Neurosurgeon consult – L5/S1 nerve impingement – May 2018

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I’m deep in the throws of PTSD, probably due to pushing my limits too hard.   Going to the hospital today for this consult was hard. I almost bolted.  I was clearly agitated during the appointment, but my neurosurgeon understood. He’s a very calm, solid person.  He told me to breathe.  And start over.

So I did.

I have had considerable improvement in the last three weeks.  I have been doing exercises at home, working with bodyweight, working with bands, trying to do tip-toes holding on to the bench.  And while the physical therapy hurts, it has paid off.  I have made progress:

I no longer have a drop foot.

I have much less pain. The butt pain, the thigh pain, back of knee pain and foot pain are all now dull aches, rather than intense shooting and electrical pain.  Its still there, its always there, but its much more mild. I can work through it now.

I have regained a little strength in my calf.  I can’t get up on tip-toes, but I can now raise my heel just a few millimetres off the ground.

It doesn’t look like much, but its massive.

My surgeon was very pleased.  He no longer believes surgery is necessary. Excellent!

He did reassert that my spine is very fragile. That I have three herniated discs, and two are pressing on nerves.  At any time, those discs can move and cause another major impingement.  He said if that happens, he would recommend I come straight in and be prepared for surgery.   He said he will see me any time, I’m his patient now, so there will be no access block should I need urgent help again.

Great doctor.  I think it was pretty obvious how fragile I am feeling these days, so he was very reassuring, calm and kind.  And happy!  Happy that I am had noticeable improvement, that I can walk unassisted now.

He said whatever I’m doing, to keep doing it.  He believes I will keep getting improvement and I should get complete function back in my calf.  He couldn’t give me a time frame, but perhaps another month or two.

As for the numbness, he warned me that that will take longer. The sensory nerves are the last to recover.  He told me not to worry, that I could still have numbness for a year or more, but numbness has very little effect on my function, so its not a real concern.  I often get ‘electric shock’ sensations, ad those should calm down too over time, but will likely take several months as well.

There’s still the issue of the spondylolisthesis though.

He talked me through it again.  He doesn’t know when it will need to be done, but he reiterated that it will need to be done at some point.  But the best way to push that date back was by keeping active.

He asked me what physical activity I am doing now.

I told him I have just started back at gym doing 30 minute gym classes, working particularly on core work, and functional movement.

He said “Good, keep doing that.  In fact, never stop doing that.”

He said the best thing I can do to push back that surgery is to keep moving, and to keep my core muscles strong.  The deep core muscles particularly, support the spine and help maintain proper posture.  Obviously, I don’t do any kind of high impact exercise but trying to increase my walking every day would also be a good idea.  I still can’t walk very far, 20-50 metres.  But i’m working on it.

Keep moving, and keep my weight under control, that was his best advice to push back the day that I need his surgical skills.

I told him I was seeing an exercise physiologist this afternoon, and I would keep working hard.

He asked me about pain, and I told him I still felt like I had a knife in my lumbar spine, but that has been that way for ten years.  He seemed genuinely sorry when he explained again that surgery to relieve lumbar pain was rarely successful.   He said he didn’t have many patients who actually exercised through the pain, but the ones who exercise did far better.

He wished me well, again said he was happy to see me at any time if I had any concerns or if I had any recurrence of severe symptoms, or decrease in function, and that was that.

And I’m thrilled.  He was caring and supportive, and understanding.  He made me feel good about myself (that rarely happens at a doctor’s appointment) and even proud of myself.

I needed that.

I’m still feeling anxiety and depression and having flashes in my brain that I’m trying to ignore. Trying to push out of my mind.

But I made it to the appointment, and I will rest for an hour now, and then I will head out to my exercise physiologist.

Its hard to keep moving when all you want to do is dive under a blanket and cry, but it’s the best thing to do.  Keep working toward my goals, little steps at a time.  Trying to keep my focus on the future, on building a future, and stop the past from coming back.  Every thought that comes into my head, I push away.  Every memory, I push away.  I recite song lyrics to concentrate on something else. Fill my mind with inanity, because then there’s no room for terror.

Today was a whole lot of good news, and I’m focusing hard on that.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I ADORE your blog. I feel like I’m reading my own feelings while I struggle with my own immune diseases. From the unwanted advice to the lack of social support to the judgement of family and strangers alike… this is one challenging way to live. I applaud your strength, determination and spirit. I like to think I have that as well. It was especially helpful to read about your struggle with deciding to use a wheelchair. I’m having major muscle deterioration and am teetering on using assistive technology like a walker, scooter or chair as well. But I feel I just can’t do it yet. So thank you! Thank you for being so honest. I’m sorry you live so far away as I’m convinced we’d be great “real-world” friends. Sending loads of love and gratitude your way.

    • Thank you for your kind words Antoinette. I think accepting the need for assistive devices to help with mobility is one of the hardest things to accept…or it was for me. I still find it difficult. I’m sorry you’re going through same. Thank the gods for the internet, at least we can be friends and support eachother online. Best to you x

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