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L5/S1 Spinal Fusion - Male 50 Surfer/very active

epapanaeepapana Posts: 8
edited 12/22/2013 - 7:13 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Ran 9 marathons and stopped 14 years ago. Now only surfing, PT, fast walks. Epidodes of lower back pain, weakening right legg, sciatica, cannot run distance, surfing is getting difficult, multiple pain episodes accelerating every year. Decided to go for surgery (L5/S1 fusion . My plan is to go for a tought year of recovery to go back to surfing, running, gold and ski. Is this possible? any experiences? Best, MGO+

Post edited to remove specific hospital. Please read the Forum rules

Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I am male 47 ! and was very fit too ..I think that you are being a little optimistic regarding the limitations of a fusion and what you will be able to do one you have had it ..I had mine 2 years ago and now crippled in intractable pain ..unable to even walk more than a few steps .if you don't need this operation then don't have it ..granted I was not as fit as you I have never ran a marathon but I did walk miles every day with my dog and swam every day .now I just can't do stuff ..even taking a shower is a logistic nightmare . good luck to you ..don't expect miracles more fail than succeed ..consultants are eternally optimistic and can falsely raise the hopes of the patient ,my consultant one of the UKS finest told me the truth also I youtubes a few videos on there and was amazed at what was said .worth a look ..my 50 year old friend
    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
  • horselady21hhorselady21 Posts: 174
    edited 12/23/2013 - 2:32 AM
    Hi! I am 51 and had my L5-S1 fusion one year ago. Before surgery (and before the pain), I worked out several times a week and worked as a mechanic (and I am a woman.). I also rode horses for 15 years before that.

    My surgery was more involved than originally thought....he had to rebuild the left side from so much arthritis. But I had to have it done. I couldn't put any weight on my left leg. The surgery was a nightmare, to be honest. I was in bed for 4 months afterwards. But slowly things improved, and by August, I was working out a little and was back to working full time. Then in October, I took a step off to the side and wham!, was on my knees in excruciating pain. My si joint had developed inflammation, and I am just now recovering from that.

    In other words, your body will be different, and you can't really put a time-frame on your ability to do ANYTHING again. Some people fly through these procedures with no problems, but they are the exception. Some people never recover. Have you thought about a second opinion? OTher non-surgical options? I am glad I had the surgery, in a way, but also regret losing all those abilities I will never get back. I will always have to be careful...no more wild, no-holds-barred workouts! Alas, that is life!
    Good luck to you no matter what road you choose.
  • Wow, buddy take your time. Do not have a fusion if your back goes out couple times per month. If you still are able to surf don't even think about surgeries no matter what you spine doc says. You'll be lucky to be able to drive to the beach to watch surfers after the fusion. 2 years after.
    I design your spine
  • MollyAkMMollyAk Posts: 114
    edited 12/26/2013 - 11:24 AM
    Hi, I was checking out activities (specifically horseback riding for myself.) and found this timeline/activity chart. Its from some center, I have no information or experience about but this is on page 9. Here is the link but I don't know if it's ok, so it might get removed
    http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/documents/orthopaedics/files/LumbarFusion - 4email.pdf

    If it gets deleted a google search of activity chart following lumbar surgery will bring it up. Of course, it's just a guideline but it might give you hope. And yes, horseback riding was there...of course I will follow my surgeon's directions, but he said it was a yes to riding again too.
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 12/28/2013 - 9:23 AM
    I am 8 days post op from my 360 lumbar fusion at two levels L4-S1, and my new reality is that pushing myself even to stand or sit for longer than 20 minutes is mistake. I have already come to terms with never skiing, bowling or doing karate again (I have a black belt) because after you are fused, the discs immediately above and below your fusion are now under all the extra stress that was removed from your damaged discs. I also have sworn that, because of the intense post-surgery pain, that I NEVER want to have another fusion again. I am 34 years old, and I promise you that I will NOT be one of those patients who doesn't adhere to my surgeon's restrictions.

