experience with laminectomy surgery?


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Ice climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 26, 2013 - 10:03am PT
Wondering how many of you out there has had a laminectomy? My L4/L5 are mangled on a number of levels, but really bad stenosis has me in really bad pain. This has actually been going on for a couple/few years, and I have spent the past year and a half agressively pursuing alternative therapies...you name it, I have tried it. The only relief I have been getting has been from epidural steroid injections, but they stopped working. They gave me bi-lateral injections a week ago, and nothing. I can actually be fairly active, but when I'm standing or walking, the pain in my legs (left, mainly) is nearly blinding. So surgery, here we come. I'm scheduled for March 11, but it looks like they may be able to move me up for early February, which is scary, but I gotta get some relief from this. So wondering, how did it go for you, regarding being active afterwards? They are telling me I'll need to take at LEAST 3 weeks to a month off of work (h.s. teacher), which is going to be a blow financially, but I guess it's only money! Did you need to take that much time? How long before you felt you could play to your heart's content again? Any advice/recommendations much appreciated, but please don't tell me to NOT have the surgery....believe me, it's the LAST thing I want, but I am truly at the LAST thing! :-( Oh, and how much help at home did you need immediately post-surgery? Since I'm alone now, wondering how much "friend care" I am going to need?

Trad climber
Westhampton, MA
Jan 26, 2013 - 10:57am PT
First off, I would like to wish you the best of luck with your back and procedure!

I can't give you any advice on the specifics of what you are asking, however, I can identify to some extent, with what you are going through.

I have been very active all my life.

A few years ago, I spent a year and a half dealing with an L3 herniation, that came out of nowhere. Life ceased to exist...was on the verge of being suicidal, because at that time, I thought that this was my life for now on...a crippled hunk of crap.

After many injections and the passage of time, I can now say that I am back and maybe even climbing better than previously.

So I guess my message to you is...stay positive, do everything you can and give it hell...your life and body will overcome this f**king insult to your back and you will be a whole active person again in the future.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jan 26, 2013 - 11:12am PT
Hi Pam, I have nothing to add regarding an laminectomy....but I will add my prayers for you, your surgeons, and a quick heal up!


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 26, 2013 - 01:12pm PT

I had an L4-L5 microdisectomy and partial laminectomy in 1991. I'm now in my mid-fifties; climb, ski, bike, run... My main issue was not spinal stenosis, but the doc thought hacking off a bit of bone (laminectomy) would help. Been over 20 years, I have no complaints. I'm way way better off than I was before surgery. Don't rush recovery, take it slow. I did a two day double century ride 3 months after surgery, but it was 2 years 'till I was 100%.

Hope this helps,best of luck.

Trad climber
Jan 26, 2013 - 04:11pm PT
Hey Pam,
best of luck with everything. The best thing you can do is get a few opinions from top surgeons out there to get the best idea for treatment. After that, stay happy and positive about everything no matter what...

as for me, I had tumors inside the center of my spinal cord (C2 to T1), and surgery was the only thing that would work for me. Radiation and chemo would have made me worse. They removed my lamina from C2 to C5 to allow access into my neck, though the Dr. put them back before they zippered me up. surgery 3 years ago, and I'm still recovering...

As far as stenosis goes, I'm fairly certain that surgery is pretty much necessary. The first stages are sensory loss, and pain in the affected areas. Once a patient suffers through pain for a while, and getting treated with steroids, which are pretty much not a fix, the function loss starts to occur. This will manifest itself in weakness and loss of coordination/dexterity, and fatigue. Fusions and other surgical treatment are the best.

as far as recovery, that depends on how long you were dealing with the symptoms to begin with, and how well the dr did his/her job and how well you heal and how hard you work at therapy.

my brother had a couple disc fusions and replacements in his neck. he waited until he had tons of pain and weakness before surgery because he was afraid of having his back worked on. He is pretty much normal now, but it took him a good year before he started feeling well, though he knew he did the right thing following surgery. everybody heals different, plus he waited too long, is why he took a while to really feel better

don't fear this, I'm not a dr but it sounds like you need corrective surgery. steroids just delay the inevitable.

where are you going for treatment? how many opinions did you get? I know pretty much all the top neurosurgeons in the world by now, especially in NYC and Baltimore if you want to have some more contacts. I went to johns hopkins for my surgery... they were awesome. my roommate in physical therapy was there getting fixed after 6 surgeries by incompetent dr.s had messed him up.

i usually don't like invasive procedures, but i feel this is one area not to waste time

whatever you do, don't be afraid or stress out cause that won't help anything. if you can, please keep us posted on your progress and other questions

i wish you all the best



Ice climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 26, 2013 - 04:35pm PT
Scott, thanks for your detailed reply. My brother had a similar thing in his cervical spine, and his nerve damage has never recovered, which is another reason I'm not waiting any longer, as I can sense I'm on the verge of that, but not there yet. I am in top shape currently, and motivated to stay there, so hopefully recovery will go smoothly. I DO know how to be patient, also. :-) Kaiser is my insurance, so I really don't have a lot of flexibility in doctors. I have no money to play with, either, to go outside of the system. However, I have gotten great recommendations from people I trust on the surgeon, Dr. Crawford, so I feel good about that. I'll be meeting him next Monday. Trying to wrap my mind around this, and not feel guilty that I had to take 2 months off work last year when Jack died, and now another month this year....I have some of the same kids this year, so it will be hard for them. Oh well..........
Anyway, thanks, and thanks to the rest of you also!!!!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jan 27, 2013 - 12:13am PT

You might want to get in touch with Philo here. . .
He had some pretty radical neck surgery some time back,
and I don't know if it's the same thing you're looking at,
he had stupendous results.
In any event, I hope you do well--surgery anywhere is
always one of those scary things. . .

Trad climber
Jan 27, 2013 - 12:34am PT
I had a L4/5 decompression and what I believe what was called a laminotomy about 10 years ago. I had remained active with much core strength training and lots of stretching. it had finally got to the point where my left leg would start falling asleep from the big toe up after standing still for more than 15 minutes or so. At that point it was time for surgery. i had stenosis/ bone growth that supposedly was the result of an injury I sustained at least 10 years earlier. I used to ski race competitively and injured my back but did not think much of it at the time ( youth). I had the surgery and wish I had not suffered for a couple years and probably should have done it sooner. Recovery took me about 6 weeks before I felt semi normal. About 3 months until I would consider myself 90%+. I did have to give up long distance running as a result. The doctor told me that the repetitive nature of running would just lead to a future fusion sooner. I consulted with multiple doctors and this seemed to be the consensus.The experience has really made me focus on core strength and flexibility which has likely benefited my climbing. I took a heli ski trip and skied 50 degree faces in AK 4.5 months after my surgery. Honestly was almost as good as new after the surgery but did have to adjust how I train and overall became more conscious of staying "core strong".
YEs...surgery sucks but honestly I would say do not fear it . You will likely be better off by summer if your experience is similar to mine.

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Jan 27, 2013 - 01:01am PT
Get a hold of tyeary. He is on this site

Social climber
Jan 27, 2013 - 01:57am PT
hey there say, pam..

a friend's husband had that kind of surgery, but
he was never one to pursue activee recovery, so he
never really progressed innto being very well--hard
for him to function now ...

as you can see by the main reports here--keep using your
body to learn to take new and proper steps...

these are the folks that see results hoped for...

will be praying for you, hugs and god bless...
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