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Um, embarassing ?: How many of you who had multi level lumbar fusions were overweight?

blackberrybunnybblackberrybunny Posts: 157
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Lower Back Pain
I am facing a double fusion, I guess you guys call that a multi-level fusion? Anywyas, my L4-L5 and L5-S1 discs have torn and leaked. My neurologist has tried a LESI, Discogram (double positive) and yesterday, a half performed Facet Joint Injection which I could continue on with because of the pain and my heartrate was very high. No sedation, except for the lidocaine shot, I was scared to death. MUCH worse than the discogram, and I only got half of it done. Now, have to go back next week and do both sides, do it all over....not sure what for though.

My dr. has already told me I need a double lumbar fusion, and I've spoken to a couple of spine surgeons who say I am too young now for this (I am a 41 year old woman) and that I should try to wait. Otherwise, I'll only need more fusions later on the the road...

So the thing is, since I hurt myself badly last year, I have not been able to do much, so I've sat around for a whole year and got really depressed and the more depressed I got, the more I ate. I don't have any kids, and am visually impaired, so I can't see to drive. Husband and I live wayyyy out in country, no neighbors, stores, nothing. Just me and my dog and my cats. So I got very depressed and put on an additional 40 lbs or so. I'm at about 210 now, 5'4".

I am assuming to do this double fusion they will have to go in from my abdomen. I don't know. But frrom what I've read...... so I'm even more depressed now wondering HOW am I going to lose this weight and get through this surgery? How could anyone have them go though their belly when their belly is their biggest part?

This is a real sensitive issue, especially for me, a woman, to admit here for the world to see. I hope you will all be kind to me. Thank you.


  • Don't be embarassed about gaining weight, a lot of us have from the inability to get around well. Have you asked your surgeon what approach they will use for your fusion? I had L4/5 and it was done posteriorly. If you are able to do any walking, even a short walk will be good for you.

    Best wishes,

  • I haven't had a double fusion & can't add much on the medical side, but boy do I feel you emotionally, and think I totally relate! I will be having injections soon, and just thinking about it makes me want to throw up! I have no idea how in the world I'm gonna get thru it. And now I'm wondering if they'll be trying to get thru my big ole belly to do it! I've put on 35 pounds since September when I started Lyrica, that & I just can't freakin move so it's no wonder, THEN add in the bored, scared, hurting, can't do anything I want to I'M BROKEN emotional eating, and...yeah. I bet they are very used to people like us. If you look at it, really it's not surprising we're overweight, it's like the Perfect Storm of weight gain. I also live in the country; it is so isolating in some ways & I'm sorry you feel that way. On top of hurting, like that isn't bad enough.

    My doc told me injection first, weight loss after, when you can move & exercise without agony. They've just gotta be used to dealing with overweight people, jeez that's a good chunk of America, and I'm guessing an even higher percentage of people with back/chronic pain are overweight. Kinda comes with the territory. I know it would be hard, but can you talk to your doctor aBbout your concerns & options? Find out what, if anything, they expect from you as part of the treatment plan?

    And if it makes you feel better, I'll admit for the world to see that I am 5' 6" and 180 pounds, and I've lost sight of my feet long ago!
  • I recently had a TLIF at L5-S1 on 2/2/10 and have the same problem. I was misdiagnosed for 2 years and told I had hip bursitis by 2 different orthopedists. Prior to seeing my spine surgeon, my pain was so bad it was all I could do to get through work, even working part-time most days. The horrific nerve pain in my buttocks and left leg made me just crawl up the steps and into bed every night after work. I'd also spend most weekends laying around in bed or on the sofa resting from the prior week and to prepare for the upcoming week. The less I could do, the more depressed I became. I didn't think to change my horrible eating habits and steady diet of CocaCola either. I knew I was gaining weight but refused to step on a scale so as to not get even more depressed.

    I have never been pin thin my entire life. I'm 5'2" and usually hover between 130-140. I was horrified when I stepped on the scale at my PCP's office and my weight was 180 lbs! I had a posterior approach surgery so wasn't worried about abdomen. I have been trying very hard to eat better and forgo regular soda (which has always been my weakness) for more water every day since I still cannot exercise like I would when trying to lose weight. I'm just trying the best I can to not gain anymore and hopefully lose some while being restricted through better eating.

