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Recovering from Spinal Fusion and Discectomy

Hello all,
I am 20 years old and have had a chronic back injury for 4 years. I've had several degenerated discs and herniated discs L4, L5. I have had so many procedures and gone to so many doctors it's not even funny. In December of 2012 I had a microdiscectomy to correct the problem, and it worked. Then after months after no pain relief, we discovered that I had a reoccurrence and that the disc actually popped out again. So we waited a little bit, and this past June of 2014, I had a full discectomy and spinal fusion to try and correct the issue for good. It has been a long road to recovery, and one that I know will continue to take time. My doctor is not allowing me to do ANY physical activity other than walking until early december. He says he wants to wait until the bones completely fuse, and does not want me to risk further injury. I understand why completely, but it is so hard knowing that I'll be unable to dance (I teach dance for a small dance company), or do yoga for that long. I have also noticed that while I've been recovering, I've gained a little weight. I understand that this is normal because of the decrease in activity, but I am just at a loss for what I can do as a substitute.
I was wondering if anyone had any ideas/suggestions on ways to get exercise, maybe any food plans that anyone had to loose weight and stay healthy while going through the very long recovery process.
I was also hoping for any support, positive reports, or success stories that anyone had as well. This has been a really difficult situation to deal with, and has put me in a pretty dark place. I feel hopeless, discouraged, and like no one really understands what I'm dealing with.
Ali Pittman


  • I had multi level fusion (L3-4-5-S1) back in Mar 2012 and it was a very long recovery. I was only allowed walking for the first 3 months and then I started physical therapy, acupuncture and acupressure. At about month 6 I started an arthritis water exercise class 3 times a week and I found that to be the most helpful in getting my core muscle strength back. Also regular massage has been wonderful, don't get me wrong, the massage at times hurts, but over time really seems to help.

    I am a vegetarian (no meat, poultry, fish, pork), so diet wise we eat a lot of veggies and veggie proteins along with nuts, beans and grains. I am also very big on green juices, they have really helped me in riding my body from the anesthesia and narcotic pain meds. I no longer feel like my body is poisoned.

    I hope you find the right path for you in getting your health back and find the right exercise that works for you.
  • My doctor already has me doing water therapy, and I do that about 3 times a week. I just wish I could do more :/
    How do you feel like your back is overall now? About how long was it until you felt pain free? Do you still feel some pain to this day?
    Ali Pittman
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  • LizLiz Posts: 9,656
    edited 08/14/2014 - 8:25 PM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Ali Pittman said:
    My doctor already has me doing water therapy, and I do that about 3 times a week. I just wish I could do more :/
    How do you feel like your back is overall now? About how long was it until you felt pain free? Do you still feel some pain to this day?
    Overall my back still hurts, but not like before. I had a complication with one of the surgeries and had a hematoma in the spinal cord. It took about 58 hours before it was removed and we believe this may have contributed to permanent nerve damage. With the recent ACDF, there seems to be some additional relief to the lower extremities, so maybe some of the nerves were being compressed in the neck.

