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Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/19/2010 9:43 AM (GMT -7)   
Hello all! Several of you have been asking about my recovery status, so I thought I would post something on it.

This week is going on my 7th week of recovery since my fusion surgery. Since I have never had prior surgery for this kind of back problem, I'm not sure where I'm at on the road to recovery. In fact this was my first major surgery of any kind!
I will see my surgeon this Thursday for my second check-up. I'm still walking around 3 to 4 miles a day, and I'm guessing that is pretty good. Some of the useful items for my getting around the house better and making my life easier, are the grabber tool, which has come in handy several times, and really on a daily basis.
Another tool that I would advise everyone to get for your recovery is the toilet seat extender. I don't know what I would have done with out it. It is simply a chair like devise that sits over the top of your toilet, and has a seat much the same as your toilet. Mine has arm rest at the sides of it, and has come in very handy to not only sit down and get up off of it, but also helps when you need to bare down for a bowel movement. I grab a hold of the arm rest and gently push my body up, and this seems to release some of the pressure on the bowels.
Also, I wanted to mention that I personally believe it is important to watch what you eat, and make sure your food intake has plenty of fiber in it. I cannot imagine being constipated during ones recovery time. I eat plenty of whole grain breads, and avoid cheese like it is the plague. One other item I eat is Prunes, that was recommended by one of our knowledgeable veteran members. I also drink prune juice as well, once in the morning when I wake up, and right before I go to bed.

I know not everyone can afford the wonderful Tempur-Pedic beds but we like ours, and we happen to order ours with the lifts, and it has helped greatly when I need to exit the bed.
Another item that seems to have some value is the shower head that we had installed with a long hose attached to it. It makes for easier rinsing off all the soap in hard to reach areas as well.

Now for my take on my own personal recovery. Well...there are days that I seem to do very well, and my pain is on the lower end of the scale, and then there are days that I'm very disappointed, and feel like I have taken 5 steps back. I have noticed that the more I walk, the better I feel, and if I have a lazy day, and put off the walking, my pain seems to climb. Right now, I'm taking between 2 to 3 Percocet's a day, depending on how I feel, and every once in a while I sneak in a Oxycontin just for that extra needed relief.
I'm thinking the Dr is going to release me for restricted work by the 1st of May, and that has me a little worried, as I tend to wear out pretty easily.

The back brace is a must, but I have been getting out of bed lately to use the potty, and have not put it on. You must be very careful though if you do this, as one false step could be tragic.

I do have a question for the members here, and that is rehabilitation? Is there such a thing with recovery for this. My Surgeon only told me to walk as much as possible and nothing else was mentioned about exercise.

So is my surgery a success? That is the million dollar question, isn't it? I don't know, and from what I have read it may take up to 3 to 5 months for the fusion to start, and will take up to 12 months to fully fuse. And even then, I may still feel some back pain.
Right now, I feel that I'm getting better, but it is a very slow process, and it may be several months before I know how it will all turn out, but as long as I feel progress, I will keep my hopes up. I was bent over prior to the surgery, like a 100yr old man, and today my back is straight as an arrow.

I hope some of the members will comment on this as I'm still pretty much in the dark on this subject. Suggestions are always welcome, and many of the members here are trying to decide if this surgery is right for them. I don't want to discourage any member from getting it, and it seemed the right thing to do for me. Would I do it again? The answer for me is Yes, with the progress I have gotten from it, but the unknown long term outcome remains to be seen.

I will post again in a few weeks, as maybe I will have more answers then. Thanks for listening, and letting me ramble here.

SE

For those of you who don't know, I had a double lumbar fusion surgery L4-L5, L5-S1


I knew I missed a couple of items! If you are a smoker, and need this surgery, and for that fact need any surgery, please consider stop smoking! I smoked up to my surgery date, but did slack way off of them. I quite completely since the surgery, and according to several studies on the subject, it may in fact help with the healing process greatly.
Also after the surgery I sneezed a couple of times and coughed as well, and it drilled me to the ground! Since that time, in the last 3 weeks, that horrible symptom has gone away, and I can sneeze or cough without that sharp pain. I think that is a good sign for me. Lets hope so! :) One last item! I Promise! :) I still have problems in my neck, and for now the last Epidural is keeping it in check, but my Dr said Surgery (Fusion) is on the horizon :( Wouldn't you know! Hopefully I can put that off closer to my retirement in a few years! Wishful thinking, I know! :)

If you have any questions, just ask away, and I will share as best as I can.
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.

Post Edited (Screaming Eagle) : 4/20/2010 12:08:36 AM (GMT-6)


Retired Mom
Veteran Member


Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 1753
   Posted 4/19/2010 10:59 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm so glad things are going well for you!! Isn't it wonderful to be able to sneeze without the horror of your back going "out of place"? That wasn the best change. Otherwise, I'm not the best person to comment on the "success" of the procedure. I think it is considered a "medical" success, but not a success in pain control. I never was able to walk much after, though, so you are WAY past where I have ever gotten to in that area.

