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Recovering from spinal fusion (Page 1)

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I had a L5-S1 spinal fusion done almost 6 weeks ago and was given a TLSO brace to wear. The immediate recovery was rough, because I had a fever that ranged from 99.5 to 104 for 10 days, followed by a bout of bronchitis and sinus infection. So I basically wasn't moving much for the first 2 weeks..
I do not wear my brace 24/7 as it is so uncomfortable and causes me to get very hot.. If I am doing any sort of activity or leaving the house, I will wear it. I have had sciatica pain for almost two weeks now. The doctor gave me one Medrol dose pack, which did help.
I'm moving next week, and last week I was packing some things. I was careful to not bend or twist, but am afraid I may have done so unconsciously. So my sciatica pain came back and he gave me another Medrol pack. And I am having tremendous pain at the incision area, which is 6 inches right in the L5-S1 area. Every time I stand up, I get stabbing pain. Laying on my back is painful in the incision area only. They say it is inflammation.. I hope it is. I was told I overdid it, but not what I need to limit myself to..
Can someone please help me with my questions. How do I know that I am not twisting getting out of the car? What limits do I need to place on myself besides the obvious one (no bending, twisting, and weight limit 10 lbs) He said I could squat as long as I don't bend...
What exactly happens if I happen to bend or twist? Will this cause me to have pain forever? I keep being told "There is NOTHING you can do to damage what he did to your back" (Rods and screws with a plastic spacer where he removed disc)
I worry about not knowing the answers because I am in so much pain and it's almost 6 weeks out!!
Thanks everyone sunny
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First Helper Tuppy
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replied February 14th, 2010
I had a double fusion l4 one on each side. It has been one year last week. The pain is much worse now and is including both sides of my ribs. I can't sit and lean against anything as my back feels like a block of cement is in there. Some days I can barely walk as the pain goes down my right side from buttox down to numb toes. Good luck to you and hope you have better results. I'm still on narcotics but will have mri and xrays march 3rd. If you are interested I can post what doctor tells me especially why the horrible rib pain. It will help alot if you do not twist,lift any amount of weight. There are many little things that trigger the awful pain. If anyone has any suggestions for myself they would be much appreciated.
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Users who thank bbarb123 for this post: fyrchck 

replied February 14th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
hi fyrchck
it is good that the pain is just from the incision. it sounds like the actual fusion surgery has been successful in relieving your nerve compression. not being a dr i cant tell you how to speed along the healing process of the wound. you have had a major infection and you need to report all symptoms to your dr. your no one concern should be that the infection is gone..any draining of the wound should be a concern.
as for being sure you dont bend twist or stretch try being very deliberate and slow. when youre wearing the brace it should be tight enough to restrict bad movements.
best of luck in your recovery....pete
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Users who thank pete81241 for this post: fyrchck 

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replied March 10th, 2010
I had a very good visit with the PA last month, sorry I have not posted sooner.. I was worried for nothing about the brace as I was only to wear it when up doing activities (which I did). I was told a little twisting is fine, and he did not lif any restrictions, so I must have done something wrong to slow my healing. He told me that i was doing WAY TOO MUCH for recovery and that I needed to slow down.
Thank you Pete for the advice on making my moves deliberate and slow; I will give it a try. Sometimes I do the stupidest things and just push way to hard. It's hard for me to be restricted this way; I have done some bending (and paid for it in the end) and it made me think of one question. What exactly is the reasoning behind NO BENDING? Does the bending cause irritation or can it reverse the effects of the fusion?
I was told that there is no way that I can undo or damage the work that was done, so why the restrictions? I also found out that I was putting my brace on incorrectly. i followed the orthotist and put it on standing up. I saw somewhere online where it should be put on laying down (I have the one with straps in front all one piece). Once I started doing that, I noticed it being much tighter and also placed it lower on my body, therefore preventing it from riding up (I was wearing it so grooves were above my belly button not in line as it should be)
I guess all in all I am doing well with recovery; the bad days are becoming less and less. I am still on medication, but the dosage dropped and I can go 5 hours between doses, sometimes 6. PT starts next month, so I hope to be healed by summer SmileI see the PA again in 3 weeks.
As for the sciatica pain and bursitis in my hip, i notice that pain only when i have actually done too much activity (like walking in the stores) and as a result my back rebels. I try to slow down, but have never been the type to slow down if that makes any sense. I have become more conscious of my movement since my last flare up because I refused to go on steroids again; I took two medrol packs back to back and gained close to 10 lbs. I guess maybe I should start wearing my brace more until I can actually slow down and learn my limits.
Thank you for replying and if anyone knows the reasoning behind no bending, I would appreciate a reply Smile
Kristin
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replied October 10th, 2012
I was so glad to read your post! Not because I'm glad you're in pain, but because now I know that maybe I'll be okay. I kept thinking that I should feel great by now and the doctors don't tell you anything! I so related to what you said about them telling you not to do this, but not telling you what it's okay to do! Don't you hate it when they don't tell you crap, but then act like there's something wrong with you for not knowing everything about it?!

