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Thread: Decision time

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Decision time

    I am 70 and have developed degenerative scoliosis of the lumbar spine along with spinal stenosis. The curve is 34 degrees and is not alot compared to many posted on this site but is very noticeable and has progressed by 10 degrees in past 2 years. Apparently part of the reason it has progressed is there is a lateral listhesis at L4-5. I have pain in the back with standing for a few minutes and often have pain down the right leg. Years ago when I had leg pain it would be down the left leg. I do get relief by lying down but the pain is back when I get up again. I am able to play tennis yet and walk without limit with mild pain. I have been advised that I should have surgery as the curve will continue to progress. A second opinion at Mayo agreed that I would eventually need surgery but could wait another 6 months to decide. The fusion would be from T11 to the sacrum.

    I'm wondering: 1) should I do it while I am in pretty good condition- the deformity is bothering probably more than the pain; 2) will I be able to walk normally, play tennis again ( the doctors think I will but not as well), 3) can one do ordinary self-cares such as polishing and cutting the toenails, putting on socks etc?

    Any information will be very much appreciated. I have been getting very anxious over this.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
    Welcome Gretchen. The answer to some of your questions is maybe. First of all, this is a huge surgery so I feel that if you're fortunate to be in otherwise good health, now is the time to do it. If other health problems develop, it could complicate the surgery.

    Yes, you will be able to walk normally and you will be able to play tennis, though my surgeon (and they differ) told me no running, to save the vertebra above my fusion, which, is where the impact is felt. But that doesn't mean I can't run. I can, but I don't, to prevent future problems. Yes, you will be able to take care of your toenails and put on socks. But for some of us, it's not easy. As time goes by, you develop ways of making it easier. It took probably 12 months before I was confident enough in my fusion to push down far enough to cut my toenails but I do them without thinking now. Life's pretty good with spinal fusion. Polish them? I never have the time!
    Surgery March 3, 2009 at almost 58, now 63.
    Dr. Askin, Brisbane, Australia
    T4-Pelvis, Posterior only
    Osteotomies and Laminectomies
    Was 68 degrees, now 22 and pain free

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011

    Playing tennis

    Hi Gretchen,
    Welcome to the forum! It's exciting to meet up with a fellow tennis player too! I had played tennis up to a few weeks before my surgery, but chose to stop because I was no longer able to play an entire match without my back aching. I had my surgery to stop the prgression of my thoracic curve.

    At my one year post-op appointment, my surgeon gave me the okay to return to the courts. I have now been playing five months at least a couple times per week. I no longer play singles because moving side to side on the hard pavement is just too tough on the lower unfused vertebrae. I am only fused to L3 so my mobility is actually pretty good, but I have still learned to just say "good shot". I think that being fused to the sacrum would make it dificult for you on the tennis court, but if you want to play bad enough, you will somehow learn how to make adjustments to your shots and movement. Best of luck to you!

    Female - 49 yrs old at surgery
    Surgery 5/5/11 - Dr. Bridwell, St. Louis
    Fused T3-L3
    60 degree thoracic curve corrected to 30 degrees
    Tennis player & returning to the courts!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Yacolt, WA
    WELCOME! I replied earlier, but it was lost going over the ocean!
    I am in the same situation that you are.
    Take care! Susan
    Adult Onset Degen Scoliosis @65, 25* T & 36* L w/ 11.2 cm coronal balance; T kyphosis 90*; Sev disc degen T & L stenosis

    2013: T3- S1 Fusion w/ ALIF L4-S1/XLIF L2-4, PSF T4-S1 2 surgeries
    2014: Hernia @ ALIF repaired; Emergency screw removal SCI T4,5 sec to PJK
    2015: Rev Broken Bil T & L rods and no fusion: 2 revision surgeries; hardware P. Acnes infection
    2016: Ant/Lat Lumbar diskectomy w/ 4 cages + BMP + harvested bone
    2018: Removal L4,5 screw
    2021: Removal T1 screw & rod

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Waterloo, IL

    Welcome to the forum. Most of us have returned to a happy, active life following spinal surgery. Be sure to click on the link in Walkingmoms signature (Donna) to see a video of her playing tennis AFTER spinal fusion. Where there's a will, there's a way. I was able to return to golf and tap dancing after my surgery.

