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Old 12-04-2008, 08:54 PM   #1
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leona07 HB User
Question L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

After exhausting all other options, this 37yo, 150 pound mother of three is having surgery due to Rare Symptomatic Spondylolesthesis (sp). 10 months after the popping started, it has gotten worse and I am told this is my only chance to see some results since the PT refuses to treat me again. With all the popping, cracking and grinding she kept hearing, she was afraid she was hurting me rather than helping. She nor any of the doctors I've seen can understand why my back pops like bubble wrap with any and now all movements. Not the "ooo that feels good" popping, but rather the "Holy crap this hurts bad" popping. If you've ever cracked your knuckles and it hurt rather than felt better, figure that around L5/S1 everyday, all the time. I live within a pain scale of seven and work due to the fact that my body gradually compensated and my safety moves are done unconsciously. My L5 has moved so far forward, it cannot be seen on a posterior XR.

Surgery is happening on 12/29/08 and I am told that due to my age and all around good health, I should heal rather quickly and 85% chance the pain and popping will be gone. Considering the popping has an unknown etiology, I am questioning that %age. None of us will know until afterwards if all will be well. I am hoping that once they get in there, they will find the culprit and fix it all. One can only pray.

Mind you, no history of injury. Only that it feels like it did when I delivered my son and I had severe back labor. Some think it is congenital and that the delivery forced everything forward before it's normal progression that would have happened over time anyway.

Has anyone else had this rare symptom of spinal popping, or cracking and grinding?

It would be nice to see that someone else is going through the same thing. My Orthopod has told me he is going to continue to consult regarding these noises up until and after my surgery date.

 
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Old 12-05-2008, 09:23 AM   #2
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BlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB UserBlueAtlas HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

Hi Leona, and welcome to the board!

I don't have the same problem you do, but my problem is unusual, too. Have you gotten a second, and maybe even a third opinion? Especially with an unusual problem, that's important.

Make sure you read the sticky thread at the top called "post surgery tips." It has a ton of great suggestions that will help you during your recovery.

Out of all the suggestions people gave me, the best one was to get a grabber tool. My grabber was worth what I paid for it the first day home from the hospital. Do spend the money to get a good one. Mine was $30 at my local pharmacy. I tried one called “The Gopher,” too, because it was a third of the price, but in my opinion it wasn’t worth a nickel. It was really flimsy. I ended up returning it and got a good one instead. That's just my opinion. Others here have tried it and liked it just fine.

Also, get yourself a little notebook to keep track of your meds. You’ll be groggy and in pain, so it will be easy to lose track of what you took and when. Write down everything you take! You’ll need to stay on top of your pain by taking your meds exactly as ordered. Don’t try to wean off them too quickly. You’ll heal better if your pain is under control. I kept a running list of questions for my doctor in the same little notebook, as well as notes to myself so I wouldn’t forget things in my fog during those first weeks.

I got a set of satin sheets (well, a cheap imitation) for my bed and some slippery pj’s. It was SO much less painful to be able to slide to turn instead of fighting the friction of cotton. This really was one of the best things I did for myself! I did end up taking off the satin top sheet and put the cotton one back on. The satin one slid out from being tucked in too easily, and it was way too hard for me to re-tuck it myself.

For the same reason, that is, so you can slide, put a plastic garbage bag in your car for the ride home from the hospital. You can slide on the seat and it will be much easier. Also, put a ziplock bag in the car in case you feel nauseous on the way home. If you need to throw up, you can just zip in the mess and no one will have to clean anything up.

Check with your insurance company to see what equipment they’ll provide. A toilet riser is very helpful. My insurance company provided a portable bedside commode, which can be place right over a regular toilet. You just take out the bucket. No one has to clean anything out, but you have a higher seat and arm rests to help you get up and down. Flushable wet wipes are also very handy. You’ll be weak and it may be hard to reach, so you’ll feel a bit cleaner if you use those. The hospital or insurance company may give you other little goodies, too, like dressing tools and stuff. I found my grabber much easier to use than the dressing tool, but try it and see what works for you.

If you have a front incision, keep a small, firm throw pillow handy all the time. You can also use a folded up blanket or towel. Place it directly over your front incision. (Well, over your clothes, of course). When you need to turn, cough, sneeze, or laugh, press down on the pillow to “splint” the incision. It really helps to lessen the pain!

You can expect to be mostly lying down for the first weeks, maybe even 2-3 months, depending on your particular case. Most of our healing takes place during sleep, so you really need to get enough rest. (That’s one reason why little kids heal so fast and old people heal much more slowly.) You need to walk, though, to get a good fusion going. Walking increases blood flow to the spine, which is essential for bone growth. Getting up and down from bed will be hard at first, so take advantage of already being up anytime you need to use the bathroom and walk, walk, walk. Even if you just do laps around your bedroom, walk for as long as you can tolerate. At first, that might only be 10 minutes. That’s fine! Then lie back down and rest.

There are some of us hanging around who have had this surgery, and we're happy to help you through it as best we can. If you have specific questions, or you just need an understanding shoulder, we're here!

