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.

  15 comments for “L5-S1 Laminectomy Recovery – 3 weeks after the surgery

  1. Pegi
    October 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

    I am just over two weeks from L5S1 laminectomy. Sometimes I feel good. Off tramadol, walking 2 or 3 X daily, about a mile each. But there is just dull pain on right side still. I sleep poorly, and bowel. Oveme ts have been pretty funky and often.

    Does the dullness ever go away? Any stretching that would be good? I feel like aside from walking I am sitting around watching Netflix

    • November 4, 2019 at 11:07 am

      I still have some funny days with pain and uncomfortableness (that isn’t a real word). But things do get better. Some of it will be closer to 6-12 weeks out. There is a lot of swelling from the surgery and that swelling is going to push on something.

      One of the hardest parts was waiting for things to heal. For a long time all I did was walk. First it was more of a shuffle. It is frustrating, but once you heal you will be able to start doing more. I’m surfing 2-3 times a week, riding my bike, skating, fishing out in the ocean and, more important, I can walk and sit in a car for over an hour. I still walk a lot. It took time to get here. I still get pain and have to be careful.

  2. Susan Davis
    April 3, 2019 at 10:20 am

    This gives me a little hope. I had a laminectomy at L5-S1 on March 7, 2019. I am still having a little tingling in my right foot but nothing like it was before. But, I am still feeling a little dizzy once in a while. I drink plenty of water and I try to walk around a bit, but when you feel woozy, it’s hard to do. Has anyone else experienced dizziness three weeks after surgery? I go back to the doctor April 10th. I’m afraid to even drive because of this feeling. I had a lot of pain the first two weeks after the surgery but most of that is gone. Just the woozy feeling bothers me.

    • April 3, 2019 at 11:16 am

      It has been a while, but it took a while to get my head cleared. Are you still taking any form of pain killer? That can contribute for sure.

      It is a long road and you are early on. It will get better and there will be some down days. Down days should get less and less.

  3. Choney
    January 29, 2019 at 2:46 am

    2 weeks post lumbar laminectomy and my greatest concern is my extreme tiredness. I did leave hospital the same day as I felt amazing however landed back in hospital thinking I was dying as a result of stopping Tramadol and Pregabalin the day of surgery because I felt I didn’t need them. Had the worst withdrawals ever. Never will I go through that again. Anyway in the last few days I’ve got increased pain in my lumbar region, hamstring and buttock. No where near what I had pre op but it still worries me that it may stay with me. My surgeon said (and he had a laminectomy too) that it’s normal due to swelling etc. I hope so. The lack of energy is a killer for me. My iron levels and bloods were all good.

  4. Joy
    December 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    3 days in from a lumbar laminectomy and I feel all the muscular pain…. they say I can sleep on my back but it’s not comfortable at all… so I sleep on either side… they say I can shower today… but I’m nervous… how easy/hard was it to shower without getting your incision wet… and how physical should I be?

    • December 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      I don’t remember being worried about the shower, but we have a detachable head, so I can aim the water a bit. Point the shower head down and have a cloth handy. You will be fine. If things hurt, wait. After the shower you will feel clean and be ready for a nap.

      Sleep is good. Muscular pain can be a lot of things, The road can be long, but stay with it.

  5. Diane
    June 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Week 3 and I am just now feeling the bad pain. The pain is located on my left side away from my incision. My incision is healing very nicely! All the pain that had been in my hips and down both legs is gone and I am so grateful for that ! But this new pain is taking a toll on me! It feels like I have a block of wood pressing on me when I sit, stand, or lie down. As long as I am completely still there is no pain. Did Either of you have/had this issue?

    • June 16, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      I’d be willing to say that the new pain is a byproduct of the swelling from the surgery. It could be a lot of things, but as you heal, there is a lot of swelling that will go away through that 6-week period. I did get other pains during healing. It is a long road, and you will get pains from healing and pains during therapy. For me, it has gotten better over time.

    • Elizabeth
      September 17, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Hi Diane… Your post sounds EXACTLY how I feel (except my pain & pressure is centrally surrounding my incision, left, right, all around). I am just 3 weeks past my lower lumbar laminectomy. I feel like I get 2 steps forward then go 1 step back. Some days I feel like I should be further along with less pain. How long did it take for that “block of wood” pressure/pain to go away? I sometimes think I over do it and then I feel like I am under doing it… Any advice?

      • Eileen
        March 28, 2018 at 10:47 am

        I am almost three weeks post L4-L5 laminectomy. I feel like Elizabeth. Still painful at night unless take meds; better during the day with icing. Still feel two steps forward and one back. Trying to walk more. Anyone still in pain at week three?

  6. Natasha Hurst
    March 10, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I am in week 3 and it was so encouraging to read this. I am a single Mom and have tried to be a super hero and this has stopped in my tracks. I’ve cried buckets but now that I’m feeling better and can walk better – doesn’t look like a carrot up my bum – I’m feeling more motivated. This has being a life changing event for men time to slow down stop and pause!! I still fear whenever I feel a twinge or niggle.

    • March 13, 2017 at 8:29 am

      Natasha – you’ll feel those tingles for a while, they come and go, but get better over time. The mental part will be the next big challenge once the physical parts are patched up. It is a journey, but if you feel better already, you will most likely continue to get better. I had noticeable improvement for 18+ months.

  7. Peter S
    May 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Sounds very encouraging. Life is about playing the hand you’re dealt.

  8. Zoe
    May 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    This is all very encouraging! I can see a lot of good progress… especially since I have had a couple nights of great sleep! Your walking is much better, you can move more fluidly. I can still see areas for improvement, but all in all you have made great strides in progress. Keep it up!
    -Z

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