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Thread: Are these symptoms normal post-op?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311

    Are these symptoms normal post-op?

    Hi all,

    So I'm not seeing my surgeon until 8 weeks post-op because he is on vacation and the nurses are trying to wean me off vicodin (probably too early). I'm starting to get a little bit paranoid about my pain symptoms so I thought I'd just ask all of you. I had a fusion from L3 to T4 and my lower back is actually feeling a lot better, but my upper right side between my spine and shoulder blade is absolutely killing me. The pain is sharp and continuous. I'm presuming that my body is just realigning, but then my paranoid self is wondering if one of the hooks inserted is hurting my muscle or something. Anyone else with a similar surgery had these symptoms, or can give advice?

    Also, I'm still having a lot of trouble rolling over on the bed by myself and getting in and out. Is this normal at this stage?

    Sorry for my new paranoia. Week 5 has proven a lot more emotionally difficult than the previous weeks too. I'm not sure why, but I can't wait for these mood swings to be over too!

    Thanks,
    Anya
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Fernley, Nevada
    Posts
    352
    Though my surgery was a bit longer than yours (T4-S1), 8 weeks post op is really pushing it, with his staff trying to wean you off of pain meds. I was on Oxycodine for 2-3 months before I was weaned off. Does your doc have an office partner? Perhaps you can talk to him/her
    Sandy
    SandyC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Stoutsville, Ohio
    Posts
    16
    Anya,

    I had almost the same surgery and had severe pain in my mid to lower back prior to surgery. After the surgery I had this new pain in my upper back around the shoulder blades. It was terrible! I never had pain there before!
    I was so worried about addictions to the meds that I tried to wean myself off...what a huge mistake. Once I accepted that I needed to take the meds, and take them on time every day I started feeling better. It was as if those muscles were trying to realign themselves and it caused alot of pain.
    Once I figured out how to manage the meds in order to manage the pain I found that my upper back stopped hurting so much. But mostly the muscle relaxers helped ALOT for that particular pain.
    As for moving around. I was pulling myself around in the hospital from day 3. I was in agony so I had to keep moving. I found that the more I moved the better I felt.
    If you have muscle relaxers I would take them, if not I would demand them. As for the doc trying to wean you off your pain meds.....pitch a fit. Don't let them do that until you are ready. I've read that so many times on this forum prior to surgery but I guess I didn't really believe it. Now that I've had the surgery (I'm at week 8) I understand what everyone was saying.

    Good luck! And try to find that one spot (lying or sitting) that relaxes those muscles and take a muscle relaxer. That helped me alot as well.

    As for the emotions, I am experiencing something akin to constant PMS. This rollercoaster of emotions is driving me nuts. I'm sure it's the meds, and the lack of mobility, but that doesn't stop me from staying up all night worrying and then crying most of the day. So I'm in there with you - struggling to keep a straight face. I hope your family and friends are being supportive.


    Best wishes,
    Lori

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Houston, Texas now live in Colorado Springs, CO
    Posts
    543
    Lori,

    I take a sleeping pill a night for a few weeks. If you don't get enough sleep it makes it tough. I don't remember what I had before on my other surgeries but this time I have Ambien. Just let your surgeon know that you are not sleeping at night and they will prescibe something. I called them over the phone and the same day they called in a prescription. Once I started getting decent sleep, my emotions leveled out as well.
    Theresa

    April 8 & 12, 2004 - Anterior/Posterior surgery 15 hours & 7 hours
    Thorasic - 79 degree down to 22
    Lumbar - 44 degree down to 18
    Fused T2 to sacrum
    June 2, 2005 - Pedicle subtraction osteotomy @L3 7 hours
    MAY 21, 2007 - Pedicle subtraction osteotomy @ L2, extended the fusion to S2 and added pelvic instrumentation 9 hours

    FUSED T2 - SACRUM 2

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Staten Island New York
    Posts
    298
    I was fused from t4 to l4 and I was on pain killers for a full three months before I tried weaning off them and I am still on painkillers and I am almost 5 months post op. I was on oxycodine 10mg three times and hydrocodine (sp)with tylenol for break through pain. As for turning I brought a bed gate at a medical supply store. The gate is a piece of wood that is under my mattress attached to a small gate that bends up around the side of my mattress. It keeps you from falling out of bed and something to hold on to when you rollover and pull yourself up. Hope you are feeling better soon.

