L5-S1 Surgery Recovery – 12 Weeks post-op

I think today I might start to measure in months.  Recovery from an L5-S1 laminectomy is not fast.  Long hours gave way to long weeks which seem to be giving way to months now.  The weeks are going faster and I am seeing some improvements.  Life is maybe back to 90% and activities are back to about 75%.

General Recovery Update

I know the nerve is still healing.   I can tell differences in the numbness in my foot week to week still, but I think I’ve got some control over most of my muscles.  That is a big milestone.  They are all very weak now, but I can get most of them to flex now.  I’m about 3 months into the recovery that could see progress for up to and beyond a year.  That being said, I am now comparing to “normal” not post-op which is in itself another big milestone.

Pain

I’m still lucky that pain is not a major factor for me.  I do get tired and uncomfortable at times, but no real pain.  The Dr. said to stop an activity if it hurts.  How do I know if it hurts?  Since I have that question, I’ll assume that I don’t.

I do still get some sensations in my legs, but everyone assures me that is normal.  It also goes away after some mild stretching.

Numbness and Sensations

Numbness is down but not gone.  The 1mm per day estimate seems to be pretty true.  For three months, or 90 days, I’d say the numbness has moved at least 7-14 cm down my leg.  Or I should say improved that far.  I still have a lot of numbness in my foot, but even that is getting odd sensations.

I think I continue to get more used to the numbness and it is getting better.  This may take the longest to really recover.

Activities

I have a number of exercises from therapy I do every day.  Core, back and general strength are the focus.  There is a lot for me to do, and it is easier and easier to do them all.

Therapy

In some form or another, most of what I do is still focused on rehabilitation.  Walking, biking, going to the gym, how I lie, stretching, exercises and more all have “do it right” and “this will help” thoughts in my head.  If it doesn’t seem smart, I don’t do it.

I’m close to done with this round of therapy per my prescription.  The pool workouts are great.  They help me rebuild and help me focus on balance.  My left is still so much stronger and more coordinated than my right side that the pool is especially good.

The land parts where I get the scar tissue loosened up are less and less for now.  I think that as I get control over the muscles again I can work on form and control.  For now, my main therapy focus is my right calf and gluteus muscles.  They have both gone from nothing, to a twitch to almost a full flex in the past two weeks.  Flex doesn’t mean they are strong, just that I can make the flex when I try and they seem to be getting stronger.

Walking

I am walking better but less.  I’m walking less because I am doing more activities besides walking.  Walking is still very good for me, but it is great to do other activities too.  I start most days with a walk to the beach (not a bad way to start a day).

Biking

I’m now doing 2-3 short rides per week on my real bike.  Out on the road and riding.  I didn’t actually think I’d ever do that again.  A lot of the rides are still re-training myself the motions, but more and more it is about conditioning my legs.  I can sense a lot of weakness and some lack of control.  I un-clip one foot and do one legged riding a fair amount which seems to be good for my form and focus on the weak muscles.

In addition to my real bike, I find my cruiser to be a nice way to ride.  I’m very upright and it is fun.

Returning to Life

I think work and family fit into this category the most.  Work is pretty back to normal.  I think more about the bad economy than just doing work.  My kids aren’t treating me as fragile and we do more fun things like go to the pool and beach.  I’m still cautious and guarded, but life is more normal.  I don’t feel like as much of a restraint on everyone, but I still skip out on a lot of activities.

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