    You are not alone, believe me.
  • What is a TLIF, Gretchen? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with what that is. It sounds like you were suffering from some painful sciatica, with that pain going down your leg and into your buttock. I have never had that pain before, just pain in my discs from the annular tears and leaking.

    The best 'diet' I ever did was the South Beach Diet. It taught me how to eat very well, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of lean meats, proteins like cheese, dairy products, lots of yogurt, nuts, and only 100% whole grains. I lost 68lbs in only 6 months and kept it off for two years. Then I hurt myself and all of that changed. I know I can do it again, I'm just too depressed to begin. Even when I got down to my lowest weight of 163, I still had quite a belly, LOL!
  • Diet is your defense when you absolutely can't exercise. You proved it to yourself with South Beach. So now the issue is what will it take to motivate you out of this depression and into eating healthy again?

    You're the one who has to answer that question. We can tell you the obvious stuff. Better health, better sense of well being, much less stress on your spine before and after surgery, feeling more attractive, having more energy. I'm sure there is a lot more.

    As for exercise. Many say they can't because they think exercise requires 30 minutes of cardio or something. Well I'm sure to shed pounds faster that would be good. But for a spiney might not be doable. So how about simple things. Walk up and down your driveway. Start with 50ft. Then 100ft. Do it a few times a day if you can. It is a start.

    Oh and if you were taking Lyrica, ughhhh, that stuff is a 4 letter word to me. I'm trying to convert 35lbs of fat into maybe 20lbs of muscle. Now I'm post op far enough to start really working it. It isn't just women who pick up the pounds...

    Don't be embarrassed but do something about it.

  • I was at 220lbs and 5'4" also and size 2X(ex) due to back issues and inability to exercise and maybe meds also. To lose it I drink lots of water to stave off hunger.

    I ate only fruits with little juice and controlled portion size. Nothing bigger than a deck of cards except for veggies, fruit and yogurt and yes even 2-3 squares a day of dark chocolate. something like South Beach diet only with some carbs. I walked as much as possible maybe one block during the sunny days and got an stationary recumbent bicycle to use everyday while watching TV but you should ask your
    Dr. if you can exercise outside of walking with a cane or walker if you must.
    I'm now 40+ lbs lighter and down to size 12 and feeling better about myself. It's really best to do for your health maybe your Dr. could assist you through this. That's awesome you lost 68lbs before. Now this darned back issues... Best wishes if you try again. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • i too need a multi level fusion {see my post} and i am over weight around 40lbs too so i understand you more than you think .my surgeon has told me to loose some weight but not to worry if i can't {as he know that exercise is virtually impossible now due to pain]the main thing is for me to stop smoking because ..as you know a fusion is no walk in the park ..and on that note have you had a second opinion about your surgery? because i have already had 2 surgeons telling me NOT to have any more surgery....i though i had made up my mind but as yet i am not sure ..make sure that you are 100% sure that you understand the risk and rewards regarding your surgery and all the possible side effects and the fact that you could be made worse.i hope that you make the correct decisions and good luck if you have surgery
  • Well, wow, I do feel a little better about this, but not much. If you have a multi level fusion, don't they have to go in through your stomach? Especially for the lumbar region? I'm so worried about them moving my intestines around and stuff. Man, this is so difficult to deal with. I just had to take a Valium to calm myself down. I am so worried! This has changed my whole life, my life is nothing like it was before. I feel like there is nothing to live for, except for my mom and husband. I have no children, no family members left, but mom, and no sisters or brothers. It's just the '3' of us. I have a couple of close friends, but that is it. I have never been able to see to drive, I was born legally blind, and we live way out in the country. No stores, no neighbors. Every day, same old drudgery. Dr. has put me on antidepressaant and valium and blood pressure pills and ambien to sleep. I'm just 'living', doing nothing, just getting through one day to the next. Now I'm in pain all the time for the past year---this is NO life; I'm not suicidal, but if mom and my husband die, what will there be for me? I will have nobody and no way to even get around. We are so rural there are no buses, no taxis, and not even services like a ride for the handicapped. This really sucks. And to be in constant pain every day, no wonder I'm not the same person anymore. :-( Sorry to vent, didn't mean to veer off topic. I'm just so full of despair.....for my future.
  • Hi blackberry,

    Like you in so many ways, I'm 41 now have a bad L4-S1, and overweight. The only difference is I had fusion after 7 yrs of putting up with all the wonderful pain at age 38. For me they went thru my back. One surgeon wanted to go thru both my stomach and my back. My weight was never an issue for not having lumbar fusion. They had more of an issue with my smoking then anything.

