12 Weeks Post ALIF - Success Story

I want to share my story for those of you considering fusion but are hard pressed to find a success story. I was injured almost 6 years ago. I herniated L5-S1 falling down stairs. I endured extensive pain and managed via injections, hard workouts, and antiinflamatory medications. I was offered fusion when I first was injured but after reading so many failed fusion stories I was honestly petrified. About a year ago when injections stopped lasting and my injury was impacting basic day to day activities, I made the decision to proceed with fusion. I had an updated MRI, was told I had zero disc remaining, had stenosis, and no space between my vertabrae. I have never been so nervous and scared. I worked out up until the day I went into the OR. I even PRed an olympic lifting complex 2 days before surgery. I share this because I believe my core strength was a huge factor in my surgery success and was one of the only reasons I was even functional before I had surgery. I had fusion on Feb 7th. I was in the hospital 2 nights. I came home to my husband and 3 small boys (ages 6, 3,1). I needed no real assistance when I got home for my own personal care. I drove and was off pain meds by Feb. 13th.  It was a couple of weeks before I was able to be left alone with the boys. Mostly because of the lifting restriction and the 1 year old is still in a crib and diapers. I took a full 5 weeks off of work from my stressful management/desk job, but if I was not being paid at 100% for my time off I could have went back at 2-3 weeks. I am grateful I was able to take the 5 weeks and was very well rested when I went back to work. I was walking 3-4 miles every other day from the day I got out of the hospital and have not stopped walking. I added some basic body weight movements at 6 weeks per my Doctor (incline pushups, squats, steps up, various stretches). At around 10 weeks I started slow jogging, spinning class, planks, and a few other stretches. Yesterday I went to my 12 week follow up. I am basically pain free. I still have muscle tightness and was told that will continue to improve with exercise and stretching. My Doctor released me to start my full exercise program from presurgery. Today I did some very light weightlifting (snatch, clean and jerk, and front squat). I was tired and my muscles and balance will take time to get back in shape, but my back feels wonderful. I kept it very light/around 50 percent of my previous PR weights and focused on form and good movement. I could not be happier with the surgery outcome and the impact it is having on my life. My only regret is waiting so long. My Doctor did tell me that he has seen people with the exact same injury and same anatomy as me and they did not have a successful outcome. He said a huge part to success is putting in the hard work needed to recover and having a positive outlook and attitude. I am also very young (just turned 40) for this surgery. I think that also helped with my outcome. This surgery has been life changing for me in so many ways. I am so very grateful for the outcome even though I still have a long road ahead to get to where I want to be long term with my fitness but things are going in the right direction. 



  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,564

    Thank you so much for the success story. I have bookmarked this discussion to pass onto other members looking for a success story. But your successful outcome was due to your hard work before and after surgery and your positive outcome, just as your doctor stated. You should be very proud of yourself.
    I really hope you continue to improve and regain all of your strength, those little boys need their mom 24/7.

    Again, thank you so much for posting this.

  • Thank you. I was not trying to "toot my own horn" but wanted to share a story of success since it can be difficult to come across. I almost cancelled several times in the weeks leading up to the surgery. If I can help even one person have a better outcome or make a positive life changing decision, then sharing my perspective was a positive thing :)

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  • This gives me a little hope. I am not the most in shape... but I am not horribly out of shape. I don't exercise per se but I walk my dog, up and down a lot at my job (teacher). I am more sedentary since my accident last year. I used to do yoga etc. I have gone through 3 rounds of PT and the exercises make me feel worse, so I slack on them. I guess I should do them with more fidelity. I am 47, don't smoke and am in relatively good health (except for my back). Neurosurgeon recommended a level 1 fusion at L4/L5  ALIF. He said 3-6 weeks recovery, with 80% chance of full recovery to very little pain. I keep reading horror stories and people telling me not to do it and wait. Last summer prior to the accident I just started jogging again, and my goal was to jog every other day on my summer break and get up to 3 miles. But the pain post-accident hindered that. Luckily I haven't gained any weight, but I could stand to lose about 10 lbs. I am glad the surgery served you well! My heartbreak was not being able to hold my grandson after he turned 5 months old. He is such a chunk. At 19 months old (now) he is almost 35 lbs. I can't babysit for my daughter because I cannot lift him or chase around the house. The accident changed my life. 

  • This makes me have a little hope, I'm having ALIF on L5 S1 on August 27th (2018) I'm so scared. I'm planning on taking 4 weeks off after surgery,  I am a nanny to triplets who will be starting kindergarten but my job is changing and  I will now be cleaning the house and getting the kids off the bus in the afternoons. My doctor hasn't told me anything about this surgery, matter of fact I had to Google the surgery to find out what it's called..only info he gave me is that recovery is 8 to 10 weeks...I don't really want to waste my time with PT (I had a bad experience when I had foot surgery in 2017 and it didn't help at all) so I will probably just look up some things to do. I've been dealing with this pain since 2003 when i herniated a disc and in April of this year I tore that disc plus I have DDD and scoliosis. I feel like I'm in good health besides my back problems so hopefully I will have a quick recovery.

