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Old 07-01-2012, 09:55 PM   #1
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ALIF Spine Surgery

Hi,
I had ALIF Spinal Surgery on May 21, 2012. For L4/L5, L5/S1. Tomorrow will be 6 weeks since my surgery, and I am still having a lot of pain. I have lived with pain for years, so this I can deal with, but since the surgery, it seems like nothing is working right. I have no appetite. I have to just eat, because I know I need to. I have to work VERY hard to be able to have a bowel movement. Needless to say, it is really hard to strain, when you have an incision in the abdomen and back.
I know the Dr said I would be out of work for 3 months, but I thought this was mostly to heal, and for the fusion. I was just needing some input from others who have had this surgery. I just feel like, I should be doing better than what I am, after 6 weeks.

 
Old 07-01-2012, 11:46 PM   #2
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

Hi there -- welcome! I had ALIF December 6, 2011. I have mild IBS, so my digestive system had a very, very hard time getting back to normal. I think I was on prescription stool softener for a month or more. Have you been taking any stool softeners?

At about the six week mark, I was finally back on track. Everyone takes different lengths of time. I was still eating dried fruits to encourage things to keep moving. I would recommend staying away from dairy, and eating loads of fruits and veggies -- anything high fiber. You might want to consider a stool softener.

Walking is also so, so important. It helps to stretch the nerves and it also helps with regaining appetite and digestive health. At six weeks, I was walking three times a day for 20 minutes each.

I should add that it's not uncommon to either lose or gain 10 pounds after this type of surgery, from either changes in activity level or from loss or appetite. However, if you are experiencing a change of more than 2 pounds per week, definitely talk to your doctor. Pain meds can be constipating, as well, so try to limit your use or talk to your doctor about switching to something else.

Last edited by SweetPeainSF; 07-01-2012 at 11:51 PM. Reason: More info

 
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:50 AM   #3
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

Thank you for your response. How are you doing now? Do you still have back problems since your surgery? I can suffer through this if I keep my eye on the end result.
I was reading on the Web about the recovery time of this type of surgery and was shocked to see that some people actually went back to work after 6 weeks. I work an office job on a computer, eight hours a day, and couldn't imagine going back to work now, as i can't hardly stand to sit straight up for more than a couple of hours.
My Dr originally said it would take 3 months to return to work.
I think that part of my problem may be all of the meds. Since the surgery, I almost passed out, and feel faint a lot. My Dr said he hopes to have me off the narcotics at 12 weeks.

 
Old 07-02-2012, 08:30 AM   #4
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

My experience with fusion is open surgery from the back, two times, so I am not a good judge as to exactly what you are experiencing. And my two experiences were not at all similar....I was laid up much longer with my first surgery which was a PLIF at L4-L5.

What type of pain are you now experiencing that your doctor plans to have you off narcotics at 12 weeks? That strikes me as a long time...especially since narcotics are of limited use with many causes of spine pain. When I had my first fusion I had never had any previous experience with any type of surgery. Looking back on it, I now believe I was over-medicated. I had read that you should take your medications as prescribed, so I did just that. I didn't really stop to question how I felt on them or whether I actually needed them.

I didn't make that mistake the second time around. There's nothing wrong with taking medication if you really need it...but at six weeks your body should be healed from the surgical procedure itself, and now working on what I think of as the "internal healing." If you are having nerve pain, that can continue for months, and narcotics are of limited use. So I would suggest, since you raised the point that part of the problem might be all the meds, that you at least think about what you are taking and why, how it is effecting you and whether it is actually making any difference.

I don't think the idea is to be so medicated that the person feels nothing. The more active we can be (within reason, of course) the better off we are....

Were you given any guidelines regarding sitting. Usually there is a limit of 15-20 minutes in one session after lumbar fusion. Sitting puts 30% more stress on the discs than walking/standing or lying down. Even once you are back at work, you should get up and take a brief walk every hour or so.

