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Moms who have had spinal fusion surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:23 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi. I am interesting in chatting with moms around my age (39) with children still in the home who have walked through back surgery (specifically spinal fusion/laminectomy). I am considering this surgery after 7 years of dealing with chronic pain from a herniated disc at L4/L5. I understand that this is a common injury so I'm sure there are many of you out of there!

I have tried to treat this conservatively for 7 years (chiro, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, exercise) and have managed to keep things at bay off and on throughout that time. But it seems that in the last 6-9 months I'm having a harder time keeping my pain level down throughout the day. Any kind of activity irritates my back and of course, the pain radiates down both legs. It's getting harder for me to push past the pain and function in a healthy, happy way for my family. I have 3 kids, ages 11, 9, 7. We are an active family and I hate telling my children that I don't feel like doing something fun like swim, ride bikes, or go to the park and play on the equipment. I can do most of those activities but I pay dearly for them afterwards and so does the rest of the family. :)

I met with a spinal surgeon yesterday (ortho) and he is recommending a spinal fusion and laminectomy. I cried all day long after that. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. It seems like such an invasive approach but I have to admit, that I'm losing hope that anything conservative is going to really help me anymore and I am concerned that the older I get the more difficult dealing with this is going to become.

Anyway, I would love advice from those of you who can relate to where I am right now.

Thanks so much.


  • Sorry to hear you are in so much pain, I am a stay at home mum to 2 little ones (aged 2 and 1) so I know how tough it is to be on the go all the time when you have a back problem.

    I also had a herniated disc at L4 L5 but I had microdiscectomy not a fusion, which is a far less invasive surgery and a much quicker recovery time. Did your Dr mention why this might not be an option for you and why he wanted to go straight for the fusion?

    I have made a great recovery from my op in January and am now doing pretty much everything apart from jogging and high impact stuff at the gym.

    If I were in your shoes I would get a 2nd opinion to make sure that a fusion is your best option.

    Hope things improve soon,

  • Welcome!!!!

    Yes mom here...
    But mine were 17 and 11. So pretty much self sufficent.
    They were both in school at the time so it made it very easy for me during the days. Of course hubby got them up and off on the bus and so forth.
    As for the first 2 weeks I was kinda out of it.
    But by the 3rd week everything went great. I made sure the youngest had her clothes out. Hubby of course still woke them up. But I pretty much just laid on the couch supervising.
    I totally understand where your coming from with not being the "mom" anymore for awhile. But believe it or not kids adjust very well.
    The older ones can help the smaller one etc. Homework and so forth. After the 2 weeks she sat on the floor next to me with any work. And I helped from there.

    After about 5 weeks I felt pretty good. Still not doing everything by no means. (3 weeks) Just waist level things. Laundery with the grabber. LOVE THAT GRABBER :D

    Any more questions we can help with please ask away!!!
  • My daughter cried when the doctor said surgery (she gets really emotional), but I explained to her that once things are "fixed" I would be able to do much more physical type things with them.

    I had a lumbar fusion 8/21. My children have been wonderfull here. They are 10 and 13 so they can be on there own for some things, but typically they have need a referee in the past. I think they are getting to used to be being home though, things have been going real smooth, no problems. I was really surprised at how much they are willing to help too. I really thought I was going to need to bribe the kids with rewards but so far so good

    Now I am expecting a grandchild to arrive sometime in the next two weeks! This does concern me since I am not supposed to pick up more than 5 pounds, but I wont be the babysitter for another 6 weeks!

    Good Luck with whatever you decide.

  • I've got kids too, ages 10 and 7. I had a micro in November of last year and they did ok with it. Now I am waiting for my ALIF on the 25th. My daughter had the most trouble with it. (she's 7)
    I teach in her school so she was used to seeing me everyday walking down thehalls or even just "checking in" to get a hug. Seeing me in pain and needing help really took a toll on them both, but it also make them stronger.
    Ever since I got injured, they have grown tough, maybe a little too soon for their ages. They have had to do a lot and be really independent and I wish that they weren't.
    But to make a long story short, they are ok with this and my next surgery. Yes it's gonna be scary and mom will be in so much more pain and need so much more help, but they understand and just want "their mom back!"
    Do what you think is right, but don't rush into anything either, take your time! When the time is right, you will know!

