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So far so good

Started by Mipijohnson on 05/22/2018 12:23pm

Just wanted to post a happy recovery story!
Had surgery 5/7 . Had a spindly, 2 herniated discs, severe spinal stenosis and compressed nerves that were VERY angry. Had fusion L3-S1, 2 laminectomies, titanium spacer, and decompression. Surgery was 7 hours long and deemed complete success. In recovery I could feel that there was already some pre-surgery pain relief . Was given Percocet for pain relief and started with 1 every 4 hrs until next day when was up and walking and realized I needed a tad bit more. The day after surgery, once my catheter was removed, PT had me walking the halls and I knew then that the pre-surgery pain was gone! Wow! Went to 2 pills every 4 hours until I was released after 4 nights. Sent home with a walker which I used for about 5 days.

My recovery so far has been nothing short of miraculous. I’m awed every day. My only remaining restrictions are no bending, lifting or twisting for 3 months. Should be cleared to drive next Monday.
Am at the tail end of weaning off meds...down to 1/2 Percocet 4/day. Will be on just Tylenol this weekend.

I was able to work really hard to get into decent shape before surgery and had changed my diet to full anti-inflammation by giving up grains and sugar. That, I believe has fueled my recovery to date. Luckily, I wasn’t physically compromised pre-surgery so no PT has been needed. I am back to city walking 2 mi/day on days I get a ride to town.

The perfect storm brought me to surgery and I landed with the right surgeon and facility and could not be more happy with my decision to have the surgery.

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13 Responses


Wow! I am in awe at your recovery! I had L4/L5-L5/S1 fusion in 2009 and my recovery was so different! After the first 24 hours, I can honestly say that things improved to where I could deal with the pain with the medication, but it was with a pain pump of Dilaudid! I wasn't put on Percocet until at least day 3, maybe 4! The first 24 hours, the pain was horrible! I had drains in my back, and the blood would settle, causing horrible cramping unless I turned over, but I wasn't able to do that without assistance, and the nurses couldn't be there every 10 minutes (which was how often the blood settled/backed up) so my husband came back at 1 am to turn me) and then the relief was a little better! It was literally like a charlie horse in your back! SO my question is if you had minimally invasive surgery? Or did you have what I had, complete open surgery with the titanium rods/screws, etc? I'm thinking it's the latter, since your surgery was 7 hours. Thanks! PS Maybe it was your great physcial shape before the surgery that helped; however, I was in so much pain before the surgery that I could hardly walk beforehand so I couldn't get myself in to great shape!


Sorry you had such a difficult recovery. Yes, my surgery was fully invasive with rods and screws. Have a 7” incision. I’m still clueless as to why my pain is so limited. I’m completely blessed in all honesty. In hospital, I was turned every 2 hours overnight which made for bad sleep but that was only the first night. The next 3 nights I was only woken up for meds every 4 hours. I think that since pre-surgery I was not taking pain meds, I was afforded relief without super heavy meds. I did get 1 does of demoral in recovery and told them no more of that as I didn’t like it. I had morphine available as a break through med but fortunately didn’t have to use it.

I’m on day 17 post surgery and split 2 Percocet throughout the day with Tylenol supplementation and so far so good.

How are you doing now this many years out?


Hi again, I'm not sure if you are still on this website. I just saw your reply.

To answer your question, I consider my surgery a success. I do have neuropathy, though, but only feel that if someone presses on my outer thighs, even just my dog jumping up on me, because the nerves were damaged before the surgery due to the compression for so long. My "baby" toe on the left foot has been numb since before surgery. It has not, however, prevented me from doing anything I didn't do before the surgery.

The upper level, L3, started to develop osteophytes (bone spurs) about 2 years ago that gave me constant pain and I was sure I would need further surgery (the domino effect) but I had an epidural injection, and the pain went away. It only comes back if I sit too long and after I get up and walk around, it goes away. So I am hoping to not have to ever have another lower back surgery again, but who knows!

How are you doing? I'm sure you are doing very well since you did so well right after the surgery!!


Nice to hear from you :-). I was full expecting to have some residual pain as my surgeon told me most people get 80-85% better but that takes 3-12 mo to achieve. I am truly blessed as all presurgery pain is still gone. Was released to drive 3 weeks post surgery and was able to wean off pain meds a couple of days before that. I took Tylenol for about a 7-10 days more and then just stopped to see how it went. So far so good. I am still on no BLT restrictions until my 3 month post op check minimum but I was ok’d to resume light free weights for arms and floor exercises that keep my back neutral. I truly realize how lucky I am to reach this relief this fast!!


