So there is this thing in life called balance. It can refer to standing on one foot and not toppling over. It can refer to yoga poses that defy gravity and require crazy core strength and concentration. It can refer to tires and wheels and avoiding that shake and shimmy at 58 miles per hour. It can refer to the acid balance in soap or wine to give you the perfect bar or bottle. It can refer to sugars and fats and calories and carbohydrates. It can refer to time in scripture versus time on social media. And…of course it can refer to healing and recovery from spinal fusion.
Today is day 11 after my spinal fusion. Lisa indulged my inner nerd yesterday and actually measured my incision for me. You know I can’t actually see it without a mirror – or a cell phone camera picture – so I was just guestimating its size. 6 inches. Based on the pain I was pretty sure it was the length of my forearm – but apparently not. It will actually end up being a pretty boring and subtle scar – it’s just glued together with a mesh over the top of it – no stitches or staples. All the impressive rods and screws are under the skin waiting to be revealed next week on x-ray. Based on other fusion x-rays I’ve seen, I’m guessing there are 6 screws and 2 rods, and possibly a few spacers in the disc spaces. I’ll know more next week.
So, back to the balance thing. Each day I get physically a little stronger – a little more fluid in my movement – a little more confident and sure in my steps. You see, a huge part of balance is the ability of the muscles in your core and along your back to respond and react to subtle changes in terrain to keep you from toppling over like an toddler. Arms out to steady, no quick movements, and keeping track of where your feet are. Using a walker or cane…or a wall, cabinet, table, etc. All in an effort to remain upright, or to transition from sitting to standing to sitting again. It gets easier each day, but it is still a challenge while those muscles continue to heal.
The other thing I’m having to keep in balance is the inflammation (aka swelling) of the surgical site. Remember last week when I was having muscle spasms so bad they started me on steroids? Well, I’m done with the steroids, and they really did help, but I still have inflammation to manage. My meds have anti-inflammatories in them (acetaminophen aka Tylenol), and I need to ice my back, and I need to move – all these things together promote healing which helps with the inflammation. During the day I stay fairly comfortable and I get up and move more. I walk around outside. I walk to the bathroom and back, kitchen and back, go sit outside, go sit inside, etc. I use ice regularly, and take my meds on time. By the time night time rolls around – I’m tired, and need to rest. But I get stiff overnight…I can’t just roll over and re-position, take the pressure off one side or the other. I’m pretty well stuck in one position in the recliner. I need to get up and move every couple of hours to get the blood flowing, replace the ice packs, and stay up on my meds. This doesn’t make for the most restful and restorative sleep. Being in the recliner is still the most comfortable place for me, but I’m thinking I might need to try some creative pillow bracing to see if I can adjust my position slightly to allow a bit longer stretches of sleep overnight. While getting up and walking for 5 or 10 minutes does help my discomfort – I’m not generally an insomniac – so messing with my sleep makes me cranky! All I can do is try something new/different each night and see how it goes. Improvise, adapt, and overcome – that’s what they taught me in the military.
Pre-surgery I had quite a bit of leg pain on my right side, across my hip and buttock, and down my leg. Classic sciatic nerve pain. I would occasionally get it on my left side to, but my right side was worse. If I slept funny, the nerve would really flare and I would get severe muscle spasms across my hip preventing me from standing upright, and a dose of muscle relaxers and a 30 minute sit on a heating pad and it would relax enough for me to function.
Post-surgery the nerves are still mad and the inflammation around the surgical site has me feeling the same sciatic nerve pain…but on the left side more than the right. A bit of numbness in both feet, and just generally feeling like my hips are really tight. I am able to do some hip stretches, and I do roll my ankles around while I’m sitting down – but I do just get restless after a while. Walking, icing, and taking my meds – they all work together to help me attempt to stay in balance, keep the inflammation down, and ultimately heal. Now if I can just find an overnight routine that will allow me some good sleep too – that would be primo!