Post-op Spondylolisthesis L4-S1

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Want to share info about my surgery and hope it can help someone.

Two months ago I had my surgery. L5 spondylolisthesis, Fusion of L4, 5 and S1 (which for me looks like an L6). Involved moving L5, 2 rods, six screws, titanium baskets with bone inside for fusion (some my bone, some from bone bank). Doctors say I'm doing well and next check up September 11.  I am now free of stabbing pains but still pretty sore in hip and buttock region with tweaks and spasms there and in legs occasionally, can't sit more than n hour without getting up and moving, standing too long causes pain, but I am able to walk outside and some days can do only a block or two, some days more.

I have been told that because of realignment, all of the muscles, ligaments, nerves have to stretch and adapt to the new structure. I feel straighter and I like that... I have less Lordosis (swayback). Even looks different when I stand sideways in front of the mirror. I do not feel the rods and screws, but that area is flatter on the outside since some of those boney structures had to be removed.

Still being very careful about bending, lifting, twisting (BLT as the professionals here [smile] . I have one of those picker tools in each room and even in the car. Wonderful gadgets. At 66, I plan to keep using them to take good care of my less than perfect spine.  Still taking meds for nerve pain, muscle spasm, and a mild pain pill, Tramadol. No narcotics now.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how it's going and so glad I had this done before I got any older. I recommend doing plenty of research and making sure you get to the right clinic and surgeon. Mine was a neurosurgeon and I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

Any questions, please write to me. I'm happy to help where I can.

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  • Posted

    thanks Donna....... i'm sure your notes will help and inspire others...........

    I am due a cs c6 fusion and later a L3 L4 micro decompression............

    Whilst the c5 c6 gives no pain... the l3 l4 does when standing or walking more than a few hundres yards................

    yes - a neurosurgeon will be doing my procedures..

    many thanks

    cheshire guy UK

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  • Posted

    by now yo uprobably feel a lot better... this kind of surgery takes at best 1 year to heal - and the real "getting better" actually begins after that...Remember - there's a part of the muscles on the spine that have to get scraped off in order to get to the vertebrae - and they get sewn on again afterwards. These muscles keep being swollen up while healing - you might think you feel the sticks and screws but it might judst be the sore muscles you feel when laying on your back. Had the same for 1 1/2 years. Also there are some muscles connected to the spine that get removed which are connected to the front of the legs - they can also hurt for a while... important is to do training for strength - and stretching... but have a professional help with that - it is quite painful... After the 1 year check the surgeon told me I should not be afraid to do things now - even if it hurt a bit sometimes...

    I'm happy to hear that there are others who are satisfied with this operation. I also went to specialists - each of them does this operation twice a week and for them it is routine... by the way - I live in Denmark. They have very good doctors here - especially they explain every step of the treatment very well - and we had a psychologist connected with our "group" - so we learned to cope with the "before" and "after"....

     

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    • Posted

      Hello Heidi...Just seeing your note here. Thank you so much. And perfectly appropriate today...woke up with pain on front of hips! Yes, legs too some days. Working on walking more. Feels better than most anything else. Also daily stretching exercises.

      The muscle scraping and sewing wasn't really explained in detail so this is good to know. I knew much had to be moved and must heal and the neurosurgeon did say to allow 8-12 months to feel closer to normal. Since I'm at 8 months and still having pain and taking meds, I'm sure your timeframe is more accurate. 

      I live in the US and had surgery at Barrows Neuro in Phoenix Arizona. World known and top notch neurosurgeons. 

      Hope you are well. Again, many thanks!

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    • Posted

      Hello again Heidi...just another thank you for sharing your experience. I'm feeling better every month and your description of how your healing went has been a comfort. Mine seems to be very similar.

      I don't know if you'll see this post, but if you do...can you tell me when you startign serious strength training? At 4 months I started therapy for about 4 months, 2x a week. At times it left me in pain for days and in January my neurosurgeon told me to stop and start a walking program along with my stretching. I wonder if it's better to wait until I have my one-year exam in June and then pick up again on the core strength training.

      Anyway, thanks for your note and I wish you well! Donna

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  • Posted

    Dear Donna i was so pleased to read your view and experience. 3 weeks ago today i underwent a spinal fusion at 2 levels with basket, screws and bone graft. Before this surgery i had shocking stabbing pains which would wake me up and make me cry and god forbid if i stubbed my toe it would vibrate up my Spine and hurt. The stabbing pain has gone but i am walking around grid apart from stooping over and wearing a back brace. I can't turn over in bed without pain so night time is long and difficult. 

