I am 6 months post-op from L4,L5, S1 spinal fusion. I can't seem to get a straight answer as to how I (or the neuro-surgeon) knows when the fusion is complete. I'm also not sure what exercise I can do. I ask him, and I just get 'walk, walk, walk' - which I know is good and I am doing that. I'd like to know from others if it's ok to ride a stationary bike, use elyptical machine, etc. I'm really trying to behave and be patient, but I'd like to do more than walk, but don't want to take any unneccessary risks. Also - anyone out there back to snow skiing after this type of surgery. I'm hoping that I can ski next winter - will be over a year - but looking to see if anyone thinks that is possible. I had major leg pain prior to surgery that is now gone, and just have some minimal back pain - hoping that will also go away eventually.
Guess I'm just looking for some real success stories!! Thanks.
Wow, I have to say that just reading your post is a major positive experience for me...I would consider the surgery a success if I could just be free of the leg pain, I could even accept the back pain if I could only walk again! I'm afraid I can't give you any answers, not having had my own surgery yet, but just wanted to thank you for the hope you've given me! I hope you get back to skiing asap! Take care!
Walking is actually the best thing that you can do. I certainly wouldn't get on the eliptical and I'm a little leary of the bike. Unless your doc has given you permission, I would stay off them. It takes 6 months to fuse and you don't want to chance any type of movement that will move or jar the work done.
As for skiing, you'll need to get approval from your doc. I owuld suspect that you will need to be fully fused first off. I know that my surgeon to me no rollercoasters, no bowling, no vacuuming, no moving heavy furniture. There is a certain amout of leeway from one doc to another, but your guess is as good as mine. I used to bowl league so this was a crushing blow. But i decided that the safety of my back was more important than bowling(sniff sniff).
It sounds like you are on the right track healing wise. What has your doc said about your fusion?
Hi Granny, and welcome to the board!
It can take 6 months to a year for a full fusion. Walking is the absolutely best thing you can do to get it going. Like iBake said, stay away from the elliptical and the bike for now, in our opinions. I use the treadmill, carefully, only walking, no running. I watch other people on the elliptical and you really need some spine movement to use it properly. Same thing on the bike. It sounds like things are going well for you as far as healing, so don't do anything to jeopardize it.
The only way to know for sure that you're fully fused is to open you up and look. X-rays and CT scans can give a pretty good picture, but looking inside is the only real way. I was told at 6 months that I was fully fused, based on both x-rays and a CT scan, but when I had a problematic piece of hardware taken out at the one-year mark, my surgeon "looked around" while I was open and said it looked nice and solid.
At 6 months post op and having so much less pain, you're probably in good shape, but you may not be completely out of the woods yet. Keep walking and being careful, and keep asking your doctor to update your restrictions each time you see him. You'll know when he's confident that your fusion is complete when he lifts them completely (except for the common sense ones you should maintain for life).
What you need is a referral to a spinal rehap clinic ....they should see your surgical notes from your surgeon and then they can do some physical testing and some strengthening exercises and with that they may want you to have another CT scan to make sure things are healing properly. I'm not sure that anyone can tell you when it is healed enough for you to do such strenuous activities without another CT scan and some core strengthening exercises.
To menotu42...I'm glad I can give you some hope. I know we all hear so many horror stories before surgery - it's nice to hear something positive. My surgery went great and I feel so much better. It was painful, to say the least, but the pain before is so awful, that a few days of post-op pain in nothing if you can get good results. I wish you all the luck in the world!!
Last edited by grannyjanny1; 03-31-2010 at 10:46 AM.
Reason: want to direct to right person
Thanks all, that is great advice. I will definately stick to the walking - don't want to risk any injury - I've come too far. Saw the doc a couple of weeks ago, and he really couldn't get anything specific out of him re how the fusion is progressing. He thought that a piece of the hardware had moved a tiny bit, but it also could have been the angle of the xray. I go back in June, so hopefully I'll find out more. He didn't order any more xrays for when I go back in June. I think I will press for rehab though, just to make sure I'm doing enough, but not too much. I had to press for the June appointment - otherwise it was 'come back as needed'.... what does that mean???? I don't want to be left hanging with a 'take it easy' directive. I need more specifics. I think a spinal rehab place would do that.