I hope this surgery will be just what you need and that you'll be able to go forward with only very manageable pain, or maybe even pain-free! Yee-haw!!!

Blessings,
Emily

 
Old 12-05-2008, 03:01 PM   #3
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tami36 HB User
Lightbulb Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

Leona07,

I am sorry that you are having to go through this. I too am having a fusion on 12/29. My fusion is going to be a 2 level lower back fusion. My doctor is doing an anterior and posterior fusion. I have had back problems for over 17 years and I have had 2 back surgeries. (two diskecotmies) and now the fusion. I had a diskogram done about 1 1/2 months ago, they reproduced the pain that i was already having. It showed what they already knew. Now the last month or so my back has started popping or cracking when I move. I am going to tell the doctor about it on my post surgery visit on the 16. I am not sure what that is. Hopefully it does not add to what they are going to have to do already. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that you are not alone in this. I wish you the best of luck on your surgery.

Good Luck and God Bless

P.S. How long did your doctor tell you that you would be down? Are you going to be wearing a back brace? And if you are how long? These are things that they are doing with me.

Tami36

 
Old 12-05-2008, 03:07 PM   #4
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jinks67 HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

Pop, pop, crack, pop, grind....yes, I know it well!!!

My partner says of me, from an old english advert for car seatbelts, "a clunk and a click before every trip"!

Okay, as requested, here's my experience with cracking noises - Briefly, I had two previous operations for a herniation at L5/S1. After the first operation I had some degree of cracking going on. Surgeons and docs said it was normal but I had various causes suggested (muscles sliding over the bones, gas in the joints....). Anyhow, it soon passed and I thought nothing of it again.

Second operation, same thing. But this time it didn't pass. In fact it got worse. Initially, I had pain on standing (my usual pain) which would worsen until I sat down and flexed forward...one, two, three pops...and the pain would be relieved. Physio (who infact only did light massages), was also surprised to find he could cause these pops and would stop the session if it started happening because he wasn't sure if it was normal or not. Last appointment with my surgeon (neuro), 5mths post-op, and he still insisted it was nothing to worry about. As time went on it just got worse, louder, more frequent...these days its with most movements from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, when walking...crucnh, grind, pop, pop, crack. Unlike you its not always painful for me. If I have pain and am walking, its painful, but most of the time its just a very uncomfortable feeling.

Anyhow, 8 mths after my last op I went to see a new orthopaedic surgeon. After the intial chat, as I got up from the seat for the physical examination, it cracked away (I blushingly just said, oh yeah, and my back cracks a lot!). Amongst the first test was to bend forward....crck, crack,crack all the way down. First comment was "Have you been tested for instability?". As the examination went on he commented that it was one of the worst cases of cracking he'd heard!

Afterwards, I had the flexion/extension xrays which confirmed the retrolisthesis (opposite direction to you, infact it seems the sacrum slips forward and the rest of the spine backwards) and instability at the previous level I was operated at.

So like you, it seems this cracking is absolutely something to do with the instability, but I've never found out what exactly. The only thing I've thought, looking about on the web, is something to do with gas being trapped in between the disc (or what's left of it) and joints which gets released as the vertebra slides...but that's a total guess!

Because for me the last crack often signifies the end of left-sided pain, I've a feeling that my left nerve is trapped in the narrow foramina in the painful, straight backed positions (as it always was) and as I bend forward the vertebra slides, opening up the foramina to give the nerve space. In contrast, the new right-leg pain I've developed, which is more associated with bending, feels more like the nerve is caught on a joint or something and gets pulled as the vertebra slides. Eventually, it too is released with a very loud crack signifying the end of movement. The right-leg pain often lingers for a while afterwards, my docs think as a result of inflammation.

Anyhow, that's a detailed description of my cracking and I'm interested to hear how much of it you can relate to. And if you get an answer to the cause from your surgeon, do let us know...In the meantime, I'm wishing you a very successful surgery, swift recovery and a very, very "stable" future.

Cheers
Jinks

 
Old 12-06-2008, 07:25 AM   #5
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leona07 HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

[QUOTE=BlueAtlas;3813608]Hi Leona, and welcome to the board!

I don't have the same problem you do, but my problem is unusual, too. Have you gotten a second, and maybe even a third opinion? Especially with an unusual problem, that's important.

Make sure you read the sticky thread at the top called "post surgery tips." It has a ton of great suggestions that will help you during your recovery.

Out of all the suggestions people gave me, the best one was to get a grabber tool. My grabber was worth what I paid for it the first day home from the hospital. Do spend the money to get a good one. Mine was $30 at my local pharmacy. I tried one called “The Gopher,” too, because it was a third of the price, but in my opinion it wasn’t worth a nickel. It was really flimsy. I ended up returning it and got a good one instead. That's just my opinion. Others here have tried it and liked it just fine.

