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A couple questions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I had a spinal fusion about 11 months ago from T10-L3. I had a couple questions that I am curious to see answered by people with some experience with this. My doctor cleared me about 5 months ago and told me I could do whatever I want.

My first question is pretty simple. I can physically do a sit up, but what I wonder if this is good for my body? I'm no doctor, but it seems that a sit up will put a lot of stress on my two remaining lumbar vertebrae. And being 22 years old, I will hopefully need those for a while. Basically the only exercises I do for my core to support my back, are the plank facing down and towards the left and right.

Next thing I was curious about was some leg pain. So I should say that my fusion was needed because I was hit by a car on my bike. For about a week following (surgery and accident) I couldn't move my left leg, and it was stuck pointing downwards, my lower leg was numb, and my calf at the same time was ultra ultra sensitive to the touch (screeching pain if anyone squeezed it). Of course, in my stay at the hospital that repeatedly checked for blood clots but couldn't find anything.

After some physically therapy, I was able to start moving it, but shortly afterwards I started getting extreme leg pain around the femoral nerve. At first my trauma doctors thought it was muscle soreness, but after it lasted for 2 weeks and made it impossible to walk unless I tried to walk within an hour of taking percocet, my spinal surgeon prescribed me Gabapentin, which immediately cleared the problem almost completely with some slight pain in the background. The spinal surgeon had mentioned that there is some very slight narrowing that might be causing the issues, but also mentioned that nerve regeneration is a very slow process. I stopped taking it about 3 months afterwards and was left with that same slight pain in the background but didn't have the extreme pain.

So the pain is still the same, just very slight and in the background. I can only feel the pain if I: 1) bend my back backwards or my leg backwards 2) bring my leg towards my chest 3) sometimes walking will bring on the pain. The pain did get significantly more intense for about a day and a half after falling. My calf is still slightly numb on the surface, but pressing deep on it reveals that it is also ultra sensitive... kind of a odd combination.

My question is, is it possible that the slight pain that I've always had since the accident is unrelated to nerves and possibly some other issue that might slowly develop into something more serious? Or does all of this fit the standard nerve damage to the femoral nerve? I ask this because as far as I know, my doctor diagnosed the nerve pain from prescribing gabapentin.

Whew, hopefully some of that makes sense. Thanks for the help. I figure someone here might have had a similar experience.


  • I'm pretty sure what you were experiencing was/is nerve pain. I had very severe nerve pain after surgery and was prescribed Lyrica -- like gabapentin. It really helped. Occasionally, the pain will return and I have to go back on the Lyrica for a while. I'm just recovering from my fourth bad flare up and have just stopped taking it again.

    I am very concerned that neither your surgeon nor your physical therapist talked to you about limitations and what you should be doing to protect your spine. You're young and probably healed a lot better than I did, and perhaps your area of fusion leaves you a bit more flexible than I am, but I wonder how much pressure you're putting on your lumbar discs. I'm fused L3-S1 and I can't do a sit-up to save my life. I'm also NOT supposed to do them. Pre-accident, I could bend forward and put my palms on the floor. Now I can't even bend to pick something up -- I have to squat. Perhaps you could talk with your physical therapist one more time to ask about any precautions you should take.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Depending on your surgeon, you may not be given any restrictions, or very few. That was my case -- he was a "if it hurts, don't do it" kind of guy. It was my first surgery of any kind and I would have preferred more guidance. That's where a forum became important to me. Hearing from people who had been through it and learning from some of their mistakes was very important to me.

    Sure there are many things we could all do, but at what price? I don't know about you, but I want to do what I can to preserve my remaining discs for as long as possible, and to minimize whatever degeneration is bound to occur. I know certain things are hard on my spine (ie., cause more wear and tear) so I choose to avoid them. For example, I used to be an avid ice skater but I no longer do it because to me it just isn't worth risking more falls, potentially damaging falls. Many people feel this way about running, etc.

    There are ways to train your core without doing certain exercises that are known to cause unnecessary strain on the spine. I suggest you go to a bookstore or go online and look for a book on exercises for those with back pain. There are some books written for people who have had back surgeries that are particularly good. Or, book one session with a physical therapist and learn a routine that would be safe to do. It is very important to keep your back and core muscles strong. My husband ruptured a lumbar disc 17 years ago and to this day he still does the back exercises that were given to him at his physical therapy sessions.

    I think the pain you describe is probably nerve pain. As Linda said, this can take a very long time to resolve. Just keep walking and doing what you can, be patient and hopefully it will eventually get better. I had fusion almost two years ago and the numbness in my feet is still resolving.

    If it is damage to the femoral nerve, you could try having an injection or a femoral nerve block to see if that might help. I've never had one, but I know they are done. The femoral nerve is one that sometimes gets damaged during surgery and the block is done if the damage doesn't heal on its own.

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