    I admire your positivity, but highly discourage you from having your fusion if you cannot give up or modify your sports. Try instead PT, therapeutic disc and or epidural steroids or sessions with a PT in a therapy pool and see if they get you the relief you are seeking without this serious and life chaniging operation. I was able to delay my op by one year by my previously mentioned milder approaches. Best wishes
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • I don't buy it, I had a fusion I'm not dead. I'll follow my doctor's directions but I'm not going to quit life either. There are no guarentees in life, you can be ultra careful and still need another fusion. Or you could get run over by a truck. Life is risky, use common sense but don't give up on your passions either. Just my opinion, we'll see in a few decades who is right.
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • MollyAk said:
    I don't buy it, I had a fusion I'm not dead. I'll follow my doctor's directions but I'm not going to quit life either. There are no guarentees in life, you can be ultra careful and still need another fusion. Or you could get run over by a truck. Life is risky, use common sense but don't give up on your passions either. Just my opinion, we'll see in a few decades who is right.
    I agree with you. I am 24 years old and know I will need another fusion in the future. Because my other discs are healthy, my surgeon is hoping that will be another 15-20+ years down the road. In the meantime, once my restrictions are lifted, I'll resume a normal life. I'm not saying I'm going to take part in crazy high impact sports or go picking up stuff that weighs hundreds of pounds, but I won't think twice about bowling, horseback riding, etc.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • Helen3Helen3 Posts: 205
    edited 12/28/2013 - 8:01 PM
    You have a learning curve in front of you. I hope you don't have to learn the hard way.
  • I had a L4-S1 fusion and laminectomy in October. I'm already back doing low impact exercise classes, walking 5 miles a day and other than a few twinges feel great My surgeon said there's no reason I won't be running in a few months. A friend who had a L5-S1 fusion in March is now running 4-6 miles a day.
  • epapanaeepapana Posts: 8
    edited 12/31/2013 - 11:24 AM
    I am 8 days away for a L5/S1 Fusion with a top doctor at the Hospital in New York. Every time I travel on business for a week; the plane ride and travel by car all day affect my back and right leg. It takes about 7-10 days to get back to normal activities. Surfing is my passion which I do 30 times per year. The rest of my exercises are PT, back therapy and core strengthening almost every day. I stopped running marathons, Tennis 15 years ago, I don't golf or take long bike rides. I feel very limited to the sports/activities I can do. My core is very strong due to all the therapy and exercises I do on a weekly basis; but still limited; my back goes if I leave the routine for more than 5 days. Any success stories or thoughts regarding my situation? MGO+

    Post edited to remove specific hospital name. Please read the Forum rules
    Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team

  • Any comments from anyone who only had this type of fusion? How do you feel after 1 month, 3 month 6 month, 1 yr.? What you cannot do any more?
  • I had an L4-S1 360 ALIF done in 2007. For three months after fusion I felt great. PT was going really well and I felt better than I had in a really long time. I then started having back pain again and as time has progressed till now, the following are activities that are out now that I used to do;

    Running, snow skiing, baseball, softball, volleyball, water skiing, etc...

    Essentially, anything that causes twisting, impact, lifting is out. Even relations with my wife is damn near a thing of the past due to male issues caused from surgery and the pain in my lower back when we try to be intimate.

