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Looking for L5-S1 lumbies!

CRASH21CCRASH21 Posts: 139
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Lower Back Pain
Looking to get as much information about L5-S1 fusion. Will eventually be headed for surgery. Would like to gather information re: pre-surgery, post-surgery, what you wish you had known. Anything you all out there can share.


  • Hi Crash,

    Hopefully you'll get many responses. I had a TLIF back in Dec 2005. My best advice - the short version - is to get really, really educated about your condition, the specific surgery you are having (ALIF, PLIF, TLIF, ???), and the prognosis for your recovery so that you are your best advocate for surgery, pre- and post-. Make sure you like and trust your surgeon and feel confident that the treatment plan he/she is outlining is the right one for you. Fusions are a bear to recover from, so you need to be in it for the long haul. Once your doctor does his job, you're going to have to do yours, which includes following his instructions to the "T", and walking, or otherwise exercising yourself back to health. You need to be prepared to work hard at recovery but don't over do it. There can be many ups and downs with a fusion recovery and you need to be prepared for that physically, mentally, and emotionally. Fusion rates are very high these days (95% or greater) and successful surgerical outcomes vary ("sucess" being measured by improving the quality of your life and/or reducing your pain levels). There are many success stories out there.

    So, research, research, research! Talk to people here on the forum but also its really important you read the technical information provided here at Spine-Health as well. There are lots of articles to read and learn from.

    Best Wishes :) and keep us updated!
  • I am 8 weeks post op fusion tomorrow. Hopey gave you a lot of good info. The part I was the least ready for was the emotional part that occured after the first month. As I started to feel better, yet still have pain and become tired easily. Emotionally I have mostly good days....but every so often things get to me and I have a sad day. I am very lucky to have a lot of support, so it doesnt last long.

    If you have any specific questons..please ask. It you will get a lot of answers to the things you want to know most.

  • I had L5-S1 fused almost 4 years ago, and unfortunately I am not one of the success stories. My pain only got worse after my surgery. I am now working on my 2nd fusion one level higher this time though. I am also having my screws removed from my first fusion. As Hopey said, do alot of research yourself about what kind of surgery you'll be having. There will be alot of pain at first, not gonna lie lol. And you must remember to "baby" yourself. Your back won't function like it used to for awhile, and you have to learn how to pace yourself and not over do it. I, myself, have a hard time limiting myself (single mom, gotta do it all) and I do tend to over do it alot even after so many years of dealing with this. It will take a toll on you eventually, so just make sure you keep track of what you are doing, and rest if you feel you need to. Good Luck!!
  • hi, i am almost 3 weeks post op L5/S1 and must say i feel great, all the pre surgery pain has gone, and the only pain i am in now is a litle incision pain, and graft site pain, but i have beeen off all meds for 1.5 weeks now and only occasionally take paracetamol, i try and walk a little every day, and try not to overdo things, no BLT etc, life feels so much better than it did and i am looking forard to getting back to work in 4 weeks x x claire x x
  • That's great claire!! Glad to hear you are doing so well and not pushing it. Good luck in your recovery.
  • I'm having an L1-S5 fusion probably in September.
  • My first fusion wasn't a fusion LOL I didn't fuse so I was considered to have "failed back syndrome" just had surgery again on April 18th and still in alot of pain so not sure if this one didn't take or I'm still having alot of post-surgery pain, feel free to ask anything I've been going thru this for over 3 years so I can tell ya the good and bad..............and wow Claire I'm jealous you are so lucky!!! is that a pic of you?
  • I'm 4 1/2 months post op after haveing 360 fusion and feel great. Back to work and my quality of life is almost back to normal.
  • I had Charite ADR L3/L4, L4/L5 and ALIF L5/S1 and it has taken longer to recover than I had hoped. Initial muscle tightness has virtually gone with massage and physio and now have some flexibility although not yet back to normal. The disappointing thing for me is that I'm still having back pain, glute pain and pains in the feet and the dull radiating pain through my legs is still as it was pre-op. I'm persevereing with walking and excerises but have to be careful not to overdo things. I came back to work last Monday but can still only manage short days and go home completely wiped out. I know people recover at different rates but I have 30 years of endurance sports behind me and have coped with pain and discomfort plenty of times - but this back pain after going through such an operation is just so disappointing.
    I'm trying to stay positive and have to remind myself what my life was like pre-op and hope I'm on my way to full recovery - just a bit longer than I'd hoped for though.
    Clearly not everyone is the same.
  • I've had 3 l5s1 fusions so far. Most recently in Nov. The first time I had PLIF, 2nd time ALIF, this time 360 fusion. My 1st fusion just didn't fuse. My 2nd fusion was successful for 8 years and those fusions had no hardware, just bone graft and donor bone. This time we did hardware, bone and a bone stimulator. So far, there is no fusion but it takes time. I would say that before you go into this, as Hopey said, get all the info that you can about the procedure itself. Talk to your doctor about what he has planned for your aftercare. Make sure that you will have help at home - that's a big one! And remember that everyone heals at a different pace so just because someone else healed in 4 months does not mean that everyone does. Your body will heal on it's own schedule and you need to be prepared to wait. Make sure that you start moving right after surgery - just a little walking at first. And keep the pain under control, especially at first. Everyone has a different pain level but it is important to keep it under control. It will make it easier for you to get up and move and it just makes the whole recovery easier. Make sure that you share the information about the surgery and recovery with your family so that they know what to expect and are prepared to help you.

