Life After Spinal Fusion Surgery:
A Month-By-Month Breakdown of My Spinal Fusion Recovery
I get a lot of messages from people who’ve had spinal fusion surgery. Many are in the first few months of their recovery. Most ask some variation of the question, “is my recovery normal?”
“I’m 6 weeks post-op and tire after 15 minutes of walking. Is that normal?”
“I’m 12 weeks post-op and my surgeon lifted all of my restrictions already. Is that normal?”
“I’m 4 months post-op and I’m still exhausted all the time. Is that normal?”
The answer in my head is always the same: “I have no idea.”
Because honestly, I don’t even know if my own surgery recovery was/is normal. Was it quicker or slower than average? Did I have more or less pain than normal? Did I take pain meds for too long? Or for not long enough?
The answer to all of the above is yes. Because there is no normal. Each one of us will experience spinal fusion surgery differently.
“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” – Anne Lamott
I totally understand the need to compare notes though. I do it too. What choice do we have? There’s no guidebook with an estimated timeline for your recovery – a “What to Expect When Your Bones are Fusing,” if you will. And even if you have the most attentive & compassionate surgical team in the world, they don’t want you calling their office every day with questions about weird symptoms or your poop. Neither does your pharmacist or your physical therapist.
We all just want some sort of benchmark – something to reassure is that we are, in fact, normal. And more importantly, that things will get better.
I don’t know if I’m normal or not, but as always I’m happy to share my experience with you. I’ll break it down for you as much as I can, to the best of my recollection (some of it is a little hazy). Then let’s compare notes. Share your own experience for others who might need to hear it. (Note: I’m including some of my blog and Instagram posts from those first few months to help me paint a clearer picture for you.)
What to Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Week 1
My surgery was on a Thursday morning. I spent two nights in the hospital. I had some visitors and my husband was with me the whole time, but I think mostly I just slept a lot.
I was sent home with a cold therapy machine and prescriptions for Robaxin and Oxycodone. My insurance company provided a walker, and we borrowed a shower chair (an absolute essential for at-home recovery).
“oh, my darling, it’s true. Beautiful things have dents and scratches too.” – @writtenbyhim
On the way home from the hospital, we stopped at the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. I wasn’t able to walk, so Vic pushed me in a wheelchair. When we got home, I somehow managed to walk through the front door, hobble up the stairs, and heave myself into bed, where I would stay for most of the next 10 days.
I only got out of bed to use the bathroom, take a shower, or when my physical therapist made me. Getting in and out of bed was brutal. I was in a lot of pain. Way more than I expected. I spent most of that first week sleeping and counting the minutes until my next dose of pain meds.
Week 1 at a Glance:
- I could get to and from the bathroom myself with the help of my walker.
- I needed help with just about everything else, including getting in and out of the shower and dressing myself.
- The only exercise I got was in-home physical therapy twice a week.
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Week 2
During the first two weeks, I had terrible, scary nerve pain in my left leg. This was particularly frightening because my pre-op pain was almost entirely in my right leg and hip. But my surgeon reassured me with some statistics (that he probably made up, now that I think about it) about leg pain being common after a spinal fusion.
I relied less on the walker, but I still spent most of my time in bed, only occasionally getting up to shuffle around my bedroom.
Week 2 at a Glance:
- I could walk around the house without a walker.
- I could walk up & down the stairs.
- I was able to shave my legs.
- I was sleeping fairly well at night, usually only waking when I needed pain meds.
I wrote this blog post at day 13 of my spinal fusion recovery – it goes into greater detail about my experience.
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Week 3
The nerve pain wasn’t gone by week 3, but it was more manageable. That’s when I really started to notice the discomfort in my back. Not pain, exactly. More like I had a brick strapped to my lower back. In a way, this was scarier than the leg pain – I was convinced that this was my hardware poking through my skin and that my back would feel this way forever. (Spoiler: it didn’t.)
I had my first post-surgery outing – dinner at The Loop with my husband.
I also had my first follow-up visit with my surgeon during week 3, and I had my first set of post-op x-rays. Vic and I were stunned to see the size of the screws in my back.
My incision site was red and itchy, but it turned out to be an allergic reaction to the bandage adhesive. I was healing well and moving around the house with more ease, but I continued to spend the majority of time in bed – largely because lying on my back with my legs propped up on pillows was the most comfortable position for me to be in. Sitting upright was uncomfortable, and I could only stand for short periods at a time.
This week was also my last week of full-time recovery. Vic was back at work, but my kids were at overnight camp. I didn’t have much to do besides resting and healing.
Week 3 at a Glance:
- I no longer needed the walker. I walked slowly, but I was steady on my feet.
- I was able to do small household tasks, like folding laundry and making a grilled cheese sandwich.
- I was still taking pain meds throughout the day but had started weaning myself off the Oxycodone.
- I was able to tolerate short car rides.
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Week 4
By week 4, I was officially back on full-time Mom Duty, at least during the day. I still needed Vic to do a lot around the house – cooking dinner, bath time, making our morning coffee. He also took over the grocery shopping, which he continued to do up until fairly recently. (Even now, it can still be hard for me to carry the groceries and be on my feet for that long. Plus I just like having him do it. Not gonna lie.)
I was able to drive short distances, which also meant that I was able to go without pain meds during the day.
By the end of the day, I was usually in a fair amount of pain, which meant pain medication and back to bed with ice on my back. I don’t recall if I was still having leg pain at this point, but if I was it must not have been too bad. Most of the pain was in my back at the fusion site. Some of the swelling had subsided, but the feeling of having a brick in my back wasn’t completely gone.
And speaking of bed – yes, that’s where I was still spending a lot of my time. We moved a TV into the bedroom, so the girls spent a lot of time laying with me and watching Netflix. We don’t normally have televisions in any of our bedrooms, so this was a treat for them. And they also enjoyed the temporary lift of the “no eating in bed” rule. After spending much of the past few weeks alone, I enjoyed their company very much.
Week 4 at a Glance:
- I was able to drive for short distances.
- I was mostly weaned off of daytime pain meds, but I still took them in the evenings and before bed.
- I didn’t do any intentional exercise – just relied on caring for the kids and walking up & down the stairs 100 times a day to keep active.
- I tired very easily and napped daily.
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Weeks 5-6
By weeks 5 and 6, I started feeling a little anxious/guilty about the slow pace of my recovery. I’d expected to feel nearly recovered by then, which wasn’t even remotely the case. I was still slow and stiff and tired all the time. I was back on my feet, though. Life was normal-ish. I took the kids to the pool and out on little errands, and I was even brave enough to take Sophia (just the two of us) to the beach for a few hours.
At my 6 week follow-up visit, my surgeon cleared me to practice very gentle yoga, but I didn’t feel at all ready. I was very worried about re-injuring myself. I walked when I could, but I still wasn’t doing any real exercise, including my physical therapy exercises (I wish I’d been more diligent about them).
Weeks 5-6 at a Glance:
- My pain was manageable; most of the time I felt stiffness and/or discomfort, rather than actual pain.
- I was only taking pain medication at night, so my head was clearer.
- Still tired, still taking daily naps.
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Weeks 7-8
During week 7, I went on my first post-op road trip for my grandma’s 95th birthday party. It was about a 4 hour drive, and while it wasn’t the most comfortable experience of my life, it wasn’t too bad.
I pushed myself a little too hard on this trip though, and I ended up with some weird symptoms – muscle spasms, headache, etc. And, of course, I was exhausted like always.
I wrote a blog post describing life at 8 weeks after spine surgery, and it describes things much better than I could now. It’s called, fittingly, “Not Normal Is the New Normal.”
Recovery from Spinal Surgery: Weeks 9-12
I’ll just hit the highlights here.
Week 9: I finally started practicing some very gentle yoga and stretching.
Week 10: I went kayaking with my family for the first time ever, and I didn’t experience any pain!
Week 11: The kids went back to school, and I took this picture in my driveway. (I don’t advise jumping at 11 weeks post-op – it hurt afterwards.)
Week 12: I started a regular walking routine, usually solo morning beach walks, but sometimes with a friend.
Life After Spinal Fusion: 3 Months
I drove myself to my 3 month follow-up appointment with my surgeon. I had x-rays taken, and he said that everything looked great. I asked if he could see any evidence of bone growth, and he told me that it was too soon for it to show up on an x-ray. He lifted all of my restrictions – not just BLT (bend, lift, twist), but ALL of them – he essentially said that I could do whatever I wanted, as long it didn’t hurt. The only things he specifically told me to avoid were sit-ups, crunches, and push-ups. Everything else was fair game.
He also said that I was free to start running and yoga again, but that I should avoid any activity that caused pain. He stressed that there was no benefit for me to “push through the pain,” as pain (not muscle strain or discomfort) was an indication that something was not right.
And then he released me from his care, which I was not expecting at all. No 6 month follow-up, no annual check-ups – just good luck, and call us if you have any problems.
Life After Spinal Fusion: 4 Months
Early in my 4th month of recovery, we took a family vacation to Washington, D.C. It involved a lot of walking, and I came back to the hotel and crashed every day around 5:00 p.m. But other than that, the trip was a great success.
In the first year after my surgery, we also visited Disney World (7 months post-op), Colorado (9 months post-op), and New York (12 months post-op). I also took a solo trip to Colorado at 11 months post-op.
At the 4 month mark, I was feeling relatively normal – still a bit slower and stiffer than usual, and certainly not back to my pre-injury level of physical activity, but definitely a lot more like myself. The only major symptom that I was still experiencing at that time was exhaustion. Constant, almost oppressive exhaustion. I still required daily naps in order to make it to bedtime. But on the bright side, I usually only need to sleep for an hour or so, whereas I was napping for 2-3 hours at a time in previous months.
By this time, I’d stopped taking pain meds almost entirely. I occasionally needed a pill at bedtime when I’d overdone it during the day, but that was it.
Life After Spinal Fusion: 5 Months
This blog post describes pretty thoroughly what my life was like at 5 months after my spine surgery.
Life After Spinal Fusion: Your Turn!
There you have it – my first 5 month of recovery in a nutshell. If you want to know more details about any phase of recovery, or if you have any questions (general, specific, personal, weird, whatever) please ask me! I want to help you as much as I can. Also – if you’ve had spinal fusion surgery, please chime in here. I don’t want this to be just about my experience. I want to hear yours too, and so do others, trust me.
For more recent updates on my post-op life, read these posts:
One Year Post-Op: Spinal Fusion Update: One Year Later (A Letter to Myself)
Three Years Post-Op: Life After Spinal Fusion: I Went Skiing at 3 Years Post-Op!
Five Years Post-Op: Five Years After My Spinal Fusion: An Update
Renard Blackstock says
I have read the majority of these stories. I also can relate to most all of them. I had surgery in 2018 and it was a total disaster. I spent 35 days flat on my back, by the time I went home I had a very difficult time walking. In 2019 I finally found a surgeon that would repair the damage done. Ended up with a F3 -F5 to S1 to pelvic. I am now 65. What I want to tell people the most important thing is do not get discouraged. It will be hard at times, sometimes you may want to give up any hope you may have. But don’t I am still searching and struggling to be like I used to be. Finally I talked to a Dr. About 4 months ago that really help me put things in perspective. He said “ surgery was a tradeoff”. By that he meant that the pain I was in before surgery was traded for less pain. And indeed I remember the pain before and the pain I have now is not wort talking about. The quality of life today is not the same as before surgery and it’s not ever going to be the same. I can lift, bend, sleep comfortably, sit in the car, without problems. If I new how I could play golf, fish, and other things. I struggle with walking it is so hard for me. But every week I am better. Will it ever be as good as it used to… I don’t think so. Am I in pain like before defendants not. It was a trade off and I will take that trade anytime.
I’m so glad I found a blog/post about this! If possible, I’d love to get some info from people if they had the same surgery as me. So I’ll start off by saying I’m 27 and live in NJ. In Jan./Feb. 2021 I woke up with terrible low left back pain out of nowhere. I’ve known for years that I have scoliosis but it was never severe enough to do anything about it. At first I ignored the pain and took OTC pain meds and blamed it on sitting too long at work, the commute to and from work, not being very active, my period. By the second week my right thigh felt warm just from the knee up and one day my knee even buckled and gave out. By then I knew something serious was happening. I went to an urgent care and they said I was a little off balance and said it was probably from the scoliosis and gave me a steroid to take for a week. The medicine helped very little. After the week of steroids were up, the pain and leg issue was right back and my mom took me to the hospital. After normal blood work and a normal X-ray the doctor at the hospital said it was possibly endometriosis. My mom who’s a nurse practitioner just looked at me and we both gave the same look like “that can’t be it”. I then found an orthopedic doctor in NJ who was having difficulty figuring out what was wrong too. For a week or so I’d have pelvic pain that went away as soon as it came on basically, bathroom changes that came and went in what seemed like a week or so. After medicines, PT, blood work, X-rays, a pelvic ultrasound still nothing came back wrong. Finally I had an mri and the doctor learned that T11 and T12 were pressing against my spine and severely crushing my nerves. He said it was very serious and if I didn’t have surgery, it would most likely eventually paralyze me. He suggested entering thru my back and would put about 12 screws in my spine and said he didn’t do the surgery much but believed he would be able to do it. Well, my mom and I weren’t comfortable with that answer at all. After my mom did days of research, reached out to friends and colleagues and other doctors she knew and worked with in the past, we finally found a doctor in Philadelphia that was very highly reputable. In a few weeks we saw him and took my mri’s and he said right away “this is bad and you’re lucky you haven’t lost control of your bladder and bowels, I will do surgery on you I do this type of surgery 3-4 times a week”. In the beginning of August 2021 I had surgery. They preformed post lateral and posterior approach for thoracic decompression fusion (taken right from my hospital discharge papers). They collapsed a lung during surgery so I had a chest tube put in. They took a bone graft from my hips as the bone they used (it was supposed to be from a cadaver but on Friday they called and said because of the Covid numbers all of Monday surgeries had to be moved to the nearby hospital which had lower Covid numbers, so I don’t think they had a cadaver ready in time). After 4 absolutely painful and miserable days in the hospital I was able to go home. I had hospital PT for 2 days and learned how to sit, log roll, walk with a walker, go up and down steps, was told no BLT and then PT cleared me. As I’m writing this, it is September 2021 (4 days before a month since surgery). Everyday I walk anywhere from 15-20 mins to an hour multiple times a day. In the very beginning, I would nap 1-3 hours a day. Before surgery, I’d sleep thru the night maybe waking up once a night. Since surgery, I went from waking up 4 times a night to finally once a night. So far, I’ve only had one full night of sleep. I took pain meds that I was prescribed for 2 days when I got home from surgery (I don’t like pain medicine at all), I’ve taken Tylenol 3 times since being home. At 2 weeks my stitches were removed and the doctors assistant said it all looked good. I’ve had the areas covered and uncovered multiple times a day (the sensitive tape I have irritates my skin and it is for sensitive skin). I have an incision mark near my ribs, a chest tube mark, a mark on both the left and right side of my lower back and a mark on both the left and right side of my upper buttocks. I call them “marks” but I guess it’s really an incision and the rest are where the stitches were so I suppose more incision marks? I’ve only been told that I’m allowed to walk and lift not more than 8 lbs. I’ve been drinking a lot of water as much as I can. I have stopped napping even though my sleep schedule is nowhere back to normal. I do feel like I eat a lot less than I used to (I’m only about 120 lbs and 4’11”). The “marks” look like they’re getting better. They of course itched like crazy for a few days but that seems to have gone away. I’m usually extremely patient, but I feel like my patience is quickly wearing thin. I feel like after sitting for about and hour or so that there’s a pole sticking in my back (I’m guessing it’s just the “marks” still healing or the fusing). My walking has increased I’ve noticed that at first I could only walk about 20 laps around my pool and then was hurting and out of breath and now I can walk an hour around the pool with no problem. It has definitely taken a huge mental and emotional toll on me (I never have any type of mental/emotional issues) so everyday I tell myself that it looks better and that I’m getting better. Everyday I take a picture of what the “marks” look like. I always wear my back brace when I walk and when I’m riding in the car (which is pretty painful). I don’t want to drive until I don’t need the back brace any more even though I was told at the 2 week appointment that I was cleared to drive. I won’t lie, I do cry almost daily from the toll it’s taking on me. I’m becoming very annoyed and impatient because the “marks” are still there but I looked up it can take almost 2 years to fully scar. As soon as I woke up from surgery, my original back and leg pain was immediately gone, I was beyond amazed! I’ve adapted to the log roll and using a “grabber” or my feet to get things. I have my fiancé help me shower but I have been able to make my own food/snacks with pretty much all ease (constantly reminding myself of no BLT). Like I said, I am now only almost a month after surgery so I’m sure it’ll get better in time. In mid. Oct. I go back to the orthopedic doctor in Philadelphia to check on the progress of healing and hopefully be cleared to return to work. Thank you to who ever reads this, it means a lot to me. If anyone has any tips or anything they can give me that had the same T11 and T12 surgery as me I’d appreciate it. Sorry my comment jumps all over. Thank you so much Sharon for creating this! It is so very helpful to read others stories. Thank you again for reading my comment 🙂
Daniel Haynes says
Great read Shannon. I have had 3 back surgeries the last one being a fusion which was 1 year ago. I’m healing well but what I wasn’t prepared for was the mental aspect and with no history never new the signs. After breaking down earlier in the year I have been seeing a councilor to assist so this is my biggest recommendation keep on top of your mental health. Stay well!!
Mara Ellsworth says
Was happy to find this blog almost 4 weeks after PLIF surgery. I was worried that I would never be able to easily walk again. I do walk 3 miles a day but it’s so exhausting and challenging. My surgeon just gave we me permission to swim ( after 3 weeks). It’s much easier to water jog and walk against the current in a lazy river pool. I am not experiencing my knees buckling now.
Leon Pierce says
Thank you for all the info. I’m almost at my 6th week since fusion of L-2, 3,4,5. A quad flipped directly over and crushed 3 and 4.
Anyway I’m 69 and in great shape other than that. Farmer outdoor guy. I’m walking in my treadmill about .5 mile per day and I started that at week 2. What’s difficult is the compression pain when I stand or walk longer than 30 minutes. If I push on a counter top and elevate slightly the ache immediately subsides. Hard to know how long this condition will last but I’m hopeful it will be better. I stopped all pain meds a week ago (because I don’t like such meds) but might have to use them occasionally. Trying to stay positive but doubt has its foot in my door.
Leon Pierce says
Hi Injury Searchers,
I’m almost at 10 weeks since surgery. Not a lot of info so I’m doing my part here. I have become fairly active and can stand and do light duty work. Leaning forward is painful so I try to limit that of course but must do some. I’m not taking pain meds other than Tylenol and some JD&cola. It IS VERY frustrating to have the nagging pain across my lower back, it is constantly reminding me it’s there. I was numb on both sides of my spine until about week 7 and now I’m only numb on my lower left side about 4” diameter across from L5. Some inflammation there too. Occasionally a sharp lower pain but mostly a dull 3 to 4 regularly. I shouldn’t complain but it is fatiguing to constantly have some level of pain and of course bending other than minor is a hard reminder of how much pain can instantly jump up. Still a couple scabs where stitches haven’t melted completely. What else… I don’t complain to my wife how much I suffer because I don’t ever want to be that guy. She knows me well enough to know that it isn’t a picnic by my grimace at times. But I try to stay very positive in the face of this injury. Im damned lucky it didn’t slice through my spinal cord and that keeps me great full. Having family support and encouragement is the best.
Well, I’m hopeful I can be pain free and at least reasonably flexible in weeks to come. I’ll post more. I saw the surgeon at week 3 and will see him again in 2 weeks. I’ll post more in coming weeks.
Wes Uemoto says
Hang in there. It’ll get better as it heals. Just have to learn to be patient and let your body do the work, no rushing the healing process. I had a lower back fusion from S1 to L2 so four vertebrae. It took me at least until month five before I started feeling OK and have the same strength in my legs. It’s now been seven months and I still get minor back pain/ numbness and tiredness in my calves in the evening if I stand, walk, or sit too much during the day. It’s better than before where I could only walk thirty feet before I had to sit and couldn’t stand longer than ten seconds! Couple things that helps me tolerate more sitting and walking now is I have a sitting cushion that has little cells that are hexagonal shaped for sitting and using compression socks on walks.
Mara Ellsworth says
What surgery did you have. I had PLIF surgery 4 weeks ago. I am learning to walk again and worried about my recovery. Mara
Julie Sodd says
I had L4-L5 ALIF and then instrumented posterior spine fusion surgery 7 weeks ago. I’m 61yo, was a weightlifter, set masters world records in my division in 2019. Surgery solved radiculopathy problem (had off and on for decade but awful for previous 6 months). The first week or two post-surgery were a doozy of pain. Got off meds after a week (cuz constipation), able to walk 8-10k steps/day, developed a nap habit, gained some weight. Hardest part of all this has been the mental game–I’m a grouch, bored, missing exercise endorphins and movement, annoyed with having to ask people for help, tired of substandard housekeeping, antsy. 6-week follow up appointment showed screws/metal cage are where they should be, but still on big restrictions–no bending, lifting (anything over 15lbs), twisting, and then heard the news that it takes 6-12 months for bones to fuse (kinda feel like this info was glossed over in my pre-surgery consults). So now working to develop a good mental game…embrace the long walks, lower housekeeping standards/hire help, learn to enjoy being spectator of my sport, pick up needlepoint/knitting/reading, stop eating my feelings…
Grateful to find this blog, feeling less crazy/alone.
I had my surgery 9 month ago ..the reason I Choose to had surgery because I had sciatic nerve in 2013 and really had bad pain in my back but that was under control until 2019 when doing yoga my other leg started hurt with the sciatic nerve (I always heard that only happen in one leg) but my was in both . Nothing what I did worked for me ..When back to my doctor and give a referrals for Orthopedic..He gave me hope .. I did my surgery in my mind this will be a easy (because I had other surgery before ) but I Was wrong ..very day is being so difficult for me..9 month and still stiff and feeling that and not recovering at all.. My doctor sent me to do a MRI but I didn’t hear from him yet ..I’m so depressed, this is eating my body and my mind ..and I feeling everyday is like my first day ..with the exception that I had hope that I will recover but my hope is not there anymore..
Same here 11 months after l4 s1 fusion, revision of l5 s1. I’m so stiff and bizarre nerve sensations. Feet and low legs extreme pins and needles
DR says MRI looks fine and nothing to do. I’m at a loss as what to do just wonder if anybody else have this problem.
Kendal B Adams says
I had discectomy in 2017, for severe sciatic pain, 2 years later re ruptured the disc and had L4/L5 Fusion in April 2020. I had pins and needles and stiff back especially after I did anything other than walk or sit on my butt all day. I mean simple tasks like washing a car, weed eat small town home yard, bring in groceries. Empty the dishwasher. Anyway went back and asked what’s going on. I think its L5/S1, The MRI looks fine they say but now I have right hip and butt and leg pain, I said well the L5/S1 disc never looked great, first MRI showed some annular tears, so could that be causing my pain? Maybe but we think L4/L5 didn’t fuse correctly, even though everyone I see says it did on the xray. I finally asked if I could get am epidural shot at L5/S1 and see if it helps would that say that might be my problem or causing the pain. Well no because the steroid would travel. But we can do Lidocaine and if it gives you relief for 4 to 6 hours that might tell us L5/S1 is bad. Did the injection first time in 4 years I felt normal. I actually videoed myself 2 days before the shot and an hour after and you can see the difference. I was scheduled for my surgeon to go in on August 17th 2021, he was going to check L4/L5 Fusion and maybe refuse if he felt movement then fuse L5/S1. 3 weeks before surgery I get the call, he has left the practice. I was so mad. Today I go for a visit same practice but a new surgeon they hired leaving as soon as I post these comments. I will try and update later today. Not to hi jack this board but if you want to see a video of me pre and post lidocaine injection see it here. Good luck to anyone in back pain, I hope maybe my information can help others or some. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sha33g5qV6M
Kendal B Adams says
Hey John, can you tell me why you had L4S1 Revision and what your symptoms were. I met with a surgeon today who wants to revise my L4/L5 and then fuse L5/S1. Thanks and hope you find out something.
Yes!! I’m only 3 weeks post-op put these tingly/sort of sensations from my knees down are driving me nuts! I can’t even sleep because of them! I see my surgeon again in about 5 weeks.
Jessica McGee says
Kathy – I would love to hear how this resolved. I am 4 weeks post-op from a double fusion at L4-5 and L5-S1. About 4 days after my surgery, I developed terrible pain in my left leg. The worst was the neuropathy (like you describe above) from the knee down. No medicine has helped me so far. I am not sleeping well. My doctor said the nerves were “recalibrating”. I see him again in 2 more weeks. I am fearful of how long this will last. It’s making me crazy.
Kendal Adams says
You mentioned I had my surgery 9 months ago. What type of surgery did you have exactly?
Kendal B Adams says
Leny, what type of surgery did you have?
Michael Marshall says
I just finished 2 weeks from l5-si infusion body surgery don’t know what I expected but not the pain. I’m really impatient but I go see my surgeon today but I too have pain in my hips and legs I guess reading there are some people that are having the same problems I’m 62 and have sever RA witch ate away my disc I just got narco hope it helps.i live up stairs so it’s hard trying to walk alot like I used to they say no pain no gain hmm anyway I’ll keep you guys updated
Krish Krishnamurthy says
I wish you all the best. I am 67 and went through the same procedure 5 months ago. I think, it is a long recovery process. I also expected (and hoped) for quick recovery. I even started working from home 2-weeks after my surgery. My surgeon’s advice in the early days after surgery is (paraphrasing) “your body went through a major shakeup inside. Give it time to recover “. Only two weeks ago, x-ray confirmed that there is a finite soft bone around the cage they put. Realistically it will be another 3-4 months before I expect it to become strong. The pain level is a roller coaster. But it certainly gets better over time.
Giving your body time to heal is the key. I look back the immediate past week and always wondered “how slow the progress is”. But when I look back the last 5 months, I know there had been great progress and that gives me the real perspective.
Good luck and stay positive
Robb Rayfield says
I had my two level minimally invasive spinal fusion (l4-l5-s1) on Tuesday, October 19. I find the blog and comments to be helpful. Everything seems to be progressing normally. I would say sleep is my most difficult area. I use a recliner but do not have the core strength to sleep on my side. Thanks everyone.
Kendal Adams says
Julie, How are you doing now? I had surgery in April 2020 and my bones never fused and like you I was told early oh 3 months you will be fine then a year later, had a CT and surgeon tells me its vague so he can’t tell how much bone growth I got? So not sure if my back hurts when I try and do anything other than sit because of lack of bone or is it the lower disc? I heard ALIF was better for bone growth. Hope you are doing great now!
If you want my 100% honest answer to any kind of back surgery, please get a 2nd opinion! Maybe even third bc it is a serious surgery! I had laminectomy and that did no work so 6 months and a day I had fusions from L2 S1 in 2018 and now one of my screws are not up close to the bone and I have a possible fracture. I really wish I could have gotten a 2nd opinion and would have checked out LASER surgery too! It’s def worth doing your homework over. It could possibly ruin your lifestyle forever! PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND ALWAYS GET 2ND OPNIONS! Good luck!
Joseph L Caruso says
I had a spinal fusion L1 Thru S1 5 years ago…not really so much pain still but I can’t walk very far, can’t walk up stairs with out a hand rail, can’t throw anything overhand like a football or baseball…can’t get on the floor and play with my grand kids… by midday I am hunch over because the back is exhausted and can’t hold my self up straight….Surgeon says his work looks good so it’s in the nerves and muscles that don’t work anymore…..Haven’t found ANYBODY that can HELP….My advice is to try anything but surgery first…..second , thrid……..
HI everyone, this blog is very helpful but a lot of the comments are really making me reconsider my upcoming surgery. The turth is, I am only 30 years old and have not spoken or met anyone that has undergone this procedure so this is the first time me hearing real stories from people who have gone through this and I am a bit terrified now. Nonetheless, I think its important to know what I am getting myself into so I would appreciate all the honest feedback as possible please.
As I stated I am 30 years old and threw out my back for the first time when I was 23. Since then my back has not been the same. Especially in the last 3 years where I have thrown it out about 6 times. Every time I throw out my back I lose my lumbard extension and it takes about 3-4 weeks to be able to fully walk upright again. I have been diagnosed with Degenerative Spondylislothesis Grade II and both the L4 and L5 discs are degenerated. I also have a Pars fracture at S1. I am grateful that I have never had any sciatica pain or pain in my legs. I have a lot of tightness in my glutes and my lower back and cannot stay in any one position for more than 15 minutes at a time. I cannot walk more than a quarter of a mile and am constantly wearing high compression leggings as extra back support to go about my day. I am also a single mother to an 8 year old and we live about 9 hours away from family. Due to the instability in my spine form the Pars fracture and Spondy it is difficult to build strength in PT.
I threw out my back right before Easter this year and had my fourth epidural injection to get back on my feet. My pain management doctor at that time recommended I consult with a surgeon. I met with my surgeon in April who recommended an OLIF procedure (spinal fusion) from S1 to L4 with replacement of the discs at L4 and L5 with peek cages.
Reading alot of the comments on this page of how people are doing after their procedures they honestly sound like they are in ALOT more pain that I am experiencing right now prior to my surgery, because of that I am now very afraid to have this procedure as I cannot risk getting worse. Again, at this time I have no nerve pain, I have no shooting pain, no burning sensation or any of the things alot of people explained. I just have constant instability in my spine that results in me throwing out my back frequently and I have low back pain and pain in my glutes and hips. I also absolutely cannot run, cannot wear high heels, and cannot walk long distances.
I am looking for honest feedback given the information I have provided on if I should go through with this procedure or not. I would really appreciate it, especially if there is anyone that has had a similar diagnoses and had a similar procedure. I would love to know what their outcome was and if they are worse off now than before surgery.
Hi, Jeanette I’m Tanya. I’m also 30 yrs old and going on week 7 post op from a spinal fusion L3 to L5. I had the exact same issue I was about 23 when my back went out and gradually got worse within the yrs. some days were good and some were bad. Couldn’t stand up right or even sit without hurting. I have arthritis and was diagnosed with DDD and spondylitis. Anyways, I was terrified am I ever gonna be better or is this gonna just make it worse. Honestly I feel like this is mentally harder than pain wise. First two days after surgery in the hospital was brutal bec you have drains and my nurses were kind of rough moving me around. But once you get home it gets easier. Granted you feel stiff and tired but it’s just bec your not doing much of anything for weeks.
But week 1-2 are probably the hardest just bec learning how to lay down and get up and can’t sit long or anything. Even though I feel like I’m not healing that fast I’m walking at least 3 miles throughout the day and can do little things here and there. But like I said mentally it’s harder than anything. Also only reason I did it because I am younger than most and my body will heal and bounce back faster. And I knew eventually it was gonna come down to the surgery or damage myself more. So it’s scary but think get it over now recover and get your life back or wait till your older and heal slower and live life constantly worried about throwing your back. It’s that leap of faith and believing you’ll come out better.
Ken McQuillan says
I know you are apprehensive about the surgery, as you should be, but, there are really good outcomes too! I had L5-S1 ALIF back in September of 2020. For 10 years before that, I was progressing to the point where I could barely stand, let alone walk. Any sort of exercise was off the table. I was in misery constantly. PT, meds, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc. didn’t do a thing. I decide to get a surgical consult. I did a ton of research about the procedure, then physicians and hospitals. I live in NYC, so I am fortunate to have the Hospital for Special Surgery a few blocks away, andplenty of surgeons to choose from.
I looked at this as my last resort. I was 48, and wanted to be able to enjoy my middle age years for as long as possible. Having the surgery was the best decision I ever made. It literally changed my life, and I can say now after ~10 months, I am 100%! There is nothing I can’t do. Golf, tennis, cycling, vigorous workouts, etc.
My point is that there are really good outcomes, but you need to put in the work. I followed the instructions from the surgeon like they were I strict ions on how to live. It worked. After 3 months, I began 3 months of PT which was critical for a full recovery.
The first few days after surgery were a bit tough…. Not so much pain, but just awkwardness. Not being able to do much for myself. But at day 4, I was back in my apartment, doing laps in the hallway for weeks, then stairs, then outside, then Central Park. I took pain meds for less than a week. I have not taken any pain meds (even Tylenol / Advil) since a week after surgery.
If there is anything I tell you that you should follow it would be to do research on the procedure, the hospital, and the surgeon. Ask questions. Manage expectations. Just be informed, strive for the absolute best surgeon and hospital that you have access to. Lastly, listen to your body. At my follow-up visits with my surgeon, he was very pleased with my progress, and I asked him if all his patients do this well, and he said that the ones that take it seriously and follow the instructions always do this well. The ones that have trouble are those that try to hurry up the healing, take meds more than needed, and expect a miracle without putting in the work.
So, I wish you success, and hope that you make the right decision for you. Please feel free to reach out with questions.
Beth Charvat says
Thank you very much for your frank but positive remarks on the spinal fusion surgery and it’s recovery from stand point of emotional as well as physical healing. I had been tossed back and forth hip dr to back dr and back and forth MANY times over the last almost 4 years. I finally know that my problem is the nerve compression in my back from the incorrect alignment and slipping of the L5 S1 vertebrae. Along the way it was also found that I did have hip troubles that included a labral tear and also gluteal medial tear and some other hip troubles but not so much joint degeneration. I had surgery that repaired those problems fine. But, pain, poor balance, inability to walk stairs, get up off floor, out of chair, etc remained. No help with PT 🙁 and had back injections too. More being tossed around dr to dr – insulted many times too. Am active and am a registered nurse, am thin and average fitness, 71y/o. Finally know that my troubles are due to the spine, vertebral slippage and nerve compression. Spinal fusion needed. I have what is called “dead butt” from all gluteal muscles gone! Great! NOT! Spinal fusion is only option now. Your recovery story gives a positive to the healing – so it takes time for sure and for certain, but it can be done with patience and the work you put into it. I will be kind to myself and the few folks I have to help me (I do not have many 🙁 but will make it.) I see the surgeon again October 12 to discuss the plans. Goal – Baltic Sea ocean cruise! You have given me HOPE! Thank you!
Hi Beth and others,
I want to let you know that, like Ken, I had an L5-S1 fusion (ALIF). Mine was in December of 2020. I am 45 and I found this blog shortly after my surgery because I was not happy with how things were going. I posted about my concerns way back then so you may have seen them as well as a more positive followup. Anyway, I was experiencing all kinds of nerve pain in my legs and back pain well beyond what I was told to expect by my surgeon. I was not happy and I was questioning the wisdom in having the surgery. Anyway, fast forward to today (9 months later) – I would put my back and leg issues at 99% gone. After 8 years of pain from a degenerative disk, and 8-9 months of recovery from surgery, I am very thankful that I had this surgery. I feel better than I have in a decade. Today I hiked 7 miles in difficult terrain, and I run every other day, and I feel no pain. It’s amazing really. Nobody can tell you what to expect because everyone is different, but I wanted to share my experience. Best wishes for you!
Like Jeff and Ken I had the same surgery at L5/S1 (ALIF) in August 2020. 13 months post op.
I will give you my perspective on it.
I am 35, very active career, 2 young kids under 4. Had back pain for 8 years or so, but didn’t affect me until about 3 years ago when I started having problems functioning to the level I wanted to. Degenerative Disc with a tear in it. I think the tear was what was causing me problems. Was I in debilitating pain – the answer was no. . But was I at a nagging constant 4-6 out of 10 pain that stopped me doing things or being active, answer was yes. slight leg thigh pain, but no sciatic feeling. main issue was mechanical back pain. Was i taking medications – no.
How am I now 13 months post ALIF fusion? well, just okay. I am relatively young, fit and like Jeff and Ken who are older my issue has been fixed – the correct problem disc was removed and fused. Celebration right? I think this is the kicker which I had tunnel vision and rose-coloured glasses on heading into this surgery – “remove the problem disc” and it makes sense for everything to be back to normal. In Ken and Jeff’s case it appeared to have worked for them and they sound like they are functioning great, but unfortunately for me, I have had persistent NEW symptoms from the surgery that I cannot shake. I am hoping I just need more time. This has been hard for me to reconcile as pre-surgery discussions with surgeon never mentioned ongoing new problems. It was all rosey discussions about 90% it was the problem disc and from that prognosis was great. I was ignorant to not think that potentially having your body infiltrated despite this being the most minimally invasive as out all the fusions, that it can cause new issues.
I guess my point is, the surgery according to the surgeon and I cannot discount it either, was a “success”. My pre-surgery back disc pain is gone, however my functioning has decreased, hence the tone and sense of disappointment. As you can see Ken and Jeff, older than me have had great outcomes, very active and perhaps I just need more time. Maybe the two young kids factor has caused me the problems in healing quickly.
Interesting to note also, unlike Ken who had a surgeon who said his patients that do the best are the ones that put in the work for PT etc. (Which would have been me based on my personality and motivation) I had a surgeon who just told me to ‘walk’ for 12 months. I recognized by 11 months post op that this was terrible advice and getting me nowhere, so perhaps there is still a lot of upside for me as aggressive rehab only started 2.5 months ago. I have noticed big improvements since starting rehab so all hope is not lost, I am just not to the level that I should be at, especially when I compare my progress to Ken and Jeff.
