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Positive Double Spinal Fusion Story - Athletic style

Started by Sportyspice on 11/12/2017 11:56am

I have a double fusion from L4-S1 with hardware and 2 replacement discs. The problem - spondyloisthesis, ripped disc, bulging disc. After stressing pre and post surgery from horror stories, while I was just trying to find basic info., I feel it is my civic duty to share what is so far a positive outcome. I'm an athletic sort from Colorado until a pain in my back had me going from skiing, biking up Lookout, and rock climbing to throwing my back out 9 times in 2015. Over the course of the next 3 years, I did 2 rounds of injections and had 3 rhizotomies. After my first rhizotomy, I started with the pilates reformer and rebuilt my core (what used to be a rockclimbing core that was now jello) and stopped throwing my back out. With rhizotomies, I could rebuild strength and get sporty again, but they would wear off every 6 mos like clockwork and are expensive. I am single, self-employed with 2 teens and the injuries were isolating me as I stressed about the seats at coffee shops, standing at a concert and everything I loved (roadtrips, camping, playing sports with my kids, taking care of my house) started going bye bye. I was driving around with one foot on the dashboard, even short distances. Long story long, they didn't want to do surgery because the nerve pain stayed in low back and radiated to hips, but not down my leg so much and I seemed like a fit, active person. I was borderline. Eventually, I chose surgery feeling like I was possibly making a choice to handicap myself further, but out of options and couldn't make travel plans and didn't like my quality of life for my age. I am now 4 months out of surgery and I will definitely be skiing this winter. The first improvements were socially :) I can stand, sit and drive like a normal person now for the most part and I say "YES!" to concerts, parties, dating, meetings, karaoke, long nights of music classes and people! I'm not done yet either, I want all the fun. Making up for lost time I guess. Sportswise, the doc doesn't want me to do anything where I can crash and wants me to wait until fusion for skiing, but I did go rollerblading yesterday (my choice not a recommendation), have spent 20 min. on my road bike here and there going up solid hills, can dance cautiously, I've been hiking around 5 miles on the front range for awhile now post surgery, I can do the climbing gym cautiously, pilates reformer and I live for deep water aerobics, swimming and walking against the lazy river. It was not all smooth sailing. I reacted to the glue and the incisions didn't heal for 8 weeks. They started to get infected and 2 rounds of antibiotics kicked that. 2 weeks after surgery, hip to toe sciatica started at night and it took pillow positioning, lyrica, valium, and nucynta to get sleep until I could walk it off first thing in the morning. I was also never comfortable for at least 2 weeks. Luckily, sciatica went away. At 8 weeks, I started the deep water aerobics class. Here are my hacks/tips: 1. Train before surgery. Do WHATEVER you can. I was mostly alone with some teenagers post-surgery, so being able to pick up things with my feet, stairs, strong arms, lunges to pick up dog poo, frog squats, etc. all helped me work around restrictions and be independent pretty quickly. The brace didn't help me much and only seemed to aggravate my stitches. 2. Get good walking shoes and footbeds so you don't blow out your knee and ankle like I did around 7 weeks from too much speed walking in bad shoes. That sucked. I don't have a lot of cartilage in my right knee. Use a fitbit to measure your progress. It's fun :) Also, get some slip on shoes for times you don't need tennis shoes. When I got bored and frustrated with the monotony of walking, I decided to start scheduling walks with each of my friends to catch up. That really helped to lift the spirits. 3. Make more than one comfy spot option. Couch, recliner, lawn chair, bed, you'll have to change positions frequently. 4. Push your PT people to show you everything you can do to stretch for relief as you start to get active again. As muscles realign and with a lack of stretching, it can be really painful. 5. Chill out. I was in such exercise every day mode that I had a VERY hard time relaxing the first week and I wasn't taking the pain meds during the day enough because I'm self-employed in a technical job. A couple Xanax's that first week were sort of needed. I was taking phone calls and working light duty around 1.5 weeks after the day of surgery, but I work from home. I liked keeping my mind busy and distracted from the pain. 5. I'd take toilet bowl handles over the sock putter on'r device any day. 6. Do what you can with where you are at, be proud of yourself and DO NOT GIVE UP. This is work. You will see progress every week and the little things count just as much as the big things. 7. My rule of thumb is that I'm willing to work through discomfort if I don't pay for it with nervy feeling pain later. For instance, they say I can do downward dogs now, and I'd love to take a yoga class again (modified) at some point, but something about downward dogs doesn't go well after. So, we backed off. I'll try again in a few weeks. Good luck everyone! I don't know what the future holds and it doesn't matter to me anymore. I'm also not back to where I was necessarily and may never be backpacking, surfing, raquetball, cycling 50 miles - I dunno. I used to do everything. However, being able to embrace my present makes me a better person and surgery gave me that.

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Sportspice, we loved reading your story and the tips you noted about spine surgery recovery. Sharing successes in our Community is just as important as sharing the challenges, and we have no doubt that others will find your post inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! We wish you continued success in your journey.