Anyway, I'm at 5 weeks and I am in A LOT OF PAIN! I can't even lay down, let alone do anything like go someplace, or even sit up in a chair for more than 30 min.

Oh btw, FYI, if you sit, make sure that you sit straight up! No reclining! Same type of thing goes for laying down. Lay flat, not inclined. That much I do know. Smile

Hope you feel a lot better and God bless!
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replied October 21st, 2012
Spinal fusion recovery...my story.
Hello,

Just wanted to add some comments in response to yours.
I had a spinal fusion nearly 2 years ago (L5-S1).
I did not realise that post surgery I would never quite be the same old me, I still experience sciatica, back pain, numbness down my left leg-due to a left sided disc prolapse. After all this time, I understand that my back pain will sometimes be present, however no where as painful as prior to the fusion surgery. I am learning how to manage the sciatica/back pain by not lifting heavy objects and not sitting for prolonged periods of time-even 2 years later.
I recall the first year post operatively was hell and wondered why I bothered with the surgery as the pain was as extreme as before the fusion.
The surgeon disclosed very little regarding the amount of pain I would feel after surgery. But, I presume every individual recovers differently and feels varied degrees of pain dependent on many factors. I am SO grateful now to my surgeon and myself-for having the courage to go through the surgery!. It is very tough and very painful post operatively. The nerves are VERY angry after the surgery and I was in agony!. But, week by week, month by month, little by little, I began to feel less pain. It is such a long, gradual recovery and you must be very patient and kind to your body/mind. Now, I have good days and occasionally not good because I have aggravated my spine usually due to prolonged sitting (at my desk-working). Fortunately, I work from home now (gave up my nursing career), and ensure I take frequent breaks by standing up and walking about. Now, I rarely depend on a couple of anti-inflammatory tablets to ease the pain.
A lot of pain is normal after 5 weeks of surgery, in fact mine was worse 5 wks post fusion than 5 wks pre surgery!. Just check if it is not improving week by week, possibly contact your surgeon for feedback.
I noticed even 8,9,10 months post operatively I could exacerbate the pain badly by lifting something a little too heavy or sitting&even standing too long.
On an uplifting note.... I live alone on 5 acres with 2 horses.....told to NEVER ride a horse again by my surgeon. My passion is dressage training with my horse and I told the surgeon he was better off telling me I couldn't walk again rather than not ride. Since one year post fusion surgery I have been riding/training in dressage 5 nights a week. I still get a little sore and know I probably should not ride but I find the riding eases the stiffness and pain after sitting at my desk all day working.
I hope my story has instilled some hope!
Be patient as it is a VERY long recovery and listening to your body is very important when you experience higher degrees of sciatica/pain. There is usually something that has triggered the pain increasingly. I have worked out my "triggers". I now know I have this kind of disability at 43 years of age (prolapsed disc at 37 years) and living on a farm with horses I'm constantly having to consider safety and respect for my spine!. I am grateful for the surgery as it has eased the pain tremendously, it took a good year post fusion surgery before I remembered what it was like to not have back pain for even one day.

