It has now been 7 weeks since I had a spinal fusion at S1 and L5. It was the end result of an injury that occurred over 30 years ago. It has been mentally and physically challenging to say the least. I thought telling my story of having a “bad back” may encourage someone who has chosen to be sedentary because they have a “ bad back.knee,hip,shoulder,etc.
Disclaimer: I am not advocating you mindlessly refuse to listen to medical professionals but there are times when other options and possibilities are definitely available.
Somewhere in my late teens I broke L5 vertebrae that caused my L5 vertebrae to slip forward on my sacrum.This slippage is known as a spondylolisthesis in medical terms. It is graded from 1 to 4 depending on severity. Mine was graded as a 2 with around 40-50% slippage. I was told to never squat, deadlift and to stop all rotational sports. Needless to say, I did not listen.
I continued to strengthen my body as I had before and continued with no modification to my activity.
Twelve years ago in 2007 I started having nerve pain in my legs and was told I needed surgery to repair my spine. This time I decided to modify my activity. First I stopped playing golf which seemed to be the culprit of the symptoms I was having at the time. I had not been very active in the gym while playing golf so I started training again. Three years later I opened CrossFit RDU. I attempted to modify the activities that created the most problems. Running, GHD sit-ups, box jumps, not that I didn’t do those things, I just did not attack them like I did others. I lifted enough to maintain the strength level I felt I needed and limited my heavy Olympic lifting as time passed because heavy cleans and heavy jerks were no longer my friends.
The one thing I never stopped doing, was telling myself that as long as I was capable of moving and training, I would. I did not stop pushing myself to be more and more fit and capable. I knew at some point things would change but I refused to let myself believe I had a “ bad back”. I knew it was less than ideal but I was not incapable of keeping it as strong as possible as long as possible.
In July of this year time caught up to me. After three months of PT and no improvement I decided on surgery. I had five different opinions and they all said I was mechanically at a point that surgery was my best option. They all also agreed that my appearance and fitness level did not match my MRI films. One of them chastised me for being so hard on my body after he saw my films.
I was terrified to have the surgery. I was still terrified for days after the surgery because I was in so much pain and had a fear of ending up fear with a “bad back’.
Would I be able to play with my boys who are three and six years old? Would I be able to work again at the capacity that I could work before?
Some days are good and I feel confident in a full recovery. Some days are bad and I go back to being terrified of having a “bad back”.
A couple of days ago a friend of mine at the gym asked me what I had learned about myself through this whole experience.
Here is what I learned.
1. I have had a less than ideal back for more than thirty years of my life. I found a way to stay fit and active for those thirty years and unless some things go really sideways I plan on finding a way to stay fit for 20-30 more. I would rather feel some pain in my back or hip than feel a tremendous pain in my chest.
2. I project worse case scenarios and worry too much over things that are out of my control. This has tested me as much mentally as anything I have ever had to go through. The thought of not being active with my boys has been tough to deal with at times.
3.My ego was the thing worried about working at the same capacity. I will always be able to give all out effort, it just physically may not be the same again.
Do not be afraid to move. I was walking one mile a day in my house just 7 days after the fusion. It was painful but I was moving. Get up and get moving. If you don’t know where to start then contact us and we will help you. Always remember it is better to wear out than to rust out!