Thank you both for posting your experiences. It is helpful to many of us who are going to have surgery. I am scheduled for July 16th to have a laminectomy ( I think it will be a micro procedure), and also a coflex interspinous spacer inserted at L4-L5. I have central canal stenosis, and I have a compressed nerve root at the L5 joint that causes numbness down my left leg when I stand or walk for a long time. I also have spondylolisthesis L4 over L5. My neurosurgeon is doing this as an outpatient procedure.
It looks as though my procedure will not be nearly as severe as yours. They have their own surgical facility. They tell me I can be up walking (slowly, of course) before I leave the facility the same day of the surgery. The surgeon told me my incision will be about 2 to 3 inches. I was told that I can drive after 4 days. My biggest concern is that I live alone and there is no one to come and stay with me. I had a consult with the neurosurgeon's nurse practitioner. She told me I could pretty much take care of myself at home. I will have the no-BLT restrictions, of course. I am still wondering, though, about little things like: can I get up and down off the toilet without bending a little bit? Can I brush my teeth without bending a little bit over the bathroom sink? How much pain will I have in the incision area? It's the little things like this that I am hoping I can do by myself. Any suggestions?


Good questions!! Since your procedure is outpatient and knowing what I went through, I have no doubt that you will be fine at home. I suggest you request a walker to give you the standing/sitting stability needed when you are dirstinf getting used to the new ways to move. I was told that I could bend at my hips all I wanted, pain being the determination. So imagine squatting with a stray back as opposed to bending over to touch your toes. So when you stand and sit, Ive learned to use just my legs. I don’t lean forward, I scoot forward to the edge of the seat and then stand using my quads/hamstrings. I’m very short so I have an extra learning curve-lol. Physical therapy and occupational therapy should work with you to show you how to migrate in/out of bed, car, toilet, shower, steps, etc.

I suggest you have nice comfy clothes with wide waistbands, a grabber in case you drop things and before you go to hospital, you out all things you’ll need no lower than your waist.....food stuffs, pots, pans, toilet paper, etc.

Make sure you have someone check in on you, even if just by phone or text.

I didn’t have a lot of incision pain. I didn’t have staples, stitches or steri-stripss in my incision-just glue so once it “molted” off after a couple of weeks, I was home free pain wise

I wish you the best! Feel free to keep in contact here

Glad to hear that our stories have benefited someone!!


Mipijohnson, thank you for your response. It is so helpful to hear from others about their experiences. The first neuro surgeon I saw recommended TLIF. I did some extensive research on that and decided to decline it due to things I found out about it -- the failure rate, the arduous and extensive recovery time, etc. Then I found information on this Coflex procedure, which is an alternative to fusion. I don't know why so many people are still having the fusion procedure. Wonder why they don't ask their surgeon about this coflex procedure which seems to be much less of an ordeal than regular fusion. Since I do have a nerve pinched at the L5 joint, the surgeon will also do a decompression of that -- I think it will be a micro laminectomy -- and then insert the coflex to stabilize the spine.

I am encouraged that my neurosurgeon is doing this in their surgical facility as outpatient. That makes me think it is not bad enough for me to be admitted into a hospital. His nurse practitioner told me they would have me up and walking before I left the facility the same day. She said they would most likely give me hydrocodone for pain. I don't think that's very strong stuff, so hopefully they expect me to not have severe pain when I get home.

I am having someone spend the first night with me. Then after that, I'm pretty much on my own. She will be "on call" if I need to call for help.

I am tall, and I can't seem to do that "butt in first, then swing legs in" to get into the car without bumping my head on the top of the door frame. I don't know how I will handle that. I do have a walker already. I plan to use that as long as I need it to help me not only walk but also to get up and down off the toilet, in and out of chairs and bed.

I have a cat I have to take care of. I have figured out a way to sit down in a chair beside my coffee table in the living room and just extend my arm out to put her food on it instead of trying to get it onto the floor. I have tried that already, and she doesn't seem to have a problem with jumping up there to eat. My sister will most likely come to do the litter pan scooping until I can do it myself. I plan to stock up on easy to fix food -- sandwich material, maybe some frozen meals, etc.

My biggest concern is pain in the incision area for the first few days, or however long that might last. I am also not sure which is the best sleeping position. All of these things may seem simple to some, but I live alone and will not have full time assistance, so they are important to me.