I hope this information gives you some comfort and relief from your worries...hang in there!
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replied October 21st, 2012
Thanks for your post. I appreciate it. I guess I have a ways to go. Smile

It is hard to be patient, as you know, but I do try. I am looking forward to even a couple of months from now, as I feel that I will see a good decrease in the amount of ain I feel. I know that right after the surgery, I was in terrible shape, of course! So I guess now is far better than what it was, huh? Smile
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replied October 21st, 2012
Hi again,
Yes, far better than what it was.
The amount of pain I experience now is say 10 per cent instead of 99 per cent!. As I mentioned, I now realise I will never be completely pain free. Some days I have none at all and other days I feel pain, but much less extreme than before the fusion. My lifestyle does not help living on the farm with horses as it is very easy to exacerbate the pain having to do everything for myself. I should have had surgery when I initially prolapsed the disc 6 years ago, and it would have been a microdiscectomy (minor surgery compared to the fusion). The surgeon I saw at the time wanted to wait and see if the disc would heal itself. Instead it became very painful with horrific pain in my left leg/foot & the next surgeon (2nd opinion) I saw recommended a fusion to ease the pain as he felt a microdiscectomy would not help the back pain. It seems a lot of damage has been caused to the nerve root where the prolapse occurred. I think this is why I am now left with irreversible nerve damage. Your condition may be completely different with minimal or no nerve involvement post operatively. You should feel much less pain within a few months. About a year post surgery, I certainly could feel the vertebral bones fusing as I felt a strange, new stiffness in my lumbar spine-takes a bit of getting used to! I feel the surgery was so worth going through...all that pain, loss of mobility/independence and self confidence. Since the surgery I find being in a little pain from time to time far beats agony 24 hours a day!.
I am sure you will recover well but it does take time and patience. The first year was really difficult after the surgery but each month the pain eased profoundly-in my experience the first 3 months post op were the hardest due to the pain.
Let's know how you are doing! Cheers.
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replied March 10th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
hi christen..
i'm not a dr but i would say the reason for no bending is to avoid weakening the area thats fusing. if you look at xrays or scans of the lower back you will see a curvature there. that curve belongs there and when you bend it straitens out the natural curvature. it creates a stress that is the greatest in your spine. you dont want to spoil the fusion so best to not bend your spine but ok to bend knees when lowering yourself. keeping the brace low enough should help....be patient you'll have plenty of time later this year to hit the malls....pete
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Users who thank pete81241 for this post: fyrchck 

replied April 3rd, 2010
hi, im so happy to have found this site. I had spinal fusion on L3/L4 and L4/L5 on 3rd mar 2010. I am still in pain and discofort from the surgery but thankfully the awful back pain and hip/leg pain I had been experiencing for years is gone. I was worried that the discomfort I have now was an indication of how I would be forever but on reading your reports, I realise the recovery appears to be normal even if slow. Maybe Im just an impatient patient.
Thanks. Patricia
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replied April 3rd, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
patricia....you and everyone else wants to get back in the swing of things. i know its not easy but good days are ahead....pete
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replied April 7th, 2010
Hi!
I had a minimally invasive TLIF, L4-5, L5-S1, 6 weeks ago. I, too, am dying to know WHY no bending, twisting, lifting, and what happens if I do? So glad to have finally found a place where my question is being asked...I hope there will be an answer soon. I don''t mind the pain nearly as much as I mind watching the weeds grow in my garden. I thought I had timed my surgery for a "down time", but here in CA we had a freakishly warm Spring, following above normal rain. The best laid plans, I guess...

Thanks to anyone who can answer the no bending question.

Cindy
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replied April 7th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
the dr has fused three of the vertebrae in your spine into one piece. thik of it as being glued and screwed together. it takes time for this to have set and grown together. he probably used a bone cement in between the vertebra. plus he took some bone and screwed it to the sides to add stability. that bone needs to grow into the vertebrae. if you move abruptly, twist or bend the fusion will be disturbed and the surgery may be impaired.
the spine has a natural curve to it and if you bend too much it will straighten out the natural curve. try to be patient. the doc will tell you when you can get back to bending and twisting. peoples bones fuse at different rates. dr probably told you to avoid ibuprofen as it may slow down the fusion. if you smoked cigaretts in the past that too can affect the healing.....pete
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replied April 8th, 2010
L4L5 Fusion?
Hi everyone,

I am a female 49 yrs.old. Have had MRI and Xrays for lower back pain, and pain down my right leg for 3 years now. No idea on how this happened. Test results show that I need L4L5 fusion done . I need to know from anyone on this , since I have had the spine injections to mask the pain and problem and only helped for 6 months at a time. So now I am having nerve damage and weakening of the muscles in my right leg (drop foot symdrome) is what they called it.
Any advise is welcome ASAP.
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replied April 10th, 2010
Fusion Confusion
I had L4/L5 and L5/S1 anterior disc replaement and posterior plates, screws, and rods installed on Feb. 22nd and Feb 25th, 2010. so, I am about six weeks out from surgery and still have enough pain to keep using strong pain killers. My doc didn''t provide, or suggest a back brace. Physical therapy includes walking and stretching only. When does the pain actually start to fade away? Or is this a life long pain management scenario? Tom
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replied April 10th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
hi clover...
3 years and no improvement is a long time. i think you should seriously consider the fussion to avoid permanent damage...

