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New here! I'm having a lumbar fusion in May...what should I expect?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey everyone! WARNING: NOVEL AHEAD!!!! LOL
I'm 38 and have had back and neck issues for years...just popped advil and took it in stride. On the July 4th last year, we were at the beach and I hopped out of bed to take a 2 mile walk with my friend early in the am. and I totally wrenced my back. That wasn't really unusal because it happened about once a month either my neck or back. Took some pills and walked the two miles. I had a lot of pain that week but the advil and the pomagranite martinis were flowing so I just let it go. About a week later, I woke up and my foot was numb. I ignored it thinking it would go away. ( I have asthma and a slew of other health issues so I just tend to take it all in stride) At the end of the day the numbness had creeped up and over my leg to my thigh and again I didn't really think much of it. Then in a day or so my foot started to not really work well, eventually leading to tripping a lot and I realized I couldn't lift it off the floor using my ankle. I thought I'd try a chiropractor (I had never been to one) I explained my numbness and lack of strength in my leg and foot and my back pain and neck pain. She worked on me and sent me for an xray. Every visit (3 at that point) I mentioned my foot. By the fourth visit it was REALLY not working at all and I worked as a server 2 nights a week (because I like it...crazy huh? good fun money and got me out of the house). I asked her to really work on getting that leg working...she finally GOT IT, and asked me to walk and then sent me for an emergency MRI. The next day she told me I needed to see a Neurosurgeon because a large part of my disc had come out and slipped down my spinal canal and was pushing on my column. She forbade me from working and I went home researching area neurosurgeons. I called and made an appointment (remember this was mid July) the appointment wasn't till November. I explained my problem and they asked to me to send the MRI report. Within an hour they called me back and had me come in the next day. Then they did the discectomy the next day! Since then I've had a cervical fusion and 2 esi's, 1 spontaneous spinal headache, 7 MRI's and 2 x-rays and a discogram last week and I am on a bunch of meds. I have to have a lumbar laminectomy, discectomy and fusion on L3-4 but I've postponed it till May because my 3 children have birthdays in the spring and I don't want to ruin that. I'm a little worried about after care. I have a high pain tolerance but I am worried about that too. How long after the fusion can you do basic stuff like take your kids to the pool, make dinner drive to the store etc.

thanks for listening to my vent and reading my novelette! LOL



  • sorry for the spelling mistakes...it's the meds typing!
  • Your post reads like a classic do everything for everyone, except yourself! With a fusion you are probably going to need a little help! It's hard to let go the reigns, but you should probably work on finding someone else to hold them for a while :))) Trying to do to much too soon leads to nonfusion! You don't want it all for nothing.
    As for recovery, well everyone seems to have a little different story, so I'll leave that to those who have been there! I pray you have an easy road to wellness!
  • You can search through older posts to find tons of info on fusion. I think 3/4 of the posters have had fusion.

    The question is not how soon CAN you do things, but how soon SHOULD you be doing them. It is possible to push yourself and be up and about in a number of weeks. But, in reality, you need to be very vigilant for the first three months. Then six months is a big marker. You can feel a bit more confidant, but it usually takes a year for the fusion to be solid.

    If you carefully organize your kitchen, you should be able to cook on a regular basis after about 3 weeks. Are the kids old enough to help you with lifting things, retrieving things, etc?

    The important thing to remember is that this is a BIG surgery and you want to give your body every opportunity to heal well. You don't want to do anything that will put that recovery in jeopardy. So while you COULD get in the car and spend all day driving your kids to activities, would that be the smart thing to do? Probably not. Perhaps you could hire a "mother's helper" to take the burden off you for the first 3 months.

    Healing is a very individual thing, and each of us gets through the surgery in a different way. You will find that some activities that you take for granted now may be difficult after fusion. Any activity that requires a lot of sitting in questionable chairs is one. (I'm thinking pool or kids' soccer games, etc.) Once you have a fusion, you will always need to be mindful of body mechanics and posture. That being said, I think you will be much better off than you are now!! Just don't try to return to being Superwoman too fast!
  • I am eight weeks out of a 2 level fusion, L-4.L-5 S-1. And discectomey. I can tell you that you need to think of you first. Think of getting better for your children. I have a 7 month grandbaby and cant hold her unless someone puts her on my lap. Make sure that putting off the surgery wont affect your outcome. You want to get the best results. The first week you need someone 24/7. Second week, someone to help with meals and showering, personal care. Week three, someone to help with errands and if you have things set up in kitchen, so you dont have to bend, and keep it simple you might be able to cook. How old are kids? Your doctor can give you better time lines to stuff, but I did not drive only locally until just the last week. It is a major surgery, and you need plenty of rest. As far as pain, it depends on what you are taking now. I was on fentyl patches, and oxycodone for break thru before surgery. I couldnt go down on my meds before surgery so it took alot for pain control post op. Dilodid, fentyl patch and oxycodne and valluim for muscle spasms. But that too also depends on the person and what they are taking pre op. I wish you well. Please think of yourself first. You want to have the best results in the end for the years ahead with your children. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. I also think that age makes a difference. I am 48 so I assume you are younger and your reocvery could be better, not that I am that old, some days I just feel like I am.
  • Gwennie, Iowarobin and Wrambler are so right! You really have to think of recovery as your full-time job for the first few months. It doesn't mean you can't do anything but it does mean you really have be very careful and thoughtful about what you do. For example, you can run errands - but instead of going out accomplishing 4 or 5 things you do one and go home and rest. Or, you can cook dinner IF everything you need is at a level where you don't have to bend or reach over your head to get it.(That was a hard one for me as it seemed that everything I needed in the refrigerator was always on a lower shelf.) And remember that a gallon of milk will be all you can lift for the first 3 months. You can get clothes out of the washer and into the dryer using a grabber - slow but it works.

    As for driving - that depends on what pain meds you might be taking and how long you can sit. Sitting seems to be the hardest part of recovery for many fusion patients. Some surgeons restrict sitting to 15 - 30 minutes at a time the first few weeks. And even after that, sitting for very long without kicking up all kinds of aches and pains is hard.

    You will not want to take the chance of somehow jeopardizing your recovery so it might be best to plan for your husband and children (if they are old enough) to take over the household chores for awhile, work out something so your children can ride with others to the pool, etc. and just give yourself time to heal. It will pay off for all of you in the long run.

    Good luck with your surgery!
  • Thanks everyone! I can tell I'm in the right place! I'll definately be reading old threads for sure! :-)
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