    Take Care!
  • I have had several neck operations in the last 1 1/2 years. My kids are now 14 and 11. They were actually a big help to me. Before my surgery I tried to have precooked meals done up in the freezer, the kids cloths all washed and things like that. But, for the most part they asked me what they could do for me, my son,11 yrs. old, always helped with trying to help me get comfy, tucked me in....The kids really do adjust well. Just make sure and tell them ahead of time exactly what they are going to do, if they're not sure it is more scary for them. Make sure they know you'll be in a brace if you are, that will be scary to them if not warned ahead of time.
    Good Luck with your surgery... :H
  • I am almost 41. My daughter is 15 so she is pretty much self sufficient as well.

    Do you know what kind of fusion he is suggesting? Some styles heal easier than others.

    I had a 2 level PLIF six weeks ago Monday. It has been a hard recovery but each day is better. If I had little ones (7 is pretty little) I might need help getting him/her ready for school etc.

    I still am not able to do much- but hopefully before next year I will be back to my "new normal".

    Good luck,

  • The surgeon is recommending a Spinal Fusion/Laminectomy at L4/L5. I'm not up on all the terminology but I'm guessing that's one level?

    I think my kids will handle it well. They were great last year as I had to care for my father, who had terminal cancer. They are troopers and I have a VERY supportive hubbie.

    The question now is... do I do this? How do you come to the decision? Is it worth it? It seems overwhelming to think of being so limited for so long in light of family needs. At least now I can function and do the daily stuff... I'm just in pain with it. It's a big decision. I'm hoping to see a neurologist to get a second opinion on surgical approaches. I'm not sure what all the options are surgically for this type of injury.
  • Hi, I just replied to your other thread, but I see here are some answers to the questions I asked you. I had L4-5 fusion 5 weeks ago. It is a horribly hard decision. I think the breaking point for me was when it got so bad it was jeopardizing my ability to work. I am a single mom and I have to work. The LESI's stopped helping, as that is what got me through the last 2 years before surgery. I questioned my decision all the way into the OR even, but that is just me, I never felt totally committed to it. :/ Crazy, but it is the truth. I think it was just the fear of it all, that kept me doubting. Boy I am committed to it now for sure!!! :)

    I recommend you do a ton of research. You can find all sorts of info here on SH, also try SpineUniverse.com. You can research all the different types of fusions, even watch videos if the gore doesn't bother you. Just fill yourself up with as much information as possible, so you will know what the docs are talking about. This website has been a Godsend for me.

    As far as my kids, they are teens, and they were helpful and didn't give me any lip, at least for a while :P Good luck, and ask me anything if I can be of help. Sue
  • Single 32 yr old mom here of two amazing little girls (10 and 7). I'm 3 weeks post-op from my 2nd spinal fusion. Having a fusion is definately hard to go through, making it even harder with children. But it's definately doable. Kids are alot more resiliant than we give them credit for most of the time. With my back, we'd tried several different things before my dr simply said surgery was what I needed. My children were only 6 and 3 at the time....so it was easier for them. This time around, once my dr seen my mri and the results from the emg he told me that I needed another surgery. With my girls being older, they knew a bit more of what would happen, which scared my oldest for weeks in advance, and my little one the day of the surgery. They were afraid I wouldn't come home, I wouldn't wake back up, or that i'd be worse. (My little one has had separation anxiety really bad since she was little, but she's gotten alot better). My first time around, my sister stayed with me for a week, then I was on my own. This time around, it was just my girls and I. It's been hard, but we're getting through. One thing I will suggest, is if you do decide to go for the fusion, to sit down with your children and explain to them what is going to be happening to you. The more they can understand, the easier it will be to get them through you being in the hospital. Another thing you can do, is to get them to start helping you now. Make up to do lists for them, if they don't already. Even the little things help. My 10 yr old wanted to learn how to cook, so I started working with her, letting her make small things.

