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T8/9 Laminectomy - help - aids / restrictions???

CherylCCCherylC Posts: 185
edited 07/03/2013 - 12:24 PM in Recovering from Surgery

Am having a SCS implanted via laminectomy at T8 or T9 (can't remember which) in a couple of weeks time. Have previously had TLIF and ALIF surgeries at L4/5 and L5/S1 so I understand the restrictions / difficulties regarding lumbar surgeries but I don't know about issues resulting from thoracic surgery.

I have heard that I will have problems raising my arms. I currently walk with either crutches or a stick (depending on the day) so I need to understand whether this is going to be a problem during the recovery phase. I also need to know whether there are likely to be any other difficulties that I should be prepared for.

Can anyone help me?



  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 07/03/2013 - 2:19 PM
    I'm sorry you are having to endure more surgery. I have had both lumbar and thoracic "work". In my opinion (and only my opinion) lumbar is a more difficult "adjustment" in recovery where as thoracic is just more brutal pain wise. I am fused up to T6. The good news is, you aren't having a fusion there, and you really aren't having any structural work so to speak, so pain wise I'd think you shouldn't be facing anything worse than you have before with your lumbar surgeries, and hopefully much easier recovery. I have seen multiple videos and read reviews from people who have SCS implants, and it seems like for *most* recovery runs pretty smooth and is much less than fusions, etc.

    Now, as far as your cane.... I think you should be fine there. I walked on a walker, then cane, and now alone. I was able to use the walker and cane following the surgeries. Now, I was weaker in my arms for awhile just because I was weaker everywhere after surgery (normal) but still able to move around.... I'd imagine the first few days you'll feel unstable and will probably won't someone with you when your moving around but should be fine after that.

    Are you having to use the cane due to pain? If so I hope this implant will relief that so you can get back to a more free movement life style. Best of luck to you!!!! I hear so many good things about SCS, so maybe it will work well for you.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • CherylCCCherylC Posts: 185
    edited 07/04/2013 - 3:13 PM
    Thanks for your reply - it has helped to put my mind a bit more at ease.

    The cane is unfortunately going to be a permanent friend due to nerve damage from my first surgery. I have unfortunately lost the use of several muscle groups in my left leg and also have a foot drop so I am not stable enough without it. The choice to use crutches some days however, is pain related. Problem for me is that my bad side is the right side but it has to carry the load because of the weakness in the left side so sometimes my right side just decides to give up on me.

    SCS is because I don't adequately metabolise pain meds so am unable to take a high enough dose of anything without nearly overdosing. Have had a few scary moments particularly with post op pain management. Last surgery I almost died from a morphine overdose. Really hoping that the SCS lowers my need for pain meds.

    With regards to the not being able to raise my arms - did you have problems dressing after your thoracic surgery? I am wondering whether I will need to have different types of sleep wear. At the moment I have night gowns that go over my head.

    I sometimes think I have had it rough but then I look at all you have been through and how positive you are and I am truly inspired.
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 07/06/2013 - 11:58 AM
    Hi I haven't had surgery and my thoracic damage is higher than yours. The spinal cord is the narrowest through the thoracic spine and stops at the lumbar spine.

    It is agony for me to put my arms above my head so I would get something that buttons at the front. If I am stupid enough to go shopping and try on clothes where I have to raise my arms above my head I have incredible pain for days.Washing your hair is also a nightmare so be careful doing that as well.You need to be really careful not to lift anything.

    It could also effect the surgery if you bend or twist.

    I would try a soft brace so the vertabrae stay in the right place and it makes you more aware of any twisitng motion.
    I didn't have a soft brace after my accident, not surgery, but i'm sure that is why the vertabrae didn't heal in the right place. The vertabrae on top try to compensate for the ones below - at least that is what happened to me so make sure the one on top is in the right position for healing.

    Thoracic is also joined to your ribs so they need to be in the correct place as well. Have a look at the dermatone chart Sandi posted and this will tell you where to expect pain that radiates from T8 T9. Make sure you take a muscle relaxant with the pain killers together as my muscles worked overtime in constant spasm trying to protect the damaged area - it took them 6 years to work this out.

