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surgery or not surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
hello everyone i am new guy here. i have had severe stabbing numbness tingleing and well just a lot of pain from right buttock to right foot since jan 1 2009. MRI shows broad range bulging of L4-L5 and large rupture of L5-S1 that has displaced S1 nerve root with spinal cord compramise..
Not completely sure what compramise means but i do know it hurts. I have had 2 ESI's which did nothing.
My surgeon says my only other option is a partial lumbar discectomy. the injury that caused the pain to start was simply standing up from a chair. I am a firefighter and now going on 2 months off work the worry of loosing my job and the effects on my wife and new born son have made me so lost in what to do im going crazy. i have 4 months before my position at work will not be held any longer but these injections are not getting me anywhere close to going back to work. It seems most of you who have had surgery ended up reinjuring doing something simple. My job is extrmemly demanding both physically and emotionally.

My questions are

Have any of you had surgery and continued with agressive physical activity with no problems.

have any recovered within 4 months to be able to do hard physical work.

Is having the surgery selfish rather then waiting to see what happens with back over time.

is fusion the only choice if i reinjure the same disk after surgery.

it souonds like i am looking more for support then anything else. I spend most my time making decisions about other peoples lives now i am having hard time with mine. I think my biggest fear is having the surgery and then still not being able to return to work. My job is my passion and have spent years training to be who i am. I dont think i could ever replace the satisfaction i get from my job. Is having surgery a 50/50 flip to getting back to work. any words of advice would be appreciated.


  • Hi zachy,

    Well i can make no comment re getting back to a hard job like yours! I'd also add... it wasn't getting up from the chair that hurt you!! I can only imagine how much lifting youve done in your job.... hoses, ladders, people, equipment!! all that has taken its toll... hmmmm work related injury???? see if you can get a doc to write that down for you... may help you in the future! My nephew is a fireman in california, he's wanted to be one since he ws 14, and at 21 he's done it! He's an EMT, Paramedic, Fireman at 21 :D , and now has his fulltime gig. But back to you... I had an L4/L5 posterior fusion with hip graft, and hardware... it was a godsend for me. Took me 3 months to be back to my desk job. It is a big surgery, takes time to recover from; but if nothing else is working - sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. I don't think you're selfish for thinking about this. Making a decision about surgery is a combination of how much pain can you take, impact on quality of life, expectations re recovery, and for some of us workaholics or simply because we need to get back to work for financial reasons... we want to move faster. There's alot to be said for listening to all the advice.... and then following your gut! Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat more about recovery, but hopefully someone else on the site has experience of getting back to a physical job post fusion.

    Best of luck & hope your pain free soon
    L4-L5 fusion 1998; ACDF C4-6 2008; DDD
  • I am thinking about surgery or no surgery too. I am 3 month post severe sciatica flare complete with nerve damage (my big toe is no working properly yet). I am imroving VERY slowly. I did 2 cources of oral prednisone that helped (especially the 1st course that was done soon after the flare). I am planning on starting work in 2 weeks (office job 8 hours of sitting - which is very hard for me at this point). I am doing PT and I think it is helping me a lot. I also do excercices at home about 1 hour per day and try to walk on the treatmill (up to 1 mi 2 times a day). I am still hurting but I am much better compere how I was 3 month a go (using walker to get to the bathroom and weelchair to go to see a doctor). My main consern is that once I start my job I will have all my simptoms back in full force. I saw 2 NS and they both said that they would not rash into surgery despite the fact that I have a nerve damage. They both said that since I am improving (even slowly), there is no reason to rush into surgery. However every day I think how I whould feel now if I i did surery month ago...My suggestion to you is to try oral steroid. I also do a lot os McKenzie excercises (every 1-2 hour). Google it.
  • I have been struggling with back pain for the past five years, as the result of a pretty serious L5-S1 hernia.

    It used to be horrible, I had tingles and numb all the way down my right leg into the foot, shooting pain, etc. I was able to get it to an acceptable level with dedication to yoga. LAtely it has been worse again and my new doc suggested discectomy.

    It sounds great, but in some places I read horrible things about peoples pain afterwards....I don't know what to do and honestly I'm scared of surgery.

    But I also want my life back...I'm 28 and it hurts to put my shoe on.
  • Hi all,
    6 months past initial flare, all of the standard pain development issues of sciatica, back, butt, calf and foot pains, numbness and tingling in leg/foot with current back, butt, thigh pain ranging from 3-4 on the good days to 7-8 on the not-so-good days. Have gone through PT, Epidural injections (2) and nerve root block (two weeks a go, no effect). Going in to meet with doc for nerve root follow-up. Location is L5-S1, relatively small disc bulge, nerve passage restricted and some spinal instability. I think this the Surgery discussion appointment. He mentioned that the bulge/ nerve passageway issues were relatively straightforward and could be handled via scope with small incision but that the instability would need to be addressed by more invasive procedure, ie fusion. Let you know how the discussion goes and decision(s) made a little later today.

    I miss competitive tennis and non-competitive cycling, as well as all of my outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking and canping. I want these back (no pun intended) and will do just about anything to participate in LIFE again.

  • i was a fit man .very active walked 6 miles a day sometimes more sometimes less {with my spaniel} i swam 1 mile 5 times a week i did not drink {still dont} did not smoke {i do now } i was the correct weight everything OK.then i had a car crash and 2 operations .since the last operation {S1/L4/5} surgery i have been in agony carnt move carnt sleep over weight spend all day in recliner .as a firefighter {and you have my full respect for your profession} you will need to be very fit .i am worried that even if you have a good operation that you wont be able to return to the front line because you have to life and move heavy things..back surgery is a life changing operation most of the time for the time its for the worst..just be careful when making a derision.i would hate it for you to be in a similar position
  • Sometimes you never "recover."
  • To Zachyfarms:
    Your comment about most people getting back to simple jobs may be right on the money, sorry to say. I was a college athlete, in my youth, good shape, fairly strong, but not a firefighter. I am a teacher, simple job, and I have a very high confidence in continuing with my profession, post surgery. I wish you luck, the best of luck, on your course of treatment and your outcome.

    Going to do another round of the nerve Root injection, exhaust the non-surgical options. Discussed the potential surgery, Minimally Invasive Posterior fusion of L5-S1 due to extent of disc damage coupled with the instability. Read some about it and I am attracted by the reduced manipulation and trauma to the musculature of the back, as well as the shortened initial surgery recovery time frame. Also, indications of less scar tissue to cause problems. Any others know much about the procedure? Minimum time before surgery 1 month, more likely 6 to 8 weeks.

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