I received a diagnosis of grade 1 L5-S1 spondylolisthesis in my late 20s. I was able to manage my hip and back pain and remain physically active as a runner in the years that followed, but my symptoms gradually worsened as I approached my early 40s.
My symptoms took a real turn for the worse in 2015 at age 42. My slippage had progressed to a grade 2, and I was unable to stand or walk longer than a few minutes without significant hip and back pain. I experienced numbness, tingling, and weakness in both legs from the nerve impairment. I could only sleep in a recliner. Steroid injections worked initially, but ultimately proved ineffective. The final tipping point was the onset of foot drop symptoms at the end of 2015. At this point I had stopped exercising and had limited most activities that required me to be on my feet, including playing with my 3 young children.
I saw other doctors, but I wanted someone that specialized in treating my condition. I did some research and found Virginia Spine Institute and I'm so glad I chose them. The entire medical team was excellent at helping me understand what to expect before and after surgery, and I knew they had 25 years of experience.
I had both anterior and posterior lumbar fusion (ALIF and PLIF) procedures (L5-S1) in April, 2016. I spent a total of 3 nights in the hospital, and I was walking short distances with a walker by the time I left. The first few days at home were the toughest and most painful, but after that I saw steady improvement. I went through physical therapy and also did as much walking as my body would tolerate. At about the 10 week mark I was walking 2 to 4 miles on most days, and as much as 7 miles on longer days. I credit much of my recovery to the walking, it really helped to strengthen me.
At this point it's been 6 months since my surgery. The hip pain I had experienced sleeping, standing, and walking for nearly 15 years is gone, as are the lower back pain and foot drop symptoms. It’s only after the fact that I realized just how much my condition had affected my life and my level of happiness. Before surgery I had come to subconsciously dread physical activity. Now the cloud has lifted. I am running 10 to 15 miles a week, and I am able to enjoy playing with my children and other activities with my family that I couldn’t before. For example, my entire family recently went to Europe for vacation. Our trip involved a lot of walking and sightseeing. I would have been in agony prior to the surgery; instead I was pain free, and it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable vacations I’ve ever had.
Choosing to have lumbar fusion surgery is a major decision. At the end of the day, I’m very glad I did it. It has been worth it not to live in pain every day. I was fortunate to have it done before the nerve damage had progressed significantly. I would recommend Virginia Spine Institute to anyone; they are top notch, and they have made a huge difference in my life. Thank you!