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Old 02-14-2012, 12:12 PM   #1
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Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

In February 2008 I underwent spinal fusions of L4-L5-S1. That surgery was 100% successful. I'm now going to have additional fusions of L2-L3-L4 due to herniated discs (and stenosis). I'm 80 years old and live an active lifestyle, that is, I golf, walk, and ride a bicycle. We travel full time in an RV and it's necessary for me to lift propane bottles weighing 55 lbs when full. My question is, what can I expect my real physical limitations to be?

Orv

 
Old 02-14-2012, 01:14 PM   #2
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Could you possibly figure out an alternate for getting those 55 lb. tanks of propane so you don't have to lift them?

I think you need to be prepared for a long recovery...and I can't quite imagine how you will do it if you are traveling and riding in a vehicle. I don't know how strict your surgeon will be with you...but when I had a 3 level posterior fusion (L3-S1) I wasn't allowed to make anything but very short trips, like to the store and back, for the first three months. For the next three months, I had some restrictions, but I'm quite sure my surgeon would not have let me ride around in a vehicle all the time. Do you go to a new place and stay for quite awhile?

Surgeons do not like to perform multi-level fusion to begin with, as the chance for success goes down with each additional level. So in your case, the chance of non-fusion is relatively high to begin with. It is tricky to begin with to get the diverse pieces of bone to grow together. Unlike other "broken" bones in the body where it can be immobilized, it is impossible to keep movement out of the equation of a lumbar fusion...so the patient needs to do what he/she can to make it as immobile as possible. Chances are you would be in a brace for a number of weeks at the beginning. But when you are riding in a vehicle, the road vibration is such that it can be enough to keep the new cells from being able to knit together.

And then, there is the sitting....Sitting puts 30% more stress on the discs than either standing/walking or lying down...so most surgeons restrict the amount of time a patient can sit post surgery. And of course, it is important to change positions often just to avoid muscle spasms and to help avoid scar tissue from attaching to a nerve as it is forming.

As to the limitations from the actual fusion, where you will notice it the most will be in the limited amount you'll be able to twist or bend to the side or to extend and bend backwards. I guess if you play golf or tennis, it may make that difficult...I don't play either, so can't speak from personal experience.

I'm 18 months out from my 3 level fusion and I still notice it if I have lifted or carried something slightly on the heavy side. I guess that's why I wondered how you would manage the 55 pound tanks. You may be physically able to lift them, but what will it do to your lumbar spine?

Perhaps with the appropriate physical therapy to properly condition you, it will be possible.

 
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Old 02-14-2012, 05:45 PM   #3
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

I know I will be in one place for at least six months or longer. My rehab from the first surgery went well as we stayed in one RV park for 14 months after surgery, so I'm anticipating that again. My problem, if I have one, is will the surgeon agree to let me lift those 55 lb propane bottles. Anyone have any experience there?

 
Old 02-17-2012, 08:03 AM   #4
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Saw surgeon yesterday and the news is better than we thought. There will be no need for fusion of L2 and L3 to my previous L4-S1 fusions. I will have laminectomies on L2 and L3 and cleaning out of the root canals. Surgery will be performed on March 6 and I will come back with details.

 
Old 03-29-2012, 03:14 PM   #5
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Wink Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

[QUOTE=sch00732;4927847]In February 2008 I underwent spinal fusions of L4-L5-S1. That surgery was 100% successful. I'm now going to have additional fusions of L2-L3-L4 due to herniated discs (and stenosis). I'm 80 years old and live an active lifestyle, that is, I golf, walk, and ride a bicycle. We travel full time in an RV and it's necessary for me to lift propane bottles weighing 55 lbs when full. My question is, what can I expect my real physical limitations to be?

Orv[/QUOTE]
I underwent additional back surgery on March 6th. Fusions were not necessary. Laminectomies were performed on L2, L3-4. Additionally, cleanup work was done on my previous surgery wherein scar tissue had to be removed. When removing the scar tissue, some was adhered to the spinal fluid sack which caused a tear in the sack. So I was required to remain on my back for 24 hours while the tear repaired.

The pain I was experiencing before the laminectomies is gone. I'm slowly recovering and the prognosis is good. Doctor indicates that by June 1st I should be able to return to traveling. Only limitations are to be careful when I lift anything, making sure I use good lifting techniques. Supposed to keep bending and twisting to a minimum.

 
Old 03-30-2012, 03:53 PM   #6
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

That sounds like great news. It is always good when they can do the least amount of surgery that will resolve the issues. I'm pleased for you. Now, just be careful and think of your back first before activity.

