I get messages pretty regularly from my fellow spondylolisthesis sufferers. Sometimes they’re considering having a spinal fusion, or they’re preparing for surgery, or they’re in the throes of early post-op recovery. I love getting these messages – first, because I sent quite a few of them myself, both before and after surgery, and the responses I got were invaluable. Seriously, as supportive as my family & friends were during my recovery, my spondy friends got me through some really tough days.
Second, it can be challenging to find spinal fusion success stories online. They’re out there – and the ones I did find (like this and this) were a tremendous source of inspiration and reassurance. But more often than not, I found myself reading about failed fusions, scary post-op complications, and long-term surgical side effects. It’s hard not to be terrified.
The first couple of weeks after surgery, I wasn’t sleeping well at night. I was scared and in a lot of pain at that point, and I found myself scouring articles and forums for people with similar symptoms. Most of what I found left me even more terrified.
It was good to know that I wasn’t alone. But it would also have been good to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel – that recovery and even a return to a normalcy was possible.
The thing is, most people don’t turn to health forums when they’re feeling, well, healthy. We use them to ask for advice. To complain & commiserate. And don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of value in that. But it can give a skewed perspective – because people are much less likely to take to the internet with their success stories. And so people who are seeking hope & good news often come up empty handed.
It can take a full year to recovery from a spinal fusion – so at 5 months post-op, I don’t know if it’s fair to call myself a success story – yet. But for those seeking hope and looking for positive outcomes, here’s what I can tell you.
At 5 months post-op:
1. The pre-op pain in my right hip is 100% gone. (The pain was severe and was actually the symptom that caused me to seek medical treatment in the first place – not back pain.)
2. I rarely, if ever, experience numbness or tingling in my feet (also a frequent occurrence before surgery).
3. The SEVERE post-op nerve pain in my left hip and leg is almost completely gone. At most, I experience mild twinges when I overdo it. This pain began to subside at about 10 days post-op and was no longer an issue by around 3 weeks. (If you’re reading this and you’re in the first two weeks of post-op recovery, IT GETS BETTER. I promise.)
4. I am almost completely med-free. On occasion, I’ll take a very small dose of pain medication at bedtime after a particularly rough or active day. But for the most part, I don’t need anything stronger than Tylenol.
5. I can stand for reasonably long amounts of time without pain. I do sometimes feel achy (in my back) or uncomfortable, but it no longer hurts to stand in place.
6. Since my surgery, I have:
- flown on an airplane
- gone on a 5-day family vacation that involved a lot of walking
- been the passenger during an 8-hour road trip
- gone canoeing and kayaking
- resumed nearly all of my normal daily activities (cooking, cleaning, laundry, carpooling, grocery shopping, etc.)
7. I’m not allowed to run until at least 6 months post-op, but I can (and do) walk 1-2 miles at least 3-4 times a week.
8. I still tire easily and need more sleep than I did before surgery – however, I no longer need daily naps just to function. I do still experience periods of intense, full-body fatigue, but this happens much less frequently than it did even a month ago.
9. I do still have lower back pain and stiffness, which I suppose may never fully go away – I mean, the stiffness is obviously because two levels of my vertebrae are fusing together (and in the meantime are being held in place by titanium rods, pins, and screws). As for the lower back pain – you need to be aware going into surgery that a spinal fusion may not cure your back pain, nor is it intended to. The goal of a fusion is to stabilize your spine in order to prevent further slippage of the vertebrae. I still have spondylolisthesis – only now my grade 2 slip has been reduced to a grade 1. If my successful recovery continues, my spine should remain stable and my symptoms of nerve damage (hip pain, numbness in my feet and legs) should not return.
So. Am I pleased with the outcome of my spinal fusion? Yes.
Would I make the same decision again? Yes.
Any complaints? I don’t like not running. And frankly, I don’t think I’m anywhere near being able to attempt it again. The other day I was doing a little ballet with my daughter, and even just a few balancés (very minimal impact) made my whole back ache. I do find myself getting frustrated with my body sometimes – I’m nowhere near as strong or as flexible as I was a couple of years ago. But then I remind myself that: 1) I couldn’t run or practice yoga long before surgery; and that 2) now that I’ve had the fusion, I’m getting closer to where I want to be every day.
It’s been a tough road, and it’s not over yet. But at least now I’m heading in the right direction.
