I would like to get some help and shared experiences from some of you who have had back issues.
I am 55 fairly good shape and ride quite often. (did 2900 road miles last year). I developed back issues over the last several years. Was diagnosed with severely bulging disc at the end of 2013 and had a Microdiscetomy for my sciatic and back pain. Seemed like I had some relief at first, but the back pain has got steadily worse. Have only ridden 950 miles this year about 35% less than last years pace. I Can't ride more than about 30 miles and it really hurts to climb hills.
Went back and saw the Neuro surgeon, and he says the only relief would be a fusion. Most of my issue is in the L5-S1 disc which has severely compressed to where there very little left. He is proposing to fuse this joint only.
I have done extensive research on this and see some real horror stories on these fusions. I see others who have had them and have had full recovery. I ride with a 60 year old guy who has had four location fusion and he is an absolute animal on a bike and he can climb hills like a goat.
Can some people share their experiences with back fusions, good or bad?
I have scheduled an appointment with a second Neoro sugeon to get a second take on my issue to see if I get the same recommendation.
I think spinal fusion, or any back surgery for that matter, has a high rate of customer (or patient) complaints. Its a difficult area to address. My mother had fusion in 1969 and it never bothered her again. But the next person, their story might be different. I also have pain and its chronic. I have the degeneration and arthritis but manage the pain the best I can. Someday I'll have the fusion or disc replacement. Long climbs definitely aggravates my back. Swimming does too actually, and so does rolling in bed at night. In fact I lay on my back just to put socks on now. I no longer bend over slightly sideways. That is asking for trouble.
Did you talk to the doc about an artificial disc? That is another option.
By the way, I have heard far more complaints with fusions toward the upper spine and neck than the lower back.
I had a heart ablation in 2010 and it was 100% successful. Yet when this is researched, you get the same horror stories. My advice is to get the fusion. Lord knows, they do a lot of this.
Choose your surgeon CAREFULLY. Check your state database and find out how many suits, if any, he/she has had. Ask for recs from operating room nurses - to whom would they send their mothers or fathers or husband or whatever. Ask for outcomes - percentages. Likely you won't get these, but medicare is putting more pressure on docs to supply this kind of info. There is a huge difference in skill level. There are some sites - vitals.com, healthgrades.com, ratemds.com etc. that may help, but don't believe all you read, as these can receive false reports.
A friend of ours was butchered - took a 2 month hospital stay and corrective surgery by another surgeon, and she is till incontinent. A check of our state's database revealed 2 suits against this surgeon from another state. So, of course, he moved to another state.
That said, I had an L4-L5 fusion about 3 years ago. My doc invents and uses some new technologies, now available on the market. Extremely well respected amongst his peers. I was walking the day of the surgery, walked a mile the next morning, and was out of there. No problems, but I know the rest of my back is not in great shape.
I was bicycling on the mountain bike in 18 days, I believe
I had a multi level fusion in July 2012 (L5-S1 thru L4). The surgeon is well known and does most of the good ones in Orange County. There was some nerve damage resulting in pretty dead feet and a level of pain requiring the use of Lyrica. But as far as riding at 72 I am back to approaching 200 mi. per week with several Strava firsts in 65+. I believe if you wish to ride you will. Cycling actually reduced my pain significantly due to the production of Endorphins after 20 min. to a half hour. I wasn't allowed on the trainer for a couple months and started actual riding in November 2012. It is a tough comeback but you can do it.
I won't get too detailed because I have written about this many times and I'm sure people are tired of hearing about it but.....exactly one year ago I crashed and had a 5 hr. and then a 4 hr. surgery to fuse C1 & C2. I started riding again in November and have ridden about 100 mi. a week this season. Today I did a group ride of 66 mi. with 4,000 ft. of climbing at 15 mph. At age 68 I am riding better than I have in the past 10 yrs.