Also, get yourself a little notebook to keep track of your meds. You’ll be groggy and in pain, so it will be easy to lose track of what you took and when. Write down everything you take! You’ll need to stay on top of your pain by taking your meds exactly as ordered. Don’t try to wean off them too quickly. You’ll heal better if your pain is under control. I kept a running list of questions for my doctor in the same little notebook, as well as notes to myself so I wouldn’t forget things in my fog during those first weeks.

I got a set of satin sheets (well, a cheap imitation) for my bed and some slippery pj’s. It was SO much less painful to be able to slide to turn instead of fighting the friction of cotton. This really was one of the best things I did for myself! I did end up taking off the satin top sheet and put the cotton one back on. The satin one slid out from being tucked in too easily, and it was way too hard for me to re-tuck it myself.

For the same reason, that is, so you can slide, put a plastic garbage bag in your car for the ride home from the hospital. You can slide on the seat and it will be much easier. Also, put a ziplock bag in the car in case you feel nauseous on the way home. If you need to throw up, you can just zip in the mess and no one will have to clean anything up.

Check with your insurance company to see what equipment they’ll provide. A toilet riser is very helpful. My insurance company provided a portable bedside commode, which can be place right over a regular toilet. You just take out the bucket. No one has to clean anything out, but you have a higher seat and arm rests to help you get up and down. Flushable wet wipes are also very handy. You’ll be weak and it may be hard to reach, so you’ll feel a bit cleaner if you use those. The hospital or insurance company may give you other little goodies, too, like dressing tools and stuff. I found my grabber much easier to use than the dressing tool, but try it and see what works for you.

If you have a front incision, keep a small, firm throw pillow handy all the time. You can also use a folded up blanket or towel. Place it directly over your front incision. (Well, over your clothes, of course). When you need to turn, cough, sneeze, or laugh, press down on the pillow to “splint” the incision. It really helps to lessen the pain!

You can expect to be mostly lying down for the first weeks, maybe even 2-3 months, depending on your particular case. Most of our healing takes place during sleep, so you really need to get enough rest. (That’s one reason why little kids heal so fast and old people heal much more slowly.) You need to walk, though, to get a good fusion going. Walking increases blood flow to the spine, which is essential for bone growth. Getting up and down from bed will be hard at first, so take advantage of already being up anytime you need to use the bathroom and walk, walk, walk. Even if you just do laps around your bedroom, walk for as long as you can tolerate. At first, that might only be 10 minutes. That’s fine! Then lie back down and rest.

There are some of us hanging around who have had this surgery, and we're happy to help you through it as best we can. If you have specific questions, or you just need an understanding shoulder, we're here!

I hope this surgery will be just what you need and that you'll be able to go forward with only very manageable pain, or maybe even pain-free! Yee-haw!!!

Blessings,
Emily[/QUOTE]
Such great advise, THANK YOU very much. BTW...I am sure it is a posterior incision. Worried about being on my stomach for so long during surgery. For one, my neck is going to be stiff and two, I have augmentation and I am sure my chest will be very sore as well.

Last edited by leona07; 12-06-2008 at 07:37 AM.

 
Old 12-06-2008, 07:28 AM   #6
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leona07 HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

I will definitely be keeping ya'll informed. I am just glad I am not the only one.

 
Old 12-06-2008, 07:34 AM   #7
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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leona07 HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

He says I will be back to work in 8 weeks because I am otherwise young and healthy. I will be wearing hat he calls a corset brace. I'm glad because I see those big plastic ones and I cry. At least this way I can hide it. I am not one to publicly show a weakness, this is why it took me so long to get any help. And why it is to the point its at now. I am still scared. Very scared. Having bad dreams. My pain is still incorporating itself into these dreams. Eg. getting shot in the back and waking up in terrible pain. Getting crushed between a boat and a dock and waking up in pain and soaking wet. (Doc says the cold sweat is the body's reaction to pain while you sleep.) Instead of touching toes with legs straight, I am bending back with my knees straight and touching my heals. It sucks, I remember all my dreams, ever since I was a kid.

 
Old 12-06-2008, 08:26 AM   #8
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leona07 HB User
Re: L5/S1 Spinal Fusion set for 12/29

Ok all, still getting used to how this site works, so bear with me.

So, in a nutshell. Call my insurance company, get a grabber, get silk sheets, a journal, a garbage bag for the seat of my car and a ziplock bag for the ride home. This sounds so inviting. NOT!! I guess when I put all this advice in one area it does seem like a tragic event is about to happen.

My pre-op appt is set for Tues so I will know more about what to expect. I am sure it is posterior though. I am worried about my implants with that much pressure for the 45 minutes of surgery and the fact that my neck is going to feel stiff.

My problem with sliding on my bed is that I went and spent mucho dinero on a Top of the line Temperpedic mattress. And if you know about them, you cannot slide out of them at all. I told my husband instead of using the top sheet as a top sheet, I could lay on both of them and so when I slide the top sheet will slide against the fitted sheet. I thought it was ingenious. My husband didn't come up with the idea on his own, so of course he is totally against it and says it won't work and he's not getting us silk sheets.

Anyway, snap, crackle, pop and away we go...

Last edited by Mod08; 12-06-2008 at 05:13 PM.

 
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