Do you have questions about spinal fusion? Please – and I mean this – ask me anything. I will share 100% of my experience with you. And if I can’t answer your question, I can probably connect you with someone who can. Leave your questions in the comments. Or if you don’t want to post it publicly, send me an email at (sharon[at]mommyrunsit[dot]com) or PM me on Instagram or Facebook. I want to help you get through this the way that others helped me.
Stay strong. xo
Shawna Garland says
I’m 4 months post-op from a 3 level lumbar fusion and laminectomy. I still get winded very easily and it concerns me. Should that be? Also, I to am very frustrated with my recovery time. I feel I should be doing better.
Carol Keohane says
I am 2 years post spinal fusion and I’m still making progress. It’s been a long journey but I am almost back to normal. What I will say is that I did too much and at an early stage expected too much. I still find bending down and doing too much will give me backache and sometimes an ache in my upper left buttock. My husband is wonderful as are my girlfriends. They have been so supportive. I would say there’s not enough out there about the post spinal recovery path. Sharon has been a star and so encouraging. I would say to everyone don’t expect miracles at 3 months. I hope this post helps
Amendola Barbara says
I had a spinal fusion of my L4/L5 in 2017 and it took three years for me to get to a fully recover. I had an amazing physical therapist who honored my goal to be 100% back to normal. Don’t stop believing that you will get there. My recovery was very very slow and it can be hard to read about other people’s quick recoveries.
But as always if you feel like it isn’t normal you can check back with your surgeon. Best of luck to you!
Angela S Payne says
Hi Shawana, my name is Angela.
I had a lower lumbar fusion at l5 s1 and a revision laminectomy 7 weeks ago. I still wake up with burning in my legs and feet some days are better then others. I get frustrated and down but I’m sure what we are going through is normal. There are days I don’t want to move but I know I have to push myself. Just try and stay positive and no you are not alone. If you want you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi there yes I agree with you on the frustration part and you’re right I do have to keep reminding myself that I couldn’t even walk before the surgery I’ve noticed that when the weathers bad I ate a lot more I’m 13 weeks postop from a three level laminectomy and fusion and everyone just keeps telling me to be patient but it’s nice to hear success stories and where other people are as well
Allison Stewart says
Hi, I’m 3 months post op.I’m a 51 year old female and love all things outdoors. My back had gotten to the point where bending or sitting were getting impossible. I had a spinal fusion at L5-S1, and a microdiscectomy at L4-5. I was progressing well until about week 5. We attempted a road trip to Yellowstone, a 5 hour drive. At 4 hours I got out of the car and felt that zinging “pow” of nerve pain in my spine. It completely freaked me out. I let my doc know, and he told me I was probably just having a flare up. He put me on steroids, and it did settle down after a couple weeks. But since then, whenever I sit for any length of time, I get another “zing”. I have literally been on my feet pacing my house, or lying down on my side. If I lay on my back, I get another zing, and then the week of letting it settle down starts all over again. I am scared and worried I am not going to get better. The nerve pain is very disconcerting. I don’t know what to do.
One thing I do when I sit right in the car, in the chair ,wherever I am ,I use one of those neck pillows that people used to fly with it gives me a lot more cushioning I put it right behind my back and it makes things more comfortable with a lot less impact to my lower spine It’s made a huge difference for me
Bev Walsh says
I’m also definitely in a better place then what I was pre op. I’m now 6 months out and although I have burning shins (actually much worse than before) I can now go all day but do tire more easily. I still take Gabapentin for the nerve pain in the shins. At the end of the day though I’m in a better place than I was.
Janis derogatis says
What kills me 5 months post op) is that darn nerve pain. Some days are really bad, especially in the top of my right foot which causes me to limp a little which throws my whole body off.. Not none for my patience i want this to improve so badly and have to really fight with myself not to get depressed. I’m active doing every day activities but some times between the nerve pain in my foot and down the right of my thigh makes me want to scream!
Jan Thomas says
I love your site. It is very encouraging and realistic. I am just starting my 6th week post op after MAS TLIF for a cyst and spondio..thesis. I do well pain wise when I get up but if I drive or walk my back really aches. Have been taking 1/2 hydrocodone in after noon and another 1/2 before bed. Stopped taking the Robaxin but my back felt like it was jamming up today so took one and I think it helped. It just seems like I should be improving more by now. I start PT Weds. so will see what they say. Am I being too impatient. Would love your input. Thanks
Ken Puglisi says
Before my surgery I could not stand up for more than a minute – my thigh would get so numb my leg would give out. I was able to be active for one day, followed by three days down time to recover. My neurosurgeon did a fusion and laminectomy on L4/L5. The day of surgery when they got me to stand up, my leg pain and numbness was completely gone! I’m now almost three and a half months out from the surgery and I couldn’t be happier. I can hardly wait to be able to return to lifting more than a few pounds. My next x-rays and exam will be five months after surgery.
