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The TLIF Procedure in Action In With the Good — Part 2

  January 02, 2018

By Alexander Germanis

It has been said that good things come to those who wait. In reality, there’s often a little more involved than just waiting. Work, patience, training, time, and even pain may be involved before those good things come about. For someone like Lisa of Bloomington, who underwent a major surgical procedure, that “good worth waiting for” is simply to get back to one’s old self.

In the spring of this year, Lisa underwent a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) on her L4 and L5 vertebrae. TLIF is a procedure in which two adjacent vertebrae are fused together using stabilizing hardware, a TLIF cage and bone graft. Her procedure was performed in a minimally invasive fashion, through small incisions in the back, allowing for a shorter recovery time and fewer potential post-operative complications.

Orthopedic Sports Enhancement Center is proud to have on staff Dr. Nitin Kukkar, who is trained in the specialized minimally invasive TLIF procedure. Dr. Kukkar is one of few surgeons in central Illinois that has dedicated his time and training to the benefits of minimally invasive type surgeries of the spine.

Regarding Lisa’s surgery, Dr. Kukkar had to first remove an ineffectual piece of hardware in Lisa’s spine. The removal of that device added a bit of time to Lisa’s recovery, although Lisa admits that some of her own actions lengthened her recovery. “I work from home two or three days a week,” she begins. “So, I had the surgery on a Thursday and sat up on Monday, pulled up my computer and started working.”

Returning to work to early and sitting in the same position for an extended period of time caused extreme pain to shoot down her legs requiring her to spent the next four weeks flat on her back. “I kind of messed up by working that week after surgery,” Lisa admits. “I missed the part where they said, ‘no working.’”

Lisa needed to put a brace on for added support whenever she got up. She wasn’t inclined to wear the brace or get up, which is necessary for good healing. “I was sitting way too long without moving, and the less I move the more stiff it is,” she explains. “If I’m moving, if I’m being active, it does not hurt as bad. So, it’s a matter of being more mobile.”

Returning to mobility, even for someone who was as active as Lisa, was a challenge in and of itself. “The first two weeks were really hard,” she recalls. “It hurts to get that brace on and off and to get up and down. At about week six, the brace was gone. It’s a decent recovery time. I would say easily a six-week recovery time as far as being able to not wear the brace, get up to go to work, that kind of thing. But, it wasn’t awful; I just kind of messed it up because I’m impatient. Your back doesn’t like that.”

Recovery from a major surgery can also include a period of time when one’s body is actually holding on to the discomfort and pain of the past. Dr. Kukkar describes such an experience as memory pain. The body gets so used to feeling pain that when the source of that pain is finally taken away, it takes the body some time to catch up.

“I’m not pain-free yet, but it is so much more tolerable than it was before the surgery. My body is being stubborn and it doesn’t want to let go,” Lisa shares. “So I’m still going through physical therapy and I’m hopeful that the pain will continue to diminish.”

Physical therapy is necessary when it comes to proper recovery. For Lisa, physical therapy takes the form of aqua therapy. The buoyancy of the pool removes a considerable amount of stress and load caused by gravity’s pull on the body.

But, Lisa is optimistic; she knows good things have already and will continue to come to her. “I feel Dr. Kukkar gave me back a tremendous amount of quality of life,” she says. “I was not doing anything before this because the pain was so bad, and now I’m out doing things. So, that’s awesome.”

If you are experiencing back pain, consult your physician. Your physician will discuss your options and you and determine which course of treatment is best for you.

You may contact Dr. Kukkar at the Orthopedic & Sports Enhancement Center, 309-663-9300 or online at Their office is located at 2406 E. Empire St. in Bloomington. The practice offers the most advanced treatments that minimize pain and speed recovery for people of all ages.
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January 02, 2018


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