This is about the difference between lumbar pain and gluteal soreness. As you know, I AM NOT a doctor. I’m a guy who got a two-level fusion 14 months ago. I spend a considerable amount of time rehabbing and thinking about my surgery: along with researching things about it as they come up. But, I AM NOT a doctor.

Not a semantic game…it matters

Now, for quite a long time I’d refer to my pain around the waistline area as lumbar pain. And, believe me: that was the accurate terminology. I had spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, two herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and compressed nerves.

So, I truly did have lumbar pain to the exponential power. I had some genuine big problems with my spine.

My back has since changed after fusion surgery

Well, things are different now in a few ways.

Here’s a big way things have changed: I no longer have spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, two herniated discs, spinal stenosis…and, I’m going to presume that the nerves were decompressed quite a bit.

It’s an interesting and good feeling to say that I no longer have those things. Hell, I can’t have two herniated discs: I was cut open and the damaged discs were removed and tossed in the trash. I don’t have spondylolisthesis anymore because a metal cage was inserted and fastened to vertebrae to put the out-of-place vertebra back into position. You get the idea.

What the pain makes me think now

And, when I have some ouchie pain along the waistline area…I no longer automatically think “lumbar pain: damaged discs and spine, etc.” in my mind.

I think more like, “Oh, there’s some muscle soreness: the gluteal muscles are strained…at least, I think that’s a strong possibility… there’s some inflammation of nerves and tissues.”

And, that’s a very different way to think!

Because, this is indeed a very different reality.

I now find myself using the expression gluteal soreness.

Why this perspective is important for me these days

This is very important because it tempers my fear that I’ve somehow damaged the fusion. I’ve discussed this elsewhere: damaging the fusion is a big fear of mine. But, I’m not really doing anything that should damage it. I’m exercising, sure. I’d even say I’m exercising a lot. But, I feel that I’m exercising a lot in a smart and safe way that doesn’t push the limits in any way that would be harmful.

A lot could be said about exercising in a smart and safe way after this type of surgery. And, I’ll write something in-depth about that. But, the tldr of it is that it’s really just a matter of common sense. 1. Don’t push it too hard. 2. If you feel any pain at all, back off from the exercise immediately 3. don’t do anything that’s putting much strain on the lumbar (e.g. no bending at waist stuff). 4. get plenty of rest. As I said, it really is common sense stuff.

My more reasonable fear

The more reasonable fear for me…more reasonable than thinking that I damaged the actual fusion would be to fear that there is some sort of spinal problem above or below the fusion site.

I’ve also changed my life in a number of ways to make that likelihood…less likely. That will be a separate post also.


It helps me to refine my thinking process from a fear of a generalized “lumbar pain” to a more specific way of thinking about the three gluteal muscles that might be strained (and other muscles, ligament, tendons that could be irritated) and some of the nearby nerves that can be inflamed, etc.

It’s not all about damaged bones. There’s soft tissue! That’s what I’m reminding myself.

And, I’m also taking time off from dance class and those sort of shifting activities.