The surgeon did a minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. Wow, those few days in the hospital were painful!, but I was able to stop taking the narcotic pain medication a day or two after I came home. I’m not a brave I-can-take-it kind of guy, but I will mention that if medical cannabis is available in your state… like I said, I was off narcotic pain killers on day five or six after surgery, and off the muscle relaxer Robaxin a few days after that. I remain completely pain free.
Susan Belcher says
I’m 7 weeks post op and was feeling depressed that I still have so much pain. I had terrible sciatica in my right leg for nearly a year before deciding to investigate surgery. The MRI showed a prolapsed disc L4/L5 including cysts pressing on the nerves. Surgery was a given. Post surgery I was doing well until I started taking longer walks with my corset. Sweating under the corset and bandage resulted in an infection in the wound. That took another 2 weeks to clear up with antibiotics and debriding. I was also running 20km weekly up until 3 months prior to the op, so I expected to be able to take short jogs from around 6 months post op, but with the back pain and spasms I’m no longer so sure. My neurosurgeon has prescribed Baclofen which does not help very much. Ibuprofen does help, so I’m using small doses! Also reading this blog helps a lot!
Sue Belcher says
Now 14 months post op and the pain (sciatica) led me to getting another MRI. Sadly I’m twice as bad as I was pre-first op. A case of failed surgery. Instead of having 1 prolapsed disc I now have two. L4 to S1. I also have damaged ligaments in my spine, Grade 2 spondylosthesis, and scar tissue causing severe nerve entrapment in my right leg.
No running or even walking past 300m for the last year!
Once bitten twice shy…..I’m getting at least 3 neuro’s advice before going back for another multi-level fusion. I hope that in a year I will be able to add to this post with full recovery from 2nd op – and in 2 years good flexibility.
Susan beshears says
I am two years post-op from extensive back fusion, laminectomy, reopening of spinal canal. I still have occasional periods of overwhelming fatigue and some pain, especially from just standing. I work out everyday, aerobics, circuit training, pickleball, or stationary bike, plus walking. I take very little pain med and am able to do most things. I had extreme pain while nerves in legs were regenerating, but that has finally subsided. Best advice, keep moving, even if it’s just walking. Eat well. Keep a positive attitude.
Carol Keohane says
Hi. I’m 9 months post lumbar fusion 3 vertebrae. At last I believe I may get better, have regular pain free days and can walk further and for longer. I’m a busy 70 years old and fit although far from athletic! I have found the going fairly tough with discomfort akin to a bad toothache. After that first pain free period (after the operation) the pain was fairly constant for 6-7 months. At 8 months I noticed a difference. Less aching and more in the way of pain free days. However, if I overdo it I will pay for it. I still don’t sleep too well and need to get up & have a little walk around the bedroom. In bed I get a nagging ache/pain in my hip. I believe this will resolve itself in time. Hang in there and believe you’ll recover. The most difficult thing I have found is lack of information. My physio is great & supportive as is my family, but the most helpful thing I’ve found are Sharons posts. Thank you
5 weeks since my lower decompression fusion on l4 k l5, still have pain in left leg as I had before surgery. I have to wear a brace for 3 months & am 69, not one for taking pain meds, was in perfect health & very active in outdoors, walking, snowshoeing & a lot of time with my horse. Before surgery I was taking no prescribed meds. How long does this pain persist? I want to get back in the land of the living.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Josie. For me, the worst of the pain was gone by 6 weeks. I don’t recall exactly when I was (relatively) pain-free, but I was able to take a vacation with a 2 hour flight and lots of walking at 3 months post-op (I was 42 when I had my surgery). Is your doctor saying that you’re on track?
Susan beshears says
I basically took no pain meds after the initial couple of weeks post op. I did have to allow some pain, especially as nerves in my legs regenerated. Staying active helps.
