My first fusion was done 20 years ago in the L4/5 area with no hardware used. I have a history of chronic lower back pain with little pain caused by nerve pain down the legs. I had a second fusion of the L3 disc area one month ago. A discogram done 2 years ago showed the L3 disc as my source of pain. Hardware and screws were used with the approach threw the stomach (anterior). Now, I'm getting muscle spasms and lots of pain in the lower back area, keeping me in bed most of the time. I'm off the heavy painkillers and taking Tylenol extra strength (500mg) every 4 to 5 hours to lessen the pain. It has been 4 weeks since the surgery and I have still not returned to driving. I move around like an old man due to so much pain in the lower back. It also hurts to lie on my back. Iím scared that the surgeon has made me worse? I donít get any feedback from his office other than go to the emergency room if youíre having spasms. Anyhow, I was wondering if anyone else knows if this is normal pain at this stage due to all that was done or should I be functioning better? I know everyone is different so this is a hard question to answer but I would love to hear from others who have had fusions?
Sorry to hear you're in so much pain! Yes, it's very normal to be in this much pain at 4 weeks. You're still very early on in your recovery. Doctors vary from one to another, but I'm very surprised that they aren't giving you something stronger for pain. I'm 5 months post-op and still take Vicodin twice a day. At 4 weeks, I was still on Percocet. If your doctor won't give you anything stronger, I would take his suggestion and go to the ER if you have to. But really, he should be willing to give you something more than Tylenol!
I didn't start to move less like a 90 year old until about 3 months. That seems to be kind of a landmark for a lot of us. At 5 months, I'm still slow, but not as pokey as I used to be. Do you walk as much as you're able? That really helps, not only to get your nerves and muscles moving together again, but in getting your circulation going around the fusion area. You'll heal faster and have better chance of fusion if you walk, walk, walk, (rest, too!), and walk some more. You don't want to overdo it, but you also don't want to just lay around. At 4 weeks, I was either walking or laying down most of the time. Most of my walking was indoors, too, so don't worry about the weather not being good enough to walk. You can just walk up and down a hallway, or back and forth in a room. I was told I had to use my walker for 6 weeks because I kept almost passing out (low blood pressure after surgery), so I would put a movie on and just do figure 8's in the bedroom with my walker.
It's a shame that your doctor's office isn't being more supportive and letting you know better what to expect, but it sounds like you're right on track. If you have other questions, or if you just need to have someone listen, people here have been through it and can help. This board has been a wonderful encouragement to me. I hope it will be to you, too.
This is easy to say since I am pre-op but, yes your are healing great and everyday you will get stronger and stronger..invision the best and you will get it keep moving forward. Positive thinking. And praying for you!!!! Your body has been through alot and alot of healing to do, keep your chin up!!! Keep going..I heard from a few people that the turning point is six weeks, your almost there!!!!
I am 3 weeks out from a fusion and I still am taking percocets 1 to 3 a day with 1 to 2 soma's (muscle relaxer). As far as driving, cooking, cleaning, bending, laundry, I was told none until 12 weeks. I use a walker for getting up and down out the chair and bed, and when walking outside of the house or inside the house when I am tired.
When I am up alot, my pain does increase.
Really I think your pain is normal at this point in your recovery and if you need more meds, I would definitely be talking to your doctor's nurse or him directly.
Thank you so much for your quick and thoughtful response. It is helpful to hear that this is normal at this stage of recovery. I have been confused about what to expect to some degree due to what my surgeon sold me on. I think he sugarcoated things quite a bit because he knew I had a lot of trepidation about having the surgery and almost backed out of it. I had a spinal fusion 20 years ago (no hardware) and it took me a full year before I could function well. Knowing this my surgeon made it sound as if I would bounce back much faster than I have so far. Plus the spasms and pain I’m experiencing now are in the area of the first fusion and I have all the old pain. The upper area (L3) where he removed 2 discs, inserted screws and a cage seem to be healing fine. I think at this stage I need to have him look me over and tell me if this is normal? Anyhow, I was taking percocet in the beginning but found it didn’t help with the spasms. Actually what works extremely well for me is Celebrex. I was on it daily for a full year prior to the surgery. Yet, the doctor doesn’t want me taking it now because he says it slows down the bone growth need to form the fusion, thus the suggestion to take Tylenol. Anyhow, thanks again and please keep me posted as to how your progress is coming. It sounds as if you are doing well.
Glad I could help. I think your doctor is pretty typical. They don't want to scare us. But personally, I'd rather know what to expect and be able to be prepared. This board gave me a much better picture of what to expect than my doctor did. I'd ask him questions and his mouth would say one thing while his eyes said another. Like how often can I go up and down the stairs when I get home -- his mouth said, "as often as you want to." His eyes said, "you're not gonna want to!"
The board is very reassuring to me that I'm doing the right things and that how I'm feeling is okay. Of course, we aren't doctors, so no one should take our advice as the last word. If something seems wrong, or they just aren't sure, posting here is great but a call should also go out to the doctor.
Fortunately, I haven't had much of a problem with spasms. Does the Tylenol help at all? I don't know what else is out there, but I think others on here who are post-op for fusion have meds for spasms. Maybe someone will post and give you a suggestion to ask your doctor about. The little bit of spasms I've had are helped by a heating pad.
Some doctors are tighter with their post-op visits than others. I go every 6 weeks at this point, but there are some on here who have had hardly any follow-up unless they had a problem. Do you have an appt sometime in the next month or two? I keep a running list of questions for my doctor and take it with me to each appt. He probably rolls his eyes mentally every time he sees me with my list, but at least I don't end up having to call his office with my questions in between visits.
Hope you get in to see him and he gives you some peace of mind that you're just where you should be.