Spinal Fusion Back Surgery FYI - Pain in yo Back is WACK!

For those of you who follow us on Instagram you may have caught this photo in our feed a few weeks ago.

Below is a post ALL about Cason's back pain.
Because it's important to me that we tell our story. Because SO MANY of you have asked tons of questions. Because when we went "googling" for answers, someone took the time to write out their experience, and it really helped us.

FYI: I'm not sugar coating anything. This is our real experience with back pain, the steps we went through to get relief, and finally our entire process with an intense spinal fusion surgery. 

WARNING: There is a picture towards the end of this post of Cason's back incision. It is a bandage with stitches (nothing too graphic), and I show it so that people can know what your back may look like, and how large your scar may be if you end up having a similar surgery. 

Like a lot of people (I've found out) Cason suffers from horrible back pain, and has for the past 8 years. He didn't fall, get in an accident or gain tons of weight suddenly, he just... has crappy back genetics. 

Even though Cason's lived with pretty bad back pain for the last 8 years, it wasn't until about 2 years ago that it started becoming unbearable. The nerves in his back were being pinched and shooting pain had started to not only plague his back, but now his legs; especially the right one. So much so that he could barely walk or even sit sometimes. He was always hunched over, and after about a year he had started losing feeling in some of his toes and parts of his legs.

For those of you who have had to, or currently ARE suffering with this type of pain in your life... I am SO sorry. For Cason it was maddening. Some days were better than others, but being in constant pain almost EVERY day, not being able to workout, lift more than 20 lbs, or even walk with your back straight, is something that NOBODY should have to endure.

For the past two years we've tried countless things to help with Cason's back pain. Strong pain meds, physical therapy, oils, medicated shots into his spine... you name it. 

Cason was frustrated, and to be honest, I might have been even more so than him. I know that doesn't sound fair to say, because YES, the person who is in pain all the time should be MORE angry and annoyed than anyone, right? But try seeing it from the other side as well... the person/spouse who has to hear about and see someone suffering all the time! Having to change plans, or even miss out on doing things with that person who has horrible back pain, just because you CAN'T get them relief!

It was a few weeks ago when we took a road trip to Oregon/Northern California (more on that trip soon), that I had absolutely HAD it.

We'd stopped at a really fun hike that I had been waiting to go on for a few days, to see all the amazing forest and massive trees that surrounded us, and Cason couldn't even make it across the parking lot to use the restroom once we got there. His body was in so much pain that he looked completely crooked as he slowly and painfully worked his way towards the bathrooms, only taking small, little baby steps.
Luckily we had been able to stop at a trail off the road a day before, and snapped a bunch of cool pics, so it wasn't a total bust.

While the girls played around outside the gift shop, I sat on a bench and cried. I was so angry, frustrated and mad that Cason couldn't enjoy this moment... and that we couldn't enjoy it WITH him, because he had to lay down in the car just to get relief!
I was furious that his stupid back pain was going to control our plans that day, and that it was SO unbearable for him, that we couldn't even do this ONE thing as a family that we had just drove 13+ hours to do!
Once Cason returned from the restroom we all got back in the car, kids upset that we weren't hiking, and me giving everyone the silent treatment for a good hour. 

Now let me explain, before you think I'm a heartless (you know what)... 
I know that it sounds like I'm being totally insensitive, but I wasn't mad at Cason at ALL (even though it may have come off that way at the time... yes I apologized immediately). I was pissed at his BODY!!! I was angry that we were STILL dealing with this problem after dishing out thousands and thousands of dollars from our own pockets, and ridiculous amounts of time, trying to fix something that seemed basically unfixable!

We were both beyond angry after that incident, and called for an appointment the very next day to get in to see a surgeon. The ONLY and last thing left on our list of "ways to fix this crippling back problem".

After another round of MRI's and x-rays , the doctor took one look at Cason's horrible back and told us that a spinal fusion was pretty much our only option if we wanted a shot at living with a lot less pain, for a long period of time.

