9 Weeks Post L5-S1 ALIF - looking for feedback

Hello Everyone,

     I am coming up on 9 weeks post L5-S1 ALIF this Monday.  As background when I was 17 I had a car accident where someone hit me from behind doing 45.  I had back/leg/nerve pain that has gotten progressively worse ever since.  It was only about a little over a year ago I was actually diagnosed with a Pars defect and told surgery likely could help me.  I have had my L5-S1 fused via ALIF.  After waking up from the surgery my nerve pain was completely gone and I
felt about as good as you possibly could the first 3 or so weeks after
surgery. However that was short lived as I have a 7 month old that my wife needed my help with and I had to go back to work (remotely) at my high stress Analyst job.  It took me a couple of weeks to get back on track from how emotionally draining work and trying to help my wife while still recovering.  I do feel during this time I likely did more bending typically at the hip from to get things off the floor than I should have been doing.  All of that has honestly made me paranoid that maybe I have in some way compromised the graft structure or fusion site.  I have yet to have an actual X-ray because my week 6 visit was remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  At 6 weeks my surgeon described me as "about the middle of the bell curve". 

I have had some really good days since the surgery, but definitely also had my lows.  Most of the reading I have on recovery emphasizes a positive attitude and walking.  So I am doing my best to focus on those things.  I have been able to walk about 1-3 miles daily.  However I feel if I walk too fast or have to carry my daughter around the house too much it does flare up my leg nerve pain. 

I would really appreciate any feedback from anyone who has had a similar journey and how you are doing now.  I know the 3-4 month window is where most feel significantly better so with that coming up I am a little anxious over how I have felt the last few days.  Thanks in advance!



  • Welcome SJCely2020 we’re glad you’re here!

    9 weeks sounds like a long time, and it is when you are the one going thru it, but in reality when it comes to spine surgery it's just getting started, nerves take time to heal and usually do so slowly, like you, my surgeon says walking is your best exercise.

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    Have you read the article Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery on Spine-health? It offers a lot of practical tips around what to expect before, during, and after surgery. You may also want to check out the video How to Prep Your Home for Spine Surgery Recovery, which also has some great tips.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

  • Good Morning SJCely2020 I wanted to to chime in here and just let you know TIME is your best friend.. And SLOW down.. I had L5/S! TLIF and L4 decompression in August 2019. I can tell you walking is good but carrying you child is not a good idea. I understand she is 7 months old but still that is wgt you don't need to carry. I do feel for you. You need help in that dept. A few pointers. 

    1) Listen to your Dr. and your body. Something I had to learn. I was 61 when I had my surgery and thought I was superman. When I got hurt it took me down. and after the surgery I realized I needed help. I never realized how much I needed my wife to do everything. I am now almost 9 months post op. I still listen to my body. I have a lot of nerve damage in my leg and due to circumstances beyond my control workmans comp has denied my PT now. Now I am going backwards. 

    2) Do what your DR. says. Only what he says.. Not what you think. - I realized this is the rest of my life and I want to live it and not hurt and be in pain. I have faith in my Dr. and trust he knows best.

    3) If your body hurts don't do it. Your body knows better then you. A hard lesson I had to learn but I did. There are days I felt great and then the next day I felt like ____. Don't push it. Time is a word you need to embrace. 

    I know I am speaking from my own experience and we are all different. I am older then you and I also had knee surgery 6 months before the back went out. The knee was not a big deal but that paid the price after the back issue. I have learned a lot from reading looking at these blogs but the nerve pain is one thing noone has an answer for. All I can tell is it is time.

    Good luck and I hope some of what I said helps.


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  • John thank you for your feedback.  I think the # 1 thing you said is
    time which is wise but definitely the hardest part for me. 

  • I wanted to update and hopefully get some more feedback. 

