T10-S1 fusion post op pain

Hello, I am actually requesting information for my mother. She had surgery on 6//15/20. It will be  4 weeks tomorrow from dos. She is in a lot of pain, takes Norco 7-525 every 4 to 5 hours. She gets some relief but mostly she’s crying by of the pain. They gave her muscle relaxer which she says does not help her and make her feel worse. I forgot to mention she is 74. We went to post op visit a week ago and says everything is going well, her pain is normal. My question is how long does this pain last? Any advice on how to manage her pain? At what point will she be able to be on her own? Any information from whoever has gone through this would be helpful. Thanks



  • Hi, levanstwo - 

    So sorry your mom is in this kind of pain! I had T10-S1 fusion surgery in 2017. I can only speak from my own experience with post-op pain, so with that disclaimer, I can tell you that for me, the pain lasted much longer than a month. I was on pain meds for probably 2-3 months (I don't remember exactly, but more or less). For the first month-and-a-half, I was taking the pain meds as prescribed and not missing any doses - "staying ahead of the pain," as they say. Then, I began experimenting with stretching out the time between doses, and was able to wean myself completely by about four months post-op. 

    So keeping in mind that pain is VERY subjective and that everyone's experience with surgery (both the surgery itself and the whole recovery) is going to be different, please DO contact your mom's surgeon and/or whoever is following up with her at this point and describe what is happening. Ask for help from your mom's practitioners as often as you need to, without hesitation - that's why they're there! 

    Feel free to reach out again. I hope others on the Forum are able to chime in with helpful hints.

    -MorningGirl, T10-S1 in 2017 

  • At MorningGirl, thank you for reaching out! I feel like my mom isn’t giving herself the time she needs to heal. She thinks she should feel better already, questions why it still hurts so much. We keep telling her this was a major surgery and it will take time. She doesn’t stay ahead of the pain and that is one of the reasons she hurts too!

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

    That's a big surgery especially for her age, I have not had a fusion that long but have had 2 lumbar fusion surgeries, at 4 weeks pain is still normal, if the medications she is taking are not helping please call the surgeons office and explain the situation.

    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.


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  • Levanstwo - I'm sorry to hear your mom is in pain. It is tough to watch someone you love hurt. I had a T9 - S1 fusion 4 years ago at age 58. I remember my surgeon telling me that recovery is not a sprint but is a marathon and is measured in months not days or weeks. When I left the hospital my instructions were to walk as much as I could. Honestly walking became my best friend and the more I walked, the better I felt. It is a non-strenuous activity that uses all (or most) of your back muscles and this will strengthen them and aid in healing. Sitting or laying down too much increased my discomfort. Truly 4 weeks out is VERY early. I remember thinking at about 7 weeks that I was getting back to normal or at least well on my way. The 'staying ahead of the pain' is important as it can be hard to get out of the pain cycle once it starts. I'm assuming she is following the no BLT rules, using the log roll to get out of bed etc.. Her muscles have been thru a lot in a very short time and they will take awhile to get back to feeling good. Can I ask, was this surgery due to scoliosis? Mine was.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,554


    I had lumbar surgery when I was 60. And I agree with what everyone has above has said. Walking is very important, even if she just walks around the house. Also staying on top of the pain. She should be taking her meds as prescribed. If she doesn't, the pain can get out of control. It has only been 4 weeks and that is early. Is she using ice packs or a heating pad? Sometimes those will help too.

    I hope she feels better soon, please keep us posted.

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  • Just to piggyback on Sandra's most recent post, yes - walking IS super-important, whether it's down to the end of the room and back or something longer...any walking at all is 100% better than none! 

    I also agree that 4 weeks is VERY early in recovery from a surgery this big - as I said in my earlier post, I think it took me a full 8-12 months to feel "okay." Healing takes a ton of physical and mental energy (and that includes the "invisible" energy that the body is working on internally), and it's slowwwww if your mom can tailor her expectations to that mindset (a tiny bit of progress gets a gold star!), it will be that much more doable. 