Once you can get to the place where the brace isn't a NECESSARY appliance, you'll find that your movement will likely be much better and your muscles will start to support you again.

Best to you!

RM
DDD, CPS, TLIF L5-S1 2009, FIBRO, VERTIGO, MIGRAINES, GERD, SLEEP DISORDER, NISSEN FUNDOPLICATION (failed), DEPRESSION, EXTREME ANXIETY DISORDER, OCPD, PTSD, CHRONIC MUSCLE SPASMS, HGH DEFICIENCY, VIT D DEFICIENCY, CARPLE TUNNEL SYNDROME, BLOOD SUGAR ISSUES, THYROID CYSTS, AND SERIOUS MOOD SWINGS :) 
 
 


Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/19/2010 11:16 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks Retiredmom! I agree with your train of thought, as to when the back brace is gone, that I will work more of the back muscles. Good Stuff! :)

I'm really glad to see you back posting again! We need all the help we can get! Have a wonderful day! :)

SE :)
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.


bsjaguar
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 974
   Posted 4/19/2010 12:24 PM (GMT -7)   
Sounds like things are progressing smoothly for you. As far as any rehab after fusion surgery, I guess that is up to the individual & the doctors thoughts, but I never had any. I did return back to work with restricted hours and duties though to try and make the transition easier. I would think it would be about time to quit wearing the brace. I don't remember wearing mine as long as you, at least not in the home but I could be wrong. Good Luck and let us know what the doc has to say at your next appointment.
---Jag---
 
DDD, osteoarthritis, facet syndrome, fusion surgeries C-5/7 & L-4/5 both in 2006, torn meniscus surgeries left knee 2000 & 2002, buldging disc L-2/3


kimber9807
Regular Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 492
   Posted 4/19/2010 12:51 PM (GMT -7)   
I am glad things are going well for you . Take Care.
im dxed with  herniated discs,fibromylagia , scolosis,ddd,athritis, spinal stenosis ,gerd,gastric ulcer,gallbladder removal 3/23/10.
 
meds: lunesta, prilosec otc,lortab ,reglan,flonase. ibuprofren, zyrtec and benadryl.
 
Just added today: folic acid supplement  1 mg a day for the next year and also b12 injections increased to once a month. pernicous anemia and  Folic acid anemia.


momtofourangels
Veteran Member


Date Joined Apr 2010
Total Posts : 2261
   Posted 4/19/2010 12:54 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi Michael
 
It sounds like you're doing good on your recovery.  Of course I've never had the surgery, but the way you talk, it sounds good.  I wish you good luck on your recovery.
 
hugs
Loretta
Dx:  ddd, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, hypothyroidism, typeII diabetes, asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, PTSD, depression, anxiety


MIKEL99
Veteran Member


Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 914
   Posted 4/19/2010 1:41 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey Michael ,I'm glad you brought us up t date on your condition and though its sounds like a tough challenge , I'm confident you can handle whatever comes your way . Stay strong brother , you can do this and I'll expect to see regular posts or e-mails from you too ! No isolating my friend , you do not have to do this alone . We are here to support you all the way Mikel
HIV+ also Hep c , need hip replacement surgery on hold because of unknown but cellulitus-like ailment  .most pain from hip condition and cellulitus-like ailment .hands numb may have carpal tunnel syndrome now . Great frustration because doctors unable to diagnos ailment              .Medecines -    ,viracept,truvada, l Indomethacin  '                                                                                                                         


Frenchie71
Regular Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 21
   Posted 4/19/2010 2:15 PM (GMT -7)   
So your name's Michael!
 
Thanks for your quick reply by the way, you have been great with that and I felt it.
 
A fusion eh! Wow! You know pal, I live in Canada and it seems to me that in the U.S., they are much quicker on the scalpel than up here (for better or worse). I think that you need to be pretty bad for any surgeon to come near you with 10 feet poll (is the saying correct?) where I live. Since we have healthcare, they don't have that pressure on them so they are more much  careful. I don't know though if it's a good or bad thing. But whatever works right?
 
Incidentally, can I ask you something? In the States, how does it work if you need a surgery and who pays...your private insurance? Do they have to okay and it and is it easy?
 
Just curious is all...
 
Thanks for the update!
 
Dany
 

Chartreux
Veteran Member


Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9622
   Posted 4/19/2010 2:45 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks for the up-date and I hope your progress continues to go good for you...
Lots of soft caring healing hugz...
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((Michael))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
**********************************************
* Asthma, Allergies, Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis, Degenative Disc (Lower Lumbar S1-L3 and Cervical C5,C6, C8 and T1), Fibromyalgia, Gerd,
Enlarged Pituitary Gland, Sjogren's, Ocular Migraines, mild carpel tunnel, ect.... "Would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...

********>^..^<********>^..^<********>^..^<********


Snowbunny21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 3557
   Posted 4/19/2010 3:08 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey Michael,

It sounds like you are doing very well for having the lower back fusion surgery...Doing all that walking, as long as it's not causing you any great pain, is wonderful for your healing...

