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popping above my 3 level fusion during PT

lynnsyllynnsy Posts: 197
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Exercise and Rehab
I was just wondering if this is normal, or if other people experience it? I had a three level fusion (plif, L-3,4,5) last February. I have quit going to PT and do all my excersises on my own everyday. (So I can't ask my physical therapist)

While I lay on the floor doing my core excersises, or standing doing leg excersises, riding my stationary bike, (actually any of my excersises) I hear this popping noise in my vertebrea right above my fusion area. You know how it sounds when a bone slightly pops out of position momentairly? It doesn't hurt when it pops, I just hear it with each movement I make, but only when excersising. Wondering if with the continuous motion (with excersise) will it cause damage in time? Is it the vertebrea right above my rods? That's where it sound like it coming from.

Does anybody else experience this, and is it ok? Like I said, it doesn't hurt, I'm just concerned that I may be damaging a vertebrea with repetitive motion?


  • I also have this same thing happen. It seems to start in my groin joints or something and then go into the fusion area or right above. I also notice this while I am doing my core exercises that I learned in PT. I was just going to post something about this today. I've also noticed this when I walk. I started happening shortly after my fusion L5/S1. I have no idea what this is and I asked the ortho and he acted like he didn't know what I was talking about and said it could be ligaments? I then asked on here awhile ago and was surprised at the response of others who have the same things.
  • Is this normal, and is it ok? It seems to be like a vertebrea rubbing onto the next or something? Seems like with the "repetitive" motion of excersise would sooner or later hurt that area. Kinda like "carpal tunnel?"

    Where were you reading other posts about it?

    Maybe I'll call my Neurosurgeon's office, and ask if it's normal? If they can answer it without me having to make an appointment to drive to downtown and an hour away, paying a 40 dollar co-pay, and them just telling me it's normal. Or even worse, "we need to do an MRI, and it's NOT good! I REALLY don't want to hear that. NO WAY!!!!!
  • I will search and see if I can find those old posts and send them to you if I can figure out how. If you call doc and get an answer let me know what they say. I have an appt with my primary today but he wouldn't know. I am thinking of switching because I have to tell him about certain things because it seems I know more about certain subjects than him.

    Keep me updated on what you find out and I'll do the same for you.
  • Type in crunching noises in the Spine-Health search and there are a couple of threads. I think the most helpful was "how do you know you have a failed fusion" under the neck and back surgery.

    Hope this info helps.
  • I just went over there and read tons of info. I really don't think I have failed fusion, or I would be in mega pain, and for some time, now since I'm 11 months post-op. Sounds as if you have failed fusion, you know it pretty early in the recovery process.

    It sounds like what I'm experiencing is pretty normal. I liked the one that said something about air-pockets. I suppose the noise just comes from not using it all the time, EXCEPT when I'm doing my PT. I do everything in my power to absolutely take real good care of my fusion area. I get my husband to vacumme, scrub shower walls, take laundry up and down stairs, scrub the glass top stove-top, you name it. When I bend over to pick something up, I put my left leg straight out in back of me. I absolutely DO NOT pick up anything over 20#. That's hard cause my baby boy kitty always wants me to pick him up in the mornings. I always have to tell him, "wait till mama takes her pain pill", hope he understands. But I'm overly cautious after going through THAT surgery. I don't EVER want to go through this again!!! I'm too old... ganna be 53 next wednesday.

    Anyway thanks for responding, and telling me where to research it!!! And thanks once again Spine-Health.com!!!

    In the meantime I am waiting for an e-mail reply from my NS and my PT regarding it. (Yes, I can e-mail my docs, cool hu?)
  • Lynnsy,

    Isn't so sad for our fur babies? They just don't understand. My two cornish rex cats were not happy the first couple weeks post surgery!

    Although I've found other ways to give them affection. I'm 7 weeks out now from my L3-L4 fusion. I have the cats jump up on the ironing board, wash/dryer or even the kitchen counter. Once they're higher up I can pick them up and hold them and cuddle. My one guy is just fine, he knows something is different but he's every accepting and adapting to the changes.

