Hi everyone. Since we have just moved to this new forum I thought it might be a good time to (re)introduce myself. Some of you will know me as one of the four Moderators of the forums, along with PRIESTESS, Dilauro & Paulgla.
I first joined Spine-health around 18 months ago, around the time that I had a Laminectomy and fusion at L5-S1. I was in a real bad way in my early days of recovery and these forums played a huge part in helping me out and turning me around. Since then I wanted to give something back to Spine-health and was fortunate to have the opportunity to become a Moderator around July last year. I am now 18 months post fusion surgery and live a back pain free life now, so I couldn’t be more pleased with how things have turned out. Sure, there were hiccups along the way and it has been a struggle, but a worthwhile one.
I am originally from New Zealand, but now live in Asia (Singapore) with my wife and one son (our other son is studying overseas). Living on the opposite side of the world to most of our members gives me the opportunity to be on the forums at different times to many of you, hence why you might see me lurking here at odd hours!
Wishing everyone the very best and hoping to see you all around the forums… Bruce
PS: Here is my story, below
Intermittent lumbar back pain started about 1998. Mild sciatic pain in right leg kicked in around the same time. Continuous lumbar back pain and moderate sciatic pain started 2003. Last 6 months before surgery, broken nights due to pain and could not get out of bed in the morning unaided. Tried chiropractors and physiotherapy over the years, but no help. Finally had an MRI in November 2006. Diagnosis: severe DDD and severe foraminal stenosis at L5-S1. Laminectomy and instrumented fusion at L5-S1 less than a month later, in Dec 2006.
Started back at work part-time (office job) at 4 weeks post-op. Pain was quite OK but I was very tired. Probably should have waited 6 weeks before starting back at work. Was back at work full time at 8 weeks. Was flying on 7-hour international flights at 8 weeks too.
Started physiotherapy (PT) rehab at 3 months post-op. Was doing well - no sciatic pain but mild- back pain still there.
Started getting sciatic pain too, and so at 6.5 months I had an X-ray which showed one pedicle screw had moved due to vertebrae fracturing. Stopped PT and had surgery to remove all hardware 1 week later. Recommenced PT 2 weeks post hardware-removal surgery, and returned to work at the same time.
Prior to my initial fusion surgery, my lumbar pain was always much worse for me than the sciatic leg pains.
August 2007 (1 month after hardware removal surgery)
Am not feeling 100% but am already feeling better than I have in the last 2-3 years. ODI score 10% - 15% (some days a little better than others). Dull lumbar pain sometimes. Very mild sciatic leg pain in right leg upon waking in the morning and sometimes while sitting. Goes once I get up and move around.
Sleep: I now have 100% pain free sleep. This is probably the single most important improvement for me. I still have restless nights, but not due to the back - more due to the habit of waking up frequently (haven’t broken the habit yet).
Standing: I can stand and be on my feet for several hours. Back is not restricting this activity.
Sitting: I can sit in a good supportive chair for about an hour before getting sacral pain, and some mild lumbar pain. I try to get up every 45 minutes and walk around for 5-10 minutes before sitting down. With this regime I can work 9-10 hours a day behind a desk, but by the end of the day my sacrum is sore, but not sore enough to take any meds. Sitting in a big soft lounge chair is still a no-no. I can tolerate it for about 15 minutes before my lumbar area gets sore.
Walking: I can walk long distances without major problems. I have done two 10 kilometre cross country walks within the last 2 months. That evening my lumbar area is a little sore but the next day it is back to normal.
Riding a bike: Riding a stationary bike 15 minutes every day. Painful on the sacral area due to the seat! No pain in the lumbar area.
Swimming: Swimming is no problem now. Prior to having the hardware removed, extension of my back while swimming caused pain in the lumbar area. With the hardware removed, extension no longer hurts.
