layout. No more slippy bra straps. No more long on one side pant legs.
Anyway, your comment was very relatable. Made me feel more in place. Thank you!
Charles Krutulis says
My name is Chuck and I had a 2 level Fusion L 3-4 and L4-5 on July 6th 2021….I’m doing very well but my doctor had me get and x-ray of my lumbar for I felt a bump at L 4-5 level … The hardware was stable and followed up with another x-ray and physical…X-ray showed hardware stable but was told the bump I feel is from my pelvis but I never had that bump there prior to surgery… I have a follow up visit in 3 months…But my feeling is the bump I feel is the hardware but doesn’t cause any pain or really any discomfort for I’m still healing from surgery…
Hi I’m anabelle. I’ve done an l5 S1 fusion the MIS Tlif ( minimally invasive spine surgery with transforaminal fixation)
Read a lot from patient experiences before taking that decision. I had a lot of lower back pain . Sitting or bending were like a nightmare.
Done surgery on 6 th Aug 21. Day 1 to day 5 at hospital. Pain is just unbearable day 1 when you have to stay lying on the back. Day 2: walking and learning how to be precautious when getting out of bed and car etc.
I was feeling great at day 8 until day 14. No pain.. no numbness and tingling.
Day 15: Pain appeared numbness and tingling in the left leg. Lost of sensation in the left foot. ( doctor says that it takes time to heal and may be numbness will never disappear)
I was scared when I touched my back on the area the incision was done. It looked swollen and I could feel the 4 screws. Doc said it’s not the screws but it’s an inflammation of the scar.
I’m emotionally and physically not fine. I’m disappointed.
Doing the few exercises he gave me puts me in pain… is it normal?
Anybody having this experience . Please share.
Linda D says
I’m not a doctor. I’m 71 & had multiple levei fusion (surgery was through my back) am working on month 4. My suggestion is u should get a second opinion. It cant hurt. I’m still on pain killers ( hydrocodone ) after the surgery but the pain lessens month by month & i take less medication. I dont think ur pain should be getting worse.And your exercises should not hurt. Your Doctor should have recommended physical therapy but not ’til month 2. Ur physical therapist should also be experienced with recovering spinal fusion patients. I contacted my local hospital who had physical therapists expericienced with that.Theyve been great in getting me going again.
It’s possible that u do feel the screws or maybe not but once again a second opinion could help answer that.its ur body & ur life so ask.
As for swelling i still have some esp in my lower back cause that suffered the most damage but it has finally started going down w the help of ice gel packs.
As for drop foot i didnt have that before surgery but i do now & its not an uncommon reaction to this kind of surgery because nerves do not like being moved & muscles dont like being cut. And yes its possible it may not come back but u cant know that cause it may take a year. However ive seen improvement in tiny tiny increments but improvement never the less with the help from PT.
Keep in mind ur body has gone through a major traumatic experience that is going to take time, a lot of time to heal. If u are in that much pain then u need to ask for medication for that because you cant heal properly if that is overwhelming.
I have to say initially i felt like a truck ran over me & then backed up to see what they hit. I
Love my surgeon & i trust him but i have to say he didnt prepare me much as to what to expect. But he did give me pain killers cause he knew id need them & he gave me a prescription for PT to start 6-8wks after my surgery.
Dont know if this is of any help but i now know that i thought id be walking 5 miles at a time & completely pain free 2 wks after surgery was a tad premature or wisful thinking. Please let me know how you progress. I’m rooting for you.
Patty Pumfrey says
I have had 2 L4 &L5 fusion surgeries cancelled die to covid. Im really wondering if the end result is worth the 5-6 months of pain.. is it worth it in the long run? Will i be able to do a flip tuen, yoga, syep aerobics? Run?? Im kinda starting to talk myself out of the surgery.. help!?! Advice??
James Dixon says
I did the L4/L5 fusion 10 years ago and it was definitely worth it for me. I now walk, run, elliptical, rowing machine, cycling, light weight lifting. ride my motorcycle etc. I can’t do Yoga but that’s only because I don’t like the spiritual crap that goes along with it 🙂 (hopefully my wife doesn’t read that last part)
David Rose says
Good morning from Northamptonshire in the UK.
I had TLIF surgery (L5-S1) a week ago and was lucky not to have the op cancelled due to COVID.
I had been waiting for over a year for the op.
I was in for one night and out the morning before lunch.
