Today marks my first week of recovery from my L5/S1 fusion surgery. I decided to have this surgery because my L5 (the lowest of the lumbar vertabrae) had slipped forward over the S1 (the first sacral vertabrae). I had quite a lot of movement in the L5/S1 joint, which compressed the nerve, causing pain.
I tried non-invasive treatments, but because I had so much movement in the joint, I felt that I would not make any real progress in relieving my pain without surgery.
Basically the surgery involves going in through the abdomen and replacing the disc between L5 and S1 with a mesh cage filled with synthetic bone replacement material (ALIF). This allows the two bones to fuse - it takes about 6 - 8 weeks for the fusion to begin, and 9 - 18 months for it to complete.
Once the cage was inserted, the surgical team turned me over and added rods and screws to keep the bones in place while the fusion completes (PLIF).
This is one tough surgery - I've never experienced pain like this and I know the recovery is a long and slow road. Here are ten things I learned in the first week:
- I totally underestimated the amount of pain I would feel, post surgery.
- Percoset helps manage the pain and also makes me feel loopy.
- I have an allergic reaction to percoset - my skin is super-itchy. Benedryl helps relieve the itchiness, but makes me sleepy. (Everything has a price)
- I now understand what people said about feeling like my insides were put back in a slightly different way than they were originally.
- I'm not supposed to bend, lift or twist. And you would be shocked at how much everything you want to do involves one or more of those.
- I am embracing my back brace in a way I never expected.
- Walking uses a lot of your core.
- My office is making it very easy to be out recovering. I expect to be out at least two months, and even then, will be moving slowly.
- Fatigue is a real and debilitating thing.
- My husband, family, friends and co-workers have been amazingly supportive. I feel so lucky to have all of these people in my life!
Has anyone else had this surgery? Any words of wisdom?