  • I believe the L5-S1 ALIF fusion in this thread, is the same procedure Tiger Woods has last winter. I saw an interview where he said the first 3 months after his procedure were rough just getting out of bed, and HE NEEDED HELP.    This for a premier athlete.  

    Jeoder - pretty amazing and encouraging story, definitely bookmarking this. I don’t know you or tiger, but based on what I read on the internet today you’re recovery even outdid a world class athlete.  

    Revans - personally I would suggest you reconsider not going to PT.  This is not a simple surgery, this is major surgery.  While mine recently was 3 level ALIF L3-S1, with no immediate relief, the opposite and many complications plus a second Posterior surgery 12 days later, when I finally was allowed to book PT by insurance in June after 6 weeks! , I switched Therapists as I just was not responding as I expected.  In 2 sessions at the new place, I’m already feeling more positive, seeing results but better yet being challenged, and really glad I made a change. 

     My point? I don’t know, I just want to play golf again, like Tiger lol. 

    Seriously, I started on this site looking for 3 level success stories.  Haven’t found many, but understand the successes move on so thanks for posting your single level fusion success Jeoder.  

    My surgeon promised he’d have me back on the course at some point, if I followed his instructions perfectly. Revans, I’ve had exactly the same experiences as you in the past with other lesser surgeries, and elected to do my own exercises at home, and spend my PT copay on therapeutic massage, and got much better results with a good LMT than a drive thru (finding a good PT is key too).   Everyone I spoke to that has been through this surgery has been given instructions to be followed like a T, and those that didn’t were sorry they didn’t listen to their surgeon, as they had to go back for revisions.   This extends down to the physical therapists too, they are part of a team and hopefully your best advocate (on top of the patient maintaining a positive attitude).  

    Good luck

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  • I am looking at 3 level ALIF L3-S1.  This Joel1Q.  How did you fare since your last post?  I am 56 and was very active (doing tree work for a living).  Now I am barely shuffling around.  Would like to know that it is going to at least get me back to active work.

  • Thanks Jeoder for your original post.  I read it a number of times in the lead up to my 2 stage ALIF and Decompression  L4/L5 surgery in November this year.  I was quite frightened that my surgery would not work and that I would remain in the constant pain I had in the months prior to my surgery. It couldn’t be further from the truth! The moment I came back to the ward from my ALIF, I knew that I had mad the best decision of my life in getting surgery. I am 5 weeks post surgery and I feel fantastic! I have been fortunate that I have had very little pain and I feel like I am nearly back to my old self. I am 47 years old and prior to my disk herniation 18 months ago, I was incredibly active. All of this changed when my disk herniated.  Now, I am able to walk a god 3km a day, swim and generally feel fantastic.  I  can’t wIt to get back to my full fitness and continue living my life to its fullest.  My advice to people thinking about the surgery is find a great surgeon and go for it! It changed 

  • Thank you for the positive post. I’m scheduled for L5-S1 ALIF WITH instrumentation surgery in 3 weeks and most posts are pretty discouraging but I also realize that just like with buying online products; happy people move on and enjoy their purchase but those who are dissatisfied find the need to tell everyone about the negative experiences. So again a BIG THANK YOU for taking the time to write this and congratulations on your success!. I’m looking forward to getting my life back too. 

  • @Proudtxmom I think most of the original posters are gone, and likely because their story is a success.  And yours shall be too as @mamaoftwoboys said  - good luck on your surgery. The most important thing is be positive and at your age you easily can get through this, though it can be nerve racking. Make a point to focus on what you need to do pre surgery to make post surgery more tolerable and ultimately a success.  The surgeon just fixes the engine and points the ship out to water.  We the patients have to sail it around the world - do our part to listen to Drs orders and (most times) not go above their recommendations.  As much as I want to get back to pre surgery activities I always pause and think of the spine first.  A new reality 

  • I have not looked at this post in a LONG time. I got a notification today and came and checked it out! 

    Ironically, I am 2 years post op next week. I am still doing great. Happy to report no back pain and still actively doing various fitness things without limitation. I am a lot smarter and do listen to my body (comes with aging) <span>:smile:" alt=":smile:" height="20" /></span>. For example, pre surgery I could pull a 310 on my deadlift. Now I have only done 280 once and will probably never again go past 250 by choice. 

    I do credit some of my recovery also to the fact that I had 3 csections in 5 years leading up to my surgery. Why did this help? Well one of the hardest parts of recovery on ALIF is the large abdominal incision. My surgeon used my csection incision. When you have a baby you don't really have a choice but to power through and learn quickly to get in and out of bed (i.e. a hungry baby gives you no choice). This coupled with a husband that works 24 hour shifts had me forced into csection recovery very fast. I do think experiencing this was a huge help to me. I was back doing fitness things within 2 weeks on all 3 csections. 

