Anyone here have spinal fusion surgery?

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6/23/2021 10:45 AM

If you've had this done, please fill me in on recovery time, quality of life, ability to ride, etc...

I've had 2 procedures to fix L5, and 1 to fix L4. My doc says that my next step is fusion and the Ti cage. Since my industry is just starting to slowly return, I can't be laid up very long.

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6/23/2021 11:11 AM

I had C2-C3 fused, disc was removed and plated. My neck healed quickly and besides other injuries that were part of the crash, my neck is fine.
I returned to work in six weeks.

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6/23/2021 11:34 AM

C-6 & C-7 - Ended my days of riding. Scared the crap out of me! Snapped off the top of my C-6 and it lodged into my spinal cord. Absolutely was never the same after my surgery, IMO it just wasn’t worth the risk of possibly ending up in a wheelchair.

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6/23/2021 1:41 PM

L5S1 fusion.

Brutal surgery and first two weeks are rough. Not gonna lie. It’s gnarly.

You will slowly get better. 6 months you are about 80% recovered. It will take a full 12 months to be back at 100%.

After that, I feel great. Got my life back in all honesty. Wouldn’t not feel limited to do anything. Including moto. No worries.

Back pain can be crippling.

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6/23/2021 2:11 PM

Thanks guys. I was hoping to get a few different experiences because this is a huge decision. A lifetime of lifting AV gear improperly has done some real damage, and I've heard 12-18 months recovery on the lower back cage.

Appreciate the info.

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6/23/2021 2:16 PM

My son had surgery in May to correct his scoliosis. I'm not sure of the exact medical terms for the locations, but the scar is about 50cm long.

Anyway, the first two weeks were rough with managing his pain. Week 3 was a lot better. And by week 4 he was back at school.

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6/23/2021 2:28 PM

Had mine back in 2001. I broke T-4 thru T-9 with burst fractures of 7,8,9. The spinal fusion with rods & screws went from T-3 to T-10. Unfortunately the wreck did leave me a para but I had to wear like a turtle shell thing for 4 months. By then everything was healed but took another few weeks to get any decent upper body movement (twisting, bending, lifting myself in & out of my chair, etc).

After about 3 years I had all the hardware removed. I was 12 at the time of the accident so my body was still growing a lot and the rods were giving me terrible pain. I got a lot more flexibility afterwards and much less pain. Had a 3rd surgery to remove a bunch of scar tissue from around the spinal cord that helped a lot too.

Keep in mind this was 20 years ago, the technology and procedure has gotten much better since. I've heard of people having a fusion done and back to normal within weeks. Mine also took longer from all the breaks and damage.

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MCM2 name - RXR_ProKawi24
PS4 Gamertag "Rocko24" - Add me for MES2 (soon to be MES3)

6/23/2021 2:28 PM

Wife had S1-L5-L4 fused and caged. It was life changing in a massively positive way. Prior to she was in constant pain and had reduced mobility. Now she is into HIIT and in great shape - strong and mobile. She has limited low back flexibility (duh!) but it's nothing compared to the benefits of the surgery. She's 55 now too so not a kid. Had the surgery 8-10 years ago. They went in through the abdominals and the back. Recovery was 4-5 weeks as I remember, first couple weeks looked tough to me but she's had 5 kids (that's why her discs were done) and didn't think it was all that bad. wink

Find a doctor that has lots of experience and is realistic with the risks and success possibility of the surgery. Her's was clear that relative youth and fitness were on my wife's side, but he made no guarantees. He said 50-50 and hope for the good side. That's what she got.

Hammer 663s

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6/23/2021 2:52 PM

I’ve never had spinal surgery but I am in on them in the OR almost every day. The best advice I can give you is to do your research on a neurosurgeon. Do not go to an orthopedic surgeon that does spines, go to an actual neurosurgeon. Get as much info as you can on the one you choose and get more than one opinion. If you can or no someone that works in a neuro capacity in the OR at a good hospital ask them who is good and who isn’t.

