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Anyone Told to Lose Weight Before Anterior Fusion?

caitycccaityc Posts: 268
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Last November I was diagnosed with a massive (11mm) herniation at L5 S1. I was told at that time I needed a fusion. However, I was overweight. I was going to rush getting the 70+ pounds off. However, because of what the herniation was doing to the nerve, they decided to do a diskectomy. I was told I might not need the fusion after all, only time will tell. I had the surgery in January, felt better, and by April a lot of the old pain was back. He took an x-ray and told me the disk was 100% collapsed and surgery was a definite. By this time I had only lost 20 of the 75 pounds I needed to lose.
Basically, I am still only down 20 pounds, and my back is getting worse everyday. I just finished having a massive crying session. :''( "Poor me", the whole bit. Only you all know what it's like not being able to live a normal life. Watching how you get out of a chair, pain after putting 3 dishes in the dishwasher, not being able to trick or treat with your kids...... I am so tired of feeling like crap, and hurting all the time! You would think that this would be enough motivation to kick myself in the a** and lose the damn weight, huh? :?? Geesh! It's a viscous cycle. I eat cause I can't move, and I can't move cause I eat. BTW, I have tried every exercise out there, and it all caused pain.
So, if anyone of you have experienced my struggle, please let me know. ~X( Also, if any of you were overweight and had the surgery, I'd be interested to know. Not that it's going to change my docs mind, but I'm just curious. :)




  • Caity,

    A few days prior to my surgery I had the physical the hospital puts you through before you are operated on. I weighed 291 pounds. I am 6'2" but any way you slice it I was way overweight. I had been telling my surgeon I weighed 260. I wasn't knowingly lying, I just never got on a scale.The morning of my surgery, my surgeon said he wasn't happy about my weight and stressed to me how much stress being that much overweight put on my spine. Anyway, the surgery happened, I stayed inactive for 13 months and stayed overweight. Today, I weigh 230 (scale weight). I've lost 61 pounds all through walking. You can do it too, a little at a time.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • I really appreciate your answer. I know one day I will get there, but it really isn't easy.

    Congratulations on your weight loss! That is great!
  • I have not even talked to my surgeon about weight loss yet. I need to go in and have my pre-op visit sometime soon. At this moment I am still waiting to find out when that will be. *sigh*

    But, I do know what it feels like to need to lose the weight. I am currently at 218. I am 5'10" (I used to be taller but the back problems have shrunken me). I would love to lose a good 40lbs to be at my heathly weight.

    I have lost 80lbs before on my own with no medications or "diet", I just decided that it needed to be done. I know that it is possible for me and for you. I also know that just like anything else, when we are truly ready for the change, it will happen.

    One Love,

  • Hi Caity, I lost 40 pounds prior to my PLIF(over 5 months). For me pain and pending surgery was a great motivator. I could not walk for exercise due to pain and limping. I joined the YMCA to use the therapy pool. The water really is the gentlist exercise out there. I did water walking, stretches, squats, leg lifts, bicycle on a noodle, etc. I even started feeling so much better I was able to swim and do water aerobics. Of course I watched my diet, trying to stick to around 1400 cal/day.

    By the time surgery came around I felt so much better from the pool therapy I almost changed my mind, but I had unstable pars fractures that had to be delt with, so went ahead with it. Now I am back at it with the pool and PT and have lost 8 more pounds. It is kinda funny cause my surgeon prefers to do ALIF, but said I would have to have PLIF, and I wondered if it were due to my weight (less fat on the back :))( ). But apparently it was more to do with the instability and needing to remove my loose lamina and spinous process that was wiggling all over the place.

    Have you tried something with a support group such as weight watchers? I have had success with it in the past and still use their point system. There is also a weight loss forum on here that you can join. I keep telling myself that the health of my spine is directly related to my weight and I have to keep it off for this surgery to be successful. I am still trying to loose about 35 more pounds. It also helps to read my history and physical where my NS described me as an "obese white female", and that was after 40 lbs off :(

    So keep trying, it is possible. Give yourself credit for the twenty pounds, that is great! Check into finding a warm pool. It doesn't feel like exercise, but it really does burn some calories. Good-luck >:D<
  • I'm about 40-50 lbs. overweight, but my surgeon didn't even mention it. I had the TLIF and am doing great! I know I need to lose the weight, but, like you, I couldn't do it before surgery because it hurt too bad to exercise. I can't do it now because of the surgery, except the walking. As soon as I am able (now have a Plantar Wart on my foot that makes even walking difficult), I will lose it. Before surgery (like a year before), I had a neuroma on my foot that made it impossible to walk. Finally had the surgery for that. Now, if I could just push away from the table, I should be able to lose it. I know that the older you get, the harder it is to lose the weight.

    Having the extra weight on does make a difference in recovery---it is very difficult to get out of a chair, roll over in the bed, roll out of the bed, etc., after the surgery. All in all though, I would say I did pretty good. And I'm 64-3/4, so you should be fine.