    Will this pass? 

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    • Posted

      Hooray for stabbing pain being gone - I relate! Yes, it will pass. It will take time. I hope you don't have a difficult job or too crazy of a life, so you can give yourself permission to go slow. We are "fixed" now and the future will be much less painful! What do you take at night to help sleep? I take a tramadol, an ibuprofen and Melatonin, 6-9 mg-3 tabs, which seems to help me.

      I, too, could barely turn over in bed even on pain meds, but each month it was better. Our surgery was major and there are so many factors involved in healing. Don't overdo anything and remember BLT (no bending, lifting or twisting). Very important for the next few months. Use a small pillow between your knees in bed - relieves pressure. I use foam chair cushions - those 2 inch thick ones - in any hard chair and in my car. I even carry one into restaurants that have hard chairs (no longer embarrasing at my age!).

      I have the brace from the hospital (optional I was told) and a softer one that I've had for years. My physical therapist said not to use it too long as we need to learn a new posture and build strength.  My neurosurgeon is a firm advocate of walking for our surgery recovery. He didn't let me try therapy until after 3 months. I went for about 4 months, twice a week. It was painful and I felt it was aggravating my back more than it was building strength. When I saw him in January, he said I could quit and walk...that therapy shouldn't leave me in pain every day until the next session.

      My surgery was last June and I was 66 at the time, so my age is a factor. I was in the hospital 9 days (blood pressure kept dropping, I was anemic), then in a recovery facility for 10 days. THEN I got to come home.

      I'm 9 months out and doing well, but not without some healing pain in the buttocks. Of course, we can't expect to be 100% pain free (especially me at my age). The surgeon said he could promise 70%, maybe more. I feel I'm at 80% less pain now. Hopeful for another 10% but I could live with where I am now...I remind myself how excruciating it was before and how it limited my life.

      I use ibuprofen (Advil in US) more than tramadol and take gabapentin for the nerve healing tweeks and twinges. I'm surprised that the ibuprofen really makes a difference. I only have to take 2-3 a day and some days only 1.

       

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    • Posted

      PS...Current pain/discomfort...I sometimes get pain in my sacroiliac joints that is diminishing. Buttocks if I sit too long without getting up and walking around a tad. I do get minor aches in my legs from sciatic nerve, but no stabbing and pales next to what I used to get.

      I had a spondylolisthesis at L-5 that was also repaired as it was creating a stenosis of the spine. Did you have that too?

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  • Posted

    Hi Donna thank you for your reply and your experience. I had an ALIF anterior lumbar   

    Fusion meaning through the stomach to get to the spine. I had prolapsed discs at2 levels had the shaved 8 months ago called a discectomy. This operation took away all my nerve pain then i had horrific stabbing pains 3 months later which got worse. Further investigation with 2nd opinion from another neuro surgeon and after MRI and x Ray he said i had massive inflammation with discs disintegrating meaning nothing much left in disc space meaning bone rubbing bone and discitis. The worst pain i ever had my body would jump in the night and wake me screaming in pain. I was advised to have the spinal fusion at 2 levels which i had 3 weeks ago. I am taking tramadol, gabapentin and amatriptiline. I can't turn over in bed without a strong pulling feeling like a weight in my back and discomfort. If Iay flat in bed with a pillow under my knees  its comfy but then my body jumps like an electric shock only way ican describe it. I have a brace which i wear apart from bed. I have been told no bending twisting carrying weight i have to bend slightly to reach into fridge and wash my face now i am worried i shouldn't and wiki this cause me damage. It's a big operation to go through. But I. Couldn't carry out simple tasks. Nights are long i don't sleepwell its difficult tucking pillows behind my back and sides. You have been through a lot and are very positive that helps me thank you 

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    • Posted

      Well Laura, you sure have been through it, haven't you? Your story isn't the first I've heard of where the discectomy didn't work. This time, the recovery will take longer, but the procedure works. Of course you've already been suffering for almost 4 months since you had the first procedure.

      It's really hard not to bend for those needed things like the fridge or washing your face. I found that if I flexed my knees to help lower a bit, it was doable. I know how painful everything is at this point for you. Also those picker upper sticks to help so you don't have to bend for things. I used them for shoes and anything on the floor that I had to get at. Even to pull clothes out of the clothes dryer if my husband wasn't around.

