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Lumbar Spinal Fusion--please share your experiences

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello! This is my first post here. I am a 32 year old woman who has suffered from severe right hip and leg pain for the past 5 years. I also suffer from Rheumatoid Arhtrits as well which makes none of this easier. In Feb 2009 I found out that I needed to get fusion at L4-L5. The surgeon removed the bad disc and placed titanium screws and plates in my back. He did what he called a 360 degree fusion. I did not have bone taken from my hip. He used a growth hormone in my back as well. It has now been 3 1/2 months from the surgery. I am just wondering how others have done from this surgery. I have started walking 2 miles daily--well, at least 5 days a week. I began this about 3 weeks ago. Before that I did not feel capable of doing much. I still have the nerve pain in my leg but it is different than before. I have a lot of tingly pain in the bottoms of my feet which was not present at all before. I still have a great deal of lower back pain. It is like a pressure or ache in my back. Especially after being up doing housework for awhile. The walking doesn't hurt like housework does. I also have one other problem/worry. I was a smoker before the surgery and quit at the time of my surgery. I went 6 weeks without smoking. Then I started to smoke 2-3 a day and now I am back to about 8-10 a day. I know the risks associated with this and trust me I put plenty of pressure and stress on myself from it so, please try to refrain from the lectures. I am very disappointed with myself about this and know it can cause my fusion to fail. The stress of the surgery and not being able to do much make it really hard to quit. I am looking for others who have been through this procedure and can share their experiences and recovery.
thanks in advance for taking time to read my story and for any stories you may share with me.


  • There are many of us on here that have had fusions. If you are interested you can go back and read through some of the older posts about various people's experiences.

    I will refrain from the smoking lecture, but would like to remind you that you can still quit. Just because you have reverted to your former smoking self does not mean that you cannot make another attempt to stop. It really is VERY important. I know you do not want to have to go through a revision surgery because you have not fused...so do what you can to give your body the best shot at fusion. @)

    Ok, now on to my post.

    First, you probably should not be doing housework yet. As you stated, walking is OK but the housework activity causes pain. Back off a little bit, and see if that doesn't help with the pain. I can't think of a single "housework activity" that you can do without bending, and you should not be bending at this point. Sweeping or pushing a vacuum are very bad for your vertebrae which are trying to fuse together. Pushing in general, should be avoided. Also, reaching is bad. You need to move your body to the activity rather than reaching.

    When you have a fusion, you need to recognize that it is a BIG surgery and it will take a long time to fully recover...sometimes as long as 12 to 18 months. It is important to learn correct body mechanics and to practice good posture at all times. These things will cut down on the possibility of needing further procedures down the line.

    For now, walking is the best exercise for you...and, housework doesn't count!

    Keep in mind that most of the people that were on the board have recovered from their surgeries and have moved on. They are usually too busy with their active lives to keep posting...onward and upward. I feel some responsibility to share what I have learned through my experiences, as others were so kind to me when I was told I needed fusion and was terrified. So I remain on the board.

    The important thing to remember about any surgery with the spine is that it will not return you to the way you were prior to the onset of your pain or injury. Some people get close, but no one is perfectly made whole again. Some people are unhappy with their surgical results due to having unrealistic expectations. And there is a small group whose surgeries, for a variety of reasons, have not turned out as planned.

    Please post with your comments and questions as you go through the recovery process. Try to be patient and listen to your body. Recovery is not a race.

    xx Gwennie
  • Thank you for the response. I know how bad smoking is I live with the decision to restart everyday and hate myself for it. I am not doing the kind of housework that requires bending. I am only doing very light stuff like countertops and dusting and such. I only ask about others to find out where they are at this point. I don't reallyknow what I should or should not be able to do right now. Some on here are working and back to active lives after 3 months and I feel I am not doing enough activity. I do walk 2 miles at least 5 days a week and chase after my 2 year old daily but other than that don't do much. I am not working and feel like most of my days are spent lying around on the computer. I don't want to hinder my recovery any more than I already have by smoking and want to know if my activity level is more/less/same as others at my phase of healing.
    I know this is a long recovery and I am sure I have a long way to go before this nightmare ends.
    I really do appreciate your response and advice and the advice of any others that may respond. I also wish the best to anyone else going through this.
  • I am only 3 days post op from my L5/S1 fusion and still in a lot of pain. I am doing short walks and trying to live with the pain. I wanted to comment on your smoking - I am not going to lecture because I have my own "habit" that I need to quit to make my fusion successful - I have to lose 50 pounds! I need sugar and carbs the way you need to have a cigarette. Quitting is very very hard - so many people say, "just do it" - if only it was that easy. I am going to have find a way to avoid eating all my favorite foods, exercise more (hopefully once I get far enough along in my recovery) and lost those 50 pounds! If I don't, then there is a good chance I will be back in surgery for a fusion at another level. So, I wanted you to know that I understand. Somehow, hopefully, we can both find the strength not to give in to our weaknesses and have the success we need for a healthy spinal result.
  • i just wanted to say thank you for your response. I haven't gotten many as you can see. I tend to get frowned upon by so many when they read the part about smoking. Many people think that I just have no idea what I am doing becuase if I knew I wouldn't do it. unfortunately an addiction is not that easy to quit as you know. I struggle daily with my smoking and there are many days that it wins. but, I have cut back dramatically and can only hope it is enough. We will get through this together by being supportive of each other. I do know how you feel and hate that you are going through an addiction problem too. please feel free to talk to me anytime on here or private message me. Good luck and I knwo that you can get through this.
  • Hello, I am a 30+yrs a pack a day Marlboro light ex-smoker.

    In 2004 diagnose resolved that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (pick up a trash bag and have inflammation figure or joint the next day and fever the following day) so I Doctor order Hydroxychloroqn 2 tabs/200mg each and Sulfazine EC 4tabs/500mg each and have blood check every 3 months.

    Meantime of my 30+yrs of smoking, I have tried everything to quick but in the end I failed and was very disappointed with myself. Until in 2005 or 06 the cost of a pack went up to $4, this is when I realized that I’ll be burning more money instead spending it on a vacation or something with my family. So I looked at my last carton and said to myself ‘This is it, cold turkey or not here I come after this carton’.

    The first week was hell…..and I mean hell, I wife and kids saw how I react to everyone and I was shaking like I was having a fever when I was sleeping….The all supported me and I finally smoke free, I have not or touch a cigarette since.

    Last April 08, I had a motorcycle accident and had T10-12, L1-3 fused. After the accident I did not takes any of the RA medications but only took after surgery medications, when all the medications were gone and I did not feel the needs of taking any of the RA medications again so I start looking for others solution for my inflammation joints…..turns out Fish oil are my solution, I took 2 tablets a day and did not have any issues with my joints and it has been over a yr now, best part is I no longer have to deal with blood test to see if my liver and kidney ok or not.

    I am now back to full swing, riding motorcycle, swimming, 3 miles power walk with my wife every evening.

    I know what you are going through, but I hope you would take one day at a time to kick the bad habit. In the end you will win.

    I forgot to mention that part of our yearly 3 week vacation funds coming from the non-smoking cigarettes jar.
  • It`s so said to know you are experiencing this symptoms especially when I know that a few years ago I had been forced to search forsteroids for sale in order to fix my illness. I had experienced as well hard pain on my foot due to a dead muscle. They were forced to remove my leg or otherwise to let me live with life pain. I chose the second option and now in order to hold up I gotta take Vicodin. I`m kind of addicted to it now.
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