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I had a discetomy in 1/06 that I considered very successful. In 12/07 I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and has a fusion at L5/S1 on January 15th.(2 weeks ago) I was doing great until day 7 post surgery when I started having leg pain in both legs that feels like my legs are in a vise twisting them from the bottom of my rear to the back of my ankle. This is not the same pain I had in 06 that I would consider sciatica (more of an electrical shooting pain only in one leg.)
My calves and hamstrings feel like the are going to burn out of my legs. Percocet gives minor relief. Doc put me on prednisone for 6 days and it helped some but since I'm off of it the pain is back. He took an x-ray of the fusion and said all looks great. Doc is baffled since I had no leg pain pre-surgery just back pain. He wants to give it some time before trying nerve meds (what the heck are they) or doing another MRI. Giving it time is easy for him to say when I'm the one in pain. Anyone else have this experience or any ideas?
Hi Debbie,

I had a fusion at L4-5 a week ahead of you (Jan. 7th). I have developed a weird pain on the front of my thighs, a pain I never had prior to my surgery. I went in for my first post-op appointment last Thursday, told him about it and they did an x-ray right then. When they looked at it it looked like everything was in order but the doc ordered an MRI, saying "why wait another 3 weeks when you're in pain now." So I had the MRI Friday and had another appointment to talk about the results today.

I think I would call the office and tell them you are in worse pain than you were prior to the surgery and that you need some relief from the pain....and see what they say. It is not "too early" to have a MRI.

Drugs for nerve pain are specific medications that are designed specifically to deal with this type of pain, which is different from muscular pain, pain from a headache, etc....a drug like Lyrica, or neurontin.
The burning pain usually indicates nerve involvement. Unfortunately, this is rather common with fusions. The nerves are irritated during surgery and as the numbing agents wear off, the pain increases. If that's what it is, there's a good chance it will get better, but it will take time. Nerves take a long time to calm down. I have some of this burning pain, mostly in my feet, but it's bearable. I hope you get some relief!

How are you doing otherwise? Are you resting as much as you can and being careful not to bend, lift, or twist? Are you walking when you can, even if it's only for 10 minutes back and forth across your bedroom? Walking is very important, as it gets the blood circulating around the spine, which is vital for bone growth.

This is a big surgery with a long recovery, and you're still very early on in your recovery process. If you have other questions, we'll do our best to answer from our own experiences.

Take care,
Emily :wave:
Thanks for the info. This morning I was awoke with such pain in the sides of my heels that I could hardly stand it. I got up and tried to walk it off but couldn't get any relief. Finally gave in and took pain meds which I don't like to do. It is so nice to talk to someone that doesn't think I'm crazy. I was doing so well for the first week after surgery that I thought this is way to easy. I have had several major surgeries (3 in the last 3 years) and consider myself to have a high pain tolerence, but sometimes it really gets to you emotionally as well as physically. When was your surgery? Are you on nerve meds? Thanks again for the response. Have a great day.
Wait a minute! You're only 2 weeks out from fusion surgery and you're not taking pain meds regularly? Girl, you're amazing!

Maybe you need to break down and take them. Are you too sensitive to them? Or you don't like the thought of putting them in your body? Most of us are on pain meds for months, not weeks, after a fusion. If you wait until the pain is too great for you to tolerate, the pain meds will take a LOT longer to take effect and you'll be using energy you need for healing to just bear up under your pain. If you're able to take them, I encourage you to, and on schedule. If the meds you have are giving you side effects, call your doctor and see if he can give you something else.

This is major surgery and it will give you pain not just in the surgical area, but all over aches. They disturb a lot of things when they go in there. Don't try to be a hero by not taking the meds. You won't get any medals for that! You'll heal more quickly and feel better and stronger sooner if you keep up your meds.

I've never been one to take pain killers, either, and I have a high pain tolerance (three kids, not one moan or scream, but not easy deliveries). But I took my pain meds on schedule for the first several weeks and then started tapering down very gradually. I'm 16 months post op from my last fusion and have accepted that I will need pain meds for the rest of my life. I take Vicodin twice a day, sometimes three times during a harder spell. And I was the one who always had pain meds leftover from every prescription because I didn't like to take them! There's a time to break down and just take them.

