(TIP: Use the "Back Surgery" category on the right to see just those posts. Then scroll down to the bottom for the first post dated 9/20/23)
This is an occasional smattering of various musings, cool finds and things I'd like to share with you about belly dance.
I've neglected The Belly Blog for a very long (l o n g) time. It seems time to pick it back up again with a "here's what been going on around here" post. In short, my family has relocated to southeast Louisiana (my home state). The move took what seemed like for 'eva, but we finally got settled into a routine. And then...I needed back surgery. I wondered what it would be like and if dance would still be a "thing" for me after the recovery. I really couldn't find much first hand information from other dancers about their experience with dance after back surgery. So I decided to blog about my procedure, recovery and eventual return to dance. If sharing helps even one person make a better informed decision for themselves, then it's worth it.
(TIP: Use the "Back Surgery" category on the right to see just those posts. Then scroll down to the bottom for the first post dated 9/20/23)
Whoa! I got lost on the blog here because I have been feeling so well overall.
I had my 4 week checkup and X-ray today. Not much bone growth at all yet. My PA didn’t seem alarmed at all. Will recheck again at the 3 month mark with another X-ray.
The bump above my scar (my “egg”) is still present. She said it’s stuck. Could be a stitch that hasn’t absorbed yet. At any rate, she said to start massaging it to encourage it to break up and let go so it can start gliding over the other tissues.
The right leg numbness is still present. It’s about a 3-4” long line over the lateral side where the nerve runs. The pain still fires there when I press on it. This is expected to move upward and disappear over the next several months. Could be caused by some nerve stretching as the surgeon really had to work to get the vertebral space opened up enough to cram the cage in between the vertebra. They were pretty much touching when he started. No wonder it hurt so much before this procedure. My jelly donut was completely shot.
I got the go ahead to begin PT. I am ready to get strong. I asked about dance movement and was told I can do whatever I want….at three months. So that’s two more months of waiting and no twisting 😀
I have been forgetting to take any Tylenol and Gabapentin for the past 2 days. That’s a good sign. We’ll see how that continues.
I can not BELIEVE that this hardware is now a part of me. I should have asked if I could get it in "sparkles". But here it is…
I am truly reaching the height of the ups and downs in this gig I think. One day it’s good, really moving forward, no real pain meds needed. The next day, I’m sucking swamp water and wondering when (if) I’m ever going to be fully recovered.
I have begun experiencing powerful muscle spasms in my back when laying down and changing positions in bed. It’s like an attack that temporarily immobilizes me during each increment of shifting positions. It’s a very bizarre feeling that I hope will cease soon.
Last night, I took a Flexeril to see if I could ease that sensation. It must have worked, because I don’t remember having those sensations as strongly.
The downside of Flexeril is that it makes me sleep for much of the next day as well. It’s not sustainable. That would make me a greyhound 😂
(But look at the cute butt!)
I felt SO great yesterday, that I figured I’d try going without my back brace today. It was probably not the best idea since I’m supposed to wear it for 4 weeks.
My back muscles in the center near the incision are feeling very tired and weak. At least I “think” it’s the muscles. It could be bone pain where the hardware was installed. I don’t know.
I’ve also developed a second “fold” of skin at the top of the incision where my “egg” was. It’s like everything is sinking down and getting caught on whatever is holding the top of the incision to whatever it’s being held on TO. This does not please me. . I’m hoping for a suitable resolution in time.
I’m taking it easy today. Rex did get his 1.5 mile walk this morning. That seemed to help alleviate my stiffness. One more day forward in recovery.
Today I feel GREAT! My biggest challenge is NOT overdoing it. I’m still not allowed to bend forward or twist and I’m doing pretty well with that mostly.
I got discharged from the home health nurse and home PT program today. I’m supposed to keep up with the PT at home on my own until the 4 week mark when I can begin outpatient PT.
Rex and I walk at least a mile every morning, so that’s really GOOD for my PT and exercise. Weight bearing exercise builds bone. Then there’s the squatting down to pick things up. It’s getting easier and easier.
