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Lumbar Spine Surgery

 

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bsemmens

Nov 6, 2009, 11:46 AM
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Lumbar Spine Surgery Can't Post

I recently had decompression surgery to remove a disc herniation and bone spurs at L4-L5. Fusion was not done, nor is there any metal in me. Has anyone out there had a similar surgery and returned to skydiving ? How long was your recovery and how are you coping with jumping ?


bozo  (D 10154)

Nov 8, 2009, 7:59 AM
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I recently had decompression surgery to remove a disc herniation and bone spurs at L4-L5. Fusion was not done, nor is there any metal in me. Has anyone out there had a similar surgery and returned to skydiving ? How long was your recovery and how are you coping with jumping ?
-----------------------------------------------------------

I crushed L2 fractured L1-3......a couple surgeries to stabilize and made my next jump almost a year to the day from my injury. I had 1500+ jumps when I was injured and made over 1400 more of which 400 were tandems.
Today...13 years later I am totally disabled having had 4 more surgeries this year.
Was it worth it ? I ponder that answer every day,
The choice is yours. I probably would make the same choice but remember theres a lot of life to live after skydiving.....is it worth being a cripple ?


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Nov 10, 2009, 1:09 AM
Post #3 of 35 (5889 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I recently had decompression surgery to remove a disc herniation and bone spurs at L4-L5. Fusion was not done, nor is there any metal in me. Has anyone out there had a similar surgery and returned to skydiving ? How long was your recovery and how are you coping with jumping ?

Hi, I am a spine surgeon and perform these procedures weekly. Did you have a 'microdiscectomy'? If you did not have a fusion then you likely had just the herniated portion of your disc removed. You would likely be fine returning to skydiving, you just have to keep in mind that you no longer have the same healthy disc as you once did. Studies have said that you are at a 3%-5% higher risk of re-herniation, but arguments could be made that you would hold the same risk regardless of the previous herniation or surgery.

Skydiving will put you in positions of spine loading and therefor create increased chances of a spinal injury in anyone. Yes, one could say you are at a higher risk.

As for recovery, I would recommend a minimum of 12 weeks, but the longer the better. The idea is to allow the weak part of the annulus or outer portion of the disc to scar over, lessening the chance of re-herniation.

This is in no way advice for you to return to skydiving or not.

All the best to you and whatever you decide.


bsemmens

Nov 10, 2009, 8:36 AM
Post #4 of 35 (5872 views)
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Re: [ridestrong] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for your input. It is very much appreciated. The surgery was not done with the aid of a microscope, however the incision is only about 2 1/4 inches in length. I had an L4-L5 right sided open decompression. While the surgeon was digging around in there he found some bone spurs pushing down on the nerve from the top, which he also removed as well as cleaning up some arthritis. He removed only the herniated portion of the disc from my understanding. I am having another MRI today and will see the surgeon next week which will be six weeks post op. As I live in Canada I won't be jumping again until the spring so I have plenty of time to fully heal.


d16842  (D 16842)

Nov 15, 2009, 9:28 PM
Post #5 of 35 (5784 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I recently had decompression surgery to remove a disc herniation and bone spurs at L4-L5. Fusion was not done, nor is there any metal in me. Has anyone out there had a similar surgery and returned to skydiving ? How long was your recovery and how are you coping with jumping ?

Like my close friend Bozo, who also replied, I have been doing the back thing in the sport for a long time. It is an individual decision, but there is a lot you can do to help yourself if you decide to continue in the sport.

You can can go with a larger canopy than you might otherwise. You may be the best canopy pilot on earth, but when things go wrong, a bigger one is more forgiving. Select a canopy known to have less opening shock. Choose the days you jump carefully. Do you really need that jump so badly as to be out in high and changing winds? Your biggest protector will be use of judgement with each jump, but your physical condition helps too. Do the exercises they advise for your spine every day.

I elected to not become a tandem master because it simply is much harder on the spine. I quit S/L jumpmastering because doing so in a 182 puts a lot of stress on the spine. Cameras are getting lighter every day, and your problem is lumbar, not cervical, but still they complicate things. Personally I found packing harder on my lumbar spine than jumping, but know that if you let someone else do it, that you live with however they wadded it up and shoved it into the container.

Finally, I strongly recomend a book to anyone with back problems. It is "Do You Really Need Back Surgery" by Aaron Filler. He is a CA neurosurgeon who specializes in the most complicated cases. I realize you have alread had your surgery, but he does a great job of explaining things that can help avoidng more surgery in your future. It is something like $15 on Amazon.com.


(This post was edited by d16842 on Nov 15, 2009, 9:45 PM)


mwabd1  (D 25298)

Jan 6, 2010, 3:53 PM
Post #6 of 35 (5638 views)
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Re: [d16842] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

good thread.........I just found out that I will need surgery. I have been dealing with severe cyatic pain down the right leg for 6-7 months now but due to my job I just got an xray and MRI done last week......I am to the point that I cannot sit, stand or for that matter do anything without severe pain.

I am pondering the future of my skydiving activities.

Let me know how it works out.