I remember how much pain I was in WITH the pain meds. I can't even imagine how you must feel WITHOUT them!

Hi Deb,
Wecome! I'm sorry your suffering so. Nerve pain is the worst because regular pain meds don't normally touch nerve pain at all. I have to agree with Emily, you need to take your pain meds as prescribed. If it says every 8 hours on the label then you need to set your alarm to get up in the middle of the night if thats when your next dose is to be. If your body is in severe pain all your muscles stay tense and that creates more pain and also slows the healing process, you don't want to slow that down.

I have had 4 fusion surgeries, and every recovery was different. I had alot of complications and have some permanent damage that can't be fixed. But the one thing was the same in all four was the meds need to stay in a constant level to work well. You will see that you will feel much better in the long run if you take your meds as precribed.

I would also call your doc and tell him you can't wait until he feels you have suffered enough, you need those nerve meds now. There is no reason to keep you in pain.

The nerve meds out there today work very well for most, I take lyrica and for the most part it works very well. I have permanent nerve damage so I will be on them for life. Now don't get scared, my case is NOT the norm at all. It's not unusual to have nerve pain for a while after surgery. They move the nerves all around in surgery and it takes a lil time for them to settle down and that sounds like what yours are doing now.

I hope you get some relief soon, hang in there the first few weeks are the hardest. You should start feeling better soon.

God BLess

Nerve pain is a "side effect" of the fusion/decompression/lami surgery. Nerves can take up to 2 years to heal, unfortunatelly.
I had my first surgery on 03/14/06 and got nerve pain/, numbness/ dropped foot right after. I had another surgery on 12/07 and all still here plus a lot of new areas nerve pain.
I was on Lurica, got many side effects.
I was on Keppra
Was on Neurontin and now back on it again.

Good luck to you on your recovery, make it as comfortable as you can!:)
Hi Carol, Thanks for the reply. Everyone is so nice on this board. You are probably right about keeping up on the pain meds. Its just that I felt so good for the first 7 days after surgery that I hardly needed them. I have had very little back pain and no incision pain at all, then along comes the severe leg pain on day 7. I wanted to cut my feet off this morning. I guess I don't want to ask for nerve meds because I'm hoping this is a side effect of the surgery and will go away over the next few weeks. Taking the nerve meds is like accepting this as a lifelong problem. It's only been 2 weeks but I can't imagine living like this forever, although I know many people do. When I read about people having 3 and 4 fusions like yourself its very depressing to think I might be headed down that road. I have always been a very active person, sports, traveling, general family life and it's hard to just sit and wait.
I have read up on some of the nerve meds and I know they have alot of potential side effects. Maybe I'll give it another week and see if the pain gets any better. Thanks for listening........Debbie
Please dont' think that your condition now will be lifelong, there is no indication that this will be your outcome. It takes a long long time to determine permanent damage. Most spine patients have some nerve issues in the begining post op. Taking the nerve meds doesn't mean that either. I have a policy about the side effect lists we all search out. I keep the list tucked away somewhere but don't look at it unless I feel bad after I start taking the meds. I know for me I will watch ever lil muscle twinge and think it's a side effect. Also I wait a few weeks, unless it's a major side effect, so my body can adjust to the new med.

Taking some meds for a few weeks or months by no means means that you will need them forever. It takes 12 months to fully recover from a back surgery, 12 months, you have only been thru 2 weeks post op. Don'r try to hurry things along. They have just cut thru your major muscles and moved around the bones both that support your entire body. Thats not gonna bounce back in just a few weeks. I know your eager to get back in the swing of things and thats good to have that desire, it will lead you to a good outcome. But don't let you mind move faster than your body can right now.

Do they have you in a back brace? What time frame has your dr. told you to expect for recovery? Any mention of when you may start physical therapy? Just wondered.

I hope I have helped some.

