My boyfriend is 32 and recently had and anterior interbody fusion on his bottom two discs. He had a plastic cage and BMP put in with screws in the front of the vertebrae, but not the back. About 2 days after the surgery he started to have what he calls "nerve pain" when he tries to stand up and walk. It is a somewhat localized, sharp pain to the left of his spine that comes on suddenly when he is walking. This has been going on for about 3 or 4 days and is pretty debilitating. I was wondering...is this normal? Will it go away? Has anyone experienced this before?
He is feeling very discouraged and I am not sure what it is. Thanks!
It is very common to have all sorts of different types of pain, and in a variety of locations for weeks, if not months post fusion surgery.
Do not let this deter him from taking his walks. Walking is the most important thing he can do post surgery. It is the best exercise for stretching out the spinal nerves after surgery. Most importantly, it helps to keep scar tissue from attaching to nerves as it is forming and filling in as the body heals. It is better to take many small walks rather than one longer walk, even just around living quarters. If it hurts, shorten the length of the step, but try to walk with a "normal" gait. Do not give into favoring one side or the other.
Use ice for pain. You can ice 15-20 minutes per hour, round the clock if necessary...just be careful that the skin is protected, and lay the ice or gel pack across the lower back.
I'm not sure what your boyfriend was told by his surgeon but healing is a long, slow process and he should be prepared for many steps forward and backward, too. Progress with healing usually does not flow on a straight-forward march toward the finish line. There are pot holes along the way, so tell him not to be discouraged if just when he thinks things are better, he develops a new pain or ache or feeling of stiffness, etc.
Also, it will take up to a year for the bone to set up to the point that it is dependably strong and durable even though signs of fusion may be seen as early as a couple weeks post surgery. Most patients feel pretty much back to normal at six months, but here too there is a wide range among people.
Thank you for you input and responding so fast. I know it is a long process and I keep trying to remind him of that.
I think our concern though is that one of the nerves was damaged or continues to be irritated by something...
I can see how it could be caused by swelling/inflammation. It just seems that now that he is about a week post-op it would be getting better.
He also has some swelling in his leg, but the PA said this was normal and should go away.
I guess we were just wondering if anyone else had gone through a similar nerve pain situation and if it goes away
Let me try this again. Almost everyone has nerve pain after a fusion. Usually the patient has nerve compression prior to the surgery. Depending on how long the nerve has been compressed, it can have some damage that will end up being permanent, but that does not become conclusive for a year or more.
Even when a patient wakes up with foot drop, the surgeon will advise that the situation may get better with time. There is no way to tell for sure if a nerve will have permanent damage, if it will recover somewhat or if the patient will one day have no nerve pain. Sometimes when the surgeon gets in there, he discovers that a nerve is more badly compressed than had been determined prior to surgery. Sometimes the surgeon has to really fight to get the nerve loose. Sometimes he has to cut tissue away from the nerve in order to free it, or tug hard to get it free.
Sometimes the surgeon doesn't touch the nerve at all but it ends up irritated from the surgery anyway, due to the way to was irrigated during surgery, or perhaps it is sensitive to one of the meds used during surgery.
It is not uncommon to still be dealing with nerve pain three or six months post surgery...but you probably don't want to share that with your boyfriend. Hopefully his will clear up soon. Just do everything the surgeon suggested, do not overdo things and be sure he keeps walking.
Last edited by Administrator; 03-13-2012 at 12:45 AM.