John Osterholm says
I had lower back surgery with a fusion and a cyst removal as well. Almost four weeks have gone by and this was a very painful experience. Today I have not taken a Percocet for the first time. I am going to switch to Tramadol as needed. I wish that I had known about the post op anguish because I would not have done this.
Now I have stiffness and I have no idea how to really treat that for sure
Cathy Chamberlain says
Thanks for this article. I had a cervical fusion 2 years ago, 2 levels fussed, but one did not so I still have pain in one shoulder. I have problem with left SI joint, degenerative changes, L3-S1, scoliosis and something with facet joints. I’ve been getting cortisone shots, but it looks like I might be headed to surgery again. Pretty sure I’m looking at SI joint fusion and some type of fusion to stabilize lumbar area. It helps to see that you got through it and have been able to get back to exercising and enjoying family activities. I do feel that lots of the forums have many stories of no improvement. I’m 54, was very active before pain set in and am having trouble figuring out what to do to stay active. If I dont move I get very stiff. Just glad to read your story.
Carol Keohane says
I emailed you a while ago as it seemed I was progressing too slowly & you reassured me which was a great help. It’s so hard as there are no guidelines here. I’ve recently been over to your side of the pond from the UK to visit my daughter in Connecticut & the flight went well. I’m now 14 weeks post lumbar fusion & doing fine apart from an achy stiff back which is worse sometimes than others. All pain is gone so I hope the stiffness will go in time too. Thank you so much your posts are so helpful. I’m a 70 year old so I guess healing takes longer
Carol keohane says
I’m now 9 months post lumbar fusion. I still read your posts and find them so helpful, as one of your contributors said there are positive comments out there.
I think it was 8 months before I really believed that I was making significant improvement and really would recover from this operation. There are odd days still when I feel in discomfort, usually after I’ve done too much, but mostly it’s good. I still have physio and I’m still fairly careful. I try and walk as much as I can and I am very lucky to have supportive friends and family
I’m sorry that I just found this article, I had Laminectomy & Spinal Fusion due to Spinal Stenosis & degenerative disc on November 14; 2018. A week before the surgery, a person I know came up to me and said” I wish you luck- I’ve had 3 of them and not one worked”. I almost called off the surgery because it was almost impossible to find a successful surgery story. Because of the pain I went ahead with the surgery and I am completely pain free! I do feel stiffness in the morning, but at my age (66), that is par for the course. I will say this- being more physical and moving around to get exercise has a lot to do with recovery. My doctor say no restrictions, I took him on he word!
Nicole Wimmer says
Sharon, it is so refreshing to hear about a success story for a change! I am having a 2-level (L4-S1) TLIF at end of November and I think my biggest concern at this point is that the pain post-op will be so incredibly bad and difficult to manage. In as much pain as I am in now going into surgery, the thought of it being worse is very scary! I had a microdiscectomy and laminectomy on this same part of my spine in 2007 and the pain was pretty intense.
I’d love to get some perspective from you on what your pain was like coming out of the survey during your time in the hospital and your first few days home. Was there anything you did that made the pain worse, or better, that I should keep in mind?
Margaret J. Wergley says
Sharon, I so much enjoyed reading your positive and encouraging comments about your back surgery. I am a 72 year ols female, 5 weeks post-op from fusion of L4/L5. For almost ten tears I had managed to kepp severe sciatica and back pain at bay with epidural steroids and most recently an ablation, which was totally unsuccessful! My surgery was a success…no more leg pain, and I have been off pain meds totally for almost two weeks. I do have two problems/questions for you. I cannot fall asleep until 3 or 4 in the morning. Needless to say I’m exhausted! Was on valium, gabapentin, and melatonin. No help. NP prescribed a muscle relaxant and Tylenol PM. Also drink warm milk and even a bit of turkey before bedtime. Still no help. I know I shouldn’t have, but a dear friend shared a few Xanax with me and I took one last night! Slept 10 hours!! I’ll fess up to my surgeon on the 26 when I go in for xrays. Did you experience this. Also, I occasionally experience twinges of pain in surgery area, sometimes after long walks. (I try to do 1-2 miles a day in two walks.). Is that just the healing process? Thanks so much. You can message me on FB. Margaret J. Wergley
Susan Beshears says
Margaret, I’m glad to know you are doing so well after your surgery. I had spinal fusion of L-3,4,5 last November, as well as a Laminectomy. My nerve canal was almost closed (about 98%), and I still suffer from numb toes, but I am otherwise doing great. I was released on May 25th and am back to playing Pickleball! I continue to have twinges in my lower back. As long as I am not doing anything damaging, I don’t worry about it too much. As far as sleeping, a couple of things i have started doing are to turn the air conditioning down at night to 68′, so the house is cool. I also sleep with those funny eye shade things you buy to wear on the airplane when you travel, so the ambient light in the bedroom doesn’t keep me awake. This may sound stupid, but you also might like something to hold, like a teddy bear; it keeps you from wanting to roll, and it also feels comforting as you fall asleep.