 
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Old 03-30-2012, 10:14 PM   #7
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Congratulations! I know that you mentioned needing to lift considerable weight 55 lb propane tanks (hopefully not now, but when you start traveling again). Be sure to ask for help, even after you've healed. A surgically repaired back will always be susceptible to injury, so be very careful. Maybe the propane dealers will deliver and install? Or, you could try team lifting. Happy healing.

 
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Old 05-23-2012, 07:17 AM   #8
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Smile Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

I just had a consult with a surgeon and will be doing a similar procedure at the end of June. I, too had a previous fusion—L4-S1, 6 years ago, which was laparoscopic and very successful. I was advised by another surgeon that I would have to have an L2-L3 fusion attached to the previous one and was not too happy about it. My first recovery was amazingly quick. I was wondering about your recovery from this second surgery. I am 71 and also extremely active. I do exercises every day and go to the gym, now a bit limited since walking is too difficult. Did you have to wear a brace? I thought it might be good as a reminder at the beginning to take it easy since I do tend to overdo things. Also, did you have to do physical therapy after? Your post was so encouraging.

 
Old 05-23-2012, 07:58 AM   #9
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Smile Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

I'm still recovering. The only physical therapy they put me on is walking. Still don't have all my strength but have been released to return to normal living. Normal living for my wife and myseld is traveling in an RV (5th Wheel) full time. The doctor cleared me to lift up to 60 pounds just as long as I lift properly (use my legs, not my back). That was the one thing I was really concerned about. All of the pain I had in my legs prior to surgery is gone. Whew, what a relief.

I do have a friend who had similar problems with his back and he went to the Texas Spinal Institute and had a stimulator implanted in his back and he is now pain free. They wouldn't accept me as a patient because I'd already had previous fusions.

Best of luck in your recovery. Stay in touch.

Orv

 
Old 05-23-2012, 08:49 AM   #10
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Smile Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Thanks for the quick reply. I couldn't do a stimulator either because of the fusion. My surgery will be done in NY at Hospital for Special Surgery. Three months for recovery isn't bad. My surgeon said that after six weeks, I should be able to do most everything, but I think they are often optimistic. After my fusion, I was kicked out of rehab after one week because I was doing too well and could even walk without a cane. So I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will go equally well. The only heavy things I will need to lift, can be done by wonderful neighbors, as my husband had a hemorrhagic bleed four years ago and is somewhat paralyzed on the left side. We are both artists and it surely did not stop him. This won't stop me either!
Thanks again
Helene

 
Old 05-23-2012, 09:27 AM   #11
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Sounds good to me. I also did everything in rehab that was expected of me. I believe that's why the recovery was so quick. In 2008 I had to wear a firm back brace for three months whenever I was ambulatory (up and around). But this time Doc said I would be fine without the brace and so far he is correct. The only problem I've encountered is when I go for a walk, if I don't stretch my back muscles a lot first, then I get a backache down in the lumbar area. I can alleviate that by stopping, leaning backwards for about 15 seconds and then forward from the waist. Seems to stop the ache and I can go on. I'm walking up to three miles a day and Doc declares that as wonderful. He says that's the best kind of rehab for this type of surgery and he okays my method of leaning backward and forward to rid myself of the backache--which he says will go away!

Orv

 
Old 05-23-2012, 10:28 AM   #12
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Wow! To be able to lean back would be fantastic again. It sounds like you are really on a great recovery track. I too wore that braces for three months . . .so I feel that it will be fine without it. Luckily, we have a wonderful bike path plus other walking areas. in our town and summer is a great time for walking. Rhode Island is great for beach walking too.

Thanks again

Helene

 
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Old 05-23-2012, 11:09 AM   #13
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Just remember that when you are walking for rehab after surgery, you want to be walking on a level surface. The beach is not all that great when you are early in recovery. You'd be amazed at how stepping off in even a tiny hole can really jolt the discs...plus at the beach, if you're walking where the sand is harder, one leg will be walking at a slightly lower level. Try to stick to a smooth, level surface for the first six months.

 
Old 05-23-2012, 11:44 AM   #14
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

I walk only on hard surface. That is mostly cement and/or asphalt.

Orv

 
Old 05-23-2012, 11:59 AM   #15
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Re: Physical LImitations after Additional Spinal Fusions

Thanks for that heads up. I think by later in the summer or certainly in the fall, I will be able to walk down near the water where it is harder. Our local bike path, which is seven miles long is asphalt. Not too many boardwalks here!

Thanks again

 
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