    I can't lie - it's HARD to recover from a really big spinal fusion, but it can and will come to pass that one day your mom will notice that she finally feels okay for the first time in a long time. That will be a great moment!

    Wishing her the best as she works on her recovery. Meds as prescribed, moderation in all things, having a reasonable goal for each day (e.g. walking back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, twice...and maybe three times next week!) can all make it easier.



  • Thank you so much for your responses. My mother had herniated disk, spinal stenosis and scoliosis and probably other things I can’t remember. 

  • Thank you so much for your responses. My mother had herniated disk, spinal stenosis and scoliosis and probably other things I can’t remember. 

  • Hi, levanstwo - 

    How is your mom doing these last few days? Just checking in to see if she's okay...

  • Hi MorningGirl,

    She’s ok. She started Percocet 3 days ago to see if would help more with the pain. I think it does but it also upset her stomach and made her constipated. So we are dealing with that again. The PT has been extended and the new therapist reiterated everything that we’ve been saying about her surgery and how painful it will be right now. My mom still gets upset bc it just hurts. Really right now is just taking one day at a time. Thank you for asking about her! 

  • levanstwo - I also was prescribed Percocet and was so concerned about constipation (I mean who needs that on top of everything else) so I took an over the counter laxative each day that I took Percocet. Also ate prunes and drank Smooth Move tea as necessary. Never really had a problem, I mean I did kind of throw the kitchen sink at it. Just like using the pain meds, I tried to stay ahead of the constipation. Please encourage her to walk if she isn't. Gentle {{hugs}} to you both

  • Yes - I also was prescribed Percocet, and it worked well for me. The constipation IS a major side-effect, unfortunately! Not fun at all (understatement). I took Senna daily (as a part of my nightly meds), and that helped a LOT. Again, as with the Percocet, it's important to take the Senna (or whatever your mom prefers) daily so she fends off the constipation. 

    This is awfully hard, huh??? I've had a few major surgeries in my lifetime, and this one definitely required the longest recovery time. Your mom is lucky to have you helping her out. Stay in touch - having a support system is important for you as well as for her!

  • Just curious, how long did it take for you to be on your own after the surgery? I’m trying to figure out when will I be able to go back to work. My mom will be 6 weeks post op tomorrow. She still in a lot of pain, taking Percocet how she should. I just cannot afford not to go back to work. Another problem is we also take care of my dad who is 92 with dementia. Up until now, she was his caretaker. With the covid situation, we cannot put him in a home right now. I’m just trying to see if there is any light at the end of the tunnel coming soon.

  • Hi, levanstwo - 

    I had someone staying with me until about 3 months post-op. Now, part of my situation included that I was living in a 3rd-floor walkup apartment and it basically took two people to get me in and out for walks (my friend who lived with me at the time would carry my walker up and down the stairs). So that was one reason she stayed on. The other thing was that I didn't drive while I was taking the Percocet, and it helped to have her do grocery shopping and other errands until I was in less pain, off the Percocet, and able to drive short distances (to the grocery store, etc.). 

    Does your mom feel like she can do okay on her own at this point? I totally understand that you need to get back to work! If she doesn't feel okay enough to be alone, is there a close friend who would be willing to come stay with her for a while longer? (I realize that with COVID and all the protocols that we need to follow, that might not be a workable option, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.) Or could a friend help her with daytime needs like grocery shopping, picking up meds from the pharmacy, taking out the trash, light cleaning, etc.? 

    So I guess my short answer is that it took me 3 months to be on my own. At that point, friends jumped in to help by bringing groceries and running other errands as needed. Your mom will have her own timeline, of course, depending on her pain level and progress with mobility and general healing. I'm sorry to hear that you also have your dad to care for in the middle of this COVID situation - it's hard to manage the caretaking of both of your parents without the outside resources that used to be available. You also might call your mom's surgeon and/or the medical office that he works in to see if they have recommendations for you. 

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel, levanstwo, but I can't tell you for sure when it will be there for you! Stay the course - you have a really, really hard job with caring for your mom after this surgery. Do whatever you can to take care of yourself at the same time, okay? Good luck and please check in again - all of us here on the Forum are here to support you and your mom.


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