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44 and in trouble!

Gunny 1GGunny 1 Posts: 12
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
Hello Everyone,
pretty new to the board here but so far have been extremely impressed with all of the knowlege i have gaines so far. Any way here goes. Over the last year it has been the worst of my life. I own a gym and have been a competitive bodybuilder and very athletic all of my life. Always in perfect shape until now. Alittle over a year ago it was as if someone had turned a pain switch on from my belt line to my feet. The pain in my back was and still is unbearable. In my small town with only a handful of doctors trying to get someone to listen and help is like trusting in todays economy. After a year of testing... X ray, MRI, PT, Disc O Gram ( what a treat that was ) and 6 epidural steroid injections by 2 different docs, i had no relief. All testing has revealed ddd from S1 up to L4. I saw 2 different surgeons in Reno Nv. who both said that the surgery on me was out of their league due to the shape and relation of my sacrum and pelvis. They said the angle of the sacrum was 2 steep to give them the access they needed to fuse me correctly and both said no way! The 2nd surgeon recommended me to a surgeon in Santa Monica who now is in Cedars Cinai. When i met with him he said he was 100% confident he could get me some relief. He said of course there are no guarantees but said after doing thousands of these things he said he can help. i asked him about the whole angle thing and he said that yes i am tricky but still feels he can get me good results. I ma scheduled for surgery to fuse S1 to L4 on May 27th. I have heard and read both good and bad on the site here but would love to hear comments to my specific case. I just know that i am at the point where this pain thing has become all consuming and i pretty much cant stand it any more! I want relief. Have been on narcotics as well for over a year and am not even looking forward to that whole drill when that roles around. Please feel free to comment or suggest. Doc says 3 days in hospital and then another week in a motel close by because i live 300 miles away from the city. Also would enjoy hearing what i can expect while in the hospital and after i get home? Thank you for taking the time to listen and hopefully comment.


  • I'm happy you found us, and sorry that you needed a place such as this forum.

    I am glad to hear that you have sought out an experienced spinal surgeon. You should be in good hands. This is a complex surgery with a long recovery. There is a section of the board, "Back surgery and neck surgery," where you can see threads containing others' experiences with fusion. Keep in mind that all the success stories are absent. What you see here are people who have continued to have problems and are looking for support and some answers to their questions. People with good outcomes are out living their lives. Many people come here prior to surgery with tons of questions, post back for a couple weeks after surgery, and are never heard from again! Hopefully, that will be you, too!!

    Particularly due to your profession, it will be very important that you follow all your doctor's instructions post surgery. People are able to return to an active lifestyle after fusion...but it is important to realize that you will need to be patient during the first year. Even though you will be able to return to somewhat "normal" activities after a couple months, the bones will not grow together and become strong for a year. After that point, stressing it through appropriate exercise actually can make the bone even stronger than it was previously. But there is a period during the first year where you will need to be careful and vigilant and PATIENT.

    Do you know what type of fusion you are having -- how the surgeon will approach the spine? The basic choices are going in from the back, usually using rods and pedicle screws, sometimes a cage to keep the space between vertebrae open. There is a "360" where the doctor goes in from the front and the back...or XLIF which is a more lateral procedure. You will find excellent articles on fusion as well as videos describing each procedure on this website.


    People are usually in the hospital three days in the US...that seems to be what the insurance companies consider "standard." Depending on the surgery, you will awake with a catheter, and sometimes a drain. You will have on a type of support hose on your legs to help prevent blood clots. They will get you up fairly quickly after the surgery for your first little walk about. You will be in a lot of pain in the beginning, but they will work to keep you comfortable. I had one of those pain pump machines where I could push a button when I needed more, and I think that is fairly standard around the country. You will have physical therapy and they will teach you how to take care of yourself before you will be released...and your pain has to be controlled with oral medication before they can discharge you.

    After surgery, during the early weeks of recovery, your main activities will be resting and walking. Walking is the most important activity for a spine patient. It is just enough to help keep the spinal nerves stretched out and to promote circulation to the surgical site. Gradually, as you regain your strength and stamina you can add some other activities to the walking. People can usually count on this early process taking at least 8 weeks. Some people are able to return to work between 8 and 12 weeks, but it can take much longer...depending on the job, the type of fusion you have, etc.

    There are many of us on the board who have had lumbar fusion...so feel free to ask questions as they come to you. Just know it is a BIG surgery and give yourself enough time to recover completely.

    When are you going to do this?

  • Hi Gwennie,
    Thank you very much for the response. I will definately check out the other boards that you mentioned. My surgery is scheduled for May 27th. My understanding is that the doctor plans on going in through my stomach. That seems kind of freaky to me, especially since that Aeorta is there! But i think he said he will have a vascular surgeoun give him access and then he goes to work. I have to head back down to Cedars next week for my physical and to give a unit of blood. I am really anxious to get this done and hopefully move on and be one of the successful ones! Thank you also for the great advice. I am trying to grab all of the info I can so I am prepared, God only knows I hate surprises. Any other ideas or suggestions are welcomed so once again thank you very much for the contact. Out of curiosity what have you found or heard as far as sleeping positions post surgery?
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. good luck on your upcoming surgery... be sure and follow your doctor's orders to the letter!! SH will be here to help you through the whole way, please stop by and use us!! :D all the best! Jenny :)
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