On September 4, I had my second back surgery, a spinal fusion at L5-S1 (the first one was a disc-replacement at L4-L5). Apparently, when he restored my disc space it stretched my nerve and I have had a lot of leg pain and excruciating right hip pain. Also, my back is still in extreme pain and I can't sit that long and I definitely cannot stand long. I thought I would be feeling a lot better by this point. I have only had 3 full physical therapy sessions. I love physical therapy. Even though it hurts, I am an active person and it feels good mentally to be exercising.
Has anyone had this same spinal fusion surgery? If so, when did you start to get some relief? I am starting to feel hopeless and thinking maybe it didn't work and made me worse. I am almost out of my pain medication and I don't think my doctor will refill it because my papers say they do not refill after 6 to 8 weeks. So I am getting disenchanted thinking that I am going to be in excruciating pain with no medication, except advil. Advil has never worked for me
I had a L4L5S1 fusion over 25 years ago so perhaps this really doesn't apply to you.
Complications kept me in hospital for 3 weeks.
I had severe leg pain that kept me bedridden 3 months after surgery. But it did slowly get better over a period of a year. When they operate they sometime have to stretch and move the nerves around. This causes inflammation that can take a very long time to settle down. The muscles on either side of my spine were in spasm for a year but slowly they did release.
Don't get discouraged if I got better so can you but it does take time. Don't compare yourself with anyone else. Everybody is different. Back then surgeons were very loath to operate and I suffered with chronic back attacks that crippled me for 16 years before I had surgery. Prior to surgery I was bedridden most of the time.
Sometime I feel surgeons don't really tell patients what they may suffer after surgery and tend to gloss over the facts. Try to keep your spirits up and with time in all likelihood you will have improvement. It can take some time before things get back to normal.
This surgery does have a long recovery time. Like Pooby said, don't be discouraged. Every time I saw my surgeon after my last fusion, he would keep saying, "you're still early on in this." Even at 3 months, that's what he was saying. Take it a day at a time, do your exercises, and be absolutely rigid in not bending, lifting, or twisting. Walk as much as you can, as that's one of the best ways to get bone growth going.
Talk to your doctor about your pain. They may have that policy in writing to discourage people from trying to stay on pain meds longer than necessary, but that doesn't mean he definitely won't give you a new prescription. If he won't, ask if he can recommend a good pain management doctor. I don't think your doctor is against pain meds, he just doesn't want to be managing them long term. Many surgeons pass that off to pain management or even to family doctors.
Hang in there! It will get easier!
I agree with all that has been said and want to say that we all heal at different rates. Some individuals heal in 12 weeks, some in 6 months, some in a year, some in two years or more. It all depends on your pre-surgical condition and the complexity of your case. So please don't compare your recovery to anyone else because we are all different.
It is unfortunate but some drs will not prescribe after 12 weeks but you will find that there are individuals who are using medications past the one year point. I would get started on resolving this as soon as possible so that you can relax and let your body heal. It is a known fact that if you are hurting, it takes your body longer to heal. I would contact your surgeon and ask him what your options are and hopefully he will connect you with a pain mgmt doctor. At the same time, I would go in and visit your regular family doctor and explain the situation to him and ask if he would be willing to prescribe you meds as you continue to recover or if he can refer you to someone else who will. The key is to do this before you run out of meds. I also recommend doing this in person and not on the phone. This lets the doctor see that you are truly in pain -- it is visible.
I know you mentioned that motrin does not work for you and that you don't plan on taking it but I want to make sure that you know that NSAIDS such as motrin, aleve, advil, naprosyn, nalfron, ansaid, daypro, indocin, mobic, ponstel, rafelen, lodine, celebrex, toradol, etc. are know to interefere with the fusion process. So you want to make sure that no one prescribes these to you for at least the first 6 months after your surgery or until your fusion is well established.
Good luck and please know that we are here for you so don't hesitate to post.
Thought I would add if what you are having is nerve pain (which it in all likelihood is) then one of the anticonvulsive medications should help. These medications are not narcotics and as such are more readilly prescribed. I have been on Topamax, Lyrica, and Neurontin (gabapentin).
These drugs are often ineffective until the proper dosage is reached. I presently take 2100 mg/per day of gabapentin and it wasn't until I reached 1600mg that I got any relief.
Narcotics are known not to be all that effective when dealing with nerve pain but these anticonvulsive drugs have been giving good pain relieving results. These drugs do not pose the threat of addiction like narcotics and your doctor may freely prescribe them.
I just wanted to add that I had a micro-diskectomy 2 years ago and they told me that the nerve only heals about a millimeter a week... for me, just having that decompression at 1 level (L4-5) it would take a year and a half for that specific nerve to heal because it starts at your incision site, works its way down and then back up to the incision site... that's how nerves heal... with that, I just had to hang in there!
Wow! I just want to say thank you! You guys all responded to me so fast! This is the first time I have ever signed up on a message board and actually posted something, I was not expecting this rate of response! Thank you so much.
It really helps to talk to other people who are going through similar problems and know the pain. I talk to my husband and family members, but they just don't know what to say to me sometimes. Even though, a lot of the times I just need to vent and don't need them to say anything. I also hate to complain and sometimes feel like that's what I'm doing. I don't want to burden anyone with this, so I always try to put on a smile and tough it out, even though inside my spine and lower body is killing me.
Anyway, back to the problem at hand. I did get a call back from the R.N. She is the one I deal with, because I'm sure you all know that you can't get the actual doctor on the phone. He's busy, I understand that. Anyway, she was extremely compassionate and said it is not a problem to prescribe me more medicine. You see, I hate asking for it because I don't want them to think I'm an addict, because I'm not. I really hate taking medication. But I digress. The R.N., Jody, told me as you all have, that everyone recovers differently and I am not alarming her at all by telling her I am still in pain, especially since I just started therapy. I guess the longer you have been in pain, the longer it takes for it to go away. I'm only 24 years old and I've had this since I was 17. 7 years is a pretty long time, so I guess it will take quite a bit of time to feel relief.
I guess I figured that since I am younger than most people who have this surgery, I would recover really fast. It has only been about 8 weeks, though.. and it is a pretty serious surgery. I'm just such an active person, I'm getting so restless and feel like "okay, are you done yet?" haha.
Thank you all again!!!! This is a great place to vent and get some input. I am sure to be back frequently! I hope all of you are feeling some relief as well
After all that negativity I was feeling, I went to physical therapy today. My right leg is the leg that I am having problems with my nerve in and I have barely been able to straigthen it without it hurting. Well, I was doing my hamstring stretches I noticed that I could stretch it further than usual!! I was ecstatic I yelled to my therapist, "My leg is stretching further!!!!" Haha, she just smile and laughed and said "Good!" I had just got done telling my husband a couple days ago that I have been stretching so much and feel like my leg is no more flexible then it was when I got home from hospital. I guess I spoke too soon! I am so happy about that, I just thought I would share it with all of you.