    I would simply caution you to be careful and don't rush your recovery.
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I had an L5-S1 ALIF fusion in June of 2011. I am doing great. I followed my surgeon's advice to the T and now he says my back is good enough that I could jump out of an airplane. While I am NOT going to be jumping out of any airplanes I do plan to keep on with my life and try to get back to some activities that I want to do. Keep in good communication with your surgeon and do what he/she says to do. And also, its up to the individual how much intractable pain they are wil;ling to put up with. I went thro0ugh over TEN years of terrible back pain with my back really going out probably 6-8 times a year and with the rest of the time me being in somewhat bearable pain. I was taking vicodin all the time it seemed. I had fallen off a roof in probably the year 2000 if I remember correctly, and it was a mess ever since then. I had probably 20 steroid injections, and at first they worked, but eventually nothing worked. Anyway, I think its very possible you can get back to your activities but don't over do it and remember to keep your surgeon in the loop and get his/her advice before doing anything too strenuous.
  • I'm sorry I did not see your message until just now. I imagine you are too busy either having surgery or dealing with the aftermath to log in here right now. But I had a similar surgery as can be seen from the post above. I couldn't do any activities really at all before surgery and now I am doing great, but have been hesitant to get back into any sports or anything although my doctor keeps urging me to try things. So I think you have a chance of doing the things you love to do eventually but take it slow and easy at first, don't over do it. I don't exactly remember how my pain was right after surgery and exactly one month, etc down the road. But I do know I have a desk job as an attorney and I went back to work at 6 weeks post op. It was not easy at first, but I was out of time-off and I had to go back whether I liked it or not, unless I didn't want to get paid. So anyway, I do not do really heavy lifting although the doc said I could start with light weight lifting and work my way up if I wanted to. I think I have just been too nervous to try to do things, but I decided, maybe its a new years resolution, to do some more this year. I signed up for five introductory kickboxing classes, I will have to post how it goes later on. I also plan to call my surgeon before I go to my first class, just to make sure he doesn't have a major objection to it. I think he will be so happy I am trying to lose weight that he will probably go for it. Plus it is a class where the people do not hit each OTHER, just the heavy bag, so I don't have to worry about anyone hitting me right now.
    I used to be an athlete but after my fall and after three kids I just got REALLY out of shape and that's where I am right now. My back is doing pretty well all things considered and I really think it is ME who is holding me back, not my back pain anymore. I wish you and everyone the best of luck with your surgeries. Stay positive! :-)
  • Here's hoping it went well today! Hang in there throughout those first rough days. They can be dark and difficult but it will get easier !!
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • My surgery is in 7 days. I am in very good core shape (for my 6 ft 227 lbs) which I hope will help in the recovery. I plan to follow my Doctor advice 150% --- Only walk for 6 weeks!!!. My only hope is that I can do Phisical Therapy directed core exercises, light weight in arms/legs, crunches. Most importantly get back to light surfing/swimming 1 year. I hope I am not too unrealistic. Any reactions?
  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 01/02/2014 - 2:20 PM
    Hello there,

    Sorry I thought you were having your op today. Whoops!

    So I think some users overreacted to my original post reply to your initial posting. I am in no may saying that life is over after a fusion, or "dead," as one put it. However, the facts in my case are:

    1- I'm 34 and hopefully have a lot of life yet to live
    2- I have just had a very invasive 2-level 360 fusion with my own bone graft and this is a new body I have to get used to living with, and respecting limits
    3- my near and dear family, friends, my husband, my children, my physician and surgeon have a lot more than the $150,000 price tag of this operation invested in me. Their time, volunteering, child sitting, house cleaning and emotional support are all invested in a positive outcome

    I control a lot of this outcome right now, in the early stages. How well I respect my surgeon's restrictions and my own body's limitations will have a direct impact on whether or not this fusion fails.

    So, what I know for now is that I have to alter my physical hobbies and interests. I knew over a year ago that bowling is out for a lifetime and so is typical karate. I will move on to some form of stationary kick boxing (w a bag) when I am ready. I also know that softball is just not for me anymore, the twisting with batting is too much.

    I think it's good that you have ambitions post surgery. You won't be "dead," but god forbid you start some activity too early or without dr recommendation. That would not be wise but I think as long as you talk to your dr and inform him/her, you can form a plan together that you can have some passion about starting.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • MollyAkMMollyAk Posts: 114
    edited 01/02/2014 - 2:17 PM
    I plan on riding my horses again and doing anything else I feel like I want to do. If I can't, then at least I tried. If I have a question about the wisdom of an activity, I'll ask my surgeon and get his take on it. Good luck to you and quick healing!
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • Just wishing you well for your surgery. I may be looking at the same procedure soon.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • Ha! It sounds like you were referring to me in your post! I'm sorry if you felt I over reacted to your post, the doom and gloom gets me down sometimes! Best of luck to you and quick recovery!
    L5 S1 MicroD - August 21, 2013
    L5 S1 Fusion - October 17, 2013
    44 year old
  • Wishing you good luck on your upcoming surgery. Dont let the first few weeks scare or have negative thoughts. I had surgery on November 26,13 fusion L4-S1. I am feeling very well and walking at least 1/2 mile or more a day, when I can get out ( Living in Upstate NY,it is not easy to walk outside with all the snow). I have cut down my Oxycon to two a day, so there is a rainbow. You will feel better each week. I agree to someone who stated judge your progress by the weeks not the day. You will do great as long as you know your limitations early on. The more careful you are during your recovery,the farther you will go.
  • Busted, yes, I was quoting you.. But in all honesty, your post was a good reminder to see another point of view. I read you have horses, and I used to ride. If I owned any, I'd also be passionate about finding a way to incorporate them into my rehab plan, too. But two cats is it for me, haha. One that hasn't moved to acknowledge me from her pet bed and another that is so empathetic that she is like my shadow. ;)
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • epapanaeepapana Posts: 8
    edited 01/15/2014 - 6:27 AM
    Just came home for 4.5 hr surgery followed by good yet challenging stay at the Hospital . I am still on pain killers (7.5mm of Nurco 5 times a day). Feeling well. Still difficult to get up from bed but once out of bed I can walk fine. No bending or twisting yet. I will have a follow up visit this Friday with my surgeon . I expect to be working from home for the next 4-5 weeks and only walk as therapy for the next 6 weeks. I will discover the progress and final results of the surgery in the next 3-6 month. Phisical theraphy should star in about 6 weeks. I am ready do do 3-4 times /wk PT at that time. All the best, Miguel

