Struggling after Hemilaminectomy

Posted by Karen @ktrammell1, Oct 25 6:47pm

I am 17 days post hemilaminectomy. I am struggling with pain and depression. I was so hopeful that this surgery would resolve the back, hip, leg and foot pain I’ve had for several years. After talking with others who have had immediate pain relief from this surgery, I was expecting the same. The first week was no better than before surgery. Then the second week I felt like I was making progress. Now I’m back to the same pain type and level as before surgery. The surgeon told me to expect steady improvement and he felt like at one month post surgery I would be almost pain free if not totally pain free. Maybe I just need to be patient. I would love to talk to someone who has gone through this same experience. I am 56 years old and want my active lifestyle back.

Just my guess – former back surgery patient and also retired RN: First it has been 17 days. The first WEEK you say you hurt. That would be normal as no matter the size of your incision, there is still the fact that you have an incision through skin and fat and muscle. There were retractors being used to pull back around the incision to give better surgical exposure. Excuse the graphics but some digging and puling went on. You likely have been in a position your body was unaccustomed to. So you’re body is feeling stressed and sore with good reason. Your muscles may be having spasms in response. Very common. You have normal postop soft tissue swelling which creates more pressure. That’s week 1. Now you are into Week 2. The swelling is likely decreasing a bit. You are sleeping in the most comfortable position you can find and maybe that is helpful plus being home helps. You can nap and sleep and eat as you want instead of a hospital routine and hopefully don’t feel quite as groggy from anesthesia after effects. That was Week 2. Which is a total of 14 days. So now you are writing this 3 days later than 2 weeks. You are hurting more again. My question is, what are you doing differently? Are you awake more? Walking about more? Stairs more? Are you following ALL instructions regarding bending, lifting, stretching? I hope so! Many of the patients who came back for second surgeries did NOT follow postop instructions to the letter! Think about your pain. Is it exactly like it was preop regarding pattern of pain? Where? What type of pain? Numbness or tingling? If things truly get WORSE, or you lose bladder or bowel control, significant weaknesses in a leg (i.e. can’t bear weight), call your surgeon office at once and/or go to Urgent Care or ER. Otherwise, maybe scribble a few notes daily to keep track of your activities and see how you feel at your office visit. I assume you have already had staples or stitches removed?

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@wisco50

Just my guess – former back surgery patient and also retired RN: First it has been 17 days. The first WEEK you say you hurt. That would be normal as no matter the size of your incision, there is still the fact that you have an incision through skin and fat and muscle. There were retractors being used to pull back around the incision to give better surgical exposure. Excuse the graphics but some digging and puling went on. You likely have been in a position your body was unaccustomed to. So you’re body is feeling stressed and sore with good reason. Your muscles may be having spasms in response. Very common. You have normal postop soft tissue swelling which creates more pressure. That’s week 1. Now you are into Week 2. The swelling is likely decreasing a bit. You are sleeping in the most comfortable position you can find and maybe that is helpful plus being home helps. You can nap and sleep and eat as you want instead of a hospital routine and hopefully don’t feel quite as groggy from anesthesia after effects. That was Week 2. Which is a total of 14 days. So now you are writing this 3 days later than 2 weeks. You are hurting more again. My question is, what are you doing differently? Are you awake more? Walking about more? Stairs more? Are you following ALL instructions regarding bending, lifting, stretching? I hope so! Many of the patients who came back for second surgeries did NOT follow postop instructions to the letter! Think about your pain. Is it exactly like it was preop regarding pattern of pain? Where? What type of pain? Numbness or tingling? If things truly get WORSE, or you lose bladder or bowel control, significant weaknesses in a leg (i.e. can’t bear weight), call your surgeon office at once and/or go to Urgent Care or ER. Otherwise, maybe scribble a few notes daily to keep track of your activities and see how you feel at your office visit. I assume you have already had staples or stitches removed?

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Thank you for the reply. I have followed what little protocol they gave me. I am walking more and being more active. I only had internal disolveable stitches with glue on the outside. The incision itself has t bothered me too much since week 1. I’m still have very similar pain when I stand and walk as I did pre surgery. I can stand and walk a little longer but not the way o had hoped. I think you’re right in that I need to give it more time. Do you know the answer to this – should I stop walking when the pain starts or should I stop? I can usually walk anywhere from 800-1200 steps without much pain. I do not have pain medication. I took what they gave me post surgery and took it on the exact schedule they said. I can only take very limited NSAIDs due to bleeding ulcers in my past. I think my biggest issue is that I have a couple of friends who had this surgery and were immediately better so maybe my expectations were too high. I have not lifted anything more than 10 pounds as instructed and have tried to limit my bending and twisting as much as possible. I’m going to tough it out until my appointment on November 11 unless something serious develops. Thanks again.

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@ktrammell1

Thank you for the reply. I have followed what little protocol they gave me. I am walking more and being more active. I only had internal disolveable stitches with glue on the outside. The incision itself has t bothered me too much since week 1. I’m still have very similar pain when I stand and walk as I did pre surgery. I can stand and walk a little longer but not the way o had hoped. I think you’re right in that I need to give it more time. Do you know the answer to this – should I stop walking when the pain starts or should I stop? I can usually walk anywhere from 800-1200 steps without much pain. I do not have pain medication. I took what they gave me post surgery and took it on the exact schedule they said. I can only take very limited NSAIDs due to bleeding ulcers in my past. I think my biggest issue is that I have a couple of friends who had this surgery and were immediately better so maybe my expectations were too high. I have not lifted anything more than 10 pounds as instructed and have tried to limit my bending and twisting as much as possible. I’m going to tough it out until my appointment on November 11 unless something serious develops. Thanks again.

