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Old 10-19-2006, 07:23 AM   #1
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Question L-4-L5: What should I expect?

I'm a semi-newbie here. I'm having a L-4-L5 lumbar laminectomy and foraminotomy next week. What shoud I expect in the way of pain, recovery time, post op foods? Will I be able to walk and go back to work in a few days? Will I have pain the rest of my life from the surgery?...EEEK! I know nothing about this and my doc wasn't very helful. From what I read on the net I'm getting nervous. Would be thankful for any input you can offer.......

 
Old 10-19-2006, 07:43 AM   #2
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

kato , your in for a real treat , I'll put it to you in truth, it's painful and you'll be off work for a few months , UNLESS you have a job where you can sit and take it easy you might be back in a few weeks. Food ? Man I can eat anything anytime , had no problem with food. Sitting down getting up rolling over was hard for a few weeks ,but all in all it's not to bad..lol When you go to sit on the toilet it's hard ,and I had to have my wife (GODBLESS her) wipe my butt because I couldn't bend to reach it. I had a fusion the same time as my Laminectomy so maybe that made it worse ? I do think removing lamina from your spine is harder on you than the fusion itself. I had 3 surgeries total on my spine and the laminectomy I thought was the hardest and most painful.

Sorry If I scare you ,but it's the truth..Good luck

 
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Old 10-19-2006, 08:09 AM   #3
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Plan on missing work, even if at home. The meds will make you tired and forgetful. Although the srugery is cut and dry and done everyday, you should find releaf the next day, and only surgery pain to get over. This is new to you and is scary, but in a few months you wont remember that you had the surgery done. Ware the brace, put everything you like to eat and drink on the top shelf of the refridgerator. Get a grabber tool to pick up things that you drop.Think of the releaf on the other side, and go through it as relaxed as you can.

 
Old 10-19-2006, 08:22 AM   #4
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Kato,

I have lumbar laminectomy 3 weeks ago and I'm recovering pretty well but it is major surgery and not a piece of cake. I doubt there is anyway you would be back to work in a couple days...plus you won't be allowed to drive for about 2 weeks after. Then again you probably won't even think about driving or working or much else for that matter for a couple weeks, anyway. What Shawley said about the toilet is spot on....if I were you I would buy a raised seat that you can put on the toilet, this way you don't have to go up & down too far to sit. Shawley, how embarassing is that to have someone have to wipe ya? LOL I guess I was lucky in that sense being I was constipated for almost 9 days after surgery! Another thing I did was keep a walker (without wheels) in my bathroom to hoist myself up & down the toilet. I also used it to hold on while getting in the tub. I also got a walker with wheels from the PT's to get around my house with for the first one 1/2 weeks or so. You'll also want a shower seat unless you have a stand up shower that you can just walk right into.

Since you wont' be allowed to bend or twist, it would be a good idea to get one of those grabbers. That way if you need something or drop something, you can use the grabber to pick stuff up with. It will also be a big, painful project to roll over, move and/or get out of bed in the morning! That was the worst for me, anyway. A PT should help you with all this while you're still in the hospital to show you the log roll and other proper ways to do things after surgery. Let me tell you, though...I wished I had done some arm exercises before surgery b/c they were sooo sore for several days after - due to having to use them so much to get up from bed, chairs, toilet, etc...You'll also want to have lots of loose fitting sweat pants to wear. I am 3 weeks out and just recently am able to wear my jeans and such. It would have put too much pressure on my surgical site wearing regular pants around the waist and back. Also helpful will be to have shoes that slip on without tying them as you cant bend to tie them.

I am 3 weeks out and the pain from my surgical site is just about gone. The day after surgery, the nurse got me up out of bed (owwwwwwww that killed but I was glad to get up). As soon as I was up (with a walker) I noticed all the pain I had before surgery was gone!! I was soo happy about this, I didnt even care about the wound pain. The surgical pain almost paled in comparison to the pain I had before. This week I started PT and I'm doing really well. In total I will be out of work about 8 weeks. (My surgeon said for laminectomy, a person is out of work, on average about 6-8 weeks). I am now limited on some things I can do, such as I can never lift anything over 20 pounds, shouldnt be sitting for too long of time, and I cant go back to the gym to use the weight machines, but at least I can finally WALK again!