Spinal fusion is a surgery done to permanently join together two or more bones in the spine so that there is no movement between them. The process is designed to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which in turn hopefully helps decrease pain generated from the joint giving that person problems.

Below I'm holding a model of what getting a spinal fusion looks like.
ouch... :(

A few days ago was the big day for Cason. We had reservations, believe me... because no surgery is guaranteed, but we prayed to feel calm, talked a TON about the pros and cons, and once the day came, we were actually really confident about the decision we'd made.

Cason getting prepped for surgery.

On a side note: Theres nothing scarier than saying your last goodbyes to a loved one before they head into an operating room. 
Maybe I've watched WAY too much Grey's Anatomy, where people come in with a hangnail and end up dying on an operating table 20 minutes later (ha!)... but still, it's just not fun.

Surgery took a total of about 2.5 hours from the time Cason was wheeled in, to the time the doctor came out and let me know that everything went well.

When Cason came into the recovery room he was really pale, and sort of yellow-ish. He was freezing and had quite a hard time coming out of the anesthesia.  After about 2 hours, and a round of hilarious comments, he started coming back into his regular old self again :)

I'll just say it now... recovery from a spinal fusion SUCKS!
Watching someone you love trying to stand up and walk, only 6 short hours after having a doctor slice you open and place gadgets in your back, is just heartbreaking! 
It took all of my willpower to not bust out in tears as Cason attempted to sit up for the first time and get on his feet. He was so drugged up, and still in pain, that when he did finally get to an upright position, he would get nauseated and puke, or feel like he was going to faint. 

It took a few attempts to get him standing on his feet, but once he did, he was a CHAMP. I was seriously so proud of him. And even though it's awful to get up and walk around after a surgery like this, it really IS the only way to help yourself get better faster... we could see that quickly!

Thank goodness for the amazing people at the hospital who were so kind and patient. I can't express enough how grateful I am for the nurses, physical therapists and doctors who rallied around Cason in support, and who care for and serve those of us who are sick or need their help on a daily basis.
What a hard freaking job. THANK YOU for everything you do!

The next two days were filled with frustration, drains, IV's, experimenting with pain meds, and slowly walking laps around the hospitals third floor.

Cason mentioned a few things that I think are important to know:
1. The amount of pressure in his back was incredibly intense. 
2. Walking for the first time after the surgery felt really awkward. Like his back wanted to give out under his legs, because it was too weak to hold him up straight. 
3. He's been super itchy - I think this is from the morphine that he was getting in the hospital.
4. Because you can't use your back to do hardly anything, you find other ways to push yourself up and steady your body. This makes other muscles really sore, quickly. His neck and legs hurt the worst by far.

5. His incision burns and itches. It runs about 10 inches long and has been getting more and more tender as the days go on. We've been given waterproof bandaging that works well to protect everything, and he's already taken a shower with no problem.

6. Getting in and out of bed is the absolute worst part. Everything hurts.

7. After two days of laying in bed... taking a shower, brushing your teeth and putting on real underwear and your own clothes, makes you feel WAY more human and like you're not dying. (haha!)

8. Happy kids with kisses, hugs and loves are sometimes all the motivation you need to get through a hellish recovery :)
It's the beginning of day 4, and we are home now.

It's been mostly okay. Pain is still pretty bad, and not having a fancy moving bed that helps Cason get up and down easily kinda stinks... but being home in your own bed is way awesomer.

Again, this may sound selfish, but I just want to be transparent... 
I'm exhausted.
Helping Cason get up and down, feeling comfortable, into the bathroom, showering, keeping him fed and up on a schedule with meds and just all-round running the entire house, dogs and work show without his help, is physically and emotionally tiring.
Even in this very short time, I have gained so much respect for mothers, daughters, sisters... and just people in general, who sacrifice their time and energy to caring for the people they love when they need them. 