    Sue

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    new jersey
    Posts
    850
    anya & others,
    I was also on pain meds for about 3 full months before weaning off. I tried after about 2 mths but it was a mistake. I did have some depression & many a 'PMS' days which I think may have been due to pain meds and not having a period for about 4 mths after surgery. This is such a major surgery and trauma to the body. I don't see how it would'nt affect your hormones & all. To be quite honest, it has taken me almost a full year to really feel like my old self, physically and mentally....the Doc was right...Ly

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    178
    Hi Anya,

    Your symptoms are normal especially the pain between your spine and shoulder blades i have that every now and then. I haven't posted on here any pain thats occuring with me only because i think its normal and we are just healing, im only being like this cos a lot of people give different opinions on what they might think the problem is and then it would start worrying me so unless your real concerned talk to your doc but to me i think its all to do with the healing process.

    I'm still on my pain meds but here in Australia im not on the same dose as you over in the US i think we work different over here with the meds situation im 6 wks post op and my pills are only 5mg they do me just fine and my surgeon likes us to start weaning off around 8 wks which i think is fine im 22 yrs old and like some of you have said the younger you are the faster you heal and thats so true.

    Lee
    Had surgery May 28th 2007 Anterior/Posterior getting fused from T3 - L3

    http://curvedgirl.blogspot.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    near Philadelphia
    Posts
    1,260
    Anya, I am fused lower than you (T10-L5) but I was told to expect to be on Oxycontin (my drug of choice) for 3-5 months after surgery. I also take a muscle relaxant which helps a lot.
    Chris
    A/P fusion on June 19, 2007 at age 52; T10-L5
    Pre-op thoracolumbar curve: 70 degrees
    Post-op curve: 12 degrees
    Dr. Boachie-adjei, HSS, New York

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311
    Wow- thanks all! I'm supposed to talk to the nurse today, so I will "pitch a fit" if they are really trying to get me off of the pain meds by next week! I'll let you know how it goes. Thank you so much to all who replied!

    Best,
    Anya
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Chicago north suburb
    Posts
    774
    For Anya and others who feel their pain relief needs are not being adequately addressed, the following is excerpted from “How to Get Good Hospital Care Wherever You Go.” I would encourage you to visit www.painfoundation.org.

    Don’t Suffer Pain Silently

    Nearly half of all surgery patients do not receive adequate pain relief. The practice of delaying or withholding pain relief medications due to fear of masking symptoms is widespread. Many patients mistakenly worry that taking pain medication will lead to addiction. Inappropriate treatment of pain results from poor understanding and skills of providers and inadequate patient education. The American Pain Foundation (APF), an organization devoted to educating consumers about pain, wants consumers to have the following facts about pain, whether in-hospital or elsewhere:
    • Pain is not something you “just have to live with.” Treatments are available to relieve or lessen most pain. If untreated, pain can make other health problems worse, slow recovery, and interfere with healing. Get help right away, and don’t let anyone suggest that your pain is simply “in your head.”
    • Not all doctors know how to treat pain. Your doctor should give the same attention to your pain as to any other health problems. But many doctors have had little training in pain care. If your doctor is unable to deal with your pain effectively, ask the doctor to consult with a specialist, or consider switching doctors.
    • Pain mediations rarely cause addiction. Morphine and similar pain medications, called opioids, can be highly effective for certain conditions. Unless you have a history of substance abuse, there is little risk of addiction when these medications are properly prescribed by a doctor and taken as directed. Physical dependence – which is not to be confused with addiction – occurs in the form of withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking these mediations suddenly. This usually is not a problem if you go off your medications gradually.
    • Most side effects from opioid pain medications can be managed. Nausea, drowsiness, itching, and most other side effects caused by morphine and similar opioid medications usually last only a few days. Constipation from these mediations can usually be managed with laxatives, adequate fluid intake, and attention to diet. Ask your doctor to suggest ways that are best for you.
    • If you act quickly when pain starts, you can often prevent it from getting worse. Take your medications when you first begin to experience pain. If your pain does get worse, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may safely prescribe higher doses or change the prescription. Non-drug therapies such as relaxation training and others can also help give you relief.

