L5-S1 Laminectomy Recovery – 3 weeks after the surgery

Three weeks ago today I had lumbar laminectomy surgery to repair a disc herniation at my L5-S1.  Thus this marks 3 weeks for my laminectomy recovery. I am indeed recovering.

Changes

Changes are hard to measure.  Today I feel like I did yesterday.  Yesterday I felt the way I did the previous day.  I don’t think I can measure changes on a day-by-day basis.

But, today I know I feel better than I did two or three days ago.  I feel much better than I did a week ago and it is hard to compare what it was like 3 weeks ago.

Progress in my laminectomy recovery

So how do I feel at the beginning of week 3? Better.

Sleeping

I wish I could say sleep has magically gotten better.  I do sleep better with less pain, but I find it harder to fall asleep.  I attribute a lot of the sleep challenges to being off the pain medicine and feeling better.

There is no doubt that the opiates put me in a nice numb state where my body could slip away nicely.  Unfortunately, that sleep quality was bad and I usually woke from crazy dreams even more tired.

And now, as I am feeling better, I have more energy.  Even though I am walking 4-6 times per day, I am not burning a lot of energy.  I have fatigue, but it takes a while for me to drift off to sleep.  Reading books on my Nexus 7 has been great for me (and my wife since I don’t need to turn a light on).

The good news is that I am getting a better quality of sleep.

The best news is that I am no scared to go to sleep anymore.  I can get in and out of bed nicely with minimal pain.  I am good at my “roll technique” that minimizes and bending or twisting. In the first few nights of recovery, it took almost 30 minutes to get into or out of bed.

Today I woke on my stomach which is a nice comfortable position, but one I usually roll out of during the night.  The fact I was in a deep sleep makes me realize I am progressing in the sleep department as well.

Pain

Pain is minimal now.  It has been days since I took any pain medications. It is not just because I’m being tough.  I don’t like the side effects, but I don’t have any pain to really warrant taking them.

I am still being very careful; no bending or twisting per Dr. Bawa’s directions.  My body tells me I can do much more than I will allow it to do.  That is a common sign of healing.

Numbness

A few days ago, I thought I could feel my second little toe more.  Then I was very confident I could feel it.  Today I am sure I can.

Yesterday I though the numbness in my thigh and gluteus regions was less.  Today I am more confident that it is getting better too.

I still have a lot of numbness, but I am feeling progress. I know it can take 6 months to recovery, so I don’t expect much and am happy for what I have regained.

Muscle Strength

There is no doubt that my leg strength is returning too.  I don’t think I can measure it, but neighbors and friends I see while out walking all say that I look much “better” walking.  I feel that I am much better at actively flexing my muscles.

I have not driven yet. Partly because I don’t need to and partly because of the muscle loss. I did get into my car two days ago to see what it was like. I could press the brake with force. That was a relief for me and made me see progress. I know I can drive if I need to. But no rush, let the healing continue.

I am doing some basic physical therapy which I am sure is helping.  I am not doing anything that uses the core or back to prevent stressing the disc.  The exercises just help me recruit my leg muscles again.  I think this is also helping my walking form.

Walking

Walking is my new dedication in life.  All of my fun diversions in life have been about achieving challenges with calculated endurance (cycling, sailing, windsurfing, boating and even the way I fish); most have some excitement too.  Sitting idol with a hurt back has been a huge challenge for me mentally.  Oddly the simple act of walking has become rewarding.

In the first week I could shuffle.  I was getting around under my own power without pain.  In the second week my form was getting better and I was more walking.  In the third week my form is better, my strength is up and I can tell I am feeling much better about it.

I was proud (and tired) when I made it around the block the first time. That was a big reward. Now I’ve got more endurance and rewards come from form, pace and just feeling good while walking.

My walks have a more natural cadence now. I’m taking longer more natural strides and I am going further in the same amount of time.  I am not pushing myself.  When I have pushed myself, I’ve become very uncomfortable.  That lack of comfort get right to the edge of pain.  So there is a challenge in not trying to push myself. There is a fine line between not enough and too much. Once you hit too much, it hits hard and fast.

It is great to expand my walking because it does make me physically better.  It has also been great to get out and see my neighbors.  I frequently stop and talk to people which makes me feel more connected with our community.  There really are good people out there in this world.

Accupedo step counts for week:

laminectomy-walking-week3

Other Parts of Life

This was very close to a life event for me.  Aside from the pain and being immobile, I was looking at the prospects of literally loosing partial use of my leg.  Not long ago I was riding my bike up significant climbs with ease, maintaining great pace and feeling very good.  Then suddenly my leg stopped working.

My perspective on a lot of things has changed.  No, I am not a new man.  No, I am not perfect, better, absolved of my sins or anything revolutionary.  But, I do see a lot of my daily situations differently.

I have a lot more patients with my children.  It is easier to see that I am getting angry and much easier to see that being angry doesn’t help anything.  I am better able to think about what a situation means and think about a better course of action.  Why?  I think it is because I’ve been forced to stop and think about things; forced to feel the loss of a valuable part of me that I took for granted.

I’ve lost something that I appreciated, but I now appreciate it more than ever.  The little things in life are far more exposed as the little, meaningless things they are.  It is nice to be able to focus on the things that truly matter more. I see that now and I can see and live it more. It has been a wake up call for sure.

No one deserves bad luck, but we can all do things in our daily lives that can make an unlucky situation better.  We’ve all heard cancer survivors talk or an amputee that resumed life share their inspirations.  There is something people have in common who have lost something or faced grave challenges.  I think those of use who live life in the daily rut loose site of that and let the little negative things run us.  Yes, my laminectomy recovery has caused me an attitude correction.  I could use more, but the silver lining here is that I have learned a lesson.

How do I think my Laminectomy recovery is going?

In short, I am pleased.  I wish I were out riding, or playing with the kids.  I wish I could hop on the boat like I used to.  Since I blew out my disc I have not felt that I would ever do many of those things again.  Today, I can say I see enough progress to think they will indeed be part of my future.

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