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Retired Gymnast - 24 years old

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in New Member Introductions
I am so glad that I found this website - it is great to hear other's stories on their experiences with back pain and how they have treated it.

I am looking to find people in their 20's and 30's that have spondylolysis and/or spondylolisthesis, and would especially like to find someone that has these symptoms and numbness in one or both legs (but not pain). I would also love to find people that had a fusion either before or after having children and the experience they went through. I don't have any children yet, but want to have children in the next few years, but don't know how it will affect my decision of treatment for my back.

I am a former gymnast - competed in high school and went to state twice on the balance beam. I had back pain in high school, saw a chiropractor and it sort of helped with the pain. I saw a chiropractor in college in 2004 for a few months - the pain never really went away.

This past December I woke up with horrible back pain, it hurt so bad to turn over in bed, walk, drive, etc. I saw my general doctor - he prescribed sulindac and told me to take Tylenol for the pain. Tylenol didn't do anything for the pain, nor did the sulindac. Returned to general doctor to get a stronger pain medication - tramadol - this seems to help with some of the pain. I went through Physical Therapy for 3-4 weeks and as the pain returned to a tolerable level, I developed numbness in my right leg and it hasn't gone away since. Had x-rays and an MRI early this year - showed what is found in my signature line.

Met with a neurosurgeon - recommended a 360-degree fusion/pedicle screws/rod fixation with later mass fusion/harvest illiac crest bone/BMP (internal bone growth stimulator). Surgery was scheduled for January-received phone call in September saying that my doctor was going on medical leave for about four months...for her back! I was put on her waiting list, along with 30 other patients. Received a call three weeks ago - the staff isn't expecting my doctor to return in January; they don't know when to expect her back...I was advised by the staff that I could receive a free 2nd opinion by a neurosurgeon that was going to step in for my doctor while she was on medical leave. I met with her - it was horrible! She walked in and said that she wouldn't actually be doing the surgery - she has a team of neurosurgeons coming in and I would have to meet with one of them. Why would I want a second opinion from a consultant?!

I have a REAL second opinion coming up in December - I am hoping that this doctor is more conservative than my orginal doctor, who is considered aggressive with treatment.

I've done plenty of reading on symptoms and treatments - and risks involved. I am not under the impression that a fusion will rid my back pain. I am able to manage my back pain. What worries me is the numbness in my right leg - I worry about permanent nerve damage.


  • Hello there Tanya: So good to see another gymnast on here! I was in competitive gymnastics for 8 years or so, traveling all around the country--reached the elite level. It hasn't been without consequences, though. I have a lot of degenerative changes in my neck and back. Sorry about your back problems and welcome to Spine Health. I have leg issues as well, but I have weakness rather than numbness. I also get frequent tingling down the legs (non painful). I know that you have lumbar issues (mine problems are cervical). I was surprised to hear that your doc wanted to be so aggressive with you at such a young age. But, the danger of permanent nerve damage is real. I totally recommend getting a 2nd, and perhaps 3rd opinion about surgery if you can. In the meantime, research research research. The more we know, the more likely we are to ask the right questions and hopefully make the best decisions about our care. So, thank God you are getting another opinion on December! I hope your legs get better soon and especially your back. Let me know how things go, k?
  • Ouch - thanks for responding! I'm SO glad that a former gymnast contacted me - I was hoping there would be one or two on this website. Have you found a large decrease in flexibility at all? I used to be able to lay on my back and bring my foot up to my face - very flexible hamstrings. Since December, I have only been able to lift each leg straight up to the ceiling - 90 degrees.

    Also, what have you done for treatment?
  • i am sorry that u at such a young age and having all of these problems and pain. i hope u find a sucessful solution and hope its quickly. good luck and i will say a prayer for u.
  • :) hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. you might ask your doctor about a nerve pain medication. :-C they can be a big help. do all you can to avoid surgery. if there is no nerve damage, why would you have surgery anyway? :? you seem very active and said you have it under control with conservative measures. surgery is not always the solution. good luck and keep us informed of your progress! Jenny :)
  • Tanya,

    Having just had an L-5 Fusion, I would not only suggest multiple opinions (Wish I had) but also I would research some non-invasive or minimally invasive treatments first.

    Good luck!!
  • Thanks for your comments and concerns lulusheart. I also question whether I need surgery or not. I'm trying to get all the different viewpoints and do A LOT of research. Thank you for your suggestion on asking my doctor about nerve pain medication - do you think this will help with the numbness though? I am not having any pain going down my right leg - only numbness.

    My x-rays from May showed instability and increased subluxion (8mm) during the flexion x-rays. there is 5-6 mm of anterolisthesis during neutral views. There's about 5mm of anterolisthesis with extension. Due to my unstable Spondylolisthesis, this may be why my doctor recommended surgery, but she is also considered to be an aggressive doctor when it comes to treatment, and normally operates on people in their 40's - 80's! My back pain was worse when I saw her back in July - like I mentioned above, I am able to mostly control my back pain - I just worry about the nerves. I also worry about the arthritis that I think I have - I didn't have this when I met with my doctor back in July - so I will definitely be mentioning it to my 2nd opinion doctor.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments and for sharing your experiences!

  • I am so very sorry to hear of your pain issues especially at such a young age. I truly hope that the new doc will have a much better option for you. It is only my personal opinion but you are way too young to be having this type of surgery! If conservative methods are keeping the pain under control and you are not risking permanent nerve damage you really need to hold off on surgery as long as possible. Lots of docs would not even consider a fusion at your age. lots of times when certain levels are fused it puts more pressure on the discs above and requires more fusions. It is like a dominoe effect and there are no guarantees that it will rather than worsen your issues. Good luck in whatever you decide and please keep us posted.
  • Well I was google-ing gymnastics quotes and came across this website..