I would think that you can speak to your Dr. about your return to work date if you are not up to full time yet by the 1st..I'm not sure what your career is...I returned to my job after each surgery in about 3 weeks...but that was a lot of phone/computer work from my home and then ramped up to full time with the go ahead to drive after the 4 weeks...but my job didn't require any type of lifting or such...and being cervical..I was able to still wear my neck brace when needed...as well as lots of getting up and stretching..

But can imagine it's a bit different for the lumbar region with sitting too long..

I also started PT at 4 weeks..with core strengthening, yoga, aqua therapy, which helped keep all my other back muscles from getting too stiff and having issues...but I'm sure your Dr. will go over that with you at your next check up or you can certainly ask him about it..

It's quite normal to have good days and not that great one's especially the more active you get...it's just part of the process...

But I have to say that from what you are writing..it sounds like you are doing amazing! You are really pushing forward with your exercise and again...can't say how proud I am of you quitting smoking! Yes..those studies for fusion rates and smokers are very low...I'm sure you will get so many other benefits with your health including your surgery from quitting..

Sending you some big hugs ((( )))
SB and "the pup who snores loudly" 
 
ACDF C5-C7, (no hardware), with autograft bone Nov. 2001
(reabsorption of bone 2 years later...still lost in body..expect to burp it out at anytime..haha")) 
ACDF with hardware, allograft bone Nov. 2005 
Anterior and Posterior CDF, allograft bone with BMP, removal of old hardware, use of titanium plates, rods, screws, & kitchen sink (lol) Dec 2006
 
 


flower123
Veteran Member


Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 856
   Posted 4/19/2010 4:24 PM (GMT -7)   
I'm happy that you gave us an update! Wow!!!! You walk so much. That's wonderful. I'm happy that you're doing better than you were before your surgery.

:)

Hugs,

Flower

Mrs. Dani
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 4/19/2010 4:33 PM (GMT -7)   
 
 
   Dear Michael,
 
     Good afternoon *warm huggs* I am glad you posted a full update. And more so, I am very glad you progress is moving right along. smile You've done a fantastic job of caring for yourself, pacing your self, and ensuring that you had the perfect platform for recovery. *warm hugg*
 
      I think you can bring up Physical Therapy with your surgeon. There are so many kinds now days, even aquatic therapy, that I am sure you and he can come up with a solution that works best for you. With your drive and dedication to your healing, you will be back on your harley and going on a road trip before the end of summer!
 
      I really hope you continue to have more good days than bad. I am sure having such a wonderful, loving wife helped a bit too   smilewinkgrin (Give her big huggs for us)  Take care of yourself friend! You know you are ALWAYS in our prayers here.
 
*warm huggs*
    dani

 

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

 

 


flowery
Regular Member


Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 440
   Posted 4/19/2010 4:57 PM (GMT -7)   
Screaming Eagle,
Sounds like your coming along nicely. Recovery for back surgery is slow especially if there were nerves involved. Even a bruised nerve can take months to recover. After my back sugery my insurance did NOT cover rehibilitation. They told me the same thing...walk, walk, walk. I don't know if you remember but I had surgery (not a fusion yet) on L4, L5 and S1. They did not do a whole lot to S1 though. My Mother had a fusion surgery similar to you. So when I'm talking about this surgery..kinda through her and me! just fyi
Just wanted to say thumbs up to the toilet seat, shower head, and awesome matress...way to think ahead. Anything you could do for yourself and  recovery. ..you deffinatley thought about it in advance!  I'm sure this is making a big difference.
There is one thing I wanted to say about my recovery and my mothers...you mentioned taking 1 step forward and 5 steps backwards... this is really similar to how I and my mother felt too. Her Dr. explained it to her as....as your healing, scar tissue is forming. Nerves are repairing and this all takes lots of time! As we age longer..:( Sometimes the Dr. mentioned that scar tissue forms..and when you move it "rips" a little each time. I had this sensation alot after my surgery and so did my Mom. Up to a good year. I'd be feeling super great and then I'd feel like ...Oh Crap!..somethings wrong...when I think back now..I believe this "ripping" sensation was happening. It DOES get better..but takes a long long time for that scar tissue to form smoothly...(makes sense)  I'm not saying that this is exactly what is happening..I'm not a Dr. just thought I'd pass it along.  Walking 3-4 miles a day...is Amazing!!!! and ALOT! I know after the fear loosing your walking..after surgery a person just wants to RUN.......but make sure you take it easy. Walking is great..but don't swing your hips TOOOO much!
Anyway, great overall news. I think you do have a sucessful surgery..cuz if you didnt you wouldn't be able to do any of that walking period! Just continue taking your pain med's and give yourself lots of slack!!!! And talk to your Dr. about not wanting to go back to work full-time...be your own advocate..they'll listen!!!
take care...
Heather
Flowery
 "Get busy living or get busy dying"
Dx in 2005 with Crohns after a Hysterectomy. Re-section in 2006...came apart so got to do it again! Frequent Kidney stones and Shingles... a new present as of 08-09 Diabetes Type 2. Total of 12 surgerys.
Imran, Asacol, Colestid, Bentyl, Lamotil, Paxil, Nexium, Probiodicts, Vit D, Folic Acid, Lots of Potassium, Fish Oil, up to 6 Immodium a day. Oh, and one Giant Pill holder!
 