    I hope it all goes well!
  • hi cherry, yes it is a pic of me!! i had a makover day bought as a gift, and this was the result, cool eh? i have not looked like that since!!!!! lol
  • Crash,

    I just had a minimally evasive L5S1 TLIF fusion using the Sextant Medtronics system. In the short version, my n/s used a system that allowed him to insert the screws through a 2inch incision and the rod without cutting any muscles. I am doing very good in the recovery part. I am having a little hip/leg pain, but considering how long and how much pain I was in, this pain is way lower and easing up everyday. As previously stated, everyone is different and there are many different ways to do the fusion. Look at all your options and see what best fits your situation. I am glad I had mine and am working on my recovery.

  • CRASH21 I wish you well. I've been meaning to post a similar subject. My surgeon is recommending a TLIF as my recent laminectomy offered no relief. I don't know what to expect once I'm out of the hospital and someone drops me off at my front door. I live alone and don't have family in the area that I can count on. I'm trying to figure out what I need to do to prepare for aftercare. I appreciate any comments that can help CRASH21 and me.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    Many years ago, lets see 1989 is when I had L5/S1 surgery.
    Back then fusion was not really much of an option for people that had desk jobs. But IF I knew back then what I know now....
    For Lumbar problems L4/L5 and L5/S1 are the ones that seem to be the most popular for spinal surgery.
    I wish I could say that my lumbar is fine after all these years, but Nope, I still have lower back pain and sciatiac from time to time.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • have u guys all tried out the excersise stretches? it's helping me alot...
  • you are in the right place for all your info!!! just keep asking questions. make sure you know about your doc, how many surgeries like this he has performed. i was able to have a contact list of some of the patients my doc fused and they were very helpful. Spine-Health really helped me prepare the best and recover. Good luck to you!!!!
  • Can anyone comment on my above post. I really need to know how to prepare my home and what to expect when I get home. As I mentioned, I live alone so there will not be someone there to help me at all times. I'm more nervous about being home alone than I am about the actual surgery.
  • I would definately make meals before surgery and freeze them so all you have to do is nuke them. I had my L5-S1 fusion in 2004. Fortunately I had the help of my hubby and sis in law when needed. If you are going to be alone most of the time I would get a cane. It helped me when my husband was at work so I could get out of bed easier with less strain. Get up and walk a little each day. They will have you walking the same day or the day after the surgery while you are in the hospital. Be sure you have one of those raised toilet seat things that sits upon your toilet seat. This helped emensly. Also get one of those loofa's or sponges on a stick so while you are showering you wont have to bend or reach too far. Be sure to get the "log roll" down pat while you are in the hospital. This is the best way to get up from a lying position. Get extra pillows ready to help with the pain while laying in bed. Whoever is bringing you home be sure they fill your prescriptions before you get home. The meds will of course make you feel like you are in little to no pain so dont over do it by walking too much or bending. For the walks I would suggest walking around the house for the first week. Then try to venture outside to the sidewalk. Be sure to have loose fitting clothes like pajams or sweats for at least the first week. whatever is easiest to slip on and off without too much hassel! That is all that I can think of right now. If anything else comes to mind I will post again.
    Good luch and happy recovery to you!!!
  • OK, now let's get down to the nitty-gritty. I have been told that I will be in a brace for 3 months. Tell me all the little details. I read I will need a raised potty seat. What else is there that I should know? I can't believe I am only 40 and going through all this. I will be having a cervical fusion in early September and at my 4 week follow-up we will discuss doing the L5-S1 fusion soon after. It does not paint a pretty picture with me in a cervical collar and back brace!! Please help me be as prepared as possible.
  • I was not in my brace for 3 months. It was for the first 6-8 wks then the MRI cleared me have it off. It probably depends on how quickly you heal. I was 28 when I had my fusion. My doc now thinks that I have a bone tumor and I am only 32! ARG So I understand how crazy and frustrating it is to be in the situation. As far as what else you should know I post a reply right before you posted this most recent one. Other than that post I can't think of anything else at the moment
  • I am not one of the success stories. My surgery was a success, meaning the graft worked and there is no movement. My surgery was 4 years ago and i still take massive drugs and am considering a spinal cord stimulator. I do OK as far as my work and family and I paint a smile on every single morning. I try not to talk about it....ever. I get lots of help and understanding from my family. I am having radio frequesncy on my facet joints next week and I am so hopeful about this. I just want to get rid of the meds! I don't want to scare you because I have heard so many wonderful stories but I feel it is important to tell you about my situation so you can hear both sides.
  • MellisaJo thanks for that post. This is the exact type of information that I, and I assume CRASH21 are looking for.