I have been able to get by with only using Tylenol for pain. I will take a muscle relaxer at bedtime for easier resting.
If I had this to do over again, I would do it in a heartbeat! Not having the original pain (haven’t felt it once since the surgery) is golden. The surgical pain is settling down. I’m able to sit for longer periods of time (probably too long sometimes) now thanks to the Gabapentin and time.
The shape of the numbness on my leg has changed. Instead of being a line of numbness about 3-4” long, it’s now shorter, but has changed in width. It’s now more like a square. It’s moving, which is a good thing.
The incision looked really great today and seems to be flattening out just a tiny bit.
Today is a GREAT day!
In the interest of cutting down on the pain meds, I decided to forgo my bedtime dose of Percocet. That was a mistake. About 4:00 am I was awakened by a shooting pain down my left left to my foot. This was a totally new occurrence. I rolled onto my back and thankfully it subsided. I rolled myself out of bed, limped to the bathroom and took that Percocet. Thirty minutes later, relief came.
I’m thinking it may have been a muscle spasm that caused the leg pain as all of the nerves were released by the surgery and not impinged anymore. Or, it may have been “an awakening” from a nerve that was previously impinged and healing. 🤷🏻♀️
Whatever it was, I’m happy to report that I am having no trouble sitting today.
Tomorrow is my last in home PT with Brad. I was all excited to get myself set up with outpatient PT. I called the doctor’s office for a referral and was told I would need to wait until my 4 week appointment to get cleared for that PT. Bummer! So I’ll keep up with the home stuff for two more weeks.
Rex got his walk this morning (1 mile). Today is a good day ❤️ (Click the photo, it's a video)
Appointment with nurse Rachel at Dr. Koga’s office to remove the remaining steri strips. It took a while to get called back. I was able to sit in the waiting area for almost an hour before needing to stand up.
[Sidebar: we met an interesting retired Marine SgtMaj who had come in to have a deep brain stimulation implant hooked up. My Marine and he had some good conversations while we waited. ]
The incision site is a little over 3.5” long and is healing well. It’s a little bumpy and puffy at the top. I’m hoping it’s just an absorbable stitch that will dissolve allowing the skin to smooth out. When I’m not wearing the back brace, I can feel that puffiness back there when moving. It’s totally weird.
Was prescribed Gabapentin to combat the nerve pain on the right side. Things should settle down in the next month or so.
PT today with Brad. I’m walking longer distances. Today was my first walk off of our property. The world doesn’t feel so big now like it did when I left the hospital. Anesthesia really plays some tricks on your mind while it’s working its way out of your system. We walked about 1/4 of a mile. No pain. 😀
Sitting is still giving me back and right glute trouble, but it takes a little longer before I need to stand up.
I’m operating on half of the prescribed pain medication during the day and full doses at night.
I’m noticing all of the little holes on the tops of both feet and insides of each heel where they attached the nerve sensors that alert the surgeon if he gets too close to a nerve. Those are healing just fine.
Progress is being made.
I get so jazzed up on PT days, then kind of crash the next day. But not before walking 10 laps around the pool this morning.
Sitting down is still giving me a significant amount of pain. Sitting. WTH? I just can not get comfortable no matter what kind of chair.
I’m still having the right leg numbness, but it has moved higher up the leg. That’s a positive. I’m told it’s a sign that the previously entrapped nerve is healing. There is also a pain near the numbness that only shows up when I press it. Not sure what that’s about.
I’m taking some time to rest and watch some indulgent tv today.
So…wearing the brace lower, near my hips made the bottoms of my feet go numb. That’s a dealbreaker for me.
After a good night’s sleep and what appeared to be less swelling at the top of the incision (my “egg”), I opted to go a little less tight on the back brace to see if that would alleviate my pain in the butt. It helped, but didn’t prevent it.