    All surgeon differ on how they want to go in, at what age, or how bad your back has to be before they will do fusion. One other thing, just because you have fusion doesn't mean that another disc will go. It just more than likely that one will go, or if you have a weak disc already then will go. With me, they waited 7 yrs, because the disc right above was bulged.

    Bobbi Jo
  • Hi Bobby Jo, did you have a multi level fusion? How are you feeling now? My neurologist told me that only "SOME" people are happy with their fusion, and that was a regular fusion, not a multi level lumbar. I am so scared. Were you in a lot of pain afterwards. What about the hardware? Did you have to have it removed eventually? Did they tell you to lose weight? Did you have to wear a full body brace for months while you heal? Like the kind you remove to shower and all---but I have BIG boobs! OMG, there is so much to consider. I really need some help and I'm so scared!
  • Hi Blackberrybunny,

    I have dropped you a PM with you answers.
    Bobbi Jo
  • I am 46 yrs old and I have had 2 multilevel fusions as my first one I did not fuse. L3-L4 & L4-L5. This was done in Jan. '08 and Sept '09. I am still in pain, more so if I overdo it.I can't sit or stand as my right leg becomes painful and numb. The lower back throbs. I have fallen 3 times in the last month. I try to walk on a daily basis. I too have gained considerable weight since my back problems began in 2006. It does not help the situation but don't feel bad as you are not alone. Depression sets in and you try your best, dieting and with excercise. I know. Also I too live in the country with my dog and cats. My husband works and my children (thank God are pretty much self sufficent) One is 21, the other 17. Are NEVER HOME. So there really is no conversation. I miss work, especially the adult interaction. At first they would call and I them, but eventually they became too busy whether with work or family. That's understandable. I am on disability so one day I hope to get back to being an employed person, though nursing maybe out of the question. Hang in there! I am certainly trying. take care Humnbird :)))
  • Hi Humnbird, you and I sound like we have some stuff in common, living out in the country, no one to talk to. I am so thankful that our phone company finally came through with DSL for us, and thankful for this board too. At least, you guys are someone to talk to!

    Did they say why your fusion never fused?

    And I've gotta tell ya, I am NOT one to exercise. HATE it. LOATHE it. So I asked my dr. for weight loss meds. He said no, but told me instead to get a copy of the South Beach Diet and read it. He said although I don't condone NOT excersing, this is one diet you can do and not ever once exercise and still lose weight. I didn't believe him, about that part, hahah, but I gave it a shot, and I lost 68 lbs in only 6 months simply by cutting out all bad carbohydrates, and that included all sugars of course, except for small amounts of fruit, and if you like yogurt, cheese, meat, veggies and 100% whole grain foods you can DO this!

    I KNOW I can do it again. The thing for me is the depression. So I'm only on about month 2 of my antidepressants. Had to switch from prozac to celexa. Now I feel a little more determined and have nearly tossed out all the sugars, and bought nothing but veggies and meat and splenda at the store. Oh, and lots of legumes too! Husband loves a healthy diet, thank goodness, or this would really be a problem. He works, so he's out all day and pick up snacks and candy bars and the like if he wants them, but don't bring it home to me anymore. Hardest week is the first one, but then you wake up feeling like a new person! It's an easy diet, the hard part is getting motivated to start it. It's sort of like detoxing your body of all that sugar, and believe me, the first 3,4 days are hell, but you'll get over it! But my sadness, it's eased by one of the things that makes me so happy---FOOD! So I put on a lot of weight too, ate everything I should not have and however much of it I wanted, and now I need to get it off.

    Good luck and hope you have some good days inbetween the bad ones.
  • Black Berry bunny ; We all have gained weight. I just want to encourage you that you can get better. If your quality of life has diminished then don't procrastinate. Most people that want to get better will. My Doctor refused to operate 7 years ago and now he is willing. I was upset then but now realize it was better to wait. My pain has doubled in 7 years and i am struggling to keep my second career going, due to pain level.
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