Please let us know if you have any other questions, concerns...and let us know how you're doing when you're up to it after surgery! I wish you well.

 
Old 10-19-2006, 04:53 PM   #5
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Holy cow!! Shawley, Coast Guard & Baybreeze - I never thought this was that major a surgery. Now you have me really scared. Right now I am on so much codeine and neurontin that I am walking normally without pain - I'm tempted to cancel the surgery, but I know once I'm off these meds the awful pain will return. What's a guy to do? Well, it certainly seems like a depressing situation to me..I am not having fusion, Shawley, so maybe my case is slightly less complicated. That's my only hope. I have a low pain threshold, so that won't help matters. Thanks to you all for briefing me. I don't know whether to thank you or what....This looks like a long haul to me, and my doc said I would be out of work for 2-3 weeks. (Thankfully I do much computer work so may be able to sit and rest on the job, LOL). Thanks all...hope you folks all get through your pain and can resume normal lives...

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Old 10-19-2006, 07:55 PM   #6
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Plan on being out a little bit longer than than. You won't be able to sit for long periods the first month or so. It will all depend on how your feeling though. Make sure you get all the things you need ahead of time, put everything at waist level, get a toliet seat, baby wipes for helping to clean up after going to restroom(big, big help), grabber, and someone to help for at least first two weeks after surgery. It is a major surgery and not to be taken too lightly. Recovery will depend on you and how well you let yourself recover. Do not push yourself or be prepared to make things worse. If you are in alot of pain right now & have tried everything else it's probably best to go foward with surgery but it all depends on you. Think about it and take care of yourself.

 
Old 10-19-2006, 08:29 PM   #7
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

This is a great place to get a true education from those that have been through it and tell you the true healing process. It's a very involved and major surgery guy. You may be one of the lucky ones that bounces right back, but if you are the norm.. you could be out 6-8 weeks. Fusion is 6-12 on the average. Sitting is very hard on the back and any surgery on the back.. sitting is limited because of the pain that it causes.

Good luck on your surgery and I hope you are one of the luckies! Take care. tammy

 
Old 10-20-2006, 05:25 AM   #8
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shawley HB User
Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Kato don't be scared , I'm glad I had my surgery. I just wish I found this website first..I would of known what to expect like you do..I came in a Virgin to all this. Now I consider myself a pro..lol

 
Old 10-20-2006, 07:15 AM   #9
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Thanks for the encouragment Vamp, Tammy and Shawley. I guess I'm just going to bite my lip and try to get thru this. Could someone tell me what a "grabber" is? Is it like a barbeque thing to turn hot dogs (heh-heh) or is it actaully a medical device I could purchase at the hospital or a medical supply store? I'm lucky in that my wife is a nurse, so I should get good care once home. Looks like I should plan to be away from work for at least 3-6 weeks or more. I do sit alot at work, so this is going to be hurtful I guess. I'm sure they will have me on PT and swimming in the pool before too long.

One more thing: is it a fact that I will never be able to lift more than 20 pounds the rest of my life? If so, this is going to affect my lifestyle tremendously.

Thanks again to all of you for your advice, even tho' depressing. I'm happy we have this board to share experiences. Hope you are all recoving and will live pain free the rest of your lives....thank you!......

 
Old 10-20-2006, 07:31 AM   #10
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Kato, none of us meant to scare you in anyway. We just want to prepare you for it. Thankfully I had come on these boards before my surgery and asked questions, etc. Most people said they had a positive outcome after surgery, so that helped me. I also spoke to some people who had spine surgery from my same surgeon and they loved him plus I did some research on my own and was very confident that I chose a very good surgeon. That was all I could do....but of course I was still a bit scared & nervous b/c I never had surgery before. Personally, my surgery couldnt have gone any smoother and I am totally pain free (from my spine problem, anyway)after surgery - and the wound healed nicely. I did make a mistake in my first post though - I am really actually 4 weeks post-op now, not 3 <duhhhh>.
I was so sick of the pain I had, which was getting worse as time went on. I got to the point I had to stand or walk hunched over forward (which in turn caused me more problems in my neck & shoulders) and I could only walk 100 feet or so before my legs would want to give out from pain. I am only 37 and I pretty much had no more life. For me, I finally made the decision that I couldnt take it anymore and had to do surgery (I had also tried everything else first).