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Wow, no pain meds at all? Makes me wince?

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Karen, hang in there! It's good that you're posting here, as back surgery recovery can be a very lonely road. I went through it myself 11 months ago. I'm wondering how much support you have at home. Are you getting any kind of home health visits? Make sure you are getting all the support that is offered by your doctor's office, your insurance plan, your health system. Depression will intensify your pain, and so will focusing on it. Your doctor may have over-sold the idea that your recovery would be slow and steady. There will be ups and downs as your body heals. There are a lot of factors that will affect this, some of which you can control (and some of which you can't). Even if you've never done it before, try some type of meditation (mindfulness) which will help you stay in the present in your own body. It may sound silly, but try to embrace what you're feeling and own it. Don't let it own you. Also, you can't really know what your friends did or didn't experience. If you asked me about my recovery, I would say I had immediate pain relief. However, I went through a pretty grueling intense 12 weeks of recovery (my surgery was more extensive than yours). You are determined to get your active life back, AND YOU WILL…just not right now. I wouldn't lift anything more than 5 lbs, and absolutely avoid ANY bending or twisting. Walking is great, outside if you can, but it's not a contest right now. Start with a very short walk and stop. Tomorrow, go a few steps farther but stop if it aggravates your back at all. You said it…you need to be more patient. Things look the darkest when you're in the middle of the recovery and don't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's there…just don't put your own road traps in the way by rushing things. I would totally stay away from pain meds if you can. You might ask about a Pain Management referral. These are just my personal reflections from my life experience and back surgery experience, not in any way intended to be medical advice. You are not alone!

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@stella52

Karen, hang in there! It's good that you're posting here, as back surgery recovery can be a very lonely road. I went through it myself 11 months ago. I'm wondering how much support you have at home. Are you getting any kind of home health visits? Make sure you are getting all the support that is offered by your doctor's office, your insurance plan, your health system. Depression will intensify your pain, and so will focusing on it. Your doctor may have over-sold the idea that your recovery would be slow and steady. There will be ups and downs as your body heals. There are a lot of factors that will affect this, some of which you can control (and some of which you can't). Even if you've never done it before, try some type of meditation (mindfulness) which will help you stay in the present in your own body. It may sound silly, but try to embrace what you're feeling and own it. Don't let it own you. Also, you can't really know what your friends did or didn't experience. If you asked me about my recovery, I would say I had immediate pain relief. However, I went through a pretty grueling intense 12 weeks of recovery (my surgery was more extensive than yours). You are determined to get your active life back, AND YOU WILL…just not right now. I wouldn't lift anything more than 5 lbs, and absolutely avoid ANY bending or twisting. Walking is great, outside if you can, but it's not a contest right now. Start with a very short walk and stop. Tomorrow, go a few steps farther but stop if it aggravates your back at all. You said it…you need to be more patient. Things look the darkest when you're in the middle of the recovery and don't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's there…just don't put your own road traps in the way by rushing things. I would totally stay away from pain meds if you can. You might ask about a Pain Management referral. These are just my personal reflections from my life experience and back surgery experience, not in any way intended to be medical advice. You are not alone!

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I'm not Karen but am in the same boat. Thanks for your comment. It helped & hurt at the same time.
Bless you.

Liked by stella52

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@stella52

Karen, hang in there! It's good that you're posting here, as back surgery recovery can be a very lonely road. I went through it myself 11 months ago. I'm wondering how much support you have at home. Are you getting any kind of home health visits? Make sure you are getting all the support that is offered by your doctor's office, your insurance plan, your health system. Depression will intensify your pain, and so will focusing on it. Your doctor may have over-sold the idea that your recovery would be slow and steady. There will be ups and downs as your body heals. There are a lot of factors that will affect this, some of which you can control (and some of which you can't). Even if you've never done it before, try some type of meditation (mindfulness) which will help you stay in the present in your own body. It may sound silly, but try to embrace what you're feeling and own it. Don't let it own you. Also, you can't really know what your friends did or didn't experience. If you asked me about my recovery, I would say I had immediate pain relief. However, I went through a pretty grueling intense 12 weeks of recovery (my surgery was more extensive than yours). You are determined to get your active life back, AND YOU WILL…just not right now. I wouldn't lift anything more than 5 lbs, and absolutely avoid ANY bending or twisting. Walking is great, outside if you can, but it's not a contest right now. Start with a very short walk and stop. Tomorrow, go a few steps farther but stop if it aggravates your back at all. You said it…you need to be more patient. Things look the darkest when you're in the middle of the recovery and don't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's there…just don't put your own road traps in the way by rushing things. I would totally stay away from pain meds if you can. You might ask about a Pain Management referral. These are just my personal reflections from my life experience and back surgery experience, not in any way intended to be medical advice. You are not alone!

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Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s a struggle but I intend to do what has to be done. I am keeping a daily journal or my experience so that hopefully I can help others who go thru this in the future.

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@ktrammell1

Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s a struggle but I intend to do what has to be done. I am keeping a daily journal or my experience so that hopefully I can help others who go thru this in the future.

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That's a great idea!

Liked by wisco50

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@lindaferrara

I'm not Karen but am in the same boat. Thanks for your comment. It helped & hurt at the same time.
Bless you.

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Oh, my, I'm sorry…it was only intended to HELP. I do believe in the mantra of "hope for the best but prepare for the worst," though. Best wishes for a speedy recovery <3

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Stella, I know doll. Take care.

Liked by stella52

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