I didn’t realise the general anaesthetic affects lasted so long. I was discharged without any pain meds and had to get some from my GP as soon as I could as I hadn’t slept well up to the op and not at all In hospital or fir 2 days after due to the pain.
I took codeine for 4 days to the max.
I am back on Gabapentin, paracetamol and ibuprofen as required.
I site is painful, I still ache all over but I still think and hope it will all be with it.
I can feel the screws but am just pleased to have had the op.
If you get the chance please have the op. To be free of pain, sciatica in left leg and back pain it will be so with it.
Hi. I had the same op in September of last year and I’m interested how your recovery is going.
Caron Caplan-Attardi says
If I had known what I know now I would have opted for exercise, brace, physical therapy, etc before I would do a major surgery which ends up years down the line to need a fusion above or below original fusion. Which they don’t seem to tell you til years down the line. Plus exercising 19 years after fusion and rod is ready to break thru skin in my back so screws and rod need to be removed before we fuse my back again above original fusion.
I’m approximately 8 weeks post L5/S1 anterior-posterior fusion. I’m still in much pain from my back down to my ankles, and my left foot feels like it’s literally on fire. Before surgery, my MRI showed that both L4/L5 & L5/S1 displayed bilateral nerve compression, spinal stenosis, and facet arthropathy. My right lower extremities doesn’t produce as much pain as my left side, but it too is noticeable. Since surgery, my pain management doctor has me on Percocet, Gabapentin, and Amitriptyline. I’ve literally told my doctor that I want to cut off my left leg and throw it away because the pain is just that unbearable. None of the pain medication helps although it does put me to sleep for about 2 hours until the pain rudely wakes me up with an increase throb. I’m really hoping my doctor’s favorite quote of “Give it time” actually work because I’m in pain daily and this is not fun , not to mention I’m 41 years old and have been walking with a cane since last year. 🙁 ~~~Side note….I was wondering if anyone a remember seeing a lot of blisters and unrelated cuts on their back before leaving the hospital? I understand it can be worse, but who says it’s a crime to want better?
Denise Wilder says
Actually no, when I left hospital I had a few bruises from the needles and bandages, but not blisters and cuts. Maybe you had allergic reaction to something? Might want to ask the doctor or get a copy of your medical records.
As for the pain from the back down to the foot, I don’t get the throbbing… I get numbness and constant pain with at times shocks and stabs. I still have that almost 2 years later but I have healed only half way. Hope you start feeling better and heal fully.
Five years ago in a car accident my L3 got broken so I had a spinal fusion L2-L4. Now I play basketball with friends and go to gym almost every day. I am doing deadlift with a 100 kg without weights touching the floor and I don’t have any problems with that. But it’s not like I’m free from pain all the time. I am feeling stifness on cold days, and sometimes when I push myself in the gym my lower back muscles hurt. But what freaks me out is that when I press with my fingers (medium-hard press) lower back I can feel head of the screws near the skin. I don’t feel pain, but I am affraid the screws are getting pulled. My logic says it cannot be happening without lot of pain and a lot of damage, but I just don’t want to go to x ray (not ready in my head). Does anyone else feel screws by pressing with fingers? TNX
I had S1L5 fusion surgery four weeks ago I can feel the head of one screw and have a burning sensation in my right leg but all in all I think it was worth while get the op. Doc says the burning sensation should settle down with time.
Krish Krishnamurthy says
I had my L5S1 – 3 months ago. I also have burning sensations but it noticeably getting better. I don’t feel the hardware -but I am afraid to push down on my back. I walk about 2.5 miles a day and my pain is very much under control. The surgery is worth it – the progress so far is as the doctors told me how it will be for a textbook case. Fingers crossed
L4-l5 fusion Sept 2020. Took time for legs to stop hurting. Walking daily helped. No more sciatic pain in legs. Scar Itching is now done. Going for 1 yr check up soon. Worth all the discomfort after surgery. Took 6 months to be feeling normal and strong. Glad I had the fusion.
