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post spinal fusion surgery pain

I had spinal fusion on my L5 5 weeks ago, and i am now hurting now more then i ever did before surgery. My Doc said he had the surgery and was back to work in 2 weeks. At 2weeks for me i was hurting so bad i thought i had messed up my fusion. So i went to see my my doc and had an xray and was told it was fine. He gave me a RX and said it was my last one. So i have had nothing for pain since 3 weeks after surgery. Right after surgery in a drugged state I told him my leg hurts worse (I don't remember saying it) and his answer was " Then we shouldn't have done surgery"
I had no problem with my right leg priop to surgery, but now at 5 weeks i have to drag my leg, and it hurts unbelievably, i can't even lay on my right side. Sometimes it feels like ants are crawling under my skin. I can't sleep, 3 times now my leg hurt me so bad i got physically sick.
Also my Doc's nurse says pain is just a state of mind..........My pain is very REAL!!
Is this normal?
How long should i be on pain meds?
Thanks Dawn
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I am glad and saddened to see these posts. Glad because I know I am not the only one, sad because we are suffering. I had a fusion at my L4/L5 in Feb 2007. I did this for lower back pain only. I had NO issues in my legs. I was told I also needed it at my L5/S1, but the surgeon didn't want to stretch me that much.

Immediately after having the surgery, when I woke up I knew something was wrong. My lower legs and feet had the same sensations as the lady above that thought of self amputating. It is ashame that really no one can believe this unless they have lived it. I had no balance and my feet felt like over inflated balloons. It is still like this.

As for pain meds, I have been on them since the surgery. I have developed a resistance so I have to take alot and they hardly work.  Just yesterday my surgeon, without calling me and telling me why or offering other alternatives decided to deny any more. I took the Lyrica mentioned above, thank God for insurance as a month supply is about 700.00. But, ended being allergic to it. Don't be surprised if you take this and then stop if you have a reaction while your body adjusts. I did.

I hope the best for all you sufferers out there. If you find relief I hope that you can share with the group where you got it at.

As for the so called surgeon, and I would post his name except I don't think we can :-(, he didn't care. After running many tests because I nagged him to death, some of which were horribly painful, all he could say is I had nerve issues that will heal themselves. Yeah RIGHT!

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I just had anterior L5/S1 fusion 2 weeks ago and since I woke up, I have had severe pain down both legs.  I had a bilateral lamy/diskectomy in 3/06 and Cauda Equina Syndrome from a massive central herniation.  I have been in pain and numb ever since.  I have been taking Lyrica for over a year and have been taking Morphine and Percoset for several months to help manage the pain.  Now, after the fusion, my legs are so weak and heavy, I can barely walk 10 feet.  I had an MRI today because neuro doesn't think that is right.  I see now that severe leg pain is pretty common.  I was never told about this.  I was told that it is not a perfect fix and I may have some residual pain but he never said it would be worse!  If I had thought that it would be worse, I would have never done this.  This was my last resort.  I had tried facet injections, ESI's, meds, PT, you name it.  I put this fusion off for almost a year.  Now I hope that I don't regret having it done.  Will this ever go away?  I am afraid that I am going to need to be in a wheelchair if this continues.  