Fast forward to this afternoon when Brad (The Torturer) came by to put me through my paces. He had me do a sitting “ankle on top of the knee” stretch with NO twisting. Ahhh….instant relief in stretching the piriformis muscle. We went through all sorts of nifty rehabilitation exercises that are alerting me to my own muscular weaknesses. It feels good to move with guidance.
Today felt like a good day. And Brad will no longer be known as The Torturer :)
I woke up and felt well enough to put on a bit of “face” today. Low on the pain scale initially…so cue the over achievement! I resisted the urge to try a tiny shimmy at the bathroom sink. Instead, I finally got around to processing and storing some of my dried Rosemary harvest. Now I’m ready for a nap.
I never took the nap, but did piddle around with website SEO while waiting for a call back from the doc’s office about the pain in my butt (really). My PA deduces that I may be experiencing some SI joint pain and suggested wearing the brace low and tight on the hips and take 2 Naproxen twice a day for 3 days only. NSAIDs slow bone growth and we want this fusion to calcify correctly and fully.
I’m officially off of the speed racer (walker). Still feeling a little wonky at times due to pain meds which I’m cutting down on.
Did PT exercises on my own today along with 8 big laps around the yard. Sitting is still quite painful on the right side even after only a couple of minutes. It is distressing to think that I might have traded one excruciating pain for a totally different one. But I remind myself that I’m only a week post op and to be patient.
I managed to stay up all day today for the first time since the procedure. Changing positions in bed is getting easier each day (Yay!). I don’t feel quite so “broken”.
Had a nurse home visit today and reported the swelling (my “egg”😀) near the incision and leg numbness. Still waiting to hear what this might represent. Hopefully, it will be insignificant and resolve.
Descriptor for today, tired. After overdoing the PT yesterday, standing way too much (because sitting hurts), and trying too hard to wean off of the pain meds, I kind of hit a wall today. I spent a lot of time laying down on my sides, which seems to be the most comfortable position for me presently. My new mantra - Every passing day is one more day towards recovery.
Monday, first day of PT at home. I’m ready. Brad shows up and runs me through a series of seated exercises that seem pretty simple. Then we stand up. A simple side leg raise kicks my butt, literally. He reminds me this is not the time to be an over achiever. Silly man.
Then we move on to squats at the kitchen sink. By this time, he’s got my number and stops me at least 4 inches from where I would have descended to. Then we take my speed racer outside to the driveway. It’s the first time I’d been outside since coming home. The world feels so much bigger right now. I feel very small.
There is quite a bit of swelling tonight around and above the incision. Looks like a small “egg” sticking out back there. Without the brace (especially), it feels very heavy and full. I’ll be bringing this up with my home health nurse in a couple of days.
Upside for today…I managed to shave my legs (mostly). Winning!
Picture of my recovery buddy Rex....he can do this all day long.
I’m still needing the pain medication which is also new for me. In the past, I would be off that by now. I was (am?) a little terrified that one wrong move is gonna jack something up that will either heal incorrectly or need a revisit to the OR to fix.
Thankfully, even with the pain, I am becoming more confident with changing positions in bed. I won’t be doing any “bridge” poses anytime soon, but I can safely move from supine to side lying with less fear now.
I have noticed some lessened sensation/numbness on the outside of the right thigh near the knee along with occasional throbbing or aching on the inside of the same thigh at the same level. This was not present before surgery. I am hopeful that this will disappear when all of the swelling has subsided.
Today’s big challenge is another kind of “movement” (or lack thereof). It’s common knowledge that pain meds and anesthesia bring a person’s system to a screeching halt. This can cause serious, lifelong complications if not remedied. After a day of doing “all the things” including a new one that nurse Raven schooled us on, gridlock was released. Several times. Thank God!
That new thing was a big pat of butter (the real stuff) melted in a coffee cup, then 4oz of prune juice poured on top and warmed. SH calls it a Purple Bomber. After two of those, I called it delicious relief. And the gridlock clock resets.
Pain meds at regular intervals last evening helped me sleep. Though poor SH had to wrangle that for me. I was instructed by my surgeon to be “the baby” in the house for 2 weeks after surgery. If you know me, you know this is a very hard proposition for me.
