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4 mos post op L5 S1 fusion, still in pain, depressed and overweight

MingMMing Posts: 1,127
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi This is my first time posting so please bear with me. I am reaching out for answers, understanding, people who can relate or any kind of encouragement at this point. Here's my story:

I went through 6 years of various therapies (chiropractor, spinal decompression, PT, steriod injections 2x's, facet block , radio frequency ablation diagnosis and discogram). I finally gave in and had a anterior spinal fusion of L5, S1 on 7/1/08. One year prior to this surgery I was approximately 70 pounds less. Due to the extreme pain, I was unable to continue with my daily 1 1/2 - 2 hours of exercise. The weight piled on quick and the pain came on even more intense. I am now 4 months post op and still 70 pounds overweight. I am extremely depressed and in constant pain. The only difference I've noticed is that I do not have the muscle spasms as before, however I am still getting the extreme sciatica pain down right leg down to calf. When I sit for more than about 10 minutes my legs get numb (even left side which I didn't have problems with this side before). It feels like that pins and needles feeling when your legs fall asleep. I keep telling my surgeon how much pain I am in and he says I need to wean off the pain meds since my body has become so dependent on them. I am currently on vicoprofin (2-4 per day), effexor for depression, klonopin for anxiety, stool softeners....you can figure that one out and zolpidem for insomnia. I feel I've done good at weaning down on the drugs however now I don't have enough to manage the pain. He is going to do a CT scan shortly to see if the bone is regrowing properly or any other problems. He has mentioned several times that my weight is not helping my recovery, which I completely understand and am very ashamed. I've tried to excercise and everything hurts. Even walking just a little bit which I tried doing. I am so depressed because the pain is stressing me out. I feel completely worthless because I have trouble doing easy everyday chores we would normally take for granted (loading dishwasher, washing machine, mopping, sweeping etc.) The Dr doesn't understand why I can't just get up and push through this pain, lose weight and start feeling better.

Can anyone relate to my situation, offer advice, support etc? I have called the dr 3x's this week to let them know I don't have enough pain meds to last the weekend and they never called me back so I guess I have to just bear it until I can reach them next week. I don't understand their logic.


  • You still have sciatica so I would get another opinion if I were you.

    On the weight control...portion control works for me and come to think of it I need to drop some lbs too.


  • I was just thinking today that I should get a 2nd opinion. Maybe a neurologist because I haven't tried that yet.

    I know what I need to do to lose weight because I was a lifetime member for weight watchers until the pain got so bad that I haven't been able to work since 2/08. It's so hard when you are depressed, in pain, and have no ambition anymore.

    My father is only 54 and totally disabled and in a wheelchair. It breaks my heart because I feel like that going to be me in 24 years because he started out exactly like what I am going through when he was my age. My brother who is 3 years older is also having very similar problems.
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  • Also dr did xrays and said plates, screws, and cage all look great. Can they see sciatic from xrays or will they be able to spot that on CT Scan?
  • I am over weight myself. :( I was supposed to have an anterior fusion this year, but doc won't do it until I lose 50 pounds. I have known this since last December, and have only taken 20 off. ~X( ~X( He told me back then he could do a posterior fusion, but thought anterior would be better for me since I am only 33 with two fairly young kids (12 and 7). I just e-mailed him this week and told him I'm not losing the weight, and am getting worse everyday, and to just do the posterior fusion. He told me he is going to discuss this with the head surgeon and get back to me. :W
    I also can't so much as lift a LIGHT laundry basket, or put a couple of dishes in the dishwasher without a flare up. :''( I have a lot of support from my husband and kids, :X but I'm the Mom, you know. They should depend on me. =((
    It's hard to lose weight when you can't move, and I admit food is comforting. Every time I move and I hurt I think "does food really taste good enough to go thru this?". [(
    At least the surgery is overwith for you, and you will get to a point when you are ready to take the bull by the horns and do something. I'm so sorry your doctor is giving you such a hard time with the pain pills. And no, and x-ray will not show them your sciatic nerve. So you may be fusing, but obviously something else is up. A MRI or Catscan will tell them what's going on.

    Good luck, and PM me if you need to talk. >:D<

  • Yes I too can relate. Obvioulsy exercsie works for you in keeping your weight down and it must have been a shock to suddenly stop all that exercise.
    Now I know the gym is out of the question as far as exercises goes but how about a walking machine where 1) you can hold on so it makes it easiers and 2) you can go at your own small pace 3) you can get on and off as often as you like. Just 5 minutes or even 3 to start with 10 times a day will make a big difference. It will also help your fusion.
    Do not be ashamed of putting on weight, this is not something you have control over at the momentand guilt is a useless emotion. Better to channel that energy into something positive.
    Also have you tried aquatherapy???? It is wonderful for assisting with movement in a gentle way.