    I've found that as long as I am around my children, they are happy. If you take them to the park, just sit there with them while they play. Sit on the step in the pool while they splash around.

    Having to make a decision to have surgery is scary for anyone. If I hadn't been so sick and tired of hurting, i'm sure I woulda bawled for days too lol. But as hard as it was for me (I got worse after my first fusion, too soon to tell with this one), I wouldn't have done it any differently. Being a single mom, it allowed me to be at home and raise my children, instead of having to find a sitter for them so I could work. And now I am in school...learning a new trade, which is mostly being paid for for me.

    You've found a great site here. I've found that there are alot of people out there like me on here, supporting me every step of the way. Even if it's just an "It's ok, you aren't alone".

    Feel free to ask any questions. That's what we are all here for. :H
  • Kaysie,
    I had a 2 level ALIF in May, after having a hysterectomy in March. My little girl is 5 and I kept telling her " Mom will feel better and we can go camping again, ride 4- wheelers, wrestle etc... she thought that was a good idea.
    I didn't let her see me in the hospital though...for either of my surgeries, that's kind of scary for a little one. My recovery has been during the summer, so I was able to lounge on the patio while she swam and played. I didn't have any support from my husband,( physically or emotionally) so if you have that, you'll do great. I would advise that you stay on here, for support, information, and just to compare notes. My surgeon told me not to expect to be %100 pain free after recovery, so I have tried to have reasonable expectations....and appreciate that I at least can do something to help myself.
    You'll be ok Kaysie, ( my daughter's name is Kasi Bo)
    Just getter done! Have a good day !
  • I am REALLY surprised your doctor would jump right into a fusion without first attempting a smaller surgery. I agree with the person who said you should get a second opinion. You DEFINITELY should. To go from conservative treatments straight a major surgery is not logical. Definitely get a second opinion, or even a third opinion.
  • Some times the other options will not be a viable option for patients such as myself. Had I have had a discectomy or laminectomy only, the surgeon would not have addressed the real problems and would have wasted much of my time and money.

    I agree that she may want to get a second opinion- but that is her perogative.


  • Hi Kaysie,
    my story is very similiar. hating to tell my kids "Momma needs to rest" way too many times throughout the years.
    I had a 2 level fusion plus some other things done on July 9th of this year. I had complications from a staph infection and STILL I have NO regrets. I hurt SOOOO badly after the fusion. I thought I knew what pain was. I've had two babies with no drugs. trained and ran two marathons. but this was very brutal for me. still, no looking back. I am way better today than I was july 8th.
    Once you decide you're going for it, it'll be easier to get focused and positive. I was SCARED so much of the recovery process. I understand completely. but once I set my mind this was the plan it got easier to prepare mentally. I read a lot on this board and it helped me. every day hundreds of people have fusions just like us. and I thought, if they can do it, so can I! it was that way when I trained for my marathons. I remember thinking thousands of people run them every weekend. I'm tough, too! :) my kids are 11 and 5. I did it for them just as much as for me! and my husband, too, of course. :)
  • Of course it is her prerogative, but she is the one asking for opinions.... So of course, I'm going to give it to her. That's basically the point of a forum/message boards. Lol.
  • Thanks to all of you. I'm still unsure what I'm going to do, but I'm considering this as a possible option. You're right about doing it for my kids. I want to be able to enjoy playing with them again and not have to say, "I'm sorry, I can't because of my back." That's getting harder and harder for me. But it helps to hear from so many of you who have walked down this road with kids and are glad to have done it.
  • My kids are 14, 12, and 4. We are all very active in school events as well as life. My 1st surgery(two level lumbar fusion) was a little over a year ago. In my situation, not only did my kids do fine with the surgeries(and the upcoming one), but they were also a huge help. They helped with little things about the house, but the biggest help was that they were my motivation to get better and get out of bed each day.

    Having said that, I would seriously consider not having the surgery if I were you, at least not a fusion or not at this time. I agree you need more surgical opinions! If you are still able to do household things, I personally would try to delay this surgery as long as you can. I understand the feeling like you are letting your kids down because you needs rest periods, but this surgery is so major you owe it to them to get another opinion or two or three! :)

    Feel free to message me if you would like more details on how my kids cope or just to chat.