    Everyone is different and I am blessed this worked out so well for me. Now I am debating a full knee replacement due to a bad college soccer injury that has resulted in 7 surgeries to date, but I will save that for a different chat board. Best of luck to all of you in. your back recovery!

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,564


    Nice to see you again! Thank you so much for the update on how you have been doing after surgery. It is always so good to hear to hear someone say they have no back pain.

    Take care and stay in touch,

  • @jeoder I have had 3 c-sections as well and the vascular surgeon said he would be going thru my same old scar. And you are absolutely right, after c-sections, crying babies don’t let you recover like you’re supposed to but it sure toughens you up lol. 

    I’m very happy to hear you’re two years post op and have no pain. I am planning to follow In your footsteps! :)

  • @jeoder Thanks for sharing your story.  I currently have to decide whether or not to do the ALIF.  I had a rowing injury at 20 at 5/1 with terrible sciatic pain, for which I had a microdiscectomy done in 2008.  I was significantly better afterwards, but decided in my youthful exuberance to do cross fit.  It seems like dynamic compound movement are not meant for me!  Pain came back---this time localized to the buttock and lower back.  In response, I opted for a foraminotomy at 5/1 in 2015 (it also included a revision micro at 5/1 and a micro at 4/5).

    The buttock pain was fixed, but I've had (what me and some doctors suspect to be) discogenic pain since, as 5/1 is totally gone.  The pain comes and goes sometimes randomly, though a hard bed and sitting for a long time will consistently cause the pain to manifest.  NSAIDs do very little, though movement seems to help most of the time (if I could go hiking 5 hours a day and not sit in an office, I'd probably be much better off).  I can't sit on picnic benches or certain chairs without the pain presenting after about 30 min - 1 hour.  An example: After sleeping on a foreign bed at my parents place on Dec. 24, I couldn't see straight I was in so much pain---and I had to entertain guests (that was hell).  These high pain spikes happen maybe once every two weeks, depending if I have to travel or whatever.

    I've done PT pretty consistently for over a decade since the injury, and have continued hitting the gym.  (I'm male, 195 with 10% bodyfat.)  I've done about three dozen injections at different locations, with little lasting effect.  This includes nerve root blocks, tranforaminal injections, medial branch blocks, facet rhizotomy, facet PRP, etc.

    I recently spoke with 3 surgeons.  The first said I was too young (I'm 33 this month) for an ALIF and "good luck", though he did refer me to another guy who is an "excellent surgeon".  The other guy told me I need a 4/5 and 5/1 ALIF.  My old surgeon (who did the foraminotomy) told me manage the pain and hope it fuses itself.  So now I have to figure out which direction to take.  I'll probably talk with my chiro, see a few more surgeons, send my materials to Stanford's Second Opinion program, and try to speak to a Physiatrist/Pain Mgmt. guy as well.  

    Did you find any resources particularly helpful when making your decision?  What were your pain levels like?  Did you try to manage it with drugs first?  All the best!

  • I am so glad i found this thread. I saw my neurosurgeon yesterday and the time has come for the ALIF. I am having the L5/S1 and L4/L5 fused. I was born with a Pars Defect at L5 causing spondylolisthesis and therefore DDD in the 2 discs. 

    Up until about 2 years ago i was quite fit after a very unfit youth. I lost around 30kg (around 65lbs?) had my 2 kids and was great for a couple years. It went downhill from there. Although i was still exercising and keeping fit i was in agony and the exercise started dropping off. I refused to take painkillers so went through physiotherapy and chiro, doing all the exercises i was told. I went to my GP when the pain got too bad and told him nothing i'm doing is working. He referred me for a CT scan which showed herniation of the L5/S1 which had compressed the L5 nerve root. From here i had an epidural steroid injection into the nerve root. Which lasted around 2 weeks before inflammation came back. He then referred me to a neurosurgeon and he looked at my scans and told me the L5/S1 almost doesn't exist anymore and the L4/L5 isn't doing well either.

    I am turning 34 in July and the number of people i have had say "no don't do it you're too young". Well i can't live my life not being able to push a trolley around to do my food shopping. I am taking the leap. I want to be able to run again. I can't even vacuum my house, i have had to get a guy to mow my lawn as i can't do that. I want to be able to hang a load of washing on the line without breaking out in cold sweats from the pain. 

    As i'm writing this i crank up my TENS machine so i can't feel the pain - but hopefully in the not too distant future i will be writing a post just like this just so there is more positive reviews on ALIFs rather than all negatives.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story - i am feeling so positive about this and i will not let it hinder my future.

    Good Luck anyone who is also going through it! 

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