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Pars Defect Fusion L5/S1 Surgery - February 2013

MartyMcFlyy5MMartyMcFlyy5 Posts: 2
edited 09/16/2014 - 8:13 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi all.

I will start off by saying I'm an 18-year-old woman and I had a spinal fusion surgery due to a pars defect in February 2013 when I was 16-years-old. It has been a long, strenuous recovery and I still continue to have chronic pain in my lower back. I will tell my situation and how my problem started. I'm in desperate need of advice and help to fix this chronic problem.

Throughout middle and high school I was a three sport athlete. However, in the winter of my freshman year of high school (2010), I developed shin splints in my lower legs. Sometimes the pain would become so bad that I had to sit out for days at a time during sport practices and games. I continued to have shin splints all of 2010 and the following year, until the spring of my junior year (2012) where the shin splint pain (in the front and lateral parts of my lower leg) started to wrap around my leg which caused bad calf pain whenever I walked or ran for a short amount of time. This pain caused me to stop playing sports. Orthopedic surgeons would tell me to just rest, ice and stretch. Well, that seemed to help, but once I started running again (after 3 months of resting), my pain had come back. After seeing 3 different orthopedic surgeons, they all had come to the conclusion that this leg pain could possibly be compartments syndrome. Each surgeon was actually positive it was compartments syndrome in both my legs. Summer of 2013, my junior year, I was tested for compartments syndrome, but my results weren't bad enough to be diagnosed with compartments syndrome to actually have the surgical procedure done of releasing the different compartments in my legs to relieve my calf and lower leg pain. This was good, but also bad because I wasn't sure what was wrong with me. The surgeon who performed the compartments syndrome testing then suggested I get my back x-rayed and to get an MRI on it. This was random. I had always had back pain, but I just thought it was from being active every day. My leg pain was always worse than the back pain.

Summer of 2013, I had my back both x-rayed and received an MRI. Both showed there was a pars defect and slight spondylosis in my lower back (lumbar 5). This surprised me because you know like what is a 16-year-old athlete supposed to do with a fractured spine.

From August 2013 to November 2013 I was put in a back brace which had no affect on my pain. Then, in late December 2013 I got steroid injections on both sides of my spine near my L5. These injections were what I needed. I had absolutely NO PAIN. However, unfortunately they only relieved my pain for about 2 weeks. Those two weeks were the best I have felt in the past 3 years. After concluding that the spinal injections did have a positive effect on my back, my surgeon at Hopkins suggested the spinal fusion surgery.

In February 2013 I had the spinal fusion surgery of my L5 to S1. The procedure lasted about 7 hours and I was in the hospital for 6 long days. I was not allowed to go home until I was able to walk up one stair. I could not get up out of bed without the help of my parents and I was unable to walk without the help of a walker. I now have 6 bolts and screws (3 on each side of my spine).

When I got home I had to stay and sleep in a reclining chair because I was not allowed to lay flat. I was unable to walk on my own for about a month. The pain had slowly gotten less over the months. I started physical therapy in June 2013 which really helped my pain and strengthened my back. I played for my high school soccer team from August to November 2013. I had pain, but as long as I heated, iced, and stretched it was tolerable. I was able to run, walk, dance...etc. After soccer ended I started to work out at the gym (elliptical, stationary bike). I felt good and I was hopeful because I was in the process of becoming pain free and getting back to my normal lifestyle. However, in January of 2014 I had a set back. My pain flared up. Did I go back into physical activity too soon? My spine surgeon said I would be healed in about 4 months after surgery and my pain should go away within 10 months of my surgery.

That was not the case for me. In February 2014 I started to have a stingy nerve pain in my right buttocks area. I received an injection in my L5 which relieved that pain, but my lower back pain was still present. I started back up going to physical therapy which relieved pain for about 10 minutes, but then it would continue again. I eventually gave up on that after 5 months.

I still, to this day have chronic pain. I am now a freshman in college. My back pain prevents me from going out with friends. I'm no longer able to play sports. I have trouble walking around campus to and from classes. I'm at this point hopeless.

My pain: I feel like my movement is limited and my back locks here and there. There is a continuos achy pain all across my lower back. I still have trouble lying down and then getting up from a flat position. I have trouble sitting and standing for a long time. The pain is chronic and continuous every day.

I went to a neurologist yesterday and he suggested possibly getting my screws taken out. Also, I was recommended to take enzyme supplements to decrease my scar tissue.

It would be greatly appreciated to receive any sort of feedback. I'm not even worried about playing sports again. I just need to feel better for my every day life. This recovery and pain has lasted waaaayyyy longer than anticipated and expected.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Marty, if it would be me going through all what you have been experiencing, I would
    seek out a second opinion. But not just any OS or NS, but somebody who had specialized training in spinal surgery, and who comes with excellent recommendations. I usually ask other doctors ("if it would be you/your souse, etc, whom would you see"?), as well as former patients. Good luck!

  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 09/14/2014 - 5:36 AM
    A pars defect (fracture) is relatively common amongst young athletes, especially those who are gymnasts, track and field or football players , dancers. A one level surgery involves normally two screws on each side and a short rod, so they probably screwed the pars with the other screws to hold it in place while the fracture healed.
    Ongoing back pain is common post op, simply because the muscles and alignment are changed with the placement of the rods and screws, and stretching those muscles out, regular excercise goes a long way in improving those symptoms. The surgeon may be able to remove the rods and screws if they are no longer necessary.
    Walking, is the most important thing that you need to do, since it helps to increase your stamina and endurance, along with easing muscle tension. Topical over the counter muscle creams and rubs might be very helpful.
    A TENS unit might help also to ease the muscle tension. A muscle relaxer might also help. It is common for there to be days when the pain flares up a bit, and rest, ice, and heat usually help that to go away. If you are having signs of nerve related pain, seeing your surgeon to re-evaluation might be what you need to do.
    There are medications that can help with that type of pain as well. You are far too young to allow your back to be interfering so much with your life in college, so work with your doctor to get you back on your feet. Returning to physical therapy and learning about some strengthening excercises and regular stretching would help you considerably but you need to do them every day.
  • Marty, bless your heart! I would give you a great big hug if your were near!

    I agree, I would NOT go to just any neurologist, I would see someone that you can trust and know what he is talking about in this area.

    What are you doing for the pain? Ten unit? Tramadol? Anything?

    It sounds like you still need PT and time to heal. Don't become anxious and stressed about it. Rest, good nutrition and a good attitude is extremely important!

    Can you possibly move home and do your classes online?

    I will be praying for you! -HUGS-
    Stephanie Ross
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