I had a vertebral replacement of the L2-L4 and fusion from T12-L5 and I was definitely wondering the same thing I’m defiantly aware of the hardware 4 months post op than I was in the beginning I feel this constant cracking & popping in my spine kinda like when you crack your knuckles I guess I’m lowkey nervous about it even though it doesn’t really hurt it’s just SUPER annoying
I had a spinal fusion from top to bottom. I’m 2 years post surgery and I have 2 screw sites that are causing significant pain when I walk. I am also an amputee so I may be using different muscles I dont know. However, from what I’ve been told this is a unique situation (not my first spinal surgery, my first went significantly wrong and paralyzed me for a week and left nerve damage) also I made up of abnormalities. My spine is not the typical scoliosis spine. But to all of you who are going through this, goodluck it definitly gets better over time
I had a fusion in my L4-L5 of my back 7 years ago. After recovery I’ve regretted ever since. My pain is worse. I had most of the hardware removed and my back hurts terribly every single day. Had I been able to predict the future I would never have done it. Surgeons don’t talk much about issue after surgery. I’m fused and everything, but worse off. Do anything and everything to try not to have this surgery. You may get lucky and have no pain or else you will end up like me. Not to sound negative, but the chances are real you feel worse than before. Like I said it’s been 7 years of hell. Now I’m stuck with it. I was only 34 when I had this and in great shape.
I’m sorry to hear that. I also had spinal fusion from T-9 to T-12 and 2 weeks after surgery i was riding my street bike and doing pretty much all my normal activities with absolutely no pain, it just feels kinda weird back there and I’m guessing it’s from the mussels growing around the hardware but before my surgery i wasn’t able to walk at all because the pain was unbearable because my spine was broken in half pressing on my spinal cord causing unbelievable pain and now that i had surgery i am perfect again doing all the things i love to do. I was told i wouldn’t be able to do normal activities for 6 months but i guess i was lucky because 2 weeks after surgery i was back to normal and i still had the staples in my back..
Jessica rc says
Love this ! I’ve just had LS 51
I’m 27 years old. It’s been a week and my back feels weird and I feel like any weird movement I make I am going to ruin the surgery – like how I get in to bed etc or sitting too long.
But I HAD to have the surgery. Been a year of hell and taking so much medication. Next week I will start coming off them. But nice to see a positive post. I’m pleased for you.
I had a herniated disc and it gave me the worse sciatica
Denise Wilder says
I had spinal fusion L5-S1 done 2 years ago and regret it. I’m now 39 and having so many complications and it’s only half healed. My surgeon ignored me after the surgery each time I’d tell him the issues I was facing, and now the VA is issuing me a mobility scooter bc I lose function at times in my legs. Neurosurgeon put surgery offer back on table for round 2, but says he doesn’t recommend it yet since the first one didn’t take and it’d be an even harder and longer recovery. So, basically I’m screwed. Literally and figuratively. I can’t run, or anything like I could before the surgery. Had a baby 6 months prior to my spinal fusion so she’s growing and I’m worse… please look at other options prior to getting a spinal fusion…
Tana BAKER says
I am almost 5 months now and have been doing and feeling great. No pain and I can walk,do PT and be active without bending twisting or lifting. But, this week I have had to watch my to grand children, 2 and 9mos. I have done my best to not pick them up much. But anyone that is around children that age can tell you the activity level is incredible. I am exhausted and my back is hurting again. It feels like maybe it’s the muscle along the side of my spine. i sure hope so. If I have damaged the fusion I will be devastated. Does anyone have experience with how it feels when you just over do it?
I had an L4/L5 fusion in August 2010. In the past 10 years, there have been at least 6 instances where I thought I had herniated the disc above/below the fusion or damaged the fusion itself. I had back pain, stiff muscles and numbness going down my leg. I paid for 5 private MRI’s over the years as I was positive I had damaged something. The most recent time was April 2019 (which is how I found this website) as I was in a panic and looking for guidance. I had an MRI done in May 2019 and, my surgeon said my back looked the exact same as the other 4 MRI’s I had done and also the same as the post op MRI done in October 2010.
I think it’s normal to have these types of flare ups and I suspect it will settle down over a few months.
Thank you. That is very reassuring. I will get in for my 6 month check maybe a little soon, but I feel better after hearing your story. I do feel like its probably strained muscles. I really appreciate your reply.
Tana BAKER says
It’s been about a month since I experienced these symptoms, set backs if you will, now I finally am back to where I was. It was all a reminder to not push myself too fast. So many muscles are cut, stretched or traumatized in one way or another. I have to give myself time to heal. I am back to walking at a fast pace for up to 3 miles, twice a day. Things are looking up. I hope others are healing well also. It really does help to have a place to compare notes and ask questions. Feel free to contact me. I have now gone through this surgery twice. I still have questions myself, but would love to compare notes.