Margaret, I’m really sorry it’s taken me this long to respond, and I hope I can still be helpful. I have no excuse except that I’m the slowest of the slow. Drives my husband nuts. 🙂
1) YES. For some weird reason, narcotic pain meds ruin my sleep. I either can’t fall asleep at all, or I sleep so fitfully that it’s almost like I didn’t sleep. Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc) work way better for me at night. 2) Yep. Twinges come and go. You’ll probably continue to have weird twinges and aches for a while, but as long as they don’t stay & get worse, it’s probably normal stuff. Two years later, I still get the occasional weird pain.
I hope you’re still doing well!
I found that “ FX” brand CBD gummies with turmeric ( green package) work fantastic better than Xanax to help me to sleep naturally. Ive never been a fan of meds other then Advil and like. But after trying this with instructions from local health food store I have found extended relief. Also, I hate to so sound like a “ cry baby” but, why do I still need to use a grabber to pick up something off of the floor five months postop L4 L5 lumbar fusion?
Amendola Barbara says
Thanks a ton!
michelle Teasdale says
I am 8 weeks post op from spinal fusion L5-S1 region and still am experiencing alot of left foot pain with electrical shocks that goe through my toes that are very painful is this normal
Barbara Amendola says
Hi Michelle, I can tell you that I am almost 6 months post op, and I am still having on nerve pain in my leg, on the side that I had my surgery on. Granted it’s not the leg that I was having sciatica pain on, because that was better immediately. However, the side that I’m still having nerve pain on. I was told by my surgeon, physical therapist, and acupuncturist that this is very normal when you disturb muscles and nerves. They sort of become angry and displaced and have to find their path again. Of course, Im not a doctor but I hope sharing this information might ease your mind. Either way you should check with your doctor at your next post op visit or call beforehand.
I’m 5 months post op l5-s1 fusion and I still get what I call “shocks” of nerve pain in my feet. I think it’s completely normal to have this especially if your nerves were compressed for a long period of time. I don’t know if you’re walking but for me walking has been the absolute most helpful thing for my nerve pain! Days after surgery I was forcing myself to walk as much as I could because it truly worked out the nerve pain in my feet. I also keep a plastic water bottle in the freezer so I can roll my foot over it to help ease the aches and pains. Take care and my best to you in your recovery.
Elaine Orlich says
Hi Michelle, scrolled at length to find a post that I could relate with. Ism almost 4 months post op from anterior and posterior approach of having a L5 and SI fusion.
Have tried not to be discouraged at this point, but it’s frustrating for sure, when you still can’t stand still nor sit very long. A twenty minute car ride brings much misery.
Dr said still no twisting lifting or bending. Will have a CT scan first week of Feb to see if I’ve begun to fuse. Back back and leg pain persists, as well as muscle spasms and nerve twinges.
One of my daughters feels I will be like this forever. I’ve have to remind her to keep her negative opinions to herself.
I’m glad you shared what your dr, therapist etc., said about the nerves being mad and trying to find new pathways.
I just thought I would be further along then I am. This has gotten old for sure.
My question…. you shared your story in May of 2018. How are you doing now? I hope you have fully recovered. I need an encouraging word for sure. I’m glad for those who post, that at 4 weeks they were pain free, but it doesn’t make me feel better about my own recovery.
Allison Stewart says
Elaine, I am 3 months post op, and also can’t sit or lay on my back, or I get sharp nerve twinges/zings. Did it get better?
Amendola Barbara says
Sharon, I have a question for you. Do you recall being extremely hungry months after your surgery?
This upcoming Tuesday I will be 12 weeks postop. I’m still hungry all the time, and I can’t seem to lose any weight at all. I’ve been having a lot of protein I was told to have around 80 g of protein a day. Which is easy to do with a few protein shakes, chicken, and fish. But no matter what I do the scale will not budge and I’m finding that I’m exhausted and I really have to talk myself into doing my exercises every day. This is a new thing since I started back at work, because there’s so many things competing for my time again. Do you recall any of this?
