Day 6

Woke up at 4AM when the painkiller wore off. Wow! Back pain! Stomach pain! Sciatica! Took 2 Oxy and spent an hour pacing around waiting for it to kick in. Remaining sleep was very broken…not enjoying sleeping with Oxy. Sciatica was very bad in the morning…the most intense nerve pressure and numbness I’ve felt in a long time (ever?). The pain wore off after a few hours of movement around the house.

Feeling much stronger today. Can walk and climb stairs confidently. Walked outside for over an hour, took a short car ride, and hung out (mostly sitting and standing) at a friends’ house. Having an easier time showering but still need help and not getting the incision wet. Generally feeling less sleepy and sore.

Stomach is still a mess and the pain picked up in the evening before bed. Had to load up on Oxy and Tylenol hoping to avoid a repeat of last night. Keeping track of pain medication (e.g. to keep Tylenol dosage under 4000mg) is a necessary chore.

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Day 8

Breakthrough day! The night was tough, but easier than the previous 2 nights. I was able to skip a few doses of Oxy in the afternoon. Walked 2 miles. Stomach is back to working once I cut out the Oxy. Spent the last few days helping my son with his science fair project…a little hard to stand/sit/kneel but managed. Doing a slow lunge if I need to reach something on the floor, keeping my core tight and straight. Seeing the light!

Days 10-12

Daily improvements! I’m off Oxy, only taking 1000mg of Tylenol before bed and maybe 500mg during the day as needed. Walking 2.5-4 miles a day at a normal pace and pacing around the house the rest of the day with an afternoon nap. Back to most normal activities and seeing that limiting movement for 3 months will require a lot of focus and willpower. Boredom is kicking in…audio books have been a lifesaver so far. Stomach is back normal. Lunging more confidently to pick things up off the floor. Can’t load the dishwasher or do the laundry (not surprisingly!) but starting to help with some chores.

Sleep is still somewhat broken…the back is sore and staples (25 of them!) are really starting to bother me. An afternoon nap goes a long way. Was able to sit for an hour+ to do some work on the computer and watch TV. Can shower and get dressed solo. Putting on socks is really tough and my lack of flexibility is not helping…this will be a problem for a while.

Walked to my son’s school to attend the science fair for a total of ~1/2 mile walking plus on my feet there for ~1.5 hours. Lots of kids running around was terrifying and found myself backing up against a wall to avoid bumping into them.

Had a hard sneeze that nearly knocked me off my feet, barely caught myself by grabbing a window sill. It felt like I pulled a back muscle or tore the incision…it was still sore 18 hours later.

I can get into the car (Subaru Forester) slowly doing the sit back and turn approach. Bumps and sharp maneuvers are painful but not as bad as before. I’m pretty sure I can drive the Forester now, but it’s becoming obvious that I won’t be driving my sedan any time soon.

First post-op in a few days, can’t wait to get the staples out and see the xrays.

Day 15

Had my first post-op appointment. My recovery (particularly as it was at the 1 week mark) is well ahead of schedule, most people have extreme pain through the 2 week mark. He thinks this is due to age, fitness, and my state before the surgery. X-rays looked good, it’s too early to see if new bone is growing but implants are still in place. New bone growth won’t be visible for up to a year(!). He stressed that I need to take it easy and follow the no BLT rules for the next 10 weeks, but small exceptions for putting on socks seem to be okay. Back brace is optional — mostly need to alert others in crowded areas to stay away from me. Most of my leg pain is due to nerve manipulation while cleaning out scar tissue, pain should go away soon but numbness may last a few months. This matches my experience after the last laminectomy. I’m free to walk as much as I want. Staples were removed; he said he used staples because there’s a lot of stress on this area and he wanted to be conservative. Next checkup in 4 weeks.

I asked about supplements (vitamin D, calcium, magnesium) to improve bone growth and he didn’t think they’d help. After my son broke his arm his dr. insisted on high vitamin D and calcium doses to assist with bone growth. I’m generally vitamin D deficient so I’ve been taking 5000IU /day for 2 months before surgery and will continue that dose plus calcium and magnesium.

First post-op xray

Side note: Ran into my neighbor who had S1-L5-L4 fusion done a few years ago and she said she was in horrible pain for a full month with very limited mobility showering, getting dressed, etc. At the 6 month mark she was back to work lifting heavy things and has recovered 100%.

Day 17

Mobility is much improved — walking, climbing stairs, and sitting down no longer require focus. The incision site is still sore and wakes me up at night. I can walk for miles and find myself getting overconfident at times. I’m using the brace more to remind myself to slow down. Getting in and out of the car is still tough but riding in it is fine, I no longer feel every bump.

Last week I found out that my work team is being liquidated (terrible timing!) so I spent a few hours over 2 days on video calls. I could sit for 1-1.5 hours with sub optimal posture before things got uncomfortable. Some sciatica followed afterward. At least that’s long enough to get some work done, sit in a restaurant, and work on this blog.

Day 21

Things have pretty much plateaued (as expected). I sleep through the night with occasional mild discomfort, no more than 500mg of Tylenol for pain per day, walking 3-5 miles outside per day, doing some chores (cooking and tidying up), can shower and get dressed, sitting over an hour in a straight back chair results in sciatica. I can walk my kids to and from school (1/3 mile each way) and help them with homework, food, etc. Lunging and half squats to reach things on the floor, but must be done carefully with a straight back…having the brace on helps.

I find that limited movement causes my leg and back muscles to get very tight and start to cramp. Stretching is hard without bending or triggering pain. I found a few light stretches for hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. I can’t roll my muscles out with a foam roller, but a massage stick helps.

Sneezing sucks!

I drove for the first time a few days ago. I find that getting into the car the normal way (right foot first, sit, bring left foot in) is easier than sitting fully sideways and turning. Either way, getting in and out must be done slowly. Still not brave enough to try getting into my low sedan.

I like walking, so I do 2-4 miles outside before lunch and maybe another 1-2 miles in the late afternoon. I find this prevents my muscles from cramping up from non use. At this point I don’t get sore from this level of activity.

walking distances