Wendy neill says
I just had a two partial spinal fusion on January 9th and it’s February 15th I always feel cold and feel the screws and hardware in my back is this normal?
Kathryn Mathison says
I am 20 months post op. I have two titanium 10″ rods in my spine, 3 titanium discs and two cadaver discs. I don’t have the pain I used to have before surgery but I feel the stiffness in my center of my spine like a big chunk of metal. On colder days it is more stiff and uncomfortable. I feel it continually during any movement I do, especially walking. The only time it isn’t very noticeable is when I’m lying down. I don’t know if I’m feeling the infusion incision scars in my muscle but it’s just not a “normal” feeling. Most days I am glad to have had it done. I faced a life of possible paralysis or being wheel chair bound as my spine had been severely deteriorated from degenerative disc disease. My back is quite stiff. Up until about 4 months ago I was unable to tie my shoe laces, put socks on or cut my own toenails but on limber (and warmer) days now I am able to.
I just call my life my ” new normal” but I wouldn’t miss not having that hardware on a lot of days. Quite honestly, I don’t have the perfect answer for it.
I had a very good spine specialist who told me he literally performed five surgeries in one to make my life more bearable. He said he tried to take care of any unforeseeable thing that could possibly come up. Altogether in one week I underwent one 4 1/2 hr surgery under my front navel area and my left side incision as well to access my lower spine to insert screws and two days later (to give my body a break) I underwent an 11 1/2 hour back surgery to complete it. I was almost 66 years old when this was done. I’m now 67. I’ve lost 47 pounds on a very healthy eating plan counting 1400 calories per day with 5 days per week on my hybrid recumbent cycle. I give myself a free day of not counting calories to give me a little incentive to keep going. I don’t go hog wild in those days either!!! I am looking better and have so much more self confidence in a very long time so that’s a great trade off!
Each person has to make their own conclusions in regards to whether you have surgery or not. I don’t feel I had a real choice and my wonderful husband agreed with the decision we made together. He took such great care of me afterward also. Many days right after I was discharged from the hospital I basically had a lot of ups and downs. I was weak and my body had taken quite a huge hit. There were times I nearly wanted to give up but I prayed to the Lord Jesus to give me strength on a daily basis and I truly believe without Him I would have given up. Also I had the support of my grown children and grandchildren and many loving family members.
I can say I am very grateful and count myself as a survivor!
I am just shy of 1 year post op for spinal fusion t10-pelvis and 4 cages. It was 2 surgeries 1 month apart. I would have never agreed to surgery but they said I was facing paralysis within 6 months to a year. I researched, had conversations etc and although I knew the pain I was in for, I didn’t truly understand. For about 10 months post op or what seemed like that long, I was in absolute excruciating pain. I was basically bedridden. I’m a very strong person and have been through a lot in my life mentally, physically, emotionally and medically. But there was nothing that could have prepared me for what I have faced with this recovery. This surgery truly broke me. I couldn’t handle the pain. I couldn’t handle that I was completely useless and couldn’t even turn over in bed. My relationship nearly ended and so many nights I cried throughout the night begging god to please take me. I was absolutely ready to go.
I’m basically back to my normal routine now but I’ll never be the same. I have aged terribly. I look and feel like hell all the time. Even though that excruciating pain is past me now I still can’t sleep right because I feel all my hardware. I’m more hunched over at the top of my back now. My first surgery was done through my right side and my doc said that numbness in my leg and vagina from that would last a couple days. It’s still as prominent a year later and with no explanation. I still can’t drive for long or sit up on the couch for long periods without being extremely uncomfortable. They say my X-rays look great and I’m healing well and I guess compared to where I was at I am feeling that much better too. But honestly I question if I would have actually become paralyzed without it and if it was worth it. I no longer have the same pain as before surgery I just traded it for different pain and set backs. Aside from the question of paralysis, I absolutely regret doing it. I feel like it has taken and will continue to take precious time from me. It took away who I was as a person. I was able to deal with my pain before, I did it for years. But I can’t get back this last year and I can’t get myself back. Others are clueless now because I don’t talk much about it I just go on about my days. Except my fiancé. He doesn’t understand why after I do housework, and painting, moving furniture, decorating or the million other things why I need to go lay down. He doesn’t understand that people that haven’t done this don’t do as much as I do and I’m doing it through pain and discomfort and without being able to move as freely as I once did. He doesn’t understand what his ridiculous expectations do to my already bruised ego. So unless someone is facing paralysis or their spine is impeding on their organs. I will never recommend back surgery unless it’s minor. It has not given me back anything I was missing. It has not freed me from pain or allowed me to do anything new. It has just taken pieces of me that I will never get back. I’m sorry this isn’t a ray of hope kind of post, but I want people to be realistic in their expectations and to truly understand what is possible. That is not all roses and inspirational stories. I want people to think it through and be prepared for anything.