    Hope your surgery goes well and the SCS eases your pain.
  • I never ran into issues with getting clothes over my head after surgeries. I mean, the first couple of days are rough due to the incision, etc... but my mom, nurse, or husband would stick shirts over my head and I could easily get my arms through the holes. After the first couple of days I could do it by myself. Now, I'm not going to say I could do exercises that left my arms above my head or anything, but just getting a shirt on/off a couple of times a day, no problem. I hate button up shirts, even PJs so it was worth the discomfort of a few seconds to get something over my head. If you don't mind button up, might as well buy a couple of PJs that way if you would wear them anyways.

    Sorry your cane is permanent. I had foot drop that took a few months to heal after a surgery. We knew though that it had been caused from the surgery and *shouldn't* be permanent... I'm very thankful it wasn't. I had to wear a "foot drop brace". Do you have to wear that too?

    And I agree about the medicine metabolism. I've certainly never had close to the problems you have had with pain meds (I've never come close to over dosing)... but I struggle with pain meds in general. I know doctors will tell you to only take enough to dull the pain to a tolerant level, not enough to get the "buzz" etc. I just really can get that right amount. Either it doesn't hardly touch the pain... or I'm foggy headed... no matter how many times I've tried different dosages, cutting pills (IR ones), etc, even with doctor's help. So I think I must metabolize them strangely too. Maybe the SCS will greatly help you with your pain. I hope so. And I believe staying positive is over half the battle when you have spine issues. Best of luck to you!
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Yep ... Have a heavy duty "toe-off" called a "blue rocker". It's made of Kevlar and carbon fibre but because of the way my foot goes down I have managed to break one already! The orthopedics dept are trying to design one that will hold my foot straight, support my leg when my knee gives out (which is often!) and can be worn with flat soled boots so that I can disguise it. It's apparently quite challenging because I have two different problem and there has never been solution developed that can handle both. It's a work in progress and I live in eternal hope that the design geniuses can come up with something useful!

    Really important for me to be able to hide it because I am lead singer in a rock and blues band. Having some ugly brace on my leg is definitely not a look I want on stage!

    So glad your foot drop wasn't permanent. We were hoping mine wasn't as well but my run of luck was staying consistent with this one! Just hoping that my luck changes with this next surgery!
  • Were we related in a past life? lol. I have the EXACT SAME foot drop brace... except mine is sitting in my closet "hidden".... hoping I never have to use it again. I also had issues with my knee giving way after surgery. I had to wear the AFO and then my pants, and then on top of that the big leg brace strapped from above my ankle to slightly above mid thigh. Luckily I was able to come off the big leg brace after 3.5 months. No way possible to disguise that thing! Plus it made me walk super funny as I had to swing my leg out strangely. I can't see anyone on stage with one..... Now the AFO was relatively easy to hide with pants and any sock/shoe combo. Though I have to say I never learned to walk very smoothly with that thing either. I'm very relieved that mine wasn't permanent. Hopefully they will be able to design you something soon that will work for both things and easy to hide.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Still thinking about my "old days" and my husband kindly reminded me of my white stockings as well... The first couple of months after my surgery my doctor made me wear those compression hose, and my feet swelled (not terribly thank goodness, but too big to fit into sneakers) so I had to wear sandals... and in the summer in Florida... I usually wore shorts... so I had on my white stockings, shorts, AFO, knee brace thing (can't remember its official name), and sandals. I actually went out in public like that many times. (also sporting my walker with pink tennis balls and later my purple cane) My friends laughed at me because I paired all with make up and my usual big earrings. I'm glad I have a good sense of humor. Otherwise I would have been extremely miserable stuck at home all that time.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I now have a mental picture of you at the mall and I am laughing!

    I only had to wear the stockings while I was in the hospital and that was long enough - both times I was stuck in there for 11 days (seems to take that long for them to get my pain managed). I had actually forgotten about them. Guess I have to wear them again this month!