My post op new issues are right-sided hip pain and just pelvic discomfort. Surgeon thinks maybe facet joint, he doesnt believe in Sacro-illac joint being the problem despite a 2nd opinion saying they think it is this. Lack of confidence in doing anything normal like I used to as i get terrible flare ups, these are getting better though.
I am not giving up hope, like I said “success” has occured but I didn’t bargain on the symptoms and if it is life-long then in my opinion for me the surgery was not a great choice for me. perhaps I just need to temper my high expectations, roll with the punches better, be patient and because I wasn’t in debilitating pain like a lot people, the upside is harder for me to see vs everyone else who were in terrible conditions.
Anyway wanted to provide my review on it. I think there is a chance by 18-24 months I will be fine but there is certainty worry there and my big advice to people is only get the surgery if it is the end of the world pain wise, because although what I was dealing with wasn’t normal for my age, I guess I could have kept pushing on. Don’t get the surgery if you have young kids around. Question your surgeon on possible ongoing symptoms. Get multiple opinions – i didn’t.
Happy for people to reply and comment.
Mike Merlyn. says
After a really good neurosurgeon friend of mine really screwed up my lumbar fusion, I’d NEVER, if possible, go through another surgery if at all possible! I just had my 18th Radio Frequency Ablation (nerve burning). I would look for any possible alternative, because once you’re cut open, there’s NO turning back!! Sorry to scare you, but my emergency operation, after my so called friend, the neurosurgeon messed up my surgery, I had the most severe recovery imaginable, and if i can prevent one person from going through what I endured, I thank God! Best wishes!
Krish Krishnamurthy says
I realize you are anxious and you should be. First and foremost you are doing your research and asking the right questions in a great forum.
I am now about 5 months post l5-s1 anterior/posterior (360 degree) fusion. I also went into this surgery after diagnosis of degenerative spondylolysthesis. The recovery has been great and text book – not necessarily as fast or painless as I would like it to be. The key is to get the best surgeon- do a lot of research. Have realistic expectations of both the progress and the end point. After surgery, take it one day at a time. There is definitely going to be ups and downs – this recovery is not smooth sailing. Be positive.
Knowing what I know now about the recovery, if I have to decide about my surgery again, I will do EXACTLY the same decision.
Good luck and wish you all the best
I have the same condition, full grade 2, entering grade 3 spondylolisthesis. I’m a very acrtive 57 year old, and have lifted weights since high school. About a year ago I started experiencing lower back/hip tightness, cramping if on my feet more than an hour. I also started having stabbing pain when swinging a golf club. I sought medical attention, and the MRI revealed the spondy. I was encouraged by my chiropractor to consult with two neurosurgeons, which I did. I ultimately decided to have surgery at the Mayo Clinic here in Phoenix where I live. I’m two weeks post op and have had a good result so far. Like many, I have been experiencing nerve cramping/ache down my left leg which started about the end of the first week once I started taking daily walks outside. Many in this blog have reported the same thing and it’s a relief to know this is part of the healing process. It only bothers me when I sleep, so I think just laying prone too long aggravates it. I’m not too bothered by it during the day when I’m up and moving, or sitting watching TV.
What I learned about Spondy, is most people with a grade 1 or 2 will never have symptoms but once you do, it will only get worse as the disc continues to move. In my case, I may have been born with a defect that caused a weak point in the disc, causing it to break free and move. I had an L4/L5 fusion with a spacer installed with bone graft. My Mayo Clinic surgeon said there were no complications or surprises, and he does this procedure literally every week. He expects I will have a great result once it all heals. I was told that if I waited until my pain worsened, I risked having permanent nerve damage as the nerve roots were completely impinged between the discs. I wanted to have it done now while I’m in good health and otherwise physically fit. I lost about 10 pounds leading up to the surgery and focused on doing core and leg strengthening exercises before the surgery, and this prep has really helped in my recovery.
My advice to you is to select a couple neurosurgeons who are practiced in this procedure, read their patient reviews, then make an appointment for a consult. It takes several weeks to go through this process of making appointments, getting an MRI, etc… but your research is worth it as this is major surgery, even if minimally invasive. I was off the heavy pain meds by day 5 (oxy causes major constipation). I’m now using Tylenol only if needed, and I use large gel packs to ice my back a couple times a day. I’ve been walking since day 2 following surgery.
Good luck on your decision. If you go with a reputable surgeon practiced in minimally invasive lumbar fusion, you should have a good result.
Bill Courson says
I am scheduled for l4-l5 fusion next week and your website is, by far, the most helpful site I’ve read on what to expect. Thank you so much.
Kendal Brad Adams says
Hey Bill, Good luck on your fusion. Curious what symptoms you are having and your age? I had an L4/L5 last April and it helped but I also had issues at L5/S1 and my surgeon wants to refuse that disc and the L5/S1. Did you try anything like injections etc.. first? Thank and good luck!
Hi Bill hope it has all gone well 4 you
Delores Jones says
I has L5-S1 fusion done March 1st, 2021. I stayed in the hospital until March 3rd, came home and done well until the 22th. I woke up in severe pain that I could not get any relief from with the pain medicine. That afternoon I went back to the hospital and was diagnosed with staph infection. My Dr didn’t think I needed any drain tubes when he did the surgery so all the old blood drained below the incision and formed 2 pockets that caused the staph infection. I was also sepsis, I was admitted again into the hospital another surgery was scheduled at 11:30 pm to clean out the incision site, and an infectious disease Dr was called in, a picc line was inserted through my arm and I started antibodies.i stayed 7 days this time. I came home with with the antibodies that I kept for 5 weeks.Since the staph infection I cannot gain any strength back, I am tired all time, and I am having trouble walking from pain in the groin area throughout my entire left leg. I have been in physical therapy since coming home from the hospital. Has anyone else experienced this pain in the groin area down through the leg? I have trouble even doing housework.
Sue Belcher says
2nd time I’m posting here. Lots to read in the thread, but I’d like to post my somewhat alternate experience.
I had bad cysts, a prolapsed disc (L4/5) and facet joint degeneration by one year after a vehicle accident which I walked away from. Followed by deteriorating sciatica in both legs. I waited out that year getting every non-invasive treatment known to mankind as I read that back operations are very seldom 100% successful. After throwing in the towel and getting an MRI I was advised to get a laminectomy, discectomy and an interbody spacer to fasten my Grade 2 spondylolisthesis in place.
After the surgery I had the average amount of pain & recovered just fine until around 3 months post op. One night I was asleep and rolled over onto my side – woke up screaming in pain. It subsided and I fell asleep expecting to be in pain that following morning. Much to my amazement, the pain was not too bad at all. I chugged on with my recovery, going into work and being careful.
With hindsight (in spite of the interbody spacer) I had prolapsed a disc again. Soon I had sciatica in my right leg alone. This developed until I could no longer walk more than 20 metres without excruciating pain running down my whole leg. A further MRI later I was back at the specialists. The surgeon did some tests, looked at the MRI and advised ‘there’s no way it can be a prolapsed disc. It must be something else. The MRI is wrong!’
Being wiser this time around but not expecting too much I took myself to another surgeon who recommended a standard fusion with screws, etc. I once again woke up to no sciatica and have been careful, but by around 2 weeks post-op, I could feel the difference between the 2 ops. I was healing so much faster! At 4 weeks I felt recovered enough to go back to work and 2 weeks later am no longer using the back brace at all. No signs of sciatica at all and very little discomfort from my back.
As a runner I am eager to get back to training but have given my fusion 3 months to heal. I had read that 2nd operations after failed back surgery only have a success rate of 30%, but I am happy to report my surgery successful. I’m hoping this will give some sufferers hope after fusion surgery, that it can still be rectified and have a happy ending!
Thank you SO VERY much for your journal. It made me actually shed a tear giving me hope. LOVE the quotes your threw in there. This entire process has been hell since December before the surgery.
It looks like I had a very similar surgery to you! My L4-S1 is now attached like yours. I didn’t get the bone graphs where the discs are, because my L4/L5 had no more disc. I just have bone graphs on those “pointy” bones near the instrumentation. They said I already had huge spurs coming off on the front side so that will now fuse at the correct angle naturally.
I’m at 7 weeks post surgery today. I had my first full night sleep yesterday night which was amazing since I went back to work the next morning. At night I am currently taking gabapentin for the nerve pain and flexeril as a muscle relaxant I had in my left leg at night (not sciatica.. that was gone right after surgery).
I’m at a computer most days and I do have a stand up desk now, but my legs and especially feet are killing me. I can stand about 45 min at a time. I got a standing mat, but that didn’t help much. Do you have any experience with a leaning/standing stool? Something like this? https://tinyurl.com/mommyrunsit Would a kneeling stool be better? I’m waiting for my doctor to get back to me, but I figure you experienced this so I’d love your insight. I was thinking that I could lean against this stool to relieve pressure on my legs.
Stefan Weiss says
Forgot to ask, what activities can you no longer do? I was told by the doc that all impact activities are out (I used to do judo and jiu-jitsu) and swimming is ok, but not butterfly (I was a butterflier) and no running (repetitive pounding). I saw you do yoga, but as you can tell I’m more of a dynamic sports guy and now they have all been taken fro me it seems… Thanks for your insight in advance!
Kendal Brad Adams says
Hey Stefan just curious, what levels did you have fused? First time seeing your post. I did Jiujitsu since 1996 and about 6 years ago had a disc issue and now I can’t even do the warmup. I had microdiscectomy and told the doctors I will re rupture if I try BJJ again… NO you are fine… 3 days after my first warmup and drilling session I ruptured it… and had to have l4/L5 fusion…. has not felt right… and in about 3 weeks I go for fusion on L5/S1. Its strange i have heard some people say they went back and some that have not. I probably wont chance it even if I feel 100% but right now I feel like I am 80… do anything and my back starts hurting especially when my back bends at all forward… for more than 2 minutes… Good luck and would love to hear more. I saw a guy on youtube that had L4 to S1 fused 8 years ago and he has been riding bicycles… over thousands of miles with no or little issues… I want to be able to atleast jog or wash my car and lift some light weights without being bed riden…
Lesa Cyr says
Hi Stephan, I am at 6 weeks post op. My sitatica is completely gone , but know I have pain in my legs and feet also. It’s a constant ache that does get better after about 3 hours in bed at night . My doctor says it will go away with time and that the whole healing process will take a year . I pray we all will be pain free someday.
Hello, I am eight weeks postop from my third spinal surgery. Hopefully this will be the last. All have been fusions, the first two, no hardware was used and apparently now they don’t do fusion without it. So now I have screws and rods holding my vertebrae from L4-S1 all in place including a cage in between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. I spent five days in the hospital and came home feeling pretty good, though painkillers really tend to hide all of the real pain. I am currently not taking any painkillers which is fine but I wonder if I got off of them too soon. My biggest issue is my knees and my legs, they freaking kill. I don’t know why they hurt so bad or why my right knee keeps swelling but it’s making me miserable. I did have a call with my surgeon couple of days ago and he didn’t seem to think much of it, but it’s really bothering me. I work at a desk for a living, I do have a standing desk that I can move up and down, but if I stay on my feet for too long I am almost unable to walk later. I don’t really know what to do now. Did I start working too soon? Am I doing too much? I can’t spend my whole day laying down, maybe I’m not walking enough? In addition to all of this, I now after a 14 hour surgery, have what they call maralgia parasthetica where the outer portion of my left thigh he’s completely numb. Again my surgeon doesn’t seem to be worried about it. It does feel like my nerves are firing so hopefully that will right itself soon. I swear every day I’m looking online for a reason why my legs hurt so bad and I just can’t find anything, this is the first place that I’ve read that others have had the same problem, I would love some input as to how you’re taking care of the pain without painkillers because I need all of the help that I can get. Today I started using lidocaine gel on my knees because they hurt so bad, and it did help a bit. Anyways, good feeling to find similar situations for a change. Here’s to getting better as quickly as humanly possible.
Renard Blackstock says
My first surgery was to have the l4, l5, and s1 fused. The 12 hour surgery went bad and left me with a loose cage that every time I moved the nerves from the l5 would fire off and the pain was unbearable. New Surgeon and second operation removed all hardware and fused l3,l4,l5,s1 and the pelvic bones. I limped so bad for 2 years that is am recovering from knee replacement now. Now I have the same pain in my legs like yours. I don’t think it will ever get better. This has changed my life in such a way. I am so depressed about my health. I just want to quit trying.
I’m 2 years past my L2-S1 fusion and still I can not stand up and walk but just a few steps before I start toppling over. I’m frustrated and heartbroken to know that my life has changed so much. It was nice to hear your story and I’m happy yours went so well. I search the internet daily for some kind of reasoning behind it. I just don’t know anymore. I had the fusion 6 months and a day after the failed laminectomy.
Hi my name is Lesa and I am 2 in a half weeks post surgery L5 S1 ALIF surgery.I am 58 years young. I have to be honest I found this sight before my surgery and wanted to not believe any of it . 3 years ago I had 4 artificial disks put in my neck and though it was not fun it was doable and after a few weeks I felt okay. Well this surgery hits you like a ton of bricks . I spent one night in the hospital and even though they wanted me to stay I wanted to go home home. They brought me in a walker which I refused. I was not going to give in. I had to show them I could climb stairs as that would be my journey when I got home. The 2 hour ride home was hell. I made it up the stairs to my bed room and into bed. The next few days are a blur. By the 4th day I came down the stairs and sat . The next few days I thought I was brave and strong because I stayed up all day. BIG mistake to much sitting up is not good and sent me back to bed for days. My surgeon who is amazing told me I wasn’t Wonder Woman . Ice is my best friend. I have a lot of pain and burning on the left side of my abdomen. My doctor has said it’s because they were pretty rough on that side of my body. I also required an arterial line in my arm because they nicked an artery so I have pain in my left arm. I tried to lesson my pain meds last night , that was a mistake I tried skipping a dose and then spent the next 8 hours chasing it. I have cried many tears worrying that I should have just lived with the pain . When I read the blogs here I know it will all be eventually worth it. This surgery is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever went through. I am not a patient person. I want to know exactly when I am going to feel normal. I am walking up and down my stairs and around the yard a few times a day . I have folded laundry and put dishes away and I do my hair and makeup everyday . My husband says I am better , so I will take that . I wish I would have believed you all before my surgery. So with that if you are going to have this surgery you must understand that there is pain, there is frustration, there are tears . SO give yourself grace and time and listen to your body . I am learning that I need to push through at times and give in at others .
Hi. I had ALIF a week ago and am still dealing with nerve pain. How are you feeling now? Does it get better?
This post helped so much I am going on 5 weeks post op on Thursday and I feel frustrated that I’m still in pain the day pain is manageable but if I do something more than walking or sitting to long I’m back to horrible back pain at the fusion site tremendous stiffness and horrible sharp pains .. yesterday I was out in the yard helping my husband I was sitting down pulling weeds I did get up a few times but for the most part sitting I experienced excruciating pain again and I’m still on my pain meds mostly in the evening only but I just don’t know the do’s and don’ts at this point .. I’ve noticed the minute I lay down at any time my back stiffens and I hurt once I’m moving again
Nancy A Chiu says
Hi. I am almost to my 4th month after surgery and the one thing that I still need to keep in mind is to never stay in one position longer than 20-25 minutes. I am a teacher teaching remotely. My husband got me a desk that goes up and down and it is a God send. Even as I am eating a meal, I need to get up and stretch and walk around. As I watch a short tv show…I get up and move. If not, I am in pain as soon as I rise from that one position. It is a stiffness that is brought on by pressure being put on one area in my back. It is a constant reminder to move every 20 minutes or so.
Nancy A Chiu says
I had my surgery last year a week before Thanksgiving. I ended up returning to teaching remote when we returned from Winter break…around the first week of January. I was nervous but I gave myself breaks in between Meets with my fourth graders. It gave me time to stretch, walk around, heat, etc. I was tired at the end of the day, but I felt like that was a good period to return to teaching. So, I guess that it was about 6 weeks off. I’ll be thinking of you and others!
I am 12 weeks post op after diseconomies and a fusion L3-4. Absolutely the worst pain of my life after leaving the hospital. I never thought the pain post op would be so bad, but, at this point, I’m much better than all of the years of suffering. I am not one to sit around, and my family is always telling me no BLT! I can’t keep out of my head, as I get frustrated and a bit depressed. My family is amazing at supporting me. I walk a fair amount, using my dog to get me outside to walk. If I had any advice to give, it’s patience and think- “I never want to go through this again !”
Yes, learning to live with and accept a new normal is what many of us need to do. In Feb it’ll be 3 years since my fusion L4 L5. My back is still improving.
Someone said it’s discouraging with covid making PT difficult. I found PT wasn’t as helpful as walking. Then after 6mos walking in a pool was an additional help. Find what works for you. Be patient with yourself while being persistent and consistent with what rehab works for you.
Oh, Sharon, how’s living in Japan going? I lived in Japan while growing up. Check out my website for information about living abroad and in Japan. http://www.culturalworldconsulting.com
Lee Tarver says
Thanks for all the posts and it’s encouraging to hear many on this forum are returning to the activities they enjoyed prior to back problems. I’m 10 weeks post op from a L4-L5 fusion, and overall feeling very good. All the pain and numbness prior to surgery is gone. I had a complicated case as I had a Moderate Spondolithesis sp? with a cyst on my spinal cord. Both contributing to pain and numbness in the buttocks and legs. That being said I started by journey to get well last Summer visiting my Chiropractor. He is a great guy and after 2-3 visits and a x-ray he suggested I see a Neuro or Spine surgeon. I followed insurance protocol and went to my primary care doctor who took another x-ray and suggested PT for 4-6 weeks. I came back in 5 weeks and shared there had been no improvement in my symptoms. Finally, I went for an MRI with the results showing Moderate Spondolithesis w/ 9mm slippage, and a 3mm Synovial Cyst on my spine at L4-L5 area. Additional concern was severe stenosis at the L4-L5 area. My hopes of getting a few epidural injections were put aside quickly by the first NS I visited. He recommended surgery to include removing the Cyst and a Fusion of the L4-L5 vertebraes. He shared I would be in the hospital 3 days, and have a 3-4 inch vertical incision on my back. Recovery would include a fair amount of pain in the first 2 weeks and afterwards get better by the week. Full recovery 6+ months.
Having been in the Medical Device business for over 30 years I knew best to get a 2nd opinion. Thanks goodness I did.
I went to a wonderful location in Southlake Texas (Spine Team Texas), and the NS on this visit also confirmed an epidural injection would likely not help my situation. He then went on to explain a surgical technique he would use to correct my problem. He would use the OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Inter-body Fusion) technique vs a vertical 3 incision on my back. I had never heard of PLIF, TLIF, ALIF or OLIF. Anyway, the good news was I would only have 1 night in the hospital with the possibility of less pain post op along with a shorter recovery. The OLIF procedure allowed the NS to come in from the side of my body, and allowing less trauma and disruption the back muscles.
I decided to go with the 2nd Surgeon, and surgery was set for Nov 12, 2020.
* Surgery went well and I was out of the hospital the next day
* I was off Tylenol 3 after 3 days, and only took regularTylenol for another 4 days (twice a day)
* I was walking a mile (combined 3 walks/ day) at 10 days post op
* 99% of my back pain and leg numbess disappeared after surgery 🙂
* At 10 weeks post op I can easily walk 2-3 miles without stopping.
* At 6 weeks the fatigue started to fade away. I’m no longer feeling like I need a nap in the afternoons
* Remaining issues are small but will share below:
* Tingling on the top of my left foot… not bad but at times feels like ants crawling on your skin. Has gotten a little better
* Numbness on left inner thigh– I’m told they had to move this muscle aside and the nerves should start re-firing in time
* Left leg is weaker than right. I”m doing PT and it’s improving, but may take a while
In a nutshell I am super pleased with my outcome through 10 weeks. What I am hoping is I can start riding my bike and playing PIckleball at the 6 month mark. The NS stated competitive Pickleball might need to wait until 9 months post op, but I’m hoping sooner. If anyone reading this thread has recovered and back to Tennis or Pickleball please share.
If you are considering Spinal Fusion Surgery I would highly suggest you do your research in the areas listed below:
* Get more than 1 opinion– There are many highly qualified Spinal Surgeons, but given I had a cyst on my spine I chose to use a Neurosurgeon.
* Before deciding to have surgery ensure you are comfortable with your surgeon. He/She should share with you the technique they plan to use to fix your problem (TLIF, PLIF, ALIF or OLIF). If you don’t mind watching surgical videos go to Youtube to gain an understanding of how your procedure will be used to fix your problem Read forums on the web about your doctor and what other people have to say about there Fusion outcomes
* Insurance companies may push back on approving your Surgery. If you have completed PT with no results you have a case for having your surgery approved. YOU ARE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE when it comes to getting approval. My surgery was denied the first time when the doctors office called the insurance company. I then called on my own and got a manager on-line. After sharing my story and the protocol I followed (Conservative Therapy first) my surgery was approved the next day. My surgery was scheduled for 9 days after my visit with the NS.
In summary, Lumbar Fusion surgery is a big deal, and one should always consider conservative therapy first. I’ve been able to rehab by shoulders twice from labral tears, and they are now a ok. If you are active like myself, you will need to prepare to throttle back and be ready for a rehab process that will take time. As stated I’m at 10 weeks Post Op and feeling
great, but my legs are still a little weak, but improving everyday. Lastly, pick a great surgeon (Orthopedic or Neurosurgeon) and do your research on the doctors you are considering. I’m bullish on getting back on the bike and playing Pickleball by Summer.
If you have had a Lumbar fusion surgery and have recovered to enjoy what you love I would very much like to hear your story.
Fort Worth TX
Nancy A Chiu says
Tomorrow will be 3 months since my spinal fusion. I got three opinions before finally deciding on a surgeon–after almost 3 years of struggling with constant SI joint pain and RA issues. I tried injections, PT, chiropractors, dry needling and acupuncture with zero relief. My surgeon was amazing and I am fortunate to have been in PT for over a month now even with covid. The problem is that I am not a patient person and this recovery seems so slow. I do not feel noticeably better “each day or each week.” I am happy that I decided to get this major surgery and look forward to several months down the road where I will feel less pain. The pain is a heaviness similar to what others spoke about. The pressure is relentless after sitting for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time. I feel so fortunate to have an amazing surgeon as well as a wonderful PT.
John Tarver III says
I’m the person above your post and I’m now 14 weeks out and will share a few thoughts on your comments above.
1. I am also inpatient and this has been a struggle to me not being able to ride my bike or play Pickleball. I’m still a few months away and it’s frustrating. To help I’ve picked up on the Treadmill and Elyptica listening to tunes :)…… You are normal.. those of us who have had this surgery and recovering are frustrated… It just takes time. Hang in there
2. Pain and Pressure… At 10 weeks when I posted above I was only walking. At 12 weeks I started a more intense PT program that involves light weights and rotation excercises…. I’m so sore the next day and also very tired. I took 2 naps in the last week and it has to be due to my body being tired from PT
3. Now that most of the numbness & tingling in my legs and right foot have subsided I’m starting to feel uncomfortable moments around the new hardware in my back. It feels wierd, but I’m told it will go away in time. Again, this is likely due to the increased PT
4. Sitting is your enemy 🙂 …. I try to sit no more than 20-30 minutes… If watching TV I stand behind the chair and do foot lifts and walk in place for 5-7 minutes…. Try to keep sitting to a minimum and if driving on long trips (I’ve done two 11 hours trips since surgery) it’s critical to stop every few hours if only for 10 minutes. walk walk walk.
I’m sure you will get better, but though I’ve had a great recovery thus far I’m dealing with a few issues.
Wish you the best,
Nancy A Chiu says
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement! It really is so reassuring to hear it from the horse’s mouth…haha. My surgeon was so encouraged when he saw me and my films. He said everything is coming along swimmingly! A few tips that he suggested for my complaints: ice my back whenever I can, drinks tons of water and don’t sit more than 15 minutes at a time. He did tell me that it could take up to a year (ugh) to feel fully recovered. Also, I will continue to use the bone growth stimulator that was prescribed to me as well. I need to wear it for a whole year! OMG. Studies have proven that it is very instrumental to developing bone growth…so, here I go! I wear the electrodes at night while I sleep so it is less cumbersome. Sending only good thoughts to you all. Yes, I’m still my impatient self!
First, thank you Sharon for starting this blog and sharing your experience!
Nancy, I am 30 years old and teaching virtually this year too. My surgery is scheduled for May 3rd so I have time to recover over the summer. I teach elementary students with Autism so I need to make sure I do this right so I can be ready for an exciting new school year with them in September.
How much time did you take off after your surgery before you began teaching virtually again? I was originally thinking I would give myself 2 full weeks after surgery and then return but after reading these posts it seems like that may be WAY too soon. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Donna Dusang says
after two surgeries last year (disectomy and l4-l5/si fusion) i’m finding my new normal. things that used to be simple aren’t simple for me anymore. PT for almost a year was very helpful for me. Mostly the masssage afterwards! I went from not being able to walk with a lot of pain 300′ to walking 2-4 miles a day! Sometimes all I want to do is walk.
You’re right, we need to find what works best for us .
Thanks for sharing!
Deserae Herring says
I got the fusion due to a car accident. They said i needed emergency surgery to be able to walk again. I’m almost 2.5 years after my spinal fusion. I get that everyone breaks and recovers differently, but we all have one thing in common…. we constantly ask ourselves “is this normal? ” 2.5 years in and I still do it. I don’t think that will ever change. I tell myself that this is my new normal and learn to live with it.
Deserae, I understand what you’re saying. My surgery will be a year ago tomorrow. Really the only thing my surgery solved was my sciatica. I still have back pain and cant bend forward for very long without getting a horrible back ache. I will admit though, because of Covid I have not been able to do any PT. I am still hoping, it is not too late, that once I get the vaccine, or Covid is gone for good, I can get some PT and it will help. Not sure though if I’ll ever see my norm again.
I am very grateful to have found this page and the comments below.
I’m now 6 weeks post fusion (six screws) and two bone grafts.
Other than my heart stopping post surgery and 5 days later at home (sounds more dramatic than it was) I feel great.
My recovery pretty much mirrors the author’s and for her description of her post surgery pain, symptoms and recovery I’m grateful. I feel much more at ease.
I’ve probably been even luckier in that my bones, according to the surgeon, were the hardest he’s ever encountered.
That unfortunately seems to have caused increased swelling which is my only real concern now.
In the morning my lower back is pretty good. By the afternoon it’s like a bumbag hanging backwards around my waist.
And yes, I’m tired. So tired.
But all in all, I feel amazing and hope anyone else who reads the article gets some sense of comfort and security like I did.
Take care and be patient.
I am also very happy I came across this group discussion. 4 weeks ago I had spinal surgery on my l5/s1, Laminectomy (nerve decompression), realignment of my vertebrae due to Spondylolisthesis, removal of fractured floating bone pieces, and removal of my facet joints.
Prior to my surgery I wasn’t able to feel my right side, numbness in my foot, and severe glute pain. I had nerve sensation issues on the side of my shins prior to surgery as well.
After surgery, my right side feels better but my I am having the same side shin nerve sensation on my left leg 2 weeks after my surgery and now my mid to upper back has a full achy feeling.
I am very worried since I am a single mom to a 5 year old and I just want to be better to take care of him…. would be beyond grateful for any feedback……
Thank for everyone’s stories !!!!!! I hope for a speedy recovery for all.
I also had a spinal fusion with decompression on my L5S1 on Jan 5. Today I am 4 months and your story with the nerve pain sounds like mine. Same exzact reason I had surgery. I am a 38 yr. Old mom so I am so understanding what you are going through. I will say I have the same pain in the ass. Literally. My dr. Put me on gabapentin for the butt pain it kinda felt like they were blistering.
I know it sounds crazy but topical nerve pain sucks. I am no longer on the gabapentin because it caused me to gain weight super fast. So my physical therapist is having me do core exercises to strengthen my core and tightening my glute area. They did diagnosis it as piriformis syndrome. I will tell you that it is so hard sometimes.I walk 4 miles a day. It totally helps.
I found physical therapy was a life saver but still have not managed to go back to serving tables. Hang in there. I wish I could give you more advice as I’m in here trying to find some. But I hope this helps but the pain your describing sounds just like mine. Piriformis syndrome. Wishing you the best of luck!
Hello everyone, I’m really glad I found this group. I am 3 weeks post op from an L5-S1 ALIF. I chose to have surgery after about 8 years of low back and leg pain from standing and walking, and getting diminishing returns from epidural injections. I found the first week much more difficult than expected but after one week I felt a huge relief and felt great. As a result I started walking more and more and was doing about 3 miles a day (not all at one time) at the end of week 2. HOWEVER, I now seem to be going in the opposite direction. Over the past week, the nerve pain in my leg is worse than pre-surgery. I’m very concerned that I was incorrectly diagnosed. My surgeon believes the nerves were irritated during the operation and need time to heal. I don’t know, but I am so frustrated at the possibility that I’m not going to get better. If anyone has a similar experience and can share the outcome with me I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
You are probably going through a little of what I went through (and still am but to a lesser degree now) that your expectations are too high for this early stage of recovery.
I also had same surgery ALIF L5/S1 without posterior instrumentation 4 months ago tomorrow. Even tho the surgeon and all the stuff/research told me “it’s a full 12 month recovery”, I think I blocked it all out and just assumed I’m 34 years of age, rip that disc out, I’m fit, and really I should be better immediately. This is Not the case and not how it works I’ve learned … the advice I can give you 4 months on is that, absolutely this will be at least a 12 month recovery and don’t be too forensic on what you are feeling day to day or even comparing last week to this week or I’ll even go as far as saying don’t even compare this month to last month but maybe look how your feeling at month 3 compared to month 1. Certainly this applies in my case anyway. Although other people recovery see themselves getting better day to day- I learnt I couldn’t look at it like this for myself.
I was eager to hunt for progress very early, I was hard on myself for not being better, I probably over did the walking early and just was searching for answers and still am in a way but I’ve controlled my mind more now that I really can’t judge this surgery until 12 months and that is consistently what my surgeon here in Australia has told me.
We had the same surgery it seems, send me an email email@example.com if you want to talk through stuff.
Thanks Bryan, I appreciate hearing your experience. I think if I knew when the leg pain would fade (instead of wondering if it ever will) then it would be something I could accept easier. I’m encouraged to hear that you and others saw improvement later. I just wonder if the operation was a failure. It’s so frustrating, as you know. Thanks for your response
Yeah it’s easy to think of it being a failure early on, the minds takes over thinking positive progress should be linear and in particular after the first week you started feeling good then went backwards (prob because of the extra walking also) but mainly because we just went to be better I think and we can’t accept the body needs to adjust to major back surgery. These are all the things I’ve been told anyway haha!
It’s a slog! A real slog!
We all on diff journey, with diff symptoms and in my case I didn’t have the oppressing shooting leg pain that ppl have, but just a little front thigh pain but mainly low back pain which stopped me being effective doing anything. I also rarely needed to take pain killers before surgery, now still occasionally need to take paracetamol. So that’s not ideal!
Did they do just ALIF or did they go through your back also ? How old are you if you mind me asking?
Reading stuff online and medical journals didn’t help me early on where you see ppl recovered from ALIF after 3 months or 4 weeks or silly stuff like that. When I questioned my surgeon on it why others can respond so quickly he told me so much online is marketing material promoting recovery when really it’s not the case and as said need to give myself 12 months. Some people I’m sure are better in 3-4 months but it’s not the norm I dont think.
Bryan, it was strictly ALIF, nothing through the back. I am 43 years old. I’m encouraged to know that I have reasons to believe it will get better. Thanks again.
Hi, Jeff — I am now 12 weeks post op from an L3-S1 ALF/PLF surgery. Like you, the first two weeks were pretty easy, no real pain, and I was able to begin walking about 2 miles a day during week 2. Unfortunately, on about day 12, I developed excruciating nerve pain in both legs. The nerve pain almost totally disappeared two weeks later, leaving me with minor numbness and a tingling sensation in my right foot at night, especially after a particularly active day. At week 6, I was released to increase my activities, including easy, non-competitive tennis, core strengthening, and upper body exercises. I continue to walk every day. I am very careful not to overdo, and I listen to my body. Still, I tire more easily and have to be cautious about bending and twisting, and there are some days when I think I’ll never be wholly normal again. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and everyone’s recovery process is different.
Carol, thank you for sharing your experience. This makes me feel a lot better about things…especially what you said about feeling good quickly, then the leg nerve pain, and then it going away. That’s a big relief to know. One thing you said that worries me is that there are days you feel like you’ll never be wholly normal again. First of all, I’m sorry that it’s like that. Do you believe that after more time there will no longer be days like that? I really feel like I can be patient but I just want to be able to believe that the day will eventually come where all of these issues are gone and I have a normal amount of pain for someone my age and activity level. It’s the not knowing that I struggle with.
Jeff – my surgeon told me that I would be playing “real” tennis at about 3-4 months post op, so I thought I would be almost there by now. However, I am not as flexible as I was before surgery, and my feet feel like cement blocks when I try to chase down a ball I would have gotten to easily before. A PT who saw me playing said that he expected it would take 6-9 months to lose the cement block feeling. That’s why I said I wonder if I’ll ever feel normal again. 6-9 months seems like forever, but I am learning patience and believe that I will be able to join my 70+ team in August and maybe even the 65+ team in March. You are probably much younger than me, so I have no doubt that you will recover and be able to return to your activities. I will be interested in how you are doing at 3 months.
Although your progress is slower than what you expected, I’m happy to hear that there is progress and it sounds like you have the right attitude to get there, albeit slower than you originally planned. I am 43, and my surgery was less complex (single level ALIF), which gives me hope that things will work out ok. However, it also frustrates me to be struggling this much. From reading yours posts, as well as Bryan and the others, it makes me feel like I just need to reset my expectations regarding timing, but not necessarily the end result. I can certainly live with that. After 8 years of pain, I can deal with a few more months. Thank you again for your guidance!
Hi, I am 9 months 2 weeks post L2-L4 fusion. At 5 months I thought I’d be crippled for life. Now, while my back still hurts, my legs, thankfully, have improved. I’m taking 100mg Tramadol to walk 4-6 miles daily. It took a great deal of work to get there. I mean I couldn’t walk up to my upstairs for 5 weeks and couldn’t walk to the end of my block for about 2 months and then with hiking poles and a great deal of distress. I hope you keep on improving.
Hello, I want to thank Carol and Bryan for their inspiration. I am sending this post for anyone who may be post-op and feeling negative about how things are going. The last time I posted was in late December a few weeks after my L5-S1 ALIF. I was not feeling optimistic at the time. For several weeks after my surgery, I had bad sciatic pain and back pain. I was walking and doing the exercises and not seeing much improvement. Bryan and Carol encouraged me to be patient. At 3 months (the point where my Dr. told me to expect to be able to run again) I was still not able to do much. There was no way I could run or do much of anything other than walk. However, now I am almost 6 months post-op, and I have really turned a corner in the past 3 weeks. I am running 3 miles almost every day. I have no sciatic pain. I still have ome back pain but it is tolerable. For the first time in years, I feel optimistic that my severe pain may be a thing of the past.
I feel so bad for those of you who are not seeing the results you expected. I hope this post gives you some reason to be optimistic and patient, and hopefully things will improve with time. There have been times where I wanted to tell my doctor that I don’t think he knows what he is talking about. However, now, I feel really good. His timeline was off, but things are progressing as he said they would.
Jeff, I know there is a lot of crap out there but this video of this guy struck a cord with me, a little of what he said maybe relates to where your at at the moment. May help may not. He also has a video on there called months 2-5 mental battle of spinal fusion which relates to what I’m going through at month 4.
Anyway, I thought it was good so I wanted to share.
As for what Carol said about her tennis, I guess that was exemplifies the point how different we all are on the journey. At month 4, there is no way I could be playing tennis, hard, light or otherwise and it sounds like I’m half the age! Good work Carol, sounds like you are doing great!
Hey…. I just had an ALIF with PF at L5-S1. So yesterday was a week out. Some days were good, some aren’t. Last night, I got no sleep, this morning I feel like I’ve been ran over by fleet of Mac trucks. The video you suggested, I researched all this prior to surgery and most of the video’s were doomsday and made me seriously want to cancel. But prior to, I watched all of this guys and he is straight forward, to the point. I’m with you, any one who’s had this surgery or is thinking of having it, needs to watch his video’s. Now, the stuff he is doing back with the Army now, not so sure I’d be doing that but yes, great video.
Hey Jeff, glad to hear you have turned the corner that is great.
I looked back what i wrote back in December and it does make me realise how slow this recovery really is for some (me included! as i think when i write that I must have been feeling good!)
