View Full Version : Difficulty walking post spinal fusion

08-22-2016, 07:44 AM
I'm wondering if any of you, who have had spinal fusions from S1 to T4 in the past, are now experiencing difficulty walking. My last surgery (I've had at least five, plus a cervical discectomy...) was in 2008, and shortly afterwards (say two years later) my functioning began to deteriorate. When I begin walking, I'm fine, but, then, I have to stop walking after going a short distance. If I wait a few seconds I can then walk, again, for another short distance. Typically, I begin to lean forward to compensate. I can only describe it this way -- It feels like my legs and lower back run out of steam, my lower back feels like it's locking up and I get a "burn" typical of over exercising the muscles. (I'm able to walk around the house, but that's it...) When I went back to my surgeon in 2011, he implied that I wanted more surgery, which, of course, I DIDN'T. I thought perhaps there might be scar tissue or a screw impinging on a nerve or something, but that question was never explored. He suggested that I try shots. Over the years I have, but the benefits, if any, are short-lived. My last pain management Doctor tried an epidural, but he was unsuccessful, saying that he was able to get the needle in the right side, but not the left side. That, of course, begs the question what's blocking it. I left his office with a prescription for an MRI, and he's suggesting that I explore having a stimulator implanted. My questions: Isn't a stimulator just for pain management? Should I humbly go back to my surgeon and see what he thinks at this point? Do surgeons avoid exploring reasons for diminishing results after they perform spinal fusions?

09-09-2016, 06:15 PM
Sorry no one responded to you sooner. Did you mean to say you are fused from L4 to S1, which would be a two level fusion? Being fused all the way from the bottom of your spine to Thoracic 4 would be almost unheard of.

In any case, what you are describing sounds like spinal stenosis...where the central canal is narrowing...and the nerves end up getting pinched. Leaning forward, as when pushing a shopping cart, allows the space between the vertebrae to open a bit, sometimes enough to provide a little relief.

If you are fused from L4-S1, it is likely you have developed this narrowing at the adjoining level, L3-4. This is very common.

Pain management doctors recommend neuro stimulators because that's what they do! If you have a mechanical reason for your symptoms, it would be best to address what is causing the pain rather than trying to mask it. If nerves are compressed, they will just get sicker if they are not decompressed, and you will end up with permanent nerve damage.

I would suggest looking for a different spine surgeon...one who will take your issues more seriously!

When you get the new MRI, be sure to ask for a copy of it and the radiology report. Start your own file and keep it for referrals and personal use.

03-24-2017, 01:43 PM
Thank you, teteri66. I just saw your response from September of last year! Yes, I AM fused from T4-S1. That was not a typo. Keep in mind, the fusion wasn't done in one surgery. It all started with the cervical discectomy in 1997, after I injured myself at work, then two laminectomies in 1998 at the L3-4, 4-5 levels (The first one "didn't hold."), then a fusion (with rods and screws) at the same level in 2000. Because (and this seems common) the vertebrae atop the fusion began deteriorating, the rest of the lumbar vertebrae were fused. Then, subsequent to the surgery to remove the hardware (the surgeon was upset with himself, because he didn't fill in the holes from the screws...), fractures began occurring, my spine was slipping forward, putting my spinal cord at risk of damage, so an emergency surgery was done a few days after the problem was discovered. The surgeon didn't WANT to fuse me in the thoracic area, but he felt he had no choice. So, now I'm fused from S1-T4, and the hardware was put back (That was in 2008.). As I reported, several years after that last surgery, I began to have the trouble walking. Yes, I do walk better with a cart, hence your theory about stenosis. What happens is that I can walk a bit and then start listing forward. It's at that point when I have to stop, straighten myself out, and start the whole cycle again. I saw my surgeon last week, and reported not only the continued trouble walking, but the cervical area symptoms, prior to the cervical discectomy, are reoccurring (headache, dizziness, and intermittent pain across my shoulder blades and down my arms). He reviewed my new studies (CT scan and MRI) and concluded that he will not do any surgery ("There's not much room up there."). He claims that my spinal cord is intact, but he wants me to have some nerve tests. Why? I'm not exactly sure... I revisited the sacral issue again, and reported that a pain management doctor, last year, couldn't get the needle on the left side to perform an epidural. (He was able to get a needle in the right side.) I asked him if a more experienced pain management doctor would have better luck. While he referenced the hardware, of course, and concurred that getting a needle in there is difficult, he was very evasive about pursuing that sort of treatment. So, naturally, I'm very discouraged at this point. And, if you read my postings about my left foot (beginning last year...), the reason I pursued having my Hallux Varus fixed, in 2016, was to determine whether my difficulty walking had anything to do with that big toe OR my back issues. As I stated last night, I should have left well-enough alone. As you can probably conclude, I'm confused and frustrated with both issues. Thank you so much, in advance, for your feedback.