 
               
                        


Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/19/2010 5:09 PM (GMT -7)   
Thank you all for your replies! Jag, I will ask my Dr about the brace when I see him this Thursday. I thought he told me that I would be wearing it for three months, but I'm not sure.

Chartruex, it is good to see you posting again, as we all have missed you. How are you feeling, and has the rib started to heal yet?

Mikel! I can always count on a wonderfully worded reply from you! It is almost enough to make anyone fall in love with you! :) You better still be Juicing my friend, cause I'm watching you! :)
you have become a standard fixture here on the forum now, and a good one at that. Keep it up buddy!

Dany, yes our medical systems are very different, but I'm not sure about being surgery happy here in the USA. If anything, I think many in Canada are under treated. I think that is an argument best left alone though :)
Yes, our private insurance company's pay for our medical expenses.

Kimber and 9yrsCP, thanks for the well wishes as well.

Snowbunny, I'm a machinist and have been for 32yrs. I run a very large NC Milling Machine, about the size of a three car garage, and the parts can run from 50lbs to several tons. There is lots of twisting, bending, lifting, and slippery surfaces to walk on.
I have cut almost every kind of metal that you can think of and love it. The cutters we use can weigh up to 30lbs, and we have to manually load them into the machine, sometimes several times a day.
Removal of the shavings or what we call chips, will quickly bring a sweat to ones brow. I will have some heavy restrictions when I go back, and my boss called the other day, and said he has a desk job for me when ever I want to come back.

I'm sure it will be several weeks before they let me climb back onto a machine there, and I'm grateful and lucky that I have such a wonderful boss. The guys that I work with have been real champs about all of this too, and will help each other out in a heart beat. Several of them have been here to the house to check up on me. So Snowbunny, thank you for your Hugs! I appreciate it, and I will certainly ask about strengthening my back muscles.

Dani, you know that I love hearing from you, as you are a good strong sensible shoulder to lean on! And you now that I mean that Girl! :) Thank you for being you and a great friend! You and so many others are a Rock in my life! Keep up the good work. Also I wanted to say again that you did a wonderful job with the Koffee Klatch in Chutz absence. Good stuff!

WOW! Two Flowers to Thank! Flowery, I really can understand what your saying, and you could have written this whole thing for me! This too, is what I needed to hear from someone being there. Keep up the good work, and I loved your positive , but honest reply. Wonderful information for those of us that doubt our recovery and what is going on with our body's.



SE :)
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.

Post Edited (Screaming Eagle) : 4/19/2010 7:06:00 PM (GMT-6)


straydog
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 13455
   Posted 4/20/2010 6:43 AM (GMT -7)   
SE I read your update and it does sound like you have been on the right track with your recovery. The walking that you are doing is the key to your recovery and all of the added things you have done has helped. I do not remember if you have hardware or not. I know my ortho when he did fusions he did not allow his patients to sit the first 6 weeks after surgery, because sitting puts too much pressure on the spine. The first 6 weeks w/o instrumentation in his opinion was the most critical in protecting the graft from shifting. His patients rode home either laying down in an ambulance or in the back of a van if the patient or a friend owned one, and when they went in for their 6 weeks check up it better be the same way or he threw a fit. His patients were only allowed to sit to eat and to go to the bathroom that first 6 weeks, and no riding in a car.
 
He also weans the patient out of the brace after 6 weeks, because it weakens the muscles. I thougth the opposite but I have had too many orthos & neurosurgeons tell me no, stay out of a back brace because it weakens the muscles. Alot of drs handle PT after surgery differently. Some will say go and others say its not necessary. I do know many people wished they had not gone because overall they felt good but after they got in there and the therapist had them doing activities it kicked up the pain level that had not been there before and they were sorry they went-may be something for you to discuss w/your dr.
 
I am going to assume when you see your dr he will send you for xrays of the fusion? If not, ask for one, especially if you have no hardware. My dr checks the fusions w/o hardware up to three months to make sure it looks ok and is fusing. You are right it will be a good 12 months for a recovery, but the recovery does not just involve your back, it affects your entire system.
 
I don't know what kind of work you do whether its considered sedentary in nature or physical. If you do physical work you should ask the dr if your return to work will be with restrictions, if he says yes, then make sure he lists each one clearly. I think you have answered your question on whether the walking is helping or not, you feel crappy the days you don't walk. Take care. 
 

crohns disease dx 2002 & small bowel resection, still looking for remission whatever that is, chronic pain 22 yrs, added ulcerative colitis 6-05 to the mix, high blood pressure 28 yrs, aortic heart valve insuffiency, depression, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis lumbar spine, scoliosis lumbar spine, peripheral neuropathy hands & feet, COPD & on oxygen therapy, lupus & psoriasis and psoratic arthritis. Several other health issues just not enough room to list it all. Too many surgeries to list and too many medications to list. Currently on 17 different daily medications. Intrathecal pain pump implanted June 05.


Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/20/2010 7:25 AM (GMT -7)   
Good Morning Sraydog! You brought up a very important subject here, and I meant to bring it up in the original post, but failed to do so, and that is Sitting. You are very right, and of course I, nor anyone else is surprised at this! :) My going home instructions did say not to sit anymore than 20min at a time, and to avoid it if possible. So I spend most all of my time either standing or laying down, and you will very seldom find me sitting, unless it is at a restruant, and then even then, I will get up and stand every so often. Thanks! That was a very good point to bring up, as I wanted members interested in this subject to get all the tips they could from it.

Also, yes there is some hardware in there somewhere! There are plates with screws and that is all I know of. I am also going to ask for x-rays this next time, as I would like to see for myself what all the pain was about :)

As stated above, my work is very physical, and they will have heavy restrictions on me for several weeks. It is something I discussed with my boss before I had the surgery, so he is aware of it as well.

I also missed one other thing to post here yesterday, and it has to do with my scar. I really had not noticed before, as I really don't like looking at the scar on my belly, but the other day I took a good frontal look at myself, and much to my surprise, my belly is crooked!
Yep, my belly Button and stomach is off center by a whole half an inch now. Those dirty rats! :) Remind me to never have a Face-Lift done by him, or I might wind up trying to blow my eye instead of my nose! :)

It's really no biggy to me, and the scar is looking good. They did not use stitches on the outside, but instead used glue. I was very surprised to see that when I came out of surgery. It has done the trick, and I don't know what kind it was. Surely it wasn't Gorilla glue! :)

Good responses to all of you here, and hopefully this will supply some information for any member or visitor that is looking at this type of surgery. Thank you everyone for your support! :)

SE :)
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.


Snowbunny21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 3557
   Posted 4/20/2010 8:42 AM (GMT -7)   
SE...my last surgeon knew how much I loved learning about what the actual surgery was like and all the nitty gritty details..LOL..so when he took out all the old hardward, he put it in a little jar and gave it to me...haha..

As well as he gave me a credit card sized x-ray..front and side shots of my neck with all the nuts and bolts...so, even though it's all titanium and doesn't set off medical detectors...I have it in my purse just in case...plus it's just plain cool to show people!!! So, maybe you can ask your Dr. for one of those...

Thanks for your long post explaining your job...that is really going to be tough going back full time..I would think that would be many months from now when you are fused...and you may not be able to do all that you did before...but with our surgeries comes some sacrifice at times and it sounds like your boss is pretty understanding and will help you out...
SB and "the pup who snores loudly" 
 
ACDF C5-C7, (no hardware), with autograft bone Nov. 2001
(reabsorption of bone 2 years later...still lost in body..expect to burp it out at anytime..haha")) 
ACDF with hardware, allograft bone Nov. 2005 
Anterior and Posterior CDF, allograft bone with BMP, removal of old hardware, use of titanium plates, rods, screws, & kitchen sink (lol) Dec 2006
 
 


PAlady
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 4/20/2010 10:00 AM (GMT -7)   
SE,
I'm glad you seem to be doing relatively well. Like SB said I can't imagine you going back to all that lifting - maybe ever. I never realized you were in a job that had such severe physical demands. It's no wonder you back gave out!

My NS did X-rays at 6 weeks and could see the fusion was starting, and then I think did more at 3 months. X-rays show fusing better than an MRI. I also didn't start PT until 3 months out, and it was helpful but it was done very gently by my favorite PT who had been working with me before. It took a long time to help me do some movements like even sitting up on my own. He worked a lot with loosening up the muscles around the incision, which for me was in the lower back. I also had glue and my scars have dwindled down to almost nothing, but then I had a minimally invasive procedure so it was very different from yours. I also never needed a back brace. My doctor doesn't use them, probably because of the type of procedure it was. I did request a back support that's has a velcro closure even though my doc didn't require it. I still put it on now if I have to do something like shovel some snow, but I didn't wear it very much even after the surgery.

Hope things continue to go well for you. And kudos on the not smoking. That's a toughie, I know firsthand. But it's a definite no-no when it comes to body tissue healing, among many things.

PaLady

Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/20/2010 12:04 PM (GMT -7)   
Snow & PaLady, I think this posting may help several members here to understand what goes on behind the scenes with a fusion, so I'm very grateful for all of the replies the members have posted here. It has all been good information.