    Bad luck about the knee brace. I think the cane is helping me to avoid that. Mind you - I made it quite clear that I am not going down that path - it's bad enough having a big blue thing (original one was black) that stands out without having anything else! And you're definitely right about how funny this all looks when you're wearing shorts! I'm just really happy that its winter here at the moment so I can hide the whole thing under trousers. Oh - and don't you get sick of people asking you how you hurt your leg! They look at you really strange when you say it's not you leg that's hurt!
  • CherylCCCherylC Posts: 185
    edited 07/06/2013 - 5:56 AM
    Please explain - "walker with pink tennis balls". I'm imagining a walker with lots of pink tennis balls suspended from the cross bar and swinging around as you walk! Very funny picture!
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 07/06/2013 - 1:31 PM
    Hey one of the coolest bands I ever saw on stage is Max Merritt and the Meteors. Max, their lead singer was in a wheelchair after a car accident I think, They were an Australian band and right at the top in their day. No-one cared he was in a wheelchair - used to do tricks with it on stage. You can probably look him up on You Tube. Just looked and can't find him in a wheelchair so he must have somehow got out of it, but know he was in one for quite a while.

    He turned a disability into a positive. Don't know whether he is still alive as it was a while ago and he was a fair bit older than me. No one cares what you look like on stage as long as you have a great voice. If you get time have a look at some of his clips. In fact that's what I'm going to do now, everyone loved this guy - he was amazing - it's your voice that counts on stage, don't think anyone else really cares what you have to wear - he made his wheelchair into a positive.

    If he is till around maybe you could write to him, he was very cool. He is still alive too.
  • No, the tennis balls were at the bottom. July 2012 I had two surgeries totally 20 hours, spent 10 days in ICU, 2 weeks in hospital and transported via ambulance to 3 weeks at a "inpatient rehab hospital". At the rehab hospital they take tennis balls and cut an "x" in them and slip them on the "feet" of the... front or back legs, right off and I can't remember, I'd have to pull it out of the closet. I've "stifled" some memories....lol. Anyways, before I was released home they had my husband bring in my new walker (he had to purchase one) so they could adjust it to the right height, and to bring in two tennis balls and they'd cut them for him etc... and well, he knows me... so he found some "girly" pink ones to use.

    I was truly fortunate and didn't have any "unexpected" complications I guess you could say. I didn't have any infections, my pain was reasonably managed... Foot drop and the knee giving out wasn't "expected" but they told me up front to expect nerve damage as the procedures were so extensive. I was actually diagnosed post op with "spinal cord injury". I was relatively very healthy and for a spine patient, young (32 at the time) so they thought I'd only be in ICU the 24 hours after each surgery and released after a few days following my last surgery. Unfortunately my body just sort of "crashed". I honestly am not sure exactly why I was in the ICU for so long as my husband doesn't really like to talk about it too much, but I think they just had some problems with blood (anemic, I did bank blood prior too, and received many additional units, but still it didn't want to "Act right", now my iron is fine), and low blood pressure (which of course was exacerbated by pain medication).... anyways, because I had such an hard time "upfront" I think my surgeon just "over did it" on precautions. Like the compression hose.... Of course he wasn't the female having to wear them everywhere. They were hideous.... add the three braces (AFO, Knee brace, TLSO) and the walker/cane.... I was seriously HOT... (both Hot looking, and Hot in temperature). Very few people asked me how I hurt my foot... EVERYONE assumed I had been in a car wreck. And when I just said, I had to have some back surgery, then they would ask, well what did you do to your leg? lol. Good thing I also always wore a smile... I also hated it when people would tell me about the time they broke their foot... **big smile** yeah, I broke my foot once too... not the same thing... **big smile**

    And sorry to disappoint you with the tennis ball image.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • The guy you are talking about is Jeff St John. He had congenital spina bifida and he was absolutely amazing! Check out You Tube for clips of him doing "Teach Me How To Fly". He was an inspiration to everyone! Whenever my pain levels get out of control and I think I can't keep doing 4 hour gigs the guys in my band tell me to just bring my wheelchair and do a "Jeff St John". LOL!

