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Bruising 16 months after lumbar fusion?

missfeistymmissfeisty Posts: 4
edited 11/29/2015 - 7:54 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hi all, I'm new here. I had an L4 laminectomy, L4-L5 fusion, facet cyst removal, and hardware surgery on 7/11/14. Recovery went well. No complications, minimal pain, returned to my normal life, I've been riding my horse regularly (2-3 times per week), have done some barn work, been able to do some Pilates type stretching trying to get my left leg strength back, everything's been fine.

This past Friday I decided to look at my incision in the mirror since I hadn't seen it in at least several months. The whole area around my incision is bruised!!!!! It forms a nice square around the incision, with four distinct darker spots. It also works its way up either side of my spine to about half way, so the whole thing looks like a very pointy triangle. I immediately sent a message to my doctor but it was close to 5pm so I'm sure he didn't get it in time to respond. (Since I haven't checked my incision in a long time, I honestly don't know how long the bruise has been there.)

Here is what I have been doing differently lately:

I recently took a job that allows me to work from home. It is computer work, so I am sitting all day. I also attend school online so once I finish working, I switch to school work so I'm at the computer many nights too. I do not have proper furniture; my original setup was intended for recreational computer use. I've been meaning to buy proper furniture but never seem to find the time/money.

I have a sleep number bed. I've noticed all along that if I sleep too long on my back, the area where the bone was harvested gets very stiff, so I lowered the settings to softer. That stopped the stiffness.

My horse misbehaved a little bit while riding last Sunday. Nothing major, I didn't get jolted side to side, it was more of an up and down movement and only lasted about 10 seconds. No soreness or pain the next day. (I should also mention that I have not experienced any pain after any of my rides, even when he misbehaved). Now - two weeks earlier he did spook sideways and I was jolted sideways a bit, but again, no pain.

Overall, other than riding my horse lately I have been doing nothing but sitting at the computer or laying down. I've noticed some achy-stiffness type of pain, but it's been consistent and low grade, sort of how it feels if you've been laying around for too long, if that makes sense.

Until I hear back from my surgeon, I'm not riding, I adjusted the setting on my bed back to firmer (noticed a reduction in achiness right away), and have been limiting my time at the computer. Also trying to take more walks to keep moving.

Has anyone else experienced bruising this long after surgery? If so, did you find out what the cause was?

Old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway ;)


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Spinal stenosis since 1995
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    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 496
    I'm amazed you're horseback riding after a fusion, no matter how long ago it was, which for you is less than a year and a half ago. How long after your fusion did your surgeon give you the green light to do so? It really blows my mind that Dr's give their patients approval to participate in activities just like they did prior to their surgery. I'm sure if they didn't, fewer people would be having fusions, and I'm not just referring to those that are having them because of a reinjury.

    I am sorry you are having trouble with your back again, and though I don't know the true cause of the bruising, it sure seems like horse riding would be the most likely culprit. I'm hoping you get some answers soon.

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 731
    I agree with Sheri... you're playing with fire to be doing any kind of horseback riding!!! You are out of spinal nerve pain due to your surgery but you are NOT cured and your back will NEVER be 100% again... doing the stressful and bone jarring type of activities you did before your surgery is just asking for trouble. Trust me I learned the hard way. You MUST be "kind to your back" for the rest of your life... not just the first year!! It doesn't mean you can't be active you just have to careful and conscious of what you chose to do and not to do.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • My doctor knew before I ever went into the surgery that I owned a horse and rode regularly and in competition. I was given the green light to ride at about 8 weeks, the same time I was given the ok to return to work. I understand your reactions and concern, but please understand that I'm not riding rodeo here, I'm not bouncing around in the saddle; I am an experienced rider and use my core muscles to keep my body stabilized. If riding was the culprit I would have had problems long before this. I'm not saying it doesn't contribute, but all things considered I don't think it's the only cause.

    Old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway ;)
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 496
    edited 11/30/2015 - 7:40 AM
    I understand what you're saying, about your riding horse lazily n leisurely in the saddle...although just hefting the saddle, and getting up on the saddle would seem like plenty of a spinal irritant. Even though you're not letting loose of the reins, and galloping around the countryside (though trotting would be worse), for like you said, horses can get spooked, and then you can be in for a ride you didn't anticipate.....no matter how much control of the situation you think you may have.

