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Back Pain still at 4 months Post Opp?

Hello, I had ALIF on L5S1 on Oct 20, 2015. I am just about 4 months post opp. Should I still be having low back pain? Both sides of fusion.I thought at this point I would be doing much better. My abdomen also gets really tight around the incision, like a fist clinching and sometimes I feel bloated from it. I starting PT at 6 weeks and was given new stretches at 3 months. No sign of fusion from X-Rays yet. Two days ago had a new MRI to see what could be causing back pain. The DR said MRI looked good and it was probably inflammation or the fusion wasn't too strong yet. He wants me to stop PT and start taking Ibuprofen when needed. Is this normal at this point? I am worried? I will have CT scan at 5 months. Thanks for any advise.


  • Hello - I had PLIF on L5-S1 in early November, so we aren't too far apart. I am still having back pain. I have followed up several times with my surgeon as he told me recovery would only take 2 weeks. That definitely wasn't the case. I also had an MRI about a week ago to make sure everything was OK, he says looks good. He also said there was still swelling & inflammation from the surgery. Did you find PT helpful? I start next week (was supposed to start earlier but didn't). I'm afraid it either won't help and be a waste of time and $, or that it will make my current pain worse. Are you back at work? If so, when did you go back? I am working, but it is tough sitting so much at a desk. My surgeon has not been very available for my questions, and referred me to pain management. I go in a couple weeks. So, I don't have answers but am in a similar position as you!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 995
    I can tell you from first hand experience that back pain and/or nerve pain at 4 months post-op for lumbar fusion is perfectly normal if there is such a thing as normal on fusion surgery recovery. Like you guys I was still struggling with nerve pain at 4 months post-op and I kept telling my doctor (who was actually very patient with me) that something wasn't right. Then like you guys he would run some xrays or scans and would tell me that all looks good... just keep working on your walking and swimming. It seems that nerves recover in very unpredictable ways... sometimes the pain and discomfort is gone immediately after surgery and other times it takes many months for the inflammation to subside and the nerves to calm down after being crushed for so long by your spinal bones or herniated discs. Even in my case on my first fusion surgery I woke-up with zero nerve pain and on my second fusion surgery with the same surgeon it took almost 5 months before I could get off the pain meds due to the continued nerve pain. Go figure.... Even after I was off the pain meds it took at least another 7-8 months before my fusion was strong enough and my back muscles had recovered enough that I could say I was close to 100% normal. So to make a long story short... YES... from my experience your recovery sounds normal... as long as your doctor has blessed your post op images. To use a favorite phrase from my doctor... hang in there... you will be fine. Yeah... easy for him to say... but actually in the end he was right. I know it's not easy to do but try to turn off the worry button if you can... follow everyday doing the positive things that help you get better... and if you have a bad day it's just that... a bad day nothing more. Be patient... you WILL find the light at the end of the tunnel... it just take time.
    Harry - 65 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
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  • Thanks for the information! It is reassuring that low back pain is normal at this stage and I did not do something to screw this up.
  • Thanks for your comments! I went back to work at 6 weeks but I have an office job and can sit/stand as much as I want. I also started PT at 6 weeks but it was just stretching exercises of my quads and calves. At 3 months they gave me more stretches that really made me sore. Actually all of the exercises I have done make me sore. For right now the doctor told me to stop doing PT until my 5 month appoint when he does a CT scan. If he can see bone growth then he said I can go back to PT. My advice to you is expect to be sore and don't do anything that goes against your own common sense.
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