Boy, that's a lot of stuff going on in that title! The (somewhat) short version is that last summer, I had six weeks of nasty leg/back pain due to a newly-diagnosed herniated disc at L-4/5 and "slipped disc" which I have probably had for many years but didn't really have problems with. Three out of five neurosurgeons whom I saw told me that I should have a spinal fusion, since I was likely to keep having problems in this area due to the "slipped disc" and a simple discectomy would not do the trick for me. My sports doctor and another two surgeons said to hold off on surgery for the time being.
I got much better (only treatment was three back injections, which may or may not have helped, since disc problems themselves usually resolve on their own) and ended up with only a couple of numb toes leftover and a little back pain periodically over the fall/winter/spring. I swam 1-1/2 miles a week and actually went skiing a few times, and my back always felt great for a few days after any of those activities.
Then out of the blue this mid-May, I started having funny feelings in my left leg and within three days, I had foot drop, due to the L-4/5 nerves. Not total foot drop (thank you, God), but close enough that I had to get an orthotic brace (AFO) to allow me to walk without tripping. Since I work in the medical field and have great insurance, I of course saw about five more doctors/specialists this year, with just about as many different opinions about what to do. So far, just back injections and no surgery, though I was told this week again that I WILL someday have to have a fusion when it is "convenient" for me, but no rush as the "damage" has been done, but I guess it is expected that I will probably have more problems down the road. Though another neurosurgeon told me both last year and this year that he never wants me to have surgery, ever.
Besides my foot drop, the pain (which has waxed and waned over the past two months) varies from day to day, but never enough that I have to take more than a couple of mild pain pills per week. Lots of numbness and tingling stuff going on, though.
Of course, the scuttlebutt in the medical field is that sometimes by fusing one area of the back, you end up with problems in the next area of the back, as it gets the strain of the fused area which can no longer flex. So the thought is that "active" people such as me (even in their fifties) should hold off on surgery as long as they can, to hold off the other degenerative changes as long as possible. Though some surgeons wanted to operate on me as soon as last year!
No surgery now can guarantee that my foot drop will resolve - there is no way of knowing, according to all of the docs. Had I had the surgery last year, I might not have gotten the foot drop, but again, surgery sometimes causes foot drop. So no sense doing all of the "what-ifs" which can accompany any medical decision-making. I thank God every day that I don't have the terrible medical problems of others which I see every day at work.
So, now after two months of foot drop and a month of PT, I am very excited that I am walking around the house without my AFO!! It feels SOOO great! I walk a little slowly (but not too slowly), and slightly wobbly at times due to some lateral leg weakness, but at a glance you might not even know that there is anything wrong with me. I am still wearing my AFO for work in the hospital and wherever I have to do more walking. When I do spinning, I do it without the brace and I'm fine - need to get outside on the bike and do it too! I am very optimistic and I will continue my recovery while planning for the best.
So last night I got out my ski boots (nothing wrong with doing that mid-July, is there?) and tried to put them on. A month ago, I could not get the toes to flex up enough to aim toward the toe of the boot. The orthotist who fitted me for my AFO used to work with the Three-Trackers and told me that he could put something slippery in my boot footbed which would help the toes to slide forward, and I might still take him up on that. BUT. . . .I was so excited that I was able to force my foot into the boot! I had to really push it in, using my hand to push the heel down in, and when my toes touched down at the bottom of the footbed, I carefully concentrated on making the toes bend toward the toe box - and they did!!! After I took my foot out of the boot I started to do it one more time just to see if I could replicate it, but my arthritic toe complained so I stopped (that toe is next for fusion!).
Several of my surgeons (both neuro-spine surgery and ortho-spine surgery) told me to go ahead and ski, whether I do or don't have surgery.
Does anyone out there know of any boots which are easier to get into than another? I absolutely love my Tecnicas which are nice and wide for my wide feet, but they are three or four years old, so if I need to get another that's okay. I'm thinking that I am ready for geriatric ski boots which I can put on with the long-handled shoe horn, along with the one-level condo and handicapped accessible bathrooms and med-alert button (which I can use when I have fallen while skiing and can't get up).
Has anyone had spinal fusion at L-4/5 and returned to skiing, and have you had additional back problems? Has anyone continued to ski with spondylolisthesis? Or a herniated disc?
Has anyone had foot drop due to back (not peroneal nerve/knee) problems and gotten better? I am asking on this forum where active people get on with life, and not on the other internet forums where you read all of the sad stories of people stuck in front of their computers. So only tell me good stories, please!!
Long enough entry - gotta go outside and play! Thanks for any info!