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Back surgery

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I am 64 years old and a regular climber. I am currently on the NHS waiting list to have my L4 and L5 vertebrae fused. Has anyone had this procedure? Have you been able to get back to climbing and if so what was the recovery period?

 99ster 05 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

It sounds like you might have a similar issue to me - spondylolisthesis...?
Thankfully, I'm not at the stage where I need to have L4 & L5 vertebrae fused.  But when discussing this with my physio he cautioned that he has seen problems following on from that operation in that it can cause stress on the vertebrae above, so that maybe 5 years later on the problem can re-appear further up the spine.  I'm sure that's something that your consultant will discuss with you...but I thought I would mention it.
I very much hope all goes well with the procedure and that you can get back to climbing quickly.

 lpretro1 05 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

Before you consider such serious surgery think about seeing a good chiropractor - I'd recommend  Dr Jeff Shurr at Chiropractic Associates in Preston - highly experienced and qualified. Worth an initial consulation at least to see if he can help

In reply to John Stringfellow:

I had T11 and 12 fused about 10 years ago. Was back climbing after 8 months or so (probably could have been quicker but other life stuff got in the way) and it didn’t seem to have any lasting impact on progression or what I could do. No idea how different or similar an L4-5 fusion would be. 

In reply to 99ster:

Thanks for your reply. I have heard of the possibility of further problems after a few years, but if I get some improvement for up to five years I may consider this a reasonable outcome.

In reply to lpretro1:

Thanks for your reply. Along with many other treatments over the years I have seen a Chiropractor but didn't see any improvement. It may be worth trying someone else though.

 99ster 05 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

> Thanks for your reply. I have heard of the possibility of further problems after a few years, but if I get some improvement for up to five years I may consider this a reasonable outcome.

Just a thought - have you tried an inversion table...?

 alan moore 05 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

Mrs Moore had L1 and L2 fused. Took a couple of months to get back to running. Before that a few years of pain and could only manage short walks. She was 42 ish.

 steve taylor 06 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

I had significant trouble with compressed discs in L3/L4/L5 back in 20212/13 - so bad I couldn't climb much and certainly couldn't boulder, as the pain when jumping off was unbearable.

I was on the verge of fusion surgery, but decided to give physio another go (having seen a couple of physios previously). She suggested something called a McKenzie press up(similar to the Cobra pose in Yoga). This had an immediate positive effect (I was doing 10 stretches on the hour, every hour for the first few days). She also suggested other spine mobility work, which I do from time to time as well. Nowadays I just stretch when I feel a niggle coming on. I'm by no means completely "fixed" and may have to reconsider surgery in later life, but it's kept me active for the last 9 years.

Check with your physio if this exercise is appropriate first though (it doesn't work for everyone).

In reply to steve taylor:

Thanks for your reply. My problems are twofold. Standing for even a short period or walking a short distance i have increasing pain and my feet start to lose feeling. The only option then is to sit down until this subsides. I can't imagine anything other than surgery resolving this in the long term.

I have seen physios, Chiropractors, tried all sorts of exercises, had injections etc.

 99ster 06 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

> Thanks for your reply. My problems are twofold. Standing for even a short period or walking a short distance i have increasing pain and my feet start to lose feeling. The only option then is to sit down until this subsides. I can't imagine anything other than surgery resolving this in the long term.

> I have seen physios, Chiropractors, tried all sorts of exercises, had injections etc.

Very best of luck for the future - I really hope you get to a better place soon.

In reply to John Stringfellow:

Hi John,

Sorry to hear about your predicament. I have had numerous problems with my back including  locking vertebrae at the base of my spine and seven fractured vertebrae. I know an excellent Osteopath in Swinton who may be able help and advise you. I saw chiropractors, physios and had acupuncture, none of which worked for me, however my Osteopath has helped me enormously  sorting out my lower back problems on the first consultation.

Cheers

Chris

 steve taylor 06 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

I had similar issues when standing. My right hip would start to ache then my right foot would go numb and feel "unattached" to my body.  That was back in the day when we had morning stand-up meetings, and I was seen as a blocker because I'd always sit down....