Palady, I believe you told me that you were alone when you had yours done, and that maybe you had someone coming in to help you once a day? I cannot imagine going through this all alone, so I don't know how you did it. I would think it would take a very strong, spirited person to endure the recovery. I tip my hat to you on it! :) I personally don't think I could have done it by myself. There were several nights, when I awoke at 3:00am or so, and had to wake my wife for help, just to get into my brace and make it to the bathroom. It was a horrible feeling. My wife is a very strong woman both mentally and physically. She also had to wipe my rear for me when I was in the hospital, as I just could not do it myself. (TMI) :)

I have noticed the muscle around and underneath the incision is very hard, and it is a concern of mine. I plan on asking the surgeon about it this Thursday to see what he has to say about it.
PaLady or anyone?....can you tell me how long your surgeon kept you on pain meds, and I'm a guessing that since it takes several months for it to start fusing, that they may keep me on them for a while longer. I'm doing pretty well on what I'm taking at the moment, but will run out in a few days. I do have back-up Oxycontin, but prefer not to take them, and would rather stay on the #10 325mg Percocet's. Does this sound reasonable? I have around 90 #30mg Oxycontin's left over from before the surgery.

As far as work goes!....I pulled some pretty stupid things in my young career, and now I'm paying for it dearly, so you may be right about not ever being able to perform like I used to. I'm in no hurry to mess up my back again, to the point to where I need surgery again :) The guys at work used to call me "Little Hercules" for many a year....well.... now some other fool can have that title, as I'm done tearing my body apart just to impress the bosses!

I also liked the idea of maybe wearing the back brace when an event calls for some extra support in my future. Good Suggestion! :)

Again, Thank you so much to everyone that posted a reply here. I hope it will help members who may be contemplating this type of surgery. If anyone else has anything to add to all of this, please feel free to do so.


SE :)
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.


PAlady
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 4/20/2010 12:29 PM (GMT -7)   
SE,
Remember your incision probably cut through much more muscle than mine did, as your doctor went in through your abdomen. Mine was from the back. But I did have (and still do get) the muscles around my incision tighten up and that was the first thing my PT worked with - very, very gently. He gave me no exercises for quite awhile. And again, it was 3 months before I got the ok to start some PT, and my PT just did the stim/heat/ultrasound, and light massage around the area for awhile. He also used occasionally something I loved - but he couldn't use it often because it wasn't covered by insurance - a type of laser light that he said helps break up scar tissue. Somehow that felt the most soothing, but that's not what we used the most.

That area still tightens up on me periodically and I use my theracane to try to get at it. My theracane is about as valuable as my tempurpedic. Back in the 1990's the PT who was working on my neck gave me one and it's been a lifesaver. It literally looks like a giant candy cane (well, not the color - mine's blue!) and it has those knobs at various points kind of like you see a massage therapist use to work out a tight muscle. But this you can use yourself. I sit in a chair and maneuver it and lean back into those knobs and it helps release the muscle, although the lower back is harder to get at than my shoulders and neck area.

Remember SE my surgery, while being considered a successful "fusion", was not successful at getting rid of any of the pain I had before surgery. Not one ounce of it. I probably would still have it again as without having it I'd never have known and always would have wondered. It hasn't seemed to do much more damage, although the area around the incision does still get tight, and I can feel right where that nerve is and when it starts to fire off it goes right down my leg to my foot, like it always did. So my neurosurgeon has continued to prescribe the same meds he did immediately post op, all of us hoping that the nerve would heal over time. My NS has gone above and beyond, to say the least, but now I am trying to organize seeing a PM but have to travel 3 hrs. because of my limited insurance. So comparing your medication needs to mine is like apples and oranges.

What I would ask you is whether or not any of the pain you had before surgery has gone away or significantly decreased? There's a difference between that and the pain from surgery. For me, the pain from recovering from surgery was a piece of cake compared to the chronic pain.

Yes, I did have to come home and manage alone, after 6 days in the hospital, but you'd be amazed what you can do when you have to. I did have my cousin and the community nurse looking in on me, but I will admit if it hadn't been for that cane by my bedside the first night I got up to go to the bathroom would have ended in disaster. I hadn't realized what it would be like getting up alone all drugged up. I fortunately could reach for a dresser and grab the cane to keep me from falling. After that I was very careful during the night when I had to get up. But I had no back brace on - even in the hospital.

You may get a lot more of an idea how you're doing once your doc ok's taking the brace off. How long is he going to have you using it? Because as long as you're using the brace (and I'm not saying to stop - that's up to your doc!) the muscles in your abdomen and back aren't doing all the work, and I would expect you'll have an increase in some pain once the brace gets removed. Just my opinion, but I wouldn't be too quick to get off the pain meds. until you know all the pieces. Now I still take percocet, and never have been on an ER medication, but that likely may change once I go to PM. Still, I have no Rx insurance, so it all will depend upon what I can afford and get paid for via the pharmaceutical plans.

BTW, there's a lot of info. on fusions in older threads as so many on the CP forum have had them over the years. Doing a good search will bring a lot up for any new member - including reading from people who are no longer posting (but who may have had successful fusions and gone on with their lives!).

PaLady

Snowbunny21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 3557
   Posted 4/20/2010 12:32 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey Michael, (sorry..a little long post:)

I actually have the same type of thickened skin more in the back of my neck where that incision was..but the one's in the front took a few months for them to go back down..but certainly ask your Dr. to make sure it looks ok...as long as you don't have fever, puss, or extreme swelling you should be good...