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6/23/2021 6:50 PM

jtmaster wrote:

I’ve never had spinal surgery but I am in on them in the OR almost every day. The best advice I can give you is to do your ...more

I had a Neurosurgeon do my first L5 laminectomy, and an orthopedic surgeon do the 2nd. I've never been the same since, and I continually kick myself for not going back to the first guy.

I've been putting it off in hopes technology would come up with replacement discs, but it's all just shot now. I've done a real number on the nerves all the way to both feet.

Hammer - Same here. My current Doc said even if I go thru this, there's no guarantees it'll stop the issues. Your wife and I are the same age, so that gives me some hope.

Thanks for the info and personal stories. It was what I was hoping for in the midst of the Cox Roast...

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6/23/2021 7:01 PM

I had the S-1 and L-5 fusion about 18 months ago. Fell off a water tank and landed on solid ice. When I got up I was numb from the butt to my toes. I knew I was screwed and something dramatically wrong.

The surgery went well and the first month was pretty rough. I used a walker for the first week then a cane for a few weeks after that. The bone graft takes a full year to grow around the hardware. I took a full yr off of riding. Did a lot of walking. Walk as much as you can after surgery. That helps for bone graft growth my surgeon said.

I had to get x-ray every 6 weeks to check on the bone graft for the first four months. Jeremy Martin's bone graft never took so he had to re-visit surgery. Photo

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6/23/2021 9:18 PM

I turned 62 just yesterday. In Aug. 2020 I had my L3 L4 and L5 fused, so I am still very much a "newbie" at this. In my opinion if I was still riding, I am very confident that my riding would just be much more comfortable. But what do I know?
I have been riding since 1970 and the reason I am no longer doing so is...In 2017 I was DX with Multiple Sclerosis. First known symptom was 2002 (had no clue it was MS related) My right eye went blind while I was riding. Any ways continued riding until 2013 until the MS just sucked eveything from me. Didn't even know it was MS until 2017 DX.
Good luck with your decision and let us know how you do.

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6/24/2021 1:32 AM

So I'm 55 and I had L4 & L5 S1 fuse with an X-ray pic similar to blaze 57's. However, I also have a titanium disc that was inserted between the L4-L5 that had a hole in the center, (like a donut) but also had about 10 or so more small holes near the outside diameter, that were probably .0625" dia. I was told my bone would grow "around" the disc, (encapsulating it), and the bone would grow through the center and perimeter holes over the course of 2 years. I had the surgery on July 7th, 2020 when I was 54.
I've had follow ups at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and I have my 1 year follow up in a couple weeks. The surgery was a lifesaver for me as the nerves were so bad I could barely walk. I have never gotten complete feeling back in my left foot toes, even though most of the pain would go down my right buttock and leg.
I work a blue collar job and was back to work in 8 weeks and 2 days.
With the surgeons approval, I was back doing moto starting this May. I've ridden several tracks since this May, (7 practice weekends so far) and have experienced 3 cornering tip overs so far. I clear every jump under 70 feet and stand on the pegs through the rough stuff. I can load the bike up the ramp, gear, whatever.
I have had zero issues on the track and it never crosses my mind.
My biggest tests to the fusion have been the hard labor I'm doing at a new home I bought on an acre. I've had to purchase 30 yards of dirt that I've scooped with a shovel and moved around with a wheelbarrow. I also bought 22 1/2 tons of rip rap stone and 7 tons of large river rock. After the dump truck dumped all this stone, I have been loading by hand and or shovel this rock into my wheelbarrow and moving it about the property. Along with digging up rooted grass,etc, I can tell you it has held up remarkably. I am probably doing too much on it honestly.
I can tell you, I had a tremendous surgery with an excellent Dr.

