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Old 03-02-2021, 09:18 AM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Chauvin, LA
Posts: 31
Back fusion surgery recovery

Last year I asked about hip replacement and the responses were great.
Just made 12 weeks after surgery and all good. Almost back to normal and no hip pain.
Now I have to address pinched nerves in lower lumbar region causing lower leg pain, numbness and extreme itching. I can handle the pain but sleeping with the itching is impossible.
Already taking Gabapentin which seems to help with pain.
Have done all the xray's, MRI's, CT's and nerve tests.
I meet with spine surgeon this week to discuss surgery options. It seems back fusion surgery with the screws and bars is the most drastic. I'm trying to postpone surgery till after fall camping trips but may not be able to.
Has anyone had this surgery and what was recovery like? How long before you can drive and do all the hook up tasks for a class c motorhome?
Did surgery fix all the pain, numbness and itching issues? anyone regret doing the surgery?
I'm 70 and not overweight and in pretty good shape.
Thanks to all for such a great forum
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Old 03-02-2021, 10:02 AM   #2
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Similar issue in my neck. Gabopenten helps but not a solution.
Good luck, I literally feel your pain...
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Old 03-02-2021, 11:16 AM   #3
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I'm 72 yrs and relatively healthy.
Last November, I had a little bit of 'sciatic' pain in leg but had no problems walking miles. For a couple years my Dr had been telling me that I was developing arthritis in the hips. By mid December, it was getting much worse. At Christmas, they did an MRI. Got an appointment with a spinal surgeon in mid January (Christmas and Covid delays), I was given warnings by all Doctors that if things got worse, specifically incontinence or..., Get to an emergency room ASAP as the nerve roots were being compromised, immediate emergency surgery would needed. If not done, just decide on what type of wheelchair or walker you would like. Also .....bags could also be part of your future for life. Sorry to be so graphic. Hopefully your situation is not as bad as mine. Dr said that the spinal stenosis (arthritic and calcium buildup) was aggravated by the two collapsing and bulging discs.
The surgery was done, successfully, on Feb 8.
He did the stenosis reduction from L2-L3 to L5-S1 and the spinal fusion at L3-L4-L5. The surgeon told me about 2 months before being pain free and 6 to 8 months before a complete recovery. I was told a 5 lb lifting limit, and I believe it, for the first two weeks I could not even lift a full pitcher of milk , now it's possible, but still pain. Today, 3 week mark, I was actually able to get down to the floor to change the cats water dish. And last night I had a good night's sleep.

I can only speak for the 3 week post surgical time frame. Driving is not a problem now, especially in the vertical position in MH. Hookups, I would not even consider for a few more weeks, or longer.

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Old 03-02-2021, 11:38 AM   #4
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Try all nonsurgical options 1st.

I have had 5 back surgeries and it just made matters worse. Mayo did the 4th and 4 days later, I was in the emergency room with a serious infection that caused Mayo to do the 5th to clean out the infection.

Now I have periphrial neuropothy because of nerve damage that is not reversible.

With all that said, if there a pinched nerve that requires surgery to release the nerve, there is no choice. But if given the option, try injections, physical therapy etc.. before surgery.
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Old 03-02-2021, 08:49 PM   #5
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Any surgery is no fun...believe me I've had my share and then some

1995 my left foot started tingling and going numb but I was tough and pressed on
Then the tingling/numbness progressed up my ankle/calf but I was tough and pressed on
Finally the back of my knee began feeling like a tiny person was following me around and stabbing me in the back of my knee but I was tough and pressed on........course by then I was eating pain pills like Skittles

Finally I conceded and went to a Neuro Surgeon...
His first statement was "If you are here to have me tell you I can get rid of the pain...go home!"
His second statement was "You may have put this off too long...nerve maybe permanently damaged...could even die!"
Third statement was "When do you want to have the surgery---I suggest NOW!"

So had the surgery......recovery was not a cake walk but I pressed on/did the PT and slowly the pain subsided, the tingling calmed down and I went on about life.
Tingling never fully went away....but it was manageable by elevating my leg at the end of the day/massaging foot

