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Spinal Fusion recovery L5-S1- Surgery Dec. 5, 2013

Having Spinal Fusion surgery was a very difficult decision for me and I read everything I could get my hands on and talked to as many people I knew to ask as many questions as possible. I just turned 50 and was diagnosed with spondolythesis and completely shocked when I went to a back surgeon and he said "now or later, you are going to have this surgery...you just decide when." I sent my MRI for second and 3rd opinions and consulted with my other doctors. My pain was manageable, yet I couldn't do anything like vacuum or be on my feet for 6 hours and not feel it in my lower back either immediately or the next day. So I was not screaming in pain, I didn't have any sciatic pain, just the continual ache in my lower back and MUCH difficulty sleeping from the pain along with alot of difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Still, no one I worked with even knew I was in pain. I had about 100 people advise me against the surgery, and only a few doctors I had been to (PCP; OB/GYN; Podiatrist; my Friend's husband (Internal Medicine doc); and a second Ortho Surgeon) recommend I go through with it. I actually scheduled it in Sept, checkened out, then rescheduled in December to take advantage of my medical insurance deductible I had already met.

Now, to the meat of the matter....The surgery went fine. I had an Ortho do it who was also trained in Neurology from Yale/Harvard. I had several people tell me "Oh yeah, I went to him and he said I needed a spinal fusion and instead I went to physical therapy and now I'm fine. He's just out to pad his pockets by doing surgery." I still listened to my own gut and figured I couldn't picture myself doing PT the rest of my life (I just turned 50)...I'm just not an excercise type of person because I am 5'9" and 145lbs which is perfect for my height- I just rather mow the lawn or vacuum instead of going to a Gym, so I certainly wasn't going to be racking up PT bills since I have high deductible insurance. My doc sounds pricey but he was actually on my plan.

The day after surgery the nurse had me up walking. Yes it was hard, but not like all the horror stories I read. Giving birth to my son was worse pain and recovery-at least for me. I did have a rough childbirth though. The worse part of the pain was he took the bone from my hip, but I just took the prescribed Lortab for that which was enough.

Now I am 6 weeks out and completely off pain meds- there isn't any pain. I can honestly say even though I am still wearing my brace (and will have to for at least another 6 weeks), I feel better than I did before the surgery. I lived with my Mom for 6 weeks, so I had solid help. Was that necessary? Probably not. I have a "grabber" to pick things up and a raised toilet seat I am still using and have done exactly like the doctor says. I just had xrays again and the bone is fusing and it looks like I am well on my way.

With as good as I'm feeling, I don't even worry about the scares of "your're going to have multiple back surgeries once they start." You know what? I already know I feel better after the surgery which (even if it is a short time) is worth the risk of another back surgery to me. My girlfriend's husband (also 50 yr old) had a double fusion 2 years ago and was doing back flips off the diving board this summer. That was a huge inspration for me to go through with the surgery.

My ortho went in through my back (Posterior approash) and I have 2 scars. I've been putting Maderma on them and I don't think they are going to be that bad.

Anyhow, I will try to update this post as time goes on, but I am also available for any questions anyone might have that I didn't address. I have to stress though, everyone's situation is individual. Am I glad I went through with it and listened to my doctors and not the other people? YES!!!!! Back surgery has come a long way. I have Titanuim rods and screws I forgot to mention. The hardware hasn't bothered me a bit. One thing my doc stressed is having 3 motnths off from ANY job. One of my jobs is just sitting at a desk 2 days a week and he still said NO WORK and NO DRIVING for 3 months or he would not do the surgery. He said "I am so tired of people saying how horrible back surgeries are when the doctors don't insist on proper healing time, my fusions are successful because I insist 3 months off. The bone won't totally fuse for up to 18 months possibly, so the first 3 months are critical, yet up to 18 month other restrictions play a part too. The unsuccessful fusions are the ones where the people feel GREAT, then OVER DO it." I am listening to my doc, and believe I will be MUCH better off with this surgery.
Just turned 50


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 01/19/2014 - 4:19 AM
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and growing.
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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
  • Thanks for sharing your success story! There needs to be more happy ended stories like yours . Spinal surgery IS scary and there are lots of horror stories out there. Take care, and continued good luck to you!
    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
  • great to hear you are doing so well. I had my surgery one week before you. I am doing great also, but still on some pain meds. I think because I do overdue it a bit. I am trying so hard not to bend, but find myself doing that. I still have my brace,but my surgeon is weaning me off of it. There is alot of snow and ice around here, so when ever I go outside I have it on. I did go back to work part time today ( four hrs) and I did have some lower back pain. I wish I could have stayed out 3 months, but did stay out 2.
  • justturned50jjustturned50 Posts: 6
    edited 01/20/2014 - 4:46 PM
    I wrote all that and wondered if anyone would ever read it. Glad someone responded, thanks, just wanting to help.

    Someone told me something very valuable that I wanted to pass on that really made sense- it was a nurse. She said "If you take the pain meds because the pain is bad, you won't get addicted and you shouldn't go without them. But the day you wake up and take them to feel good when Tylenol would have worked, you have (or are developing) an issue. That's what got me off of them so fast.

    Just turned 50
  • I know what you mean about the pain meds. I have been on hydro condone for 3.5 years and have always been very cognizant of respecting those lines. For two years I never took more than one a day, and only for the last 6 months have I been taking 2 or 3 a day, due to the immense pain. I've worked very hard to increase my core strength, which helped my back protect itself and keep off the heavier meds most days.
    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
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