Now what?!

Hello, all!!
So, I had my 3 month post-op appointment last Thursday (I was 13.5 weeks post-op that day) from my L4-L5 ALIF. I was nervous and excited! I met with PT first (at my 1 month I met with PT and they assigned me work to do at home), and they were very pleased with my progress! They gave me new stretches/exercises to do and said I'd be sore at first (they were very right!), then sent me over to see he surgeon. He did x-rays and the results were better than I had ever hoped! Hardware all looked perfect and the bone had fused!! We discussed a few things and then he informed me he was releasing me. I was like "What?!? Already?!?" So, I guess the point of this lengthy story is that the second I walked out of the building my eyes welled up with tears and I wasn't sure if I was happy or scared (or both). So, what now?! How do I move forward and not worry about every little ache and pain? I have two more questionable discs (L3-L4 and especially L5-S1), and he told me to make sure the miles I put on my body from now on are "gentle." I'm 32 years and 8 days old. I've got a lot of miles left!! Any advice? Anything? Help! :)


  • Fused in 3 months?  That is super fast for a lumbar fusion.

    I had tlif l5s1, still recovering... not there yet.
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809

    Hey JL...

    The xrays may show fusion but that bone section is most likely not yet truly solid and strong... that will take at least a year or more.  Your fused section will put added stresses on the adjacent discs both above and below the fused section so if you don't want to further damage those discs you need to strongly heed your doctors advice...for the rest of your life... NOT just the next few months. Being kind(gentle) to your back means no lifting heavy objects (anything more than 30-40 lbs)... avoid doing bone jarring activities (running, playing basketball, etc...) all of which will very likely further damage your discs and put you back in pain/surgery.  Trust me I didn't particularly heed my doctors advice after my first fusion surgery and ended up back on the surgeon table for a second fusion.  It doesn't mean you can't be active and enjoy your life... you just need to pay attention to how you treat your back EVERY DAY and maybe make some adjustments to some activities in your lifestyle. 

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  • Thanks for the response, hvills! The fact that a fused section puts added stress on the adjacent discs has had me freaked out since the beginning since my disc above and disc below show degeneration also. I have been SO good since my surgery and my plan is to continue being good! I just hope it's enough. I feel that it's pretty likely I'll have to have more surgery in the future, but I'm going to do everything I can to make what I've got last as long as possible! I go back and forth between feeling awesome and happy with the outcome so far, to wondering if this achiness I have (more so now since I started my new PT in the last week) is as good as it gets. Back issues are just such a particularly tricky type of problem!!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809

    Hey JL...

    At 3 months you're still healing... don't sweat the small aches and pains that come and go with PT.  Your nerves will take a longgggg time to heal.  Things will get better in the months to come... it's a marathon... not a sprint.

  • Hvills - Thanks for the positivity! I will keep that in mind! I used the phrase "It's a marathon, not a sprint" while talking about the weight I need to lose with my surgeon post-op, and he looked at me and said "Regardless, it's a race you need to finish." HaHa! I'm currently weaning myself off Gabapentin (which I started a few days after surgery), and so far no new pains, so I'm hoping my nerves have settled themselves down quite a bit!!
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  • Was your injury work related? That is the ONLY reason I can think of why he would "discharge you" so early.
    Usually they want to see you every few months until you hit that one year mark. I have never heard of anyone being released after ANY fusion that fast. 

    My 360 lumbar fusion S-I-L-4 & L-5 plus 2 newly invented artificial discs, was a very tough surgery. 3 surgeons, one was vascular, 2 were neurosurgeons although one is also a specialist in joint replacement.
    He told me, "it will take a year for everything to settle down." Your insides have been moved and disturbed, and your body now needs to re-adjust.

    My injury is WC, but it happened back in 1997. I had to jump through all their "hoops" of cheaper treatments first.
    More then 20 ESI, stimulator trial, Radio Frequency, the narcotic years, then I went to an osteopath.
    By the time I limped into the final neurosurgeon, I was ready! The EXTREME new tingling up and down both legs, was the nucleus pulpous leaking into my spinal canal.
    My surgery was approved in less than 10 days!

    The person who wrote, that the discs above your fusion, "may" ultimately be strained and then need surgery is correct.
    So, be careful, and if you feel any increase in pain, get back to his office and complain.
    I do not have rods and screws from my surgery, as things have evolved where I am.
    My L-4-5 bulging discs, collapsed onto the nerve that goes into my left leg, and it frayed the nerve!
    They had to "mend that nerve" and then they wrapped it in something, that is suppose to make the nerve grow and inch a month. I also ended up getting scoliosis over all those years, plus, the  worst spurring he has ever seen.

    I have ZERO back pain from the 3 level fusion & 2 artificial discs, so I am calling my surgery a success.
    I am only 5 weeks post op too!
    Walking more then 50 feet, makes my leg feel like it weighs 200 pds, but I was told, that will take about 3 months, and then I will be fine. 
    Keeping the mindset that, "this too shall pass".

    Wishing you a successful recovery and a stronger spine!
  • Rootsprimcess-
    My back issues are not work related/workman's comp. I also have very good insurance, so I don't expect it has anything to do with that either. I didn't expect to be released so soon, but I have the utmost respect for and confidence in my surgeon. I'm going to choose to believe he knows what is best in my case :) I will continue to monitor my pain levels as my recovery continues and won't hesitate to visit him again if an issue arises! Thanks :)
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