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Thoracic surgery -- will I ever feel better?

SnowgirlSSnowgirl Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I am 9-1/2 weeks post-op after breaking my back mountain biking. My T10 shattered on impact and I was stabilized two levels above and two levels below with 2 rods and 10 screws. A slightly harder force would have paralyzed me, so I know I am lucky.

I am struggling to handle the constant pain, as I am only 5ft.2in. tall and can feel the hardware constantly. Does anyone know if this will get better anytime soon? I was a really active person (youthful and energetic at 48 years old) -- swimmer, runner, biker, snowshoer, surfer, hiker -- and am extremely worried that my quality of life will be changed for the worse from this point on. My surgeon says they don't generally take out the hardware, but I'm been told that if they don't I will lose all mobility in the five levels of vertabrae that are immobilized.

Trying not to get depressed, but I'm so weak and exhausted every day, and it's difficult when you were like the Energizer bunny before. Can anyone provide any feedback that might help?

Thanks, Jane


  • Hi Jane,

    Welcome to the Spine-Health support forum! You've come to the right place for information and great support. We don't have many active members who have had thoracic spine surgery but hopefully there will be someone who can speak to your questions from experience. :)

    You are correct about not having mobility with rods in place. The idea of the rods is to prevent movement. You need to ask your doctor to explain more about what you can expect in the future months. He is really the only one who can advise you on the probability of having your hardware removed.


    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Exactly- does he WANT those levels to fuse? I wish you luck.

    I had no surgery post-fracture and my vertebrae collapsed on me. I will now have to go in and have those levels fused.

    I can definitely feel for you, but you are only 9 weeks out from a very traumatic accident and surgery. You need to remember that you will continue to feel better for at least a year- I did, even without surgery! Don't paint your future with today's brush.

    Your bone isn't even healed yet. Your body is conserving energy. Rest, take care of yourself. You've been through a lot.

    Gentle hug!
  • 9 and 1/2 weeks is very early for surgery. Even if you didn't have a traumatic accident (say a hernia real bad instead), your body went through a LOT of trauma just from the surgery itself! Try to rest, heal and follow doctors orders. As to taking our hardware, if that is something they are thinking of, it won't be for some time, as they have to be sure you are fused and solid - this way you don't incur more damage.

    A hearty Welcome to Spine Health!!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I would also like to welcome you to Spine Health.
    I am so sorry for the reason that brought you here, but going through this with others who are in similar positions is going to be much better than without us.

    Your accident and surgery are an extreme case. Hence there are not many who have experienced quite the same degree of pain and problems, but most of us have had surgery and all of us know how debilitating pain is.

    There is a better place to get comments from other thoracic patients, and it might be worth posting another thread there. That is the Thoracic Spine area.
    There is a lovely lady (Tammy) who also broke her spine at this level, and I am sure she will be along to encourage you. :-)

    As others have said, you are very early on in a long journey. You will have some difficult days ahead, but there will also be days when you are aware of the progress that you are making.

    You will now have some friends to travel this journey with you and cheer you on. :H

    Do keep in touch and let us know how you are doing. We will be here for you, and some days you will be able to help us get through our difficult days.

    Welcome to our 'spiney' club! :D >:D< :H

  • Thanks for all the comments and support!

    No, apparently they don't want the levels to fuse. I was told that they just wanted the one bone to heal, and the first surgeon I talked to said they would remove the rods at around 10 months, otherwise I will lose mobility in all five levels. The thing that has caused my concern is that, when I went for my 6-week post-op with the actual surgeon who did my surgery, he casually informed me that in my region they don't often remove hardware. Naturally, this has set my teeth on edge.

    Right now I am trying to figure out how to get my positive psychological state back. After having this news delivered to me, I have found myself feeling rather hopeless about getting back to a normal life. I am in the process of figuring out how I can find the money to have hardware taken out with or without it being sanctioned by my surgeon. I feel pretty sure from what the first surgeon said that this will be paramount to me regaining a good level of activity and quality of life.

    As I wait for all this, it would be nice to see some (any) progress, even on the pain front. My legs also buckle when I move from a reclining or sitting position to standing. I thought by nine weeks+ this would be better, but from the comments it appears that I am still considered in the early days. I think the hospital gave me a bit of false hope about how fast this recovery would take place.

    Is there any sort of magical length of time that passes before you actually notice diminished pain/increased ability?
  • Welcome to Spine-health! >:D<

    I am so sorry to hear of your mountain biking accident. I am relieved to know you suffered no paralysis and I do know the pain and exhaustion you are currently going through. Not only are you experiencing the surgical pain, but I'm quite sure you have some internal/external bruising from your accident. Was your surgery done posteriorly (from the back)? Also, are you wearing a brace?

    Like you, I was a VERY active go-getter when I had my traumatic fall. I worked full-time and was on the go constantly with my two children. I had just remarried one month prior to my fall and I have been blessed by having the most wonderful husband in the world. He takes very good care of me and also performed CPR on me, after my 8 foot fall. He saved my life and also saved me from being paralyzed, as he would not let me move until the paramedics arrived. I was so close to being paralyzed, as I fractured and dislocated my spine at T11, T12. I also suffered multiple compression fractures to T3, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9. I had a slight concussion and a badly sprained ankle. I underwent thoracolumbar wire fixation (bringing T11, T12 back into alignment) and hardware fusion with rods and screws. (Please click on my name for additional information).