Valerie
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Your muscle spasms may be related to a magnesium or calcium deficiency somewhat. check with your doctor for advice.
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I had C-4 through C-7 spinal fusion in 2001. While awaiting approval from my Insurance my transverse and ascending colon died from a vulvus. They were removed and a month later they did the spinal fusion. The partial colectomy cause a graet deal of vomiting and susequently my fusion never fused quite tight enough. Then one thing lead to another...the colectomy cause a prolapsed uterus.( needed a Hysterectomy)  then 2 rectocel repairs surgeries...which cause a torturous urethra which needed a stent. Then the remaining colon never regained any function so they did a Total open colectomy in 2005. Which left my abdominal wall so boggie that I couldn't expel gas so they tighten the wall 2006...then the skin on my neck had never adhered after my original spinal fusion so I had that repaired in 2006. Somewhere in the midst of another surgery I also had a hernia repair which meant reopening a small potion of my abdominal tightening. Anyway I am no stranger to surgery :)  Recently my forearms have had periods of weakness. All the pain comes from the top of my forearms just before the bend in my arm. Both sides. I can feel the pull of the tendon there and the nerve pain. In addition the "pins and needles" feeling across my shoulders have increased to "always" from occasionally. I am scheduled to see a new Primary next month. My insurance was changed through work recently.  I am 49 years old and was just wondering if it might just be an age thing or related to my previous surgeries. I am average weight (135) and 5'8 and walk daily for exercise. I'm sure my exercise could stand to be increased but with the pain I get distracted and irritated and seem to end my walks earlier than I would like. Has anyone ever experienced this type of progressive deterioration following a cervical spinal fusion?
Thank you for any feed back
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Almost 24 months beyond my L5-S1 fusion(12/05) and 18 months of pain management.  I found the source of my pain...the posterior hardware (pedicle screws and rods).  Surgical removal (09/07) of the hardware released that Lumbar triangle of pain.  I still have some hip and knee pain which is a result of L4 and L3 bulging in reaction to the hardware and associated muscle tightness, but hope that over time it resolves itself.  

I took a risk, my Neurosurgeon gave me a 50/50 chance that my condition would improve or remain the same. The 2nd surgery moved my poor outcome to a good outcome in surgery.  So, in some cases its not always about scar tissue, but it is about getting the posterior hardware out... You have the right to have your hardware removed after 12 months post-op.  

Wishing you all well and happy holidays.  
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I had spinal fusion L4 L5, 5/2007after severe pain started in my right leg and continued to my back.  Tried shots and also had a microdisectomy  11/2006.  

I am still in pain but was sent to a pain doctor.  I was taking hydrocodone and the pain Dr. moved me to 4 pills after I had been taking 6  pills for months.  I am about to die from the change of meds and pain.   He charged $500 to see me for 15 minutes and now it is Christmas and all are gone.  Called by back Dr. and left a message to change pain drs. I would have thought he would have slowly taken me off of the meds.........................................................................
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I'm 48 and was always in great health. I injured my neck and both shoulders, all requiring surgery on all three. I had C-4 thru C-7 fused and a plate and six screws. My left shoulder had two screws put in and all my ligs taken out. My right shoulder had 20% of the bone shaved off. Its been a little over two years now and I'm in pain everyday. I'm on Baclofen to help with spasms but, I have them at some level all the time. I can't get any relief.
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I was born with Hydrocephalus and two spinal fusions.  C 2,3 &4 and L 4 & 5.  I have been  in constant pain for over 30 yrs. and especially when it's damp out.  I also have tendonitis in my rotator cuffs in both shoulders from stretching to reach things that are up too high, and from caring for my 55 yr. old husband who has had Parkinson's since he was 44.  The only advice I can offer all of you is to try to pace yourselves and not to lift more than 20 pounds at a time if possible.  I know my case is different from all of you because I have never had " normal" mobility.  The pain didn't start until after my first child was born.  She compressed my sciatic nerve in my right hip by pinching it between her head and my hipbone as did her brother almost 4 yrs. later.  They are happy , healthy adults now.  Just try to eat well, rest when you can and find a hobby that makes you focus on it and not on the pain , even for just an hour a day , it does help !  Try to stay strong, it's difficult , but try !
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What bugs me is that the surgeons seem to go by some protocol that says after x surgery, you should be better by x time. To look at himself as an example is terrible. What applies to him does not apply to every patient, especially since each surgeon himself/herself is different...and then to have a nurse make such an uninformed statement tops it off.

I have had to deal with similar issues with my surgeon and his fellow colleges who seem to be more concerned about protecting one another than dealing with a patients problems after surgery.