I can safely say that even 5 years from now I will absolutely feel this way and won’t forget the pain or what this took from me.
For the record. I’m the most optimistic and positive person you could meet. I’m strong and kind and absolutely nothing holds me down. Or at least that’s who I was….
I am 3 and a half months post L3 through L5 Spinal fusion. I don’t feel pain from the hardware, but at night I do experience a weird grinding noise. Kind of like a heavy metal zipper. I asked the dr about this, they had never heard of such a thing, It is pretty loud as my husband can hear it too. I feel only a vibration. Has anyone else felt/heard such a thing?
Eric Peck says
I am about 10 months out from spinal fusion L1-6. I’m still feeling pain time to time. The pain feels like the rod they put in is pushing against my skin. It is worse if I’m sitting up or bending down. It feels like uncomfortable pressure and is very bothersome.
Eva Dupuis says
How are you now? I’m having the same problem I’m only 1 month PO but doing great the only problem is the same as what you are describing. Does it get better? I’m worried about doing to much because I. Feelimg great otherwise. Thanks
I had lumbar L5-S1 spinal fusion with rods and screws on November 14, 2016. This is now October 24, 2019. I have very little discomfort on my right side and I can barely feel my hardware. However, my left side has never stopped hurting. In fact, that’s one of the first things that came out of my mouth once I woke up from surgery. “There is something wrong with the left side!” Oh course, I was told there was nothing wrong and my hardware was in place. However, to this day I feel extreme pain from the surgical site, into my left hip area and down into my pelvic area. But the surgeon keeps saying nothing is wrong??? Plus, the left side rod and screws literally stick out further than the right side and I can feel the hardware easily on the left and unfortunately with severe pain. I was told my SI Joint had been fractured during surgery but I cannot find anyone to fix it.
Kimberly Burns says
Hi I just got out of the hospital 2 days ago, from having my spinal fusion. I just wanted to make sure what I’m experiencing is normal or if I should be concerned. I’m having pressure/tightness around the incescion area internally. Is it because they use nerve blockers and it’s wearing off?? Also having pain down my left leg like when I try to straighten it out (like stretching a rubber band and it’s stiff and doesn’t want to stretch) or move a certain way I don’t want to over react but don’t want to brush it off if it is something else.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi! Sounds like what you’re experiencing is totally normal (of course if you’re super concerned or get worse, don’t hesitate to call your doctor). But I had both things – the stiffness at my incision site, sort of like having a brick strapped to my back. And I had significant pain in one of my legs. Your nerves are “angry” from having been disturbed, and the pain should decrease once they start settling down.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Ugh…have you seen other surgeons for opinions? I rarely hear about people feeling their hardware, although it does happen…I’m so sorry. I had issues with my SI joint following surgery as well, but nothing close to a fracture. Something doesn’t seem right…what have other doctors told you?
I’m a year post op and still feel my hardware. I think it’s because I’m very thin. It also feels like the screws at the very top and bottom are pinching me or something but doc says all is well
But yup I sure do feel it especially when I’m laying on my back
Alicia Hartman says
I had a SI Fusion in 2017. I can feel the hardware and the pain is so much worse than before.
I had a CT scan and it shows fusion never happened for me.
I go back to surgeon to possibly have removed. I have been told now after the fact that if you have a nickel allergy titanium shouldn’t be used for me.
I’m not sure if you will see this. I know you posted months ago. I just had a laminectomy & fusion on my S1-L5 6 days ago. I am highly allergic to nickel. And mentioned this to my Surgeon beforehand. I can’t wear certain jewelry, belts,glasses, etc. He said it would all be titanium so it would be fine. I’m not in bad pain but have a rash (hopefully from glue & tape) and I feel like I’m laying on something hard. Like maybe there’s a phone between my spine & the bed. Did you have a rash or anything or what were your first signs of allergy?