It has been a slog with lots of downs and some ups however I know that I am getting better but I am still a long way off from ‘physical activity’ such as the running you are doing and pre surgery I was a relatively fit 34 year old.. I have just hit the 9 month mark and the pre surgery back pain is gone but replaced with different pain either above below or right on the same spot (depending on the time of day or when I am asked haha) Having said that, it is good to know that the issue I had before is gone so now its a slog to get my body to adjust to the new stressors in that low back! I am confident these other pains will slowly dissipate over time. This was very much an elective surgery for me to get back to what I considered to be normal activity for a 35 year old but hindsight is a wonderful thing I would tell myself ‘dont do it now with a 4 month old and 3 year old!’ Which I am putting down to why my recovery hasn’t been to my expectations, however I am probably exactly where I am supposed to be considering the circumstances. The positives are some days /moments I feel 75% normal person (9 months post surgery and surgeon told me 12 month recovery go figure) and I can see light, but the big flare ups have been terrible and set me back a few weeks which a mentioned I pin down to having this procedure with such young kids and inadvertently over-do things! Silly things like water slides at 6 month post op (what was I thinking looking back!!!) I have become passionate about walking 40-50km a week and hope to get back to what you are doing soon which is running or even just riding a bike again! Amazing how we are all different tho with different recovery timelines, people playing tennis /running – there is just no way I could at this stage!
Look forward to posting here at 12 months with a positive outcome!
Tony VanArsdale says
My name is Tony. I’m 61. I had L5S1 spinal fusion surgery Nov 9. 2020. 3 nights in the hospital. After I was home a couple days I had a full blown shingles outbreak all over my body. One week post Spinal fusion surgery and freaking shingles. I was in bed for 3 weeks other than bathroom. The pain medicine I was given was now for post surgery pain and Shingles. 2-10 mg ocycotin every 4-6 hours, not nearly enough. My wife took care of me hand over foot while still going to work full-time. After 4-weeks post op the shingles were scabbed over. The pain in my back was intense. I tryed a very short walk with my wife, maybe a quarter of a mile and that exhausted me. I didn’t give up though. Slowly I increased the length of my walks. Today post op 7-weeks I am walking daily with my dogs 2 miles. Getting stronger and stamina is slowly getting better. Living in Sedona hiking and biking was a big part of my life before surgery contingent on my back pain. Hiking now at 7-weeks is way to much, even lite hiking. I haven’t tried my road bike yet. I see my surgeon in 3 weeks which will be 10 weeks post op. I have a long way to go but considering the shingles and being 61 I feel optimistic. By the way I lost 20 pounds after 4 weeks post op. I guess that was a combination of both shingles and surgery pain. I still don’t have much of a appetite. Thanks for this site. Good luck to everyone.
Hello, I’m Carol 54 years old, I’m 8 weeks post op from my spinal fusion T3-S1. I’m still in quite a bit of pain, but every day gets a little easier. They have reduced my Percocets and I’m doing ok. When I lay down in bed, if feels like I’m laying on rocks. I have retired my walker for in the house, but I still use it for outings. So far I’ve been out for doctor visits and to visit my husband’s parents. I haven’t been released to drive or to go back to work-I work from home.
I’m now taking lyrica for nerve issues. My doctor said it will get better. My left foot hurts. When its touched, it feels like knives stabbing it, and my right thigh is numb with that tingling feeling. My back is still fairly numb with an occasion weird pain. I sleep a lot, or at least I’m in bed. A wake up when I move because of pain. I know it can take up to a year for recovery, but I’m starting to get a little impatient.
I’m so happy that I found this blog
Want to have my say about pain medication and the current situation for those that have chronic pain. In my case, I had L2-L4 spinal fusion/laminectomy on April1, 2020. The surgeon provided me with one month of medication (which I couldn’t use because it made me sick), although it can take up to a year, if ever, to recover. So, a surgeon can open you up like a can of sardines, but he can’t follow-up with you regarding pain medication. So after one month, it is incumbent upon the pain sufferer to make an appointment (not given to me as it should have) on their own in the hope that the pain will be ameliorated. In the pain clinic there will be pages of paperwork to complete before the doctor will even entertain providing relief to you. You are a suspect. Something is very wrong here. Physicians were pill pushers, making money for prescribing pain medications to people that didn’t have the medical history required for the drugs administered. So now the entire population needs to suffer needless pain. I deeply resent having to be treated like a drug addict, having my urine tested, all after having my back sliced open like a watermelon. I think there needs to be a class action suit to overturn the profit making pain clinics. My GP treated my pain for years without any problems. And now he has handcuffs put on him regarding ordering pain relief medication. What an insult to the GP. But what a business model for the pain clinics. The entire health system must be imploded. It stinks.
A few more words about recovery. I am 74 years old and one week and 9 months post L-2L-4 fusion. I did not go to PT, but preferred my own rehab program – which is walking, stretching, core exercises and a recumbent stationary bike. At this point I walk 75 minutes every day (prior to surgery sometime more than 2 hours), 50 minutes on the recumbent bike and 20 minutes doing core and stretching exercises. I have been an athlete my entire life so what I do is not being presented as a guideline. Two points, use a recumbent stationary bike if you can’t walk. And the second one is, and i’m not kidding, always save your pain medication, even if you are not using it at the time, for a future time when you will need it and the paternalistic and authoritarian for profit medical system refuses to provide it for you. Thankfully, I save a whole lot of Tramadol from another problem and have been able to get through my exercises taking 100 mg prior to my morning exercises, and thus without the authoritarian medical system. The medical system has funnelled people with pain (seems like all of us have pain as part of being human) into a money making racket that sees us, the patients, as nothing other than cash machines. You will be expected to use PT and their other “boutique” and possibly worthless medical treatments prior to being offered a simple pill that would solve the problem stat. Not all humans are drug abusers, rather most of us use what drugs we think will help us and nothing more. I do not want to be a victim of their cash machine and paternalistic attitudes, as if they were humanitarians and not for profit racketeers. As I said, it is a racket that needs to be abolished. Let the GP handle cases, as they always did. Soon there will not longer be GPs’, but only specialists that charge a lot more and less available. The medical system as it now exists must be abolished. Isn’t the Covid ample evidence of the failure of the for profit medical system? It is. At every turn, the patient is used to extract the maximum of money from their pocket. Heaven forbid you’re unconscious in a hospital, and now the doctors from every discipline drop in and cash in.
Marcia Smith says
I am 1 week post-op from an L4 L5 S1 spinal fusion and laminectomy(second one first was in 2000). I was sent home with 4 days of hydrocodone for pain after being told by the initial doctor at the hospital on day one that I would be sent home with no meds for pain. I had to have a blood transfusion and to iron transfusions before they would send me home on the fourth day after surgery. I am not sure what to think yet my legs are tired I’m able to get myself up and down out of a chair with someone being there in case I falter. I am not able to shower on my own yet or fix myself anything to eat. I can’t stand up in the kitchen more than enough time to make a cup of coffee in the morning. At this point I’m questioning whether I did the right thing hoping the numbness in my thighs and my pelvis goes away that wasn’t there previously. I am not quite 50 years old so being this reliant on someone to do everything for me has been a bit of a change. I’m used to doing everything for everyone.
I’m a 74 year old male. I had L2-L4 laminectomy/spinal fusion almost 9 months ago, April 1, 2020. For the past 45 years I would get up every morning and, while young run, and now for the past 30 years or so walk at least 6 miles a day with my wife. At one point after retirement we didn’t miss a day of long walking or hiking for 12 years. In retrospect my back problem of lumbar spinal stenosis came on in subtle fashion over a couple of years time. While I have scoliosis, it was never a real factor in my physical life until recently. I was a star high school basketball player as well as a division one basketball player and never noticed anything other than that the seam on my right leg was further back than it should have been. In any case, it was my legs that first gave me some notification that something was not right. My legs, as long as 3 years prior to my surgery felt rubbery, and then for the past 2 years really heavy, and then during the last year as if I were walking through mud. Furthermore, my legs no longer seemed to be mine. Yet I continued on walking, managing it the best I could, bitterly complaining to my wife. However, everything began to truly unravel about 2 and 1/2 years ago when I had major foot surgery. I had 3 metatarsal removed on my left foot. I had 2 previous unsuccessful foot operations, and was walking in pain for years using 100 mg of Tramadol for my morning walk and the same for my often even longer afternoon walk. During my terrible recovery from foot surgery I began to have terrible pelvic pain and electric shocks running down through my hips, down my left leg, and into my genital area. I couldn’t sit without pain. I saw a urologist and ended up having a TURP, and then believing that all my pelvic pain was being caused by prostatitis. I sat on ice, I swear 5 times a day for 2 years. I had 5 series of injections. I had acupuncture. I tried Chinese herbs. I considered consulting a witch doctor.
So I had my spinal fusion and a great deal of the pelvic pain is gone, but my left foot is numb as is my left thigh, and when I walk I feel totally disassociated from my legs. It is not a pleasant sensation at all. My back hurts all the time, more so than prior to surgery. Now here is the kicker, my orthopedic surgeon (who is entrusted to open up my spinal column) can order me one months of pain medication and my GP, who has known me for 14 years and ordered Tramadol for me for some 6 years, cannot order pain medication for me. I gave myself some 6 months to recover without any medication, but the pain was too much. Sure, if I sat around all day, I guess I can get along without pain medication, but walking is an integral part of my existence. The pain I’m talking about prevents me from walking any more than 4 miles. I know, it seems a great deal to some people, but I’d often walk 10 miles prior to the surgery without pain. So I started using my saved up Tramadol (I quit taking it after the foot operation was successful ) to the tune of 100 mg one hour before my morning 4 mile walk. With the 100 mg of Tramadol I still return with tears in my eyes. I also obtained a medical marijuana card while I was experiencing intractable pelvic pain. I use that during the afternoon and for sleeping. Now what? Well, my Tramadol will run out. I have an appointment at a pain clinic, which of course I dread. I took Tramadol for years without any untoward effects, but now I am in for a 3rd degree. I wonder if I should say “yes” to whether I possess a marijuana card. In Arizona, THC is now legal. Do they have the right to ask the question in the first place? And why are there laws about how you feel? Isn’t it the same as having laws about how you think? And so an entire medical industry has blossomed, totally dedicated to making people in pain feel like criminals for wanting pain relief. This is not a medical system that works for the people. This is a system created for the medical profession’s financial gain. I mean why would an anaesthesiologist know more about back pain relief than the surgeon that did my surgery? They wouldn’t is the answer. Why must I prove that I am in pain? Afterall, look at my CT scan stupid! So the doctor is worrying about being profiled for his prescriptions? That takes precedence over the patient’s pain. It is like the insurance company denying claims offhand just to see if the patient objects? You have to hate this medical system. I wonder if a clinic or office can be sued for not providing pain relief? Afterall, it is the doctor’s mission to relieve pain.
Hey Ted, I am a 73 year old female and I can relate to so many of your symptoms, however I am not an athlete and never have been, however, I do have a small farm and for the last 30 years have done barn chores. This is probably the reason my back gave out on me. After suffering for 20 years, I gave in to the L4L5 fusion. It will be one year on Jan 2,2021 and I still have not totally recovered. I live in the country and really don’t have a safe place to walk, either a gravel drive or uneven ground and I still am not real steady on my feet. I can’t believe you can walk as far as you do. Kudos to you. I was scheduled to start PT at around 6 months but then Covid-19 came along. Now I don’t go anywhere but instead shelter in place. My doctor agreed I should no be going inside any medical facility at this time so I wait for the vaccine.I still have the numbness in my right hip and both feet after a year’s time. The surgery did, however, take care of the terrible sciatica pain I experienced daily.
Like you I tried every possible cure that came along to avoid surgery, accupuncture, supplements, massage and then the medical marijuana. I applied and got my card (all I had to do was take the photos of my spine xrays and doctor’s comments). For a year I used the THC tincture to no avail. Saw no improvement at all so that’s when I agreed to the surgery. If it is helping you in the slightest then that’s wonderful. I am not on any pain medication at all, other than Tylenol. I still have problems standing for long periods of time and can only walk short distances. I do my surgery follow-up appointments by telephone and am told to be patient, I will heal but it is definitely discouraging.
In Ohio we have pain clinics and if you want pain relief you must go to one of these clinics. I say go. Perhaps they do appointments by phone or Skype so you can stay safe, it’s worth asking.
I know it is immodest to say it out loud here, but today I felt so proud of myself for walking 6 miles up into Sabino Canyon, in Tucson Arizona. I’m 74 and 9 months and 1 week post L2- L4 spinal fusion/laminectomy. Yes, I took 150 mg of Tramadol to do it, but I did it. I also wear 2 back braces and 2 ankle supports. I couldn’t have accomplished it without the Tramadol, which as I said previously, I saved after using for years to reduce foot pain. And thankfully, I have enough meds to last me another year, should I need it. I want to avoid the pain center mill if I can help it. What a money maker it is. You are pushed into PT or acupuncture or massage or injections or electronic probes; and all of these procedures must be endured to get a single pill that your GP used to give you without charging you a fortune. So you must, like a circus animal, jump through multiple hoops to get a pill. How paternalistic and authoritarian this is. When you go to the pain center you will need a “consultation.” Supposedly, that is an interview and a review of the pages of questions you were requested to answer prior to arriving. I swear, I’ve filled out paperwork many times for various doctors and the doctors never looked at it but put it in their files. And so you are ping-ponged around, the pain center extracting money out of your pocket faster than a thief. We are an opportunity to cash in, to be the consumer and nothing more. Sure they say the right words like “treatment team” or “holistic” or “integrated”, etc. (I’ve worked in the medical profession) but alas it is all to extract as much money from you as possible.
I few words about my early recovery period. For the first 5 weeks i couldn’t make it to the second story of my home. I laid in bed a great deal on and off throughout the day during the time, using a walker to make it to the bathroom. My walking came back very slowly. At first I had terrible pain through my hips and down my legs. I thought at this time that my life was over. It was extremely painful getting in and out of bed. I felt very unsteady on my legs, and disassociated from them – as I still am post 9 months. What did slowly happen however, and thankfully, is that my terrible pelvic pain that I had suffered for over 2 years was getting better – not gone but not tormenting me. I use to sit on ice 5 or 6 times a day, although at that time I didn’t know the pain was related to my back, but rather to prostatitis. Anyway, the back is slow and may never be reached, but you have to try. Because I was so unsteady on my legs I used my hiking poles for the first 4 months post-surgery. I recommend using them. And if you have never used them. please use them correctly. The loop tied to the end of hand grip is for your wrist to take all or most of the weight. Your hand should not be taking the weight because the hand and wrist is a very weak joint. The forearm can support you far better than the hand. So adjust that strap so that when you are walking the weight is on your forearm and not your hand. Sorry for the didactic but it may help somebody out there.
Lisa Squicciarini says
Hi, I wanted to thank you for writing this post, as I have been unable to get much information from my doctor’s office other than everything “looks good”. I had spinal fusion surgery 6 weeks ago, I am walking and started driving but driving is bordering on unbearable for me because my back feels soo… uncomfortable. I noticed you said you felt like the screws and rods were coming out of your back. I feel like that, I feel like I am laying on a lump of stiff metal. I found your post as I was searching for why I am always nauseous now after the fusion surgery. I couldn’t find an answer for that, but I did see the info on how tired you were even like 6 weeks out. My body at the middle or the end of the day is just like “I’m done, I need to lie down” and I do, i don’t have much of choice. The problem is everyone sees you moving “normally” in their opinion only I am not feeling so great on the inside and they seem angry at the thought that you have to leave the room to lie down. It makes me feel guilty that I am not giving my all to the family chores despite what I am already doing, my family thinks I am fine and rolls their eyes when I say I need to lie down. “You should be well by now!” they say. I see you doing all these things you MUST be feeling fine, so why do you need to lie down? This is tough, it is a roller coaster of emotions and pain and guilt. I am glad you wrote this, it makes me feel more comfortable about what is going on with me right now, something no one else has done as far as doctors are concerned. Here it is like the doctors “cut, sew, and go” and you are left to find answers on your own always wondering if you are having a stroke or did the screws and everything break, just completely in the dark. Well I still need answers for the nausea, I eat and drink fine but the nausea is still there even right after eating which seemed strange. Anyway thanks again for writing this, you have made a difference!
Debbie Cameron says
Debbie Cameron says
Lisa—Sorry about that! Got cut off when I put in my email address. Wanted to say that I am at the seven week mark after fusion of L4/L5 vertebrae and have that big lump in my back feeling, too. Weirdest feeling ever! Not painful, but very odd and uncomfortable, especially when sitting or lying in bed. My neurosurgeon told me that it is actually numbness from all of the instrumentation/manipulation due to the surgery and that it will eventually go away. Apparently our brain feels it as a “ lump”. It is not the hardware. She said we can’t actually feel that. I so agree that few get how long it takes for someone to heal after back surgery. I often feel that everyone thinks “You are up and around and doing things, so you must be fine”. Nope, not quite! The no bending, lifting or twisting restrictions are really difficult, also. How many times do we normally do these things in a day? Tons! Just to cook a meal pretty much requires all of these in some manner. I’m really careful to bend with my knees, but on occasion do forget, it’s like reflex to just bend down sometimes. Hope the nausea has improved for you. Luckily, I haven’t had that. I know how awful being nauseas is though, so hope it has gotten better.
I feel that same lump. Not all the time. I’m in my 5th week right now. I think? 🙂 I move my body in bed, trying to get the hump/lump to go away, scared something has happened. I’m so glad to know it’s not the hardware. And you are so right, we take for granted how much bending, lifting and twisting we do. There’s hardly nothing you can do without one of those. That has been extremely hard for me also. And the sitting. Yes, I know we aren’t suppose to sit for very long but I have one high back chair with arms I can sit in. I miss my couch!!!!! This board has been so nice to see what is what with everyone else. I know our journey’s are all different but it does help to see that others might be having some of our same issues.
I also feel like the screws are poking out my back and wonder when it will get better. I was rear ended by a cement truck a year ago. I finally had surgery to fuse my L4-L5. After surgery, I was in a dark place feeling depressed and so emotional. I’m 5 weeks post-op now and I’m still using my walker and back brace. I’m more positive now that I can walk (I was in a wheelchair for months after my accident). Sleeping is difficult and the only position I can be in is laying on my back. I still struggle to log roll out of bed. I still don’t feel confident enough to go on walks although my surgeon says I need to walk every day. It’s hard when you don’t have the help. I had bad withdrawals from a Oxycodone for a month and a half and still having bowl issues. I’m only taking Tylenol now. I’m glad I came across this post because I needed support and to hear that I’m not struggling alone. There’s hope and improvement around the corner. I just need to be a little more patient with myself. Hoping everyone here gets the healing they need.
Linda Foley says
After spinal fusion six months later I can walk steps I can dance but still cannot walk without help had two surgeries one They removed the disc second one they were in again and again six months later I still cannot walk without help can you tell me why
Rita Cachia says
Hi Sharon Love your writing abilities. Fun to read. May I ask ,how many weeks did it take for the left leg to come good. I had L4/l5, l5/s1 Alif plus plif plus laminectomy because a small piece of bone broke off and landed on l3. It was removed while still in hospital at day 10.
Amy Garcia says
I am 18 mos out from my spinal surgery. I had a T6 fracture that was caged, a tumor resection (congenital hemangioma that was discovered after I fell and caused the fracture) and my T3-T8 was fused after the tumor was removed. I’m 51 and determined not to let this change me but I’ve recently resorted to calling myself, ‘new Amy’. Two neurosurgeons confirmed that the hemangioma caused the weakening of my spine and ultimately my fracture when I fell and it prevented me from healing with a brace (no surgery). The hemangioma splintered my fracture and sent a dangerous splinter in the direction of my spinal cord. My reflexes were rapidly declining.
I had two recovery periods; the first with a full-torso brace for 8 weeks after my first week in the hospital and the second after what was determined to be immediate/necessary surgery. Surgery lasted 8 hours and I spent the next three days in ICU complete with a blood transfusion. I had 40+ staples in my back. I often wonder what the pain would have been like without the opioids because my first trip to the bathroom (a toilet three feet away from my ICU bed, nearly had me fainting in pain. It took three ICU nurses to help me.
The good news is that the tumor was primarily resected and the first thing I heard the neurosurgeon say after I came to was, ‘there isn’t much she can do to her back now!’ After not being able to take care of myself for 8 weeks after breaking my back, I would have done just about anything to be well and go home after surgery. Positivity is key…but no one tells you how to navigate any of this. I slept anywhere between 10 and 14 hours a night and found myself feeling guilty if I needed a nap. Because I had two hospital stints with opioids, I found I had withdrawal after I came home the second time from surgery. That was an unintended consequence I wasn’t ready to deal with on top of everything else. It I got through it.
I managed the pain with Tylenol about two-weeks post surgery and although it took me a significant amount of time, I fully appreciated taking care of myself. Simple things like cutting vegetables was painful because my back muscles and ribs were pretty pissed. Anyone else not know how painful your ribs would be with something like this?
I went back to work after a total of 5 months at home between the two hospital stints and it felt pretty good but I was tired. I also didn’t know about bone growth and regeneration. I just thought the bionic woman had nothing on me!
Some things that bothered me; feeling the titanium move in my back like it didn’t belong, not being able to see my 12 inch suture, having people come in for hugs, the bee stings that occur in the most inappropriate times as my nerves decide to regenerate and not knowing which movement would cause me strain/pain. I feel like I could have benefitted from a support group.
18 months later I feel pretty good overall. I hate it when I need a Tylenol and/or a muscle relaxer but that’s the overachiever in me. That’s when I have to remind myself that new Amy is allowed. Sometimes new Amy needs a break but she doesn’t want to admit it.
I have a smaller hemangioma in my lumbar bespoke that was discovered in all of this. It will be watched and radiated if necessary. New Amy will forever be a neurological patient and endure two hour MRIs annually. All I did was miss a step on our basement stairs. It still seems kind of unfair, but that’s life. I’m told the positive is that the tumors were discovered because they could have been detrimental. My back will always be a little curved now but my friends are nice enough to tell me they don’t notice. I used to walk almost 3 miles a day but I can only tolerate about 20 minutes at a time. New Amy still had old Amy’s determination and persistence so that’s a positive also. I’m told I won’t be able to lift more than 30lbs for the rest of my life…that’s my only restriction so I guess I’ll take it. My family has been a huge support and I’m grateful because I know not everyone has that. New Amy hopes this is the new normal because she’s mostly accepted it.
That’s really all you CAN do is accept a new way of doing things. Deal with the everyday pain, but go on and just accept it. I’m 1 yr post surgery, fusion at l3/l4 and l5/ s1, decompression and desectomy and screws and rods. Nicked my durum during surgery which left me flat on my back for 4 days after, making my hospital stay a total of 7 days! But, here I am, 67 yrs old and moving right along. I can now walk 2 miles , with rest in between. I still have numbness in lower back as well as bee stings or sharp cutting feeling, but no drugs except for an occasional Tylenol or muscle relaxer. My physical therapy has been my biggest help to my healing. Without it, I probably still wouldn’t be walking at all. Good luck to you and to everyone who is about to or already going through surgery and recovery. It definitely isn’t for the weak! Takes a strong willed person to recover and heal after a spinal surgery,,,,,,
Carol Franchi says
Yesterday marked 6 weeks post-op from a three level (L3-S1) fusion with anterior and posterior incisions (3 cages, 6 screws, and 2 rods). I am happy to report that my right leg nerve pain is gone, leaving me with only the numbness in my right foot remaining. Sleep tends to be elusive—I find it hard to sleep with pillow beneath or between my knees. Any suggestions? The really surprising news came at my 2nd post-op appointment this week; the doctor lifted all restrictions, telling me to let my body be my guide. He even said I could begin gently hitting tennis balls. I am nervous about this and probably won’t start the tennis for a couple more weeks. I am walking 3-4 miles a day.
Steven M Young says
Hi Carol, looks like your doing well? You are the first person other than myself that I have heard the surgeon lift all of the restrictions. I have been second guessing this every day now for over a week. However, he did say not to lift over 25 lbs and don’t bend completely over and touch my toes.
Krish Krishnamurthy says
Count me as 3rd. I am now almost 6 months after my surgery. During my last PostOP follow up my surgeon’s office removed my restrictions as well. BTW, I had L5-S1 fusion (ALIF followed by posterior screws and rods) in early March this year. I was told to “listen to your body and do whatever you can”. I am 95+% pain free. I take occasional Tylenol. I do regular PT and walk about 4 miles a day.
As I understand the bone is still solidifying and so it is best to watch what we do for upto a year.
Hi, your dr removed all your restrictions at the 6 week post op?
Krish Krishnamurthy says
Yup. But I was skeptical and so played it safe for another 4-6 weeks. My surgeon’s advice after my 5-week postOP review was “if you have pain, stop doing whatever you started to do in the previous couple of days”. It worked almost invariably. Another one of his assurances was “ barring literally falling down, you can’t damage your back – so, do whatever you can do that doesn’t cause pain”.
I am now 5 months postOP and am very happy with my progress.
Hi. It is great to hear you are doing so well. I am now 11 months post op, and I am back to 95% of normal. I am playing lots of tennis (singles as well as doubles), walking 4-5 miles almost everyday, exercising with small weights, and doing all the core exercises my doctor recommended. The only thing I can’t do is bend over and put my palms on the floor. I am not as flexible, which is a small price to pay for being pain free. I think that walking and the early release to activity were key to my recovery. I feel very, very fortunate that at 74 I am able to return to an active, pain free life.
Mark Collins says
I am six weeks post surgery from a 2 level cervical anterior/posterior fusion from C4 to C6 with additional lamenectomy at C3 and C7. This was done because of progressive loss of left arm strength and atrophy. I had severe cord compression at the mid three levels. Unfortunately I have not had any spontaneous return of strength so it will probably take a year if my left arm strength improves at all. Now I am looking at an 8 level 360 fusion from T10 to S1 as I no longer can stand upright and I have a myriad of leg symptoms and progressive muscle weakness. Pain is starting to become unbearable as well. I do not want this surgery as I don’t think my function will be very good after but I also want to be able to stand upright and use my arms and legs. Its quite a quandary….
Hi Mark, I’m literally planning a fusion from T6 to S1. I already have rods and screws from t11 to l3 that they have to remove. I can barely stand up now and when I do it’s bend forward and very painful. Using a walker and wheelchair to get around but barely go due to struggle. I’m waiting on the call with surgery date and very nervous about post op recovery and what’s disability I’ll be left with. I vividly remember my lumbar fusion in 2002 so kinda know what I’m facing which I think makes it worse. Good luck!
Hello Debbie, I had a spinal fusion 24 years ago T11-L3. I’m now 8 weeks post op from having a fusion from T3-S1. It’s a rough recovery. I still use my walker when I leave the house. I was Iike you. Couldn’t stand but a minute. The longer I stood, the more bent over I got. I can stand forever now. I still feel like I’m sleeping on rocks. I sure hope that goes away, and neuropathy that’s causing foot and leg pain. The doctor put me on lyrica to add to my percocet. It does help the foot pain. It is definitely a slow recovery
Sergio Garcia says
So in a few days I will be two months post ALIF surgery L1S5. And I have to be honest I’m not feeling great. I tired very easily if I sit for too long I pay the price the next day with aching. My legs are killing me not so much with pain but more with the aching. I was having good days and bad days but the last week or so seems to only be bad days. Not horrible but not great. I’m walking 2.5- 3 miles in the mornings and moving around during the day puts me around 5-6 miles a day. I’m just so Exhausted on top of that I’ve been putting on weight which I’m sure it’s not helping but with out being able to work out and just being at home it’s so easy to get to the refrigerator and grab junk food. I can’t be in a car for too long cause that also tires me and I got to get home and lay down for an hour or so. This life sucks! I just hope it was worth it in the long run. I know two months is a short period of time for healing for this type of surgery but man at this time I regret having had this done! I know this sounds like a wine fest but I’m just being honest and I’m sure in a few days I will feel better and think differently about this but today this are my feeling.( just venting)
Charlotte McCord says
I’m almost one year out after surgery and discovered that c4-c5 did not heal. That being said, I fell asleep on my left side now I’m in excruciating pain, I have taken hydrocodone 10-325, Duexus and a muscle relaxer and I’m still in a lot of pain.
Kendal B Adams says
What is your surgeon saying? Can they fix the C4-C5 or what are you supposed to do. How do they know they did not heal… do you mean fuse or something else? Did you have a fusion on C4-C5? I would call my surgeon and tell him how much pain you are in and figure out how to fix what is causing the pain. Good luck to you! Is the pain in your back or down your legs or what?
Alice Taylor says
I had l4 l5 fusion 2 years ago doing good. But need a part time job. i have a friend that wants me to sit 5 hours 2 days a week with her mother but i have to lift her with a gait belt to wheel chair and bed etc. Should i do this or would it cause the screws to move? or ??
Hello, thank you for being a part of this great support community!
I am 3-weeks post PLIF surgery of L5-S1, and I feel really good. I have a tiny bit of pain at the surgical site, but I have been off the pain meds for a week. I am hoping I don’t he any sort of “pop-up” symptoms or new pain. I have been walking about 1.5 miles a day, and also have been on a few lengthy car trips 1-2 hours each with no real issues, except for a bit of stiffness that I subsequently “walk-off”. The one (maybe two) key ingredient(s) to my recovery is plenty of sleep, and also I wear the back brace whenever I leave the house. No exceptions. It really helps. I live in NYC, so waking is a way of life here. One question I had for the group is how are you all sleeping? Pre-Surgury, I was a stomach sleeper, but now I understand that is discouraged, so I have had to adapt to side-sleeping and sometimes on my back, which is completely foreign to me. Anyone try sleeping on their stomach? Any tips?
The worst part of the early recovery for me was the extremely tight back muscles. Made it hard to stand at sink and brush teeth, etc. also, I was getting all sorts of muscle cramping all over my body, but I chalked that up to dehydration, and drank lots of Pedialyte.
After 3 weeks, I feel really good, just waiting for the “other shoe to drop”, if there is one
What was your main issue prior to surgery – low back pain or radiating leg type pain? Or did you have a a specific spinal condition? sounds like your going along well, well done! How old are you if you don’t mind me asking and had you suffered a while?
Today I’m 8 weeks post ALIF for the same segment (L5/S1) . 2 steps forward 1 step back has been more progress so far. Had symptomatic degenerative disc disease. Once I got past the surgical site pain (at about 3-4 weeks) my main issue just been lower than my original lower back pain if that makes sense/ tailbone stiffness, pelvic rotation stiffness, although in the last few days i think that is loosening up but pain is still there. Also get tired /achy legs which is also getting better but easy to not see progress but really when I look back there is progress it’s just slow going! Good call on the water. So easy to do, and so important!!
Got told to not sleep on stomach but now I’m feeling a bit more comfy in the night I mix it up now to rest a bit more on stomach. Try smashing/jamming a pillow into your stomach whilst your sleeping on your side, which I find can slightly mimic the feelings of sleeping on stomach.. sort of! Agree on the importance of sleep thing, got two very young kids tho that get in the way of that a bit haha! It’s amazing how so many of you get given back brace but I wasn’t prescribed with one, in fact I’m now holding my 5 month old baby a lot again (6kg) and slightly bending to pick her up which surgeon said all good! He said at 6 weeks I can take on more as “long as I’m not digging a trench” the hardware won’t move.
I just turned 49 a few weeks ago, and my original “complaint” was that I couldn’t stand or walk for more than about 10 minutes. After that, I would start getting sharp pain in my lower back, near my waistline, just left if my spine. If I continued to walk or stand for more than about 15 minutes, I would start getting a numbness in my left leg, sometimes to the point of feeling like my leg could give out at any moment. I had this pain for about 10 years, but the past year it has been getting progressively worse. I did PT, Chiropractor, acupuncture, etc. They only marginally relieved my pain. It got to a point this summer where I said that it was time to get aggressive. I also work in the airline industry, so I also thought that it was a good time to do this because I have insurance, but who knows what will happen with this pandemic, and I didn’t know if I will have insurance if I put it off. Hopefully things continue to look up for me keeping my job. Also, because I am working from home right now, I figured it was a good time for the surgery.
I’m sure with you having two young kids, recovery looks different for you. I feel for you!
One thing that still happens is that people will still tell me that surgery was a mistake. Obviously, these people had different circumstances, or maybe never considered surgery, but for me, I feel it was the best option, and I feel like it really was. I am happy with my progress, but I don’t want to get to over-confident.
Anyway, thanks for writing, and good luck with the recovery!
Kayla Sue Toponce says
I am 6 weeks post-op and would like to know if you ever felt any popping like a knuckle pop at this point after your surgery
Kendal B Adams says
Can you tell me exactly what type of brace you are wearing? I wasn’t given one but think it might help. Thanks, Ken to Ken
Hi Ken. The brace I have is what the surgeon ordered for me before the surgery. There are no brand names or anything identifying on the brace, but if you do a google search for Lumbar Spine Fusion Brace, you will see all sorts of braces. Mine wraps around my torso. It’s about 8 inches tall around the sides, and has a rigid plastic insert that is about 12 inches high at the back. The front overlaps with a big Velcro closure to get it snug, then there are these two side straps that you pull forward and Velcro them on the front which makes the brace as right as you want it. Some online achieve the same thing with these little
Pulleys, and strings. I would be glad to email you some photos of my brace, but I don’t know where it is from, so I would just google for one.
I can’t emphasize enough how important the brace is. It makes walking and riding in a car much more pleasant. I went to my office today, put the brace on at 9am, and didn’t take it off until about 6pm. I forgot I was wearing it.
Anyway, I hope that helps. Send your email if you would like me to send photos.
Kendal B Adams says
Thanks for that information. Would love to see a picture of what you have or one on the net similar to yours. my email is firstname.lastname@example.org I began PT again yesterday at home felt great doing it, hardly any pain but just trying to stand up was painful. I still feel I either have a bad disc below my fusion at L5/S1 or something is pushing on a nerve not sure if hardware or what. Back is aching today. Can’t complain though at least I can walk and sleep now, pre surgery I was just in bed in pain all the time. Thanks again.
I just emailed you with pics and some supplier info for the brace. I hope your pain subsides soon! I don’t start PT until sometime in December after my surgeon evaluated my progress. Let me know if you have any questions on what I emailed you!
Kendal B Adams says
Just got the brace pics Ken! Thanks again will get something this week!
Just checking to see if you found a brace. I wore mine all day today and if felt great!
Let me know!
Kendal B Adams says
I did find a brace locally that looks just like those you sent, can’t really tell any difference
I am still not sure what is going on, my surgeon thinks it might be a disc below the fusion at L5/S1 so not sure what I am going to do other than wait another month or 2.
When did you you have your surgery? It’s probably my biggest chief complaint 9 weeks post surgery is that I have new type pain lower than my L5/S1 also, sharp type/tailbone pain if I invert my hips upwards… so I’m interested that your surgeon said disc below potentially? L5//S1 is as low as it gets so pretty sure no more discs under that area. Hmmmmm
Jan Powers says
I would love for you to send photo of the brace you are or was using.
Thanks, Janet. email@example.com
Teresa Mefford says
I am 5 weeks post-op today. L3, L4, L5. My surgeon makes me wear it ALL the time. It helps…
Aspen Horizon 637 LSO.
Sergio Garcia says
Hey man, sounds like your doing great for three weeks. As far as sleeping goes I was told back or sideways with a pillow. I’m 7 weeks post alif and I’m just now starting to get around 7 hours a night with a 30 min nap in the middle of the day. Your right about how important sleep is but for me it was hard in the beginning between the pain and the anxiety I was going through it was rough.i had the same tightness in my back and legs it’s slowly going away, but even now it’s a bit tight.
I am getting used to side-sleeping, and I feel like I’m getting about 7-8
hours of good sleep. Im happy that the tightness is mostly gone. Just a small spot of surgical site pain so far…
Sergio Garcia says
Hey guys, this question goes out to anyone listening out there, I’m around 7 weeks pot ALIF (front and back) in a few weeks I have to travel in car roughly around 220 miles.this time frame will put me at around 9 weeks post, so my question is has anybody traveled a few weeks after surgery and if so how was that experience and any advice?
Hello! Yes, I took a car ride after week 1, which was about an hour, and a bit rough. Now I’m at week 3, and I tolerate about 2 hours in the car. Just make sure to wear your back brace, but loosen it up a bit. After a car ride, I like to get out and walk it off a little. No problems. At this rate, I could see me taking long road trips by about week 6, so I would think you would be fine, although you may have had a bigger surgery than me (PLIF L5-S1)
I am a long distance athlete and was very worried about knowing that this was “the right time” for such a big surgery. Prior to Monday, 9 years of epidurals, facet injections and PT have allowed me to limp along until a running fall in May tipped my back over an edge and it could not recover. Today, I am 4 days post op L4-5 inter body fusion with rods and pins. First night in hospital was a big blur but surprisingly uneventful. 3 days home now and navigating without hubby help first time today. My pre op pain is gone but I am definitely very sore where all the spinal engineering took place. I found this site a month before surgery and thank all of you who have shared your experiences. I know there will be some downs with the ups, I only hope the debilitating pain that pushed me to surgery never returns.