      Don't worry, basically you're bolted together now so it's not that easy to do damage, but the discs and muscles/tendons/nerves moved for surgery are pretty sensitive. You probably have a shower chair. I also used a toilet seat riser that just sets on the bowl when the seat is up. It was just too painful getting up from the pot!

      Pillows at back and sides are good. I'm a side sleeper and that wasn't easy...I sort of slept half back, half side with the pillows. No fun.

      Be sure and take whatever the Drs are willing to give you for pain and don't be too brave to ask for more. I read that amitryptiline helps, but didn't have that one. Is it supposed to help you sleep?

      My muscle relaxer is tizanidine, which I still take at bedtime with a tramadol and gaba and melatonin.

      Let's keep in touch - I'm happy to let you know if you're doing about like I did...you'll be better faster if you're a young woman! Just don't overdo or do anything before your inner self tells you you're ready.  Our intuition and common sense rules!

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  • Posted

    Hi Donna, i spent the day in bed i didn't sleep too well hard to get comfy even with all my pillows and i am sure husband snoring doesn't help. I take amatryptiline to sleep but i haven't had a straight nights sleep in over a year since all this started. 

    I got a grabber and a reclining chair things i couldn't live without. It's 4 weeks on Tuesday since my fusion and i can't see how in 2 weeks i will be driving. The consultant recommended 6 weeks. I bumped my hip yesterday not hard against the door and it vibrated and hurt my back, not badly but i could feel it inside.

     I like the way you said i am bolted together its reassuring as you think oh what if its not fusing etc.

    ive had a few emotional days i am slightly stooped over which is tiring.

    i am so glad i found you and am able to talk things through with someone who has been through this surgery.

     

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    • Posted

      Hi Laura...Snoring husbands require ear plugs ;-) I use them most nights and once you get used to them, they help the sleep problem too. It's like you retreat into your own inner sanctum.

      I didn't drive for at least 2 months I think - can't quite remember, but I wasn't anxious to since any sudden stop and using the breaks seemed it could feel pretty bad. I didn't go far at first.

      Sorry you bumped yourself...ouch! I too couldn't stand too straight for a while - as the pain lessens, you find yourself standing straighter. I now think my posture is better than before.

      Yes, the emotional days aren't easy, but pretty normal.

      Question - since everything we post here is visible to the public, would you like to email? I can give you our address...or we can keep writing here.

      I'm in the US...are you in the UK?

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  • Posted

    Hi Donna, 

    yes i am in the United Kingdom. Yes please email. I am [removed]

    looking forward to hearing from you, I am definitely getting earplugs lol 

    Emis Moderator comment: I have removed the email address as we do not publish these in the forums. If users wish to exchange contact details please use the Private Message service.

    http://patient.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/398331-private-messages

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  • Posted

    Hi Donna.

     I replied 2 days ago with my email but it came back saying waiting for moderator it didnt like me having my email on there lol. So annoying. 

    I am definitely getting ear plugs lol.

    I had a difficult night last night. It felt like my muscle lower back on the right side was in spasm. It felt tight and i couldn't sleeP. After taking diazapam, tramadol and brufen and 2 hours sleep it eased. I hate the feeling though. Week 4 after surgery and my husband drove me 15 mins to restaurant for lunch, i used my back brace and sat for 25 mins then came home and rested in bed.  How are you feeling today? 

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    • Posted

      Okay, they sent to notes splitting up an address that is different.

      I understand the difficulty sleeping. That can last at least a few months off and on. I think that's why I have tizanidine…for muscle spasm's. I still take one at night along with tramadol and gabapentin and my melatonin. Maybe you should ask your doctor about something for the spasms.

      It's a long healing process for the muscles, tendons, and nerves. All those connective things that were moved and disturbed during surgery. Very traumatic from the waist down for our bodies. I am feeling pretty good now and back pain, except for all the connective parts, is gone.

      IT IS TOTALLY WORTH WHAT YOU'RE GOING THROUGH IN THE END. You'll get discouraged, moody, sleep deprived, but talk yourself through it. It's not easy for our husbands...mine says to tell yours it really continues to get better. Take meds for as long as you need them. I haven't had trouble getting renewals from my regular doctor. 😊

       

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    • Posted

      If you want to exchange email addresses use the private message service to do this rather than trying to get round moderation. Click the envelope under Laura's name to do this.

       

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