Linda Doebler says
Hi! Got your message.Is your rash confined to the surgical area or wear they have bandages or tape? Or where they might have washed you down with any kind of soap or solution? If that’s the case I would say that you are allergic to that. I have all kinds of allergies most of my life and it’s been my experience that if I’m allergic to something that’s placed inside of me (surgically of course 🙂 or something I’ve ingested…food, supplements,vitamins,medications etc then i have an all over reaction which is hives, rashes that show up in different places on my body other than where i might have used a topical solution or just different physical symptoms that are systemic. I’m fairly sure that titanium is used period because of people having allergies. Having said that, it’s good to be aware of your body and what it’s doing given your sensitivities.Of course it’s going to take you awhile to know how you’re really going to feel but if your that sensitive it will show up in a manner you will know.
As for feeling like a hard lump or a phone on your back I’d say yes that’s normal. You’re just 6 days out and that’s not very long. My surgery was multi level fusion so i have had that feeling for awhile but it has diminished with time.You will also have scar tissue which might make you feel that way but it’s too soon to tell.I waited a month and a half & then started PT (which i can not recommend enough.You want a therapist that is experienced with fusion surgery ) which also helps with scaring but everybody is different, some build up scar tissue more than others. Just something to be aware of down the road. Hope this helps.I always end with..it’s your body & your life so always ask questions, your doctor, your surgeon,your PT therapist… no matter how insignificant they might seem to you. Just know that fusion surgery is a process and takes time for your body heal.
Linda Doebler says
As a follow up to my first reply…I’m assuming that your doctor was aware that you are allergic to nickel. I know that titanium was used in my back & I didn’t tell the surgeon specifically to use just titanium.
I also wanted to tell you that a lot of problems occur when the fusion doesn’t take but mine did. Problems also occur if you have a serious fall…so be ultra careful of that. However titanium is pretty strong. I did fall.. twice dammit but the xrays came back okay…with a roll of bubble tape 🙂 What I’m trying to say is it takes time to heal & the recovery from say a multi level fusion is going to be different from a single level fusion. I’m six months out & still taking pain killers but have cut way back. BUT…if you’ve given yourself time & you are still having major persistent pain, the feeling you can feel your hardware any kind of anxiety about what’s going on with your body etc.tell your doctor etc. Don’t take no for an answer until you get the information you need.
Thank you so much! My rash is just around the incision/tape etc. So hopefully it’s only a reaction to the tape or glue. I did mention my metal allergies to the surgeon but after surgery read somewhere that titanium hardware can contain a tiny amount of nickel and panicked a little. My pain is pretty well controlled (with medication) and I’m trying to find the right balance between moving enough but not over doing it!
Mel (she/her) Warner says
I had a horrible rash on the left side of my back and around to my belly, which itched like crazy. I had only the use of my left arm due to a torn right rotator cuff, so applying cortisone to the rash and avoiding getting it on the incision was quite a chore. The rash lasted for weeks and drove me nuts. It finally just went away. I am very lucky so far, and except for wanting to saw my leg off at night for the first 2 weeks, have had very little pain.
I’m 9 years post op lumbar fusion at L4/L5. It took a good year for me to heal up at the incision area. Even today, if I push on the scars, I can feel some pain (most likely from scar tissue).
For the most part, I feel pretty good but I have been getting some burning in my left glute when sitting down that seems to travel down my left leg. Physio thinks it’s tight muscles but I’ll book an appointment with my surgeon to be safe.
Glad to see most of you are doing better
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi James! Stories like yours are so encouraging to me. Whenever I hear from someone like you, it’s a good reminder that recovery takes years, not months. I’m 3 years post-op this week, and I still feel like I’m getting stronger with time. Hope the twinge turns out to be nothing!
Hi there I am 10 weeks post op, I was in a car accident and broke my L1 so I am fused from T12-L2 I also have a herniated disc L5-S1, the past 2-3 weeks I’ve been having stinging in the area of the surgery, it wasn’t bad at first was only once in a while now it’s everyday, and I am very petite I have actually lost 15 pounds since surgery I’m am underweight, I definitely feel pressure like the metal is pulling on things, I haven’t been able to walk much I walk about 1 km a day for the past 3 weeks this is when the pain started sometimes the stinging goes up my spine, anyone else have this pain ?