All that being said, I can't even IMAGINE the pain that Cason's feeling or going through, it doesn't even compare - and that's why, as his wife, I do all that I can to make him feel better again... no matter how "tiring" it is.

Because I love him so much.
Because he has done the same for me.
Because even though we didn't exchange traditional vows, I will always strive to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.

That's what marriage is all about, right?

I'm SO grateful for our families who have taken our kiddos for the entire last part of the week and weekend, and for friends who have reached out to check in on us and offer help anyway they can.
I have a really hard time actually taking those offers to help, but knowing that I have a handful of people that I could call on if my prideful walls ever come down... is enough for me ;)

So, the Good News!
Even though Cason is dealing with being totally uncomfortable, due to the recovery from surgery, he is beyond thrilled to report that the throbbing, burning and stabbing pain that ran down his right leg and numbness around other areas of his lower body... are COMPLETELY GONE!!!

It was seriously such a happy moment to hear him say "I feel like someone gave me a new pair of legs to walk with. I can feel every portion of my legs and feet. It's so cool!"


Even though Cason's movements will now always be restricted, and he may still suffer from some sort of ache or pain in his back from time to time, we are very confident that this surgery will be exactly what he needed, in order to live a more normal, happy, pain-free life.

Like I mentioned, it's our first day or so home, so we'll definitely keep you posted on his progress., but hopefully our experience and story will help some of you who are dealing with the same thing, or are considering a similar surgery.
Best of luck on your journey if this is the case, please keep Cason in your prayers for a speedy and successful recovery, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask! We'll do our best to answer them :)


- Cason's physician was Dr. Berry at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray UT. (LOVED him!)
- Cason surgery consisted of his doctor fusing L4 and L5 and then L5 to S1. (sections of the back)
- Stay in the hospital was 3 days and 2 nights.
- Cason has used pain killers AND a muscle relaxer to help him control pain. He says that the muscle relaxer has been key to him being able to move without feeling so scared. It has calmed him and also helps him sleep.


  1. I know all to well of your experince.. My daughter had a spinal fusion done in August of this year. She had scoliosis.. She was cut from the neck down to her tail bone... I wish you all a speedy recovery and a Happy Holidays!!

    1. My niece and my mom also. Their cut is all the way down from neck to tailbone. It was so hard to try and help them in anyway. All the best to your daughter. Hope her healing has been as quick as possible.

  2. All the very best to Cason in his recovery. And make sure you get enough rest too. Jude.x

  3. You absolutely described this to a tee. My son had constant back pain. An aunt told him to take Advil 4 every 4 hours. After 20 hours of that and his back was killing him, he went to the ER. He was in kidney failure from the Advil. Then he had a fushion later. He's a teacher so he did this on Christmas break. His pain never got better but worse. After break only two weeks he went back to teaching and driving 45 min.Each way. He wouldn't take his pain meds when he left school, hoping they wouldn't kick in til he got home. This went on for a year. His surgeon ignored his concerns that something was wrong. Finally he got a different surgeon out town. Finally an MRI was done and here all the parts weren't in place. That doctor did another surgery taking the first fusion out and doing two more. He had to put more of the glue or whatever they called it, causing post op to be more painful. His father was appointed his roommate post op. We knew he needed some patient, big and srong enough to deal with him after surgery. My son is the nicest guy and this turned him into such a mean person. I stayed with his wife and babies to help here as my son was an hour away...after his surgery there was a blizzard. I was so worried about the pain pills and the long term effect. He was able to handle that. It's been 8 years now and he is doing well. He runs for exercise. He knows his limits. Thank God for the second surgeon's wisdom. Your husband had to be in so much pain. The fact that his legs feel better already is a wonderful sign. And I understand how you felt. My son was 32. He was a terrific golfer from the time he was 9. He isn't able to golf anymore. Prayers and hugs to your family.

