View Full Version : 8 Weeks post surgery and tightness in middle of my back

09-04-2011, 06:47 AM
Hello Everyone!
I was fused from T1 to L2 on July 11, 2011. My recovery has been going well. I walk every day and recently started back lifting light weights at the gym per doctor's instructions. I have had a tightness in my back since right after surgery and it seemed to get better over the weeks. About two weeks ago, I noticed it coming back about thirty minutes after getting out of bed in the mornings. It feels like a fist in the center of my back. It isn't painful, just uncomfortable. Has anyone had the same issue and/or know if it will get better?

09-04-2011, 11:14 AM
This is common.

I call this the “bear traps”. The gripping and pressure in the thoracic area.....With myself it comes and goes. When storms roll through the low pressure triggers it. They strip the muscles around the spine and it seems the scar tissue is to blame.

Sounds like you are doing well in your recovery, you made it through the hardest part. Congrats!

Try to take it easy in your recovery....one day at a time.

09-04-2011, 05:34 PM
Thanks Ed!! Finally, an answer to this question. How long does it last? Do you still feel it now? I understand being only 8 weeks post surgery having this but is it something that will come and go for ever?
I like the term bear-trap. That's exactly how it feels.

09-04-2011, 09:03 PM
I'm really surprised that your doctor approved you going back to weight lifting at less than 2 months postop. If I were you, I would stop lifting for awhile, to see if the pain stops.

09-04-2011, 09:09 PM
I'm still relatively early in my recovery period. Something else that it may be is a muscle knot. Immediately after my surgery, I felt a knot in my scapular area and even after several weeks, it just never went away. About 3 mos post-op, my surgeon referred to me to a PT who after a few visits was able to work the knot out through massage followed up with ultrasound. Now at 4 mos post-op, I still have some muscle tightness in my thoracic area, but at least it is not a knot. Just a thought...

09-05-2011, 11:24 AM
I agree with Linda about stopping the weight lifting. I wasn't allowed to start lifting any weights until 6 months post op and I could only do bicep curls sitting. Everything else I had to do laying down on the floor. (presses, flys and tricep curls) Even now, after a year, he doesn't want me to lift any weights over my
Head. I now can use machines at the gym and do a lot of leg and arm exercises, but no lifting weights over my head.

09-05-2011, 12:22 PM
I appreciate all the input and the concept of a "knot" sounds very much like what it could be. When I say weight lifting, I am not doing anything over 5 pounds. Mostly bicep curls. The feeling fortunately is not pain. Just uncomfortable. More annoying than anything. I will look into the possibility of a muscle knot.

09-06-2011, 04:18 AM
Yes this is very common. I found that I got more of these when I was going through PT and did more with the light weights than I was used to. I agree with Linda to hold off on the weights for now. At just a few months post-op, 5 lbs sounds heavy to me.

Does tylenol help with your symptoms? I think it did for me, although now when I get them, I take motrin and it works much better. It's still too early for you to be taking motrin yet.

09-06-2011, 05:25 PM
I recall having that same muscle tightening feeling in my thoracic area as well...not pain, just a tight feeling. I still have it once in a while but it's not as tight. Also I was restricted from doing any kind of weights more than 2 pounds until I was about 6 months out.

09-06-2011, 10:24 PM
I didn't start weight lifting until 6 months post op, and I still only do 5 lb weights.

As far as that tightness, I definitely get that feeling, more so on the days I do my PT. It does feel like a bear trap! Such a great way of describing it. I think the muscles between my shoulders are the weakest of all, as I hardly have any pain/discomfort below the waist. Hopefully once we build those muscles back up, they will have less and less tightness. I had trouble opening my refrigerator door for a while, really until I started using the resistance bands and such.

I've had great success with gentle massage, ok'd by my surgeon. I've been going every other week since 3 months post op, but she just recently started very very gentle massage on my back. Previously she just did my shoulders, neck, arms and legs. I LOVE going to see her...I feel like butter when I leave. I didn't realize how tight my back was until she loosened it up and I had something to compare it with lol.

Blessings on your recovery!

09-07-2011, 01:21 PM
The "bear trap" seems so common. Almost everyone brings it up at some time or other.

I have had it in varying degrees ever since my surgery in January. It comes and goes, changing with the weather, activity, you name it. But it never really goes away. I've had a rough couple of weeks lately. The healing process is an ever changing beast... I am really tight in my upper back and between my shoulder blades, with a burning and pulling sensation. I have even taken a couple vicodin along with muscle relaxants, which I haven't done since around 3 months post op. I have been slacking off on the gentle stretches, which may be making it worse. I think that may have something to do with it-I need to get back to them.

The only time I didn't feel it very much was when I spent two weeks snorkeling. Being suspended in water all day did wonders for relaxing and stretching those muscles... I'm still trying to convince someone-ANYONE-to write me a prescription for ocean therapy.

Ed, you are right about ocean therapy. I think I'm on to something... Maybe we should open an "Ocean Therapy" business!!!! Sandy beaches and warm weather. It just has to be somewhat close to a mountain for winter trips..... The only bummer is we have earthquakes at the west coast, hurricanes in the east, and tsunamis on tropical locales.... Maybe guided Ocean Therapy trips to change up the locations?? Hey, if travel agents can have themed trips, why can't we? Watcha think?!?!?! LOL.

09-07-2011, 04:02 PM
I just went through a round of that "bear trap" sensation this summer and now it seems to have eased off. I would get in the pool to swim and it just felt like everything was "sucking inward" or tugging, almost like it was when I first started getting in the water post-op. Not painful, just odd. Would also notice it sometimes at the end of the day. Of course, I have gotten lazy about the PT stretches and that may have contributed. It's reassuring to know that others have experienced this even a year or more post-op.

09-07-2011, 09:05 PM

We had a thread a few years ago.....maybe if you search “Ti-Ed’s scoli therapy center” you might find some comedy.....

How about New York Harbor? No?

Lately, I’ve been reading about the dumping of uh....everything in the ocean from 1860 to 1992 off the coast of Jersey.....and some of these guys scuba this area. Man-o-man!


09-08-2011, 08:39 AM
If "bear traps" refers to the extreme tight, pulling sensation I have had in my back since the surgery, then I can certainly relate. How long did most of you find it took for it to improve? I am sure stretching would help, but at 3 months post-op. I am unsure how much is safe to do. Can anyone give me an idea of what gentle stretches they do? Thanks!

09-08-2011, 09:18 AM

Just take it real easy with the stretches and lifting. On the lifting, keep it real light, under a few pounds.

I didn’t start my PT till I was 8 months along, and then started arm exercises with 1#.

My bear traps usually come when the storms roll through. Usually just a tightness, always in my mid back between T5-T10 along the center, and it seems just in the area that they cut through, about 4 inches wide.

Soft tissue injuries can really hurt like the dickens! Ligaments, and nerves take many many months to heal, and bone generally takes a year.

At 3 months, just keep walking and take it easy, you have a while to go on this. I was 90% healed at 12 months and fully healed at 2 years.