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6/24/2021 1:50 AM

Not L vertibrae but im fused T4-T9 after a crash 3 years ago. They had me on my feet walking the morning after the surgery. I had to rest up around 4 weeks after and take things slow but it doesn't hinder me in riding or any other aspects of life at all now. To be honest I can barely tell at all that there are 2 titanium rods fixing 5 vertibra in my spine.
Good luck with the recovery and don't let it slow you down!

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6/24/2021 3:36 AM

My dad came up short on a jump back in the early 90s and broke his back. He was fine for about 20 years then started getting sciatica, where the nerves tingle and burn in your legs. It got bad enough to where they told him the only remedy was to get his lower 3 lumbar fused together.

It fixed the sciatica but now he walks with a cane pretty bent over forward and complains to be in constant back pain. I feel for him, wish I could do something. He’s done cortisone shots, PT, had some electronic box to stimulate the nerves implanted in him...

I suppose in his case, and many other you almost don’t have a choice. But today, as we look 100 years into the past and gasp at medical procedures and medication/medical professional advice, we will do the same 100 years into the future about current practices.

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6/24/2021 4:51 AM

I L1 burst fractured last year at Loretta Lynn's and had a small spinal tear. I have 2 rods and 8 screws fusing 2 above and 2 below my L1. I lost strength in my left calf and damaged my bladder and bowel nerves. My calf strength has came back but I am still dealing with my bladder and bowel nerves.

My back feels pretty good. I was in a brace for 3 months then started move intense physical therapy after that. The time when I was in a brace I walked everyday. The more you sit around the longer your recovery will be. Stretching is the best therapy in my opinion and staying active. I have not touched a Dirtbike since and really don't have the itch to do it again. I've found new hobbies to keep my mind busy. I have been MTB though and my back feels good.


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6/24/2021 4:59 AM

I broke my L2 in a motocross crash almost 4 years ago now. I was 17 years old. They fused me with 2 rods and 5 screws from L1 to L3.
It took at least 9 months for me to start feeling somewhat normal and do some light duty labour intensive things. I was working a pretty labour intensive job at the time of my injury and had to give that up. I got back on the bike the following summer, but I still didn’t feel 100%. It took a while for my body to adjust to the fusion and I just felt tense, stiff, and pretty uncomfortable. I rode that summer and packed it in. Feeling that uncomfortable on the bike wasn’t worth the risk for me again. I haven’t ridden in 3 years now, and I’ve focused on trying to get things back on track.
I jumped around between a few jobs trying to figure out what was best for my back. Figured out quick that being bent over all day as a mechanic was NOT something I could do. Ended up at a desk job and that was great for the first while until I started losing strength and would hurt myself whenever I tried to do anything.
A couple years after my fusion I decided to try working construction. I can finally say that my back now feels the best it ever has. Being mindful on how to lift things, and building up muscle has been a HUGE help and I feel the closest to being back to normal now.

In short, expect around 12 months to feel “off”. Very important to stay active and work out as much as your body allows you to do so that you can build muscle around your fusion. Be sure to stretch every day, this helps tremendously. It’s a long process, but be patient with it and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

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6/24/2021 7:26 AM

All of your experiences are both terrifying & inspiring. Thanks for sharing them.

Shaunbruce827 - You've learned early in life the importance of lifting properly. I wish I would have listened to the old timers back when I started in this industry at 17. But you always think you're invincible at that age. I've been paying the price for 20 years now...

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6/24/2021 10:00 AM

Hammer 663s wrote:

Wife had S1-L5-L4 fused and caged. It was life changing in a massively positive way. Prior to she was in constant pain and had ...more

That is particularly good info since my wife is in the same sitch now as your wife was. Her main concern is being able to ride her horse after surgery. She doesn't jump or anything but lower back flexibility is very involved in riding.

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The older I get, the faster I was.

6/24/2021 10:42 AM

I was scheduled for L5-S1 fusion due to scoliosis but chickened out.