And as far as the medicine goes..it's been different with my 3 surgeries...My first one, where they took the bone from my hip, but didn't have any hardware put in...so had to wear my neck brace for 3 months!..I only had some 7.5 percocet for the first 4 weeks then nothing and that worked perfectly fine for me..I didn't have that much pain...but I was younger too! LOL...9 years ago..

Second surgery..with my terrible surgeon..had hardware...but he only gave me 4 DAYS worth of 5 mg percocet, no other type medicine, after my surgery...and I had to BEG for that the day after my surgery leaving the hospital...he didn't believe in any narcotics..that he 'fixed'. me and I should be perfectly fine...

That surgery was in Nov. of 2005 and was in extreme pain from the day of surgery for months afterwards...and it got worse and worse..I just knew something wasn't right with that surgery...I found my Neurosurgeon and PM that I see now at the same spine institute in mid January...after having the most miserable and pain filled holidays..my old PM and surgeon refused to even see me saying I couldn't be in pain (and this was a week later!)...
it was something I never want to experience again!...My new Neuro immediately did another MRI, and saw that this surgeon messed up big time and did a horrible job..my Neuro actually hugged me and said.."I am so sorry you had to go through all that pain"....

So I was put on 40mg Oxycontin with 10mg Percocet for breakthrough...Robaxin a great muscle relaxer, as well as Ambien to get some needed sleep..

Since I had just had surgery..they didn't think I could physically handle another too quickly so we tried a lot of other methods, which I was perfectly happy to do..until they scheduled the next surgery that Oct 2006..

And my Neuro believes in not weaning down before surgery..but actually ramping up the few days before since levels can get higher for pain as well as transitioning to the pain afterwards...so the morning of my surgery..I was a giddy girl flirting with my pastor!!! LOL...

And since I've had the chronic pain..this last surgery was to fix mechanical issues, not to cure the pain, so I have kept on pain meds every since..

Sorry for the long post...I agree that all of our different experiences can maybe help others..

Each person is different with recovery..as well as each surgeon has their 'ramping down' schedule...I would just be open and honest with your Dr. and tell him what your daily activities are and what your pain levels are throughout the day and work out a good plan..most people will just try to start spacing the time between meds as a way to start re-setting the pain receptors...

Thank you for sharing your whole surgery/recovery process with us Michael:) I really think it will help others!


SB and "the pup who snores loudly" 
 
ACDF C5-C7, (no hardware), with autograft bone Nov. 2001
(reabsorption of bone 2 years later...still lost in body..expect to burp it out at anytime..haha")) 
ACDF with hardware, allograft bone Nov. 2005 
Anterior and Posterior CDF, allograft bone with BMP, removal of old hardware, use of titanium plates, rods, screws, & kitchen sink (lol) Dec 2006
 
 

Post Edited (Snowbunny21) : 4/20/2010 7:35:06 PM (GMT-6)


Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/20/2010 1:26 PM (GMT -7)   
Before I forget! ....a bit of sad news. My wife's cat was dyeing, so I took him to the vet today, and had him put down. I think he was 15 to 17yrs old. The vet said it was probably the best thing to do, but it was not easy for us to decide. We will miss him dearly. The newest edition "Mieko" is ornery as all get out, but when he wants some loving, you can bet he knows where to find it. My wife and I fight over the ownership of him, and we both sit in bed, each with Kitty treats in our hands, confusing the Heck out of him, as to which one to go to first :) Lots of fun, to say the least!

PaLady, the surgeon told us that he did not have to cut through the muscle, and said he was able to split it. Does this sound right? It looks like I gave birth to a Kangaroo! I'm not kidding at all on this! :( And I bet your right, that they can bust up some of the scar tissue as well. I just hope it doesn't hurt! :( I will look up the Theracane product here in a bit.
I believe that my pain is different than what i had before, and may be part of the fusion, but I'm not sure at this point. I do know that I'm able to take a lot less pain meds and they are more effective now than prior to the surgery. I was taking around 90 to 100mg a day between the Percocet and the Oxycontin. Now I'm only taking around 20 to 30mg, and every once in a while a Oxycontin for added relief when I'm having a bad day.

The surgeon also told me that I will be in the brace for at least 3 months, but I got the impression that it would only be needed when I go back to work for more of a safety precaution. Does any of this sound right to you? Or maybe I just misunderstood him. I have been getting around the house without it at times, but I think I wear it more as a mental crutch. Your probably right, in that I should probably try to wean myself off of it more. I will of course ask all of these questions when I see him. I already have a list made out, so that I don't forget :)

Snowbunny, did your Third surgery help, after they fixed the mess from the second one? What a rotten deal the he did on you. That's horrible! I would be madder than a hornet, and would have considered legal action.
I did just the opposite, and weaned myself almost off of the meds before my surgery, until I visited with my surgeon, and he told me to stay on them and not to back off of them. I thought I was doing a good thing! Wrong!
My pain level without meds is a 3 right now, and before the surgery it was a 5 to a strong 7 at times. Some of it is due to the incision and some of it is due to the fusion I think. It is rally hard to tell at this point, but I feel that the area in question prior to the surgery is much better. I get confused even thinking about! :)

Again, good stuff you two! Thanks!