    Blessings Sara O:)
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  • Hi Ming, sorry you are having a rough time. Have you been to PT since surgery? I have lost 50 pounds so far going to the YMCA and exercising in the pool. I do a therapy routine I learned a couple years ago. It is very gentle, even just walking in the water is good for you. I also am trying to be good, but not that good ;) My pool time got me through the six months before my surgery physically and helped me loose the weight. Personally I found pain and pending surgery very motivating, but I know sometimes it just compounds the problem. I hope you start to feel better soon. Keep advocating for yourself, cause you know the squeaky wheel gets the oil :) >:D< Cali-Sue
  • :) hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. there is a weight loss group here on the fourm. pm me if you are interested. you can lose weight without exercise, it is just more difficult. join us and see. =D> you sound very down and depressed. have a look around the different forums and make yourself at home. good luck in your pain treatments. Jenny :)
  • I can certainly relate to your weight gain and pain. For 13 months after my surgery I was in pain, inactive, and gaining weight. Once I was told by my doctors the fusion was a success, my spine was stable, and there was nothing more they could do, I decided to do it myself. What I did worked for me and I am not suggesting you do this. I had awful muscle spasms and sciatica running down my left buttock. Each day, I would do my core exercises, increasing the reps every couple of weeks. I also began to walk. I would walk a tenth of a mile and be overcome with spasms and buttock pain. Each day I pushed a little further. Before I would stop when I hit "the pain wall" but now I was pushing through it. Today, 7 months later I am walking 4 miles a day at a brisk pace. Along with exercise, I watch what I eat. Yogurt cup for breakfast, diet frozen meal for lunch, and a normal, regular supper. I chew a lot of sugarless gum while watching TV. Since May, I have lost 70 pounds and plan to keep losing. My pain is 90% gone and maybe someday it will completely disappear.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Testimony that this really is BIT work and we all need to be very patient.

    Your frustrations are all ok and normal. This is such a painful and debilitating experience yet lacks the empathy of other diseases and obvious - ness to the world. You know like a broken leg in a huge cast can get the support and sympathy yet a bad back gets nothing...in fact I am treated with a very high index of suspicion (even around ppl that know me) and a good few that clearly felt very guilty when they found hardwear complications... :O

    Anyway, please hang in there. You have found these boards now and a wealth of support too.

    Four months is early yet. Review all your daily life and see if there is anything there that may be aggrivating you?

    Regards the weight - All you can do is eat a balanced healthy diet. If you can't burn off the calories "yet" then you can't. Don't add malnutrition to your medical problems that really will aggrivate your recovery.

    What is wrong with your father? Is your problems herediatry?
  • I've read some of your other posts and feel we have a lot in common. My husband is not that supportive though so I tend to overdo it around the house and was doing way more than I should just days after coming home from surgery.

    I've done a lot of research and from what I've reviewed, the anterior fusion is better and quicker recovery from the posterior. That's just my opinion. The doctor did say that due to my weight gain it would be a harder recovery and if I was a smoker too he wouldn't even do that surgery. I quit almost 2 years ago. :))(

    I don't know if I mentioned before but I also have 2 small kids 6 and 12 so I completely understand.

    This rainy weather is really killing me today. The dampness goes right to my back. I only have a couple of pain meds left and trying to make them last until I can get ahold of the doctor.

    I am waiting for preauth from insurance for CT scan. I think I set my expectations too high for recovery and was planning on being up an exercising and losing mad weight. I didn't gain it over night and I shouldn't think I would lose it too quick either. The weight seemed to come on so fast though. I blame it on the combo of antidepressants, pain meds, muscle relaxers and the inability to exercise. I also sprained my ankle and that's when everything went downhill fast since I had to put more weight on my right side to compensate for hurt ankle and the right side was where I was experiencing the most back pain. Now I am still having trouble with my ankle too. I feel like it's a never ending battle. I am tired of being in pain and the pain is so exhausting. I am grouchy and tired all the time.

    I have an eliptical which I used to use for 1-1.5 hours
    every day in addition to walking 2-4 miles a day before I sprained my ankle. The surgeon also suggested yoga so I bought a beginners yoga DVD set and still haven't tried it yet. It seems I have completely lost my motivation to do anything because I know it's going to hurt.

    I agree with Dick that if you can push through the pain and keep exercising, eventually it will make you feel better. It's just getting the motivation and will power to push through the pain. I was able to do this when I was on higher doses of pain meds but now that he's weaned me down to practicly nothing the pain is debilitating.

    Thanks for listening to me whine :''( I have to go put my feet up as I can't sit in the computer chair for too long before that starts to hurt too ~X(
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