Almost 16 weeks (4mo) post 1 Level ALIF (L4/5). I definitely feel my instrumentation, both internally and externally.
Externally, the bumps I feel through my skin are the pedicle screws, and I can even feel the rods if I feel around in that area. That said, I do feel it a lot less externally than the first few months.
Internally, I definitely feel this more than before. When I sit back in my car seat, I feel the “ends”? of the rods poking, or creating a resistance against my joints above. I’m assuming that this is because I’m not fused yet, and there is force being created at the site.
The sciatica pain I had before my operation is mostly gone. I do feel a slight numbing pain down my leg from time to time, but nothing like before. I do still have stiffness and soreness in my lower back. It feels like L5/S1 area.
Cheryl Smith says
Ty for sharing I too feel like I can feel the parts when I move back in a sitting position or when I lay down at night on my back it’s not so much pain I do feel a little achy I’m only two weeks out postop but it’s just the feeling of feeling something there it’s unnerving it’s the only way I can put it just feels weird I can’t seem to find that comfortable position that sweet spot I Call it at least I know I’m not losing my mind and it’s nothing to really get alarmed about as everyone has said this is the journey I guess in your mind you think oh boy a lot of people say three weeks four weeks they’re doing all kind of things all is well everyone heals differently I guess the important thing is you take your time baby steps it’s a journey anyone else have anything to share on this I sure would appreciate it as I said it’s a freaky feeling
I’m feeling the same way. I’m in my 5th week the only problem I am having is the weird feeling of the hardware. I’m scared to move I do not want to ever go threw that surgery again or remove anything.
I’m 6 months from posterior and anterior lumbar spinal spinal L5-S1. I still have that heaviness/ache in my back. Does it get better?
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Tanya. At first my lower back was super stiff – like I’ve described, feeling like I had a brick in my back. That initial stiffness went away after a few weeks. Since then I’ve had a bit of remaining stiffness/heaviness, but for me it’s mostly discomfort, not pain. Does yours feel painful?
I am 9 months post L5-S1 fusion, and am very petite. I am still having quite a bit of aggravation, though the bones are healing very nicely. My doctor thinks that some people, especially those of us that are smaller, have more aggravation in the surrounding muscles/etc. than others from the hardware. He encouraged me to give it a full year to adjust, but at that point will consider removing the hardware. It seems that the hardware is unnecessary once the bones have fully fused, and can be removed with a more simple surgery. While I certainly don’t want to have another surgery, I am glad to know that may be my “light at the end of the tunnel”, as I am quite frustrated with where I am at in my pain relief.
Ashley, my symptoms are similar to yours. What did you end up doing. I am 4 weeks post op L5/S1 posterior fusion. Surgery relieved my left leg pain but now i have right sided leg and foot pain. I think its the hardware.
Hi Claire , I had 2 fused levels L4-S1 , everyday is a challange , my physical strength is improving so I can walk now more diatances and for longer time eventtough I walk with disconfort . I think the mental strength is improving slower than physical hugs for everybody living in this same path
Silvia….how did you do….say 2 months post-op? I may be having the same surgery and levels you did. I know you are at 5 months now.
Claire Mcgowan says
Hi Thanks for your responses.Silvia that is exactly the feeling I have, I wouldnt call it pain like you said it is an uncomfortable sensation, heaviness in particular wen I am standing and moving.I hoping it will get better as it can be very uncomfortable
Can I just ask how many levels you had fused?
Madeleine Jewell says
I am nearly 3 months post 4 level lumbar spinal fusion. I am very small and skinny and I have never felt the screws etc that are now in back. I am so pleased that the sciatic pain has now disappeared on my left side. I do now have another problem which is pain in my hips. After being in bed all night I have a lot of pain in my right hip when I take my first steps of the day. Usually I can walk off the discomfort but then my hips ache all day especially at the back of them. Also my groin feels like it has been pulled all the time. If I could get rid of this pain I would be on top of the world. x
I was wonder now that 2 more months have past if your pain has subsided at all. I am mentally preparing myself for a 4 level fusion.
Hi my experience at 5 month PO is that Im still feeling my hardware usually when I stand up or change my position I can feel it its more like a heavy sensation or stifness but usually not pain anymore, sometimes it hurts specially in cold or a rainy day but Im hoping that time will help to reduce my unconfortable sensations or maybe I will be adapting myself to live with this forever , the good thing is its geeting better