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6/24/2021 11:58 AM

captmoto wrote:

That is particularly good info since my wife is in the same sitch now as your wife was. Her main concern is being able to ride ...more

I don't think I'd advise horseback riding afterwards. That's still a lot of impact, and it has to go somewhere. My wife no longer rides dirt bikes, or on my street bike with me. I have 2 bulging discs myself (L3/4 & 4/5) and I have to be super-careful when riding to NOT sit down when I get tired. Or at almost any time really. Any impact that travels up the spine puts me at risk of further damage. Sooner or later they are gonna blow out and then I will likely get fused/caged, and be done with moto. 58 tomorrow so the clock is ticking regardless. sad

Hammer 663s

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6/24/2021 2:06 PM
Edited Date/Time: 6/24/2021 5:22 PM

7 years ago I had L4,L5 and S1 fused. Full on decomp and fusion. I had polio as a kid and had a swervy back. Racing dirt bikes and off road cars for decades did not help. L4 finally slipped over the front of L5 and there was no space left between L5 and S1.

Big surgery handled by an amazing doctor. I followed his recovery advice to the letter. Too many folks do too much too quickly and have permanent deficits.

7 days after the surgery I walked a mile, next day 2 and so on up to 4 miles a day.

I have had no real issues. No numbness or tingling and no more pain. Only real deficit is that I cannot twist my back to look behind me like before.

The danger is that you have fewer disc to absorb shock to the spinal column which wears out what is left faster. The space just above the fusion is particularly vulnerable.

I have not ridden dirt bikes since and mountain bike on smoother areas (no more double jumps or big drop offs).. I road bike a lot. That was my choice. I hike, shoot, fly fish, walk, etc. w/o problems. I do not want to have the inability to move well later. I am 74 now. I agree with no more horseback riding. That comes from a number of trainers I spoke with (my wife rides multiple times a week).

Get a really good doctor with "good hands" and do what they say for the recovery.

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The older I get...the less I can remember about how much faster I was....

6/24/2021 2:28 PM

Hammer 663s wrote:

I don't think I'd advise horseback riding afterwards. That's still a lot of impact, and it has to go somewhere. My wife no ...more

Well, like riding moto, done correctly she shouldn't be pounding her back. It's the Ryan Hughes thing about unlocking you hips. She is concerned about losing flexibility. The surgeon she is consulting thinks she could ride again.

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The older I get, the faster I was.

6/24/2021 3:52 PM

I've been to 4 neurosurgeons in the last 2yrs. looking for any other solution than fusion. I need C2-5 fussed in two different operations. I've had a couple of close friends go for the one surgery fusion surgery and all 3 said don't do it, their pain is worse than before the surgery. BTW, all the surgeons gave me a 50-50 chance of coming out worse than I went in. I'm not going for those odds. Just keep eating the oxys which I was told I'd have to do even post surgery for eternity.

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6/24/2021 4:55 PM
Edited Date/Time: 6/24/2021 5:02 PM

ktmusa wrote:

I've been to 4 neurosurgeons in the last 2yrs. looking for any other solution than fusion. I need C2-5 fussed in two different ...more

I've a scoliosis fusion from T1 to L5 so it's not comparable with a small fusion, but as result from that big fusion my neck has overload problems. For that problem I went to my surgeon and he saw three hernias and one other abnormality but all without nerves pinched in. Then he told me when there is no nerves pinched in and there is no loss of sensation due to the problems, there is no need to fuse. Because over time your body will fuse it on his own and the vertebrae who are now already collapsing and being immobile will grow together all on his own.

Off course if you feel loss of sensation in your arm or feet due to a pinched in nerve a surgery is unavoidable.
PS: I wouldn't race with a fusion, I know a lot of people do it, but when you crash it limits your "flexibility". Bas Vaessen has crashed recently and he re-injured his fusion from a few years ago and it looks like he's now paralyzed.