hi tom
still early to pass judgement. keep following drs instructions. it can be up to a year after surgery before you know for sure.......pete
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replied April 14th, 2010
I had a lumbar double fusion done back in 2006 and while the surgery was successful in that the bone has fused, etc... I now have more pain in my thoracic area to the point I can''t sleep at night at times. It seems that the fusion has now put more pressure on the muscles above it. Has anyone dealt with this before? I just had a cortisone shot in that area that provided some relief, but the pain has come back. I desire to get pregnant, but fear the back pain without being able to take any drugs. Help!
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replied May 30th, 2010
spinal fusion
I had a double spinal L4-L5, June 25, 2009. Then spent 21
days going back in and out of the hospital for an infection. I was in alot a pain for a long time. My Dr. recommended I see a Pain Management Dr. I did and have been in control of my pain, off pain pills for 59 days.
The down side--I'm on Topamax--the posts of it being the stupid pill are all true!!!! But I walk, I still have pain, relax when the pain starts, use the tens unit, heating pad, ice and I've been able laugh with my children again!!!
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replied May 30th, 2010
Hello everyone..........
On April 19th I had a discetomy done. As i posted before they wanted to do a fusion, well I got a second opinion from a neuro-surgeon. He said I was not even a candidate for a fusion. So PLEASE GET A SECOND OPINION before you do a fusion. I am totally pain free and do not walk with drop foot anymore.
weeks in to recovery and am back to doing almost everything I did before.
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replied July 11th, 2010
I had lumbar fusion at L5-S1 on July 1st 2010 and I too am looking for any and all answers and advice on how much movement is TOO much. I bent over further than usual today without even thinking and I have been experiencing more pain. I realize it has only been over a week but I don't want to do anything to have to re-do this surgery. I was told that a man had to have his redone 5 weeks into recovery for lifting his child out of a car seat .....not something I would do myself so soon after such a serious surgery, but it causes me to wonder. I think I am doing pretty good...no infection, and pain seems to only be at the site of the incision. But pain is quite severe still and cannot make it more than 4 hours without pain medication. I am really glad I found this site and will be checking it regularly and updating my recovery in the hopes that it may help someone else in theirs. Amy
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replied July 12th, 2010
back and legs pain
hello, I got hurt aty work 5years ago and have constant unberable pain in my back and down both legs. i had hiscogram done that showed L5-S1 herniation and L3-L4. )then I had discetomy done during procedure pain went down legs and into my abdomen like someone stabed me with a knife , dr doesnt recomend surgery because people develop more pain and i am young and he things i may be in more pain. My life is ruined and i cant work because pain is unberable. I wish i can work i am single mother and just devastated with all this. I live near pittsburgh does someone knows any good dr
? it is hard to live in pain 24/7
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replied July 13th, 2010
my third surgery
hello, I have been battling back problems for 15 years, i am on my third surgery, this time a spinal fussion L4/5. I am in my week 7 recovery. at this time a am relatively comfortable, very little pain sometimes in my leg, but doctor said it will pass, pain is in the incision, i feel some burning at times. I am taking 1 tab for pain a day now, it also helps me sleep. As far as my brace, i do ware it when i am up, i feel the brace take the preasure off the back. I am not back to work, though i wish i were, how soon does someone go back? will i get my life back, sometimes i feel that my life was better before surgery and dealing with it, i am having a hard time doing anything now except walk.
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replied July 14th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
hi...if the pain is only in the incision you can be very optimistic about a really good recovery. the brace is there to help the fusion become solid and the dr will monitor your progress with xrays. you may be able to go back to work soon . check with your doc to see progress of fusion.....pete
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replied December 6th, 2012
Recovery time for spinal fusion surgery(postoperative) of D7&
Hello this is Venkat, Hyderabad(AP). I was done by spine fusion on 18th July 2012, what is the recovery time for this surgery...please reply...it almost 5 months gone. still i am suffering from numbness, plz give me your valuable feedback
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