    My other guy is deeply hurt. He loved being chased throughout the house and then "capture" and tortured with kisses. It so sad, his little face looks at me like "don't you love me anymore?" Hopefully we can create new games or maybe one day I'll be able to play the old games again. He does love playing with the grabber (or the groper as I call it) but that's just not the same.

    So sad for our babies.

  • It was good to hear that I'm not the only one feeling terribly guilty about "my baby boy". He is definately a gift from heaven.

    We adopted him as an abandoned kitten from our local shelter, too young about 5 weeks old. We had an older kitty that we had to put down due to health issues, so my hubby got me this little guy just before my surgery last February. So "Mr. Thomas" has been through the mill with me. I don't really know what I would have done without him during my recovery. This itty-bitty tiny kitten was laying close by my side every time I woke up crying and in pain from my 3 level fusion. He's such a loving little "man".

    Had I not had him cuddling with me every moment of everyday,.. My husband took two weeks vacation from work to help me, and be with me,... but little "Tommy" was a constant. It's almost like he knew we saved his life, and still does.

    I've taught him to get up on my legs while I'm standing, to reach up as high as he can, so I can pick him up. I call him like a dog, not a cat. Even through the pain, I just have to cuddle with him.

    I think he had a lot to do with my healing process. (still does) cause he makes me laugh. Laughing and smiling was real important during such a horrible time.

    I just know he has played a huge part in my healing. He is now 1 year old. But then again, he thinks he's "The Prince" cause of all the love.
  • Sorry if a double post, just lost one. I had lots of popping and cracking, especially as my back pain got worse. I heard everything from "air pockets" to loose hardware since there was no fusion action going on.

    What I know is that it got worse, other people could hear the noise, and it began to get uncomfortable. I swear it felt like my vertebrae were sublexing over each other. I know that sounds crazy but that's the best I can describe it.

    When that side hardware came out, the rod had several deep scratches in it which made me think it was moving all over the place.

    Please post whatever you find on this subject.
  • Lynnsy,

    How wonderful that in the midst of such pain you could find joy in a little ball of fur! And how wonderful that you saved Mr. Thomas from the shelter. No doubt had you not taken him in that he would have been euthanized.

    I can also relate to putting a beloved pet down. Five years ago I had to put down my wonderful Mr. Tigger. He used to be just Tigger but when he turned 10, I figured he deserved a title and started calling him Mr. Tigger. He was my soul pet. He saw me through years of heartache. One night I was ready to off myself when I realized how much my death would hurt him. The last 3 years of his life he had kidney failure. I took him to the vet 3 times a week and they would inject water under his skin. It's then absorbed into the body and flushes the kidneys. We had just had a full lab panel done the week before and his numbers were great. He hated getting the treatments. He had enough and decided to stop eating. I had him put down the day before his 18th birthday. It was devastatingly hard to do but I knew he was ready. His bowls, his ashes in a urn and a photo book of his life are prominently in my china cabinet.

    Sorry this has gotten so far off topic of your popping noises. I'll be going to see my chiro this week. I'll ask him if he's ever heard of popping after a fusion.

    Take care of yourself and Mr. Thomas.

  • Not good, now I'm scared. Like I said, when it happens it doesn't hurt, but it's definately popping. Only with leg lifts with my left leg while laying on the floor.

    I've got to get in to her asap she said. She said it's a sign of "instability" of the vertebrea above my fusion. I'm sick to my stomach about this. We all know before we have this surgery that there is a chance of making the vertebrea above and below the fusion weak, but as good as I think I'm coming along, and feeling better everyday? I sure didn't need to hear that. So now I'm freaked out!!! I WILL NOT accept another surgery,.... NO WAY!!!! I'm going to call today and make an appointment with her. I'll keep you guys posted. Cross your fingers and say some prayers for me that NOTHING is wrong.
  • I saw my chiro/pt today and asked him about the popping sounds some of you guys were talking about. He is the chiro/pt for the local minor league baseball team here. He said he thinks its scar tissue on muscle that is breaking up as you're exercising. He said that's a good thing. Let's hope that's all it is.