    I'm thinking back to 9 1/2 weeks post op... and yes, I was in a great deal of pain at that time like you are. I was heavily medicated and slept the majority of the time. It wasn't until 16 weeks post-op, to where I started to notice some improvement with the pain. But, it will get better... it's just a very slow process.

    Is your pain being adequately controlled with medications? I know how tough it is to go from being fully active to bed ridden in a matter of seconds. We are here to support you, Jane. I am so thankful for Spine-health, as I really needed a lot of support (just like you) during some really rough times. I will always need Spine-health as a means of support and I enjoy supporting others who are suffering from spinal injuries, etc.

    Please feel free to ask me questions at any time. I will respond as quickly as possible.

    I really feel for you Jane. I've been where you are at and I am still recovering. Sometimes I was given "false hope" along the way about having a speedy recovery due to being in good shape, but when we have doozy accidents... it takes a while for our spine, muscles, nerves, etc., to recover. I need to keep my hardware in place. There has never been any discussions about removing my hardware. Because I dislocated my spine, I feel 100% comfortable with keeping my rods and screws in.

    Hugs to you... I look forward to interacting more with you. You will continue to receive continual support here at Spine-health!

  • Hi Tammy,

    Thanks for your support. To answer your questions, yes, the surgery was done from the back. I also cracked my sternum in the fall, and am pretty sure a rib or two were damaged as well (but they are just leaving those issues to resolve on their own). They didn't give me a brace to wear either.

    You are lucky to have a supportive partner. I am a single mom of two and self-employed, so actually worked again starting the day after the surgery! (But a desk job, so at least it was bearable. I didn't have any real choice on that one.)

    I am taking Tylenol 3 about once or twice a day now, and that is all. I don't want to mask the pain because I am worried about doing something to mess up my recovery, so that is why I keep it to a minimum (also because I don't have any extended medical coverage). The hardest part, though, is the fear that I will never be "normal" again. Will I ever be able to comfortably hike up a mountain, or go trail running, or play in the waves again? I can walk only for about 30 minutes now and then I need to have a rest. I was so active before that this is really testing me. I feel "stitched together" at the back, and every movement hurts. There is also new, sharp pain in my lower back, which I put down to my lumbar spine trying to compensate for the thoracic trauma.

    I suppose nobody really knows for sure how these things will turn out, but the lifestyle change is super hard on me psychologically. I think I used to use the endorphin rush of exercise to regulate my moods! Now, without it, every day is a new adventure in "how will I feel?".

    So that's where I'm at. I am doing pool running now a few times per week. Maybe time is the only thing that will help the physical healing, but I really need to do something to deal with the emotional issues. I was even thinking I might try to get back on my road bike in two or three weeks. With your rods, are you able to comfortably ride a bike? If I could only find a way to sweat out my frustration, I'm sure it would give me a mental boost!

    Also, Tammy, do you feel your instrumentation all the time still? If I could get a reasonable level of activity back and not feel the metal all the time (it's horrible when I shiver), then I might consider leaving it in just to avoid a second major and risky surgery. But right now I feel as if I just need to get this stuff out of my body as soon as possible. It's driving me crazy!

    Look forward to hearing from you again,
  • FareedFFareed Abilene , Texas Posts: 61
    Hello everybody , am new here and my English is weak lol, I m a 44 years old male due to many surgeries I had to cure some diseases I was a in the bed for almost a year ,than when I started to feel better I start working on my fence yard and due to the heavy lifting I hurt my lower back , I went to a walking clinic they do Xrays and they told me it is just a muscle spazm  they give me a shot and send me home , in fact I started feeling better , but I notice some little pain in my knee then I decided to see a chiropractor ,  I made the biggest mistake in my life didnt listen to my wife not to go to the chiropractor also, the pain was 3 or 4 out of 10 and stupid me instead to wait and give it little time to get better i decided to see what the chiropractor will do for me , I told him what happening to me and he said he will adjust my whole back and when he did he pushed hard on my upper back and Voila I felt a sharp pain and he told me I ll be fine but next day I went back to him he admit that he did pushed hard on this area and Ill be ok, then I decided to see an other one who  noticed on my Xrays that I have a 9 degree Scoliosis and after working on me for 6 times visit they decided to stop treating me coz the pain get worse and want me to have an MRI coz they think that I have a herniated disc at T5 and T6 , so now Im in pain between my shoulder , my chest and my arms , is there any hope that Ill be back to normal again or I have to go for surgery ? by the way my app with the Orthopedic will be on the 31th . my questions is is it worth it to have the  surgery ? what is the expectation about the thoracic surgery? please any advice would be appreciated  Thanks
  • FareedFFareed Abilene , Texas Posts: 61
    hello , how do you feel now any update ? thx
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