    I know we can compare somewhat the same to riding a bike....that's why mine is still stationary....no I don't enjoy it as much, at all really, but my spine is better protected because of it. Will I ever ride a bike again? That will depend on if I'm willing to ever gamble the enjoyment of peddling myself around the great outdoors, with that of having a mishap, or an accident, and causing damage to spine, propelling myself into a world of hurt again.

    I know the risks of driving/riding in a vehicle also, but I personally, see that as a necessity to everyday living....somethings that have to be done....we cannot live in a protective bubble of safety....life does go on, but there are parts of it, because of our bodies limitations (acknowledged or not), that we will have to avoid to prevent a future of misery.... because we need to choose to adapt, to recognize we are no longer like we used to be. Life's physical changes are so much easier if we learn to change with them. I don't see that as giving in, or giving up on something we once loved, just learning to enjoy the view traveling a different path than the one we once knew....life can still be good.
  • I would like to think that my surgeon would have told me pre-surgery that I wouldn't be able to ride anymore. I always use a mounting block to mount, first of all it makes life much easier, secondly it does not put undue stress on my very expensive saddle. Trotting? I ride English. I "post" the trot, which means I raise and lower my body using my leg and hip muscles in rhythm with the horse's movement. No bouncing there. Trust me, I am well aware of the risks of riding a 1200 lb animal with a mind of his own; I've been doing it for 30 years. It is not something I am willing to give up. What am I supposed to do, sell my horse just because I "may" get hurt? That risk has always existed. An old instructor told me "if you really don't want to fall off a horse, then never get on." My horse and my riding is not just a hobby. It is my passion, it is in my blood, it is my way of life. Take it away from me, and you might as well put a bullet in my head. My surgeon understood all this beforehand.

    I understand that riding would be the obvious choice when trying to figure out the cause of my bruising. But it does not explain why I have been riding since Sept 2014 with no problems (and yes he has misbehaved before), but since starting this job where I am sitting all day in improper furniture, many times catching myself slouching over, and suddenly i have a bruise. OH - I forgot this until now - a week ago I did some running. It wasn't a planned leisurely jog, it was more of an "Oh cr*p...I need to be over there NOW". When I stopped running my upper back and shoulders hurt.

    I appreciate your input and hope I don't come across as dismissing your advice. I just feel there are several factors that could have caused this bruising other than (or in addition to) riding. I hope to hear from someone who has experienced the same thing.

    Old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway ;)
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 496
    From the experience of my own surgeon (nothing bad), and those experiences of some others, for some reason it seems surgeons tend to minimize a lot when it comes to fusion recovery.

    Maybe your bruising is a combination of things, but that doesn't necessarily mean what you could do months ago is a guarantee your spine will be able to take it today. As we get older our bodies are less forgiving, and having had a fusion already, your spine is even more vulnerable.....something I don't think surgeons relate to their patients like they should.

    I can relate to your passion of riding on a smaller scale. I have always loved to dance, and after my surgery, at three months post op, my surgeon told me I could start dancing a little again (he knew my dancing kind was just basic dancing~classic rock n country). I was a bit surprised for him to say that, I was still struggling with walking, moving period, and he was saying I could start dancing. Before surgery he recommended I didn't continue my line of work longer than the three years I had planned on. I have had to retire because I'm no longer able to do what I used to. Not that I'm putting him down, I just think surgeons tend to minimize a persons spinal limitations after surgery, mainly because everyone is different....but what we do all have in common is our one and only spine.

    But, back to your passion of riding, much more involved than my dancing. You have a horse you love to be with, you're attached to it. With dancing, it is just my own movement....so I do understand there are more emotional ties there with you.

    Sometimes though, life isn't fair about a lot things, and one of those things is not being able to do the things we used to be able to do, for many reasons....here it's spinal stability. If it came down to not riding like you're used to, aren't there other ways you could spend your time with your horse? Teach kids how to ride? It sounds like you have the passion to do amazing things where your love of riding and horses are, you can still share that with other people.
  • Well, the bruising is going away. I heard back from my surgeon, he feels it's not related to the surgery (?!?), and if it doesn't resolve itself shortly I can come in. I plan on making an appointment anyway, I would like an exray to get an idea of how everything is doing.

    I appreciate your advice and suggestions. Although I certainly have the experience and knowledge to teach others to ride, it's not in the cards. These days in our litigation-happy society, I would need at the very least instructor's insurance. And in order to be competitive with other instructors I would need to take courses to become certified.

    I will just take things one day at a time and see how my life unfolds from here.
    Old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway ;)
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