Last edited by grannyjanny1; 03-31-2010 at 10:50 AM.
Reason: direct to certain members
hey granny, the very best way of course would be to fully visualize that area as bleu mentioned with a surgeons own eyes,which i was also able to have done when i had to have a spinal cord surgery done that simply required them to do a trilevel lami that happened to be over the previous fusion site. my then NS fully confirmwed a finally full fusion.
the best thing, or way to actually really 'see' if any real fusion has taken place,(this actually works beautifully up in our c spines more so than anywhere else),but getting a flexion and extension type of x ray done, even when its the lumbar area too really just does show soo much more than any MRI or CT actually can in some cases. with my c spine fusion/decomp surgery i had, after nine months of telling my NS i seriously felt from my own symptoms and my primary was certain too that i just did not actually fuse? we did the MRI first which came up inconclusive and recommended a CT be done? well, that stupid CT actually stated i DID indeed fuse when we just now know we did not, only one endplate actually did. it was only THEN that my NS actually sent me for that much cheaper and very basic flex and ext type x ray that just totally showed i had not fused at all on one endplate and i was then i was scheduled for hardware placement. one little x ray told very clearly i might add what the other two supposedly deeper(and wayy more spendy) tests did not. even with your hardware there, they should still be able to tell when the rad just looks very closely at any potential 'gapping' in the supposed fusion sites/endplates? and the boney prominences too kind of show it if they also have any gapping too? this is why it is much easier to actually tell up top in that c spine where the prominences are just much more prominent and will fan out away like if you took your hand and fanned out your fingers would? when fusion takes place, the 'fingers' of those bones will show it by kind of "sticking" much closer together vs ALL of them fanning apart with a non fusion would? but i would just simply ask for that very simple flex and ext type x ray to be done first, before ANY other type of testing when checking for fusion. its sooo freaking basic ya know? and more importantly, it simply showed what the other tests could not, just how the bones behind the 'supposed" fused area actually moved upon simply bending your neck backwards and forwards did? like duh, mr neurosurgeon?
but with the hardware, depending what you do have, if there is a non fusion they still have other ways to kind of tell? its just boney structures show sooo much better upon x ray and also CTesp when you have hardware that just does blurr sometimes really badly upon MRI, but the fusion site when you are bending either forwards or backwards just "should' be with no little bits of that gapping between the endplates of the vertebrae at all. chances are tho ONLY becasue you just DO already have hardware in there(this just IS a form of splinting too), that does seriously also add the very same good alignment and closeness of the material used in fusion(that can be many different things these days) TO the endplates that in almost every case, given enough time, will usually eventually fuse like mine finally did after that hardware was placed and just simply 'held' the proper alignment and good solid connection to everything that needed to be attatched at some point. so thats a plus for you granny.
i do hope everything goes well for you with this. marcia
11-20-01,placement of hardware for failed fusion
9-22-03,removal of cavernous hemangioma that was inside spinal cord. Neuro damage to L hand L leg and R leg.
Feelbad..... thanks. That is great information. Makes perfect sense to me to have those xrays done. I've seen some info on other websites that mention the same type of thing - 'movement' on xrays. I'm so glad I found this site - there is so much more info from other folks that have gone through similar situations. When I saw my follow up x-rays (about 6 months out) I expected to see white bone on the x-rays. I guess I just expected it to be much more obvious and my ns didn't really explain it to me. I hope that all goes well for you and you don't need to go thru any more surgeries. Reading about things other people have gone through, it makes me feel pretty 'greedy' asking about snow skiing when others can still barely walk. I am grateful that mine has been so successful - at least so far. Once I go back in June I will ask for those xrays. Just seems that they should do something to check so I know where I stand. Does seem pretty basic to me.
Reading about things other people have gone through, it makes me feel pretty 'greedy' asking about snow skiing when others can still barely walk.
Well, shoot that thought right out of your head! The goal for all of us is to be able to do as much of life as our bodies can handle. No one here would want any less for you! Just because I can't ski doesn't mean I wouldn't sincerely hope it for you! And I do! There will always be someone worse off than you and someone better off than you. No guilt allowed! Reach for the moon! If you miss, you'll still land among the stars! My stars might be closer to Earth than yours, but they'll still be stars!