I would love to hear about your progress. I’m having an L4/L5 infusion in November. Would love to email you about how you are doing. Tobias4psu@gmail.com
Teresa Mefford says
3 weeks post-op today. I still have the numbers and nerve pain, however after starting steroids on day 13 things were getting better or so I thought. Last night was terrible. My legs were on fire and hurt all night…. No sleep. My fiance’ massaged my legs before bed is all I can think may have triggered the pain last night. Just when you think you are finally over a hump….so depressing.
Sergio Garcia says
Hey Teresa, I can tell you that at 13 days I was feeling just like you. I had my wife massage my legs every night because my legs ache so much. Today I’m 7 weeks post and I promise you things will get better. At 2 weeks and even now I have good days and the next day feel like I took a step back. But just take it easy and as everyone says listen to your body. Take care!
Hi Teresa, agree with Sergio’s comments that at 13 days it really is uncomfortable, but the better days will come. I’m nearly 8 weeks down from having ALIF L5/S1 and I’m back at work now (in a limited capacity) still have almost lower than lower back pain now, which feels different than before and sharp pains if I move my hips too much. Like Sharon said I think the summary of a brick or anchor hanging off the lower back feels pretty accurate to me – stiffness/soreness in particular, but way better than I was at day 13. Also have the achy legs from time to time – just hang in there an celebrate the wins and as my surgeon said try not to be too forensic on the things happening in your back as things will come and go.
Debbie Cameron says
I had the horribly achy legs, too, especially the first 2-3 weeks. Felt like I’d ran a few big marathons, or gone to “leg day” at the gym for two weeks in a row. It was awful, but at 7 weeks is much, much improved!!
I am now into my tenth month post op. Age 73.I still have numbness in my feet, right worse than tha left, however still numb. Also my right hip and buttocks are still numb. I still get the “snaps” like being flipped with a rubber band feeling in my numb areas. My doctor assures me that in time it will go away. I also can’t stand still for any length of time and leaning forward over the kitchen sink, stove, or counter is still really painful. My stamina is very poor when trying to complete simple chores. I know the PT would help immensely but I have been afraid to venture too far from home because I am immuno-compromised and can’t chance getting this Covid 19 so as soon as there is a safe vaccine I will be going to PT.Just don’t expect too much to soon in your recovery. I’ve had two doctors now tell me that’s it’s not unusual for the healing to take over a year.
Sergio Garcia says
Had my first DR post appointment yesterday 10/13/20. He said all my symptoms are normal the aching of legs, tightness on the back pinching of hip and tailbone. Said I’m only at 6 weeks post (7 on Thursday) all this will go away with time. I stopped wearing my back brace two weeks ago because it irritated one of my back incisions and he said that was a no no, I need to wear it for another 3 months. Said this is a big part to having a positive recovery and fusion. So I will be very restricted and uncomfortable for the next three months. Overall I’m feeling good still walking my 5 miles a day. The only thing I’ve noticed is that I might be hurting my self a bit while sleeping. I wake up at night with my movements and it’s because it hurts a bit. Does this happens to any one else and if so how can I avoid that?
Kendal B Adams says
How many levels of fusion did you have? Just curious my dr said I didn’t need a brace almost wish he had me wear one. I don’t know if my bones are fusing or not… still in pain when I bend and I am exactly 6 months. I go today for CT Scan I guess to see if I am fusing. I feel like I have a nail stuck in my spine so wondering if its hardware they put in touching a nerve or something. Other than that I can sleep walk again and not too bad but trying to do anything like wash the car, sweep grab food lower than chest in fridge… it kills… so something obviously not right. Sounds like you are on your way to recovery.
Teresa Mefford says
I will be 3 weeks post-op tomorrow. I had a spinal fusion of my L3 L4 L5. I have a brace. It gives so much support but it is not comfortable to wear. I wasn’t prepared for the post-op recovery of this surgery. The nerve pain in my legs was completely unexpected… Along with the fatigue. My left great toe and the area of my foot connected to it is numb. Both, my left and right lower legs are numb (top of shins). The top of my left and right buttocks is numb along with a small area down the back of my left leg. It was extremely painful and made it almost impossible to sleep. Called my doctor and was started on steroids day 13 and started feeling better the very next day. I’m not someone who lays around, but I’ve had to learn slow down and rest. This blog has put my mind at ease. This has been the worst surgery recovery I have ever been through, but hearing others has helped to ease my mind.
Sergio Garcia says
My fusion was just one level but even with that it’s been so tuff. I’ve said it before was not expecting this.. but having said that at almost 7 weeks post I’m feeling good. Walking 5 miles a day. And today I went and got a leg massage for the tightness on my legs and I got to tell you what I feel like a champ. I asked my doctor if It was ok he gave me the green light. All we can do post surgery is stay positive and patient because this is a long journey!
Teresa Mefford says
Amen and Amen!!!
Carol Franchi says
I am so glad I found this blog. It has helped me feel that I am not alone in some of the pain and discomfort I have been feeling. I am four weeks post op today for a multilevel fusion, L3 -S1 (posterior and anterior incisions). For the first 10 days, I basically had only minimal discomfort and numbness along the side of my right foot. By day 4, I was able to walk without the walker. However, on the night of day 10, I began experiencing excruciating nerve pain in my right leg, which made sleeping impossible—I was lucky to get 2-3 hours—no one had told me this was a possibility. In the last two nights, the pain has subsided somewhat, Hopefully, that is a good sign. As I have increased my walking to about 3 miles a day, I have noticed more stiffness and soreness across the lower back. Despite all this, the doctor still thinks I will be able to hit tennis balls that are tossed to me at the service line in early November. I certainly hope so. I am 73 and am finding inactivity very difficult.
Sergio Garcia says
One level l5 s1, alif front and back. What type of surgery did you have?the only thing close to yours is that when I’m laying down I think I can feel the hardware it’s uncomfortable I have to move around to get comfort. Have you fused yet?
Sergio Garcia says
I had ALIF L1 S5on 8/28/2020 for degenerative disk. Suffered with lower back pain leg pain sciatica for years.did all the treatments they require epidural shots PT chiropractors etc. all that used to help but beginning of this year the pain became debilitating. Surgery was extremely painful but I have to say that my original pain is gone, the sciatica the back pain, I couldn’t stand for more than 10 minutes at a time prior to surgery. I’ve always been active working out, bike riding etc. I haven’t been able to do any of that this year and I miss it. At 6 weeks post I’m walking around 5 miles a day not all at once I do two miles in the morning and the other miles break them down through out the day. Back feels heavy and tight and my leg muscles ache so bad but I stretch them a bit and that helps. I have my first DR visit on oct the 13th and not sure what to expect. But this surgery is suck an attack on your body!ot could be too much at times.
Craig J Johnson says
You’re doing some great walking distances for 6 weeks post.
I’m 8 weeks out from L4 to S1. Had no idea about the leg pain I was going to face post opt, like nerve pain. Exercise surely seems to help, but this surgery sure does a number on your body from so many different directions. Hope your visit goes well.
Sergio Garcia says
Thanks. Your right, prior to my surgery I read and watch videos about it but nothing prepares you for the aftermath emotionally and physically. but for me it was the best decision even if I have days where I feel like it was a mistake. As of now in this early stage of my recovery I feel much better than pre surgery.
I had the same surgery 4 days before you, (ALIF, L5/S1 for degenerative disc) so we are on the same timeline. Same prior symptoms too although my leg pain was just dull ache of front of thighs, With main issue being low back pain,felt after sitting standing and especially after trying to achieve any medium to moderate exercise (running/road biking). Did all the same conservative stuff you did also before hand. I’m a 34 year old firefighter so have a general good base fitness.
I liked seeing your post as it reminded that my also “heavy and tight/stiff” lower back particularly in the pelvis region maybe normal even tho it feels different from my previous issue. My gut feel the previous issue is fixed and that he did get the bad disc tho, although without much bending lifting twisting it will be a while before I 100% know.. I’m also walking about the same amount now broken up into little bits..Really struggling with patience. I think I had a warped sense of expectation and that I would be better after a few weeks of dealing with surgical pain (yes my wife reminds me I’m an idiot 🙂 the stiffness in my pelvis is something I worry about .. so stiff and so new!! The pelvis feels so restricted/stiff moving it the slightest back or forward, maybe this has something to do with L5/S1 region, just hope this subsides and it’s not a creation of a new issue! ..My 6 week follow up with surgeon last week he said “stop being forensic about what your feeling day to day but look at it in monthly chunks, there will be ups and downs, ask yourself how your feeling in 12 months, not now”.. All makes sense I know!! Sergio, send me an email if you want so I have your details as we have similar stuff going on, be good to talk through on the journey. firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck to all going through this!
Cheers and great website!
I’m now 8 months post op from a 6 level spinal fusion from T12-L5 & vertebral replacement of L2 & L3 as you can guess it was a very big surgery at least that’s what they keep telling me I stayed in the hospital a little over a week after surgery because of internal bleeding and had to have a few blood transfusions, I had to wear a brace & use my walker for a couple of months until my Dr told me I didn’t need them anymore, because my nerves were damaged from the infection I had I still have nerve pain from time to time but other than that my recovery is going well I still do the exercises my PT taught me & I walk 2 miles a day now which is crazy to me cause I didn’t even do that before I got sick but I’m glad to read about others recovery it does help knowing you’re not alone in you recovery if you would have told me I’d be going on this journey at 28 years old after fighting for 2 years I’d have called you insane.
Craig J Johnson says
I’m almost 8 weeks out from L4, L5, S1 fusion. Reading you blog has been such a positive impact on me, so thanks.
I mostly suffer from the leg nerve pain, something I had no expectation or knowledge of. It can be severe. On gabapentin now and they upped the nightly dose to 600mg. I also got an Rx for methylprednosine which also seemed to help. Only on tylenol for pain now, though I second guess that every night. Also on valium 3x a day which seems to ease things down. Having this surgery was a lot more than I bargained for, esp the leg nerves pain, just nothing really knocks is down.
Anyway, thanks again for the blog. Any insights for me would be most appreciated.
I can relate. I did not have any leg pain prior to my TLIF L4-5. After, it was the worst pain that I experienced. I was on gabapentin. I got more relief from ice packs (you can get the large ones at WalMart that refreeze). It was also important not to sit much as that seemed to stretch my lower back in ways that caused pain. Walking too much or talking strides that were normal before I was ready also caused pain. Time allowed the nerves to get better. I did find pt that was a game changer (tried 2 other before this one) but I was already 4 months post op by then, so I was ready for it. It emphasized strengthening my glutes and hips, along with the core stabiliyt. Stretching can also be dicey…you should not push stretching. Gentle. When I did overdo this, it often caused numbness and pain. Make sure you are sitting on flat, firm surface that support your lower back and core. No soft couches or chairs. Also a firm bed helps me. And pillows to support you back if you are a side sleeper. I think avoiding bad situations is half the battle. Keep moving but don’t push yourself. It takes time. I never thought I would get past the constant pain, and I have. Now when I push myself, it is mostly mild numbness. IMO the muscle relaxers, like valium, etc., were not helpful. I needed to feel more awake to tackle my recovery. That is my personal experience.
Debbie Carrus says
I agree with Babs!! I had the same exact fusion, nerve pain in my leg I never expected!!… In January 2021 it will be 2 years, still having minor sciatica, but at least I am able to walk… hang in there as this is a very very slow process… huge surgery, don’t beat yourself up, it takes time and it is slow baby steps.. I wish you all the best!!! Thanks again for your website it saved me for sure!!
Shelley A Campos says
Im 26 days post op laminectomy and spinal fusion of L-5 and S-1 and I am already so sick of this! This one of the hardest things I have EVER gone through in my 62 years of life!
I am praying for a light at the end of the tunnel.Don’t get me wrong I have improved but I still need the pain to get even better and quickly. I am very impatient and want to get back to myself so badly. Please give me some hope that this keeps getting easier. I want to not be exhausted or in so much pain any more. I want to be able to wash floors clean house and do laundry and cook again. My husband ad I are newly married this past March.I feel so guilty about him having to work plus do all of the things he has been used to me doing. It pains me to see how hard this is on him (and his cleaning abilities aren’t any where close to what I am used too…So sorry honey!) Please help me with some words of encouragement!
I saw no date on this so you could be long past your recovery time. If not. You need a reality check. You needed that surgery and all that guilt craft will undermine your recovery. Your doctor, and those that love you, understand why you needed your surgery and what the follow up would be. Don’t you think you should participate and educate yourself enough to except it? It’s toughI recognize, especially being four weeks out from Through C7 posterior fusion surgery. Let those that love you show their love and except that and their health. Leave your martyr self behind, and allow yourself to heal. Don’t dramatize, just empathize with your body and give it the best chance to heal, which means doing what you were advised. You’ll have plenty of opportunitiesIn your life to pay back the kindness is that others have showed you. Your job, and your only job, is to heal, and why not do it gracefully by doing your job. No room for martyrs. Take care of yourself. The ones who love you will realize that you were honoring them by doing so
Vicki Smith says
Be kind to yourself, Shelley. I am 68 and was an avid cyclist, hiker, and swimmer before surgery. My surgery was 8/12/20 with a laminectomy and fusion of L3/4. What they don’t tell you about pre-surgery is the emotional ups and downs and the real recovery process. I am lucky because I have my older brother who went through a C-spine fusion and laminectomy a few years ago. He really helped me out. He is still recovering. He was a world class swim competitor prior to surgery and is competing again. We all want to get back to our “old” selves, but we now have “new” selves to create; how fun is that! I hope to be at a new level next summer, but right now I am trying to be patient with what I am creating. I take a nap every afternoon and enjoy the luxury of that. I am up to walking or moderate hiking about 5-6 days a week about 3.5 miles, sometimes less; I have a good pain tolerance and a tendency to push through no matter what (which isn’t so great actually). I have nerve leg pain in my right leg and around the top my legs where they connect to my pelvis. I also bought a Tempurpedic mattress set which helps me out considerably. Your loved ones are there to help you; you would do the same for them.
I agree…give yourself time. You cannot force or push through nerve healing, which is what has to happen. When they tell you nerves heal slowly, they aren’t kidding. I am a young and active 54 year old. I had my TLIF in Jan. Thought I would be out cycling, playing tennis/pickleball and other activities by summer. Not so much. But, I am gaining strength each month. When I get impatient and push myself, I end up numb or in nerve pain down my L leg (incidentally, I had no leg pain before surgery!) I have found PT that has helped a lot (I left the first 2) and rest helps. Strengthening my hips/glutes has really helped me. And not sitting on soft surfaces or adding support to chairs that are not supportive (like using a hardcover large book) to chairs that are not flat and firm helps me to have the right support. An example of a bad chair is a camp chair that is like a hammock seat. I find that avoiding bad situations is as important as moving and strengthening. Reading posts from other strugglers, like you have found here, helps in going this long, slow road of recovery. Persist! You will gain strength. Measure your progress in months and not days. Write down what you can do today, and compare what you can do in a month. You have got this!
Julia Lawrence says
Hi Shelley, I get where you are coming from, though I am not there yet. I am heading into surgery this Friday, Oct. 30th for a L3-L4 fusion and disk decompression. I am 64 years old and was always very active, walking, hiking, kayaking, gardening, and I used to do pilates and yoga, but stopped some years ago because I would push myself and get hurt. Mostly, I am a clean freak. Having a clean house is what keeps me calm. My wonderful hubby is not the neatest fellow, but he sure does mean well. So I am trying to take this on with an attitude of humility and being humble by accepting the gifts given with no conditions. I hope to allow him to do what he can and ride with the outcome. You showed great courage in going through the surgery and really time moves by pretty quickly. I think in 5 years you will remember how well your husband treated you and not remember the condition of the house. Keep breathing and keep thinking “Will I remember how the house looked while I was recovering in 5 years or will I mostly hold the memory of how well he cared for me. Tender thoughts and wishes for your recovery and the art of letting go.
Shelley A Campos says
Thank you so much!
Keith Nelson says
In March of 2017 I had xlif procedure done on L3and L4. Everything went well. For the last 3 1/2 years life was just wonderful. Now within the last month or two I’m now experiencing weakness and pain in my lower back and the inability to lean forward. I am scheduled for a visit with the doctor who performed the surgery next week again. I’ve tried therapy for the last 3 weeks. The therapy has given me no real improvement. It’s so hard to believe, but I was walking up to 3 miles a day with no problem just about a month ago. It seems as though it was all just a dream. But I will keep my head up and be positive.
Kendal Adams says
Please update me on what they say! I have no power in my lower back when I lean forward so would love to know what they think it might be. PT did not help me either with this so scratching my head for the cause! Tbank
Martha Maisel says
Sharon Do you remember being swollen in the beginning? I feel like my clothes will never fit again.
I was so swollen from my psif & tlif fusion , spacers , cages etc. I’m 4 weeks today 10-11 as I had this done 9-11 at UVA .
My swelling has gone down now but when I got home it was horrible
Hope you feel better soon
John LeBlanc says
What a great site and testimonials. Thank you Sharon. I’m 47 years old and suffered from degenerative disc disease for 15 years before it got to the point where I felt compelled to get the fusions. Now I’m 5 weeks post op for what I think they call a mini 360 3 Level ALIF. I still have burning in my left butt and feel like I have a brick in my back, but I can walk a mile before my hip flexors start cramping. I may have pushed it to hard walking with the brace in the Louisiana heat. My Home Health thinks I’m showing signs of a staph infection on the 7 inch incisions on the back and front, so I’m using bactroban for that. My goal is to make it back into Jiu Jitsu as quickly as possible. I appreciate everyone’s stories here. It’s encouraging knowing that others are going through similar challenges.
John…please keep us posted on your progress. I may be going in for the same surgery so I will be interested to see your progress, which I am sure will go well with patience and perseverance.
SANDY BANTY says
Im 10 weeks out from lunar 2 stage spinal surgery and have stinging psin in buttocks at times is this normal
I am 8 months post-op and still have the right side numbness in my feet and buttock. I also have developed the stinging feeling in my buttocks area. I’m pretty sure this is normal and probably caused by the damaged nerves regenerating.
Faith Metzinger says
Good morning. I’m almost 10 months post op a T10 to pelvis 360 fusion. I found out I had scoliosis at 52 years old. After a time with PT, chiro’s, massage, and shots, we went for the big kahuna surgery. I still struggle everyday. I can walk mostly without a cane but i often feel unstable, any BLT work and I pay for it later. I think I’m on the road to a full recovery but oh my god this wasn’t in the brochure. 🙂
I’m currently trying to figure out some peripheral neuropathy, that’s where things go numb, with burning and a sizzling feeling. It’s a real pain in the ass to say the least. Keeping a mental fresh approach to your recovery has got to be front and center. It’s hard with the lack of quality sleep and the constant pain at a level of 8-10, but remember how brave you were in the first place, that’s speaks volumes. In 10 months I can count on one hand how many times I didn’t feel pain above a 5, and it’s was wonderful and those moments keep me going. It’s definitely a one day at a time recovery, and remember you’re not alone, it’s pretty much the majority that agrees. Nice and easy brave friends.
Craig J Johnson says
I also have this unexpected nerve pain, present in both my legs but more pronounced on the lower left. It’s almost the same feeling as having way over worked the muscles and they’re reacting. Trying some different Rx’s but no quick fix so far. Hang in here.
Michael Wilson says
I am 40 yrs old…3 weeks post l4 and l5 fusion…surgery gave me some nerve damage causing me temporary neuropathy and foot drop…leg strength and fatigue is an issue for me…only really able to walk with a walker and custom afo leg braces…spent one week in the hospital, then sent to a rehab facility where I currently am….working my butt off every day to get stronger…very slow process indeed..
Brian Vickery says
Six months after Lumbar fusion: I can hardly walk, using 2 canes< Pain in rt bumm, and rt sciatic and thigh of about 7 all day and night too. I am sometimes in teers because I cannot get much done to fix it all,, so here I sit and wait, like flotsam,,, for the next tide,,,, death would be a way out.
Kendal Adams says
Brian what did your surgeon say? How old are you? have you had any xrays lately? Were you in an accident? what prompted the surgery? Where was your surgery done? I would try and find another doctor if possible. Sounds like they missed something or misplaced the screws or something. No one understands what real sciatic pain is I know you do. I say hang in there and figure out your next move. I would contact the surgeon and see what the issue is.
I can understand your pain. I had left side issues. I am 8 week out and still in a lot of pain on my left side. I’m still restricted to the blt’s. My fusion is t5-s1. I have had 4 weeks therapy so far, but this therapy is like none I’ve tried. It moves you slow..tiny stretches and movements with tone thumb massage and movements. I try to do all the exercises given me in the morning in bed. It helps me get out of bed – Barrel tolling as they call it. I’m still in my brazce, maybe another month or 2. I’m only allowed to remove it to sleep and shower and then slowly work my way out of it 30 min a day. But I wear it most all day except sitting and small kitchen walks. I can over do it. I I have and seem to keep over doing it. I haven’t found my middle line yet. I have 2 walkers, one for inside the house and the wheeled/seat one for outings that I try not using at all. But I do find myself weak and stumbling to my left/ or unbalanced as I believe you said. I was instructed to walk 40 min a day but in 5 min at a time. I was setting a timer to walk the street for 20 min then turn around and come back.. however, I think I pushed that too soon to. I am getting stronger, thank goodness! I have been doing leg lifts to help strengthen up that “lazy” leg. It also seems it’s stretching… it feels like it through the heal when I do the feet stretches.. it’s a very uncomfortable, weird feeling, but I know adventuslly my right side will realize that the left can handle it’s self again and the guarding can stop. But my right side has been trained for so long to take the weight off the left, it still fight with the idea that the left leg “doesn’t need to hold hands any longer.”
I really can’t stand being a burden on anyone, nor feel like I need all the support and attention I have been given by my husband and my 7 year old. I always was the go get’r done, and stayed busy with the yard work, weeds, mowing, trimming, dog dung scooper, house cleaner and cook. However, I can not do any of those things right now, even though I try, I pay for it. So in my kind, I knew I was going to be a burden; I knew I wasn’t going to have a weed free lawn/plants cut back, roses trimmed, dishes done nor be in a clean house, instead of “that will do” messy type clean home. I’m lucky to have a friend who will come help when everything gets to me andvweeds are as tall as the windows, grass has become a jungled. My husband works shift work through the week so he cant keep up either. So a friend is a good thing to have when things need done and they are willing to do so.
So, as much as it bothers me, and I know you too, to be laid up… not able to do much of anything…. think of things you may be able to do from a chair… my time is spent “inventing” new things from old things, using up of all my extra things to make something. I have a battery operated dremel that I absolutely love. It allows me to go and carve metal, wood, and make things without to much BLT’s. I purchased grabbers on amazon to help me not break the vending rule, and my 7 year old seem happy to help pick up things for me i drop. I hope you have people that can help you. Home therapist, home health aide. Things your insurance may cover, to help you in recovery. I know your feelings and the pain… but just do what you can, think of something to do so boredom and depression doesn’t crash into you. All my items I use are within my arms reach and any lower I ask for help ;it’s hard for me to do that too). Best of luck, just do what your able and don’t over due it, it’s not worth that pain. Much luck.
Reach out to your surgeon. Go to physical therapy… I’ve been doing it for 6 mos now, and without it, I know I would not even be walking now. It will get better, but you have to move and exercise! Good luck
Tracie Tipton says
Love being able to read other peoples experience and healing process, I’m at week 15 of recovery and I’m not where I thought I would have been. This is my 4th back surgery but first fusion and I guess I thought recovery would be the same but this is a whole different experience. I’m finally able to make it through the day without a 2-3 hour nap, part of it I believe was the combo of oxycodone and gabapentin that I would take at night before bed left me tired the next day. Now just taking gabapentin for the numb tingling in my feet although I don’t really think it’s helping. My biggest problem now is lower back pressure I feel that doesn’t always go away but I guess I would rather have this then the sciatic pain which was gone right after surgery. I think I need to incorporate more walking into my daily routine, which currently is working part time from home but not doing a lot else because of Covid. I have a follow up appt next week so hope that the X-ray shows what he expects to see. Just glad this is here to read as I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. Wishing everyone here a steady recovery, I would say fast but that does not seem to be the case.
Kendal Adams says
Good Luck Tracie, Do you mind if I ask how old you are? I go back in 2 weeks for my 4 month post Lumbar Fusion and I hope my surgeon has some answers. I like you am sciatic free but I can’t do anything without being in pain except lay in bed or sit and walk slowly. Something is not right with my fusion. Not sure if the bones are not fusing or if something in the hardware they put in is digging into by spine but when I lean forward to reach something on a counter or waist height it kills when I lean or try to stand back up straight. Not a muscle pain but shooting pain in spine. Hurts when I roll in bed or situp to get out of bed too. Can’t really do anything that requires my spine support. Hoping the doctor has some idea after the 4 month xray. I don’t understand it.. I was so far ahead the week after surgery to be like I was at 2 weeks still at 4 months. Good luck at your visit. I will try and post what my surgeon says. I might call today and see if the assistant can give me a call back. So tired of waiting and not improving but on the bright side the sciatic pain is gone and I can atleast walk stand and sleep. Good luck.
Kendal Adams says
I was able to get in to see my Neurosurgeon yesterday for my 4 months checkup. I got tired of waiting but honestly, knowing what I know now I would have waited another 2 weeks to see if I improved or got worse. Anyway, xray looked like it did at 2 months. He said it looked like it was supposed too. No halos on the screws. My surgeon said we can’t tell from an Xray if your bones are fusing or not. So his assistant gave me false information last time when he said my bones were not fusing, (Not sure if he was basing this on the xray or my pain complaints) I say speak to the surgeon that did your surgery if you can. I told the dr when my back hurt as I described above, turning in bed, standing up or anytime I straighten my back, but then it stops hurting once the shock of pain hits. I asked should I work through the pain to see if it gets better. He told me to not do any PT just walk if it doesn’t hurt.
He said in 2 months if I am still in pain like this, he will order a CT Scan because it will actually show how and if the bones are fusing. He said if you get a fuse in either side or in the spacer that should be good enough to say the surgery was a success. So we wait… 2 more months.
Its going to be hard to not do any PT. I actually did some pushups this morning because they didn’t hurt at the time. I can’t understand why it is so hard to figure out back issues. We have tons of tests but I almost feel like a great Dr. would be able to look at Xrays, MRI’s and have you do some movements and ask you about pain performing those things and be able to tell what the real problem is? I know my biggest issue was the ruptured disc and they definitely fixed that but why is my back hurting in places it never did before. Good luck to anyone experiences back pain and I am thankful for this website because it allows me to vent to someone besides my wife. I guess I should be happy I can get through most days with no pain medication.
Kendal B Adams says
Any updates Tracie? Did you get to see your Dr. for the follow up? Best advice I have gotten in this whole experience was a couple of days on youtube video about a guy Navy Seal Chadd Wright. he talks about spoken word, not religious but how powerful saying things out loud are. I applied that recently and its amazing how my back has started to heal. If you get a chance check it out. It might help someone here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKt5QdAcNRc
Raymond Stern says
I am 59 years old and have always been an active athlete (I completed multiple Ironman triathlons). In June of 2018 I started feeling knee pain and ongoing numbness and tingling in my left knee and lower leg and right glute and lower leg. After talking to the experts and finally doing an MRI we discovered that I had some scoliosis, disk degeneration and compression of my nerves (in some areas severe) at the L1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 4/5 levels. I never had any clue that I had these issues but in hindsight many of the “issues” I had over the years which I attributed to “wear and tear” from my activities were most likely related to my spine issues.
The pain had become at times debilitating. I had to stop running and even walking and standing for any time (ie 15 mins) was painful and I had to sit to relieve the pain. Interestingly the pain was not in my back but always around my knee and lower legs. After trying all the conservative approaches I finally had the courage to do surgery and had a decompression at the L3/4 and L4/5 levels in November of 2019. The punch line is it did not work (which i knew was a risk) and in fact seemed to get worse after the surgery. In February of 2020 after another MRI where we confirmed it was unsuccessful I vowed to do all the conservaitve things again and avoid another failed surgery: PT, more strength building, core work, etc. It did not work and in fact my pain in the knee area, shin and lower leg on the left was getting a lot worse and I was not willing to keep going like this so I decided to consider the “next step” which was a fusion. So back to the surgeons!
I am fortunate to live in the Bay Area of Northern CAlifornia where we have world class surgeons at Stanford, UCSF and more. I ended up talking to 3 of the best. Each of them suggested a different approach based on their analysis of my situation (I shared the same information with all of them). One wanted to do an XLIF at the L3/4 and 4/5. One a OLIF at the L2/3, 3/4 and 4/5 level and the 3rd a TLIF at the L4/5 only. I chose to go with the 3rd because I liked his philosophy. He said that although other levels look bad in the MRI I only had symptoms that were because of the L4/5 levels. He told me he sees hundreds of MRIs that look bad but most have no issues. He said let’s keep it a less complex surgery and see if we can fix the problem which he was very confident he could. He acknowledged that perhaps some time down the road I may (or maybe never!) have future issues that could need to be dealt with. So on July 10th 2020 I went in for the surgery at Stanford.
The surgery took a couple of hours and I was told it “went well”. I was not in pain in the recovery room (drugs!) and was able to Facetime with friends and family within hours of the surgery (with COVID no visitors were really allowed). I stayed in the hospital for 3 nights and generally was fine — expected pain but manageable. The day after my surgery a PT came by and taught me how to get in and out of bed and we used a walker to shuffle around the floor. I did this a couple times a day at least for 5-10 minutes while in the hospital. My back was sore, I moved slowly, I had lots of “nerviness” around my legs that seemed to move form location to location, right glute pain BUT I had NONE of the debilitating pain that kept me from standing and walik pre surgery! I was discharged in the morning after 3 nights and headed home.
Week one at home I was quite sore and stiff. I took meds at night but by the end of the week was off them and only using tylenol. I also did take a sleeping pill for a few nights to help me sleep. I started taking walks around my neighborhood building up from two 10 minute walks a day to two 25 minute walks by the end of the week. Over the next couple weeks I increased my walk duration and speed. After 3 weeks I was able to do a 3.5 mile walk! That was the longest walk by far that I had done in 2 + years.
So where am I now 3 weeks in? I wake up very stiff. Moving when I sleep can be painful at times and I have to find the right position. I have constant “nerviness” that moves around my legs and glutes in different areas. I have weird pains in strange areas that seem to come and go. At times I spend too much time worrying about the longer term impact of my surgery…will it put more stress on other disk segments and cause new pain, etc? But overall I feel great and more optimistic than I have in a long time. I saw my surgeon this week and he cleared me for PT starting next week so I can start building my strength and flexibility. He told me I can spin on my indoor bike now and I can start swimming next week. He told me to listen to my body and not push it and to come see him in 3 months. I don’t think I will ever run again and have come to grips with that – think :-). I hope to be able to stick to biking and hiking.
So to be continued. I will update my progress in a month or so….
FInally I want to thank Sharon for this site. And I want to thank all the people who have shared their stories and tips. It has been a godsend to me over the last 3 weeks as I read everyone’s stories, followed the resource links and learned. It has been so helpful to get real world experiences (and not all the doom and gloom I read when I “googled” spinal fusion success before my surgery).
I hope that by sharing my experience I am helpful to others!
Ken Adams says
Raymond any updates? I had L4L5 Fusion in April. Was home the same day. Off meds after 3 or 4 days including tylenol. I could not stand longer than 12 to 14 seconds or walk more than 10 steps before surgery. All sciatic pain was gone after surgery.
as walking a mile a day 2 days after surgery. At 3 months my pain was no better than week 2, hurts when I sneeze cough or bend even a couple of inches forward. Surgeon said bones not fusing? Something about Subsidence? I assume that means the spacer they put between the disc is settling into the bones and causing this pain? Not sure though. I got back at the end of August for my 4 month xray and checkup and hope they show some fusion at that time. I am 54 been active all my life don’t smoke, drink or have any conditions so can’t figure out why the bones are not fusing. I am sure whatever they see on my xray they will say I need to wait a year. Just sux I can not do anything except walk and sit or lay in bed.. Good luck on yours sounds like you are headed in the right direction. would love to see an update at your next visit. Love this Blog Sharon! Thanks
Vicki Meyerhoff Smith says
I had L3/4 fused last Wednesday with a laminectomy. I talked to 3 excellent neurosurgeons in Albuquerque and chose the best one for me. Each one had a slightly different approach, however, the end result was the same. I’ve been putting this off for years. This spring I had two incredibly painful attacks. The first I was in tears and my orthopedic surgeon in Southern Baja, MX ( where I live in the winter) helped me so much, so I could get home in one piece. The second experience was here at my summer home.
Five years ago I suffered a Vasculitis attack which left me with permanent nerve damage in my right hand and below both knees. I take 600 mg of gabapentin daily for that ( used to take lots more).
I am a very active 68 year old; hike, cycle, swim, TRX, etc. When I started to experience weaker legs, especially my glutes, last summer I started wondering. This year my activities got more painful and my feet and toes tightened up and became more and more painful. That’s when I decided I needed to do something. I was also not hiking as good as before. I was slower and it was harder to cover the distances.
I was able to walk the afternoon of surgery without a cane (they used a gate belt), and walked a number of times during my 2 day stay at the hospital. Amazingly my toes and balls of my feet are much less restricted. Better put that tight feeling is gone. Pins and needles are still present, but I can wiggle my toes, and my feet feel less restricted.
At home I am doing ok. Lots of pain around the surgical area, some in my buttocks, and tired glutes. Taking hydrocodone and at night also a muscle relaxer. Doesn’t cut the pain entirely, but if it did, then I would be doing more than I should.
I am being very careful. Walking slowly several times a day with breaks to sit or lie down.
I had a graft from my right Illiac Crest bone marrow. That was combined with some cancellous bone chips from a donor. Plus the two little lifts. The surgical notes are very interesting.
I’m not certain I should have received the bone chips because I am immune compromised. I have a question sent to my doc to asl that. The donor non-profit either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer my question.
I think I am doing well, however, this blog is excellent and I’m glad I have a place to have conversations with others willing to talk about their experiences. Thank you all. I will write periodically from my vinyl but comfy recliner. I stick to it when getting out. Haha- that’s REAL fun,
Today is a slow, painful, and tiring day. Tomorrow will be different.
Jim has dinner ready, so I’d better get up.
It is so relieving to hear that it is possible to go back to normal! I am 6 weeks post-op & have been stressing about if I can ever get back to the same level that I was before surgery. Especially since I’m only 21 & it would crush me if I couldn’t be as active as I was (I love mosh pits and skiing and things). Inspiring story! Thank you!
Hey Chandler … I was worried about that too. I ski the biggest steepest bumps I can find. So when I had 4 levels fused and ten two inch titanium screws put in my spine I was worried about skiing. But it was done over two years ago and I still stone dance down the moguls to music, the steeper the better. And by the way, I’m 75.
Patricia Lavy says
Wow! This is wonderful music to my ears. I had 4 levels fused 2/3, 3/4, 4/5/ 5/S1 – anterior and posterior surgery 4 days apart 4 weeks ago. I am so fatigued I don’t think I’ll ever feel good again – except the pain I had in my left leg all the way to the end of my foot is gone, for which I am very very thankful.
However, the weakness and fatigue is getting the best of me. Prior to the surgery I did water exercises and swam a half mile 6 days a week. I cannot wait to get back in the water but I am exhausted by the least activity. Thank you for sharing your wonderful success. I needed that hope! I was told it would be a long and difficult recovery but this is so hard! Congratulations on dancing down the moguls – I will remember you when I get back in the water!
Kendal B Adams says
Just curious Don, how long after your surgery did you feel good enough to ski or jog? I am 6 months of a one level fusion and can barely stand up if I am sitting. Having trouble doing anything that requires any core strength like even carrying food into the house and I am 54. Thanks for any information. I go back to my surgeon Oct 14 and can’t wait to hear what the issue might be for me.
I went through two neck/cervical disc replacement surgeries before my L4-5 TLIF. No big deal. So, I thought I was going to be good to go in 2 months or 4 at the most after the TLIF. NOT! I had my surgery in January. Post surgery, I had a lot of numbness and leg pain in my L leg that was exacerbated by walking (which everyone pushed as the best thing) and PT. I could not run – or even shuffle jog – until just the past month. In fact, I could not push a grocery cart until the past month. It was like those muscles switched off during surgery. I am also 54 and was in great shape up until about a year prior to this surgery. Even still, I am thin and was still walking miles each day and doing housework prior to the surgery. The surgery kicked.my.butt! After getting the green light for PT and activity, I switched PT’s twice before finding one that had an approach that strengthened my hips/glutes and core quickly. This, together with time, has really moved me forward. I am now able to do low impact (no bouncing) but high energy (lots of movement) aerobics and light jogging. (I am more careful because I have not fused.) I have minimal numbness and pain when I push myself physically. Sitting on soft surfaces is still a challenge…like a comfy couch. But being able to do much more is a relief. I have learned that you have to give it time and keep moving, as much as possible.
There’s 15 months since my multilevel lumbar spine surgery and, even I have improve much more, I still have right leg nerve pain also, lumbar spine pain some times comes out kind of sharp and penetrating.