I appreciate any input from you or anyone else who reads this post and could make some suggestions to me. I am interested in the experiences of others who are recovering from surgery.


Sorry for the delay in responding!-I am pretty close to resuming my normal, very busy life!!

For car migration, since I am so short, I can’t get in butt first because my leg length prevents me from getting enough butt on the seat. So I still step in, way in, and sit down and pull my outside leg in. Getting out, I keep my knees same direction as my chest and turn sideways and then scoot to the outside edge of the seat and use my legs ONLY to stand up. Same as getting out of a chair or on/off toilet....its all legs and that keeps the “umph” pressure off my back.

As far as incision pain, I still am baffled that I didn’t have a real difficult time. Maybe because surgical glue was used so I had no stitches or staples pulling. Laying on my incision wasn’t an issue either. One week post surgery, it was uncovered. Now at 8 weeks post op, it is great!! I try really hard to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet and supplement lots of collagen and I think that has help the incision to heal as well as it has.
For the first couple of weeks, I did NOT bend to brush teeth, on/off toilet, etc. Brushing teeth, I just used a cup to spit/rinse and used my walker for support on/off toilet. I suggest you write down EVERY SINGLE question that pops into your head before the procedure so that you can ease your mind and concentrate on your recovery. I’m a question girl and must know “why” for everything....a bit of a curse-lol.

I looked up the procedure you are to have and I am looking forward to hearing from you post surgery/recovery.
I would’ve been up walking same day of surgery IF it hadn’t been so long so once I got settled into a room, given a soft diet and fully came out of anesthesia, my care team decided to wait until the next mid-morning after my catheter was removed. For the most part it was clear sailing after that.

Since driving will be ok’d 4 days post procedure, I’m assuming the pain anticipation will allow for quick transition to OTC meds. That’s the best part. Keep up on stool softener, assuming you are given pain meds, because constipation is a real concern plus anesthesia slows everything down....for me it did anyways. I didn’t experience a huge problem....lots of water and good diet helped too.

I had compressed nerve roots due to stenosis that was graded severe. I also had a slipped vertebrae and really no stability in my spine so fusion was really my only long term option.

You’re only a couple of weeks away and I wish you nothing but success and a relief to your pain soon!!


Mipijohnson, thank you for your post. I I have been encouraged by your story, and also by your excellent recovery! I did an "experiment" with the getting in and out of the car, and I think your way is most likely going to be what I can do best. I can put one leg in and then move slowly into the seat and then bring in the other leg while keeping my back straight. My sister is driving me to the surgery, and she drives an SUV that sits kind of high. I am a little concerned about getting up into that seat. We are going to do a "trial run" using a small step stool and see if I can step up on that stool and then move myself into the seat. I assume there will be someone on the medical staff that will come out with us and help with getting me into the vehicle. At least, I hope so!

Here's some good news: A dear friend of mine called me a few days ago and said she wanted to come for an extended visit, and the timing could not be better! She is planning to come the day before my surgery and be here with me for a while. So I will not be by myself for a while! God does work in mysterious ways! This will be a blessing to me. Knowing that I will have someone here with me has calmed me down tremendously.

I am already "practicing" getting up and down from the toilet using my legs and bending from the hip. My problem is that my legs are kind of weak. I think I need to start exercising them a bit more to try to strengthen them.

I really do appreciate your feedback. You have given me some great suggestions. Surely, since my incision will not be nearly as long as yours was, I hope my pain will be less. They did tell me they would use staples to close it. I'm not really happy about that. There has been no mention of a catheter. The NP said the procedure would take about an hour and a half. That's better than your 7 hours!

I am experiencing a little bit of anxiety about the whole thing. I'm trying to deal with that by just not thinking about it so much. I doubt I will sleep much the night before.

How long did you have to use a walker to get around? Could you walk normally with the walker?

Thanks for all your input. I plan to post my experience so maybe I can help inform others who are anticipating surgery. Keep letting us know how you progress.


Glad to hear your recovery will include a friends visit-perfect timing!!!

I think you will be pleasantly surprised at your recovery. We all tend to get into our own heads and create anxiety that just serves to stress us even more. Wasted energy. All your energy stores need to be directed towards your healing-positive vibes only.

I used a step stool in two different vehicles for at least 5 week’s post surgery. Getting out was easy without it but the getting up into the vehicles was a different story. Use whatever aides you need to ensure that you notate properly.
I used the walker from the first time I walked in the hospital and the entire time I was there. At home I used it for about 5 days. I held onto the bed or couch, walla, kitchen counters...whatever I was walking by for a few days after I gave up the walker. I was told once my legs were not wobbly and I was steady on my feet, I could stop using the walker.