SE
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.


straydog
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 13455
   Posted 4/20/2010 1:27 PM (GMT -7)   
I just saw a few minutes ago what kind of work you do and it will be interesting to see what your surgeon says about going back to that kind of work.  For your sake I hope he is not one of these that thinks he can fix everything better than what it was before. I will be surprised if you are allowed to return to  physical work like that. Having surgery already leaves you pre-disposed to further injury as the back has been weakened by the surgery itself. You said they will put you at a desk, sitting at a desk all day will not be good for your back, so that may be out the window too.
 
The hardness around the incision will soften as time goes by.  I had no feeling in my stomach when the pump was put it, took about 6 months for the feeling to return. My incision looked like someone used a chain saw instead of a scalpel. Then the idiot used one inch long stitches that were so tight they had a problem getting them out. I had my PCP do it and he had never seen stitches like those before and neither had I. I had two other abdominal surgeries that were open and the surgeon used a stitch called mattress roll which is used my plastic surgeon and the scars are very thin lines. But each one was hard like you said yours is.
 
Yourr fusion is in the healing process  now and should be solid in twelve months. I know for the backs it takes that long for the lumbar fusion to heal. Necks are totally differnt and the recovery time is usually quicker for the neck surgeries.....
 
Be sure you speak to the surgeon about all of the weight lifting, bending, stooping & twisting. If your surgery had been done by a dr here I could tell you what they would say about that kind of work..Take Care.
 
 
 

crohns disease dx 2002 & small bowel resection, still looking for remission whatever that is, chronic pain 22 yrs, added ulcerative colitis 6-05 to the mix, high blood pressure 28 yrs, aortic heart valve insuffiency, depression, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis lumbar spine, scoliosis lumbar spine, peripheral neuropathy hands & feet, COPD & on oxygen therapy, lupus & psoriasis and psoratic arthritis. Several other health issues just not enough room to list it all. Too many surgeries to list and too many medications to list. Currently on 17 different daily medications. Intrathecal pain pump implanted June 05.


Snowbunny21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 3557
   Posted 4/20/2010 1:48 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey Stray...just an FYI with the healing process with different surgeries...Just wanted to say that the actual fusion rate is the same for both cervical and lumbar, with 6 to 12 months for total fusion...and then factors such as added BMP (bone morphogenetic protein), and/or bone stimulator, smoking/non smoking, etc...and how many previous fusions have been done, as well as either anterior or posterior or 360..

I certainly agree that the challenges are completely different with lumbar/cervical as far as sitting/walking with lumbar....and with the neck there is arm movement and head/neck movement...

Not trying to be a dork and argue, I hope you know me by now that it not my intent whatsover..just stating some statistics from my Neurosurgeon:) I would have said that it was easy and quick a long time ago with my first surgery...but after my 2nd and 3rd (360), it was a long/tough and painful road...


SB and "the pup who snores loudly" 
 
ACDF C5-C7, (no hardware), with autograft bone Nov. 2001
(reabsorption of bone 2 years later...still lost in body..expect to burp it out at anytime..haha")) 
ACDF with hardware, allograft bone Nov. 2005 
Anterior and Posterior CDF, allograft bone with BMP, removal of old hardware, use of titanium plates, rods, screws, & kitchen sink (lol) Dec 2006
 
 


Screaming Eagle
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 4/20/2010 1:53 PM (GMT -7)   
Straydog, yes you are right, in that he will not allow any type of physical labor. He said that I will have heavy restrictions for quite some time there. My boss statement of desk work is his way of saying that I will not have to get back on one of those monster machines anytime too soon. It will really boil down to me just advising other operators in the shop, and anything that is light duty such as running paperwork and the such. We just had another operator who had five fusions in a row done. Yep! Five! His Dr also let him come back to work, but again with heavy restrictions as well. Our Boss, has been great to work with, in allowing us to come back to pull a paycheck so soon, but he will not allow us to do any physical work at all, until the restrictions are lifted by our surgeons.

Most company's will not allow this, but it is also up to the director to allow this or not within our particular company. I'm a guessing that some of the decision has to do with the past performance of the employee, as far as productivity, being a team player, and attendance history's.
I have a very good work history and am well respected in the shop areas. Hint: I did not burn any bridges during my 32yr working career there! :) I guess sometimes it can be a political decision as well, if you know what I mean.
I have no desire to do something that will damage or undo anything that was possibly repaired by the surgeon. I never want to have that kind of surgery again, although, I understand the percentage is pretty high, that I will have to have more of the same at a later date.

Thanks for the advice! Very much appreciated!

SE
DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease) S1-L4-L5, Heart Attack 2002, Angioplasty to clear blocked Artery and to implant Stent. Six Epidurals, Disocgram, Melanoma Cancer 07, Lumbar Fusion March of 2010, Four cortisone injections Tendinitis in Elbow.

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