Severe Spinal Stenosis with Optimistic Recovery from Laminectomy

What is your story about?
I'm a 64 year old male. About 2 years ago, I began experiencing sacral pain from stenosis. Eventually, it progressed to the point where I had to stop all athletic activity. Even walking was very painful, and I could barely bend over. I tried a number of treatments before undergoing a laminectomy. I'm optimistic about my recovery potential from this surgery.
When did you first begin to experience symptoms?
About 2.5 years ago I began experiencing symptoms. At the time, it started in my sacral area. It was extreme, painful pressure. Like a sciatic feeling going down into my glutes. It came on after lifting a bunch of heavy plantars.
How did this progress over time?
Within a year after that incident, I had to stop playing racquetball because it became so intense. My posture began to change, the pain was forcing me to bend at my waist so I had to lean forward. This was the only way to alleviate the painful pressure in my sacral area. I also began to lean to the right. Basic walking diminished significantly. Pain would wake me up at night. I had to sleep with a pillow between my legs, on my side. I couldn't roll to the other side. The pain was 24/7. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, I'd say it was between 7-9. If I was sitting, it would be bett ...(more)
How did you get a diagnosis?
I had an MRI about a year and a few months ago. My PCP ordered this. It showed severe stenosis of L4/L5, as well as some arthritis. He recommended that I should see an orthopedic specialist. However, at the time I wanted to first try a more conservative route, so I looked into other options.
What approach did you pursue instead?
I decided to try acupuncture and some Chinese herbs. This was helpful, but I probably had waiting too long by that time. It was only able to help a little bit. However, it became evident that it wasn't doing enough because there was a deep structural issue. My wife picked up the phone and just made an appointment for me with an osteopath at a spine institute. The osteo looked at the original MRI and said there was severe stenosis, and that there wasn't a lot of "slippage", which is where the lumbar vertebrae begins to deviate from its proper plane of alignment. He recommended trigger point in ...(more)
How did the trigger point injections work for you?
I underwent trigger point injections around my sacrum and glutes. They were very painful, but provided some degree of immediate relief. I had them every 3 weeks. In total I had about 6 injections. I did this for a period of months, combined with the acupuncture. The leg numbness dissipated, but the feeling of there being a brick in my lumbar spine did not go away.
What treatment did you pursue next?
He also tried lumbar epidural injections. It didn't fix it, but it provided relief. My osteo said at that point that a decompression through a minimally invasive lumbar laminectomy would really benefit me. We also looked at an updated scan of my spine, and determined that there was still pretty minimal slippage of the vertebrae. Because of that, we didn't think that a spinal fusion was necessary. I knew that a spinal fusion was a more invasive and intense procedure than a laminectomy. While it's possible I would need that one day, I wanted to find a provider whose approach aligned with my mor ...(more)
How did you select a surgeon for the laminectomy?
Well, the first surgeon I saw said that the slippage was severe, and thought I definitely needed a spinal fusion in addition to a laminectomy. He said he'd do the laminectomy but guaranteed me I'd be coming back in a year for a spinal fusion. Obviously, I felt this wasn't the right surgeon to go with for my conservative approach. Upon further research, I found a very reputable surgeon. He requested an additional MRI. He also said the stenosis was very severe and said that I needed two spinal fusions. L4/L5 and L1/L2. He said the only way he'd do a laminectomy is with two fusions. I still bel ...(more)
How was the surgery?
Within 2 days I was sitting at a desk. Every day and every week I'm improving. I'm experiencing movement that I realize I had not been able to do before. There's a healing process because they told me there were calcium deposits in the nerve. Also the nerve got damaged. The nerve pain is diminishing so there's a certain amount of freedom I'm experiencing.
What's your recovery timeline like?
In 4 weeks from now, I can start physical therapy and do some stretching. Within 3 months, I should be pretty much fully recovered. I feel I have a solid base to work from and improve from. I'm not sure I'll be going out and playing impact sports, but it's only been 2 weeks and I'm feeling better. I still feel the brick in my spine but it's different. I'm optimistic. I'm probably about 20% improved at this point.
What advice would you have for someone in this position?
One of the biggest things is that whenever you go to a healthcare professional, make sure they align with your own treatment philosophy and goals. Find someone you can trust and based your decisions on them. I believed my DO and based my decisions on his recommendations.