I firmly believe that attitude is everything in these situations. If you think everything is going to go wrong, it will. I was fed up with hurting and my quality of life being compromised so I was all in for the surgery.

Believe you will be better and it will be.

Nothing but positive vibes always.


Mipijohnson -- thank you for the encouragement. I appreciate it. Now here's some bad news. I just heard from my friend who was supposed to come stay with me. She has informed me now that she is not coming. I am so very disappointed. So now it's back to me taking care of myself with some help from my sister. I find myself almost angry now that my friend has backed out. I was really counting on her being here for me. Oh, well. ... I hope you will continue to post on this site. You have been more help to me than anybody else. I feel like I can ask you anything, and you will give me a true and detailed answer. I am just so disappointed right now since I got my friend's message. It has sort of thrown me back into my state of anxiety. I feel like lashing out at her, but I won't do that because it wouldn't help anything. Perhaps she is not as good a friend as I thought she was. I do hope you will continue to communicate with me and give me tips and encouragement. I will need somebody to talk to. My sister will come when she can, but she is a very busy person, and she can't be here except for maybe the first night or two. I don't want to be a bother to you, but I need somebody who has experienced this kind of thing to sort of talk me through it. Thank you for sticking with me.


No worries! Again, positive vibes. Regardless of reasons for not being able to come visit, do t let it take up space in your head as that does no one any good!

You are going to be surprised at what help you probably not going to need but it’s nice to have it available. I was cooking, using my walker, 3 days after I got home-it was a site. Boredom was atrocious and the help I had needed up being more of visiting than helping (unless I dropped something). With anticipated driving ability in 4 days, that tells me your pain level and mobility will be significantly less than mine was.

Just keep your eye on the prize and KNOW that being free of your current symptoms will be liberating beyond belief.


mipijohnson -- Thank you for your encouraging post. Yesterday was a bad day for me. When my friend told me she was not coming, it was like somebody just punched me in the face! It threw me right back into that anxiety mode. Today, I am going to forget about that. Yesterday, I had a lengthy phone conversation with the surgeon's nurse. He told me I would probably need somebody for the first couple of nights to stay with me. We also went through my current meds and he gave me instructions on what to stop taking the week before the surgery.

Your being able to cook for yourself after 3 days is a huge encouragement for me! And you are probably right in saying that I am generating more anxiety in myself by worrying about how I'm going to accomplish things by myself. I need to stop that.

My sister said she would spend the first few nights with me. She may not stay during the day if I am doing okay, but at least she will be here during the nights. My usual activity includes going outside and doing heavy yard work. I know I cannot do that for some time. I don't know for how long. So I think that, as you mentioned, boredom will be a problem for me. Watching TV all day gets old after a while. Maybe I will take up something like needlepoint or crochet/knitting to keep me busy while I can't do anything else.

I work part-time as a transcriber, which means I'm at the computer for part of the day. I plan to not work the first week. But since they say I can drive after 4 days, then I assume I can work after that first week. That will cut down on the boredom. I hope they don't tell me I can't do that.

I have to go for pre-op testing -- bloodwork, chest x-ray, EKG, etc. -- this coming Monday, the 9th. The neuro's nurse is going to arrange for me to have that done at my local hospital. (The surgeon's office is located about 60 to 70 miles away from where I live). I hope they don't find anything that would prevent me from having this surgery. I am dreading the "no food or drink after midnight" thing the night before the surgery. I am so accustomed to having that first cup of coffee in the mornings, so I will probably be very "cranky" and irritable during the drive down to the surgeon's facility. Plus I am diabetic, and I hope that doesn't cause my blood sugar to drop dramatically. I did discuss that with the nurse,so they are aware of it.

I do hope that this surgery is the right thing for me. I have been dealing with this back issue now for five years and searching for a surgeon who can do a minimally invasive procedure that will help me. I am not in "screaming pain" like some people are. But I would like to get this issue "fixed" before I get to that "screaming pain" mode. I hope I don't have any damage to the nerve that has been pinched for the past five years. That is another reason I am going ahead with this procedure. I would like to avoid any nerve damage. (I might already have some -- I don't know.)

Thank you for being kind and caring enough to give me this encouragement. So many people say things like, "oh, how are you doing? I hope you are okay." But, in reality, they don't really give a hoot because they have not experienced this issue and they really do not understand it.