God Bless

Carol, I have a brace to wear for 12 weeks after surgery. 3-6 months was discussed for healing. PT has not been discussed, I am not supposed to do any activity but walking for 12 weeks. Maybe PT comes after that. My husband wants to take me to dinner tomorrow night, its hard to make him understand that I just don't feel like it. I shower and clean up everyday so I guess I look like I could go out. Patience is a virtue that neither one of us has a lot of. I don't work outside the home so at least I don't have that additional worry and my family is very supportive. Thanks for listening, misery loves company................Debbie
Hi Deb and welcome to this board! I am/was a very active and incredibly fit person up to the point of my last spine injury over 4 years ago.

I know exactly how you are feeling as your story is quite similar to mine. After waking from the surgery, my sciatica was gone! But I did have some numbness issue with my left leg/foot that was a tad odd, as I had no issues on my left side prior to surgery. But other than that.. I felt great.

After my fusion surgery, I looked and felt amazing. I was thinking my healing was going to be a complete piece of cake. At week two, that all came to an abrupt halt! That numbing agent they coat the surgery site with had worn off, and the real healing pain had come forward, to include nerve pain in both legs and feet and severe muscle cramping in my legs.

Doc gave me a prednisone pack and it helped while taking it but then the pain returned. He then gave me Neurontin to try and see if it helped ease the nerve pain. I had a severe adverse reaction to the medication, that I could barely get out of the bed or walk and also suffered some very serious swelling. So I got put back on prednisone to help get things back into control. It helped temporarily again, but the nerve pain came back. So they tried me on the sister nerve med to that, called Lyrica. It only took one tablet and I had an immediate reaction.

I continued to have unexplainable swelling after all this and they were beginning to think I was allergic to the titanium hardware they put into my spine.

The doc said that I would have to tough things out on my own, as he was pretty sure some of my nerve pain was due to the swelling I had going on. Unfortunately, taking anti-inflammatories while trying to fuse defeats the purpose of the fusing process and can be directly correlated to fusions failing to take. So he had me tough it out for the first 3 months on my own, and then he put me back on anti-inflammers for awhile. I did help some and I was solidly fused at 7months.

Over time, the nerve pain calmed down ALOT and then became less frequent and more of an annoyance and minor distraction than anything.

I am left with permanent nerve damage as a direct result of the surgery on my left leg/foot. The doctor has no idea why this happened. I had no nerve impingement to begin with, and he does not think he ever even touched my nerve at all during the surgery.

Hopefully yours will fully resolve and you wont get left with any residual permanent damage. Mine is so slight, I dont give it much thought and a welcome trade off to how bad off I was before the surgery.

None of us like to take meds, but us veterans have learned it's important to take what is needed to stay in control of pain. And the nerve meds does not mean failure in anyway, but just a means to help those in need get through the healing process with less pain. So many get great results from the meds, they are worth trying.

Your hubby is wonderful to want to take you out and get you out of the house for awhile. I would just communicate with him as you know him best to understand what you are going through right now, and I am sure he will understand. Tell him you'll take a raincheck on that and take him up on it in a few more weeks, when you and he can enjoy that time together better.

I was back at work at 7 weeks (office job). I really should have waited to return to work at 12 weeks, or more, but I financially needed to return to the job.

Wearing that brace is no picnic and while it supports your back, it also puts alot of strain on the rest of you having to adjust to that thing being on your body. You will need to wean yourself off from wearing it when the time comes.

Walking is the best thing you can do for yourself and makes a huge help to your healing process. If you have any home exercises you were given, do them as best you can. They too will help you heal.

When PT is offered, take full advantage of it. It was my turning point to my healing and feeling normal again. I shuffled into PT at around 10-12 weeks, stiff as a board. Within a few weeks, they had me walking with a normal gate and stranding up straight again. Works wonders!

Things seems gloomy right now, but you will begin to see some noticeable improvements in the coming weeks. Take your meds.. that's why you have them. It's not a sign of weakness or failure but a tool to help you control your pain. If you hurt, you are not going to heal as well or as fast.

Hang in there.