No BLT (bending, lifting, twisting). Limit on picking something up is 5 lbs or less….which pretty much means everything useful. No bending. Drop something on the floor…nope. Someone has to come get it. Pants…pants are the devil.
Moving on, Home Health and PT came to the house today to get me started on the first weeks of recovery. I am grateful to have a nurse visit each week to check my progress, incision, etc and for any questions or issues that come up.
Brad (The Torturer 😀) will come by twice a week to get me started on PT. It is nice not to have to get into a vehicle and GO to PT at this early stage. This benefit was a surprise that I did not know I’d have (or need). I am thankful.
What's worse than having TP stuck on your shoe? Having it stuck on the wheel of your speed racer and not being able to bend over and pick it off :)
Had another PT walk with Vince this morning and happened to catch a visit and impromptu hallway exam with my surgeon.
Drain put out 70 ml, but was able to be removed around 1:00 pm after slowing dramatically. That was a relief not to have to drag it around and pay attention to its location while in bed. Removal was unpleasant due to the small ribs on the inserted end that help keep it from slipping out. Pain meds are keeping a pretty good damper on the discomfort.
In other news, I had some LEGIT shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo at lunch! I don’t know if I’m just lucky, but the food here has all been very good 😀
I got sprung from the ward after lunch and we made the 30 minute journey home. Sitting in a vehicle was pretty awful. Speed bumps are the devil.
After arriving home, I very carefully rolled myself into bed trying to keep my spine straight without any bending or twisting. That’s quite a trick, especially for a belly dancer 😂.
Prior to surgery, I was fitted in a back brace with a sort of speed lace compression system in back. It’s a lifesaver when up and about, but it’s not comfortable to sit in or lean back on.
The drain pumped out 90 ml of stuff. They’d like it to be less than 60. I’m staying another night. Catheter was removed meaning I’m forced to get out of bed .
Also a visit from Vince the PT. We walked a bit and I climbed some short steps. I got a shiny new speed racer (walker) to assist with said walks. I was rocking this one Minnie Pearl style with the tags.
Waking up asking for pain relief every 4 hours. The struggle is real. Time perception becomes a very weird thing after anesthesia. Everything slows down. And I mean EVERY. Thing. (More on that later).
And skin itching….what the heck? I later learned that itching is a side effect of some medications. That was a new one for me.
Surgery date: 9/20/23 - arrived at Our Lady of the Lake at 10:00 a.m. and was very quickly taken back to the prep area by nurse Amanda, where she began getting me ready. Compression stockings and boots to prevent blood clots were applied. Medication questions asked, allergies, etc. Visit from the anesthesiologist. Then the nurse anesthetist came by and talked with me while Amanda expertly applied my IV and dispensed two Valium tablets. That’s pretty much all that I remember. I don’t even recall leaving that prep bay. That was fine by me. As I understand it, here’s what they did in the OR - www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgfeOxVdQQA
Waking up - I was in a private room. I think it was around 3:00 or 4:00pm. At this point I was on my back in some pretty excruciating pain. Pain that brought me to tears. That’s not the usual me. I’m tougher than I look, but this had me down for the count. My Sweet Hubby (SH) alerted the nurses and that’s when Crystal came in and discovered I was laying on a large part of the drain right on my incision, causing pressure and pain. A quick adjustment of the drain and a shot of Dilaudid alleviated much of it. Some Percocet took care of the rest of it temporarily.
After getting relatively comfortable, my treat for being such a good girl was being fed orange jello and beef broth. It was SO good, especially since I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since the night before.
The nurses came and went as the hours wore on. SH went home for a rest and to take care of my good buddy Rex, knowing that I was in good hands.
I am a professional belly dancer in Covington, LA. My goal is to share with and help inform the public about this wonderful, empowering art form that celebrates dancers of all ages, shapes and sizes. Along with my friends and students, I endeavor to help make a difference in the lives of others in our community with"Dance That Makes A Difference!"