That’s a great question – I’m going to make a FAQ post about it – hopefully you’ll get some good feedback.
I don’t remember feeling extra hungry, but I was completely & overwhelmingly exhausted. I was told that this was because my body was using all of its calories to heal & to grow new bones. To be honest, I probably wasn’t consuming enough calories, and I almost certainly wasn’t getting enough protein. So it makes sense that I would be so intensely exhausted, and also why you would be so hungry – you know? Kind of like when you’re pregnant and your body needs extra resources to do its job.
Don’t know if that’s the best answer. I’m really impressed that you’re eating so well, and I really think it will help with your healing. I think my healing might have been faster if I’d done a better job with my nutrition.
I’ll let you know when I post your question! 🙂
Amendola Barbara says
Sharon, I’m 9 weeks post op now, and I’ve started physical therapy. My at home exercise is to do planks three times a day, some light weight training, walking and getting to the YMCA pool to do kick boarding. I’m finding that I’ll have a few days of significant soreness, then followed by a few days of relief. Did you find the same?
I’m just exhausted by the end of each day. It’s like my brain says it wants to do so much more than my body can. Did you find the same for a bit?
Omg…I love your sight. I am a
little over 6 months post-op L4-L5 fusion and have been so depressed. You have made me feel better about where I am in recovery. The only thing that I hate is not being able to run yet. I played soccer for 16 years and miss the runner’s high that helped my over all well being. I have been doing a lot of soul searching since my surgery. I had terrible sciatica as a result of my back and resulted in my decision for surgery. I have since started resistance exercises with therabands. I figure even if I cant run, that doesn’t mean I just have to sit and feel sorry for myself. I am working on my core strength since I had an anterior surgery. So I have a really nice trophy scar.
I feel so much better than I did at 2 or even 3 months. I didn’t think I would make it, but it does get better if you don’t let it beat you. I still have those days that hurt, but they are getting fewer each week.
Thank you so much for your story and positivity. You made my day.
Yvette from Texas
Well, that’s good because you made my day too! 🙂 You have a lot more improvement still to come, so take heart! Good things are coming. I think core strength is the most important thing for us to work on early on – I wish I’d done a better job at that. I’m not running yet, but I think it’s more mental for me at this point. I absolutely know people who are back to running after a fusion. I have an Instagram friend who was running 5Ks before her one year mark! Keep in touch, okay? I’d love to know if & when you’re able to run again.
I had 360 (anterior and posterior) L4-5/L5-S1 7 weeks ago. I had significant weakness in my left leg post op and that has almost resolved. I still can’t bend without significant pain and feel like I am significantly behind in progress. I have pain rolling over in bed and moving about in my household chores and getting dressed. Anyone else at this stage in the game. I haven’t taken any pain meds other than OTC since post op day 13. I followed up with my surgeons just this past Friday and I got the impression they felt like I should feel some relief compared to pre op. I still feel like I am suffering from post operative pain. Is this normal?
Barbara Amendola says
Hi kelli, I’m not sure if your question is related to pain you had in your left leg pre and post op, but what I can share with you is my own experience.
I had an anterior L4/L5 spinal fusion in late November. When I woke up from surgery I had immediate relief in my right leg which suffered from sciatic pain for about 18 months prior to my surgery. But, my upper left leg was extremely weak and in excruciating pain because when the surgeons where doing my surgery they ran into a slight complication and such had to stretch my my piriformis muscle, tendons and nerves out of the way more than normal to reach my spine. When I woke up the surgeon told me my recovery to strengthen that left leg, hip, etc. would be longer than usual because of this, but I’m happy they didn’t abort the surgery which they almost did.
So what i can tell you is this…this Thursday will be 4 months post op and I can do most normal activities, but my leg still hurts and I get jolts of pain and shock now and again. But my doctor said this is normal because as you develop the muscles in your leg the surrounding nerves move around and will eventually find their normal nerve path, and pain should diminish with time. So I think it can be normal (dependent upon how invasive your surgery was) to still have pain at 7 weeks post op. At 7 weeks post op I could barely lift my leg without major pain and walking was exhausting. The thing that helped me most was at post op 12 weeks I was allowed to swim. I joined the local YMCA and incorporated kick boarding 2 times per week.