    Surgery-Jan. 5, 2011-Dr. Lenke
    Fusion T-4-sacrum-2 cages/5 osteotomies
    70 degree thoracolumbar corrected to 25
    Rib Hump-GONE!
    Age-60 at the time of surgery
    Now 66
    Avid Golfer & Tap Dancer
    Retired Kdgn. Teacher

    See photobucket link for:
    Video of my 1st Day of Golf Post-Op-3/02/12-Bradenton, FL
    Before and After Picture of back 1/7/11
    tap dancing picture at 10 mos. post op 11/11/11-I'm the one on the right.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    but i see that walking mom is fused to L3...
    someone mentioned that playing tennis after fusion to sacrum
    would be a different ball game...
    suggest check with surgeon as to whether it would be allowed...
    i thought running is not allowed after fusion to sacrum....
    that is, running for any reason...

    best of luck on decision....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Thank you

    I appreciate everyone's input. My surgeon did say that I could play tennis but he is not the most informative. Another surgeon indicated that I could play but that I might not be satisfied with it due to the limitations of movement. He also indicated that I would "waddle" when I walk. I am glad to see that, it seems, many people who have had the surgery are happy they had it. It looks like there is a lost year but it would be worth it if all works out well.

    Thank you all,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    New Bern, NC
    My surgeon told me about one of his patients fused from T11 to sacrum is playing doubles tennis. If you want to do it, you should be able to.

    Love your name - I had a cousin named Gretchen.

    Diagnosed with severe lumbar scoliosis at age 65.
    Posterior Fusion L2-S1 on 12/4/2007. age 67
    Anterior Fusion L3-L4,L4-L5,L5-S1 on 12/19/2007
    Additional bone removed to decompress right side of L3-L4 & L4-L5 on 4/19/2010
    New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA
    Dr. Frank F.

    "In God We Trust" Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Hi Gretchen,

    I was fused T8-sacrum w/pelvic fixation 2 years ago, and I have returned to an active lifestyle (physically demanding job, two active school-aged kids, lap swimming, a mini-farm, etc!). I actually have returned to an active lifestyle twice, since I had to have a major revision for broken rods 8 months ago. I don't think most people lose an entire year. 3-6 months, perhaps.

    I have never been a tennis player, so it is hard for me to imagine returning to that with the running/twisting/etc, but I guess some have. I know if I try to run a little (like across a crosswalk or something) it feels very jarring in my back and not too pleasant.

    I definitely don't waddle now, and I doubt you will, either. Not sure what that doc meant by that. I still walk like I used to!

    Best of luck with your decision.
    Gayle, age 50
    Oct 2010 fusion T8-sacrum w/ pelvic fixation
    Feb 2012 lumbar revision for broken rods @ L2-3-4
    Sept 2015 major lumbar A/P revision for broken rods @ L5-S1

    mom of Leah, 15 y/o, Diagnosed '08 with 26* T JIS (age 6)
    2010 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    2017 curves stable/skeletely mature

    also mom of Torrey, 12 y/o son, 16* T, stable

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Indianapolis area

    Off topic here, but when did you start swimming post-op? I've been in the pool lots, but afraid to actually swim. Worried about the lack of flexibility. Any tips? Thanks!!!


    I am one of those who seems to be taking a little longer to recover, but I would agree with others that you won't waddle, and you probably won't lose an entire year. I started resuming most normal activities around 3-4 months, though I still can't exercise like I want to. But I'm only 7 months post-op, so I'm still working on recovery.

    One important thing, if you decide you want the surgery, I think it's worth it to seek out a very high-caliber surgeon, even if that means traveling. There are so many complications with this surgery, you want to do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor.

    age 48
    80* thoracolumbar; 40* thoracic
    Reduced to ~16* thoracolumbar; ~0* thoracic
    Surgery 3/14/12 with Dr. Lenke in St. Louis, T4 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Broken rods 12/1/19; scheduled for revision fusion L1-L3-4 with Dr. Lenke 2/4/2020
    Not "confused" anymore, but don't know how to change my username.

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