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6/24/2021 7:32 PM

Had 5 vertebrae fused the muscle takes close to 12-15 months for mine to fully heal. I have rods which made it worse. Do your PT, but anything on your back is serious

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6/25/2021 3:25 AM
Edited Date/Time: 6/25/2021 3:26 AM

ktmusa wrote:

I've been to 4 neurosurgeons in the last 2yrs. looking for any other solution than fusion. I need C2-5 fussed in two different ...more

My body was slowly taking away any quality of life I had. It took me 10 minutes to walk 200 feet. I could barely function in most daily life chores. I had ruptured disc at L4-L5, and a cyst on the nerve. The MRI showed my nerve completely disappeared because it was completely pinched off from the rupture and the cyst.
My life is 99% better than before and 100% better than where I was headed.
Your friends advising you not to have surgery must not have had good surgeons.
As far as taking "oxy's" after surgery, I can tell you, I took pain pills for a year leading up to my surgery, and I took pain pills for about 8 days after my surgery, and never since.
Mine was a big surgery. Went in on my left side (below rib cage, above hip) and through my back. I have titanium rod, screws, and disc fused.
My surgery saved my life and got me back to work, play and moto
Good Luck, whatever you choose

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6/25/2021 5:40 AM

jtmaster wrote:

I’ve never had spinal surgery but I am in on them in the OR almost every day. The best advice I can give you is to do your ...more

Same...kinda-I used to make a living from selling spinal instrumentation for everything discussed here and have seen literally 100's of these cases, the few things I would say with 100% confidence is: 1. Ortho vs Neuro surgeon matters less than seeing someone who is "fellowship" trained specifically in spine. Surprisingly you don't have to be a fellowship trained surgeon to call yourself a spine surgeon. In my experience I have seen just as many great orthos as I have neuros...2. Your experience is your experience. Recovery, post-surgery capabilities all hinge on your metal state-how are you viewing the procedure and is your mindset for an incredible recovery there, Dr.'s performance, your ability to heal, and your commitment to physical therapy...3. From what I have seen and know, the bulk of the pain particularly from procedures done when most surgeons taking illiac crest bone for graft material comes from the "donor site" for the graft material and the incision itself. As it was described above, it is a brutal procedure. If gone in from the back all the muscle is split to get access, then stripped off the bone in certain places which will obviously leave a ton of scar tissue. Going through the front has upsides and downsides, particularly for men. Lastly don't get caught up in words like "cage" "screws" etc. All of that is inserted to stabilize the fusion site while it heals. They are not there for long term stability.
While generally they never come out, their primary purpose is similar to why you get a collar bone plated. Think of it as internal bracing or casting while the bone heals. Once it is healed, the bone will always be stronger than the screws, plates, etc. Hope this helps and good luck!

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I participate, my kid races!

6/25/2021 6:18 AM

jtmaster wrote:

I’ve never had spinal surgery but I am in on them in the OR almost every day. The best advice I can give you is to do your ...more

Shapi wrote:

Same...kinda-I used to make a living from selling spinal instrumentation for everything discussed here and have seen literally ...more

I agree with following the MDs advice with post surgery recovery. A lot of people start feeling better and then short cut the physical therapy. And also remember that technology is progressing a lot with imaging / computer navigation guidance during spinal surgeries as well. Don’t get overwhelmed though with a surgeon saying they are the better choice because the use navigation. The neuro surgeon that does the most difficult cases at the trauma hospital I work at was talking about it last week with his opinion on navigation. Navigation can make a mediocre surgeon good but won’t make a good surgeon great. Also be careful of a second generation surgeon that isn’t the best riding on the coat tails of their parent that was a great surgeon. We have one of those. Make sure you do your research and follow post op directions.

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6/25/2021 6:48 AM

Broken T1, T2, T3 and burst T12. Two rods, 10 screws and a spinal cage for life. Going on two years now. Rode a pit bike once since my accident and it scared the hell out of me. I don't know how you guys go on to ride again or even ride MTB.

I got rear ended in my truck at about 15mph last month and I thought I was going to black out from pain

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