    Post edited to remove specific doctor's name and facility. Please read the Forum rules
    Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team
  • epapanaeepapana Posts: 8
    edited 01/15/2014 - 6:26 AM
  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 01/15/2014 - 8:13 AM
    So glad to hear you're home! It's a long recovery but hopefully each day will get easier. My worst pain is each morning, but once I start moving and get some medicine in me, I feel better. Hope you continue feeling better!
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • We will follow you and encourage you through your recovery. Congrats on getting the first step over and here's to hoping as pain free recovery as possible. Take it easy and let us know how you are doing.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • epapanaeepapana Posts: 8
    edited 01/21/2014 - 9:11 AM
    I have been at home for 7 days after spending 5 days in the Hospital in NY. Before the surgery my pain was on the lower right side of my back radiating to my right butt and legg. As of today I take 4 pain pills/day (Nurco 7.5mm). The only pain I have now is still the right side of my back and butt. I understand the pain comes from the nerves that were touched/handle during the operation, which focused more on fixing the right side. I can walk 2-3 miles/day and pain is under control. Any reactions or comments?
  • I don't know about the surfing part, but I kinda doubt it since my doc said my yoga would be somewhat limited in range of motion.

    I have a theory about all these "repeated" back surgeries (blamed on getting fused) and why I went ahead and got mine anyhow that I will share.....you either have back problems or you don't. I could already see L4-L5 beginning to be a problem on my MRI but my surgeon said not necessary to fuse at this time. Without a fusion I still would be looking at the problems I've endured for 25 years- BACK PAIN!! Rather than let it get to the sciatica stage, I opted to have the surgery early to avoid permanent nerve damage (I feel I had a great surgeon.)
    I'm doing great 7 weeks out meaning: it was a major surgery and I'm taking it very easy for the 3 months as he INSISTED. I'm not even working.

    Basically he told me it would take 18 month-2 years to FULLY fuse but I would really be back to doing MORE things pain free than I ever could do before the surgery. (I had Grade 1 spondolothesis which moved to Grade 2 in a year). Point was, it was getting worse with age.

    I might be cussing him out 6 months from now, but at this time I have absolutely no regrets and I'm off the pain meds. Every situation is unique, but every DOCTOR told me "the sooner the better, it's the people who wait too long have the most problems." I wonder how many of the people on this site that share horror stories simply put off surgery too long? My friend's doc wasted a year on PT and he still ended up with a double fusion and the fusion worked great for his back pain but the nerves were already dead in his foot (the original reason he went in). My primary care doctor said "You have 6 months to 1 year (at the most) from the time you first experience daily pain until the time the nerve dies. He told me to get the surgery done now and he is highly respected. Good luck to you whatever you decide.
    Just turned 50
  • All I have done is walk
    Started 0.2-0.3 miles/day by day 8-9
    After 2.5 weeks walking 2-3 miles per day
    Stop taking pain killers by the 3rd week
    Now expecting when PT will begin; maybe in 2-3 weeks
    Long road ahead to get to full recovery and reach level before surgery. 3 stages of discovery:
    1. How I progress with phisical therapy week 6 to 12 (~March 7)
    2. Integrate phisical therapy with gym training/Swimming mixing PT and GYM- week 12-18 (~April 21)
    3. Flexibility, strength training/Swimming week 18-24 (June 7)
    4. Try slowly and light running, tennis, surf Summer!!!!

    This will be a long and disciplined process

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