Your story sounds so much like mine its amazing. That first week after surgery should be called the honeymoon period, since its no inclination of whats to come ahead. I feel so much better to know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and this is not a lifelong sentence. I can endure the pain and be patient as long as I know things should get better.

I knew the prednisone pack wasn't the best to go on, but it was worth the try. I don't plan on using it again. The pain meds help and they don't make me feel to loopy. I don't work so they are not an issue in that way. I can fuction around the house on them. I see th doc again at the end of the month and thought maybe if its not better by then I would try the nerve meds.

PT has not been mentioned yet. Doc said to walk as much as I felt like . I wish it were warm out now. I'm scared to death to go out and maybe fall on the ice or snow. I have a treadmill but I'm afraid to try that yet. I just do laps around the house. I used to work out three days a week at the gym with a personal trainer and since I stopped in November I have gained 20 pounds. Its so depressing. I'll definitley take advantage of PT as soon as I can.

I'm glad that you are doing well. The pain that you are left with sounds like someting I can deal with. I know that I will never be pain free but when I had back surgery I didn't expect to end up with severe leg and foot pain.

I was told that the fusion takes 3 months. Why did yours take 7? Did you wear the brace for 7 months? I was told 3 months for that also.

Thanks again for the response. I really do feel better, and I hope you continue to heal......................Debbie
Hi debbie,justoneof us,hope you both feeling better,so when you first come out of the surgery there no massive pain yet?it figures come later after they get you out of hospital so you can do all your complaining,whining,crying,constipation issues and barfing.yoy must be very bravemand very strong willed to endure such agony,i know that nerve pain,sciatic is the hardest,one leg imagine two legs,eek!I use to hurt just sitting on a toilet.I was told took a year to 18 months for a complete fusion.then the ball game starts again with another level going.maybe for me i should just shoot myself and be done with it all,i'm no good to anybody,nobody to help me out.
Hope you don't mind me jumping in here. My situation is very similar and just wanted to ask a couple questions. For a quick refresher, I had a PLIF on Jan 7th at L4-5.

Justoneofus ~ Please tell me what surgery you had done, and where.

#2: Regarding meds for nerve pain: When I was discharged from the hospital, I was sent home with prescriptions for oxycodone and lyrica that I was to take 2 times per day. I don't know if it is the doc's intention to keep me on these meds for quite awhile. Does it do any good to take lyrica for a couple months and then stop? I gather it was given as a "preventive" since he gave it to me so early in the game, before I knew whether I had nerve pain or not.

I'm feeling kind of fuzzy-headed at the moment from the pain meds. Hope this makes sense!!
Hi Debbie,
I just wanted to jump in and welcome you. I am sorry you are having so much pain, it can be so discouraging when you go into surgery thinking you will be better. I have permanent nerve damage in my right leg after an injury and laminectomy L5-S1. Good luck to you and hang in there. Keep us posted.

I guess I wont know if my pain is permanent for a while. Since I had no leg pain before surgery does that mean the doc irritated a nerve during surgery?

Happy to share progress or or lack thereof with you. The pain is pretty much the same. It so crazy the way it travels to different places in my legs and feet. I am able to walk but the weather in Ohio has been snowy and icy until today. We are having a warm-up for a few days and I hope to get outside for short walks. I have a treadmill but am afraid to use it yet. Ive been making laps through the house. I see the doc at the end of the month. I am trying to manage with the pain meds till then, then if necesssary we can discuss nerve meds. How are you? Are you having any progress? My surgery was 1/15, aren't you about a week ahead of me. Whats your secret to pain management?............Debbie

How will I know when I am solidly fused. Do they do an MRI to tell that? Just wondering

Nice to here from you. How are you doing. Sorry to hear you have diabetes too. I don't have any other health issues, it must be difficult to battle more than one thing at a time. I plan on a small (and I mean small) walk outside today since it's suppose to be nice. Still fighting leg and foot pain, surgery 3 weeks ago tomorrow. Just have a continual dull ache in my back. We have a jacuzzi tub I wonder if that would help my pain. I'm afraid the heat may aggravate the swelling? Take care..........Debbie

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