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Is surgery an option for you?

aimlessaaimless Posts: 372
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Pain Medications
I'm curious if there are others out there that *could* choose surgery for their condition, but are trying to treat it with more conservative means (i.e. meds) for whatever reasons (surgery is invasive, risky, long recovery etc).

I fit the profile above. I am asking if there are others, because I fall into the category of "I'm in pain, but not to the point that I am dysfunctional." Some days I get really frustrated, and I just want to surrender and set a date for fusion, other days I feel good enough that I think meds can control this, no problem.

Why do you postpone or choose not to have surgery?
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Comments

  • It is not an option,they told me i am not a surgical canidate,the rhizotomy helped with my nerve pain,but not my muscle pain,i take pain meds that help me live day to day,i have had back pain since 1993,i have also accepted,that i cant have my back fixed....
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,739
    I firmly believe that before you consider surgery that you explore and exhaust every possible conservative treatment that there is. And always discuss all those options with your doctor. Many people can be helped without surgery using one or more of the following:
    Physical Therapy
    Aqua Therapy
    Massage Therapy
    Acupuncture
    Spinal Injections
    Passive Traction
    and more......

    Surgery, any surgery is a big step. If it can be avoided, that is the way to go. There are times that surgery is the only option, but that is something that needs to be discussed between physician and patient.

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Ron - I completely agree with you, surgery is a huge step and should be a last resort.

    What prompted this question is there are alot of people here trying everything they can to manage pain, living with pain day in and day out, for whom surgery is a potential option (a last resort). It is invasive, risky, expensive and no guarantee, among other things. I am curious to know if these are the reasons people choose to prolong / avoid surgery.

    It is a personal decision, to be discussed and decided with one's surgeon. I discussed with mine on Wednesday. No one needs to share any personal feelings or opinions unless they choose to do so, I was merely asking, as I said, out of curiosity. My apologies if I have offended anyone here with my question.
  • Aimless,

    I don't see how your question could offend anyone. I think it's a very well thought out and pertinent question.

    Surgery is not a "magic pill" and many times it can be the opening of Pandora's Box. So trying everything conservative first, especially if conservative makes the pain tolerable, is the right way to go.

    Unfortunately the docs try to make that decision for us and hence we get upset, frustrated and ticked off at them thinking they simply don't want to deal with us.

    Good question.

    "C"
  • I am one of those people and am certainly not offended at all. That is how we learn from each others experiences is by sharing them. Heres a short version of my story. I had a failed microdiscectomy in Dec 07 that has caused me more pain than I had preop. I am now on an assortment of pain meds and wear a back brace and still have some very bad days and weeks. I could go ahead and have a fusion and MAYBE get some relief. But, I could go ahead and have a fusion and MAYBE be worse. I do not personally feel that the odds are good enough for success with a fusion. Sure some people have great success and some people have lots more pain. I think that the odds are about 50/50 if I remember correctly. The doc that did my microd has even told me to try and hold out for more advancement in the field. He said that he would never consider ADR at this point as they are no where near perfected yet. So, I am not willing to take the chance and go through major risky surgery and major recovery just to possibly find that I did not fuse or my pain is worse. Now, if I become wheelchair bound I may reconsider. But that is the only way.
  • Personally surgery will be a last resort, if or when pain becomes intolerable. And I agree with "C" it's like Pandora's Box I know too many people who end up with even more issues and worse issues than what the started with. I am content to take meds and wait till science evolves alot more. Then mabey.

    Jaws
  • :) hi! i have no surgical option at this time and can only treat symptoms. this is much as you are doing. sometimes i wish i had the option for surgery but at others i am glad i don't have that decision to make. 8} you are doing the best to try all before heading for surgery. that really is a last resort. i wish you the best and hope you can find pain relief without heading for surgery!! Jenny :)
  • I have had the option, and diagnosis for surgery, and refused, based on the fact that I FELT I could improve without it. Now, I do not have insurance, so I manage pain with meds, and even those I take conservatively. I am sort of a skeptic; I believe there are a LOT of unnecessary surgeries in this country, where the outcome is believed to be normal, but the true outcome is money in someone's pocket. I was reluctant to even have my ESI's, but eventually I gave in. They were an extreme disappointment. Everyone's mileage will vary, as they can help. I am still young and in decent physical shape, so hope is still an option for me. I guess that is the bottom line, hope. When I start to have nerve problems that are severe, like incontinence, I'll be right under the knife.
  • I appreciate it. I mentally struggle with this question in my moments of weakness (i.e. bad nerve pain).

    Pandoras box - yes that is my greatest fear, as many positive outcomes as I have heard, there are as many horror stories. And to JWM's point, many are not absolutely necessary, not treated as a last resort but perhaps a quick fix because gee, insurance will cover it.

    Tolerance for pain, loss of feeling from nerve damage, and a compromise of my quality of life - after really giving this question some thought, I think these will be the ultimate deciding factors, once I have exhausted conservative treatment. My surgeon's advice is "let pain be your guide" as he has said surgery is 1)optional and 2)a last resort.

    It really helps to hear other people's experiences, what option(s) you have, what factors into your decision-making. Gives me more to think about next time I feel like "giving in."
  • Aimless, it sounds like you've gained some good perspective. When I feel like giving in, I usually stop taking my meds for 24 hours, or within reason, to give myself a (more) painful reminder of what 'worse' feels like. Sometimes I get a little too comfortable in my condition and a taste of something worse helps me to realize it's not so bad after all. With all the meds, my sensitivity to pain has gone way, way up, and that can help bring it down. Don't do it unless your doctor says it's ok, but for me, it helps. I think being 'sugery optional' actually makes us some of the lucky ones. Take care~
  • Aimless: I too am struggling with the decision to have fusion surgery (L5-S1). I had 2 discectomies back in 8/01 for severe sciatic pain down the left leg (couldn't walk, sit, and laying was just as bad). After the 2nd discectomy (they were 3 days apart) I remained pain free until 2/06 when the same pain came back in the right leg this time. I had an MRI which showed scar tissue, DDD, and a new right side herniation. My neuro told me fusion was my only option but he would wait as long as possible and try other options. I did do spinal decompression which gave me complete relief until 4/07 when the pain was back again so I tried another round of decompression with no results this time. I then did a round of PT which didn't help either so it was heavy duty pain meds for me. In 10/07 the pain was so bad I really considered going under the knife but a friend told me about an acupuncturist I should try. I had tried a different one in the past which didn't help but I decided to give it another try and it has been great (the key is to find the right one). I have been going every week (it does get expensive) but for now it has taken away the severe sciatic pain and I am just taking Tylenol at the present time. I am not totally pain free and I have had to accept the fact that there are alot of things I can no longer do. My neuro still says that fusion is the only option (I have also gotten a 2nd opinion and have a 3rd one this week but I'm sure it will be the same) but he still wants to wait as long as possible. I have also found a great new PT who has found I also have piriformis syndrome which was giving me the same sciatic pain. Since I have been doing the stretches she gave me it has been keeping that under control for now too. I guess like you I am afraid of whether I will be better after surgery or worse. So for right now I am taking the wait and see approach and I hope to prolong surgery as long as I can. Dava
  • But then we have to make decisions!! :)

    You all have really good perspective, I soooo appreciate it. (And I swear, if I even just forget one dose of my meds, that is enough to remind me that I have it pretty well under control, compared to what I could be living with). Now that I do have a good medication combo I have started PT again so hoping to build some strength & stamina back up. I'm inspired by all of the Olympic abs ;))

    --Melissa aka aimless, depending on where the letters fall...
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