    You can do it! I know that once you put your mind to it, you will be able to! Just think of all the things you will miss out on when your back is better.
  • I had a bilateral laminectomy on 6/10/2008 L1-S1 due to spondy, stenosis, bone spurs, arthritis. While my Dr was in there he also found that I had a fractured L5 vertebrae. I am 47 (almost 48) 5" 10" and weigh 354 pounds and the Dr will not operate on the fractured vertebrae until I loose 165 lbs. It is hard to walk or exercise which is exactly what I need to do in order to loose that much weight. Because the task of loosing weight is so great I eat because of depression. Like you said it is a vicious circle. My Dr wrote a letter to my insurance company with the hope they will approve a gastric bypass however they have rejected this type of requests because it is "cosmetic" surgery. :))( These insurance companies are a riot!

    One thing I have found that comforts me is prayer and doing the best I can. Although the world seems crashing I know that God does love me. He loves you too and one day the both of us will be able to loose the weight and have the corrective surgery we need for our backs.

    May God Bless you!
  • am overweight and tried really hard to loose some before I had surgery. I was going to the gym 5 days a week (mainly walking on the treadmill and doing exercises) and lost about 6kg in 5 months which was pretty depressing but I was a lot fitter so that was a bonus.
    My Dr did a PLIF which I assume was because of my weight. The Dr said that with "women like you" he would do PLIF so I think he was just being diplomatic. (gotta love him)
    Aqua fitness is really the best thing you can do for yourself as it is gentle. Do what you can and be gentle on yourself, you are not alone.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • I lost 92 lbs 11 YEARS ago (the old fashioned way...hard work!!! Diet and exercise).....BEFORE I had back problems! Crazy that I have had more health issues SINCE losing the weight and keeping it off. So..I was normal weight when I had my surgery 12 weeks ago...but my cousin is around 400 lbs and around 5'9! He had the less invasive lumbar fusion. I could not belive that they did the surgery with him being so over wieght. I guess it depends on the doc.
  • I am also overweight, but none of the 3 surgeons I saw even mentioned it. One of them did recommend an ALIF. I know what you mean about it being hard to loose weight. I am working full time. By the time I have my hour commute home, try to help my hubby with dinner (which I pretty much can't do anymore), and spend some time with my DD I am absolutely exhausted. It is really hard.
  • I wasn't told to lose weight, but I lost 35 lbs before my surgery, unintentionally. I was a bit on the meaty side, I suppose you could say, but nothing enough to cause an issue. Now I'm healthy and pretty normal looking, and my pain level hadn't changed until after my fusion. I had Anterior/posterior, and it worked wonders.
  • Also, the way I lost all the weight was I just wasn't eating from boredom anymore. I still ate junk, Lol. In fact, I was eating candy every day, going out to eat whenever, etc.. But I would just eat small things throughout the day. Also, taking Percocet with food reduces the effectivity of it, so that's enough to keep me from grazing all day. Lol. I eat between doses of meds. I eat plenty, but somehow the weight just melted off.
  • It's so nice to know that I am not alone! It really is! I love this message board. =D> I am just taking it one day at a time. I know it will all work out eventually.

    Thank you all again for responding. I really appreciate it!

    Caity :)
  • My weight was what determined the fact that I had the PLIF verses the ALIF. He said It was because the front was just to thick,lol. Yes, he would have liked me to lose weight before hand no matter which way we went, but when any movement caused worse pain you arent left with many options. He said he wouldnt consider ALIF unless I could get to 180 pounds.

    Good lUck,

  • Thanks for your reply! My next question to you is, :) , what has your recovery been like? I am slightly tempted to just have him do it PLIF to get it over with, but he is really pushing losing the weight and going through the front. He just believes all around it's a better way to go with me. To be honest though, even when I do lose the weight, I'm not so sure I want them to go through the front. It just seems so risky. :SS :?


  • Hi Caity:

    I was not overweight when I had my TLIF 13 months ago (I lost about 145 pounds with gastric bypass 10 years ago). I have actually lost weight.

    I think Cali Sue made a good point as far as exercise. Exercising in the pool is good, less stress and pain on the body. Most everyone can do it. One thing that helps me maintain my weight is eating small portions more often.

    When I was recovering from my surgery my husband was a great help. He made the comment that it would be hard if he was helping a "heavy" person...something to think about.

    I hope you can figure out what will work for you.

  • Yes, I do need to lose weight but I am having a 360 degree fusion next Monday. Even though I an having an ALIF/PLIF I have belly fat and titanium staples from a previous surgery the surgeon said I should lose some weight. I am active, walking at least a mile with my 4 dogs. I also exercise but not working keeps me in front of ther TV too much and that means snacking. I am also home to make dinner every night for us and I will have to learn to eat less since my metabolism is slower. Try to exercise as much as you can and go from there. Be positive and you will be well in no time and able to focus on weight loss and not the constant pain.
  • Thanks! You must not have as much weight to lose as I do, so that's good! My doc is a stickler. Which is great with me!

    I really appreciate everyone getting back to me. I did some laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and helped my daughter clean her room (which all 3 things took me all day to do, at a nice slow pace) and now I am ready to take my meds. :( :''( All part of the fun I guess. :)

    Thanks again!

  • I am also a smoker, which makes it difficult because I have to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.
    I've decided that I am just going to quit smoking and have him do a posterior fusion instead. It is certainly my fault that I am overweight and I smoke, but it is just too much to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time. =(( And everyday my back is getting worse. The clock is ticking.... :S
    Also, with friends I have that have had back surgery, and with the input I have received on this board, it seems that really either approach (front or back) could go either way. All I know is I am done living this way.
    Thanks again everyone for all of your feedback. I really appreciate it! :)

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