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Am I doing something wrong??

nelnnel Posts: 402
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello again!!
I just wanted to check really that my progress is "normal".
I had PLIF L5S1 on 16th Oct 09 so nearly 4 months ago now.
I am still pacing myself - have learnt the doing too much lesson now! I am swimming 24 lengths a week day now (pre prolapse was doing 64-100 per day, pre op about 50). I have built that up from 8 per day in early Jan.
I walk for about an hour each day but am quite slow. I am trying to go faster but that is hard.
I still suffer with muscle pain (mostly core but some in my hips) and have been having some pain down my left shin that feels a bit nervey and is new.
I was thinking that probably the muscle pain will remain until I get to where I want to get- ie back to walking as far and as fast as I like and swimming my usual mile plus per day. The thing is that I am finding it hard to step it up. If I increase too fast then I have to stop for days as the pains around my middle are bad. Getting the balance right is hard and is probably why this is taking so long. I keep knocking my self out of action for days at a time!
Basically am I normal? Should I be pushing it more? I want to get back to normal fast but am aware of the downfall of too much too soon!
Someone at work asked today why I still have pain. I suppose that is the other thing - everyone thinks I should be fixed by now.
I have managed to tie my walking boot laces the last week which is loads more bending and I have done some laundry as well as bits of housework. I suppose I am actually doing more than I realise - maybe I should give myself a break?
I don't know this is hard isn't it? Patience is not my strong suit ;)
Thanks for reading!


  • One of the worst things about being a lumbar fusion patient is that after the first six weeks, you "look" normal and people expect you to be healed. They figure that if a broken ankle can heal in six weeks, why can't a spinal fusion....Whether you know it or not, it puts additional pressure on you to try to hurry up the process.

    Personally I think you are doing too much. When you start developing new pains, it is your body's way of telling you to ease off. Just remember that your fusion will not set up hard and solid for about a year. You will show signs of fusion prior to that, but it will not be as solid as the old original bone for about one year. When you push too much, you run the risk of creating an instability.

    I would question your trying to swim so much. If you are swimming on your stomach, unless you are using a scuba mask to breathe, you are probably swimming with your lower lumbar area in extension. While a little of this position probably won't hurt, to keep the back in extension for an extended time is not good. Also if it is a continuously repetitive movement, it puts additional stress on the spine. And finally, positions where both the arms and legs are fully extended from the torso can also put additional stress on the spine, particularly when you are doing a continuous kick with the legs.

    I have read a number of articles where it talks about avoiding kicking with a kickboard as it is too strenuous for a new fusion which is in the process of healing.

    I think you might be better off limiting the laps in the pool and increasing your walking...and again, trying to increase speed and walking on inclines can both cause stress and strain.

    You want to gradually challenge yourself, but increasing time and/or effort can get you in trouble.
    You don't want to be in such a hurry to get to where you want to be that you undo all the progress from the surgery.

    You'll have to find what combination of activities works best for you...but, if I had to guess, it sounds like you may be a tad impatient to get to the finish line!!

  • Thanks gwennie.
    I suppose that I sort of knew I was doing OK but the expectations of those around me make me wonder if I am babying too much. It seems that even close friends think I should be back to normal now. But then some people, like those I talk to at the pool, are surprised that I am back at work! Maybe the work people should watch me try and get dressed etc!!

    The thing with swimming is confusing - my surgeon has told me to get back to it - but other things I have read say perhaps not! I just don't know! I am only increasing gradually and barely kick my legs at all - lazy I guess!! I really like swimming - it is my thing and taking it this slow is quite hard.

    The walking is the most frustrating thing. Slowly is fine but if I try and speed up I am done in!

    I can't help thinking that if I didn't have to work too I would be progressing faster. Despite all my efforts to try and teach differently I still end up standing up and walking around the classroom at school. My lab is not set out very well and I am spending some time sort of leaning to the side over the OHP.

    Ah well - at least I am getting there slowly.
  • I had a 2 level, L4-S1,TLIF w/laminectomy and hardware on 11/16/09,so about a month behind you. I think you sound like you are doing great! I am not back to work yet so you are ahead there. I walk about 30 mins at a regular pace and then do periodic smaller walking throughout the day. I am still doing pt 2x a week. I also have core and upper back muscle pain all the time, and I have heard that that is normal. I also get tired easily and have to take things slow, but I was pretty much flat on back for almost 4 months prior to surgery.

    I hope you continue to heal and recover, take it slow! I think you are doing great.
  • Have your close friends had spinal surgery? If not, they cannot possibly know what a big surgery it is. It really is so tiring having to deal with this attitude.

    It sounds to me like you are doing very well. The important thing is to learn to listen to your body. If something begins to flare up, you've done a little too much, and you need to back off for a day or two. Experiment and see what works. I discovered that I had to shorten my stride. If I walked the way I used to back in the good old days, I could only make it about two blocks before the pain would set in. If I shorten my stride, I can go further. You may find that there are things like this that will allow you to accomplish what you want.

    Just remember that it will take time to fully recover. Many people find things are still changing even after a year's time. You'll figure it out. Just learn to be patient with yourself.

    Take good care,
  • Thanks again Gwennie. I am also walking with a shorter stride - maybe you just work out what works without even realising it!
  • Are you going to physical therapy? It doesn't surprise me that you have gotten mixed messages about swimming esp from the surgeon. Typically, they seem to rely on therapist to analyis an activity and adapt it to you speciafically (I am a therapist~but now also a patient! :-). If you have a therapist, they could meet you at the pool and help you. If you haven't had therapy, it might be benefical to you.

    It sounds as if you are doing wonderful! I can't wait to get to where you are! From the outside looking in, it looks great! Best of luck and be sure to celebrate you successes!
  • thanks jayhawk!
    I have had PT. My physio said swimming is good. At the pool I talk a lot to a physio who is a friend and she says it is good too - in Australia they do loads of rehab in the water. The main message I get is to listen to my body. That is fine except that mosttly it hurts afterwards so I only know I have done too much a day too late!!
    I know that it seems I doing great and really I probably am. It is just soooo slow and frustrating. Really I wish they could put patience in with the hardware!! LOL
    I am internally celebrating and when I could tie my own laces that made me smile. Such little things!!
  • had L-5/S-1 md in Nov. 2009. everything is feeling very good and the pt has gotten my core stronger than its ever been. but every time i do these very light twisting exercises i get the pain back just above my butt at the very bottom of my back and it goes right across to the outside of my pelvic bone where i feel pinching, similar to my pre-op pain but not nearly as severe. any idea what this might be?
  • that pain sounds similar to mine and I have been putting it down to muscles. I hope that it is!

    I sufferred a lot the last 48 hours. I had to do a parents' evening and sat for two hours in the same position on thursday night. I have woken in pain the last two nights and had to take co-codamol to sleep last night. Even then I woke 4 hours later. There was no way I could walk yesterday. I did swim as my alarm had gone off so I was awake (I swim before work) but I gave up after 10 lengths as it was too painful. Like I say I think I would be doing loads better if I didn't have to work too!!
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