    I am a senior in high school and I am also a gymnast..
    I found out 3 days before my season that I have two possibly 3 herniated discs pressing on my spinal cord and that I have scoliosis. I am also missing a curve that comes out to the belly button just before my tail bone.

    Right now I am not able to practice and waiting for my appointment with an orthopedic. our school sports medicine doctor said I may need surgery but I am hoping that is not the case because i would really like to go to state my senior year...

    I do not have any pain physically anymore because I haven't done anything more than a handstand in 5 weeks now. Any success stories from herniated discs after gymnastics?

    Thank you -Min-
  • I was in gymnastics too, as I mentioned on the post. You are so so young and your youth is really in your favor. I was wondering if the OS you are going to is savvy with athletes such as yourself? Sometimes a OS or NS who really knows sports can be of more help, and more knowledgeable--perhaps even able to get you back out there doing gymnastics again full bore. So, if he isn't athletically inclined, I would recommend getting a 2nd opinion from a sports medicine OS. I know how important gymnastics was to me, as it must be to you. My gymnastics years were some of the most fun of my life. I hope and pray your condition won't prevent your competition and aspirations in gymnastics in the future. Please let me know how your appointment goes. If you can't go back, you are going to need some good support. Hopefully that won't be the case and you will be doing double fulls and double backs in a jiffy! Good luck sweety.
  • Hello! :H
    I am so glad you have found SH, I just found it my self 3 days ago. I am also a 24 year old ex-gymnast with back problems. I was diagnosed with spondylolistheis. I had a PLIF surgery on my L5/S1 with hard wear, decompression and correction to scolosis on Nov.18, just last week. We do have our age working in our favor. I am able to walk without my walker, although I know I shouldn't! But I know it was the best decision. I am married and just celebrated our 2 year anniversary and my husband and I are so ready to expand our family but this had to be taken care of first so I can be the mom I want to be...an active one! If you have any other questions feel free to PM me! I hope you feel better soon I undestand how frusterating it is to be such an active person all your life then all of a sudden you feel stuck! >:D<
  • Thank you for the comments, Its comforting to know there are others that understand. Michelle I wish you fast recovery and congratulations on your anniversary. :) And Laura thank you for your support! I went through this website the entire day when I found it. I'm hoping they're really considering physical therapy instead of surgery because my trainer told me it would make my back really stiff and not flexible.

    Anyway, thank you for your support. I'm keeping my fingers crossed until next week.

  • Good luck at your appointment Minnie! We all hope for the best for you! I'm glad that you found this website - it's comforting to hear from and talk to other people that have the same symptoms or had the same treatment that your own doctor is proposing.

    I hope that you are able to continue on with your senior year of high school gymnastics!

    Keep us posted!

  • Michelle - I sent you a PM too - it's crazy - I think I've found my twin!

    My doctor planned on a multi-level decompression laminectomy, PLIF L5-S1 pedicle screws/rod fixation with later mass fusion/harvest illiac crest bone/BMP (internal bone growth stimulator) - I just don't have the scoliosis. Again, I have a second opinion December 3rd - hopefully with a more conservative surgeon!

    How's the pain post-op? What do you do during the day while you are recovering?
  • Well yesterday I had my second opinion - please see the beginning of this thread for my history. My first doctor said that I had to have surgery right now. Yesterday the second opinion doctor said that I DON'T have to have surgery right now.

    My biggest concerns of course are the numbness in my leg (whether that would lead to permanent nerve damage) and having children with or without surgery first. The second opinion doctor answered the questions for me, which will help me make my decision. He said that since I only have numbness in my right leg when I am sitting (I don't have numbness when standing or walking) that he is not concerned at this point. He said that numbness will not lead to permanent nerve damage - he said that if it turns into leg pain or I have foot drop, then I need to address that with either injections or surgery at that point if necessary. He also said that by having children without surgery, he does not believe that my spinal structure will get worse due to bearing children. Yes, I will probably have back pain and possible leg pain/increased numbness while carrying a child, but he does not believe that my spinal problems will get worse because of carrying a child. He said the conversation would be different if I was 55 years old...but I am only turning 25 this month!

    I had x-rays taken in 2004 by a chiropractor that I saw while in college - there is no change in the spinal structure problems from 2004 to February 2008. Something obviously happen this past December to set off the horrible back pain that I had...not sure what it was though...

    At this point I need to review all the information that I have and talk with my husband, who just happens to be out of town until the 12th of this month...so I have some time to think things over. I am heavily leaning on NOT having surgery right now. The second opinion doctor advised that surgery will most likely happen in my lifetime, but that I don't need it right now if I am able to manage the back pain and the fact that I only have numbness when sitting. I always think about medical advancements and how surgical procedures become less risky as time goes by (or they should...). I have given up a lot of activities to avoid back pain too...

    It is hard to hear from one doctor that I need surgery and another that I don't. My original doctor, it appears, wanted to do surgery because of what showed up on my x-ray and MRI images. The second opinion doctor, it appears, doesn't want to do surgery because of my symptoms. I like the second opinion doctor's approach of treatment :)
  • I did my last back hand spring last fall just to show the cheerleaders that I was coaching that I could still do it. I'm 42 and I too competed. If you haven't yet found 2 doctors who agree find a 3rd. If your pain is manageable then you have some time to do more homework.
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