I am in my sixth month of recovery and am having a really hard time deciding if the pain was worth it. I did have sciatica realy, really bad and not it is no longer there, for that I am grateful. My surgery was on Jan 2,2020. I’m still in a great amount of pain and the only time I get relief is when I go to bed at night. I am 73 years old and my husband and I are self quarantining because of the Covid-19. My husband has bad asthma and only a 50% lung capacity so getting the virus would be a death sentence for him. We are being very cautious and I am the only one to leave this house once a week for groceries which I order online and pick up at the store. I wear a mask and use lots of hand sanitizer. I have not contacted my surgeon because I know he would insist I go to PT. I am just not willing to take the chance of picking up this virus a any medical fcility and bring it home. So I am between a rock and a hard place. There are times when I feel like I might need xrays to make sure my rods and screws are still in tact but once again don’t want to follow that route. I still find it hard to get up out of a chair or to walk for any distance. I do walk about 1/4 of a mile, weather permitting but I can’t say it’s foing me much good. The hardest thing I do is leaning over the kitchen counter, do dishes or try to cook. I keep trying to read where different people have had surgery and are in recovery.I did read where it could take some people 1-2 years to completely recover. I would love to know if I will ever be able to walk like a normal perso because I sure am not right now. I still have nerve pain and no feeling in my feet and surgery areas.I plan on doing PT if this virus ever leaves.
I feel your pain, Jane. I am 67 years old and 1 year out from lumbar fusion surgery. The “Charlie-horse” pain in my right leg was gone almost immediately after surgery for which I am so very thankful for!
Now, a year later I am having similar “Charlie-horse” pains in outer sides of both hips. This started a couple months ago and is getting worse.
I’ve read that many lumbar fusion surgeries will inevitably lead to future fusions or even hip replacements.
If this is indeed true, maybe living with lower back pain, “Charlie-horse” nerve pain in legs should have been something I could have accepted as my new chapter in life.
I am so discouraged I don’t know what to do. Does one fusion or joint replacement surgery always lead to another?
I share your discouragement, Patti. I had the hip pain for about two months after the surgery but it finally dissipated. I was told by one surgeon that this is a procedure that might have to be done again. That’s when I decided to get a second opinion and went with that surgeon instead.I really doubt I will agree to a second one, recovery is just too long. I have gained so much weight from just sitting so long, no PT and too many snacks from quarantining. I suffered from sciatica for about twenty years after a fall from a horse where I landed in a sitting up position. Finally after doing water therapy, pain medications, including medical marijuana(legally) I decided I just couldn’t take it any longer, I opted to do the surgery. I try to involve myself in projects around the house but am only able to work for about 20 minutes when the pain gets unbearable and I have to quit. I take almost pain medication, maybe two Tylenol a week, as I definitely don’t want to get ulcers on top of this pain so I just grin and bare it. My nerve numbness is still going on in my feet and ankles, no pain, just the tingling numbness.I had hoped by now I would have my feeling back but it hasn’t happened yet after six months.Before surgery we bought a stair lift and a walk in tub, so glad to have both those things right now, stairs are especially hard.
Ken Adams says
Jane, have you been back for an Xray since surgery? Just curious your pain sounds like mine. I have no pain when laying flat but anytime I bend the slightest bit I have a jolt of bad pain right in my spine and across by whole back. Once I get in position it stops but brushing my teeth, standing up and straightening my spine kill. Just curious what it could be? Let me know if you go back and they tell you anything. Good luck.
Ken, I just had a Telehealth phone call with my surgeon this past Monday. He had the results of the xrays I had done about three weeks ago.He said my x-rays look good but he did see some arthritis above the cage he put in and more than likely that is where my pain is coming from. I explained to him that I had not had any PT because I didn’t feel comfortable going anyplace right now because of the virus. He said he totally understood and his family was staying put also and that I was doing the right thing. He asked if I would like to do some video PT and I told him I would. I also told him I still had some numbness in my hip and both feet and he said those areas would be the last to heal.We ended the conversation with him saying PT is the answer to all my problems and it could take a year or longer.I think probably as long as there is arthritis in my back my pain there will be permanent, OR perhaps the PT will help that also. I hope so. He asked me to check in with him again in 4-5 months. I guess we both just need to be patient.
Kendal Adams says
Jane although I am a little younger than you and you had your surgery 2 months ahead of me, I am feeling the exact same pain after fusion. Bend over just an inch and try and get back up, I feel I have no support in my back and a shooting pain no muscular. Anytime my hips shift it kills as well. The act of standing up hurts too, I am fine when I lie down on my back flat. Roll in bed it hurts. I doubt my left foot pain numbness will ever go away and I am fine with that but I want to be able to load a dishwasher, sweep a garage out or rake some leaves or paint a wall in my house but all of those things hurt like hell. Walking up stairs hurts or walking up hills. Please update me on what your surgeon says as I think we have the same pain after fusion and if one of us finds the fix or the issue we might be able to share with our surgeons. I have been searching for someone with the same pain as me post fusion. Good luck and keep me updated please. Did your surgeon say anything about Subsidence? At 2 months my surgeons assistant mentioned that.. I assume it means the spacer they put into my spine to separate the disc is digging or sinking into my spine and causing my issues but I wont know until I go back. Good luck.
Great blog! So insightful and so encouraging! You are super woman with all the things are are able to do now:)
In Oct 19, I had a spinal fusion at the S1-L5 with brackets, screws and a spacer. The doc removed the crushed disk (and hopefully threw it in a river, that dang thing). I’ve been in pain for almost six years. It started as a herniated disk due to a hard birth. Over time, two more disks herniated. The docs tried everything- PT, two epidural steroid shots, three radio frequency ablations (burning off the nerve endings), medicine, back pain yoga, courses on mentally closing the doors to pain, several other psychological attempts to “rethink” the pain away (yeah… nope), chiropractics..
By the time I was getting the surgery scheduled, I was in so much pain that I could barely walk and I was fixated on the pain. I could hardly function. I wasn’t able to handle the Tramadol and had to pull over on my 1 hour commute to throw up and pass out in my car (at the rest stations along 95 in NJ! Sheesh) Naproxen was causing ulcers and the Lydocaine patches couldn’t help. My blood pressure was dangerously high from the amount of pain .. and that almost caused me to not get the shots and RFA’s done. The back brace was forcing me to compensate and use other muscles.
BTW, I was 36 when I had my baby, then 38 with the second child. I was 41 almost 42 for the spinal fusion.
As soon as the surgery was over, I went from a 10+ pain level to zero. The only thing that really hurt was the incision- the doc cut my waistline from hip to hip and scooped out my organs to get to the spine. That incision pain was totally worth it. I used a walker for about two days, then switched to a cane. I weened off the Oxy in about a week and was able to make a good transition to Tylenol. I used my cane all through Nov, Dec and Jan just to make sure I didn’t slip and fall.
My symptoms were really similar to yours, Sharon. The biggest thing I remember was the odd nerve pain on my right leg- all of my original nerve pain was on the left side. It wasn’t painful, it was just obvious.
One thing I think was happening was, all of the crushed and pinched nerves were finally able to heal. The doctor removed the damaged disk and put in a tall spacer with lots of tall brackets. He really wanted to open up all of those crushed areas. Over time, those nerves healed and that random tingling/extremely cold foot sensation went away.
In early January, I had to go into NYC for a meeting. I didn’t quite time the trains right and the Uber was too slow, so I decided to walk. In heels. Five miles round trip. Bad idea with the heels- the walking part was probably fine. The next day, I felt like I had jammed my left hip- luckily my PT person was able to unjam it. That took about two months to continually unjam before it felt normal. I do not walk in heels for any reason now- I don’t think I could bear jamming my hip again.
Somewhere in the fourth month post-surgery, I finally felt like I was strengthening all of those core muscles/compensating muscles had evened out. I was seriously using my right side to compensate for the left side. I started skipping days where I didn’t need the Tylenol. The stretches of “good days” were getting long and longer- the “bad days” were less and less.
The doc did say that when it’s cold out, I’ll feel the hardware- and I did. There were a few really cold days where all that metal was ice cold and chilled me to the core. Nothing like a cup of hot tea and a heating pad couldn’t fix.
I completed my 2x a week PT in late Feb/early March, right when COVID hit (that was about 5 months post surgery). I was terrified to go outside, but I continued to stretch. My hamstrings and calves were so out of shape and tight!
I had Xrays at 3 months and 8 months. They didn’t see much fusing at the 3 month mark but at the 8 month mark, things were looking great. I notice that my nails and hair grow extremely fast. I think it’s from the super human growth protein that was packed into the spacer/replacement disk to stimulate bone growth. Probably not true, but I like that theory!
We are finishing up the month of June and I just did my first virtual distance competition after a friend pushed me to get out and start walking. I logged 75 miles for the competition and I feel like a new person. I had a few achy heels and sore feet at the beginning but it was probably due to unused muscles. I stretch a LOT. There’s really no back pain to complain of. I feel like I got a new lease on life.
I’m starting another virtual distance competition on July and I want to log 100 miles, which means I need to walk every day. I’ll be 9 months post surgery for this July challenge.
I’ll never regret the spinal fusion- I was in pain so long that I didn’t feel human, and that’s not a way to live.
The recovery does take time. Don’t push it- do what feels good and grow from there.
Just like Sharon said, if it hurts or there’s pain, slow down or stop. I hope that all of us who have had this type of surgery have a speedy and healthy recovery!!
Joe Todora says
Hello Sharon. Your blog is the best I have come across on the web. So much great information and encouragement throughout the comments. I am 57 years old and in Week 7 of 12, recovering from multilevel posterior lumbar laminectomy, discectomy, and fusion. Was a 4.5-5 hour surgery.
Pre-surgery: The pain started in my upper hips and deep left and right thighs. I tried it all between injections and PT. PT made things worse, and the Injections worked for less than a week. (I qualified for a rhizotomy procedure at the end of March…and then COVID!) Over the course of April, my condition gradually worsened with excruciating sciatica down both legs. Felt like I was hit by a bolt of lightening from waist down. Finally my left leg was going numb and I was falling down. I could not walk on my own or stand from a sitting position. Lost all strength. SCARY STUFF. My neurosurgeon examined me and scheduled me for emergency surgery 2 days later.
I had to enter the hospital by wheelchair.
During surgery, the neurosurgeon discovered that 2 of my discs had actually ruptured (fluid actually shot out). That was in addition to the severe stenosis and spondylosisthesis from L2 – L5. He said it was quite a “clean up” job! HA
Post surgery: First 2 weeks were rough to say the least. Thank goodness for shower chairs and toilet seat risers!! I could barely get out of the bed and had to use a walker. The good news…….I was actually walking again!
The initial surgery pain went away after a couple of weeks. I ditched the walker started walking on my own during Week 3. The sciatica pain is completely gone!! HALLELUJAH!!! By end of Week 4, I was able to go up and down the stairs. At this point, I also started longer walks outside.
Now in week 7, I am logging about 3.5-4 miles per day. I’m not setting any land speed records, but progress, right? I have slight pain in right upper hip if I sit in one place for too long.
My main issue…..HIP FLEXORS! They are wound up as tight as golf balls.
So, my question for you and everyone: Did anyone else experience the severe hip flexor issue? Does it get better and how long did it take? I am on strict “NO BLT” so I’m afraid to do some of the hip flexor stretches.
I’m all ears and would greatly appreciate some advice!! Thanks!!
Sitting has been a huge challenge…such tightness, especially on L side. Listen to your body…be very aware, especially as you do PT. I found the figure 4 stretch for my piriformis was key, along with stretching the hip flexors and lastly the hams and quads. I could do the fig 4 stretch on my back. Look on facebook for BacktoLife…Great videos on stretching – she was a low back pain sufferer and has overcome with stretching and strengthening…but as post surgical patients, we need to run things by our PT/doc teams. Always. I have found my hips/thighs/glutes are key to a healthier back because those are the platform for your spine. Hope you find help…and DONT overstretch or push strengthening…take it slow and easy. Better to underdo than overdo. We all heal at a different pace.
Joe Todora says
Thanks Bobbi! I will check out the BacktoLife info. I’m on no BLT for another 5 weeks, so hopefully there are some hip flexor stretches that I can safely do. Will definitely clear things with the surgeon first. I have been doing the Figure 4. Actually have found that one provides me the most benefit. If I may ask, how far out are you from your surgery?
I am 5.5 months out. Still having numbness and some pain in my L leg. I had a very compressed nerve and my surgeon nicked a nerve causing a spinal fluid leak post surgery. So that may be complicating my recovery. I am still on no BLT b/c I have not fused yet. I do a hip flexor stretch in a standing position, keeping my back straight…no arch. Semi-lunge position with body upright and both knees bent. The leg that is back, you flex that glute muscle and tuck pelvis forward so it is under you more. That works for me…and I put the same side arm up to get a stretch all the way up my side. I learned it in PT. My back is straight with core engaged! HTH
And I am finding my muscles are just starting to relax in the last month or so…my back and legs were so very tight post surgery. I enjoyed great flexibility pre-surgery. And I was in decent shape going into surgery…walked 2-3 miles briskly daily before surgery. A runner up until a year before surgery. This really knocked me down. I would say lumbar surgery is no joke.
If you were walking so well before surgery and so flexible, what was the reason to have the surgery? I have chronic sciatica, but still very functional, flexible. etc. Fusion was left on the table, but I opted out at this time. Thanks!
Eric…I could not sit for much more than a few minutes…I could not do any exercise that involved even a little impact, like running or tennis or pickleball. I could only stand for maybe 10 minutes at a time…so my options were down to walking or lying down. So I walked a lot all day around my home…even going in my car was tough because I had to sit. I also had cervical spine issues..which are fine after a double disc replacement. That was easy peasy. This lumbar spine TLIF is like being hit by a truck. Perhaps in another 6 moths I will be singing a different tune. But I thought I would be down for 3 months then gradually getting back to what life was like before the spondy issues started to bother me. Getting older ain’t for sissies, my grandmother used to say. Indeed.
Eric….I understand. Thank you telling your story. I am very glad you are doing well…the sky is the limit now and you will continue to do great!
Hi Bobbi, I also have spondylislothesis and am scheduled to have an OLIF spinal fusion this coming Thursday the 29th. I am so scared if I am making the right decision or not… I am only 30 years old but have been throwing out my back from the instability in my spine since I was 23 years old. I can’t sit or stand for long periods of time and also cannot do anything high impact such as running. To be honest, in the last few months I can’t even walk very far without wearing high compression waist band to support my lower back. BUT I have no sciatica pain or nerve issues. Just tightness in my glutes and hamstrings and low back pain. I am curious how you are doing today and if the surgery was worth it to you? Did it fix your issues or just cause more? Any information is greatly appreciated.
Anne Tubbs says
I am five weeks out of having a multilevel fusion – they fused from L3 to S1. I am feeling great except for being tired all the time. The first two weeks of recovery were horrible with a lot of pain and extra nerve pain down both legs but that seems to have subsided and now I only have slight nerve pain in my left leg but only in the quad area. I go back to see my wonderful surgeon on July 14 and I’m hoping he’ll give me clearance to go back to work part time. I never thought that my back could actually be fixed. I lived with a constant pain level of 8 to 9 and now I actually have days or times when it’s down to zero. My only complaint is the constant wearing up the back brace – hopefully that will end soon too…:-). Next, I think my doctor is going to advise that I start PT. I’m interested to know others experiences with PT and what it hoped to accomplish. Happy healing!
I love this blog, reading everyone’s experience is very helpful. Just like the Dr told me everyone is different. I am 13 weeks post op and somehow have gone downhill, ugh. My lower back (Not the surgical site) and legs ache all the time. The Dr changed me to a different muscle relaxant and some PT. I do everything, Pilates, walking, household chores, I just do things a bit slower. I still have full nerve pain.
When i sit against something or lay on the bed I always feel something poking me. The x-rays look good, so the Dr isn’t sure if it’s the hardware yet. Super uncomfortable! Anyone else out there with this poking feeling?
My husband just had the same surgery 2 weeks ago, so added stress taking care of him too! Our house is a hit mess, but it will get better
Well everyone I’m 59 was very active and full of life I still try to be but it’s extremely difficult after 2 back surgeries a year apart . First fusion was 9-18-18 in which the surgeon didn’t fusion all my lumbar section then on 9-11-19 he redid his work and went L5- S1 . This last surgery very very painful , neither a walk in the park lol but more involved this go around . I am improving all along but I was told about 1-1and 1/2 years to fully heal and then he couldn’t alleviate all pain . My life now is don’t carry more than 10 lbs. , don’t bend at the waist to pick anything off the floor don’t don’t don’t and I am so stubborn and don’t don’t come easy . I do work hard on strengthening my arms, legs ,etc. I am no quitter! Life is tough but life is great and the surgeries were because I was in such pain walking was becoming impossible. Yes there is still is some pain and growing older isn’t easy for anyone. Was it worth it absolutely and my 3 adorable grandchildren think so too !!!! Hope this helps anyone trying to decide .
Carrie Freeman says
Great blog! I had a disectomy last oct. Went well healed fast. This Feb 26 2020 I was in a horrific elevator accident, cable snapped elevator fell crashed !! My surgery site was ruined. Excruciating pain. Waited for my amazing surgeon to get out of quarantine. April 4 fusion!!! L4 l5. Slow recovery!!! Only at 7 weeks noticed huge difference. I was doing extremely well until this week my daughter insisted we go for car ride. Bumpy spots !!! Not smooth. So next day i awoke with really uncomfortable lower back in incision spot. I spent weekend in bed. A touch better today being Monday june 15. But scared the rod and cage are ruined . Of what I’ve been told it’s not easy to wreck this hardware. Hopefully I’m just paranoid. What are your thoughts
I think I erased what I said lol I did want u to know Carrie my surgeon didn’t fuse all lumbar and left one vertebrae so a year later back to redo that plus a lot of scraping on my tail bone I am getting better but the surgery was much worst the therapy more difficult a lot harder this last go around what I’m saying is if u fill something isn’t right it probably isn’t so don’t wait to long to have that checked good luck !
Hi Sharon and others, I had Least Invasive Decompression with Interbody Fusion (L4-L5 and L5-S1) on January 3, 2020. I’m a little over 5 months out. The recovery has been miserably slow for me mostly due to severe nerve pain in my left foot. It was so bad, I went to the emergency room 10 days after my surgery. It wasn’t the kind of nerve pain I hear others describe like burning. Mine felt like someone was sawing off my toe! The first 3 weeks were absolutely terrible. I used a walker for 8 weeks, a cane for 2 weeks, and then could finally, slowly walk on my own. I think I took too many meds for too long, but my doctor didn’t advise me to stop. So I didn’t for probably 8 weeks. It’s hard to remember now.
At 5 months, I’m still taking Gabapentin and experiencing foot pain most of the time, and especially at night.
I’m still doing PT once a week. They use a technique that focuses on fascia.
I’m trying to stay positive and focus on progress, but it’s honestly very challenging. I don’t feel like me anymore.
I truly appreciate everyone sharing their stories!
I have had toe pain in one toe!! It goes away on days when my back is doing well. I have been helped so much by doing stretches like Pelvic tilts, Figure 4 for but/hips, hip flexor/lunge with hips forward, and hamstrings…in that order of importance! Look for Back to Life by Emily ?? On Facebook…go to her video section there and do the stretches and core strengthening. She also had back problems and is pain free. It’s a game changer. Learning to align my neck with my spine has also improved everything down my spine so my posture isn’t forward. It’s a big shift but worth the DAILY effort…no big résulte for the first 7-10 days. Slow but sure will finish this race! Praying for you.
Thank you Bobbi! I genuinely appreciate the information. I’ll be checking that out today!
Mary Thomas says
Sharon, I just had the L-4-5-S1 fusion with a lumbar lamendectomy from L3- down. Your personal account of recovery was so helpful. I had surgery 2 weeks ago and doing very similar to what you experienced. I thought I heard a pop last week and then my right leg was in such nerve pain. I went back to surgeon the next day and x-rays looked fine and they put me on oral steroids. It helped take the sharp pain away but I still am having some pain in that leg. – from butt to knee – when I stand or sit. Anyways, my overall pain is pretty good and still on pain medication but now trying to go longer in-between to start weening off. Any thoughts on the leg pain – it sounded like you had that in week 2 also. Thank you.
I’m surprised to hear your doctor gave you steroids. My doctors made sure I didn’t Have steroid injection at least 3mos before surgery and not take Alleve or fish oil or any type of steroidal meds for 6mos because they can interfere with proper healing. I would double check Even with another doctor to be sure.
I had quite a bit of pain off and on for 6 mos but it slowly got better when I over did it. But less often with more time between episodes. Still was painful after that but again less and less as time went by.
Patience is the hardest but most important to practice.
Rita Linch says
Thank you so much for your blog and photos of your back surgery recovery. I have completed 3 weeks post-op. Just to hear others recovery stories help keep me positive and realistic in what to expect during this long recovery process. Thank you so much for the hope your post has given me.
Richard Meyers says
Thanks for your post. Tomorrow is three weeks out from three level fusion with gear and the other two types of surgeries that come with it. I am able to do quite a bit but by the end of the night I am literally read tired and tonight I am taking a pill for bed. I am doing no BLTs and trying to be extra careful on every thing else. I want to walk but it seems that I either walk or around the house things. In reading yours I guess that I am doing ok. I have had 3ones replacements. A shoulder replacement and a previous back surge plus more smaller ones. (10′ tall and bullet proof my whole life) I just don’t want to call behind but also don’t want to mess anything wrong.
Thank you for posting it has given me great hope through moments of healing. Question for you Was postop on 17 May 2020. I am healing really good. Except for a fall I had about three weeks ago. I was sore for about a week but I’m feeling really good again. My question for you is I get up and do my housework/chores etc. and exhaustion comes on me after being up for about five hours. Is this normal? I had the same surgery you did
Debbie C. says
Hi Paula! I was totally exhausted for a good 6 months!!, all normal, the surgery is major and it takes time to get back to feeling yourself again, give it time… I saw small changes every 1-2 months, please don’t get discouraged as I once did.. Good Luck to you!!
Anne Tubbs says
I am scheduled for a fusion of L3-L4-L5 the day after tomorrow. I am more than ready for this but of course also very nervous. I have had 2 previous back surgeries but no fusions until now. I am glad to read all the comments and to have people specifically say that recovery takes time. I’m pretty sure I have my head set to an unreasonably quick recovery and it’s good to hear otherwise.. to hear the honest truth. I am currently out on disability and in a lot of pain. Pain which actually makes it almost impossible for me to walk. I will be happy to get this taken care of. Thanking you all in advance for your advice!
I am scheduled lumbar fusion and also have a pars defect. I will have anterior and posterior surgery. I too am terrified having even canceled once. I too think I have no idea how challenging the recovery will be. While I am confident in my surgeons and medical team- I feel like they don’t tell you everything to expect.
Vicki Smith says
What they don’t tell you is how long recovery can take, and more importantly, you will get a bit depressed and have ups and downs. It’s normal. Good luck! I hope all goes well.
I’ve recently found your blog and am catching up on all the good info in here. I’m having an ALIF this Thursday and your experience is making me think that it’s more possible to have a successful result and fulfilling post-surgery life. One question though, I don’t see any braces in your pictures – did you not have to wear one? My surgeon has given me one and I’m under the impression I’m supposed to wear it non-stop (except showers and sleeping) for 3 months.
Did you have pain on the sciatica sides after surgery? I’m 4 months post op and have pain most days on the sciatica sides of my lower back. Also will I ever be able to bend again?
john Ackerman says
4th week anniversary L4 L5 TLif at Mayo in Jax. 2nd day after surgery walking without walker, pain pills are liars 🙂 no more pain meds now, ok without. still quite a bit of pain but manageable. walking good.
your blog has been a great inspiration God Bless
debbie C says
Thanks for this website!! I am now one year 5 months post op… I am turning 59 years young soon and I feel great, double spinal fusion with decompression L4-5, S1-S2… the surgery changed my life!, everyone out there hang in there after surgery I had the nerve pain and everything else was depressed many times, BUT every month got better!!! There is light at the end of the tunnel!!!
Sharon Wilhelm says
That’s awesome, Debbie! I hope things just keep getting better & better for you. <3
Thank you for sharing. I’m 3 weeks post op and it was nice reading your progress. It helped me a lot.
Sharon Wilhelm says
I’m so glad to hear that, Jorge. Stay well…
mukul sheth says
I am not sure if I will recover hals as well as you since I am 75 years healthy disabled. Quite fir otherwise but cannot walk more than 200 ft. out side. Have had two surgeries on the back at l3-l4 and l5-s1. Need fusion at L5-s1 now. I am not trusting God will help og my sweetheart of 52 years who is also a PT/OT. Time will tell. My kids are staying about 200 miles from us so we will have to fight it our selves. Thanks for your blog.
Back fusion…quite the experience!
You are so right Sharon, everyone ( and every DR ) seems to have a different experience and recovery level. I am 57, and was in decent shape prior to lower back pain and nerve pain ( the worse! ) that started down my R leg and would electrocute me through my toes. I had one epidural shot and the pain became X10 in Dec 2018. One month later I had a laminectomy at L4/5/S1. The nerve pain became out of control post op and debilitated me for a year. I finally succumbed to having a fusion out of desperation.
What was interesting to me is the Surgeons have such differing views on recoup. Some still use a “turtle shell” for 6 months while others do not recommend any brace ( like mine ). Some start rehab at 6 weeks, some at 12. I have heard so many differing methods that I didn’t know where I fell in the recovery spectrum which seems to be something we all want to know.
I am now 10.5 weeks post op ALIF ( to replace disks and place small rods and screws in the front ) and PLIF (to put large screws and rods in the back ). My first few weeks sounded like yours…extremely painful. Unfortunately my nerve pain became much worse while lying down and sitting which is not helpful for healing. Like you, I wanted to rest often because my body wanted that. I ended up instead shuffling around the house for hours a day.
For the first 8 weeks my exercise routine was to walk ( 2 X 25-45 mins a day ) and very gentle stretching. Hamstrings were amazingly tight. I am now doing some rehab exercises at home as the COVID19 virus has closed all rehabs ( bad timing ). I already feel stronger after 2 weeks although I experience pain ( level 4-5 ) the remainder of the day. During the movements it actually feels good though.
Also, I am exhausted most days but need a sleep aid because nerve pain will wake me every 20 minutes. With a sleep aid I average 3-5 hours of sleep. At 10.5 weeks, the nerve pain is relentless and the back pain is like a brick in your spine. My Surgeon has OK’ed me to start mild BLT and I hope this helps loosen things up.
I read stories like yours and am so envious yet glad some respond so quickly and pain free. My recommendation, like many here, would be to avoid any back surgery until it is your LAST resort. Not all go as well. It seems age and prior health are major factors ( Im sure the proper surgeon helps too! )
Things to consider prior to surgery…definitely buy a stick to pick up items from the floor, a cane for transitioning off the walker, and have plenty of help for the first 3-4 weeks, most likely you will need it.
Thanks for sharing your story, the gains you have made are inspiring for us over 50 crowd!
Olive Sanders says
Kids heal much faster than adults. I had spinal fusion when I was 12, and the hospital tries to get kids walking on day 2 or 3. For kids, the stay is usually 4-6 days, and by then they are very ready to walk. I walked an hour and a half, without stopping, 6 days after the surgery. I was in pain for about 6 weeks, but I was not taking pain medication 2 weeks after surgery. I had all my restrictions (or at least the ones that could interfere with daily activities) taken off after 3 months. I did find that strengthening my legs was helpful before the surgery, because I couldn’t bend my back for 6 weeks. After 6 months I was back to normal activities.
B LH says
I had a grade 3 spondylolisthesis that did not cause me pain before surgery as long as I didn’t sit or stand for very long. So I was constantly moving or lying down. This kept me in good shape and out of pain. No sciatic pain for me. After years of limited activity, I had a TLIF at L5-6 the first week of January. I did not anticipate how weak I would feel afterward! I could hardly walk up the stairs the day after surgery when I got home because my legs were so shaky. Then I developed a spinal headache due to a leak of cerebral spinal fluid due to the fact the surgeon had nicked a nerve root’s dura covering. This was not diagnosed for 3 weeks, which kept me in bed (due to the severe headache that goes away when lying down!) for a few weeks until I got that resolved. So, though I am 6 weeks post-op, I have not been up and around as much as I should have been without that complication. I can now walk 2 miles altogether throughout the day…just slowly inside my home. I find it hard to sit for more than 10 minutes. I only get a little pain down my L leg if I overdo it or sit for longer periods. My kids are teens – I sometimes can get them to watch a movie in bed with me. The boredom is tough…I listen to podcasts, watch youtube and talk to friends. I am still tired, but not as bad as even a week ago. I tell my husband I keep waking hoping to feel like my old self! I will see the surgeon at 3 months. I cannot imagine feeling healthy again…I feel so feeble. Has anyone taken supplements to promote bone growth of the fused area? I was looking at the Susan Brown’s Better Bones program. My surgeon said my bones were not as healthy as he would have liked them to be. Osteopenia/porosis. I would love feedback on this issue.
I’m so sorry you’re having such a difficult time. As hard as it is try to be patient. It takes time to recover, longer for some of us than others. I don’t know of anything for stimulating bone growth. I took calcium and made sure I stayed away from fish oil supplements and other things that can be bad for bone growth. I would stay away from carbonated drinks too.
Hang in there.
Interesting information here, thanks! I have 11 vertebrae fused in 2012. I feel like it went well. I was off work for 12 weeks. Today I do elliptical and water aerobics and some walking on the beautiful beach in St. Augustine. I have some knee and hip pain from arthritis. We are looking for a new mattress. I like sleeping on my side when my hip doesn’t complain. I was wondering if anyone had suggestions?
Lisa, thank you for sharing your success! My husband who had 8 vertebrae fused recently and I were wondering whether or not to purchase a new mattress and will be following others’ comments.
Russ snedker says
Hi, I’ve had multiple spinal surgeries starting with an S1/L5 and a C3/4 both were done in Dubai they weren’t successful and the surgeon had left a pin uncut which had been digging into the vertebrae of L4 causing a lot of pain. I had that metalwork removed in 2018 in the UK and have had more surgeries, so now I’m fused on L4/5/S1 being the latest work. Also fused after the new disc put in place in Dubai had slipped forward C3/4/5/6 now.
I’ve suffered for the last 7 years after these surgeries started.
Since the last surgery, when the surgeon ‘misplaced’ a screw touching my nerves was discovered on a CT scan. I was operated on again the follow day and had the metalwork redone.
I suffer from the tiredness you describe constantly!
I was taking oromorph, dihydrocodeine, pregablin, diclofenac, for pain and Amitriptyline to help me sleep at night. I know, it sounds weird to say I needed help to sleep, when I also said that I’m constantly exhausted! But I did. It’s now 12 weeks since that surgery and I’m still experiencing terrible pain in my left leg caused by the nerve damage. It’s such a strange feeling that changes. I’m having different sensations in my calf, one side hyper sensitive and the other side numb. Tingling on the top of both feet. A feeling of heat on my left thigh and buttock. My left leg is painful and week. I try to walk without a stick but find that quite hard and after a while painful. My back is still painful on movement around the surgery site. I’m off to see the surgeon today for my first post op check. I don’t feel like much has helped so far, were the surgeries worth it?? I’ll write more later….
Thank you for starting this blog. My husband is 12 days post-surgery for S1-T11 fusion due to severe stenosis all up and down. He is making slow but steady progress. He came home with the same of cocktail of tramadol, gabapentin and Tylenol he was on before surgery. His pain level is usually a 1 and probably incision/muscle pain – not what he was experiencing before surgery. Even though he was warned not to do so, he thought he could rid himself of the tramadol and within 12 hours, he was back at a 4 level pain. He has moved from the walker to a cane. Yesterday was one of those “down” days and I showed him your blog. It reset both of our brains. Just like you, he is totally exhausted and is accepting that this will be the norm for quite awhile. Again, thank you for letting him (and me) know that his steady but slow progress is normal.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Ann. My husband had major knee surgery in October, and he tried to go without pain meds too. Luckily his surgeon told him to stop being stubborn! 🙂 The first two weeks were incredibly difficult, much harder than I expected. The nerve pain in particular was a total shock to me. My husband felt so helpless – I imagine you feel that way too. For me, the big turning points were 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 6 months. Hopefully he’ll be feeling much better (relatively speaking) this time next month.
Also keep in mind that more levels fused may equal longer/harder recovery (sorry to say that, ugh). I was “only” fused at 2 levels, so your husband’s recovery timeline might be different from mine. Just know that he’s in the worst of it now and that things will get better!!! Please give him my best.
Hi, Sharon! I wanted to share a positive report at five weeks post surgery. Hubby totally weaned off of pain meds at about 2-1/2 weeks and can walk a half mile without resting. He has no pain and only stops due to weakness. Just thinking about how before surgery he could only go a half block before stopping due to unbearable pain makes me tear up! He is not ready to declare total success, but so far it is definitely the road to a miracle.
At about three weeks he really started becoming less dependent upon me. Now his only challenge is getting shoes on. He saw an occupational therapist who adjusted a wiper so that he rarely needs me for toileting. She also gave him other helpful hints and assured him that it does get better. A good occupational therapist is worth his/her weight in gold.
Another godsend is our local Y. The track is new and smooth. Needless to say, many approach him just to encourage and ask questions as this huge brace acts like a magnet. We also find reasons for him to do extra walking – going to a large store (i.e., Menards, Walmart, grocery) and walking the perimeter. Walking in our neighborhood this time of year is a challenge, but hopefully we are over halfway through the ice/snow/cold of winter. “Long” walks work best in the morning as his energy wains during the day. Just like you said, some days are better than others as his energy levels seem to vary.
Nutrition-wise I log every morsel he eats. It is a balance between blood sugar and needed nutrition to promote healing. A daily shake with kefir, Greek yogurt and powder ups the protein. For those who are diabetic, it really is a challenge. He does not take insulin, but apparently the body goes into overdrive after surgery so oral meds often do not last the intended 12 hours. The result is some “bouncing.” Thank goodness the number range is narrowing, and he is tolerating a few more carbs than normal!
He is looking forward to next week’s six week appointment. He should be able to start driving again and get rid of the huge brace. That brace is a love-hate relationship, but it does remind him that he cannot BLT, yet it supports the extremely weak core muscles. We are both in hopes that he can start walking in the pool and figure out a timeline when he can go to PT for some balance and gait issues as he now stands straight after years of walking/standing crooked.
We even purchased plane tickets for the 12-week point in hopes of visiting family who winters in Arizona. Time will tell, but I am guessing he will be walking a mile at a time and probably walking a total of five miles a day. (He is already at the two mile point already.) He is still having a challenge thinking of himself walking these distances after years of exercising only on a recumbant bike due to pain while walking. That mindset change is a hurdle he will clear! Hooray!
Elaine Orlich says
Hi Brenda, I guess one word of advice would be to stay away from certain blogs. They can discourage you. Go into the surgery being positive, with the love, support, encourage and support of others.
Having a raised toilet seat with handles, helps immensely getting up and down on the throne.
Shower chair a must. Non skid slippers or footies. You don’t want to fall.
Comfortable pj’s as your laying down a lot.
Make sure everything you need is counter level.
Drink lots if water. Eat and drink lots of protein.
Walk, walk and walk some more. Baby steps, but each day it gets better.
It still hurts for me to walk, but walk I must.
Get a grabber. You don’t want to bend, twist or lift.
Surround yourself with music, good reads and friends and family that will encourage and support you during this very difficult time.
Brenda Floyd says
Thank you for the advice and information. I really appreciate it. I have tried chiropractic care for over 20 years, decompression for 12, series of 3 epidural shots and 2 rounds of physical therapy. The pain has increased to where it is definitely interfering with daily life. I sure hope I am making the right decision. The neurosurgeon said that surgery is inevitable.
As is Brenda, I’m so glad to find this site.
I have had four fusions. S1-L5 back in 2001. A second lumbar fusion in 2009 (new doctor) and then this past August an anterior lumbar fusion followed by the big, (8 hour) posterior one, two days later. So, I’m now fused all the way from S1 to T10. Following these two surgeries my right leg had awful nerve pain and I had lost a lot the ability to lift my leg at all when in a sitting position. So in October my surgeon did another operation and, thank God, it did relieve those issues.
I’ve just hit my 5 month anniversary and am still experiencing back pain. To be honest, I feel like I’ve had an alien implanted in my back. Two 12 inch rods and a bucket full of screws and hardware. At this point the pain seems to be more muscular that nerve related but I still get occasional sharp pains in my lower back.
While I’m scheduled for my 6 month follow up in February, I plan to contact my doctor on Monday to see if I can get a CT scan to assure that everything appears to be healing properly. I’m 73 and have been healthy and active all my life. I’ve been telling my friends that I plan to write a book entitled, “How to age 10 years in 5 Months”. One of my biggest issues has been the physical limitations I’m now dealing with. Can’t bend over and tie my shoes or put on socks. Have to use one of those squeezer sticks to pick up things I drop on the floor. Getting in and out of the car is painful.
I guess what I’d like to say to those still contemplating fusion surgery is please explore all other options available!! Once you start down the fusion highway, there’s no getting off the bus. Eventually the next disk above your fusion will likely fail.