Do it ASAP
Is it time for YOUR Medication or Mine?
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Old 03-04-2021, 08:31 AM   #6
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I'm 70 and have experienced 5 back surgeries. I have learned that everyone is different, and unfortunately, what works for one person may not be the cure-all for another, so this is not advice, but just my personal experience. I started experiencing lower back issues in the mid-'80's, and went regularly to chiropractors and massage therapists (career Navy, so moved often). After retiring and becoming a civilian, I got to the point that I could barely walk to the mailbox and back without stopping to bend over to relieve the lower back pain radiating down my left leg. I sought help from one of the most highly-regarded neurosurgeons in the DFW area. After examining me and looking at my MRI, he told me he was surprised I could even walk in, due to the narrowing of the nerve passages. But he was very conservative and referred me to a pain management specialist to see if that would help. Two rounds of steroid injections brought no relief. Back to the neurosurgeon, who started a very conservative, minimally invasive approach of just trying to clean out the nerve passages. While in recovery from the first surgery, he told my wife my nerves were as flat as ribbons instead of round like noodles. Initially, I felt better, but over a short period of time, things worsened. Two more procedures to clean things out had the same results. The 4th surgery was more invasive and he removed discs between L3-L4-L5 and inserted "cages" to promote natural fusion of those vertebrae. Again, initially, all seemed good. Then things began going downhill again and more scans revealed the cages had slipped and rotated and one of my vertebrae had fractured. He told me he had never seen this happen. I had done nothing to cause this, but I do have osteoporosis, which was surprising to him, because I've always been a runner, played basketball regularly, and was in good shape. At this point he told me I was his most challenging patient, as procedures that had always worked on others were not working on me. He then then said he had no choice but to do a full-blown fusion with titanium rods and screws - my 5th surgery. You might think this guy may have been a quack. The Dallas Methodist hospital named their Methodist Moody Brain and Spine Institute after him - Dr. James Moody. These surgeries took place in 2011-2012. I was on gabapentin for several years but slowly weaned myself off about three years ago. I still experience neuropathy that radiates from my lower back down my left leg all the way to my toes, but it is nothing I can't live with. I can function again and do most of what I could before, except I've accepted that my running and basketball days are over. Now I just walk. Again, everyone is different. This was my story. No advice given. The decision is yours.
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Old 03-05-2021, 04:14 AM   #7
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Chauvin, LA
Posts: 31
update after seeing surgeon

Thanks to all for responding. The info is great
Yesterday wife and I had a very good visit with spine surgeon. It seems I have more than one problem. Left arm has been going numb quite often which I just ignored but I have a cyst growing on my neck pinching nerves which he wants to remove very soon. So I have neck surgery planned in a few weeks and to help the back/leg issue three injections are scheduled. I hope this can get me by till fall as last year the hurricanes in southern Louisiana really did a job on our property and I have a great deal of work to do before any major back surgery to be ready for another storm season. We live in a remote area and are on our own in terms of any help from others.
I learned that when I increased Gabapentin dosage to help with leg pain the side effect was severe itching. I've dropped the dosage back down and simply work thru the mild main. Nothing that will stop me from planning an 8 week RV camping trip in the fall before surgery.
Never thought getting old was so complicated.
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Old 03-05-2021, 05:42 AM   #8
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The results from back surgeries are highly variable. You get ask 10 people and get 10 different responses. All would be honest of course, but you have to remember all back injuries vary. And to be honest the quality of the surgeons work varies quite a bit also. Be sure to get more than one opinion on this, I would suggest at least two surgical consults.

After my fusion with striker titanium hardware rods it took me several months before I felt better than I did prior to the surgery. But there will always be back pain unfortunately in my case. These are not terribly uncommon findings. Don't assume the surgery will be a magic cure. A more realistic outcome for many people may be a reduction in pain and symptoms, but not 100% removal of them.

As a registered nurse of over 15 years, with several years working on a neurological floor, I can only say that there is no way to know what to expect after your surgery unfortunately. I put my surgery off for several years after a bad car crash in part for this very reason. I tried everything possible from a non-surgical perspective including over a year's worth of physical therapy.

Postoperatively the biggest mistake people make is being sedentary. I understand that initially and there are certainly plenty of activity restrictions from your surgeon to make this seem like the logical choice. And the pain associated with activity helps justify sitting around.

But after the activity restriction time has passed, get moving is my suggestion. Nothing worse for your back than sitting around the couch watching TV or reading for months in a guarded mentality, with possibly gaining weight the result. Anything you do you should run by your surgeon of course, but activity that is tolerated, walking, stretching, as early as possible would be a great move in my opinion postoperatively.

If overweight, losing weight prior to surgery would be highly recommended also. I think way too many people overlook this. This would also be the time for diabetics to get their blood sugars under strict control. Which will definitely affect healing and recovery.
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Old 03-05-2021, 06:43 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Danattherock View Post
Postoperatively the biggest mistake people make is being sedentary. I understand that initially and there are certainly plenty of activity restrictions from your surgeon to make this seem like the logical choice. And the pain associated with activity helps justify sitting around.
This 3x!!! I should have mentioned this. As long as I keep moving, I feel decent. When I start sitting around, I notice how crappy I feel. And I always feel worse immediately after getting up in the morning, which is conducive to just sitting. Making myself keep moving is sometimes difficult, but I always feel so much better when I stay active.
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:00 AM   #10
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Chauvin, LA
Posts: 31
minimally evasive surgery?