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Jan 6, 2010, 8:44 PM
Post #7 of 35 (5630 views)
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Re: [mwabd1] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
good thread.........I just found out that I will need surgery. I have been dealing with severe cyatic pain down the right leg for 6-7 months now but due to my job I just got an xray and MRI done last week......I am to the point that I cannot sit, stand or for that matter do anything without severe pain.

I am pondering the future of my skydiving activities.

Let me know how it works out.

It sounds exactly like you have a herniated disc. You are also likely a perfect candidate for a 'Minimally Invasive Microdiscectomy'. If anyone wants to do anything other than a Microdiscectomy I would run for a 2nd opinion.

The post-op recovery is very quick as well. You could also likely be safely skydiving again quite soon.


mwabd1  (D 25298)

Jan 7, 2010, 3:16 AM
Post #8 of 35 (5620 views)
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Re: [ridestrong] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

So far I am just going off of the phone message that the doc left but thats what I was thinking.

I am not worried about jumping as much as getting back to work ASAP.......I am buying a house and don't want to screw myself out of that!


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Jan 8, 2010, 1:21 AM
Post #9 of 35 (5588 views)
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Re: [mwabd1] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
So far I am just going off of the phone message that the doc left but thats what I was thinking.

I am not worried about jumping as much as getting back to work ASAP.......I am buying a house and don't want to screw myself out of that!

Honestly.... most of our patients that undergo a one level Microdiscectomy could probably go back to work the next day if they really wanted to. With the the exception of jobs requiring strenuous activity i.e., heavy lifting, shoveling, heavy pushing/pulling, etc...
That being said we still recommend they have the option of having a week off.

You can expect to have some minimal post-op soreness, but the sciatic pain that you are currently feeling should essentially be completely gone immediately following the surgery.


bsemmens

Jan 8, 2010, 6:02 AM
Post #10 of 35 (5574 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

I am now 13 weeks post op and doing very well. I still have some very minor pain in my leg but it is intermittent and tolerable. It is there in the morning but seems to disappear as I become more active during the day. I saw my surgeon recently for his 12 week post op assessment and I was told that any pain I am still experiencing was due to soft tissue inflammation and this should disappear over time. I had "open" back surgery and not a microdiscectomy but my incision is still only 2 1/2"long. That being said there was probably more soft tissue trauma from the larger incision and therefore a longer healing time. I am also 55 years old and a slow healer historically. The surgeon said the full healing cylce is about 16 weeks but that I could return to my usual activities as I saw fit. I am back playing hockey (non contact) and skiing with no issues at all. I will resume skydiving this spring. The weakness and tingling in my right foot is all but gone and the pain I was experienceing through my hips has disappeared completely. Everyone is different and will experience varying results. I believe the key to a full recovery is staying active and following the recommended post op physiothereapy regimen to the letter. Good luck. I hope this helps.

Bob Semmens


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Jan 8, 2010, 11:14 AM
Post #11 of 35 (5565 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Thats great... Sounds like you are on the track that would be expected for your procedure.


mwabd1  (D 25298)

Jan 8, 2010, 3:45 PM
Post #12 of 35 (5561 views)
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Re: [ridestrong] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

I am hoping to fast track the surgery.......I am driving home to Florida from Arizona......which is brutal but I have been stoppping every hour and walking.

My doc called me today and explained that there in a 1-1/2cm piece of the L5-S1 disk impinging on the nerve.......

I hope your right......I won't know how to act without the damn pain!!


TVPB  (F 666)

Jan 9, 2010, 3:19 AM
Post #13 of 35 (5532 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting thread.

When I was 21 yo (about 17 years ago), I had an L5 / S1 laminectomy/disectomy (not sure which - the disc was shaved on the outside via an incision on my lower back. This was due to sciatica on my left side.

I took six full months off any risk / heavy activity and did all my physio.

I was a promising junior golfer which I gave up because of the back injury.

Since then I have done about 1000 BASE jumps and nearly that many CRW jumps - both kown for hard openings. I am also a tandem master with hundreds of jumps post surgery. In other words, I have absolutely hammered my back post surgery.

About once a year I will have between one to three days of back pain which slow me down to varying extents. Otherwise I am fine. It is interesting to note that these periods are usually preceeded by heavy lifting / work and no prior stretching.

When I participate in sport or heavy activity of any kind, I usually do stretching exercises prior and wear a thermoskin back brace to keep the back warm and don't have problems.

My normal job is professional and does not require much physical labour.

I am currently overweight and feeling a little unhealthy, which is making my back, but also my whole body, not feel quite ad good. I hope to rectify this asap. I do feel much better when I have been fitter and healthier (including lost weight).

Overall I am currently feeling OK about my health but my gut feel is that my back is worsening very slowly over time. Hence I am currently getting healthier and strenghtening the structure around my back as well as losing weight. I also control my openings a little on the generous side (in CRW comps I generally exit later which gives a little more scope for slower openings). The disc is still herniated (I have had recent MRI's), but rarely, if ever, causes problems.

I have had friends with the opposite luck to me too.

Hence, you could be lucky like me or not???? It depends on a lot of factors.

Get lots of opinions, and get yourself strong, healthy, and as flexible as possible.