I have one of the top spinal surgeons in the country and have total confidence in him but I’m finding myself wondering if this is a good as it’s going to get. Progress has been very, very slow this past month. At my age I hate to wish away time but right now I’m wishing it was my 12 month anniversary coming up rather than just my fifth. I realize that we heal slower as we age but right now I’m very frustrated. I didn’t experience anything like this with the first two fusions.
PS… I’ve been off all pain meds for 3 weeks now but at this point feel like I’m either going to end up and alcoholic or drug addict.
Brenda Floyd says
So glad I found this site. Am scheduled for a 3 level fusion on 1/14/20. Of course I am nervous and concerned. Am trying to learn everything I can. The comments are helpful. Will get another MRI this Monday. After the results, the neurosurgeon will decide if it will be a DLIF L2-L5 or a posterior screw fixation.. L1-L5. What would you all say would be the most important things you have learned to do and not to do that helped during recovery?
Duane Smith says
Well, Brenda, if you read my earlier post then you know that I seem to be the “good news” exception to most of the experiences posted. I am not sure what post-surgery differences you will experience since yours is an upper-spine fusion compared to mine being a lower-spine fusion. I am now 18 days post-surgery (mine was posterior) and, since coming home, I have been doing most of the normal things (although more carefully) that don’t involve bending. I am leaning on my virtue of ‘Patience’ … it is very hard to just sit around and not be out doing things. Hopefully, when I have my 30 day visit with my Doc, he will get me started on physical therapy.
Brenda Floyd says
Thank you for responding. Having the surgery is such a huge decision. So glad your recovery is going well. Mine will be in the lumbar area. Just trying to breathe, learn and prepare while waiting for 1/14 surgery date. I am very nervous.
Duane Smith says
I, too, try to refrain from surgeries. And, after my initial consultation with my neurosurgeon, I was leaning toward not having the surgery. Then, my son (a chiropractor) reviewed my MRI with me and gave me a much more thorough analysis of my condition. When he said it was not a matter of “IF” but “WHEN”, that made my mind up for me.
I hope your surgery turns out as good as mine. Keep us posted …. and, if you would like to have a more direct communication, my email is email@example.com.
Brenda Floyd says
Thank you for your reply. do have a few questions that I would like to ask. Thanks again.
Elaine Orlich says
So it’s Christmas Day… and I could easily forgo the festivities today. I’ve already had to stay home from many holiday gathering’s because of my pain.
It’s been four months and ten days since my surgery. I’m doing everything I know to do. Just thought my pain levels would be much better.
Yes, I’ve made progress… but it’s been slow… very slow.
I walk… but it hurts. Still can’t drive. Sitting in a car sends me over the edge.
As I’ve mentioned before, I get another CT scan done the first week in February.
Hopefully it will show that I’m beginning to fuse.
Ive been very brave through all of this, but I must confess… it’s gotten old… really old.
My faith is strong… but it’s certainly being stretched to its limits.
What a great service that you started, Sharon. Thank YOU. I am a fairly-fit, slightly overweight 76 year old that loves to golf and bowl. Four days ago I had a L4-S1 spinal fusion. The surgery went great and, for some reason, I was blessed with very little post-surgery pain. The nurse kept asking if I wanted some Tramadol, but I didn’t feel the need. I was taking Gabapentine before the surgery for my pain and that is what I continued with after the surgery. The day after surgery I was walking unassisted and climbing the stairs under the guidance of my PT. Two days after surgery I came home, although the 2 hour drive was pretty rough on me. I have not had to use a shower chair or a toilet riser and I am able to get around our tri-level house without any problems.
Now for the Pain Report……. As others have said, I had pain down my right leg before surgery and now a
little different pain extends down my left leg. My only other pain is in the area of my incision, especially when I cough or sit down and get in/out of bed. I am finding the need for frequent naps and that seems to be when the leg pain is the worst.
I was hoping to start my longer-range walks today (11 times around our back yard equals 1 mile), however, Mother Nature had other plans. We woke up to 4″ of snow and, with the forecasted cold spell, it will be around for awhile.
One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned is the use of a “Spine Fusion Stimulator”. I was provided with one pre-surgery and it is supposed to help the bone healing process. I don’t know how that can be measured so we’ll just have faith that it is helping. I sure hope my insurance covers the $3000 cost. I wear my back brace when I am up walking and occasionally when I am sitting.
Jennie Rogers says
Wow, but after my tlif – fusion from L2-L5 and major bone grafts at T9 & pelvis. I had scoliosis, ddd, osteoarthritis, nerve root compression, etc. After wk 9 I still have good & bad days. I walk a mile or more every day when up to it. Still have numbness on top of my thighs bit they tingle (painful at times) bit nerves are healing. I have to use a bone growth stimulator every day, shower by myself, etc. I haven’t slept great since months b4 the surgery. I don’t have the pain I had b4, but I’m quite uncomfortable most of the time. Good & bad days. My surgery was 8 hrs and after 4 nights in the hospital, spent 16 days in rehab. On my own ever since. After my 2nd post op visit saw my xrays and my neurosurgeon did a phenomenal job. However I’m full of rods, cages, & screws. No wonder still uncomfortable. I’m taking it day by day, but I’ll never do anything like this again. I will be every bit of 6 mos to a yr to heal. Some days, I’m like ok it’s better, then a rainy day comes and I have painful twinges most likely due to nerve healing. I keep on praying. At least you had family around and not on disability. Don’t make it month to month, but I manage. God I pray literally has my back in His mighty hands.
Mel Buckingham says
Just want to say I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who is 10 months post opp from an L4 L5 fusion. I’m 63 BTW and consider myself very lucky! I have just a little sciatica in my left foot but other than that pain free. I remember one thing that my Dr. said “I’ll do my Job” all I ask is you do what I say after. He told me no BLT for the first 3 months and wear the brace. He also said walk as much as comfortable. So I did baby steps, then 1 mile and after a month I averaged 5-10 miles a day. So at my next I was a little discouraged when he said again “No BLT” but I could ride my bicycle, so that I did first a couple of miles at at the 5 month mark it was 15-20 a day. So when I had my 7 month check up he said I was OK to do anything I did before, just take it slow. I’m now golfing, bike riding. I sometimes overdo it but I feel good. So hang in there if your having trouble, life is right around the corner
joyce venis says
Thank you for all this and God Bless you!!!!!I got more information here then from any other place!!!!I am 72 and will have a fusion,laminectomy,and what ever else My spine may need.I am a young,active 72.Also a nurse!!Of course I am scared.I have 2 dogs and want to be able to care for them.They are my life since my husband died.It is a pleasure to see your recovery!!!Take good care of you!!!!Thank you!!!
Hi there. Your post has helped me a lot. I am 2 weeks post op from L5-S1 fusion and i have terrible back and leg/foot nerve pain in both legs. I had bad back pain (non-nerve) and nerve pain in my left calf ore surgery. So the increased nerve pain that is debilitating is scary. My first post op is in 2 days. I’m sure he’ll say it’s inflammation. But it’s getting worse! I tried to go off the opioids and did so for a few days. Didn’t last with this pain. Like others I cannot sit or stand for any length of time. The sitting is the worst. Like someone kicked me hard in the tailbone. And then my back muscles spasm just trying to keep me upright. I had a full knee replacement in January. I can say that that pain was far worse overall. But this is nerve pain and just so difficult to psychologically deal with on a chronic basis. I just wanted to know I wasn’t a fusion fail and the post and comments help a lot! Thank you!
Elaine Orlich says
Hi Jennifer, I hope you are doing better. I’m three and a half months out and still dealing with pain.
It’s a different kind of pain, but pain it is.
Like most of us, we never thought it would hurt this much or take so long to feel better.
Saw my surgeon last week. He was very happy with my progress, but when I told him about my back pain, leg pain, foot and toe pain, he said I was still inflamed. Post op pain!
I get that burning sensation as well.
Still can’t drive. He said when I can walk for an hour non stop I can drive. Not there yet unfortunately. He said no bending, twisting or lifting still. It’s gotten old… really old.
I will have a CT scan the first week in Feb to see if I’m fusing. I have always been a very active person, so this hasn’t been easy.
Continued prayers, hope, faith are among the things to help us get through this.
Wishing you all the best.
Sharon…. we could use some encouraging words
Jennifer Golden says
I really enjoyed reading this, helped me not feel alone. I had my L5-S1 fused 8 weeks ago and am really struggling, a lot of pain still. Tonight I started with a new pain, a burning, deep burning so am nervous. This is what brought me to look around for other people and their journey. I miss working out and am exhausted as you said. Thank you for sharing!
Valerie Shewfelt says
I am facing L2-5 fusion in a week. I had L4-5 done four years ago but the stenosis is getting worse. After the last surgery I pretty much wanted to die so the thought of having three times as much done scares me to death. Just rolling over to get out of bed brought tears for the first few weeks. I live alone so I’m on my own for this. Any suggestions? I’m a 63 year old racquetball player and I wonder if I will ever be able to play again. My life could change drastically.
Wow! That is a lot and I am sorry you are facing another surgery. I had posted about my mother but this is her first and by Gods grace, only surgery ever.
I can only wish you the best and ask that you try to keep a positive mind and outlook. For my mother, that was almost 70% of the battle, getting her head in the right space and staying positive and just taking everyday as it came.
I’m curious though, why are you having changes just 4 years after your previous surgery?
Good question. My back has been bothering me again for a while but nothing I couldn’t live with. I played in a racquetball tourney in October and quickly found out I couldn’t run or change direction. I had an MRI done that showed severe stenosis, a herniated disc and bone spurs. I’ve always played a lot of sports so I’m sure that hasn’t helped, I’m overweight and apparently just really unlucky. I’m trying to keep a good attitude but it’s hard knowing what my future holds. I will get through this but it could definitely take a while. The doc is saying 1-3 months off work and a year to full recovery. My goal is to play a tourney in 10 months and that is what I will be working towards.
Elaine Orlich says
I’m not sure if your commenting on my post that I wrote yesterday. This is all new for me. Never did this before. But Lol… I don’t even see my post. Help.
My L4L5 fusion was a year ago last February. Although my healing has been up and down it was at 1 1/2 yrs when I started to feel more normal with more mobility. The mobility is still improving and my pain is less and less. I’m amazed at how long it takes to recover. It was just in August when I could do the PT exercises without a lot of pain. Up until then I walked on land and walked in water. And iced. Now I can walk pretty fast unless I’ve been sitting for a long time, especially in a car. I’m doing some of the PT exercises and beginning to do some of the exercises I did before my back pain interfered. I even floated in a pool on my back yesterday without pain today and slid down a kiddy pool slide (very tame slide). So although slow it’s getting better. It gets scary when I have a set back but those are getting to be fewer all the time. Hang in there!
Tracy Turner says
Thank you Patricia! I do not feel so alone in my long recovery!
Elaine Orlich says
I am now 8 weeks post op from having two surgeries a day apart from each other, with my birthday being snack dab in the middle of them. I had an laminectomy; anterior approach, then two days later, I had a spinal instrumental fusion; S5 and S1.
I ended up staying in the hospital for one week. It’s been a long and difficult journey. I’ve always been active and very much into taking care of my body.
A year ago last October I injured myself. Being the stubborn person I am, I continued to try and work through things in spite of the pain. To avoid surgery I had physical therapy, which only made things worse. I even went to a pain specialist and had three epidural infusions, which also didn’t work; with the last one making things worse.
I had to withdraw from involvement at church; went on a 12 week medical leave from work, hoping that by the time I did the above, I would be well enough to get back into full throttle. Unfortunately I had to resign from my job.
I ended up having to bring a bed downstairs, in order to make things easier for me.
I finally succumbed to having a neurosurgeon look at my MRI. He took one look at it and told me I would be facing radical surgery. I was blessed to have a nephew who worked with robotic surgery and could suggest a surgeon for me.
From the beginning I was able to take care of myself, such as getting dressed and body needs.
I showered just twice a week and washed up the other days. Totally exhausting afterwards.
A couple weeks ago, I got up in the middle of the might to go to the bathroom. I got up to wash my hands and suddenly had a horrible, unexpected spasm. A screaming kind of pain. It woke my daughter up and as she tried to help me get into bed it happened again…and I screamed… and then cried as I finally got into bed.
I have a very high pain tolerance and am certainly not a wimp. But this was mean… very mean.
On Sunday in the middle of the night I woke up in horrible pain. It took over two and a half hours before I was actually able to tolerate the pain… meds were slow to kick in. Exhausted, I finally fell asleep. But not before crying from the severity of the pain, and understanding how some people get addicted to pain pills, or even thinking that they might be dying… for surely something is terribly wrong. My pain was from the waist down, legs included… even my feet and toes hurt. Throbbing, aching like crazy.
One starts having feelings of regrets of having had the surgery. My surgeon concerned, ordered a CT scan just to make sure everything was fine.
I had one done yesterday and my surgeon followed up with me shortly after that day and showed us the pictures. He was very pleased. He told me I was an ideal patient. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I’m 3/4 of an inch taller and my muscles have been stretched.., and they have to grow. Keep walking, keep icing and keep up with the pain management.
I follow up with him in six more weeks. I have a back brace that I have to wear for a minimum of six months. It hurts to sit longer than 15 minutes at that. Standing still hurts. I walk… but it hurts. Laying down with ice a lot.
My social life consists of dr appts. Sitting in a car is horrible.
Lots of prayer and faith that this too shall pass. Once day at a time for sure and trying not to look so far ahead.
I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting it to be like this. My incisions looked great just after a week. They’ve never been an issue. It’s the rest of me lol.
So sorry to hear of your surgery and the pain you are experiencing. My mother is doing well. She is our own 100% miracle. Weaned off narcotics day 2 I believe, and was walking, sitting and doing other activities. She went to rehab for a week but only to help her learn how best to care for herself. The doctors said she was highly functional.
She is still doing well. Post surgery, she had and still has sometimes spasm/pain in her thigh— on one side. The doctor says it has to do with the nerves so she is still on gabapentine, but a lower dose of 300mg a day v. 900mg I believe.
She takes long walks everyday with a cane and sometimes walks part of the way without a cane. She can walk without a cane and does that at home, however, she says she sometimes has balance issues. We will explore that with the doctor when we see him. Her feet are still numb; they were that way before the surgery, so we are trusting God for the nerves to regenerate in time and for the sensation to return. The doctor said her nerves were super compressed/squashed.
No more buttock pain, which was how hers presented. She never had back pain. We are waiting for the 3 month x-ray to see how the bones are fusing. The doctor did not put in a spacer so she is actually shorter instead of taller. He said she already had bone on bone so it did not make sense to him to put in a spacer to restore height function.
I’m not sure I’ve answered your question, but my mother is doing really well. She goes about her daily activities, and is generally happy. She doesn’t walk as quickly/fast as she used to and that upsets her a bit. Also, her feet feel heavy, but those are probably from the pre-surgery numbness, and nothing new.
Sending healing vibes your way. It is a process and I’ve said it so many times now to my mother that she’s learned. We take it one day at a time, troubleshoot any issues if they arise, and thank God for a successful surgery and above expectation recovery.
Elaine Orlich says
I’m glad your Mom is doing well. I know we are each unique individuals and depending on what type of surgery we’ve had done, also makes a difference on our recovery.
It’s been three months since my surgery, I was hoping to be further along.
I’m active, tire easily, have back pain and horrible leg and foot pain. I want off the narcotics, but unfortunately I still have to take them in the morning and night.
My pain dr. told me that I’m in the early stages of recovery. I guess reading other post can encourage or discourage one, depending where they are at in their recovery.
Just wondering how others felt at thee months, having the same surgery I had.
Thank God for prayer and others, especially during this very difficult time.
do you still have back pain after 9-12months?
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hey Rob, sorry for my late reply. I had a flare-up in my SI joint from around months 7-9. After that settled down, I was relatively pain-free. I haven’t had much back pain since – more just stiffness and aching on occasion, but not actual pain. I should mention though that I didn’t have major back pain before surgery – my pain was in my hips and legs.
I’m 66 years old and 8 weeks post op from L4/L/5 S1. I spent 1 night in the hospital. I’ve always lived life pushing myself to and beyond limits and post op was no exception. By the end of week 2 I was walking 1 mile every other day and adding distance each time. By week 4 I was walking 2 miles 4 days a week. I always have to lay on ice packs when returning home. Ice has been a necessity during this post op recovery. At 4 weeks I started planking. Before fusion I was planking 3 minutes. Now at 8 weeks post op I can only do 30 seconds. A bit frustrating for me.
My doctor gave me the green light at 3 weeks but still very limited BLT and reminding me to stop at discomfort beyond the ordinary and halt all activities at onset of pain.
I was mowing my (small) yard with my lightweight Ryobi at 4 weeks. I am having some hip discomfort on both sides. Mostly when rising from sitting for more than 20 minutes or so. And also about midway through my 2 mile walk. Also, I cannot sit comfortably unless I’m at a 90* angle and knees are slightly higher than my hips. The hip discomfort/tightness I believe is most likely arthritis.
Bottom line I believe everyone and every body responds differently. It’s important to listen to our bodies and react accordingly.
The one thing I am very cautious with and quite honestly a little nervous about is the wear and tear on vertebrae joints above the fusion, which is normal. I do not ever want to go through another fusion! I’m trying to do NO twisting and avoid bending as much as I can. But dang it!!! When I see a weed that needs to be pulled it’s hard to tell myself “ it’s a weed, leave it there “. I have to learn to let some things go. It’s a process that I am working on daily.
I’m 8 months out from L4-L5 and doing most every thing> I did what the Dr said no BLT! The first 4 months I walked over 500 miles says my fit bit and the last 3 months over 1200 miles on my Bicycle. The secret I feel is do what the Dr. Says!
Jim leis says
This is very helpful. I feel and hear the hardare and the doctor was not sure about it. L2 to L5 S1 with lateral and posterior and not three weeks at this time. In rehab as all the challenges. Thanks for the process you experienced I am impressed.
I am so glad I found your blog. I am having L5 fusion and decompression of L-4. I am afraid I will never be back to normal. I have found relief in this blog knowing it will get better but it takes time. Time is not my friend.. Thank You again. John
Esther Fox says
I am seven months after my spinal fusion yet i feel it failed me. Although i am older 75 i find i cant walk the super market and cannot sit for long periods of time. I do my excersizes everyday but it still puts me in bed with Ice. They never gave me the bone stimulator when i left the hospital.
I’m wishing you all the best. My mother is 74 and having a one level fusion next week. Me and her have been so emotional. I cry all the time— not good but not in front of her. I am going to be her primary caretaker for a month and I know she is super scared. So am I.
I’m praying and believing that our faith would see her both through surgery and post recovery. I’m trying to stock up on nice comedies, uplifting songs, Christain messages and to have family speak and encourage her. Her NP and Surgeon also stress that she must keep active from the day after surgery no matter how painful, lose belly fat and keep it off and continue with PT for the rest of her life. I e heard it can help with the stiffness from the fusion.
I am ordering a raiser/riser chair today and possibly satin sheets or pjs so she can slip out of bed easier. Any-other tips on what to buy, have for after surgery would be great.
Wishing you all the very best out there for your health and Gods favor as you completely heal.
Elaine Orlich says
Just wondering how your mother is doing after her surgery. I was told that the worst of the pain would be over in six weeks. That is not true. It’s now 3 months since my surgery and I’m still in much pain.
I’m still having to take meds morning afternoon and evening. Not what I had wanted to do.
I see my surgeon on the 18th and will have much to ask him.
My faith is strong, but there are times when discouragement comes.
I’m still living at my daughters home and not sure what the future holds.
I’ve always been very active, great shape, and run circles around my own kids. I’m 66.
At just three months my pain specialist said that Im in the early stages of recovery.
I never thought that even my toes would hurt. God bless. I wish you and your mother well.
Esther Fox, I am 52 and just a couple weeks past 6 month mark. I had L2-L4 fusion and I am in the same situation as you. I use the small cart at the grocery and only get a few things at a time and have to ice when I get home. I am basically never without pain. For the most part it’s dull achy pain and I can deal with it w/o taking anything. If I do any kind of exercise like my PT, recumbent bike, walking or standing more than 30 minutes I have to ice. I have faith that one day it will be better. I am just taking longer than most. I pray that you get better as well!
Elaine Orlich says
Dear Esther, I pray that you will gain the strength and mobility you so desire and need.
At three months post op, sitting for very long or walking 30 minutes or more brings pain, inflammation and muscle spasms.
I continue to walk, stretch minimally, do counter push ups, leg lifts and marching exercises.
I have added a calcium powder to my coffee or smoothies.
I wear my back brace faithfully, except for showers and when I’m laying down.
I pray that you can be surrounded by those who will support and encourage you.
Still use ice or heat as well. Didn’t need bone stimulation as my bones are strong.
Sending you a hug and a prayer that you will get relief soon.
12 weeks post op. 52 yrs of age. Had a tumor (benign) removed from my L3 nerve root, fusion L4-L2. My incision still has not closed all the way (finally almost though), had an infection post op. Had to stop physical therapy until incision closes all the way. Hopefully will be able to start PT next week. Took my first walk outside by myself. Only about .25 of a mile. Was totally off of my pain meds at about week 8 but recently have had to take some at night because of pain. I have not driven yet. My husband has company car I am not allowed to drive and I have a huge truck that I can not get into. It seems this recovery is taking forever. I know my situation is different because of tumor, open incision, infections and age but I am ready to feel somewhat normal again and for the annoying pain to stop! I know I need to be patient but it’s hard! Thank you for your story!
Mel Buckingham says
18 weeks out now from L4 L5 fusion and got permission to ride my mountain bicycle! He told me to sit as straight as I could and not bend over, I made some adjustments and tried it out. Of course I went to far the second day 20 miles and was a little sore after. I am now doing about 5 miles and feel a lot better. I am still walking 5-8 miles a day too and the reason why so much is cause I’m bored! Just crossed over the 600 miles mark walking………..no wonder the body wears out
Almost 5 months post op L5/S 1 Stiffness and still painful when sitting too long. Had a fall so hope I have not undone the good work
Isabell Brodsky says
Wow! Beautifully written, answered deal questions and made me realize something down is not a bad thing. Thank you!
I am 4 weeks and 4 days post surgery. I still can’t believe life can be lived pain free.
I had some leg aches for the first week but nothing as bad as prior to surgery.
My surgeon did insist on walking with out a wallet or cane asap. He was right. He also pushed to bring a little bend, twist and movement around day 4. I got off norco by week 2, used CBD oil for relaxation and sleep, now completely free of everything.
Outings are minimal but happening. I can cook dinner (slowly) and have to remind myself to take it slower than my mind wants.
Fingers crossed life can continue being lived with no pain.
Sally Schultz says
What is your age? Your recovery is most remarkable.
I stumbled upon your blog sher bending over without thinking 5 weeks post op L5 S1 Fusion.
I am so happy to year that toy ate fling well.
I did not have issues after surgery except when 12 hours after the surgery the spinal block wore off and or felt like someone severed my spine. I have a complete Opioid resistence so the drip in the bag was useless. They finally put together some concoction that relieved the pain. I was released the 4th day and did not bother getting the pain meds filled. I was up and walking 20 min 4 times per day by 1 week post op. I am 5 weeks post OP now and other then being afraid to move wrong when sleeping i think im doing pretty darn good. My left leg is still weak but I’m sure with my PT all will be well.
Mel, It sounds like you are doing really well. You’re on the right trajectory so be thankful, patient and take good care. I had the same surgery 1yr 1 mo ago and I’m not doing as well as you are now. We’re all on different healing timelines.
Mel Buckingham says
I should be more thankful, I have always been a little impatient and need to be more patient. Thank you and I hope your healing continues
Mel Buckingham says
I’m a 62 year old man who has very outgoing my whole life from Hiking the Appalachian Trail in bits and pieces to officiating over 3000 High school and College. I had L4 L5 fusion surgery 9 weeks ago and been having the same worries as you, like are the screws going to come out or why am I sore today!
I shouldn’t complain and because I am lucky. I just looked on my Fit Bit and I have walked over 274 miles since my surgery. So to hear you were sore too will make me keep my head up and consider myself luck
Thank you from my heart
Thanks for putting this blog together Sharon! it was extremely uplifting to read this in the sea of horror stories. I’m 3 weeks post-op from L4-L5 fusion and started a blog to track my progress — https://stevesdiskfusion.home.blog/
Sandi Osman says
I’m 72 yrs. old and I had fusion surgery (L3-5) two and a half weeks ago. I have no family left and most friends have passed. After three days in the hospital a friend brought me back to my home. A couple people have offered help if I need it but I’m pretty independent. I have been trying to walk more each day and today I walked approx. 20 minutes 4 different times. I didn’t take a pain pill till (what I was hoping was) before bed in an effort to induce sleep. The lack of sleep thing has been going on for quite some time anyway and is due to just being older and not doing enough activity in a day to get exhausted and crashing. But the past few days I just lie there and get depressed because I don’t have any great incentive to get better so I can return to a percieved “marginalized” life. So on a whim I got up and asked the computer if there was life after back surgery. I figured I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. I came upon your site. It has been just what I needed. I am grateful my body seems to be healing faster than a lot of stories of other’s I have read. I feel badly that such a crisis is interfering with the lives of people who need to be working and or raising a family, whereas I have all the time in the world to heal. I enjoyed the humor that has been expressed and is essential to deal with back problems and life in general. This has been a needed kick-in-the-butt incentive to get off my pity pillow and put in the needed time (undoubtedly months) to get back to seeing what life still has in store in the future. After all, I must still be here for some reason.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Sandi. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. It’s been a few weeks since you posted – have you seen any improvement? I don’t know if this helps, but I took pain meds at night for probably two months (I don’t remember exactly) after surgery. I know it’s not a long term solution, but you need to sleep in order to allow your body to heal. <3 Thinking of you and sending gentle hugs. Please keep in touch.
I am 74 and in my 7th week after L4&L5 fusion i to was depressed .I am driving shopping but get exhausted must rest by 3 PM still limp and have pain.I push myself as I am also alone.
Hi Sandi, I’m curious to know how you are doing since you posted back in March. I hope you are progressing in a great way.
Hi Sharon, I can’t thank you enough. You’re the first person I can relate to after having spinal fusion 4 weeks ago. I’m a dancer so it’s quite frustrating …and I’m 46 with 4 kids. Thanks for sharing your detailed “diary” of what it’s like to recover ever so slowly. Hope all is well…happy new year
Flo roghaar says
Your blog has given me such hope. Same surgery as you but additional C6 work. I am 83 so hope with all my thoughts that I’ll Will have half the process time as you.
Julie La Plante says
Julie La Plante: Thank you for this blog, Sharon. And thank you to all the folks who have posted. I am scheduled for an L4-L5 fusion in two weeks. You blog has eased some of my anxiety, especially around recovery. My biggest concern is how much bending motion I will have after all the months needed for recovery. I’m worried that I’ll never be able to totally bend over or down again. Do you or any of you other posters have a thought about that? Thanks in advance for your comments.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Julie! I’m 2.5 years post-op and I still can’t touch my toes. However, I’m not at all naturally flexible, and I couldn’t do that long before surgery either. I’ve gotten pretty used to squatting at this point. I don’t feel like my movement or activity is limited though. It’s just something I don’t really think about, if that makes sense. I think if you really work on your flexibility after surgery, you should hopefully be able to regain quite a bit of it. Have you checked out any of the scoliosis yoga accounts on Instagram? They will inspire you and show you what is possible! Keep in touch!
luis velazquez says
I’m currently in Month 9 after Fusion of L4/L5 and I’m very discouraged. My pain is still not even to the level it was right before surgery. I’m only 37 and worry that I will not ever be active with my little kids. I have become dependent on pain meds just to get through the day. Is there light at the end of the tunnel should I just be more patient?
to luis velazquez: I am at month 7. My experience is that I have never had any pain and so far everything seems good. I’ve been working out in the gym hard to prepare for ski season. I feel fine. I don’t like to give advice but I know there is a large range of results given the patient and given the doctor. So all I can say is if I was in your position I would go to a carefully researched doctor who is completely unrelated to the first for a second opinion.
What does your doctor say about your progress? I agree with Don’s suggestion to get a second opinion (“carefully researched”) is something to consider. If I hadn’t had any improvement or very little since surgery I would go for another opinion.
Hi, I’m finally making progress on my recovery on the left side. I had L4L5 fusion Feb. 2018. The right side had almost no pain after surgery. The left side has taken a lot longer. At 7 months the X-RAY showed the bone fusing. Yeah! At that point my doctor gave me the choice of PT, which I took. The PT exercises along with the electrical stimulation have made made a huge difference. I also walk in a pool 2 times a week and continue with walking everyday. I have hope that even the left side will continue to improve. I can finally ride in the car without pain going over bumps. I’m starting to have better range of motion and beginning to do more around the house. It will still take time but it’s improving. I appreciate the comments regarding the different paths of recovery, they’ve given me hope. So if you’re someone whose recovery is slower than others take heart.
I am almost 8 weeks post op L5 S1 spinal fusion. I found out I had spondylilothisis 2 years ago. I went to a orthopedic spine specialist. She told me surgery was not an option for me and insisted on injection. Well they did not help so I found a great neurosurgeon and he said he could help me with a fusion. I feel great now the first week was rough. I do notice my back hurts when I go to a store with concrete floors and I’m walking around awhile. It feels like the back pain before surgery. Has anyone else experienced this? I don’t start aquatic therapy until oct 1, because they are so booked up. I wish I could have started sooner. Also I do feel more stiff in my legs not as flexible. Thanks for listening
I had the same surgery 9 months ago. As much as it may not seem it, you still have a long way to go on your recovery – so please be patient with yourself. It is easy to get frustrated!!
That’s not surprising. Just be gentle with your body, take it slow, and give it time. I am still recovering (after 9 months) and very gradually feeling reductions in pain and having fewer things that are bothering me. I know it seems like there is a long road ahead, but to me, it was reassuring to know that things will keep continuing to get better if I keep being careful with my body and that the pain I was still feeling is normal.
I have found walking to be really helpful for loosening me up. Short periods of time on the treadmill have been the best relief for me. Also try some light stretching – a Figure Four stretch and Child’s Pose (if you feel comfortable trying this – I didn’t do this too soon) are great.
Lucy Harrison says
How much mild do u do at this time
Lucy Harrison says
I meant Mild Yoga
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Lucy. I don’t do a lot of yoga right now, but I know a lot of people who are very successful at it! This is a good resource: http://www.foreverfused.com/yoga
Hi Aimee, I am curious how you are doing today and if you felt the procedure was worth it. I am scheduled to have a spinal fusion from S1 to L4 with disc replacement at L4 and L5 for degenerative spondylolisthesis and would like all the feedback possible. I am only 30 and am a single mother and cannot afford to have this surgery if it will make me worse. I know there will be a recovery period but I want to know if overall you are now better. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Tomorrow will mark 2 weeks out from lumbar surgery. My incisions look exactly like yours! Thanks for chronicling your trip through recovery. I’m sorry for you, but also glad to hear that muscle spasms can be expected. Because that is my chief complaint this week. Terrible spasms in my middle back between my shoulder blades. It must be a sign that I’m trying to do too much, too early. Because other than that, I feel great, almost as if nothing was done. I’m going to take a step back and slow down a little to see if that helps. Thanks again for your blog.
Loved reading your story! I have a lot of fusion recipients who visit my blog as well.I have been looking for others who have had success post surgery to share there story with! Keep getting after it!
Sharon….how long did it take for the stiffness to improve after the surgery?
Hey Alex. Do you mean the severe stiffness, like the feeling I describe of having a brick strapped to your back? Or just general stiffness?
I think that major stiffness early on lasted for maybe a few weeks at most. I remember it improving gradually. As far as overall stiffness, I still have sort of chronic stiffness in my lower back, which of course makes sense (rods and screws and all). But it’s not at all debilitating – more like annoying. Does that answer your question?
yes it does….thanks. Are you able to do yoga, as I know it was an important part of your life before the fusion? Can you do any postures like cobra or back bends or anything of the like? Again, fusion for me is possible down the line….still “watch and wait” and I do yoga but have to be careful with back bends or else I get nasty pinching in lumbar area.
Hi! I’m about to have a lumbar fusion in about 2 weeks. It’s from t-10 to pelvis, so it’s kind of huge. I’ve done due diligence, and several doctors agree surgery is best.
I was both intimidated and inspired (and am much better prepared) by your blog, I plan to start one myself. Thank you for making this.
About 7 years ago my friend had a similar surgery, but from t1 to her pelvis. She had a complication and had to have a second surgery a month later. HOWEVER, she did very well in general. She is in her early 60’s and had the surgery 7 years ago. She has not had any issues in 7 years. You wouldnt even know she had the surgery. She exercises within reason, takes long road trips and works full time….lives life and doesnt have any pain. She had major scoliosis since her 20’s. She is very happy she did the surgery and trusted her surgeon and developed a great relationship with him over the years. She is very happy she did it…she could not function anymore. You will do great….I know it.
Back Fusion recovery and long term prognosis is different for each person .. even though it could be the same surgical procedure, there are physical and ‘pre-op’ factors that play into each recovery time and pain management .. I too had L4-5 fusion in November, 2018, but to go backpacking/ hiking at 3-months would have been impossible for me .. it’s wonderful that some are able to handle that can of activity at such an early stage of post-op recovery- but they are ‘one in a million’ .. standing — walking —minimal pain in the early months was a victory for me .. don’t feel defeated just cause the ‘one mile run’ isn’t in your immediate grasp .. let’s be honest—> Back Fusion is a -big deal- and recovery is a long road for most of us .. glad I had it done, but remain realistic when it comes to post-op challenges 7 months into post-op and doing great — but there are days when I ache-hurt and take a tramadol
Thank you Carol for your post. It’s helpful to hear your story since it’s similar to mine.
Hi Patrick! You’ve got a big surgery ahead, and I’ve always heard that the more levels you have fused, the harder recovery can be. So I don’t blame you for being anxious. But honestly, just manage your expectations in the early weeks. Give yourself time to rest – lots and lots of time. Don’t push yourself. I follow a lot of people on Instagram who’ve had multi-level fusions for scoliosis, and I’m always amazed by what they’re able to accomplish. It is so completely possible to bounce back and have a normal life. Just be patient with yourself!
Writing has been a great outlet for me. If you do end up keeping a blog, let me know and I’ll share it! I’ve been meaning to put together a page of other blogs that write about spinal fusion recovery…it’s on my never ending to do list. 🙂 I’ll be thinking of you. Please keep in touch with all of us!
This post was very helpful to me! I am three weeks into recovery and feeling that horrible pain in my left leg and my back feeling a brick taped to it. I feel like I am reading my own recovery. Thanks for the great post. I will follow along with my recovery week by week.
Hi Renee! I’m glad it was helpful. Three weeks is still so rough…that brick feeling was the worst, but if your experience is like mine it’ll go away soon. I still get stiff sometimes, but it’s never, ever been anything like what I experienced in those early weeks. Keep fighting, and stay in touch! xo
Chris Fery says
I almost feel apologetic after reading some of the comments. In my area , surgical intervention is less used. Back problems suck and interfere with our lives, relationships, and functioning. I would like to hear success stories and failures with inclusion of state/ county area. I had to beg for my surgery that changed my life!
Hey Chris! You may already know this from reading, but I’m from Florida and I honestly had no problem at all getting approved for surgery. My neurosurgeon took one look at my films and knew that I was ultimately going to require surgery, sooner or later. I think I was also a really good surgical candidate because I’m relatively young and healthy, with no other major spinal issues. It also probably didn’t hurt that I have very good health insurance. This is a great question, and I’d love to hear other responses too.
Any update on your backpacking goal?
Chris Fery says
I had decompression and fusion in L4-5 MAY 31ST. Wasn’t able to stand without saddle and leg numbness:) 7 weeks later I have been walking up to 4-6 miles on flat surfaces. I want to do short backpack; anyone have experience with this? Non smoker who is 50 and ambitious…
reply to Chris Fery: I had S1-L2, 4 levels, April 10 2018. Never experienced any significant pain. I expect to be skiing moguls and the steeps this coming ski season.I am just past 3 months and I wanted to do backpacking too but I have thought about it alot and the entire risk is that the screws come loose before they are held in by new bone growth. So I would be hesitant to backpack BECAUSE I might not be able to isolate action on the screws. I am however able to do aggressive hiking which you probably would enjoy. I use ski poles to negotiate large boulders and keep my back straight and minimize action on the screws. I did want to do the via ferrata in telluride next month which I have done many times before. But my doc is cautioning me against that. I started to hike at about 2.5 weeks out. By a month out I was hiking aggressive and steep trails. I am in very good shape and very aggressive so I probably do not feel what other people are feeling. I hope this helps give perspective.
Samantha Tanner says
Im 4 mouth post off im still in alote of pain my fusion was from t2 to c2 big surgery
Jo peters says
I just happened upon this and am as of today 8 weeks spinal fusion L2-S1. Am starting slowly walking back on treadmill. I read your comments about feeling like you had a brick in your lower back. I too have that sensation along with some feeling of stabbing. Exhaustion is a factor too although I am doing all household chores except for vacuuming. Feel I am doing good and have to keep reminding myself Iam 68 years old and had major surgery so recovery will be slower. Biggest complaint is “the brick”. Took myself off narcotics after 2 weeks and now an occasional Tylenol.
