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Surgery? Too Fat!?? I'm worried.......

laughnsmilellaughnsmile Posts: 60
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,

After 10 months, I am accepting I need surgery. Have severe
hip, back, and leg pain. Unable to work a full day. After 5 hours of work, I am just lying on the couch.

I have neural foramina stenosis. No opening on MRI at L5 where nerve root exists. The disc above L5 vertebrate is
vertical instead of horizontal. The sacrum and tailbone
are very curved. Two discs are herniated and large bone
spur. All of this is impinging on nerves.

First orth. MD said rebuild from L4 down. He said there
would be about 5 small incisions and I could probably return to work in 3 weeks. X-rays with me bending forwards a and backwards showed "not moving as much as I expected".
I do not know if I was to have a fusion. Ortho. was ready
to schedule surgery.

I am seeing neurosurgeon for opinion. His comment
was that the surgery was "very, very risky". He would not
elaborate except to say "my weight". Then wanted to get
all my medical info. before we discussed surgery.

Yes,I am very overweight. 5'7 and 249lbs. I can not
believe that I have gained all this weight. It has been
from infertility treatment of 8 years, several knee dislocations, torn miscus, ligaments, etc. And for almost a year, no exercise due to back. I am on a very strict diet but not loosing. I am 53 yrs. old and due to pain,
I am not mobile. Can not stand up straight, lean to right
and just showering leaves me in excruciating pain.

Here's my question. Anyone else had lumbar surgery that is osignificantly overweight? Should I be worried? I am trying to loose weight prior to surgery but it will be very
slow and I can not stay in this amount of pain.

What should I do? This really has me worried.


  • Hang in there...I sent you a private message. I hope things get better and you are given some effective options.

  • My NS does worry about weight too. That said, what can you do to lose it if you can't move? You are in a catch-22. I can't imagine that your back can heal on it's own either.

    My cousin was overweight and had back surgery - his back surgery failed. He is only a few years older than me (under 50), was probably only in his 30's when he had his surgery but now he walks permanently bent over with 2 canes for support. It is very hard on your back. One of my nurses was overweight and also had to have a fusion surgery - he is doing fine so far.

    Have you asked your regular family dr. if there is anything they can recommend to lose it? Some MD diet or something? Anything you can lose now will surely help.

    I'm sure you are already working on isometric/kegel/stomach tightening exercises? For each lb your stomach can hold it takes lots of lbs of weight off your back. It's not weight loss, it's muscle strengthening - my PT's had me do these.

    There is hope... at least I found hope in my case. My surgery freed me from enough of my pain to start losing weight (40 lbs since last December - I know, slow, but steady!) I will say that exercise did help a bit but it was diet that finally tipped the scales in my favor - super sensible eating, 0 carbs, 0 fats, 0 sugars. First 15 lbs = excercise only / last 25 lbs so far just from diet. I was told to stop most of my exercising in July due to my ankle issues.

    Glad you have a doc that sounds like he is taking it into consideration and is willing to help you out.
  • Finally, I have been hunting for your post for an hour! I just saw an interesting study pertaining to back surgery and obesity that I wanted to bring to your attention. It was just published on Oct. 19th and is entitled "Study: MIS lateral spine fusion safe and effective for morbidly obese patients." You can read the article here:


    You might want to print out this study and show it to your surgeon and see what he thinks.

    Good luck to you. Most of us with immense sciatic or back pain find it difficult to be active enough to counteract some of the weight-gaining aspects of certain medicines and steroids...so we can all sympathize with your predicament.

  • Gwennie,

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This article is what I needed. The difference between the orth and neuro physicians makes sense. The orth was planning to make 4-5 very small incisions and the neuro, I think, was implying traditional spine surgery.


    No, I have not been told to strengthen abs by ortho,
    neuro, pt, chiropractic and pain management MD's.
    Seems like important information to give a patient.
    I would not have thought of it. My energy has been
    in the area of avoiding surgery. I'll start now to strengthen my AB's! Thanks
  • I am obese due to not being able to do almost nothing since my injury. I brought this same subject up to my Dr. and he said "ideally we would like you to at a healthy weight, for the surgery its self as well as the recovery time. However if your injury is why you can not exercise hence lose weight, then we would be wrong to say we will not do surgery. I feel your weight issue may prolong your recovery time and healing, but all in all I would still recommend you get the surgery".

    That is about word for word what he told me - regarding my weight and surgery.

    I am 5'2" and weigh about 240

    I am not having the surgery but for reasons of the out come is not very good and may worsen me....

    Best of Luck! :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • It is tough to lose weight when you can't move. Calories in calories out. Have you worked with a PT?

    I'm a certified Life Style and Weight Management consultant and the person who said the what you eat is more important than the exercise has a good point. I was taught that calories are what counts in the long run.

    You want to work with your doctor but maybe you could ask him if you can use a walker or a cane to get around? Maybe you could even rent a wheel chair and get some great arm exercise.

    I was exercising in my bed the day after my 3 level ACDF. It's really helped me recover. I did isometrics and used a squeeze ball for my arms to keep my strength.

    Muscle is active tissue so if you can build muscle in a way your doctor approves of that will be helpful.

    Even as fit and healthy as I am I too gained weight from not being able to move. I use to eat close to 3.000 calories a day due to my level of activity. Now I can only eat 1600 calories a day and I'm carrying a little more weight.

    Good luck to you. Being aware of the need to cut back is the first step. I hope all goes well for you.
  • Dear laughnsmile,
    I had my first fusion 3 1/2 yrs ago,L4-5, at your weight. It went ok. 1 1/2 yrs later I went on Weight Watchers and lost 65 lbs in 7 months, with no exercise.
    It was pretty easy on the flex plan. If I can do it, anybody can.
    The only problem is I didn't stick to it, and over the last yr or so my weight has climbed to 300. I just found out last week that I have had nine more vertebrae fail. I have degenerative disc disease, severe spondylolisthesis and stenosis, scoliosis, and now I need a multi-level(9)fusion. Since I can put this surgery off a few months, I now have to start doing Weight Watchers again, so I can get down to at least 225 before they operate. There are a lot of risks with my surgery, and they will do two separate operations a week apart.
    I will keep you in my prayers.
    Good luck! :-)
  • Unfortunately, being obese puts severe stress right where you have the damage. Two years ago, we could have been twins! I'm 5'7" and weight 256. I fell and ruptured three discs in my back three months before I was due to have gastric bypass surgery. I've lost 85 pounds and it has been a great relief to my back. Yes, I did end up having extensive surgery, and my surgeon tells me all the time how great it is that I lost the weight. Every once in a while, if I'm not watching what I eat that closely, I'll put on a few pounds -- it does cause my back to ache. When I start paying attention again and get the few pounds off, I feel a lot better. I understand how very hard it is to lose the weight. Well, let's say it's not that hard to lose, but keeping it off is nearly impossible. That is why I chose weight loss surgery. Then again, no matter what anyone tells you, weight loss surgery is not the easy way out. Nothing easy about it. It has, however, been successful in helping my back, keeping me from getting diabetes, and curing my sleep apnea.

    I wish you the very best, no matter what you opt to do for your back.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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