11 Months Post Fusion Surgery
Climbed a 14,000 foot mountain last month! Read my story www.UCanDoIt2.multiply.com
Am now 11 months post fusion and thought it good to post an update. I have less pain than I can remember for years and my ODI is 5 (=10%). Not totally pain free all the time, but I do have long periods during the day that are totally pain free. A slight back pain is there in the morning upon awaking but that more or less is it. All sciatic pain has gone.
I maintain the stretch exercise routine every day, although sometimes I am lazy at that, which is bad. My physio told me to keep them up so I will do.
My hamstrings are still so totally tight and this is stressing the lumbar area still, but PT is helping there too.
All in all I am very happy with the outcome now, after a shaky first 6-7 months.
Update: 14 months post fusion and 7 months post hardware removal.
Saw my ortho surgeon for what should be the very last time a couple of weeks ago. He has basically said that at this point I am as good as he expects I will ever be and doesn't want to see me again (well, in a nice way - he has given me an open appointment, if I even need to see him).
So, my situation - all sciatic pain/sensation in my right leg has gone. All original lower back pain has gone. However I still have a lower back ache when fully extending backwards or fully flexing fowards, and after sitting all day at my desk. I can live with this and I dont need pain meds for it. On the ODI (Oswestry Disability Index) I am now between 2% & 4%, compared with 54% (or 58%? can't remember) before surgery.
I have had all sorts of aches and pains to deal with after surgery - not caused by the surgery but caused by remobilisation of various joints following surgery, as well as due to being extremely flat footed with a severely pronated right foot (all my problems have been on my right side) - SIJ problems, right knee and ankle problems; extremely tight hamstrings.
I have maintained physiotherapy rehabilitation almost weekly now for 10 months with the most wonderful physiotherapist who really understands back issues and rehab after spine surgery. I have also maintain stretching and core muscle strengthening exercises almost on a daily basis at home, but I do not do nearly enough walking or swimming.
Frankly, before my first surgery I was hoping that at this point now I would be 100% pain free and completely normal. However, I have learned along the way that backs and back surgery is not like that. Considering what I now know, I feel that my outcome is very good and so I am extremely happy with where I am today.
Update: 19 months post fusion and 12 months post hardware removal.
I can now say that I am living a back pain-free life – a point that even 3 months ago I never thought that I would reach! I do stretches and core strengthening exercises at home a couple of times a week, which is not enough I know, and walk in the weekends. I should be doing a bit more. Last weekend we did a 6 mile cross country trek and I had some lumbar pain due to my tight hams, not to mention sore calves, for 3 days afterwards. Not severe enough to warrant any treatment, but just enough to remind me that I have to keep up with regular exercising – stretches, core strengthening and walking!
Key points that helped me
These were all key for me - they may not necessarily be for you:
1. Do your homework – research all you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
2. Going into surgery with a positive attitude - once I knew that surgery was my best hope, I bit the bullet and went for it. Scheduled surgery for as quickly as I could.
3. Having a good surgeon that had a good track record and whom I could relate to.
4. Recognising that I will never be 100% again and accepting that being significantly better is still great.
5. Recovery is tougher than most of us imagine. I nearly gave up during the first month, but pulled myself through - spine-health.com helped enormously, showing me that there were others out there going through the same.
6. Listen to your body, post-op, if you are hurting, ask your doc – don’t be afraid to seek help.
7. Use your pain level as a guide what to do, and don’t overdo anything, or you will HURT the next day.
8. Do your stretches religiously! If you have the opportunity to do physiotherapy rehab, do it, and keep doing it for as long as your insurer lets you, or as long as you can afford to. I continued doing PT rehab for a year, and had an excellent Physical Therapist who was very experienced in back surgery rehab.
For sure, I have had it easier than a lot of back pain sufferers, and it has sure helped that I have a reasonable insurance scheme but, more so, that I am in a country with a yet-to-be-screwed-up medical system. Nevertheless, I have had my down times and set backs, like failed hardware, but so far I have refused to let it grind me down for too long.
Give it your best shot, and never give up hope. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
...an old timer here and ex-moderator