    I have the cane. I'm schooled in rolling out of bed due to a recent laminectomy. I plan on renting/buying a walker just in case I need it. Also a grabber of some sort. Your other ideas will really help.
  • I am glad that some of my post helped. When setting up your bedroom and livingroom for your recovery, just think in a way that you will have limited mobility. So if there are certain things that you always have to reach for that you use i.e alarm clock, lamp etc be sure to move them closer. It is the little things that help. I thought of another thing that was hard for me to do. BRUSHING MY TEETH. Oh man did this drive me crazy!!! To try and bend slightly over the bathroom sink?!!? HECK no basically everything ran down my face and I wiped or spit in a towel. LOL So for that either use the kitchen sink or do it while sitting or laying in bed over a bowl. i know it doesn't sound too major but it sucked figuring this one out by trial and error. LOL And yes I too had one of those grabber things. I used it all the time!!!! Get some good slip on shoes also. You are not going to want to tie your shoes but need the support while walking around. I will keep posting as I think of stuff. Glad to be of help to you! Is your doc doing your incision on your back or on your tummy? Mine was on the tummy so I had the pain from that and the healing pain in my back.
  • Hi all,
    Can't add anything to help with ideas for after surgery. I have had a bulging disc at S1 for several years, with 1st MRI showing it and 2nd MRI showing progression of the bulge, along with bone spurs, but not enough to do anything about. But about a month ago it got to the point of not being able to ignore the pain in back, also the numbness and tingling had increased down the right leg and was also starting to affect left leg. So went to a n/s recommended by several people at work. This MRI shows major degeneration at L5-S1,with no major herniation of disc, and no mention of the bone spurs. I started physical therapy a few weeks ago, with them only doing traction table and e-stem with heat applied. I'm feeling some better, but I've also been out of work for 3 wks now, and not working 12 hr days or standing on concrete floor for those 12 hrs. I had 1st ESI today which aggravated the numbness and pain, but am keeping fingers crossed that it will get better.
  • Hi,

    I can't really help with post surgery ideas for a lumbar fusion, but I am going down the same road toward surgery for L5-S1 and am reading all of these posts with great interest. I'm scheduled for an ESI next week, and hoping a series of these injections will get me out of pain for a while so I can put off having surgery. I had successful ACDF for C4-6 last January, but am not ready to deal with another surgery so soon. Take care and keep us posted.
  • I had 2 laminectomies last july and they were at L5-S1 and L2-L3 and for a while it seemed to get better except my permanent nerve damage and drop foot in right leg,now after a year I am retired and have severe pain everyday,I have a appt next week and I am wondering what will be the next step of my nuero ,also what was you folks pain and symptoms,thanks nutpn Alabama
  • Hi,
    I am also hoping the ESI's work, because according to what I've read so far, I don't want to do the surgery route yet either. Today, following my 1st shot yesterday seems to be a little better. I am going back to work on Monday, so we will see how well I do then. My next shot is scheduled for Sept. 4. Good luck to all in their path to getting better.
  • Hello
    I wanted to let you know that today this far out I and glad I had the surgery. It did make some of the pain go away. I'm having trouble with the 2 levels above due to the fusion .I was told that later down the road it would cause the problems above, I just didn't expect it so soon. To tell you the truth about the first few days your going to wonder why you did it (first day it feels like you got Hit by a 18 wheeler, next day a bus, the day after that a truck, then a car). It does get better as tne days pass. Surgery is a personal decision. Make sure you know everthing possible ahead of time. Also, make sure you have a bunch of people around to help you, your going to need it.
  • one of the things i found helpful was a walker. My uncle yard sales alot and brought one for me before surgery. After he left. I told my husband that was nice of him but I not going to need it and to put it in the attic. Needless to say, I had to have him get it down. I could have done without it but it helped me get up, steady me as I walk to the resteroom and back to bed. So if you happen to see one at a yard sale it would be worth the investment. I was only 33 when I had my surgery. Good luck with everything.:)
  • Well here it is the third day since I've had my first ESI shot, and it doesn't seem to be helping :''( Wednesday, the day after was good, and I thought ok, this is good, but yesterday was slightly worse and today is back to hurting and numbness and tingling down legs. I was suppose to return to work on this coming Monday, but have had to call the dr. and ask him to extend that, so I am now out till my follow up appt with him on the 29th of this month.
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