  4. I recently (8 weeks ago) had an emergency spinal fusion of C5-C6 and C6-C7. My was done from the front and I had titanium spacers put in instead of an external cage. i didn't have any kind of trauma either, though if you looked at my spine you would swear I used to be the human cannonball or something. I had seven herniated discs (2 are gone now) in the cervical and thoracic regions, they haven't even checked my lumbar yet.

    The surgery did restore feeling to my right arm which I am incredibly thankful for, the doctor only gave me a 50/50 chance of that happening. They mainly we're performing the surgery to prevent further damage to my spinal cord which was being crushed by my discs.

    My husband was my lifeline and my friends were just awesome. Let them help! Remember it isn't about you, it is about them being able to demonstrate their love in a concrete way. Good luck, we will be praying for you.

  5. So glad to hear he is doing and feeling better! My prayers are with your family for a speedy recovery!

  6. I had this exact procedure when I was 19, almost twelve years ago. My symptoms were the same and I was diagnosed with grade 4 spondylolisthesis. With the help of some fantastic surgeons, I have experienced amazing relief. But I remember all too well the awful feeling of being forced to move around just a few hours after surgery. It will get easier. My range of motion is not that limited and I only experience some dull aching in my lower back if I've been on my feet for a really long time (and if I've worn unreasonable shoes), but it's nothing compared to the absolutely debilitating pain I experienced before the surgery. So grateful for modern medicine and good surgeons! Best wishes to Cason on his recovery!

  7. Prayers for Cason!!! That is a hard recovery for sure. My aunt just got her stitches out Friday ~ she had all her "Ls" fused. At some point in the next couple of weeks hopefully they will give him a bone stimulator. This helps tremendously from what I've been told. Hang in there ~ things always get worse before they get better :-)

  8. I hope he feels better soon. I wish you dont have to experience anything like that again.

  9. Yup, been there...I had a spinal fusion in 2003...L5 to S1 with 4 titanium screws, a cage and some synthetic hormone to create bone in the space. It's tough. My surgery site is about 8 inches long (30+ staples)...about 6 months later, my surgeon started doing the same surgery laparoscopically with only 5 small (1/2") incisions. Friends who had the surgery later, had a much easier recovery time. My timing has always been off...lol Good luck to you....

  10. Bless his heart! I will keep him - and you - in my prayers. I had the sciatic pain radiating down my leg and had surgery. I was not fused though. I have since had a baby (and the scar interfered with an epidural) and 2 hip replacements and I can honestly say that was the worst I have been through. Your post is spot on - it is tough. But you know because you said - the walking will help the healing. My neurosurgeon said walking cures everything. Not sure about everything but it sure helped the healing.

  11. Great share! I had my L4 - L5 fused in 2008. I was 31 at the time and the doctors said my age was a big factor in my speedy recovery. But it does suck, both for the patient & for the caregivers. It sounds like he's already experiencing promising results so it should only get easier from now on. The limits on future movements will be a piece of cake compared to the limits he's had so far. Make sure when the worst of the recovery is over that you take a day for yourself to decompress! You deserve it!

  12. I LURVE that you are brave enough and willing to be transparent. I think that's why I love your blog so much. In a world where so many women feel the need to censor themselves, I've found myself feeling very alone about certain feelings I wasn't hearing anyone else expressing. And to be perfectly honest, I felt lied to from all the self-censorship around me. So this was refreshing to hear I'm not the only one who gets exhausted and frustrated with the challenge of being a caregiver.

    I hope your husband's recovery is smooth and that you and your family will again be able to create wonderful memories with him.

  13. Many thanks to you and your family for your openness in sharing this difficult situation and the steps it's taken to resolve it [all of my fingers are crossed!]. I hope Cason continues to get better and better every day. Wishing you guys the best!