what do you all know about this surgery technique as compared to traditional?
I know someone who has undergone minimally evasive spine surgery to decrease the healing time as they owned a landscaping business and could not be down for months. For them it was successful
I agree totally on the second opinion and found a surgeon who does the minimally evasive surgery technique in my area but I'm naturally skeptical.
Right now my leg pain is manageable and will think long and hard before undergoing surgery on my spine.
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Old 03-17-2021, 11:30 AM   #11
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Location: Katy, TX
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cobia6620 --

Apologies for being late to the discussion as I don't recall seeing your post earlier. I'm age 61 and have been suffering from degenerative disc disease since I was 40. My first experience with a bulging disc, sciatica, etc. happened 20 years ago after week long golf vacation. I was living in Lake Charles at the time and my primary care physician sent me to Dr. Jeffrey Kozak at the Fondren Clinic / Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston for consultation. An outpatient laminectomy solved that problem.

About four years ago, after enjoying several years of golf, officiating soccer matches, running and weight lifting, I started experiencing significant lower back and sciatica pain again and met with Dr. Kozak. A new MRI revealed that my degenerative disc condition has advanced to degenerative scoliosis at L3 through L5 lumbar vertebrae. Dr. Kozak referred me to Dr. Darrell Hanson (orthopedic surgeon) and Dr. Paul Holman (neurosurgeon) at Houston Methodist who team together in a operating room for adult onset scoliosis that I have. Dr. Hanson said fusion surgery at three levels was an option to help straighten my spine, relieve, but not eliminate pain, and was not a permanent fix. Dr. Hanson advised me that patients who have fusion surgery often require additional surgery a few years later as the joints and discs below and above the fusion have increased stresses which causes those joints/discs to wear-out quicker.

Dr. Hanson returned me to the Fondren Clinic / Texas Orthopedic Hospital to meet with Dr. Michael McCann who has pioneered steroid injections / pain management techniques for spine pain. Dr. McCann's focus is helping patients manage pain and avoid surgery as long as possible. I've been under Dr. McCann's care for three years and have thus far found that steroid injections about every nine months has been very helpful minimizing my lower back pain and stopping sciatica pain. My Blue Cross-Blue Shield medical plan through my employer will pay for steroid injections every four months if ever needed that frequently. Dr. McCann provides pain management care for all of Houston's professional sports teams and several professional golfers and tennis players.

Coming to Houston for pain management treatment would be a long, two day effort for you. However, a quick Google search of Baton Rouge physicians finds a pain management specialist at the Spine Center of Baton Rouge whose resume reads similar to Dr. McCann's -->

There are likely other pain management specialists in Baton Rouge or New Orleans areas that could provide relief for you. Dr. McCann continues to accept new patients if you'd prefer traveling to Houston for treatment. Bottom line, I encourage you to seek pain management treatment before committing to the "snow ball effect" of spinal fusion surgeries.

Hope this info is useful!
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Old 03-17-2021, 11:50 AM   #12
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Wife just had 5th spine surgery in September and she's only 55. Her brother has had two surgeries and her cousin just had his neck done and is now due for lumbar. Genes are not good.

Feb. 13, 2020 was C5-C6 fusion due to numbness in her arm. Like someone said, not a surgery you can delay.

After that surgery, she was driving 6 weeks later and went on a cross country RV trip in June.

September 8, 2020 she had lumbar done again. 18 screws and two pelvic bolts! To look at her now, you would not know she had surgery. She still has some pain but all is fixed with numbness. With that surgery, recovery is a year.

Make SURE you use a neurosurgeon, not an orthopedic. She had her last three surgeries at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia.

Good luck!
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Old 03-18-2021, 03:53 AM   #13
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Chauvin, LA
Posts: 31
thks to all for your responses
Right now I'm seeing a spine surgeon recommended by my family physician and he also believes surgery is a last resort
If and when surgery is required I'll follow all your suggestions and contact many physicians before any procedure
My neighbor had back fusion surgery many years ago with the screws backing out last year and another surgery was required. Scary
I've had one steroid injection in my back, another scheduled for Tuesday next week and a third a week later.
I do see improvement from the first injection with pain very low and have just annoying itching to deal with which could be side effects of Gabapentin as I experiment with different dosages.
We are taking the spring and summer off from rv travels to repair property damage from all the hurricanes from last rear and to make many improvements to the motorhome. Already planning a long rv trip in the fall hoping the back is in check and this covid thing is under control.
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Old 03-31-2021, 04:40 PM   #14
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My son had serious back problems a few years ago. He could not sit, only stand or lie down. He went to a spine doctor and was told they would not do any surgery till he needed pills to kill the pain. He went here
It helped greatly, no surgery. Their method is to pull apart and relax the spine. It's been proven to regrow the discs. There are centers across the country that do this type of treatment.
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