    Best wishes,
  • I've got an appointment with my PT girl tomorrow. Cross your fingers. You know scar tissue would make sense too. I keep trying to talk myself out of being so paranoid that something major is wrong, cause it doesn't hurt when it pops. Just kinda concerned about the "continuous motion" with the excersises, that it may make it worse. I'll up-date tomorrow afternoon.
  • Everythings fine,....schweuuuuuu.... I told her I've been sick to my stomach thinking she was going to make me go get an MRI or x-ray, thinking there was something seriously wrong with my fusion!!! BUT, if I don't slow down, THERE WILL BE!!!!

    Turns out with my frustration of wanting to be well YESTERDAY, I'm pushing myself too hard on my excersises, and NOT doing them correctly. And she was absolutely right! I do!!! I kinda got yelled at, cause she said, "You've got a ways to go still, and if you keep pushing as hard as you do, you WILL end up back in surgery"!

    I am 11 months post, on Feb. 8th I'll be one year, YAY!!!I have been kinda "slacking" from my core strength excersises, and just doing the leg lifts, and doggie style leg lifts without doing core strengthening first.

    I lay down on the floor and just go for it, I'm suppose to only do 10 repetitions of each excersise, but I been pushing myself to do 20 with each one, thinking in my head, "do more you'll heal faster", NOT!!!

    So take this from me, DO ONLY WHAT YOUR THERAPIST TELLS YOU TO DO!!! No matter how frustrated you get, or push yourself even harder, thinking you'll heal faster. Spinal Fusion surgery doesn't work that way.

    So I've got to really concentrate on core strengthening more, even while laying in bed at night, just lay there doing core excersises. As she put it "Without strengthening those core muscles surrounding your fusion, your vertebrea are going to "POP".

    Today, I am sooooo sore from her, so that tells me I wasn't doing things right. I was "twisting" too much also with excersises. She said to "slow down, going fast will not make you miraculously better overnight". aaarrrggggghhhhh!!! I get soooo frustrated, 11 months is a LONG time, but I still have a long ways to go.
  • Did she say how you can know if you've damaged the work that was done?

    Well, sounds like you're on the right track now.

    Next time I see my neuro is 1/30. I think I'll be starting water exercises then. Don't know how much it'll help considering my L5-S1 is almost as bad as the L3-L4 but we'll see.

    We gotta try.

  • she said that if I don't start at first with my excersise routine with "core excersises" that YES, I could definately hurt myself from repetitive motion, (with excersising) So I have to start with my core strengthening, then do my other excersises. Also she said it doesn't hurt to lay on a heating pad for about 1/2 hour before starting my routine, it softens up everything.

    And no, there shouldn't be any damage from it, cause I would'nt go to far and would stop, PLUS I'm too far along in my fusion, and that it's totally normal, (I'm 11 months post, almost 1 year) I was fusing at 23 weeks, I would hope I'm totally fused by now, (too scared to go and find out, she thinks I am)

    So ya, it was basically due to me overdoing it, working too hard, pushing myself to get well NOW, (after this length of time, I just want it to be gone) but it takes about 2 years to heal from what I had done. I must keep my repetitions to 10 each, I've been pushing them to 20 of each!!

    She also said that it's "normal at my stage, to start taking things for granted, and going to far cause you think in your mind that you should be healed by now", BUT we're not healed yet off of a three level.

    Like I said, it doesn't hurt when it pops, kinda like when you pop your knuckles.... It's just really hard for me to wait, 11 months has been forever already!!!
  • my 4 loving kitty's have been my only source of comfort for the past 7 months. that is when i was taken out of work for my back issues, now i am facing a triple fusion. I had to move into my sisters house but cried like a baby at the thought of not haveing them. thank god she let me keep all 4! they are my family & best friends. a lot of people wouldn't understand that, so i'm glad to hear someone does :)
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