I had some questions regarding the recovery from a spinal fusion. Before I ask, I thought should share the history of my situation so you know what I'm coming from.
I was fairly fit before my accident, I had a low resting heart rate of 41, weighed between 155-160, 21 years old and am about 6 foot tall. Four weeks ago (Jan 29), I was out for a bike ride when I was hit from behind by a delivery truck going roundabout 55 mph. I broke his grill, windshield, and some other stuff (Enough to make the truck undriveable). Anyways, I flew 100 ft after that and landed on someone's driveway or something. Amazingly, I survived. The EMTs did an amazing job of immobilizing me and made an excellent decision in not waiting for the helicopter and were able to get me to a hospital in 7 minutes. I should also say that all of this was told to me, for I was unconscious for all of this.
I only remember about 10 or 20 minutes from that entire night so its hard to say if the problems I have questions about were there before my surgery. Of those few minutes I remember were the doctors telling me that I had fractured 3 vertebrae. I believe there were three different fractures: "Chance" fracture, burst fracture, and the third I do not remember. I had my surgery the following morning at 7 am and got out at noon. They had did a spinal fusion from L3-T10. The surgeon said that "Technically everything went very well." When I came to, I noticed I could barely move my left leg, the muscles were incredibly weak, my foot was stuck pointing downward, and moving my left leg and foot in anyway caused extreme pain. I guess this could be caused by the serious trauma from the day before, and I had not noticed it while I was in shock and on a healthy amount of pain medicine.
Recovery appeared to be going as planned, until my temperature spiked rapidly and had to be transferred to the ICSU to be monitored. After I was transferred back I wasn't allowed to get out of my bed anymore. But my leg strength returned a little bit. I was able to reach my left calf when I then noticed numbness in my left calf. I got out of the hospital after a week, and started physical therapy a week later. After two days of physical therapy, I was able to walk for a short period of time, my leg would start to give out. A day after, a very intense pain started in my side and leg. The pain matched up perfectly with where the femoral nerve is. After about a week with this intense pain, my doctor finally prescribed Gabapentin. The combination of this and Vicodin has almost eliminated that pain. Before I was on Percocet and we did not want to drive 50 minutes to the doctor to get a hand written prescription. Everyday since taking that medicine has been the best day since the accident, and I've been able to do a lot more by myself. I now plan to return to school a week from now, so things seem to be going very well.
Whew! Sorry for the long story, but I figure it should help with my questions. Since a lot of you have experience spinal fusions, I thought you could provide some insight. Here are my questions and concerns:
How many of you have had numbness and pain like this? Does it usually go away, or have some of you had it for years?
With this much hardware in my back (From L3 - T10), how's comfort in the long term? Does cold weather effect it?
I am an avid bicycle racer. I mainly ride mountain bikes. Have any of you been in a similar situation? How was getting back to cycling, or just sports in general?
I do trust my doctors, but when I look around the internet I see a lot of conflicting opinions. My doctors gave me only one limit and that was to not lift anything over 20 pounds. I feel like I should be careful twisting and doing other things involving my back but my doctor gave me no limits concerning this. Any insight on this?
What are some good positions to ease back pain, particularly in the area where my back surgery was (L3 - T10)?
I'll post other questions, if I come up with any more.
You have been through so much more than anyone I know including myself. Because of DDD I've had my back fused at L3 - L5. I've had trouble with S1 but I was told that it could not be fused with the others as only 2 could be fused together so I'm rather confused with what the doctors have done with you. I did however have my surgery 6 years ago.
I did not experience any numbness after the surgery only before. The pain is still with me but it's different, it's not the kind that takes your breath away. I can tell you that the weather does make my pain worse. I don't know if that's only because of the arthritis or not but I've become a weather woman LOL. I know before it rains that it's coming and it's not funny, it hurts a lot.
I was told that my surgery was not a fix all.... that I would need pain meds for the rest of my life and so far it's been true.
I used to lift weights and I was also in great shape beforehand but I can no longer do it just because it is too dangerous. I tried with trainers but it didn't work out for me. I would suggest you ask some trainers to take a look at your situation and go from there. Not everything needs to change. A lot of it has to do with your will and determination and your strong awareness of what's happening with your body. I was told I could never go on Roller Coaster rides, which I had never done before out of fear, but a couple of years after the surgery I did it. Maybe it was only because I was told I couldn't but with this small feat I've learnt a lot about myself. I get frustrated, especially in the beginning, finding out I couldn't do the simplest things I used to. I've learnt now that I still can but I just go about it differently.
The best position for me is on my side. In fact I can't lie on my back it's just uncomfortable. Deep breathing helps for me because when the pain is bad I tense up which means I'm tensing my muscles. Learning your limits is very important. I used to walk at least 3 miles a day and now I can only walk 1/2 mile on a good day but I remind myself of what I couldn't do before the operation, I couldn't walk at all.
You are right to be careful about twisting. lifting any fast movements with your back. Your doctors might have thought you knew this. You don't know how much you use your back, or that you use it at all, until it is damaged. You learn real fast how much your back is involved with everything you do. Be careful but live your life.... I hope this makes sense to you.
You can email me anytime if you have any questions or just want to talk.
Wow you have been through a lot. I can only add insight to one of your questions because I have not yet had my surgery, I will be having it in a month.
As far as limitations after the surgery, my doctor didn't give me really any either, which confused me too. I have a toddler who weighs about 27 pounds, and he said I could lift her. I will only be having L5-S1 fused, so my surgery will not be as invasive as yours.
I think I had misread the question on limitations. As far as after the surgery I was put in a cast from my neck to my hips. It was a removable on, some king of heavy duty plastic with Velcro straps on the sides. I was told I had to wear it anytime I got up from the bed or couch. I was also told not to lift anything over 15 - 20lbs. Mainly I was told to rest because it takes time for the bones they take from your hips to fuse in your back and for your whole body to heal. It's major surgery.
I was in a lot of pain for the first 2 weeks so I lived in my bed. After recuperating I was able to walk around the house and then about a week later started going out to get some exercise. That was a lot harder for me. Just do a little at a time and listen to your body. It will guide you and stop you when you've done too much but try not to let that happen. My back did not heal correctly and I might have done too much too soon. So be careful....
As soon as the post op pain was gone I was fine. My pain was down from say a 100 to about 10.
I was out of work and off all pain medications until I went back to work 6 months after my surgery. I can not work without the pain meds. It's kinda of weird because I can walk around my house but not outside.
My recovery from decompression and fusion of L2, L3, L4, L5, and S1 was easy; I had pain med for a couple of weeks. I didn't have to wear that body brace, just an adjustable girdle with support on the back, and that for only a month. Lifting was restricted to 10 lb. Now, 7 months post op, I do everything I did before, but I have a little less flexibility. The only time it bothers me is after showering and bending over to dry my feet and toes!
The numbness is somewhat common. It's nerve related and should ease up, but it may take some time. Nerves take a long time to heal/regenerate.
The hardware: I have a boatload of it. For the first maybe 6-8 months, I felt the weather pretty much. Since then, that has all but disappeared.
As far as biking, etc., once you're fully fused, you'll need to use reasonable care, but you should be able to do anything you want.
I'm surprised you weren't given more limitations. Most of us here were told not to lift more than 5 pounds for the first weeks/months, and no bending or twisting. It may be that the area you're fused, along with the hardware, is pretty stable so your doctor wasn't concerned about disturbing the fusion process.
I'm sorry you've had to go through all this. What an ordeal! I hope the truck driver or his company is footing the bill for all this.