In reply to John Stringfellow:

I had a crush injury of my L5 which had to be removed and replaced with a titanium cage and hence L4-S1 are completely fused. Obviously this is a lot more extreme than what you are potentially going to have done but I thought you'd like to hear that I only started climbing as part of the recovery from this operation and a decade later I'm now regularly climbing 6c, at least indoors at the Ice Factor, and I have no real referred problems elsewhere although I do see an osteopath once a month. I figured being as mine fusion was a lot more and I'm actually climbing 1000% better afterwards (I didn't climb before) I might be a reasonable data point. 

 PaulTanton 07 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

im guessing you’ve had an MRI scan.  I had severe back trouble a couple of years ago. My Physio recommended IDD therapy. Basically traction. Sounds very old school but it worked. I had about 8 to 10 sessions. The pain eased after about session 3. IDD is not recognised by the NHS at the moment.

There are several Physio places offering now. Quite expensive, £50 to £60 a session. It worked for me.

good luck John. I know how bad back pain can be.

In reply to John Stringfellow:

When I was 29 I had a couple of lower vertebrae fused. Came at a time when my climbing career was on a natural ebb. I don’t think I would have ever got back into climbing like I used too (most weekends, low E grades etc), but my ice climbing certainly did not suffer, WI 5 and icey Scottish 5 felt easy.  I guess if I’d kept light and trained and looked after my back I would have nudged my grade up to low E grades no problem. 
Annoyingly, I’m having a ‘back relapse’ at the moment - third time in three months. 

 Ciro 08 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

> Thanks for your reply. My problems are twofold. Standing for even a short period or walking a short distance i have increasing pain and my feet start to lose feeling. The only option then is to sit down until this subsides. I can't imagine anything other than surgery resolving this in the long term.

What's the underlying problem? If it's disc degeneration, as I understand it they can regenerate up to about the age of 60 so it's quite likely that surgery becomes the only option.

However if the problem is related to postural and soft tissue issues, there are more likely to be conservative options available, if you're able to find the correct diagnosis and treatment, and are physically and mentally able to complete the rehab. 

At my worst, I had 18 months of loss of sensation in my left foot and practically unable to walk (or sleep!) - I did in the end make a full recovery with conservative treatment, so severe symptoms does not necessarily mean surgery is the only option.

> I have seen physios, Chiropractors, tried all sorts of exercises, had injections etc.

I saw many physios and osteopaths over the years, and consulted a very good orthopaedic surgeon who suggested that the chances of a complete recovery without intervention were slim.

I was lucky, in that my surgeon had been a competitive athlete, and therefore understood my desire to avoid the inevitable complications of surgery if possible.

He could reassure me that it was safe to get back into training in pain meds, while I continued to seek conservative methods, in the knowledge that if I reached the point where I could no longer cope he was on standby to cure my pain.

In the end, I found a physio who could get me to the root cause of my problems, and made a complete recovery without intervention.

I have to keep on top of exercises to make sure I don't fall back into the same place I was, but it's been almost a decade now since my last flare up, and that was after about 15 years of back trouble.

For me avoiding surgery was worth it in the end, but it did take quite a toll on me mentally, so if I was in the same position again I'm honestly not sure which way I'd go - to go through that pain and end up with surgery anyway would be hard to take.

One of the things that kept me motivated was the thought that surgical intervention for back trouble is improving all the time - if I could cure the severe episode and hold off another 10 years, the outcome would statistically be improved.

 Martin Hore 08 Oct 2021
In reply to John Stringfellow:

John, your symptoms sound similar to mine, although my problem was diagnosed as "spinal stenosis" for which I had a "lumbar decompression" operation around 5 years ago. The op involved placing bolts to stabilise two vertebrae - I think L4 and L5 - but my surgeon did not refer to these as being "fused". 

I was 65 at the time - 70 now. I got back to climbing easy routes within 6 months and back to my previous standard (HVS/E1) within a year. I've dropped back a bit since then (I've led no E1's since COVID started) but probably no more than to be expected at my age. I've had no recurrence of the symptoms.

By all means email me for more info if your medics confirm that your problem is the same as mine.  

Martin

In reply to Martin Hore:

Yes it does sound very similar. My diagnosis is spinal stenosis caused by slippage between two vertebrae. The operation involves trimming away a bit of the bone to relieve the pressure on the nerve routes and placing titanium rods and screws to stabilise/fuse the two vertebrae.


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