I don't recommend doing the CRW / BASE / Tandems if you want to pursue skydiving as they are hard work on your back. I picked because they are the disciplines of choice for me.

Stay Safe
Have Fun
Good Luck

Tom B - The Australian One

Smile


mwabd1  (D 25298)

Jan 13, 2010, 5:25 AM
Post #14 of 35 (5489 views)
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Re: [mwabd1] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Surgery on the 18th......bed rest till then as the doc is woried about the pressure on the nerve. He delayed the surgery fo a week because i have been getting over the flu.

I should be able to jump again in May and will be back to work in 30 days.


warpedskydiver  (Student)

Jan 14, 2010, 8:53 PM
Post #15 of 35 (5471 views)
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Re: [mwabd1] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Good Luck, don't rush it just let it heal.


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Jan 14, 2010, 9:42 PM
Post #16 of 35 (5468 views)
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Re: [mwabd1] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Surgery on the 18th......bed rest till then as the doc is woried about the pressure on the nerve. He delayed the surgery fo a week because i have been getting over the flu.

I should be able to jump again in May and will be back to work in 30 days.

Bed rest??? and till the 18th??? I can see avoiding strenuous activity, but lying in bed all day sounds like over-kill. Do you have any 'foot drop' or significant weakness in the leg?

Well anyway... I'm sure you'll do great after the surgery and your leg pain should be gone.


VideoFly  (D 25621)

Jan 15, 2010, 2:29 PM
Post #17 of 35 (5445 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

I had a double discotomy (L4; L5/S1) and a double lamentectomy several years before I started jumping. While I have arthritis and some leg problems, the surgery had little effect upon jumping. In fact, jumping in a good arch actually relieves quite a bit of my stiffness and pain. My surgery was fairly evasive, leaving a scar about ten inches long. While your recovery may take long, you will hopefully be able to enjoy jumping soon.


mwabd1  (D 25298)

Jan 20, 2010, 6:32 AM
Post #18 of 35 (5380 views)
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Re: [VideoFly] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Well surgery went well and as I type this i am sitting in a chair with no leg pain!! My lower back is still very sore but I have cut my percoset dose in half so that is progress.

The surgeon said he had to remove a much larger piece than the MRI showed and said if they had been able to see the entire picture that they would have done the surgery immediatly. The bed rest was really all I could do in the end sittting walking and anything else was painfull enough to bring tears to my eyes.

I am just taking it slow and hopefully will be back to 100% in a couple of weeks.

I did learn something.....it takes me a loooooong time to wake up from anestesia!


airtwardo  (D License)

Jan 20, 2010, 6:09 PM
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

I had 3 fused and carry 2 rods with 6 screws.

Doc told me never again at first, but was impressed with my progress during PT...so revised it to a year off.

I waited 364 days until making one, I stay with larger canopies...I stretch every day and try to maintain reasonably good flexibility.

That was 15 years and about 1800 jumps ago.


bsemmens

Jan 21, 2010, 8:58 AM
Post #20 of 35 (5351 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Good luck on your recovery. I was told it takes 6 weeks for all the connective tissue to heal and another 6 weeks for all the soft tissue inflammation to heal. Keep active and follow you physiotherapy recommendations. I waited the full 12 weeks before attempting any sports activities and so far, so good. I still have not made a skydive, but hey, It's winter up here. Maybe in March or April.


bsemmens

Jan 29, 2010, 11:56 AM
Post #21 of 35 (5285 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

16 weeks post op and still some very minor pain in my lower right leg, more to the front right side. Could this be from scar tissue still pressing on the nerve ? Any suggestions ? This is in no way debilitating or stopping me from doing what I want.


VideoFly  (D 25621)

Jan 30, 2010, 9:56 AM
Post #22 of 35 (5271 views)
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Re: [bsemmens] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

Nerve tissue is some of the slowest healing tissue in the body. It may heal perhaps one-half to an inch per month. Measure your leg and do the math. My legs still hurt a bit at 18 years after surgery. However, for the most part, I mostly have numbness, which is better than pain. It sounds like you are doing great.


mrdiko  (Student)

Sep 17, 2010, 3:19 PM
Post #23 of 35 (4905 views)
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Re: [VideoFly] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

The interesting thing about lumbar spine pathologies is that around 80% of people without pain have one.

Here is a study:
http://www.contentnejmorg.zuom.info/cgi/content/abstract/331/2/69


ryan_d_sucks  (B License)

Sep 18, 2010, 6:34 AM
Post #24 of 35 (4885 views)
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Re: [ridestrong] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
In reply to:
I recently had decompression surgery to remove a disc herniation and bone spurs at L4-L5. Fusion was not done, nor is there any metal in me. Has anyone out there had a similar surgery and returned to skydiving ? How long was your recovery and how are you coping with jumping ?

Hi, I am a spine surgeon and perform these procedures weekly.


I thought you were a PA?


ridestrong  (C 38471)

Sep 18, 2010, 8:21 AM
Post #25 of 35 (4878 views)
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Re: [ryan_d_sucks] Lumbar Spine Surgery [In reply to] Can't Post

I am a PA... I do spine surgery.


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