    Good luck in continuing your recovery.
  • I completely understand what your going through. I'm in a dark place, very frustrated, we really can't do anything. It's depressing, I'm 9 weeks post op.. I can only walk. Treadmill , it's to hot in Texas right now for me to be walking outside. So 2 miles per hour for only 10 mins. Oh, I had spinal fusion tLIF surgery two levels L4.L5,s1, removal of two disk, with two rods 6 screws, arftical. Bones in between. Complications after surgery loss too much blood, resulting in two transfusions,2days I don't remember anything. And had a very hard time waking up took 2 days.. Scary. But now I'm deal with feeling better energy wise, and not being able to doing anything, same issue walking only no therapy till way later same reason. I also have to wear a brace for 4-9 months along with a bone stimulator, do you have to use this? Suppose to help in natural process of bone growth, it's a pain I think, but worth it. This is my first surgery .my leg pain, numbness tingling is better no more neuropathy , well I had a couple feelings in heels , before I had heels and toes. But none lately. But my back is in way worse pain for me, I'm on narco 325/10... And they really don't help, only takes edge off, and I take 2 every 4-6hrs, I want off of them, but can't, too much pain in my back, hips and worse lately in tail bone, I have to sit on a heating pad, I love my doctor, but when I call due to issue of concern, they never return my calls, so frustrating. Do you still have these pains? I'm not allowed to do hardly anything, only lift 8lbs. Sorry I'm writing a novel . I just feel so alone sometimes, wishing you the best.
    Mitzi Arredondo
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  • Ali PittmanAAli Pittman Posts: 6
    edited 08/19/2014 - 8:47 AM
    Wow. That's definitely a lot to handle. I totally understand about all the frustrations you're having. Being on so much medicine is hard for me too. I'm still on hydrocodone, plus other meds for my back, as well as two types of anxiety medication. The meds help, but it's not a great feeling being on that much for so long.
    I'm so sorry you had to go through all those complications, that sounds so scary, and frustrating as well I'm sure.
    I have a back brace I'm supposed to wear (but I never really do.) But I don't have a bone stimulator. What does that do??
    As for pain, I'm still having a tough time managing it. It's constant and very intense pain.
    Another thing that has been hard is people around me understanding. Obviously no one knows what it really feels like, and it's so hard to explain. It's hard to explain why I'm tired all the time, why I'm only allowed to walk and that's it, why sitting down/standing up for long periods of time puts a strain on my back, and why I'm still in pain after surgery. I definitely understand the feeling of being alone, and being in a dark place because of it.
    Ali Pittman
  • Hey there! I just wanted to say that I TOTALLY understand how frustrated and trapped you can feel when your activity is limited, especially when you are used to being active or an athlete! I went from really overweight to really fit over a couple of years (CrossFit, running, etc) and my herniated disc has really turned my life upside down. The hardest part for me (other than that first rough week post-fusion) has been accepting my "new normal" and finding ways to stay positive while I heal. I've found that walking (even though it can be boring) really has helped increase my endurance and reduce my stress -- I love using MapMyWalk to track time/distance and Spotify and podcasts for music while I walk. And even though it's hard, I have decided to be more disciplined about the one thing I can really control right now, which is what food I'm putting into my body for fuel! It's tough for me as I totally use food as comfort (and this is a naturally stressful time), but I feel better when I'm eating better and I'm hoping it'll help with extra weight gain. I'm doing Whole30 right now -- if you use Instagram at all, there are awesome meal ideas on #whole30 hashtag and tons of recipes, etc. You can find everything about the program for free if you just Google! It's also been inspiring for me to look up stories of other athletes who have had spinal fusion and gone on to have healthy, active lives. Whatever works for you, I hope you find ways to stay sane and healthy while your body heals! Sending lots of love and positive vibes from here!
    360 Spinal Fusion (ALIF/PLIF) 7/3/2014
  • I love your positive attitude and endurance as you continue to heal and and make progress. That's very encouraging to hear. My main problem is the pain. I try and walk and do my water therapy as much as possible, but the pain hinders me from being able to do that. I'm still in excruciating pain after such a long time and I feel like I'm making no progress. Do you feel that way at all?
    Ali Pittman
  • Ali Pittman said:
    I love your positive attitude and endurance as you continue to heal and and make progress. That's very encouraging to hear. My main problem is the pain. I try and walk and do my water therapy as much as possible, but the pain hinders me from being able to do that. I'm still in excruciating pain after such a long time and I feel like I'm making no progress. Do you feel that way at all?
    Ali, sorry you are still in such pain, I can relate somewhat. After the L3/4/5S1 fusion, the recovery seemed to take forever and the pain was the worst I have ever experienced, in fact while in the hospital right after the surgery, I didn't think I was going to make it. I struggled greatly with pain management and just seemed like I couldn't get ahead of the pain. I continued to walk, even though it hurt. I tried acupuncture and it helped, along with regular massage and an arthritis water exercise class, which I credit with helping core body strength. About 1 and 1/2 years after the surgery I began to taper off the oxycodone. I didn't like how I felt on the medicine, it wasn't helping with the pain control and I didn't want to increase the dose age anymore. It took 4 months to taper and it wasn't pleasant, the pain would increase with each decrease in medicine. But, when I got off completely (and I also did organic juice cleansing to help rid the body of the meds), I started feeling better, and the pain was no worse than while taking medicine. I have been off the pain meds for 5 months and I feel better and stronger than before, even after just having a 2 level cervical fusion.

    Many times during the long recovery I would get depressed and feel like it was taking forever or there wasn't any progress being made, but it is a very long process sometimes for some. But in my case the pain did get better, it just takes time. Don't give up, keep on, keeping on! Keep positive, find things you enjoy and try not to be too hard on yourself.
  • The bone stimulator us supposed to aid in the natural process of bone growth. The 9th will be c months since my surgery. I had L4L5S1. Tlif.. so it seems my recovery will be very long. I'm so tired of this pain. Seems worse now. Of course I fell last week. Seems is much worse since then. Lower back.tail bone hips and legs I think my legs.. is nerve pain but not sure. I also seem to be feeling back pain above my fusion now. I'm hoping I didn't mess up anything with my fall. /:
    I'm calling my Doc Tomorrow. Maybe I should have that day. I just can't imagine another 6 to 9 months of pain and restrictions. I want my life back this partly why I went ahead with surgery. That and cause I needed too. I hope your doing better. What mess are you on.im on norco10/325..lyrica, 5th flexiral. Which none seen to work. And I take a anxiety med. Take the edge off my nerves. Nothing v is strong enough it seems. I walk around the house. To the mail box. I've gone to the mall twice. OMG ..big regret. Bad pain and exhaustion after.
    Mitzi Arredondo
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