Also, if you are doing PT (which i wasn’t allowed to do until post op 12 weeks. I asked my PT to help me strengthen my inside thigh muscle, so she gave me very specific exercises to do and this is strengthening my leg, but I will say it hasn’t been without pain. The saying “No pain, no gain” has become real for me.
I hope all of this helps you.
Kelli, Barbara’s experience is fairly similar to mine (thanks for sharing!). My pre-op pain was in my right hip. When I woke up from surgery, that was gone. But the pain in my LEFT leg was much worse than my pre-op pain. My left leg was also very weak. At 7 weeks I was up and about, but I still had quite a lot of discomfort. In the grand scheme of things, 7 weeks is quite early in the recovery process (ugh). Are you still icing at all? I’m not a doctor, but I think it’s normal to still feel swollen and sore at 7 weeks. It took about 12 weeks for me to really feel like myself again, and even then I had a long way to go. Don’t know if this helped at all – hope things keep improving. I think you’re right where you’re supposed to be. xo
Amendola Barbara says
Okay, so the exhaustion is normal:-) I’m glad to hear this, because I’m 9 weeks post op and feel like I shouldn’t be so tired still. I’ve manage to walk every day and swim a few times a week. Swimming feels the best! If nothing else, this surgery has taught me to be patient with myself and others in a way that I never was before.
Yep. It was an exhaustion unlike anything I’d ever felt before. And unfortunately it lasted for a long time. But it did get better eventually!
Susan Beshears says
Thank you for sharing your experience. I am looking online today because I am wondering why I have been so exhausted lately. I am age 62, and am 3 months out from spinal fusion of L3,4,5, a laminectomy, and a wedge inserted to stabilize my gait. Until a few months before surgery, i was working full-time and playing pickleball several days a week, so my surgery was a complete surprise. Numbness in my toes was my first clue that there was a serious problem, and the surgeon described the narrowness of the nerve canal as ‘horrible’, with a good probability I would be in a wheelchair later in life. At 3 months out, I feel like I am beginning to be normal again, walking several miles at the YMCA three days a week and taking walks on gravel roads with my dog. I am cooking, doing some light cleaning and laundry, and am able to travel a couple of hours away. My toes are still somewhat numb, but it may take awhile for them to heal. My biggest concerns are the amount of flexibility I will have when fully recovered, and whether I will ever be able to play pickleball (my sport of choice 🙂 again. I am having minimal pain and feel pretty good overall. I am eating well and trying to remain active.
Oh my gosh, Susan. At 3 months post-op I was exhausted ALL THE TIME. Like major exhaustion from very minimal physical exertion – and I was running half marathons right up until my diagnosis. It took me a long time to get past the exhaustion and to make it through the day without a nap, but I’m happy to say that I did gradually get back to normal. (I still like to nap, but I think it’s just because naps are AWESOME.) 🙂
My flexibility still isn’t where I want it to be, but it’s improving very slowly. And I know other people who’ve regained their flexibility more quickly than I have. Some of it is mental for me – I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself if I push too much, so I might not push enough sometimes. Is there a lot of high impact movement in pickleball? I bet you’ll be able to get back to it, as long as there’s not too much jumping or twisting. And even then, I think it’s a matter of your personal comfort level. I’ve seen people do all kinds of sports (running, yoga, pilates, rock climbing) after a fusion.
Keep at it, and stay in touch, okay? 🙂
Amendola Barbara says
Hi Maddelein, I had a spinal fusion on my L4 and L5 three weeks ago! So I understand what you’re going through. I keep a journal of things I am thankful for even if it’s only one accomplishment a day. For instance when I first came home I couldn’t sit up and eat at the table I just hurt too much, but then I turned a corner and I could. I was thankful for simple things like being able to take a shower and shave my legs (It’s turned out to be more complicated than I thought it would be)!
Be kind to yourself and patient. And if you have thoughts running through your head like, why did I do this? The other pain was easier to live with? Don’t pay them any mind, because good recovery pain is so different than bad debilitating pain. I pray you get stronger every single day that you find one or two things that are positive in your day! Feel free to reach out to me anytime. Barbara
Barbara, how are you? What you said is so true!!! During those first couple of weeks, I had lots of those dark thoughts. Especially after reading horror stories on forums at night when I couldn’t sleep. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I would absolutely do it over again, 100%. I’m 18 months post-up and so much better than I was before surgery.