  14. Thank you for sharing Carson's story (and yours). Tomorrow I am having a much less complicated surgery to fix a herniated disc causing a pinched nerve. I can only imagine the intensity of Carson's pain compared to mine - and to have endured it for so long! It is hard to be limited by pain but I know those that care for us are the real heroes. He is blessed to have such a loving wife! I am saying a special prayer for you both.

  15. Oh boy...I know exactly what your going through! On 9/23 we just had my husbands 2nd fusion. He had one 30 years ago, now it was time to do it again on the next vertebra up. This time it was a 51/2 hr surgery, 5 days in the hospital. Now, two full months later the back pain is starting to feel a bit better, but he has super bad nerve pain down the legs and around the hip apparently from the scar tissue around the nerves from the first surgery. He had to back in and have a mylogram to make sure nothing was pinched...which thank god, nothing was. So, it may take 2 months for that nerve to heal, it may take 6 months or more. I'm so sad for him at this point he swears its almost more painful that before the surgery. Its so hard and frustrating. I hope your husbands recovery continues on its happy path and that he continues to improve and find relief

  16. I used to work as a nurse for patients who had had this surgery. It's a tough road but it sounds like he was an excellent candidate. The fact that he was already feeling less pain in his back is a very good sign. Praying for continued recovery and complete restoration.

  17. I will keep your family in my prayers.

  18. Thank God there was the option for surgery instead of Cason having to suffer with that awful pain. Don't feel guilty about complaining, it's not easy seeing a loved one go through pain and it's not easy having everything fall on one person. You are a wonderful family. I'm sure Cason will feel better as each day passes. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. :)

  19. Glad Cason's feeling better.... and pain free. :)

  20. Thanks for sharing. Be grateful that he didn't get addicted to opiate based pain killers prior to the surgery, which happens to many. My son has had 3 back surgeries, and almost 9 months post op from last surgery (fusing L4-L5), he is finally feeling better. Pain doesn't go away magically after surgery. My son takes Lyrica which calms down the nerves in the back and legs. Keeping weigh down and walking daily are the keys to recovery! Best to Cason!

  21. I have just stumbled across your blog for the first time from a weight loss pin on Pinterest - I have lost 6 stone 2 lbs in the last 17 months through a lifestyle change of diet and exercise, and gone from a UK Size 20 to a Size 12. (I'm from Bedford in the UK) ... I love reading other people's weight loss stories, and I too blog about my experiences over on http://www.mrsbishopsbakesandbanter.co.uk, but it was totally blown away to find this post about Cason's back surgery and thank you for writing so candidly about it. I'm 28 and have been suffering in the same way as Cason for the past 3 years, I have 3 slipped discs currently in my back, and my specialist has told me that spinal fusion surgery would be my only option. It was great to read a truly honest account of the surgery as I know very little about it apart from what the Dr told me. I've had all sorts of treatment up to this point (epidural injections, physio, acupuncture, all sorts of pain meds etc) and I do think that this surgery will definitely be something I'll need to have done soon. At the moment it isn't an option for me as my son is only 17 months old, and I couldn't cope with the recovery while he's still small and so dependent on me. I can't wait to follow your blog in definitely now. And a huge well done on the weight loss too! xxxx

  22. He won't regret it! I had a spinal fusion done 14 years ago from my neck to my tail bone... Best thing I ever did! I had scoliosis that was progressing at a ridiculous rate, so they cut me open and fused me up. I've had 2 kids since then, I ride horses 3-4 days a week and am pretty athletic, stillšŸ˜³. Sure there are limitations to your movement but you learn real quick what you tolerance level is. My recovery was a since, but I was also 18 yrs old. Hang in there, it will be well worth it! Welcome to the "rod club";)

  23. Thank you for sharing your story. How is Cason doing now? Have you written a follow up post? We are on day 5 from a lumbar spine fusion and keeping the pain under control is a challenge at times. It's so hard to watch your loved one in pain!! What day was the turning point for Cason when you saw a light at the end of the tunnel? Nerve pain is the worst! Did his take a little while after surgery or completely better?


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