    Can't help it though - I'm a girl and I'm a little fussy about how I look! Bad enough already that I have to have a stool on the stage so I can sit / stand all through the gig! The one I used last Friday night was a classic - apparently from the side it looked a lot like a zimmer frame so I copped heaps of ribbing about being so old I had to bring my zimmer frame on stage with me! Was very funny and had the audience in stitches!

    You are right though - once I start to sing no-one even notices any shortcoming I may have.
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 07/08/2013 - 2:35 AM
    I know good old Max was in a wheelchair too for a while 'cause I did see him in it. Must have only been for a short time. Was right at the front of the stage and the concert was incredible. He had kidney damage as well and fell on hard times so they did a benefit for him (read his bio last night)l. Was just great listening to his music again. Might have been after his car accident.

    I remember Jeff St John too, will go in and have a look for him but unless I'm losing my mind which is quite possible, it was Max I saw.

    You are so lucky to have a great voice. Is there anything on You tube I could watch? Can't believe you do four hour gigs - that's long even for people who aren't in pain. Leonard Cohen came to Aus, even to Brisbane which most good artists skip. Bought front row tickets - really expensive but so worth it, he only does about three hours, thats a long time. Everyone now seems to do about an hour and a half, so am really impressed by four hours.

    Brisbane actually has a really good climate for pain, is warm most of the time, is subtropical, beautiful one day, perfect the next. We also have the Great Barrier Reef further north and that is spectacular. Aus has all climates as is is about the same size as the States. I love it here but guess you always love the country where you were born. Am moving down to the Gold Coast soon which is even better because we have some of the best, cleanest beaches in the world.There is a lot of disinformation about Aus, not all of us are of convict descent.

    There's another comedian in Aus, Adam Hills . He has a prosthetic leg below the knee false leg and jokes about it. He is hysterical. Talk about making a negative into a positive. Know disabilites shouldn't define who you are and as a girl you care what you look like but when Leonard sang that song about beauty being on the inside - most of the audience stood and cheered. Even a japanese guy - who didn't seem to like showing any emotion rose to his feet at the end and wildly clapped his performance.

    Good on you having the audience in stitches. Would really like to look at one of your gigs if you can give me the link if there is anything on You Tube. Do you have a FB page for the band? You can PM me with the link if you wanna. That would be fantastic - use the distraction method to keep my mind off the pain when I am really bad.

    Go girl, you are very cool - just wish I could sing, it's a great release. You have personal experiences that you can convey through music. Strange isn't it that a lot of artists do their best work when they are in pain. Toulouse Lautrec started painting because of his health, Keats wrote poetry while he had TB. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle apparently was an opiom addict and that is why Holmes is always portrayed smoking a pipe. There was a really good doco about world leaders and the addcitions they had, mainly because of pain. Like JFK for back pain. I slipped and fell yesterday hence the long ramble. Hope you have a less pain day.
  • Hey there Aussie girl! I'm from Mt Tamborine!

    Gig last Friday was at Dolphins Hotel in Tweed Heads. Next gig is on July 19 at the Tamborine Mt Bowls Club. Love to see you there! We're only taking on small venues at the moment until I can get to a more stable place pain wise. We're also in the middle of building a new band so the website isn't available yet.

    Bad luck that you slipped and fell yesterday. Hope you haven't done any more damage.
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 07/10/2013 - 12:16 AM
    Wow my sister lives at Mt Tamborine!!!, parents used to live there too.

    You probably know her, it' not exactly the biggest place in the world. PM me if you like and we could meet for coffee on the mountain, if we are both up for it. Think it's supposed to rain at the end of the week and you know how good rain and freezingness (know that is not a word but it should be) is for pain. NOT.

    Could save my sister for a while complaining about my back and pain.
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