I’m a little overdue for my 1 year update on my spinal fusion. It’s been a year and 3 months now. I’ve had some visitors to the blog, as well as friends and family, ask how I’m doing so here’s the low down on life with titanium rods in your back.
I have to preface this entire thing by saying that before I had my surgery, I started developing a really bad issue with my neck. So, all of this is in the context of still being in daily pain, but now it’s my neck and not my back.
Physically, everything is healed great. I had my one year visit with my surgeon who declared the fusion “bulletproof”. The xray looks like one huge hunk of white bone with the metal around it. I don’t have much pain at all. The scars are probably just about as healed as they are going to be. My front scar is almost unnoticeable.
I can feel the rods when I lean back on something that presses against them, which is a weird feeling…but it’s also not uncomfortable.
Up until about the 10 month mark, I would get incredibly sore whenever I did anything remotely jarring to my back. One time I was playing Rock Band with my kids and jumped in place, just once. And that jump caused me a week of muscle swelling and a lot of discomfort.
I was off meds after only three or four months. I was off daily meds after two months and after that I was only taking something as needed, which went from a couple of times a week to maybe once a month to not at all.
Once I got the all clear at my one year, I started doing more serious Yoga poses and work on strengthening my core. At first, doing planks left me sore for a few days after but that’s starting to die down.
My main form of exercise is just walking, which I can do for pretty much any duration without any pain. Standing and walking all day does make me pretty tired and I feel the muscle soreness in my back more than I did a few years ago, but it’s not the same kind of pain I had before surgery.
I have some permanent nerve damage in my leg and my surgeon said that might never get fixed, so that’s a bummer. But I’ve been living like this for 10 years so I’m rather used to it by now.
One of the best things to come of this is the mental relief of not wondering when my back is going to go out. My activity is much more “predictable” in terms of how it’s going to affect me the next day or week. And that’s just such a huge relief.
And, I’ve gone a year now without my lower back taking me out for days or weeks at a time, and that’s really nice.
I’ve ruled out running for me. That’s the biggest loss from this. But staying active with walking has been fun and, honestly, cheaper than running so I don’t mind too much.
All in all….I’m glad I did it. And a year out, if it wasn’t for my neck issues, I’d be %100 and totally normal and back to life as usual.
I may have mentioned this in other posts, but my biggest pieces of advice for folks considering this surgery are:
11) Get a second opinion, outside your doctors practice. If you can have a less invasive surgery with a good chance of relief, I’d opt for that instead of a fusion.
22) If you do this, prepare for it. Get your core strong before surgery. It’ll help your recovery so much. That first two weeks are ROUGH, but I credit working out and really focusing on my core with my rapid recovery. I was walking 2 miles within about three weeks, and my doctor was shocked. You’ll thank yourself for prepping for this.
3) Eat to recover. I took calcium supplements and ate lots raw foods while recovering, and I also drank at least one protein shake a day. I ate with the idea of helping my body recover as best as it could, and I think that really helped. Lots of pineapple for inflammation, lots of protein for muscle recovery, and otherwise lots of fruits and nuts to keep food in my belly without worrying about how little I was burning due to laying around most of the time.