My condition is be far worse that before the surgery and the only answer that I get is that the x-rays show everything is healing and that I can't expect things to be better is such a short period of time, totally ignoring the fact that the symptoms not only have not improved but have actually gotten worse.

I have never felt so helpless in all of my adult life. I usually know who to turn to...what to do to get answers. In this case, it all seems to be a cover up....a CYA type situation for the surgeons that I have seen.
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I had a l4l5 spinal fusion with hardware screws and rods.  I have had a hard time recoperating.  I am 59 old and have been in menopause for 8 years.  I started spotting after surgery.  I find this mind blowing since be before surgery I had no problems.  I do take femhrt for hormone replacement.  It has been  2 months since my surgery I have started having very painful muscle spams in my spine.  My doctor cut my pain pills back.  It is very hard some days to move.  I have tried going walking but pain stops this.I am so relieved to know other people have had problems too.  I pray for all of your pain in hopes for full recovery. I am hanging on.
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I had an L5S1 Pliff and plate done in 2001.They put a metal cage and screws in and packed bone from my hip around it. I was good for a year after my surgery. The past five years I've barley been able to walk or do normal daily activities. I've have been to two different surgeons, and pt. I don't take meds because i have four children to take care of. I would just like to know if anyone who has had this surgery if it has actually worked. I know I'm just so tired of the pain.I"m only 29 and really don't know what else to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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One of the pitfalls of any fusion is that when a segment of the body that used to move is locked the sheer physical force is transferred to another segment of the body.  For example fusing L5-S1 puts stress below in the SI joints and knees.  The fusion process can stress the joint above or L4-L5.  Stress and pain can equal shortened and weakened  muscles and ligaments.

I would start with Physical Therapy trying to "stretch and strengthen" the muscles and ligaments around the fusion area.  Exercise gently and use ice to end your workout.  Topical ointments such as menthol and aspirin are excellent too.  Walk regularly even if it is just a short distance a block or more.  It strengthens the kinetic chains of interlaced muscle groups in your lower back.

Easy to say but, difficult to do: Avoid bending or stooping to lift anything over 25 lbs.  Get someone else to do that for you if you can.  I don't know how you can do this with small children.  Just keep in mind your L4-L5, and even the L3 may require conscious choices on your part to keep healthy and strong.

Pain sucks!  I have multiple routines that I do everyday in order to minimize and make it manageable.  Bottom line, I commit daily to make the effort to manage my pain so, that pain does not dominate my life.
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In 5 weeks I have opted for L5S1 surgery.  I cannot walk...numbness and pain of course.  However..only 2 bouts of unbearable pain so far.  The pills are managing the pain and I am bed ridden.  Start of all this was Dec 3, 2007  I get the feeling from most that surgery does not work for most.  I guess we don't get to read about successes as they are not on the internet looking for answers.  Do I get the surgery????
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Do you have spondylothesis?  Because if you do there may not be many choices if your disc space has slipped forward and disc space is compromised and has become v-shaped.  

If you do not have this condition and your disc height is not compromised you might look into other alternatives:

1) Look at http://www.aans.org/education/journal/neurosurgical/Jan07/22-1-11-1087.pdf.  This is another promising medical procedure to aid disc healing while preserving motion.  While the FDA has not approved this yet it may one day a viable alternative to fusion.

2) Assuming you don't have spondylothesis, disc height in good shape, and your L5-S1 facet joints are in good shape you may be viable candidate for Charite Disc Replacement.
See http://www.spine-health.com/research/discupdate/discupdate01.html.

Fusion surgeries are a mixed blessing.  Truthfully a impinged lumbar nerve can lead to the numbness, muscle atrophy, limping, and sometimes paralysis of the affected limb.

A word for the wise:  If this is workman's comp related issue beware of any hack and chop-ready surgeon.  There is big money involved in this business and everyone, but the back-pain sufferer wins.  Lawyers and Doctors aided by willing victims get swindled into this deluge.  The longer you are disabled and the more surgeries they do the greater the $ settlement especially if you are permanently disabled.   But if may not be much of life after it is all said and done.

