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1 year on from L4-L5-S1 360 fusion

Tomorrow is the 1st anniversary of my two level fusion. I thought it might be encouraging to others facing the same surgery to read about my progress at 12 months. It has not been a stellar recovery, but I wish I had known that things would improve.

Three years ago I had a L5-S1 diskectomy. Lots of permanent nerve damage to the right leg from too much waiting to see a doctor while my leg and foot went numb.

January last year I'd had moderate pain down my right leg (I thought it was a piriformis strain) for a couple months. Three mornings in a row I woke up with crippling pain. First two mornings the pain resolved by doing Child's Pose/Prayer Pose. Third morning I could not stand up, sit up, walk. I could crawl. My DF immediately flew 800 miles to look after me. To get to the bathroom, I crawled from bed and crouched in a computer chair that DF or my teen son would wheel to the bathroom.

I had 360 degree fusion a few days later when my neurosurgeon had sufficient time and a team put together. I was fine with waiting at home (horizontal) until he had got everything lined up (including my insurance!)

Day after surgery I could stand up - YAY. Started walking with a frame. Puked all the time, had horrendous constipation from so much anesthesia/pain drugs, had an insanely itchy rash for weeks that spread from my glued incisions all over my body so I couldn't wear the brace, had severe pain in my ankles/insoles/groin. Surgeon said "walk, walk, walk!" so I did. Ankle and foot pain increased and I developed SI inflammation that made me limp.

At 4 months out, DF and I were shopping for a wheelchair and changing our future plans for housing and lifestyle. It was very depressing. I used to walk 2-10 miles a day, every day. I ate a high protein, high fat diet, I did PT 3x week plus all the at home exercises, did not take any painkillers after 1 month due to my neurosurgeon's research on pain receptors. Muscle relaxers etc had no effect so I didn't take those either. I had SI injections. No change. Neurosurgeon did a scan and said I'd fused (YAY!)

At 6 months DF and my mother suggested I stop walking and see what happened. Definitely not what the doctor ordered, but I was desperate for a break from the pain. My PT also came to an end at this time. The pain abated and I simply kept constantly moving (gently) around the house. I had lost my job, so thankfully did not have to sit in a bad office chair 8 hours a day.

At 9 months I started attending a Gentle Yoga class. The teachers are trained in anatomy and the class is specifically for people with physical limitations. Props are used (blocks, straps, chairs). There is a lot of cueing in which muscles to engage. At this point I was still limping badly, could not walk from the car across a large parking lot to a store, had a disabled badge for the car. I had not done yoga before this except for a few poses that my DF had taught me.

At 12 months, I am no longer limping. No longer in pain unless I do something idiotic like slouch on the sofa. I am still very afraid to go walking any distance, but I plan to work on this as walking was such a huge part of my life before. I go to the gentle yoga class twice a week and do a few non-twisty, non-bendy poses at home to slowly work on my hamstrings and core. I plan to return to the gym this year for some strength training. It will not be the gung-ho iron pumping that I used to enjoy.

My doctor told me that at 6 months I would be as good as I could get. I had read on this forum that it is far more like 12 months than 6 and I totally agree. I wish doctors would not be quite so optimistic because it can make patients feel like they've somehow failed when they get to 6 months and still have significant problems.

So please, if you get to 6 months and are still in horrible pain, don't give up! I'm 46 and prior to each surgery I was in terrific shape. Results from the surgery vary per individual and all you can do is find out what works and doesn't work for YOU.

"Slow recovery" doesn't even begin to describe the frustrating lack of daily progress that some of us encounter. But, keep at it, think about what you are doing and see if changing an activity helps (it took me a month, not 2 days, to recover from the walking pain).


  • dbarbeau48ddbarbeau48 Posts: 318
    edited 01/22/2013 - 11:05 AM
    Your progress should be encouraging for people waiting to have a fusion or recently had one. I had mine almost 6 rears ago and still feel better than before the surgery. I want to stress that even 12 months is not long enough for your recovery. Mine was at least 18 months. Walking is the best thing for you. I walk 3 to 4 miles a day, 5 times a week and have been doing this for almost 5 years. Keep up the good work.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Thank you so much for sharing your story! I'm 6 weeks post op tomorrow, feeling good about the future and even better now I have heard another positive story :0)
    2 level Discectomy 2000 open surgery
    L4/5 Discectomy & L5/S1 Laminectomy 2005- (Cauda equina) open surgery
    5 x joint injections 2012
    Discogram Dec 2012
    Dec 2012 - 360 Lumbar Fusion L4 -S1(BMP), Disc replaced L3/4, Bilat trocanter injects
  • For sharing such a wonderful positive story. It is very encouraging to hear from someone who is doing so well at one year post op, especially hearing how well you are doing even though your recovery did not happen immediately. Encouraging for those who may be wondering if they are ever going to start to feel better. Spine surgery can take a very long time to recover from, although many doctors are overly optimistic on recovery time.

    As I approach my one year anniversary, it gives me hope... Maybe I still have a chance.
    Thanks again, hope you continue to feel better every day.
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • and still is a bad way .its amazing how people can have such a different outcome from the same operation ..my consultant warned me that my recovery would be a slow one and could take up to 3 years ..so far it looks like he is on track .i went to see him the other day and i am now waiting for a CT scan to see if there is anything else causing the pain ..good luck to the other .don't do anything foolish and put yourself back with your recovery
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Its good to read some good news.Im new and waiting for L4L5 Double fusion and im so terrified!!!!I clean houses and wonder if ill ever be able to go back to work.I dont do well sitting around.Im so happy some of you are doing good after a yr. I pray the rest of you find an end to your pain .Thanks for all your help ill keep reading.Thank God for this site. Kathy
    Kathy B
  • StitchGnomercySStitchGnomercy Posts: 64
    edited 03/11/2013 - 8:52 AM
    Thank you for this. I'm almost 8 weeks out and I keep wondering if I made the right decision to have the surgery. I was using a wheelchair for distances longer than the walk from my car to my home, not having enough relief from 10/325 of percoset & flexeril....I'm able to walk more than before, but the pain is back :-(

    I needed some hope right now!
    1/16/2013 Minimally invasive TLIF with rods, screws, and cage on L5/S1 joint to treat grade 2 spondylolysthesis, pars defect, degenerative disc disease. Dealt with chronic pain & nerve issues since at least 2007.
  • macilmmacil Posts: 3
    edited 03/24/2013 - 4:24 AM
    Following my third spinal fusion--the most recent one was January 10th--I was thinking that my friends and doctor were being ultra cautious when they kept saying Take it easy--maybe as long as 6 or 12 months. I was ready to plant my outdoor flowers next month!! Thanks to you, I am rethinking my plans and will realize it is ok to take longer than the 3 months I'm wearing a brace to recover.
  • pameladppamelad St Paul, MNPosts: 1
    I had 360 surgery just about three months ago.  The fatigue is horrid.  The walking is slow going.  I walk just a little faster than a shuffle.  I feel guilty that I am so tired and that I have no energy to do even minor things.  I have a hard time reminding my family and feel guilty most of the time.  I had to give up my business because I just don't have the energy - nor the money - to keep things going while I am dragging.  The pain is better than it was, but wow.  I got 13 screws, two new spacers for where my discs used to be, two rods and a cage at my tailbone, alone with fusion all through my lumbar to my mid thoracic.  I just want to cry - I know I needed the surgery because walking was getting difficult and my spine stability was totally compromised, but for goodness sake - how can I stay patient?  Other than realizing I have no other choice.

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