Hi Jo! Is the “brick” feeling improving at all yet? I have to tell you, the exhaustion was a big issue for me for quite a few months. But it did eventually get better in time. It’s nice finally being able to keep up with my kids. 🙂
Jo peters says
Still have the feeling of a brick in lower back. Saw the doctor yesterday and x rays look great and he is pleased. He thinks the sensation I am having may be the muscles so I will be starting therapy. I do get stabbing in my back so do
not know if this is also muscle or what. I am 15 weeks into recovery and he did remind me I had extensive surgery and how long athletes take to recover from much less. I think I also had a bit of a set back when my husband had cardiac arrest 8 weeks after my surgery. He is doing great but I spent 3 weeks sitting and many times not sleeping in the hospital and another week sitting in the nursing home before he was able to come home. I have made it a mission to try and do as much as I possibly can vs saying I cannot do something…so I Am today down on my knees scrubbing my floors. Takes awhile as I do what I can tolerate but I do get it done. I know there are many far worse off than I.
Hi Jo .. im around 9 weeks post op. Ive also got that brick in back feeling,seems more left side than central. Tried gentle stretching this morning,but not without pains. Surgeon seemed happy with my 6 week x ray … l4 l5 fusion. Im still getting numb toes when walking and aches in back,but no scyatica pains, just lumbar seems to get stiffness.Ive not seen physio yet 16th my first visit,hopefully they can answer my questions lol i have plenty. I was kinda thinking like you push and do more, i wouldnt go overboard,im feeling worse for it. Them people struggling to walk,try the hydropools out there. I went tuesday apart from jelly legs after it went ok.
Jo peters says
I am still battling the brick feeling. Therapist said my lower back muscles are in knots. Had dry needless which did not help. Now she is doing massage and iontophoresis. Also using tens unit and doing stretch exercises. Is bit better but only feels best when wearing a brace…that seems to hold those muscles in. Am contending with a numb feeling in buttocks also. Am finding things I use to do cannot or am limited.
Patricia Baker says
I am glad I found this post. I am one week postop L5S1 fusion. Glad to know where I can come for my weekly inspiration. Been hard on me physically and mentally since surgery. Such positive things I am hearing makes it easier to do the home therapy every week. I just hope the pain goes away like it has for so many people. Thanks for your post. Helped me a lot to understand where I am headed in my recovery.
Hi Patricia! Sorry for my late response. Are you feeling any less pain yet? Things get better, I promise!
The original pain and numbness in my left leg that’s been taking longer to get better is improving little by little. I’m still wearing the back brace until I see doc in September with restrictions although I find myself able to do more. Right now at 5 mos since surgery. Walking and standing is greatly improved. Still get exhausted easily. It’s somewhat difficult facing people who think I should be back to “normal” by now.
Hi, Jason here again. Recap, L5 S1 fusion with cage spacer. Curious of how long it took, for anyone, for the bone fusion to grow back?
Christopher Shawver says
Love this!!! My mom just had a fusion and is a week out. I was wondering how long you used the ice machine for? Thank you for posting this! You are an inspiration!!!
Hey Christopher! I used it so much I literally wore it out. I think it lasted maybe 3 or 4 weeks…? Please wish your mom well for me.
Don West says
I am surprised you used an ice machine. My docs told me they wanted inflammation. So anything that decreases inflammation like nsaids or ice would seem to be in the wrong direction. I never used any ice.
That’s interesting. I was told to avoid NSAIDs because they inhibit bone growth, but I was actually sent home from the hospital with the ice machine. I was told to only use ice, not heat. Did you use heat at all?
The doc did not tell me to use heat. But I did on my own later. My reasoning was that they want to encourage inflammation, thus no nsaids and other things that reduce blood flow. So I figured I should do the opposite and use heat to get the blood flow increased. But I just figured that was logical and did not mention it to the doc. I take all advice with a large grain of salt and look for logic instead. You can always find doctors who disagree so it is really up to the patient to ultimately figure it out. Not everyone is comfortable doing that But I am. I’ve had lots of sports related injuries and surgeries so I suppose you figure out how to deal with it. I have always found that for me being aggressive works but it is different for everyone. And spine surgery with the medieval screw situation is definitely different. I would not use an ice machine because of the need to encourage inflammation. It does not make sense to me to use ice. The body is using inflammation to heal so using ice seems silly. But then again I have no pain whatsoever in spite of having a four level fusion surgery. I researched and carefully chose my doctor. So far that has paid off.
Don West says
My experience seems to be different than what I am reading. But I suppose the lesson is that we are all different. I just passed my 3 month mark. I had a S1-L2 fusion, four levels: S1-L5, L5-L4, L4-L3, L3-L2. I understand that this is considered pretty extreme. But I have experienced no real pain. In the hospital I walked at a quick pace. I refused to use a walker. When I came home I was walking around. Went to the grocery store. Walked up the three fights of stairs to my apartment. I had trouble sleeping the first few nights and was starting to get really out of it and I think I may have experienced pain at that time but I kept worrying the screws would come loose with my insomniac gyrations. But the worse part was the lack of sleep, not the pain. After that period I do not remember any pain except for the periods when I would really push myself from hiking too much over challenging terrain. I started PT at about two weeks or less and I went thru it too fast so I figured out how to design my own exercise routine based on how I saw they wanted you to move. I started hiking at around two and a half weeks but very easy stuff. Then I was into harder stuff that normal people would consider difficult. But I would use my ski poles to balance so I didn’t have to bend over like you are not supposed to do. It’s good exercise for your balance to cross over large boulders while you are trying to balance with ski poles. It doesn’t always work perfectly. Anyway I just saw the doc yesterday and he said it looks good. But I was hoping he’d say the bones had already fused and I was fine. But he didn’t so I suppose I should be more careful than I normally would. I think personality and expectation has a lot to do with the experience. But I am in decent shape and was literally in the gym working out hard prior to the surgery as a way of preparing for the recovery. I suppose that can also have an impact…Don
Hi Don! You are so right – personality plays a big role in it. If my husband had been the one getting the fusion instead of me, I think he would have been totally like you. Up and moving immediately and as active as he could possibly be. I was a lot more comfortable with a slow recovery – just generally speaking, I’m way more slow-paced at everything than he is. You know your body and your limits. Keep doing your thing! Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂
Jason tanner here; update: 6 week post op appt yesterday. Doctor backed me down to 20 hours a week (4 hours per day max) and professional physical therapy 3 times a week… after 2 weeks of working full time no restrictions except for my own restrictions based on pain levels, I realized it was too much too soon. And doctor wants me to start weaning off of pain meds: currently taking Norco and flexiril 3 to 4 times per day. Having to take extra dose around noon just so I can finish out my work day; my doc and I both think that if I have to take extra meds to work then I’m pushing too hard and to back off so I can reduce my med use so the 4 hours a day working max should be about right… and P.T. is a great idea; working a labor intensive job does exercise some muscles but not all the right ones and not correctly whereas PT will exercise and stretch me out correctly. At least now I know my limitations at current level of healing. I’m glad I tried working full time to test myself but am very happy to back down to progress with the help of a professional physical therapist.
Hi Jason. So glad you were able to figure out a plan that will work for you. PT will be so good for you. Keep us posted okay?
Too much — too soon after back fusion surgery was a mistake I made .. just plain rest and knowing when to STOP was a lesson I learned in the early months of recovery .. it’s not how fast the recovery time, but getting there without post-op complications .. it’s way too easy to push and over-do
Jason tanner here, I had s previous post. I started back working this Monday, exactly one month out of 360 degree lumbar fusion on L5 S1. I’ve been working 8 hours a day and today will be s full 40 hour work week. I am an electrician and it is a lot more physically labor intensive than most people realize, I have apprentices that are watching out for me and doing the things I cant do yet but I’m still pushing it pretty hard ie: ladder work, up and down stairs a lot, bending down a lot (which seems to he the worst), lifting somewhat heavy things tools, tool bags, drills and drilling, etc, etc. Last week I called my doc about working and he released me for working with no restrictions because I’m doing so good, he also said to only use my norco early morning and evening but during the day just tylenol if that helps… he said my spine is very stable and my pain is just a part of healing, I gained an inch from surgery because he had to put my L5 back in place plus up from space cage so now my ligaments tendons muscles and spinal nerve have to grow/ stretch/ reacclimate to being stretched so I may have some residual pain for quite some time in my butt, hips, and legs… so I understand that but am I permanently damaging anything or hindering healing because I’m overdoing it? I’m working through some pretty intense aching in my butt, hips and legs and a little in my lower back… he said no restrictions but am I pushing too hard too fast too soon? I take 1 norco, 1 flexiril at 5:00 am; 2 tylenol at noon and 1 norco and flexiril at about 5:00 PM. The ache while working is just barely tty tolerable (I’ve had worse pain and stabbing pain prior to surgery for almost 17 years off and on and towards the end I couldn’t work until I had surgery because it was so bad, so my current pain is different and Iess that’s why I push through it now, I’m used to working with pain). I could work quite comfortably if I have took more norco through the day but I think if I have to do that in order to work then I shouldn’t be working… what do you all, any of you, think about this… will/ does this pain go away in time? Am I pushing to hard? Should I take more meds? Should I quit working for a while longer for healing? Talk to my doc? ANY input will be appreciated… my email is firstname.lastname@example.org or reply here, and thank you….
Hey Jason. I hope you get some responses here. Glad to hear you’re doing so well, but back to physically demanding work at one month sounds hard. 🙁 I’m not a doctor of course, so take this with a grain of salt. I don’t know if you could necessarily be doing permanent damage, but I do think that not resting enough/pushing too hard could slow your overall recovery. At the same time, most people can’t spend weeks/months not working, so I totally understand why you’re back at work. Could you take a little time off without jeopardizing your job/livelihood? My tendency is always to err on the side of caution, so I’m curious to hear what others think…
I could definitely take more time off as far as financially, but the livelihood is a problem. I am now on week 2 of working as of today and learned a few things from last week’s work: bending is by far the most aggravating and hurtful as I do it as well as later when I’m resting. I’m pretty stubborn about wanting to work for a few reasons, one is to keep my strength in all facets of the work I do plus staying home I get lethargic, impatient and bored. I need to keep working.. as long as I’m at work and can handle the pain I feel I should be working. Anyway, I changed my med usage to adding just one pain med around noon and it makes a huge difference. But also letting my apprentices do most of the bending and lifting.
What my biggest concern is: in time, will my butt, hips, and leg pains go away, that part scares me because that is where all of my pain is. And to be able to run again someday.
Hi Jason, let your body guide you. If it hurts too much I wouldn’t do it. I can’t imagine going back to work so soon. What I tell myself is if an activity is one that could set my recovery back or even damage what the surgery fixed then I shouldn’t do it. That would be a question I’d ask my doctor, how much activity and what type is too much and can I damage what’s been fixed?
For me the recovery has been up and down but getting better bit by bit. If I aggravate my back by doing too much then I rest for several days or at least until it’s better.
My best wishes for your recovery.
Letting my body pain guide me is the problem. I’ve worked with on and off severe pain for years so I don’t know what is normal or acceptable anymore. If I can tolerate it, then I figure it’s not bad enough to not work…. what pains do you have that you still deal with that you speak of here? And how long has it been since your surgery?
My surgery was Feb. 9th. My doctor said that the pain I had for a long time can take longer to resolve, which is what seems to be happening. The pain that was newer resolved for the most part after surgery (fusion L4 L5). On the left side of my back and leg I had pain off and on for over 20 years, the right side was problematic but not severely until last June, when I couldn’t walk at all for about a week. After it got somewhat better then the right leg would go numb completely after walking or standing for a few minutes, which is the pain that is significantly improved after surgery. Now on the left side I get pain in the lower side of my back and in the buttocks area and sometimes down that leg. It is improving quite a bit but I have set backs when it starts to feel so much better that I forget to stick to my restrictions of not twisting bending or lifting. When it flares then I rest it for a few days and am more careful and then it improves again. It’s improving on a curve with setbacks but not back to what it was before surgery. When I saw the doctor at 4.5 mos he said the length of my progress was expected because of the length of time I had pain for beforehand. From the very beginning he was adamant about no twisting bending or lifting for at least 60 to 90 days, although it’s been longer for me because of what I explained above. I’m 63 yrs so that could also make recovery slower than for some. But still as I read from someone’s blog post somewhere, I’ve spent 20 years with the pain, 6 months of recovery is nothing to ensure it heals properly and the surgery is a success. My husband is a retired UPS driver. He remembers guys he worked with who were also drivers that went to work soon after back surgery, who then had to stop working and sometimes have a second surgery.
I think getting in touch with our bodies and how they feel is important to gauging what we can and can’t do safely any time, but especially after back surgery.
Amber Maynard says
Hi Jason. I had L4-S1 fusion about 6 months ago and would consider myself still recovering. I’m very surprised to hear that your surgeon released you back to work so soon to such a physical profession. I am a chef, so my job is very physically demanding as well. My doctor (one of the best in the nation) told me I was doing wonderfully, and that I was one of the best healers he ever had! My pain was very well managed with minimal narcotics, and I completed 6 weeks of physical therapy, which helped a lot. Despite that, he still would not release me back to work before 6 weeks out, and even then, he put me on lifting & standing restrictions. He made it very clear that I should not be bending, twisting, or lifting more than a gallon of milk for a minimum of 12 weeks after surgery. I followed all of his instructions and have been doing very well. I still have some tightness and fatigue in certain situations, but I just keep doing my PT exercises and working on my flexibility.
Long story short, I would be VERY cautious doing as much as your job demands…. my surgeon said it takes a minimum of 12 weeks for the bone grafts to heal and really become stable.
Hi, I just found this page this morning. It is wonderful. I started reading a ton of it and want to join in on the blog so I just added the page to my home screen so I dont lose it, (I’ve never joined a blog before and didn’t even know how add a page/ site to home screen, ((on my cell phone lol).
Anyway, I am 29 days out of recovery from L5-S1 360 degree lumbar fusion, 2 rods and 4 screws in back/ posterior incisions, spacer with 4 screws between L-5 and S1 anterior incision which increases my height almost an inch post OP because of spondylolisthesis, L5 pushed back and up to put back into place. I will read more and share more soon. I just wanted to start my own experience to give my info as well as get feedback. My name is Jason, I will c jteck back soon. Thank you for starting this page.
Hi Jason, thank you for sharing! I am curious how you are doing today and if you felt the procedure was worth it? I am scheduled to have a spinal fusion from S1 to L4 with disc replacement at L4 and L5 for degenerative spondylolisthesis and would like all the feedback possible. I am only 30 and am a single mother and cannot afford to have this surgery if it will make me worse. I know there will be a recovery period but I want to know if overall you are now better. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
I had fusion of L2,3 &4 six weeks ago. I spent 5 days in hospital and they had me up out of bed the next day. I live in Canada, so there has been no cost to me, as well as receiving loan of shower chair, walker, and riser commode for the toilet. I was encouraged to walk as much as possible, no bending, lifting or twisting, and no sitting for more than an hour at a time. At 2 weeks post op I was able to walk 6 blocks with my walker with no pain. Between 3-4 weeks post op I am not using any walking aid, something I have not been able to do for over 18 months. I had nerve damage in my left leg that has vastly improved since the surgery. I am no longer on Hydro Morphone or Lyrica. I have started physiotherapy twice a week for the next few months, also,at no cost to me. I find that the more walking I do, the better I feel. If I don’t walk enough then I am stiff, sore and very uncomfortable. My NS is very pleased with my progress so far. I see him again in three months and hope to return to work at that time.
Brenna – just wanted to say hi! I hope things are still going well for you and that you’re continuing to make progress. Keep in touch!
Rose Mary says
Hi Sharon, I just found out that I have 3 herniated discs (L3.L4,L5) and have something called black disc. I am doing my research about surgery but I am very nervous since a lot of people keep telling me that surgery is not a good option, that not always have good results. I am worried about the pain since I am allergic to all narcotics, right now I am talking Aleve for the pain and sometimes a muscle relaxer, I will be visiting a spine doctor tomorrow to go over what option I have but 3 surgeons who I know through my work are recommending surgery. To be honest I am very scared, I am 49 years old and I am afraid to make the wrong decision. I was googling trying to find more information about spine surgery and I found your blog, and actually it was very helpful to read your story. I hope to make a decision soon, I am workaholic and one of the things that is bothering me most is not be able to work, my family of course is first, but I can’t stop working and thinking that I will have to be out of work for several weeks it really bothers me.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Hi Rose Mary, just wanted to check in – have you made a decision about surgery? It’s a tough one to make, but for me surgery was the right choice. I know the pain med thing is probably stressful, but to be honest I’ve always read (and found personally to be true) that narcotic pain meds aren’t very effective with back pain. To this day, the thing that helps me more than anything is 800 mg of ibuprofen. If you have a moment, let me know how you are and what you’ve decided. Thinking of you…
I am 2 weeks away from an L 4-5 fusion and, as much as I HATE to admit it, scared to death. I have been dealing with pain in my low back, buttock and hip as well as sciatic issues for almost 2 years due to an injury, and had my head wrapped around a micro decompression surgery my doc wanted me to have in January. Well due to some horrible insurance issues, I have had to wait 5 more months. During that time I started having horrible pain in my thigh and my leg started giving out. I got a walker and made due. This week, after giving up on the other insurance and going with my insurance, my doc got a new MRI and told me I have to have the fusion. I’m 45 years old, mildly active and,after not being able to do anything for exercise for 2 years due to the pain, horribly overweight.(granted I was never a skinny minnie). My husband had an L5-S1 fusion almost 20 years ago (we weren’t together at the time for me to see first hand) and is able to fill me in on some of what to expect but I’m still having a hard time with it all. I appreciate your blog, it has helped alleviate some of my trepidation, so thank you! I also appreciate the advice, tips and general info of some of the other posts. I am hoping to manage the pain with kratom (as I have been doing for the past 9 months) so I don’t get reliant on opioids.
Christina B says
Hi Michelle. My name is Christina I had L4/L5, L5/S1 discectomy and fusion with some other thing I cannot remember her the correct term but they basically “shaved” the disc that was bulging at L3/L4, S1/S2. I had my operation done on 6/18. I went in expecting to be in there for no more than 4.5 hours with two .5 inch incisions on the back and one 1.5 on my hip. I was to start on my side and then be flipped to work thru the back. Well it took over 8 hours, and I have 7! Yes 7 large incisions. Well the smallest is about 2 inches. I had to stay 4 nights in the hospital. The worst pain ever. But I got up and walked that first night. I had been dealing with increasing pain over a nearly 19 year period. Started when I picked up my 10 month old son from the bathtub. He’s now 20. The pain was terrible in 2008 when I had to use walker for 8 months until I had about 7 shots and one finally hit the spot! I continued to get regular shots until 2013. I’m 42. I was scared. Then about 2.5 years ago I started getting serious as I was again getting worse. I work at a hospital as a CNA. Probably not the best job for me. However it was affecting my work, I missed a lot of days. Thank goodness for FMLA. I reaserched neuro/ortho surgeons after the first one. Saw who came highly recommended failed to meet my expectations even though he wanted me to do surgery. I’ve been trying to get surgery since 2008 but was always told you’re not ready. Anyway I had a top 5 and the one I had already seen was #5. So I went to the #1. And boy was he arrogant. So I knew he was the one! I also had heard from his patients while working that he was excellent. He actually told me that he was a B+ student and wouldn’t take me unless he could get that outcome. He didn’t believe me at first. I was a high tolerant, high functioning person during this time. I had to prove to him that I needed surgery. At first he kept saying it was my weight. Well I failed all his tests. And after seeing my MRI. He did a 360 on his attitude. And simply said. When do you want to do this? So tomorrow is week 6. I feel like I’ve overdone it the past week and a half. I’ve had less help. And I’ve noticed that I’m bending. So as of today I have told myself to self care no matter what! I assume you had your surgery within days of mine. How are you feeling?
Michelle Cox says
Thanks for sharing your experience, Christina. Sounds like you had quite the journey to surgery and guts a surgery it was! I am at almost week 6 and feeling great! I also walked the first night (I was NOT OK with the catheter and wanted it out immediately!), went home the next day and had an immensely HORRIBLE first night at home. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get comfortable anywhere and needed help standing up and sitting down….HATED THAT! Luckily that was only the first night. Like you, I sometimes overdo and pay the price the next day but even that next day pain is nothing compared to my pain, weakness and unsteady gait prior to surgery. I am amazed at how quickly I still get worn out but I just listen to my body and rest when I need it(most of the time); I figure there’s a reason I’m off work so I need to take the opportunity to rest while I can. Within the past week I’ve finally started sleeping through the night and haven’t taken any opioids for about 2 weeks (YAY!). Hope you continue to improve, thanks again for sharing and take care of you
I am 4 and a half weeks post op of fusion of L4. This was my second fusion. I had L5-S1 done in 2015. I may have messed up yesterday. I love flowers and i had a heavy potted plant that needed moving accross my deck yesterday. I had my brace on and kept my back straight and scooted it with my foot, using leg strength only. Since then i have had significant pain in my lower back. Has anyone had a similar experience?
Yes, Sometimes I’ve gone a bit too far thinking it’ll be ok, but find out afterwards that I overdid it. Then I’m careful for awhile and it gets better. I’m finding the recovery from over doing it is getting shorter so I know I’m overall getting better. Sometimes I dont realize I am doing something I should not be doing because I feel much better than before surgery. Then afterwards I have more pain again which reminds me to be more careful. Patience seems to be the key even though it’s hard, it’s better in the long run.
I, also want to thank you SO so much for the “backstory”. I feel like a jerk for not documenting my own, now. As part of my thanks, here’s my log up to now:
I’m just beginning week 5 of my l5-s1 recovery, not as extensive as yours, but after many years of bone grindy disc compaction.
Even still, yes, my first month was virtually identical to yours, though I’ll add having an extra package to keep safe complicated learning the log roll (knees up arms out! roll to side, pivot up!!!). The hospital didn’t have much in the way of advice regarding, uhhhm… anomalous male-only pinch points, but that was mostly week two rookie stuff. And speaking if pinch points, I, also, felt sciatic pain in my left buttock, a thing which I had long been acquainted with (my original injury was 19 years ago), yet had not felt in years. That scared me badly, as well. My surgeon gave me the same stats (maybe there’s a script card) and sure enough, it started at day 8, ending at day 16.
One other delightful surprise popped up (ha!) for my wife and I in the last couple of weeks. This following is a very pg-13 paragraph …. I don’t mean to offend, but if other men or their wives have struggled, I wanted to share.
I am 38, and have long experienced “performance” difficulties. By way of analogy, since my early 20s, the flag could be raised, but never locked into place, requiring supervision at all times. The… flag… also could not be flown for very long, leaving, at best, a smaller time for… patriotic activity… to be concluded, and at worst, a completely embarrassing and devastating inability to get the… flag… unfolded. Many times during my dating years I had to console my fellow citizen while trying not to cry in shame, and I always thought this was just a “my flag” thing, kinda like losing my hair early or having blue eyes. I wasn’t even the first to notice; for the first time in my marriage, and indeed, my adult life, my wife was able to, um, pledge as much allegiance (?) as she wanted. In fact, for the first time EVER, I need supervise the flag for OPPOSITE reasons. I decided to get this life changing surgery to alleviate the constant pain I’ve been in for 2 decades, but this… well. This has been a very, very nice bonus, for both of us, and has already strengthened the intimacy of our marriage. I wouldn’t recommend invasive back surgery as a regular treatment for this problem, but in my case, the surgeon says it’s not uncommon for a herniated, and ultimately totally destroyed, L5-S1 disc to interfere with flag-related nerve impulses. So, there’s that.
I’ll also mention another in-delicate point in the early game: One that’s at the other end if the spectrum. Beware, again – this one’s much less amusing to endure: In the week or so post surgery, TAKE THE STOOL SOFTENER. Take. It. There are 2 options here. One is a solo journey through a minor hell. The other will require at least 2 people – one to hold you up, and one to (apologies) clean you out. Your dignity? You left that in the dulcolax bottle. I was fortunate, but my brother (similar surgery) was not. In either case, it’s a DOOZY when your body remembers how that all plumbing works, and it remembers it all at once when prompted, whether by the medication or the enema. I’m still wildly grateful that past me was kind enough to install a raised toilet seat and a bidet the month prior to surgery (no twisting means extremely difficult to wipe areas). Okay. That’s the end of the in-delicate, yet I think still important, stuff.
Up until this point (again, end of week 4 yesterday), the pain has leveled off on 2 steep curves, with the “incision” pain turning into an itchy burn at end of week one (I also worried it was infected, but the surgeon later told me it was a common sign of the skin wanting the incision staples OUT NOW). The staples were removed mid week 3, which felt like getting tattooed by an angry ex with an ax to grind, but having the nurse start with the bottom 5 (ask I could stand at one time), then take a 30 second break, then do the top after 5, and so on, made it MUCH, MUCH easier.
The “bone” pain has leveled more slowly, though still more swiftly than I expected. I still feel it when I turn wrong, stub a toe, or, goodness help me, sneeze (omg that sucks). I also feel it when I do “stuff” (i.e. Today I took a drive, brushed some rust off some parts, washed my truck, drove my daughter to work, etc). When I’m working small tasks like these, I don’t really feel any pain, exactly, until the end of the day when I lay down, but like you, I start to feel the stiffness, and the muscle exhaustion, as as go. When I do lay down, though, whether it’s at 10:00 am or 9:00 pm, the fatigue settles in like a blanket, and sometimes I get spasms in the long vertical muscles along my lower spine. Occasionally I’ll get that deep bone ache familiar to anyone who has experienced a healing bone fracture, but that’s very mild. I’ve only worried about this because I didn’t know, until your post, if I’d done a bad by accident, since my brace was originally set up wrong, and I’d twisted without thinking, or started bending before I remembered, etc.
Oh! I, also, worried about “protrusions”. I’ve been assured part of this is incision scar tissue that will recede and part inflammation during healing, but it was scary (and is even still mildly unsettling) to feel what seem like camel humps (really just creepy dime sized squishy bumps, but still pretty oooogy) vertically above and below the incision. Sometimes, if I can’t control the urge to push on em, I’ll feel a little pop, like a super gentle joint popping, but the doc said just the scar tissue settling in, to.
So, for my current routine, I’ve found it easiest to try to start my “day” at 10:30 and end it at 3:00, since naps give me headaches. Otherwise, ditto on the kitten-level weakness. It’s weird, too, weakness in the core, but not the arms and legs, which just doesn’t compute. Normally when you exercise it’s your whole body that’s weak (cardio) or specific muscles muscles (lifting) but this literally feels “bone tired” in one very obvious place. That’s kinda weird.
Anyway, that’s my recovery up to date!
Here’s how you helped me: I work a very physically demanding job,. Mid-range lifting.(30 lbs max, mostly, never overhead though) but also bending, kneeling, climbing, and crawling. I’m basically a mechanic for superhuge digital printing presses. I love my job, and it’s still waiting for me, but I’ve been TERRIFIED of going back before I’m ready, which is, as you say, minimum 3 months. My choice to do this cane down to “suffer this ever-increasing pain until I have to change careers, or attempt to repair/stabilize the damage and hope/work ultra hard for a successful result.
3 months is also, in a very true coincidence, the maximum full-pay short term disability I have, after which I’d be deciding whether to try using my home’s equity or borrowing from my 401k. It’s also the maximum time this particular position will be held for me after which I’d have to move to stay with my company, which my high school kids will resent me for. I’m also putting the other two guys on my team under a huge amount of pressure while I’m out since I’m 100% off duty until I’m released – light duty simply isn’t an option.
All that said, I had no idea if my ongoing exhaustion, muscle spasms, and bone aches are “normal” or not, and I was very worried that might be a bad sign. It’s hard to know if that twitchy vertical muscle is gonna be reliable in 2 more months, and you can’t just ask. Knowing that you felt the exact same symptoms I do, at the same time in your recovery, is a HUGE relief. Although I still can’t know if I’ll be ready within 7 more weeks, at least I know my healing progression is along the same schedule yours was. I don’t know if we’re “average” or what, but I DO know, thanks to you, that I’m definitely not “abnormal” or “failed surgery”.
Truly, truly, thank you for writing your story, and I wish you continued prosperity and happiness.
Jessica J says
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. It actually made my anxiety and nervousness about doing the surgery all that much worse to be honest. Because all of my fears of what I know I would expect for the recovery seemed so much more realized after reading this. The surgery doesn’t scare me its the process of recovery. I know I won’t be able to just jump right out of bed and enjoy my day right after surgery but slowly there will be a brighter day in the end. I went to bed crying before finishing the whole blog. I woke up and finished knowing this is something that needs to be done because going thru the pain now every day sounds so much worse then a process of recovery I know I can overcome. As you stated earlier we all do heal in different ways. But healing is what we must do and you did it, I can do it too. 🙂 Thank you again for sharing you’re story.
Chuck Bruce says
I’m 3 and half weeks after my surgery. I very much enjoyed reading your story. It gave me some idea as to what the near future has in store for me. I’m kinda scared as to what’s around the corner….Thank you
Sharon, thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear everything went well. Is fatigue still an issue though?
Not really (but don’t tell my husband, I still use it as an excuse to nap sometimes, haha). I remember it being really significant around 4-6 months and slowly improving from there.
Mark Weatherly says
Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. I am in week 9 of recovery L5-S1 ALIF. This is my first comment but not my first visit. I periodically read your blog/diary for words of encouragement. I felt really good weeks 4-7 but recently for no apparent reason have increased nerve pain. My doctor is 4 hours away so I can’t just drop in for a check up. I live in an area with a population of well over 500,000 but had to travel to LA to find a surgeon that I had confidence in. Hearing that a marathon runner still feels exhausted is actually encouraging. I was a 58 year old somewhat fit male trying to stay fit through pain and finally made the jump to surgery. Tried everything else. I will keep reading. Thanks again. You are helping people.
Sorry for taking so long to respond, Mark. How are things going for you now?
Martha Thomas says
Love your blog! I’m 4 Weeks out from L4-5 revision and addition of L3 with a cage. I was told this week that I will never be able to bend. Thank goodness for strong quads. I walk a couple of miles a day with my 11 month old 18 pound puppy. I’m wearing tennis shoes all the time but I do have a couple of events coming up (my husband’s 50th high school reunion) and I’m wondering if there are any shoes that you recommend. With my original fusion 10 years ago, I was able to wear black tennis shoes in the winter. Just not sure about what won’t look awful with capris. Flip flops are out and I have good flip flops in every color. Any suggestions about something that won’t scream old lady?
Florida girl here so I’m probably the wrong person to ask – I basically live in flip flops, when I wear shoes at all, haha. 🙂 I’ll do my best to post your question here because it’s a good one! Sounds like you’re feeling strong and I’m so glad!
Anyone have shoe suggestions for Martha?
Sharon Hutcherson says
Yes, I do . Clark’s makes a super cute and comfy wedge shoe that I have in several colors. They are very popular though so depending on your size you may have a hard time finding one in stock. They are pricey if you buy straight from Clark’s but you can find them sometimes on Amazon, Zappo’s etc. There are a couple different similar styles I don’t know how to add a pic but they are a nice height and still look sexy enough. Believe me I have a closet of high heels I can’t bear to part with! Look for the style name of Caslynn or Annadel.
Oh wow, they are CUTE! I’m going to keep my eye out for a sale. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I had a fusion in October and recuperating was so long, slow and depressing.
As soon as I started PT I was on my way back to normal. If u do nothing else please just stick with PT.
I feel great andbro does my back and hips now.
I just had my 6 month checkup and my bone is starting to fuse.
How long after surgery did you start physical therapy?
I had a few in-home PT sessions immediately following surgery but nothing after that until about 8 months post-op, when I was having issues with my SI joint. My surgeon said that PT was optional, and I chose not to do it (wrong choice). The number I hear most often is 3 months post-op…
Good posts and it sure does suggest everyone’s symptoms and recovery is different.
34 year old male – 2 weeks post op L5/S1 ALIF.
Never had shooting leg pain that most seem to have, but mainly dull low back pain that would feel it go into front of thighs after moderate exercise. Managed it for 3 years then bit the bullet on Fusion as was sick of just walking and want to get back to high intensity exercise which is my passion or just riding a bike in the future I’m willing to accept which this low back issue stopped me from doing.
It’s funny, I sometimes wonder- how did I get to this point- remembering the good old times of no issues then bang 3 years later having a fusion.. I sure hope it works. 2 weeks down I’m off the oxy hard pain killer and not on any pain relief However still very sore in back (feels like brick comment I like that analogy) I have good moments With the back then I get to a point of fatigue.
Hip graph has caused some weird walking action but trust that will heal. I just hope to keep on healing and That it wasn’t all for nothing.
It’s great to read about yours and others experiences with spinal fusion. I like what you said about not being able to call even the most compassionate of doctors to process the different stages of healing. I had L4 L5 fusion the beginning of Feb. One side is almost completely improved but the other side has had ups and downs. It seems to go in spurts where it feels like everything is improving, almost no pain, but then there are set backs. I’ve driven a couple of times but I’m not comfortable because I have to twist to look for other cars. I am a passenger but going over bumps is quite painful at times. Just last week we went over one bump and it felt like something crunched in my back and I’ve had pain in my buttocks since then which I didn’t have before. It’ is concerning every time I get a new pain that I didn’t have before. Up until now they’ve all gone away after a week or 10 days. At my 2 mos appointment my doctor told me to continue with the back brace no twisting, bending, or lifting for another 2 mos. Now I’m trying to decide if I should take a 2 to 3 hour driving trip.
I’m interested in hearing from people as to what the different changes in pain and any ups and downs they’ve had and about any troubles even being a passenger.
Thanks so much!
Hi well I am scheduled for my 4th back surgery in two weeks .Last one was over 10 years ago. I will have nerve depression, herniated disc ECT with screws and rods. I’ve had multiple injections over the past year as well well as nerve ablasion. I am not looking forward to this surgery because I have a feeling it is going to be paid,full. My surgeon said I would have a drain tube which will be a first for me. I hope I have good results like others I have read on here.
Ann Wolanski says
Hi, I’m so glad I found your blog. I am week 4 postop & also have the feeling of hardware poking through my lumbar region. S1 -L4. Able to get out of bed well enough now & maintain activities for short periods, but you’re pretty spot on with recovery symptoms I also have. I see my surgeon in one week but he never gave my pt instructions yet, I found this odd. Thank you.
Hey Ann. You’ve made it through the worst of it! At least there’s some good news. 🙂 No, seriously, you should really continue to improve from here. My surgeon ordered in-home PT immediately after surgery, but that was it. I can’t remember if it was at my 6 week or 3 month follow-up – but at one of those, he said that PT was optional. I chose not to do it, which was the wrong choice in my opinion. While I loved my surgeon and will always be grateful to him, I found my follow-up care to be lacking. If I wanted something, I had to explicitly ask for it. It was weird. Just make sure you advocate for yourself. I wish I’d done PT in the early months. Keep me posted!
tom b says
Thanks for all your and the others who post here. I’m about three weeks away from a fusion and I am really frightened. Not so much about pain but about losing my independence for months. I think my surgery is a bit more extensive than yours. I’m being fused from T10 to my sacrum for scoliosis and nerve impingements. They’re putting screws into my pelvis as well to fix all the hardware. They told me I won’t be able to bend over much at all and for a year or so I won’t even be able to wipe my rear after a BM. Did anyone else have anything like this? I’ve been a very avid cyclist and was told I’ll have to give up my road bike, the one activity that I love. I’ll be able to ride in the future but just on a “regular” upright bike.
Did I say I’m scared?
I know a person that had an l4-s1 fusion…due to an injury from a bicycle road race of all things….after 1 year he was back road racing again…so it sure seems possible.
Wow,this by far is the best blog I’ve ever seen. Sharon you are so inspiring thank you for this. I had my surgery 4 weeks ago today actually,it has been a journey. I’m a positive and spiritual person and I think that’s what’s gotten me this far. I haven’t had pain killers in 2 weeks and I’m getting stronger and better by the day. However,I still feel as though I can feel the rods in my back and it’s uncomfortable. Showering is a mission that’s when I can feel them the most,but I guess it’s part of the journey and hopefully one can go back to normal asap. I haven’t driven get as my doc says only after 6 week and I must say I’m a bit anxious about that. Did you drive with your back brace on?
I asked exactly the same thing, I am 5 months on and do still feel there is something there but heat is a great help and keep moving, I am sure Sharon will reassure you and she is much further on than me.x
Hey there Claire
You have come a long way.
Thank you I will continue being active,I feel good afterwards.
Hope you feel better and hang in there it will get better.
Hey Clare! I’m so glad I’ve been able to help. 🙂
First, about driving – I actually never had a back brace after (or before) surgery. I kind of wish I’d had one because it seems like it would’ve help with any accidental bending or twisting. I drove pretty early – maybe around 3 weeks? My surgeon said it was fine as long as I wasn’t taking pain meds. I only drove short distances at first though – just a mile or two to get my kids to & from camp. It was scary, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d anticipated.