    The APF (www.painfoundation.org) has issued a pain care bill of rights. Although these are not legal rights, they are standards that you should expect to have observed.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    NJ across from NYC
    Posts
    329

    Great post

    Chris - this is very well put. I just went through two weeks of unbelievable pain that I haven't experienced in over four years. I thought I would just let it work itself out (as I ahve in the past since I always have pain but tolerable) but as this article states, it went too far and I was totally overwhelmed with the pain. I finally called my pain mgmt doctor (who I like very much) and they took me the next day. He prescribed Lidoderm patches to put on the tender, sore pained areas, (in addition to the meds I take) but it just didn't do it. I went back on Thursday and my muscles were so inflamed, he gave me five trigger point injections into the neck and shoulder blades, and I was shocked that it did the trick. The pain was radiating down into my hips, across the back - everywhere! If I would have addressed the issue after the first few days, I could have avoided having an awful few weeks. Thanks for the site, it looks very interesting. LYNN
    1981 Surgery with Harrington Rod; fused from T2 to L3 - Dr.Keim (at 26 years old)
    2000 Partial Rod Removal
    2001 Right Scapular Resection
    12/07/2010 Surgical stabilization L3 through sacrum with revision harrington rod instrumentation, interbody fusion and pre-sacral fusion L5-S1 - Dr. Boachie (at 56 years old)
    06/11/14 - Posterior cervical fusion C3 - T3 (Mountaineer System) due to severely arthritic joints - Dr. Patrick O'Leary (at age 59)

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    at the university of minnesota
    Posts
    6
    i'm 7 months post op and i have no pain in my back at all, but man, after the surgery, i hurt all over for several weeks. i too was paranoid.

    my prescription for oxycontin ran out, and i was unable to get more, and my other meds just weren't cutting it, pain wise.

    i suffered intense withdrawel. i couldn't sleep, i couldn't eat, i had hot and cold flashes, and i was depressed. and i was still had intense pain. dang it was harsh. but it was worth it.

    you're going to make it! in a few weeks, you'll be like. scoliosis? pfft. look at how amazing my back is!

    (75 degrees, fixed to 30 degrees) woot!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311
    Thought I'd give the update. I'm really upset at one of the nurses at the spine clinic who wrongly began accusing me of not taking my pain medicine correctly. She then thought about it and did the math and realized that she was wrong and I was doing just fine (and not taking too many). I understand that some people misuse these drugs or get addicted, but those of us who have undergone extensive surgeries and are still in significant pain should not have to be victims or suffer because of their paranoias about those who misuse pain medication. I will be bringing this up with my surgeon when I see him in 2 weeks. I'm sure others have similar stories.

    Anyway, I am now at 6 weeks post-op and down to 4 vicodin per day. with tylonel. Hopefully all will be well.

    Best of luck everyone,
    Anya
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    101
    The hospital I will be having my surgery at brings patient's in to a spinal class for 3-4 hours and educates you on pain management. I was one of those who thought I could just tough it out and that I didn't need anything but once she told me what being in severe pain does, like bringing your immune system down I believe it is very important before and after surgery to keep your pain controlled. New literature states that you will make a better, faster recovery if you manage your pain while in the hospital and keep it at a "4" or less on a pain scale of 1-10.
    CarolS
    68 degree right lumbar scoliosis, mild kyphosis at L1-2
    Anterior/Posterior Correction, T8 to Sacrum, Sept 20th, 2007
    Osteotomy March 20,2008
    Thrilled with results!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    1,291

    Lightbulb Hints for pain management

    Use a pain doc if available; the surgeon and his nurses are not cognizant of the many non-narcotic modalities which DO work. This surgery causes mega pain;toughing it out causes complications such as infections and retards healing. No one has the right to judge you for needing pain meds for at least 4-5 months. Abuse occurs when one uses these meds to feel better once the pain is gone and their original use has been met.

    Keep a log of the time and amount of medication; it's easy to forget what and when something was taken. I was told to expect reasonable pain relief means "5" on a scale of "10". This allows enough relief without getting to "snowed". Report untoward effects to your doc promptly.

    Some medications which helped me were:

    Lidoderm patches(local anesthetic patches).

    Duragesic patches--lasts 3 days(time release fentanyl)--no constipation with these but need slow tapering off.

    TENS machine--also called "alpha stim". Great pain relief and good for depression as directed by doc.

    Tylenol arthritis--round the clock being careful not to take say percocet or other narcotic compounds--containing acetaminophen which will cause Tylenol overdose(paracetamol in the UK).

    Gabapentin(Neurontin)--the greatest thing in the world, in my case, for pain of nerves waking up which narcotics don't help.

    Ice packs--so helpful for thoracoplasty rib pain.

    Antidepressants; excellent for tapering off narcotics and have pain reliving properties.
    Original scoliosis surgery 1956 T-4 to L-2 ~100 degree thoracic (triple)curves at age 14. NO hardware-lost correction.
    Anterior/posterior revision T-4 to Sacrum in 2002, age 60, by Dr. Boachie-Adjei @Hospital for Special Surgery, NY = 50% correction

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