Oh, woohoo for shaving your legs!!! 🙂 I felt like a rock star after I did that myself. Keep in touch, okay?
Barbara Amendola says
In almost post op 5 weeks now, and I will say at the 4 week mark I noticed a significant improvement every single day! I too, am glad I had the spinal fusion. I’m only 49 years old, and love to hike, garden, and explore life–so the option to just live life in constant pain wasn’t an option at all. Just a funny side note…I never thought I would be thankful that I can stand and fold laundry now…BUT I am so thrilled at the simplest of things I can do. It makes you be very thankful for the common things we do every day. And, it also opened up my eyes to have even greater compassion for people with permanent disabilities.
I haven’t start back to work yet. I might work a few hours from home next week and see how it goes from there. We live in New England and I work at a University that doesn’t do the hottest job at snow and ice removal, so I’m playing it a bit safe.
Hi, it was so great to read your positive blog this morning. I am a 73 year old Brit living in France. Two weeks ago I had my fourth operation in two years on my back. This time I had a 3 level fusion on L3, L4 and L5. I only arrived home 2 days ago as I have had severe sacroiliac joint pain on my good side. The pain is severe 24 hours a day in both hips. Very painfull to sit and legs feel like lead. Have been told that fusion went well and no arthritis in hips. Told it is only healing pains. Need some positive vibes please.
Hi Madeleine! I’m SO sorry for not writing sooner. My daughter has had a stomach bug for a full 7 days and it’s been a mess around here. You wrote to me at 2 weeks post-op, so you were probably right in the thick of it. Are you feeling any better? I had severe pain in my left leg for about 2 weeks after surgery. I’d never had pain on my left side at all before my fusion, so it was very scary. But it did go away, thank goodness. This surgery is no joke. Are you icing? Are you able to walk much? Walking is supposed to speed up healing, but I didn’t have the energy for that until several weeks in. Please let me know how you are and keep in touch. Sending love and positive vibes your way. <3
Amendola Barbara says
I’ve made the decision to have surgery and I’m just waiting to schedule a date for next month. One thing that was helpful for me was that my orthopedist also worked with a neurosurgeon and both of them will be doing my surgery. I don’t know if that’s an option for you to explore. Just throwing it out there.
I hope all goes well.
Shalome Claytonbitches says
Well I haven’t had my surgery yet still trying to decide to have it. I am quite terrified.. I am so scared that I am going to not have the right surgeon.
Shalome, I missed your comment somehow – I’m sorry! Have you made any decisions about surgery?
I am three months post-op from a spinal fusion in L4-L5. I am hiking daily and love being back out on the trails. I periodically experience very light tingling sensations on my feet. It has not affected my muscle strength or activity level. Did you experience any of these sensations? My guess is that it could be a residual effect from the compressed nerves that could be still overactive after the decompression. Have you heard of this side effect?
I do still get some tingling, especially if I’ve been sitting in one position for too long. It happened a lot more in the months immediately following my surgery. From what I understand, it takes a LONG time for the nerves to repair themselves after 1) being compressed, and 2) getting adjusted & irritated during surgery. So at 3 months post-op, I’d guess that it’s totally normal to still get some tingling and other nerve-related symptoms. I’m SO glad to hear that you’re back out on the trails! Recovery has taken me longer than I’d like, but I’m still getting better every day. <3
I am so glad that things are looking up. I wish that mine was going better but I am thankful that I had my surgery done. I am coming up on my 1 year anniversary on the 23rd of Dec. I think it if wasn’t for my rheumatoid arthritis (triggered after surgery) and fibromyalgia that things would be so much better. If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat even though it didn’t make me 100% pain free. It did stablizie my spine and that was my gial so that I would quit compensating. I know that I googled a ton before surgery and the doctors warned me that it would hurt. I still consider my surgery successful since I have so many other complicated health issues. They think some of my ongoing problems are nerve related (waiting too long to have surgery) and my other autoimmune disorders contributing.
I wish you continued success. You are doing amazing.
I hear you – any improvement is a success in my book. I wish I didn’t still have quite so much back pain, but I’m grateful that I can do so much more than I could before surgery. And with an unstable slip like I had, stabilizing it with surgery was really the only option. I’m glad to hear from you – I was just thinking about you. You were such a big help and support to me during those early weeks of recovery, and I’m so incredibly grateful.