 
Old 07-02-2012, 12:31 PM   #5
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

With the ALIF Surgery, the Vascular Surgeon made the incision where my past C-Section incision was. From about an inch above my navel, all the way down. He then moved my insides around, to allow the Spinal Surgeon to have access to the spine. The bottom left quadrant of my abdomen, is numb. The Spine Dr said it was due to cutting through nerves. This was one reason for my 5 day stay in the hospital. With this kind of surgery, you are only allowed to have ice chips for the first 24 hours. I was there 2-3 days, before I could have food. This is normal. The Spinal Surgeon said anytime, the bowels are touched in surgery, they shut down. I was given an enema in the hospital to have my first bowel movement, and once I got home, an enema for a week before I could go on my own at all.
For the month, I was place on Oxycodone. One every six hours, along with muscle relaxers. I was glad to get off of those.
Then prescribed 10 Mg Hydrocodone every six hours, along with the muscle relaxers. When the medicine was changed, I asked the Nurse, if I should just try to take them only when I was in severe pain. She said for now, I should not let the pain overtake me. To take them as prescribed. And the Dr has told me not to worry about the Meds. The Dr knows my family history, and I am very cautious with Meds, as my Mother, was addicted to xanax and other prescription medicines, and died of an accidental overdose at age 57.
So, now I am using my own better judgement, and am taking the Meds when I feel that I just have to, and not to "Prevent" pain, to see if my insides might start working again.
and to see if I can sleep. I am one of the few people I know that Hydrocodone wires up, instead of sedating, so to speak. The pain that I now have, is a deep pain in my spine. Probably where the fusion, is hopefully taking place.

 
Old 07-02-2012, 12:34 PM   #6
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

With the ALIF Surgery, the Vascular Surgeon made the incision where my past C-Section incision was. From about an inch above my navel, all the way down. He then moved my insides around, to allow the Spinal Surgeon to have access to the spine, to take out the two bad discs, and replace them with cadaver bones, And then they rolled me over, and made an incision in the back, to insert the screws. The bottom left quadrant of my abdomen, is numb. The Spine Dr said it was due to cutting through nerves. This was one reason for my 5 day stay in the hospital. With this kind of surgery, you are only allowed to have ice chips for the first 24 hours. I was there 2-3 days, before I could have food. This is normal. The Spinal Surgeon said anytime, the bowels are touched in surgery, they shut down. I was given an enema in the hospital to have my first bowel movement, and once I got home, an enema for a week before I could go on my own at all.
For the month, I was place on Oxycodone. One every six hours, along with muscle relaxers. I was glad to get off of those.
Then prescribed 10 Mg Hydrocodone every six hours, along with the muscle relaxers. When the medicine was changed, I asked the Nurse, if I should just try to take them only when I was in severe pain. She said for now, I should not let the pain overtake me. To take them as prescribed. And the Dr has told me not to worry about the Meds. The Dr knows my family history, and I am very cautious with Meds, as my Mother, was addicted to xanax and other prescription medicines, and died of an accidental overdose at age 57.
So, now I am using my own better judgement, and am taking the Meds when I feel that I just have to, and not to "Prevent" pain, to see if my insides might start working again.
and to see if I can sleep. I am one of the few people I know that Hydrocodone wires up, instead of sedating, so to speak. The pain that I now have, is a deep pain in my spine. Probably where the fusion, is hopefully taking place.

 
Old 07-02-2012, 10:45 PM   #7
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Re: ALIF Spine Surgery

I'm sorry to hear about your mother's history. I was on the hard-core pain meds for only about four weeks, then I transitioned to tramadol during the day and the stronger stuff at night. In weaning off the meds, I started stretching the time from four hours to five, then to six. I definitely felt that my strongest pain was incisional: laughing, coughing, sneezing almost killed me. (I also had the bikini-cut type of incision, which sounds like what you had.) I took muscle relaxants the whole time and still do -- I strongly suspect that my spasms are related to a hip issue, so hopefully you will be over the spasms more quickly.

I started working two-three hours per day from home, at four weeks. I was able to lie down and work, so I was not sitting much. I gradually built up my hours over the next eight weeks. From previous surgical experience, I find it much easier to work on my stamina over time, rather than trying to go from zero hours to forty hours per week. I also have an adjustable-height table at work, so I can sit or stand. You might need to ask for some ergonomic assessment in returning to work.

On a positive note, I was cleared to swim at month three, delayed swimming for other reasons until month four, and got up to a mile in the pool today! (No kickboard, no butterfly, very limited, careful breaststroke kick.)

 
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