It is your life, and most likely if you do need the surgery you will benefit in the long run from it.  However, almost every person I have met including myself that had the sugery did end up with a permanent 24/7 back-ache which at time can aggravate to chronic states time to time.    


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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond.  I am retired so compensation is not the issue.  This will be a discotomy, and clean out only.  The surgeon claims a 90% success rate!  What about decompression traction alternatives.  It looks interesting but many more questions come up.  Your input is appreciated.
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I haven't been here in this forum for quite a while, but when I read the comment from m1223456789, I could not believe what how cruel and cold-hearted their comment was. Sit in judgment now, pay for it later.. Karma, will bite  you in the butt one day, you idiot. How dare you paint any and all of us who must take pain meds on a regular basis with a wide brush, including addicts.. You are in here only to instigate and irritate..well you've achieved your goal, now leave!!!  God forbid anything like this ever happens to you.. You will be crying and pulling out your hair like a little girl..

People should not make comments if they've never experienced the levels of pain  many of us here have experienced..Mine, as many of you have stated is debilitating pain.  My physician told me after the surgery that due to the nerve damage, I would have to be on pain meds the rest of my life.  Every day I must take 130 mg of Kadian (morphine) in an extended release form.  He writes me hydrocodone 10/650 for break through pain, but only 40 a month.  I do not take even one, every day... the pain has to be excruciating for me to take one at all.

I try to do many different things to relieve the pain that breaks through.. My son purchased a sleep number bed for me and it has helped a great deal.. I adjust the number each night according to my level of pain and it's been a God send for me.. I have a great son!
I'm terribly worried about the effects these medications are having on my liver. I'm not worried about addiction, since I have no problems with that sort of thing. ..
When all of us take these meds for pain, we do not get HIGH from them or a buzz as this idiot was alluding to, we get a minimal amount of relief so we don't do something drastic.
My doctor was unaware before my surgery that along with spondylolethesis, scoliosis and the ruptured disks, my back was also broken and some of the bones were cutting into my spinal cord.. This didn't even show up on the MRI.. Had I not had the surgery, the surgeon said I would have become paralyzed.. so I'm thankful for him finding and fixing that and for the surgeon trying to help, but this pain is something I have to try to adjust to every day of my life. I'm thankful to have a family physician that knows I'm not a "pill head" as m11223456789 was insinuating about all of us.  He knows my pain is real and in the extreme category.
I had spinal fusion of the L5, L6, S1, with titanium pedicle screws and rods attached, after they had done a discectomy and a laminectomy and placed allograft (donor bone) in my back in January 2005..
The pain has intensified as time goes by and has moved up my back.  In the past couple of weeks, I've had two episodes where my legs give out completely from under me.  The last one was last night.  I got our of my car after riding approximately 45 minutes and walked about 15 feet and my legs gave out.  I do believe it's time for more testing to be done to find out what is wrong now.  Has anyone here heard of the leg and lower back weakness that causes such an episode?  If you have any knowledge about it and can pass it along to me, I would be very grateful.
I will be praying for all of you in hopes that one day we all may live pain free.
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WOW- i just stumbled upon this site and couldnt believe what i was reading!  my husband had a spinal fusion to L3-4 and L4-5  in 11-2005 and since then has been in incredible amts of pain. he ended up developing a massive clot to his left leg which then developed into compartment leg syndrome (the compartments in his leg were filling w fluid causing it to swell 2-3 times larger than normal) they had to make large incisions on both sides of his calf in order to relieve the pressure, then inserted vacuums in to suck the fluids out. he ended up in the hospital for a mth.  2.5 yrs later, he is still in pain - he describes it as ants and shocks all the time.  his nerves have been damaged so badly, that his leg is numb to the touch on the outside (but has ants on the inside and sceams if someone squeezes it) and feels like hes dragging a dead tree limb around. the pain meds have not worked - they just 'take the edge off' he says.  he has been through physical therapy, lydocyne injections, and most recently had a spinal cord stimulator put in.  all of these things have failed and he actually just had the stimulator taken out this past tues.  we/he is at his ropes end. everytime the doctors suggest something new to him, his hopes get up so high and then come crashing dwn around him when they fail.  the doctors have now suggested putting in a pain pump.  we just dont know what to do at this point. is he just be a human piece of swiss cheese w all these surgeries hes been through?  we are seriously considering amputation.  our thoughts are w the leg gone, he would not have any swelling (part of the residual side effects from the compartment leg syndrome) and thus decreased pain. and would be able to walk better w a prostetic thus helping his back pain - he currently tippy toes on his left leg and hasnt been able to stand firmly on that foot since the surgery.  he also thinks that he would be able to tolerate phantom pains (if there are any) more that the pain hes in right now.
has anyone taken this step? or does anyone have any advice or have tried something that he havent done yet?  i cant stand to watch him be in pain anymore. he is only 38 yrs old and has a 2 yr old and a 4 yr old and all he can do is sit on the couch most days.
this is no way for anyone to live.
please contact me if you have anything encouraging!

