Hello! I have just found this website and joined tonight. I've found the discussion threads to be very interesting and helpful. I had a laminectomy just 8 days ago. Unlike much of what I've read, the reason was not a herniated disc. I had a very large cyst resting on my spinal cord and it had to be removed. The laminectomy was performed in order to reach the cyst. I have confidence in my surgeon's skill but don't feel that I was well-prepared for this recovery. I am still in quite a lot of pain and still get nasty nerve twinges. If you've had them, you know exactly what I mean. I see the doctor again next week, but wondered if anyone has any advice or suggestions for recovery? Thanks in advance!
Welcome to the board. I believe that most synovial cysts occur in the lumbar spine, so I am going to assume that is the case with you, too. I wish you had found this board prior to surgery because then you would know going in to the surgery that doctors often err on the side of brevity when they describe what recovery will be like.
You will probably recover from the actual surgery within about ten days, but whatever nerve damage you may have suffered while it was compressed by the cyst will take awhile to heal. This is normal and to be expected.
Nerves heal very slowly and during that time you will experience ups and downs. Just when you think you've turned the corner, you'll probably do a little bit too much and then will wake up with what seems like new pain, or more intense pain.
One thing I always tell people who are new to spine surgery is that if nothing else, they will learn to be more patient. It is not at all unusual to have recovery take a good year or even longer when a nerve has been irritated or compressed.
The most important things you can be doing right now are walking and resting. One of the biggest dangers of spine surgery is the development of scar tissue post surgery. Actually, we all develop scar tissue. It is nature's way of filling in a vacuum. What we want is to avoid have that scar tissue from attaching to a nerve as it is forming. The best way to prevent this attachment from happening is to walk. It is better to take frequent short walks rather than one long walk each day. Speed and distance are not important. You are not walking for fitness. You are walking to stretch out those spinal nerves. Of course it helps with the healing and in other ways as well, but keeping the nerves gliding smoothly is the most important point of walking.
You will want to walk on a level, smooth surface. You will also want to avoid any activity that involves bending, twisting, reaching up overhead or to the side, and you should not lift or carry anything that weighs more than a gallon of milk. You should carefully enforce these rules for at least the first six weeks, or until the surgeon clears you for more activity.
You may have a surgeon who is very casual about any restrictions. I would advise you to err on the side of precaution regardless of what you've been told. When they tell you that you can do anything you want, as long as it doesn't hurt, what they don't also say is that you do not know it is "too much" until after you've already down it and are now in pain.
Rest is just as important as activity. Spine surgery is traumatic to the body...and it takes time to recover from it. Remember that SITTING does not constitute rest. You should limit the amount of time you spend sitting to about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Sitting puts 30% more pressure on the discs than either lying down or standing/walking. So even when you are allowed to extend the time you sit, it is important to get up and stretch and take a tiny "walkabout" every hour or so. This simple action will keep your discs healthier in the long-run.
Remember to try ice or a cold gel pack for pain. It can be every bit as helpful as a pain pill.
Feel free to post with your comments and questions. Many on here have had similar procedures and will try to help! Good luck in your recovery.
The Following User Says Thank You to teteri66 For This Useful Post: Chitown2012 (03-13-2012)
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply and advice! This is exactly what I needed to hear and as you said, wish I had heard prior to the surgery. You're right that the cyst was lumbar, located at L4-L5. I think I would have had the surgery regardless of what I am now learning, because I was in so much pain. I started with seeing my own doctor who gave me Vicodin and sent me to physical therapy. It wasnt until unil I had the MRI that they saw the cyst, and then I had an injection to eliminate the pain. That only lasted about two weeks and the pain was back. I finally saw a neurosurgeon, and was happy to be referred to her as she has an excellent reputation. She prefers a conservative approach, which I appreciated as I didn't want surgery if something else would help. I did another month of PT but the pain got worse, so finally had the surgery. One of my frustrations is that other than the initial time I saw the neurosurgeon and right before surgery, I have only talked to the physician's assistant. She seems knowledgable but as you mentioned, seems to think I should be able to bounce back in a few days. Frankly, the advice I got from your post is more helpful to me than anything she told me! Thank you...just writing this has been a little therapeutic!
Your experience is pretty typical. Some PAs are terrific, but many of them are not very understanding of a patient's pain, and they don't seem particularly interested in learning.
Through 3 lumbar surgeries I think I saw about 20 spine surgeons, and I quickly learned, that for me, I didn't like the clinic settings where the surgeon only blessed you with a quick visit to confirm the work the PA had done. Sometimes the surgeons with the "big" reputations have layers of personnel between them and the patient and that wasn't what I was looking for.
But in your case, it at least sounds like your surgeon diagnosed you correctly and hopefully did a good job with your surgery. It is way too early to be worrying about that...so just keep following instructions, and keep walking...and when you have questions, give the board a try! We're good at the common sense-type tips that the doctor doesn't have time to go into, even if they know them.
I've been around on boards like this to know that other than their professional knowledge, the surgeons don't really know the answer to a lot of things the patient most wants and needs to know. And often their answers are so perfunctory as to be useless. Like mine: "If it hurts, don't do it." I'd never had ANY type of surgery ever so I needed just a tad more guidance.
I recently had a hole in my septum repaired by a plastic surgeon. I received two packets of information that contained just about anything and everything a patient might want to know, covered all possible odd things that might come up, etc. She obviously had given both pre and post surgery a great deal of thought and had written it all down in an organized way that was so helpful. Why don't spine surgeons do that?
Anyway, feel free to post any time you want...and don't be worried that feeling pain means something is going wrong. Chances are, what you are experiencing is perfectly normal.