    At 10-12 weeks I was actually walking 2-4 miles a day with no pain and feeling great.  Last friday night my wife fell in the kitchen and caught herself on my shoulders.  Since I have had really bad nerve pain to levels where it was as bad as it was before surgery.  I wake up with it and it flares up at the most random times. 

    My Surgeon had x-rays done and the structure looks good. They gave me neurotin for the nerve pain which helps but makes my head pretty cloudy.  My doctor says he feels like this is a minor set back and it will get better but that is tough when it feels like something has changed.

    I really hope I can continue to improve.  Monday was 12 weeks for me and I already felt like I was a little behind where I should be with recovery.  I am honestly emotionally in a pretty low place. It almost feels like this isnt real life because of how well I was doing such a short time ago.  It felt like I was getting better and going to be pain free but now I am in a place of real uncertainty.  A couple of weeks ago I would have told you I am certain this is going to help it is just a matter of how much and now I really dont know. 

    I would really love to hear someone who had a similar story and eventually got better.  The fact that after the accident my symptoms are the worst they have been since surgery really worries me. 

    Thanks in advance for the support in feedback as I journey through this.

  • I have had 3 fusion surgeries, 2 lumbar and 1 cervical, all 3 have been different, the first lumbar was a single level, I went back to work after 4 weeks, part time for 2 weeks and then full time, the second lumbar was a 2 level, at 9 weeks I went back to work and it was too soon, I ended up working part time for 9 months and to be honest wasn't really ready to go full time then, basically what I am saying is every surgery and recovery are different, you are 3 months out of a very serious surgery, as my surgeon said, there will be setbacks and he didn't consider anybody with a fusion surgery to be healed before the 1 year mark, he was right, I had several setbacks to the point that I though I had messed up during that year, but in the end it was okay.

    Take care


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  • Wanted to post an update. I am 12 weeks post op now.  I mentioned in my previous post the incident with my wife falling the kitchen and catching herself on my shoulders.  The first part of this week was incredibly hard.  I had a lot of muscle stiffness in my leg along with nerve pain(not sure if the irritated nerve causes that). It was so bad it felt like the pain I had pre-surgery which was emotionally distressing.

    I met with my surgeon on Thursday and he put me on Gabapentin which is treating the nerve pain really well.  It is a little comforting that Gabapentin works so well because I feel it gives even more evidence to what the culprit of my pain is.  The surgeon still feels I will improve with time but wants to keep a close eye on my pain.  To be honest at this point I a very skeptical it is just going to improve with time, but who knows really. It is so hard to have been doing so well and now be where I am. 

    The surgeon discussed our plan over the next 3 months.  I see him in 2 weeks to check in on my pain. In a couple of months if the CT shows bone growth and the structure looks fine my surgeon said we will to a CT myleogram.  I think the plan for there if the nerve that is compressed is revealed he would decompress it.  

    It definitely feels good to have a plan to fall back on.

    I will be doing a lot of praying and trusting... 

    Any one who has had similar experiences that can speak into my situation would be much appreciated, I realize everyone's recovery unique. 

  • Just wanted to leave an update here. 

    My pain has actually gotten worse over the last 4 or so weeks.  My CT Myleogram results came back surgeon referred me back to pain management.  I pressed him that something was still wrong so he has decided to do an MRI of my thoracic and cervical areas.  I have never had an MRI on either area so hopefully we can find out what is causing my excruciating leg pain.  

    If he doesn't see anything with my MRI this time I plan to get a second opinion from anther surgeon in my area.  After that I will likely head to the Mayo clinic.  I had enough time pain free after my surgery that I feel like this is worth perusing. 

    The hardest part is not knowing what is going on all over again when it seemed like we had answers.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,555

    Thank you for the update but was hoping for better news. I'm really sorry you are in this much pain. But I totally agree, a second opinion is what I would do. I have the kind of hip and leg pain but mine is from sciatica. Below is an article that may help you out.

    What You Need to Know About Sciatica

    Take care and keep us posted.

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