thanks -- faith hope and love
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I just found this site also. I had a failed laminectomy/disccectomy in 12/06. Since my neurosurgeon couldn't stand my complaints of pain he dismissed me from his practice. I found a highly recommended orthopaedic surgeon and in 10/07 I had a fusion of  L3,4,5,S1 due to DDD and other issues. I have been on Vicodin 10 mg. Soma and Lyrica ever since but the pain down my right leg won't go away.  My left leg feels 90% better but there are times despite the meds that I think I will go insane from the pain in the right leg.   I also have suicidal thoughts but would not actively do anything to act on them, just wish sometimes that taking all these pills would put an end to the pain for good.

My right thigh is so tight you can actually feel what feels like a rock inside. Is there anyone out there who has gone through this and has had eventual success and little to no pain after a while? Am I being premature. I dont have another appointment for a month. The nurses say just to be patient.  Should I be doing something else? They say it is normal for the pain to persist for up to a year. Somehow this just doesn's seem right.  Any help would be appreciated.
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When did this knot in your leg start? Is there any redness or heat in your thigh?  Was your thigh tight when you saw your Dr. at your last visit?  Did you tell your Dr. of your suicidal thoughts?  I wouldn't wait a month to see your Dr., despite what the nurses tell you.  Be demanding and ask to be seen this week.  Have you gotten another opinion?  I know I have a lot of questions, but I definitely would get an appointment this week with your surgeon.  If he/she won't get you in this week, call your family physician.  Tell them you are having suicidal thoughts - I promise you, they will get you in that day.  (Your surgeon should too, for that matter.)

Hang in there.  I had the laminectomy/discectomy (twice) and am headed for a fusion now.   The one thing I noticed was my medications were causing me to have weird thoughts, not quite suicidal, but weird thoughts that I never thought of before.  It wasn't until I cut back on my meds that I noticed a big difference.  Not telling you how to manage your medications, but maybe your Dr. can change meds or dosages.  It is just a thought.

Good luck and keep us posted.  
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The knot has been there since I woke up from the surgery.  The surgeon knows. When the pain eases I try not to take the narcotics as often, But if I wait too long the pain comes back with a vengeance! You are right. I will try to make an appointment this week. I am religious so would not kill myself on purpose, and my family is extremely supportive, but when the pain comes on so strong that nothing helps, that is where my thoughts turn. I am also afraid of becoming addicted. I have already built up a tolerance. My biggest fear is either that one day the docs will just stop giving me enough meds, or that nothing will work anymore.

Believe it or not I am still working in a very responsible position, so I have to go to work now. But thanks and good luck with your surgery.  You and all the others here will be in my prayers.
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st. louis, MO