You're so right about the clinic experience, and about the layers of people between the doctor and the patient. I know my surgeon has earned her reputation by doing good work, but I'd like a bit more guidance during this phase of this marathon. Your help is most appreciated. I hope your back problems have been resolved and you are in good health now. That's my goal...I'm in my sixties but other than this issue, healthy and physically active. I think that's what this is so frustrating...I've taken my good health and my body for granted. It's amazing what you learn about yourself when things don't work as they should!
[QUOTE=Redcanoe;4925609]Hello! I have just found this website and joined tonight. I've found the discussion threads to be very interesting and helpful. I had a laminectomy just 8 days ago. Unlike much of what I've read, the reason was not a herniated disc. I had a very large cyst resting on my spinal cord and it had to be removed. The laminectomy was performed in order to reach the cyst. I have confidence in my surgeon's skill but don't feel that I was well-prepared for this recovery. I am still in quite a lot of pain and still get nasty nerve twinges. If you've had them, you know exactly what I mean. I see the doctor again next week, but wondered if anyone has any advice or suggestions for recovery? Thanks in advance![/QUOTE]
I had a laminectomy 8 years ago for an arachnoid cyst at T7 and T8. The recovery was gruesome. Give yourself at least a year. Lots of pain. Good luck.
The Following User Says Thank You to nonnieb For This Useful Post: Redcanoe (06-23-2012)
Yes, I've heard this from others, too. It has now been more than a month since my surgery and I am feeling much better. However, I am a long way from being completely recovered, and I know now that I need to be more patient with this process. I have started physical therapy, which I believe is helping. My cyst was located at L4 and L5, and the biggest surprise I had after meeting with the doctor right after surgery is that it had quadrupled in size since the MRI. She said that if I hadn't done the surgery, it probably would have kept me from walking at all before too long. As I told her, that wasn't an option since I was in so much pain! So, now when I still have twinges and some pain, I console myself by remembering how bad it was...and hope to heaven it doesn't return. Since your cyst was removed 8 years ago, have you had any re-occurance, or have you been completely healed? I hear from some people that they never feel quite the same afterward. Thanks for your post!
[QUOTE=Redcanoe;4943616]Yes, I've heard this from others, too. It has now been more than a month since my surgery and I am feeling much better. However, I am a long way from being completely recovered, and I know now that I need to be more patient with this process. I have started physical therapy, which I believe is helping. My cyst was located at L4 and L5, and the biggest surprise I had after meeting with the doctor right after surgery is that it had quadrupled in size since the MRI. She said that if I hadn't done the surgery, it probably would have kept me from walking at all before too long. As I told her, that wasn't an option since I was in so much pain! So, now when I still have twinges and some pain, I console myself by remembering how bad it was...and hope to heaven it doesn't return. Since your cyst was removed 8 years ago, have you had any re-occurance, or have you been completely healed? I hear from some people that they never feel quite the same afterward. Thanks for your post![/QUOTE]
I was never the same actually. But mine was in the thoracic area. I now have 2 more cysts that are Tarlov cysts. I am trying a nerve block in a week. Trying to avoid surgery again. Take your time recovering. And manage the pain. Good luck.
Good luck to you, too. I had the nerve block done before my surgery, and it really did help for awhile. However, in the end it seemed like it was sort of a waste of time and money since it didn't remove the cyst. Has any doctor told you why the cysts keep occurring? I believe it's related to arthritis of the spine but I haven't gotten a good answer. I did read somewhere that a cyst can return, although my doctor said that is highly unlikely. I guess I can't control it so no sense worrying about it, but everytime I feel that pain down my leg I wonder if it has grown back. I hope you get relief with the nerve block. I know how frustrating it is to have to go through this! Hang in there.
I am back on the boards again because I am getting very frustrated. I had my surgery at L4-L5 cyst removal on March 29. So we are at 11 weeks now. I am not feeling great. The numbness is gone but I am still in pain. I wake up in the morning good and then an hour into the day I feel such pressure on my spine. I have been back at work for four weeks. My job involves sitting and that really is uncomfortable. When I get home the first thing I have to do is take a half a percocet. I never thought I would still need that at this time. On long days or busy weekends i have to take a percocet to relive the pressure. I thought by now I would be back at the gym but I do not see that happening . I have had about four weeks of PT now and it does not seem to help and a half an hour after I am in quite a bit of pain. I feel like all i do is complain about my back hurting.
Wondering how you are doing now at this point? I had my surgery last September and it affected my left side. Today I sometimes feel pain on my right side. I did have a lamectomy with fusion. From the time from my MRI diagnosis to removal it was early June to mid September. By the time of my surgery this large cyst had grown a lot that when surgery was done - they had to peel away it away from the nerve. I take daily walks but sit at my job. When I get up from sitting I feel a lot of pain and have to take uslymy time moving before I feel I can move freely. Sometimes I wonder if I have redeveloped another cyst but was told this is highly unlikely because of the fusion. The only big benefit I feel at this time is that the numbness is gone in my left leg. Maybe I just need to be more patient yet but anxiously waiting for next appt. to see what the PA states.
I have been feeling better the past two weeks. I still get soreness and pain on the end of a work day. I think because my job is sitting. I was off for three days and this week I feel a strange radiating pain down my backside. It's frustrating as you should not have to even think about your back I feel mine daily. I go to the doc this Friday. I have been doing six weeks of PT I am hoping I can just go back to the gym now.
Please let us know how what your doctor states? Yes, it's frustrating to hope and pray the surgery will fix things. I just feel that 9 months later - I should be doing so much better. I know each person is different but you question yourself, "did I not listen well enough to the do's and don'ts", "do I have another cyst", "or is there scar tissue", "should I have the hardware removed - could that be causing the pain". All questions for my PA - since I'm sure I will never see the Surgeon again unless I face another surgery....