At first I thought I was feeling the rods in my back too, but it mostly turned out to be swelling and lymphatic fluid. It felt like I had a brick strapped onto my back. I remember feeling devastated, like I was going to feel like that forever. But it definitely went away!!! I know some people who can feel their rods, but I think it’s relatively uncommon. Give yourself some time. The way you feel right now will absolutely not be the way you feel in a few months, or even in a few weeks! You are doing great! Please keep in touch and don’t hesitate to ask any questions that come up. xo
Thank you so,so much. I appreciate you.
Honestly,it does get better day by day.
I’m glad to have found this! I’m a bit past 3 weeks and that feeling of having a brick in your back is hard to adjust to. How long did it last for you?
Just saw this – ugh, the brick! It didn’t last too long for me. Maybe a couple of weeks? I was told that it was swelling and possibly lymphatic fluid, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. It DOES go away though. Or maybe you get used to it. But either way it won’t feel like that forever.
Mary Ellen says
HI, Sharon! Found your blog while searching to see when I can resume gardening, vacuuming etc. I am 69 and had my second back fusion on Feb 13th. First time was L3-L4… six years ago. That went so well that when it became apparent that I needed more work, I was pretty confident. (Had a discectomy in my neck in between). My second surgery was to remove original hardware from L3/4 and fusion and clean out of L4L5S1.Spent one night in hospital, I think they needed my bed for flu patient. Anyway, day three was brutal but then with help from pain meds I was able to go on short walks outside when the weather permitted and did steps and shower right away. Now that it’s six weeks, I am anxious to get busy outside. I know I can’t yet. Still hard to sit longer than half an hour, but sometimes you just have to. (Mass, girls’ luncheon, dinner out!). Reading about your experience and other’s, I realize how blessed I have been. I went from crippling sciatica pain in both buns and legs to instant relief when I woke up after surgery. None of the post-op pain came close to what I had before. Just to let others know that even old girls can be helped with this surgery. I thank God for my surgeon! Mary Ellen. Oh, down to one pain pill at night!
Hi Mary Ellen! I hope things are still going well for you! I sure hope I don’t end up needing more surgery, but if I ever have to do it again, I think knowing what to expect (and that I’ll survive it!) will help. Your story is good for me to read, so thanks for sharing! I know it’ll help other people too. xo
Jose Gonzalez says
I wanted to let you know that your story is completely inspirational! I’m bookmarking this page to come back here in hopes of gaining more strength (and soaking in some of that amazing energy that POPS off of this page) when the time comes (May 2, 2018 is the day set for my fusion).
About 8 years ago the disc between my L4 & L5 ruptured into my central nerve system and almost left me paralyzed. The neurosurgeon was able to remove roughly 75-80% of that disc and had me up and walking the following day.
Cut to 2018 – i am now having problems in the same area L4 & L5 and a fusion is what is being recommended because there is not enough space between the L4 & L5 and the small remainder of the disc from the 2012 surgery is now bulging pinching my nerves (again). I have not read any negative columns or reviews like some of the others, or maybe I’m just trying to stay away from them but id be lying if said i wasnt freaking out. Either way, I cant thank you enough for all the effort you put into documenting a POSITIVE and VERY REAL experience. I appreciate that you didn’t sugar coat anything, especially about the first couple of weeks. So for this, I just wanted to reach out and say THANK YOU!
Hi Jose! My dad has a very similar story to yours (the first part, at least). He had a debilitating disc injury a few years back and ended up in a wheelchair for a while. He’s been running for 50+ years and is in great shape, so it was incredibly hard on him. He finally had surgery and had almost immediate relief. I think that was maybe 5 or 6 years ago (Dad, are you reading this?), and he’s started having lower back pain again. He sees his doctor in a couple of weeks, so I guess we’ll know more then.
The scary stories are mostly on forums. I think people are more inclined to write about negative experiences because it helps to share them – like when you read reviews of restaurants or doctors, you’re more likely to find a very detailed description of someone’s negative experience, know what I mean? The people who had a normal/good/expected experience don’t have the same need to share. I don’t know, that’s just my theory. Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been able to help. Please feel free to get in touch if you have questions. I’m always happy to talk. 🙂 Also if you read through the comments, you’ll find people in various stages of recovery. You might find some comfort there as well.
Keep in touch, okay? I hope you find some relief for your pain.
Don Hershey says
I had a 2 level fusion back in 2014, and everything was fine. Unfortuneately the levels above and below have become unstable, and I’m headed back for two more fusion ! Your diary reminded me of my last operation, and gave me encourgement about my upcoming sutgery. Thanks
Hey Don. I’m really sorry to hear that you need more surgery, but I’m glad I’ve been able to help even in a small way. Please keep us all posted. Thinking of you…
You’ve written a wonderful summary of what one can often expect post-lumbar-fusion. I’m sure it is helpful to countless people who are researching what healing and living are like after fusion surgery. (To those people I will say: Sharon nailed it!)
I’ve had two separate lumbar spinal fusion surgeries. My first in 2008 was L5-S1; my second in 2016 was L3-L4. This week I am scheduling my third fusion surgery to fuse the level in between. (And BTW I’m only 46 years old!) My post-surgery experiences were quite similar to yours, and I think they are a great outline for what many people can expect to feel, and be capable of doing, afterwards.
A bit differently, though, after my first surgery, I was completely pain-free after 10 weeks. After my second, it took just 7 weeks. Obviously, I still was extremely careful with my activities and movements, but as long as I did only what my body could handle: zero pain.
I would like to point out one choice I made in my recovery protocol, so that others may also consider it, as I believe it made all the difference in my recovery process: I avoided opiates. Yes, really! I took no narcotic pain meds except for the first 3 days post-surgery. To most people who have had this surgery, I suppose I now seem like a masochist. I assure you, though, I’m not! I used OTC pain meds which were approved by my surgeon (certain ones can prevent fusing, so always discuss with your surgeon) instead of prescription pain meds. These took the edge off a bit, but certainly didn’t work to mask the pain like opiates do. However, I’m convinced that because I was both clear-headed and able to feel which movements my body didn’t like (and let me know via pain signals which I experienced instead of masked), I avoided overdoing anything for the first weeks post-op. This, in turn, led to an overall (much) quicker recovery and getting to the pain-free stage. Just wanted to mention this, in case it could be useful to someone else.
Also, as someone who has been through 2 fusions, I would like to suggest a few items I found indispensable after surgery:
– satin sheets. These aren’t a luxury, but a necessity! Turning over in bed will be one of the most painful things you do after lumbar fusion — for weeks, if not months. Get satin sheets and eliminate as much of the friction from the movement as possible.
– non-skid, slip-on shoes. You don’t want to fall, and you sure as heck don’t want to be tying laces. (Trust me, the latter isn’t happening for a while!) Forgo fashion and get some possibly unattractive but really safe shoes.
– non-slip rugs in the bathroom. Line as much of the bath floor with them as you need to feel safe. So many people fall in the bathroom after fusions, as you are just not as steady as normal; your balance can feel off, and you certainly feel weaker. Kind of like a very elderly person for a few weeks. So decrease your fall risk with grippy rugs everywhere you normally step.
And my best suggestion for PT starting 3-4 weeks post-op: big box stores! A Wal-Mart supercenter, a Costco or BJ’s – any place like that. You won’t be loading up a cart with merchandise, though. Instead, you’ll be walking around on a very even, safe floor, holding onto a shopping cart instead of a walker, with things to look at. The time will pass more easily than if you were on a treadmill. You’ll be out of the house and trust me it will be good to feel like you are back amongst the living again.
Wishing everyone who is reading this the best outcomes and speedy recoveries!
Turning over in bed is a bit of a worry. How long did it take for you to feel comfortable moving around in bed? How were your sleep patterns after surgery? When were you able to tie your shoes again? Lots of questions!!!
Re: turning over in bed: I got used to staying in the same position for way longer than normal. The most comfortable position for me (and many others) after spinal fusion is on my back with a thin pillow under my hips and about six more under my knees and lower legs. Immediately after surgery, that was my go-to position. Slowly, about a week after, I would try my side for a bit, with pillows between my knees. Then things get better… slowly. I think it was a good 2-2.5 months before turning over was not horrible. For some reason, it’s one of the worst moves after lumbar fusion, IMHO.
Re: lacing shoes: I don’t think I tried this before 2 months. All you have to do is listen carefully and your body will “tell you” what you can and shouldn’t do, via what hurts and what doesn’t. Your progress will differ. Really my best advice is take it very slowly. Don’t try to “push through” anything, as I believe Sharon mentioned in one of her posts. It doesn’t help, and can create setbacks. Allow your body time to heal, eat “clean” (whole foods, lots of protein), and do your best to keep a positive attitude! (I swear that’s half the battle lol.)
and how did you sleep in general…..insomnia or other sleep issues? Sleep is so important. When did you start driving again? Also, if you dont mind asking, did you go back to work in your career after recovery?
YES!!! Everything you wrote here is spot on. I took opiates after surgery, but your reasoning makes so much sense. I was prescribed Percocet and Robaxin (muscle relaxer), and to be honest neither seemed to have a significant and/or direct impact on my pain. They just sort of made everything duller and knocked me out, which gave me relief from the pain but didn’t make it go away, if that makes sense. Did you use TENS therapy at all? Did it help you?
Love your suggestions about the rugs, the shoes, and especially the sheets – wish I’d thought of that. Do you mind if I mention those things in a future blog post?
And seriously, you seem so calm and positive, despite facing a 3rd fusion. You inspire (and kind of amaze) me! Please keep in touch and let us know how things go. I’m really glad to “meet” you. <3
Of course you can mention anything you like in future blog posts, Sharon. I think your blog posts have become a beacon of hope on the internet for anyone facing a spinal fusion. That is a wonderful thing you have done! Before I had my first fusion, I scoured the Internet looking for post-surgical experiences — as everyone does these days. What I didn’t realize is that those who post are most often those who have had poor outcomes. They are posting in the hope of finding solutions, relief, solace and digital companionship in their hardship, which is of course perfectly normal behavior. Those who have had good outcomes largely put the surgery behind them and are simply carrying on with life, and not dwelling on the surgery… or posting online. This gives a skewed — and frightening! — idea of what post-fusion life is like. So taking the time to post positive experiences is incredibly valuable to back patients everywhere. Again, thank you for doing this!
Re: being positive – I do have a positive outlook, and am certain it helps in healing. Everyone who is facing a fusion should have one as well, and be feeling incredibly grateful. Yes, I actually said that lol.
Here’s my reasoning: how many people in this world do you think there are right now living with debilitating back pain for which nothing except a spinal fusion could provide a fix… but they are in third-world countries or economic situations where having such surgery isn’t even a remote possibility. Some don’t have access to pain medication. Others can’t get to any type of doctor at all. Thousands of people? Tens of thousands?
Feeling grateful yet, everyone? 😉 Keeping your chin up is half the battle. I haven’t for a millisecond ever felt sorry for myself when I think of others less fortunate, and I believe it helps getting through the tough times!
And here is one other seemingly strange recommendation, if I may: try volunteering as soon as you are able to after surgery. Nothing physically strenuous, of course. As an example, I took small dogs at an area shelter out for walks. When you are in the volunteering mindset, your focus shifts from yourself (the discomfort, long recovery period, etc.), to others who need help, and how you are doing something about it. Caring for others or doing anything you believe in (e.g. working for a cause) somehow makes your own recovery easier. In addition to making small dogs’ happier, I got out of the house, and the walks were part of my PT. I was so happy when I noticed the walks got a bit longer every week, too! Volunteering helped me feel less handicapped, and reminded me that I could still do something productive for society, no matter how small.
Happy healing to all,
Adam garland Rieves says
Interesting story, I had spinal fusion surgery l4-l5 s1 , November 15, 2017, My 1st month was miserable, I’m getting somewhat better I’m in therapy 3 times a week but I’m always stiff and need to feel like I need to stretch my whole body but I afraid to break anything is that normal? Or the upper part of my spine over the fusion is always soar. But I’m getting ready to go on a cruise this month for 4 days and a 13 hour drive to New Orleans to get that what are your thoughts on that? Thank you
Hi Adam! Glad to hear you’re doing well. I think stiffness is normal, especially early on, which you still are. I still have some general stiffness in my lower back and sometimes upper back – annoying but not painful or debilitating in any way.
At around 3.5 months (that’s about where you are, right?) we took a family vacation to Washington, DC. We did a ton of walking and stayed busy all day. Other than feeling exhausted by about 4-5pm every day, the trip went really well. And hopefully a cruise will be way more relaxing than that! Honestly I think you’ll do great, as long as you bring whatever you need to stay comfortable – extra pillow, heating pad, ice pack, meds, or whatever works for you.
The 13 hour car ride might be tough, but I think it’s doable. The longest I’ve done is about 4 hours, and that’s been fine. You’ll probably need to stop for more breaks than usual, just to get up and stretch and walk around. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you need extra sleep or extra pain meds or extra whatever to get you through. The trip will be worth it, and it’ll be a great reward for everything you’ve been through!
Please let me know how it goes. I’ve been working on a post about traveling after a spinal fusion, but I don’t have any great tips. If anything works (or doesn’t work) for you, I’d love it if you’d share! 🙂
adam rieves says
Thank you for advice, it feels good to hear other people who has been down this road, I’ll update you after my trip!
Awesome, thanks! I hope you have great weather & a great time.
adam rieves says
Well I made it back from my first trip after 2 level fusion surgery, it was a long drive to new orleans but I got out and stretched a lot. Not so much pain but definitely some soreness on the spine above my fusion, how long does this last? Also my hamstrings stay tight even after stretching in therapy. Any advice?
Sorry I haven’t replied to your email yet – running behind is sort of my natural state. 🙂 I’m so glad your first trip was a success! I get sore above and below (and at) my fusion a lot – but it’s not pain, so I’m just kind of used to it. It’s more of annoyance most of the time. When it gets hard to tolerate, ice and ibuprofen helps.
About the hamstrings – that’s been a big challenge for me too. Did you know that sometimes hamstrings are tight for structural reasons? I guess they kind of hold everything in place. (Google that – I’m not explaining it well). Anyway, I’ve found some “yoga for spinal fusion” on YouTube. I’m going to try it out, and I’ll let you know how it goes!
Claire Mcgowan says
Thanks Sharon I have just seen these.Claire
Claire Mcgowan says
Hi Ashley Thanks for your response, yes my surgeon said something very similar to me, but like you I am thinking that maybe a little too soon.
He did say the most issues maybe in my third trimester wen you are at your heaviest.My concern is I am going through all of this and wat if pregnancy causes more back problems.xx
Claire – my surgeon told me I would be safe to get pregnant 6 months after surgery. I can’t imagine doing that so soon, so I will most likely wait a year before trying. He says there will be back pain, but that most people have back pain anyways and that it should be safe.
Claire Mcgowan says
I was also curious if there was anyone who had been pregnant after fusion, I would love to have another baby, but just not sure if my back could handle it, I would really appreciate if anyone could share there experiences.
Kay Lovenburg says
So glad I found all this wonderful information. I am an almost 57 year old that started with hip pain 12 years ago, but no one could find anything wrong with my hips. The pain progressed into chronic sciatica for the last three years while I xhausted all other treatments. I just had L5/S1 fusion on the 5th of this month. During the first night I awoke to a severe burning in my left thigh, was given meds and told it would go away. And it has! I was given a brace, instructions on when to wear it and instructions on no bending, lifting, or twisting. Released from the hospital on the 9th and faced a 3 1/2 hour drive home. Thank goodness for pain meds and a wonderful and patient husband. We stopped twice so I could walk. Guess I was fortunate in the pain meds department because only needed them for one week and one day following surgery. The first few days home I needed help to get up from our electric recliner which is a saving grace. I can now get up and down fairly easy, getting in/out of bed is so much faster, and I faithfully walk our neighborhood 3 times a day (each walk I increase the distance just a tad). I am still struggling getting in/out of the car. Old habits are hard to break and I am impatient and just want to slide in and go vs backing in and turning properly. I am finding it hard to sit for any great length of time in hard wooden chairs. It’s hard to get comfortable and the brace makes it hard to sit back. I was also able to go into work this past Friday for 4.5 hours. I have a desk job and the dr said it would be fine as long as I didn’t sit too long. So I walked around the office several times. I have gotten lots of rest this weekend but have now noticed I am getting a different feeling in my back, hence the google search and finding your wonderful site. I am feeling much better about the block feeling in my back (no pain). Guessing it is also a “normal” part of the healing process. Thanks for sharing your experience and information and for letting me share mine.
Claire Mcgowan says
Hi Jamie thanks for your response, I suppose we all heal in different ways.
My consultant has sent me for another MRI and x ray just to check things out.
Hope you continue to improve.
Great Claire. Let us know how it goes.
Claire Mcgowan says
That would be great.Thanks xx
Claire Mcgowan says
It is lovely to hear such a positive story and glad you are feeling the benefits, I have asked this question previously but just was interested in your experience.
I am 15 weeks post op fusion L4-L5 the only real issue I am having is where I have had the surgery done I am so aware of the metalware and have a constant pressure there, in particular if I bend or move a certain way I can feel there is something there is this something anyone is experiencing and does this get better with time? Thanks Claire
Hey Claire, I’m going to try to get your question in front of more eyes so that you can get more responses than just mine! Glad to hear your are doing well overall. Stay tuned… xoxo
Hi Sharon. I do not have site pain from the hardware, however, I do have 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.
Claire – in case you missed it, I posted your question. There are a couple of good responses in the comments. xo
I wanted to post my experience on here as some may find it helpful and reassuring. I am 9 weeks removed from my 2 level fusion, L4-5 & L5-S1. My doctor opted for what is called a 360 degree fusion which is the most invasive approach but, when healed, gives one the most solid fusion possible. Day 1 the doctor entered via the abdomen to place the fusion cages/spacers in between each vertebrae and screwed each into place. Day 2 the doctor approached from the back (posteriorly) and screwed in the pedical screws to stabilize the spine. The first 2-3 weeks were a hellish experience although my back was never all that painful. The incision into the abdomen was by far the worst part of my experience. I was home after 4 nights inpatient. Once I was home I started to walk 30-40 min per day. I started my walks within my home at 15-20 min intervals. Once feeling well enough, I started to walk around my neighborhood for 50 min daily. I was back at work for a couple days during the 3rd week of my recovery but this was too soon. At week 4 I was able to work 5 days but only half days. Beyond week 5, I had no issues working (its a desk job).
At 4-5 weeks, I started to recover at a very rapid pace. I went in for X-rays at 8 weeks and the doctor informed my that X-rays demonstrated significant bone growth at the fusion sites. He attributed my rapid progress to going into surgery very fit. He lifted much of my restrictions. I have been doing the eliptical for about 10-12 days along with moderate weight lifting with no pain at all. As a reminder, each person heals differently, so listen to your doctor as to your own limitations.
I am a 47 year old male and a bit of a fitness finatic and have been into weights and cardio nearly daily since I was 15. This probably was the cause of my back issues or at least sped up the process. My best advise is to try to be in the best condition you can be going into this surgery. It will help in your recovery. Also, do your homework when picking a Surgeon. I wish you all the best in your recoveries.
Jamie, thanks so much for sharing! Would you mind if I re-post your comment in a blog post? I’m trying to share some other positive stories.
Hi Sharon. Yes you can re-post my comments in a blog post. Sorry my reply took so long….it was on oversight on my part.
Thanks Jamie! No worries – I never do anything in a hurry anyway. 🙂 If you have any pictures you’d like me to include (anything that tells your story) or an email/social media account(s) you’d like me to link to, shoot me an email at mommyrunsit (at) gmail (dot) com. And if not, that’s perfectly fine. Thanks for sharing and for letting me share! 🙂
Jane Fogarty says
Hi Sharon your story has given me just the lift I need as I face my L5/S1 fusion and right sacral fusion. I am scared to death , reading positive outcomes is really helpful and I am determined to get through this and get my life back. I was most interested in your comments regarding hip pain, this is how my pain started. It was so bad I thought it must be my hip at fault. However diagnostic injections , ct scans , mri scans all point to my lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint. I am so disabled by this and yet previously I was super fit from tons of horse riding so I am hoping that I can get this back.
Anyway thanks again.
Hi Jane! Yes, I was shocked when I found out the real problem was in my back. My back pain was nothing compared to the pain in my right hip. It’s gone now (yay!), and I hope you’ll have the same experience. I think being active & fit helps! Keep in touch and good luck with your surgery. xo
Claire Mcgowan says
Thanks for your response, hope you are still doing well, it was very interesting reading your blog.xx
Claire Mcgowan says
Hi I am 13 weeks post op spinal fusion L4-L5, I am still very concious 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 dont feel in time? Thanks Claire
Hi Claire. This was something I was really worried about too, but personally I’m not aware of my hardware at all. I’ve heard of people who can feel it – it seems to be an issue sometimes with people who are really thin/small. But I’m pretty petite and it hasn’t been an issue for me. For a while, I had a ton of swelling and pressure at my surgical site. I remember reading somewhere that it was possibly caused by lymphatic drainage? I don’t know though. All I can tell you is that the swelling & muscle tightness in my lower spine DID go away, and I never feel my hardware.
Hopefully someone else can weigh in?
Scott Frazier says
I can feel my hardware in my back. It’s weird but not painful. I’m 2 months out.
I feel the same way and I’m at about the same stage as when you wrote this.
Lindsay Wood says
I have had a fusion of L5 S1 3 weeks ago. I am an active person & a mum of 4 & can’t stand doing nothing!
The reason why I had this operation is because I had a discectomy in April 2016. I was back to my old self within a matter of days, running & training clients 5 weeks post op! I felt like a new woman & was cured…how wrong I Was!
Shortly after the pain came back & I had swelling which looked like another bum on my back. It was in my bones, disc & pressing on my sciatic nerve again. My consultant said I would have to have a spinal fusion. He offered me the spinal injections, which I had 2 lots & a course of acupuncture.
Eventually I had to bite the bullet & go for the operation.
I was in hospital for 3 nights. It’s been a struggle being left at home alone for most of the time, but people have rallied round to help me.
I seen my physio the other day & have been told I have significant weakness in my left leg & I do not walk properly. The exercises should be so simple, but I am struggling!
I don’t know whether I should be weaning off the pain meds by now & I just feel so shitty & lacking in confidence.
I have numbness in my right buttock but it’s so painful at the same time, if that makes sense?
I am sleeping like a baby, which is a plus as my leg pain used to keep me awake all the time.
Sorry for ranting. Just feeling sorry for myself! Lol
I am not in so much pain before & know I need to give myself time to heal. I’m just too impatient! Haha
Hi Lindsay! Ugh, the early weeks are soooo hard. It gets so much better though, I promise. If I remember correctly, I don’t think I really started weaning off meds until the 4th week, and that’s only because I had to drive from time to time. I took pain meds at night for the first couple of months. I know some people have trouble with pain meds and you should definitely stay on top of it, but personally I didn’t have trouble weaning off them. I worried that I was on them for too long, but I kind of just knew when I was ready to be without them, if that makes any sense at all.
Also at 3 weeks, I wasn’t really doing any exercise at all. Walking a tiny bit but that’s all. I know that’s not what you’re “supposed” to do, but I really just listened to my body. I think I needed the rest more than anything. I had weakness in my left leg after surgery but that slowly went away. Just give yourself time. I was in full-on Netflix binge mode at 3 weeks! 🙂
I know it sucks but it sounds like you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Do you have a grabber? I found that helped a bit when no one was around to get stuff for me. Oh, and my shower chair was the best. Please keep in touch and let me know how you are, ok? I’ll be thinking about you.
How many injections did you have total?
Hi! I wanted to check in now that I am 4 weeks post L5-S1 fusion. I have to say, I am overall feeling pretty good at this point! I am only 27, so age and health/fitness is definitely on my side. I’ll share a little more of my experience in hopes that it can provide another encouraging example:
Hospital: Spent 3 days/2 nights. Was comfortable laying in bed (ice machine was awesome!) and felt somewhat normal. Having family visiting really helped my spirits! Getting up was very difficult. The first time I tried to get out of bed and walk a bit, I was very freaked out by how hard it was. But, by the 3rd day, I was walking down the halls, slowly, without a walker. Leaving the hospital was the hardest – going from a comfortable adjustable bed and constant care to riding in the car (very uncomfortable) and trying to get settled at home was a shock!
Week 1 at home: The first couple of days at home, I had a hard time getting comfortable. In bed, lying on my back with a long skinny pillow beneath my legs and ice machine strapped on was the best. I could sit in an electric recliner, but took effort to find just the right pillow configuration and I couldn’t reach the pillows to move them myself. I needed a hand getting in and out of chairs and had to install handle bars by my toilet to get myself up and down. Hubby helped me with all my showers and showering was tricky with the wound. By the end of the first week, it was a lot easier to get myself comfortable and my electric recliner was my best friend!
Week 2-3: I improved pretty quickly with being able to move around the apartment and starting to feel like myself. We had Christmas and I was able to do some light cooking/cleaning and enjoyed socializing with company. I was able to sit at the table for about 20 minutes at a time for meals. After the holidays, I came down with the flu, and I have to say that was by far the most miserable part of the whole experience – throwing up, coughing, and just general flu symptoms were exponentially more painful. There’s just no way to throw up or cough without jerking your back!
Week 4-present: I am walking almost normally, up to short distances. I feel normal, and am comfortable and without pain when in a good position. I only notice pain with movements or being in a bad position. I started working again, just for very short hours on my laptop. I’m still uncomfortable riding in the car and haven’t attempted driving yet, but I’ve gone on short trips out with my husband. At this point, I’m just avoiding sitting in chairs or cars for long (which limits going to work or most outings!), and of course any lifting or bending. I’m worried that this isn’t going to “fix” me, but I’m trying to have faith and wait/pray it out!
A few must-haves: a grabber (essential for the first few weeks!!), handle bars for the toilet, long lumbar pillow (for behind back and/or under knees), a comfy electric recliner, a wipe-off board to keep track of meds when you aren’t thinking too clearly
thank you, to both Sharon and Ashley, for sharing your stories. I will have an L3-L4 fusion on 1/23, and I’m anxious, to say the least! I appreciate reading your experiences to try to mentally prepare for what I’m about to undertake.
Whoa, I’m late responding and just realized that your surgery was today. Please let me know how you are. Thinking about you. xo
Danielle Genovesi says
Thank you so much for writing this blog! I am 5 days post op, and I think I come here everyday to remind myself that there is a end in sight. I knew there was going to be pain, I just didn’t think it would be this bad. I’m getting up and walking around my house, but can’t muster anything more than that right now. Thanks sgain!!
Hi Danielle! Hang in there – you’re in the worst of it right now, but it gets better. I promise. <3 If you have any questions or want to talk, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My online support network was absolutely a lifesaver during those first few hard weeks.
David Martin says
Well, thank you so much for your blog. Even though I’m a physician it’s still a scary process becoming a patient and certainly for major surgery like a fusion. I also know “too much” so extra fear. My story is two failed micro discectomies within 3 mths then L3/4 fusion Nov 27. unfortunately a staph infection was found in the disc probably contracted at the second micro. So not only trying to recover from the fusion I am dealing with daily IV antibiotics for probably 2 mths. The good news is my leg pain is gone. I’m seeing patients about 4 hrs a day and making calls at 4 nursing homes, (wheel chair). Standing in place is still horrific and I need to semi recline to sit. I still sleep in a recliner. I thank God for the recovery I’ve made and am optimistic. BUT, I will spend the rest of my career convincing my patients not to have back surgery unless crippling symptoms. God bless!
You’re seeing patients already? That’s remarkable. I was barely up & about until 6 weeks post-op. I think I was probably an ideal surgical patient (at least in my surgeon’s opinion) – except for my spondylolisthesis, my back was in otherwise great shape. I’ve had some adjacent disc problems but so far my recovery has been free from complications. Dealing with a staph infection on top of everything must be a nightmare. 🙁 I’m 18 months out now, and I feel good. My major complaint is that I still can’t do much exercise. Even mild stretching aggravates my back. Maybe it’s just something I’ll have to get used to…anyway, I’m glad to hear from you, and I hope you’ll stay in touch. Hope 2018 is an improvement on 2017 for you.
David Martin says
I just had to prove to myself that I wasn’t disabledOf course tho, I got my surgeon’s approval. Going back to work at least for a bit did wonders for my mental health as so many things had gone wrong. My next hurdle is getting back into bed! God bless.
Carol S. says
Glad to find your posts.. was feeling all alone out here. My back was so bad I could barely walk and struggled for years just to stand-up. Had my spinal fusion -Nov 13, 17- and into week 6 …sure can relate to your comments. The surgery-pain was realllly bad the first several weeks – the worst was the leg spasms the first = 3 weeks . But does get better by week 4-5. Must warn about the narcotic meds – get off them ASAP, very addictive, can add to the body-ache, and messes with mood swings (found that out personally). I retired my walker last week and use a cane – large crowds still make me uncomfortable and will for awhile. The more weeks under my belt, the better it gets. As I was told ‘we are now members of the club’ Back Fusion survivors
Hi Carol! So glad to hear from you. Are you still doing well? Six weeks was a big milestone for me too. It took months for me to get my energy back, but at least I felt a little bit more normal at that point. I agree about the narcotics. They never really worked super well for me – they sort of knocked me out and dulled my senses, but they didn’t do much for my actual back pain. Ibuprofen still works the best for me, although I’m very cautious with it now. It was starting to do a number on my stomach before surgery, and I have enough stomach issues as it is without meds tearing up my stomach lining (yikes). How are you feeling now? Please stay in touch!
Carol S. says
Going on week 9 after my spinal fusion 3-4-5 .. everyone says I am doing great -> but there are days I am dragging all day, sore, and the leg spasms still appear at night .. still have trouble bending over hard .. picking even the lightest thing off the floor is at times a struggle .. The surgery pain is gone, which was a pain level I had never experienced before .. and getting off the narc drugs was key .. Now my goal is to get my back-stomach muscles stronger, which is harder than I thought .. started rehab last week and working on my leg strength (which is lousy at the moment) .. still shaky without a cane in public (amazing how some folks will run ya over) .. getting more active each week and can now feel the weather changing .. I am the offical family barometer now!
April Blake Pierce says
Oh my goodness. It is so amazing to hear a positive success story on spinal fusion. I just loved reading your story and also looking at your Instagram posts a bit. I also had spinal fusion on my L4/L5. I am 51 years old. I am extremely active in just about anything that involves “not sitting” LOL. YOGA was my passion for the past 6 years and I was pretty good at ACRO/YOGA. Basically, I retired my desk job, became self employed and then started to play and do all of the things I enjoyed in my youth. So while I do not know if doing inversions and back bends contributed to my spondylolisthesis and the cyst that grew on my spine, looking back I do that it aggravated it. I have had back pain for years, but the nerve pain, hip pain and back pain were unbearable in 2015/2016. Fast forward to August 2016 I had rather emergency surgery, the cyst was removed and I had a posterior fusion with hardware. Unfortunately it was a failed fusion and I had to have 2 more surgeries within almost a year to the date. I was so, so sad and depressed about the failed fusion, the new pain and the thought of loose hardware in my spine. The surgeon did an anterior fusion next. This technique is more successful in some people. Also forgot to mention that my bones did not fuse in surgery #1. So by this time it is 4 months post op since #2 surgery and I feel so much better in comparison. Surgeon put spacers filled with BMP (protein) and it is suppose to encourage bone growth. Also this time I laid LOW. No yoga, no running, no walking like a nut job. I gave myself a break. Well you would too when you know that what you are doing isn’t working. I pray, pray that my post op in month 5 will show a successful fusion. I go in for my CT scan in 1 week. I am very, very hopeful that I will be doing yoga and hand balancing again. Who knows though. I I can’t I’ll be OK with that too! April
Hi April! I’m so glad to hear from you, and I’m sorry for my delayed response. It’s hard to respond to comments on my phone, and truth be told, I’m just too lazy to get on a real computer sometimes. 🙂 I took yoga classes here and there in the years before my surgery, but I didn’t really start to love it until about 6 months before my fusion. I’d had to stop running, and I liked yoga because there was no impact on my joints. But like you, I wonder if I exacerbated my issues. I miss it terribly, more than I miss running to be honest. I haven’t been able to return to either yet. Both are still uncomfortable (not necessarily painful) for me. I don’t know if that will ever go away or if I’ll just have to eventually learn to push through it. What I’ve discovered, for better or worse, is that I feel better when I lay low, just like you said. No yoga, no stretching, no long walks. But that doesn’t seem like a sustainable long term plan, know what I mean? I’m just taking that part day by day for right now.
Did you have your CT scan yet? Were your results what you were hoping for? Please keep in touch and let me know how you are!
Thank you for sharing your story! I am one week away from my fusion surgery, and it is nice to see not only a full story but also one from a fellow young woman going through this!
Any advice for things to prepare for being comfortable through recovery?
Hi Ashley! You’ve got this. <3 The best thing I had at home after surgery was a shower chair. I wasn’t able to submerge my incisions, so a shower was the only way I could get clean, plus it gave me some independence. The chair was sooo helpful. Also, do you have a TENS unit? I used mine for weeks. The hospital sent me home with an ice therapy machine, which I’d also highly recommend. At the very least, you’ll want to have a bunch of ice packs. They recommend ice, not heat.
I hope this helps! Please keep in touch…I’ll be thinking about you!
Amber Maynard says
Hi Sharon. I am having L4-L5 and L5-S1 fusion in a few weeks and have spent some time researching online what to expect after surgery. I’ve been reading so many horror stories by people who had terrible results and ended up with unbelievable chronic pain that was worse than before surgery. I have to admit that I was starting to freak out a little bit when I came across your blog. I was so relieved to read about your experience! Your honesty and candidness confirmed for me that while it is a HUGE decision, there is a good chance that I will have a positive experience. I am also reminded that it is typically people who have bad experiences that spend time writing reviews, because the people who have had good recoveries are out living their lives, not trolling the internet message boards.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience–it has restored confidence in my decision to have this surgery. I hope that my experience is as positive as yours!
Hi Amber! This surgery is no joke, but it’s absolutely possible to heal and be active. I scared myself to death on those same message boards – I’m glad I’ve been able to negate that a bit for you. 🙂 If you’re on Instagram, check out the hashtag #spinalfusion. I’ve found some really inspirational accounts that way – athletes who are doing super well after surgery! If you ever want to talk, shoot me an email at mommyrunsit (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll be thinking of you! <3
Scott Frazier says
I to was sacred to death of my L4 L5 because of all the negative stuff on the net, in fact I put it off 4years but my new girlfriend “made” me do it. I had horrible constant sciatica pain. After surgery the S pain was completely gone. I’m healin great at 2 months out. Hate wearing the back brace but expect to get to be rid of it next week at my 2 month Dr appt. Good luck people. My advice is do it. Pray & do what the Dr tells you.
I found your blog while I was awaiting surgery and it helped calm a lot of fears. I am now 3 weeks out from a L4-5 fusion.
I still have a lot of incision pain and now my hips and sacrum joints all hurt all day, sigh. I’m walking around my neighborhood a few times a day right now. Looking forward to being able to do more without extra pain.
Hey Adam! How are you feeling? Hopefully you’re through the worst of it. I hate to say it, but I was still fairly miserable at 3 weeks post-op. It only gets better from here though!!! Keep in touch, okay?
Wow!!! Thank You Sharon for this website!!! I am post op 3 weeks.. L4/L5 – L5-S1 multi fusion… I don’t know where to begin… just started small walks to my mailbox as I live in a condo, that is enough for me right now.. sleeping very difficult.. cant get comfortable, turning very difficult as I am a restless sleeper… naps so welcome, tire easy as I guess I am not sleeping well.. Thank god I don’t work and I am lucky to be retired at 57.. I have pain in my left leg and hip which I have not had before but as I have been reading is normal and my surgeons nurse said is normal also as nerves are disturbed during surgery. A couple of reccomendations… get off pain meds as soon as possible outside of nerve meds I am taking for nerve pain gabapentin 300 mg 3x a day and methocarbamol 750 mg every 8 hours as needed for pain, but the OXY I was on, ged rid of… I was sooo constipated beyond belief even starting the senakot and colace.. terrible discomfort.. soo bad for BM…. I looked 18 months pregnant when not!! After reading all the posts I am so hopeful as I thought after 3 weeks I wouldn’t be this bad still… I also want to say I quit smoking 6 weeks before surgery because I had to, it’s easy when you have too!! Please please, to all smokers out there, you need to stop before surgury, I did not read much of this on the posts on the blog, guessing because many people don’t smoke anymore, but it is so IMPORTANT TO STOP, as your graft needs oxygen and adequate blood supply to heal and take… I tried for 20 years to stop and no one ever mentioned on this blog as being a smoker, I knew what I had to do because the pain was so intense before the surgury, funny when you have to quit you do because of other pains so severe.. good for me, hope I never go back..I’ll reply back in another 2 weeks after I have my 6 week check-up best wishes to all out there!!! WE ARE ALL STRONGER THAN WE THINK!!!!