  • Well I have now just over a week before my level 2 fusion, and my kids are very nervous but excited at the same time that they will be getting "their mommy back!"
    Any type of surgery will be hard for everyone, but everyone pulls through together.
    I still think that you will make the right decision as to what suits you best!
    Good luck!
  • The only reason my Neurosurgeon is doing a fusion, even though I'm only 22, is because I wasn't able to stand long to wash dishes, couldn't sweep and mop the entire (small) kitchen floor, without having to spend the rest of the day in bed, unable to straighten my back, and had a hard time bathing my son. I've had back problems for years... Saw an Orthopedic doctor who agreed with my PCP that I have an irregular curve to my spine, but gave me muscle relaxers and told me I didn't need surgery at that point. Then I saw a different doctor who gave me narcotic pain killers, muscle relaxers, anti inflammatories, and sent me home. After repeated visits she would only give me Tylenol with codeine (Which does NOTHING for me) ad FINALLY sent me for an MRI of my lumbar spine (Before then I had only had an MRI of my cervical spine, due to shooting pains down my arms that I used to have a few years ago) and she referred me to another Ortho, who gave me Tramadol and a Cortisone injection. Which did nothing. So he referred me to my Neurosurgeon, who did my Microdiscectomy in May, and has tried me on Neurontin, Aquatic physical therapy, muscle relaxers, and still on the narcotic pain killers since April. They don't do disc replacements (refuse to do them based on the risks not having been proven less than the benefits) so finally after 5/6 years, the only thing left is a fusion. Some days I feel alright, but others I can't find a single position to sit or lay in without being in pain. My pain is mostly mechanical, which gives me pretty good hope for a great recovery, since fusion prevents the motion in that specific area, and should decrease that mechanical pain. There are a lot of things my son can't do on his own, given his disability. However, I'm sort of the type to continue on doing what I need to do even when in pain. I have a high tolerance. My boyfriend refuses to let me do any of the things I shouldn't have done last time after surgery... But I have a hard time with a messy house and backed up laundry. This time I'm following orders to the T. I hope to not need any other surgeries until I'm at least 35 to 40.

    Have you tried Aquatic physical therapy? It works a lot better for spinal issues than regular physical therapy, because the water helps to relieve the stress on your body... It helped me for a little while. Neurontin didn't help me, but apparently it helps about 50 percent of users with nerve pain.

    Also, is it just a herniation or DDD? If it's just a herniation and your sciatic nerve is being impinged, maybe you could start with a Microdiscectomy or open discectomy first? It can't hurt to start conservative if at all possible....
  • Yes, it's a single herniation. So the surgery would be a level 1 fusion. I've never done aquatic PT, but swimming (anything that engages my core) leaves me in pain for days one end. I'm guessing, though, that PT would keep that in mind. I'm making a long list of questions to take the NS and then back to my Ortho when I go back to him. All of things shared with me have helped a LOT. I also just checked out a book titled Do You Really Need Back Surgery? and I'm hoping it will give some good advice.
  • Aquatic PT isn't swimming unless you want to take part. Also, the warm water has a relaxing effect on muscles. I had the same assumptions before I started, but it really is pretty good. It is VERY normal and expected for people to have more pain when beginning PT (Not just for the first time, but even starting up again after periods of time without it). But if you stick with it, it generally lessens. It is worth a try. A fusion isn't reversible. I really think you should get a second or third opinion, and if possible, start at the conservative side. Some surgeons will tell you that you need a surgery, skipping straight to the big ones, JUST so they can make money. If it is one level and a herniation, there very well could be a possibility for an attempt at a Microdiscectomy first. I would honestly try that before I went straight to fusion, if there was any chance I had that option.

    Making a list is a good idea. I also made a list of things I want to talk to my NS about when I go on Monday. I made the appointment specifically before that. Last appointment was when we decided to do the surgery, checked out my most recent MRI and flexion x-rays, so my mind went a little blank. Haha. But I find myself adding more and more to the list randomly... Sometimes multiple times a day. I think it's the best way to keep your thoughts organized.
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