Also, 2-3 weeks being out seems like to little. Someone else said it's not good to sit long for a while after surgery, which is true. I also have a desk job doing customer service - but my surgeon had told me I would be out of work approximately 8 weeks & my final appointment will be at the 8 week mark.

How many levels are you having laminectomy & foraminotomy on? Ahh, wait...didnt you say you are having microscopic surgery? If so, that probably does play some role in recovery time...(forgive me, I have severe brain fog going on here)

 
Old 10-20-2006, 08:15 AM   #11
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shawley HB User
Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Grabber is a thing that you squeeze the handle and 2 prongs grab things so you don't have to reach ,,yeah simular to tongs..lol there nice to have..

 
Old 10-20-2006, 08:35 AM   #12
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Kato, I don't know if the lifting restrictions of 20 lbs. would apply to everyone or not, but do ask your doctor about it. Before I even had surgery, my rheumatologist told me no lifting over 15 pounds & no more using the weight machines at the gym. My surgeon said the same except he thinks no more than 20 lbs - plus, like everyone says, always lift with the knees, not the back. I'm only 37 and my stenosis became severe pretty quickly and my spine isn't the only thing I have problems with. But my surgeon also told me that since part of my spine bones are gone now, that makes them a little less stable and I have to be careful b/c they can be prone to cracking, etc..a little more easier now. Also, the osteoarthritis may affect other parts of my spine down the road and my stenosis can even recur in the same place..unfortunately no one can say for sure, though. So Again, I don't want to scare you or anything...Im just giving my input as to what I was told for my situation. Are you having laminectomy due to spinal stenosis? Or does it have more to do with discs?

 
Old 10-20-2006, 08:36 AM   #13
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

I had that same surgery 7-11-05. Here's what I experienced. I was in a lot of pain for about a week or more. Moving, rolling over, getting up or down, etc was horrible for about 5 days and still not fun for about 2 weeks. I took it easy for about 6 weeks or so, and then slowly started doing more. I didn't ride more than to the store for quite a while. I will say that I was fairly pain free for a few weeks, then the leg pain started coming back. By 3 months out from the surgery, I was having leg pain again that was similar in how it felt, but not quite as bad as before surgery. I still have that leg pain, along with a lot more lower back pain than I ever had before. But, I've also got issues at L5-S1 now, so that may be part of it. I wish you tons of luck and healing for this surgery.
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Katina-Mom of 2 boys 7-11-05 MicroD @L4-L5 now bulged again, L5-S1 has a protrusion which is causing left sided leg pain and low back pain.

 
Old 10-20-2006, 10:45 AM   #14
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

Oh Katina - just what I needed to cheer me up. I'm half thinking of picking up the phone and cancelling this whole thing. Sounds like trading one pain for another - I just can't do this. Baybreeze - the sheet says I'm having an L-4, L-5 laminectomy and disco___? something (I left the sheet at home...sorry). I don't think this is micro-surgery; it's supposed to take 2 hours, but I don't have stenosis, I know that. Hopefully for an old guy (63) I can get thru this and back to my life at some point. I am used to being active: biking, walking, hiking, swimming, etc. so I will have "no life" if this really sets me back.

I'm not scared so much as apprehensive about the outcome. I can take the pain if it has good results. From what Katina said, this is problematic, and that's pretty depressing. I do have a good neurosurgeon on the case.

Thanks for all your input and experiences; I'll hope for the best. God Bless!

(male)

 
Old 10-20-2006, 12:35 PM   #15
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Re: L-4-L5: What should I expect?

I don't think I'm the norm. I believe my NS left more disc than he should have, so therefore I rebulged pretty quickly. The actual recovery wasn't that bad, IMO. But, it bummed me out to be back in pain. Right now, I don't have the numbness down my leg I had pre-op, but still have burning nerve pain. It's not as bad as before, but I still have to be medicated for it and have done injections for it recently. Everyone is different though, and what happens to me likely won't be the case for you.
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Katina-Mom of 2 boys 7-11-05 MicroD @L4-L5 now bulged again, L5-S1 has a protrusion which is causing left sided leg pain and low back pain.

 
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