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Is this as good as it gets....? Advice please...

teacherteachertteacherteacher Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had a discectomy and fusion at L5-S1 two years ago. The difference is fantastic but I do still get pain and deep aching in my back and some ciatic pain.
Does any one know if this is the best I can hope for or have I got room to improve still?
All stories and advice welcome


  • Reading and listening to others' stories, I have learned that the outcome of all back surgeries is quite variable. I had L4/5 fusion last summer and still have low back pain 24/7 and difficulty walking. Other symptoms are gone. But, I have rheumatoid and osteoarthritis complicating matters.

    One thing my NS said to me was that I would always have some degree of back pain. Hard to accept.
  • Hi marirlpn
    thanks for the reply, I know its hard to compare any of our stories as we have all had something different, I guess I am looking for a ray of hope that I could still improve. As you say it is hard to accept that I may still always have pain, you think the surgery will be the magic cure, and to some degree I guess it was but I always hoped I would be able to get back to the level of fitness and stregth and just pain free life I had before. Guess thats not going to happen eh......?
  • I had a PLIF at L4/L5 on December 9, 2008. I am up to walking 8 miles and I played two sets of tennis doubles last Friday. I'm still in physical therapy, and have some back pain and hip muscle pain, but I continue to improve. Don't give up hope.
  • While I think it is important to remain positive, it is also important that anyone facing back surgery realizes that the surgery will not return you to the way you were prior to the onset of injury or pain. It is not like having an appendix out where you have the surgery, recover from the surgery and are then "fine."

    Back surgery changes you forever. Some people are able to return to their former level of activity, but I think they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people facing fusion are told that they will not end up 100% pain free.

    Two years is considered about the outer boundary for healing potential. Even nerves, which are notoriously slow to heal, are considered able to heal up until about the two year mark.

    However, what you can do is increase the strength of all the soft tissue that surrounds the back and supports it. You can become a fanatic about your posture and body mechanics, being careful to never slouch in an overstuffed chair and never lifting, pulling or pushing in a way that can strain a muscle or ligament, etc. These day to day activities really can make a difference, especially now that you've had a fusion.
  • Want to hear what my NS told me about ever feeling better?

    That's a rhetorical question (but you can choose not to scroll down if you really don't want to 'hear' it)

    At one point I was so discouraged and feeling overwhelmed by the whole pain process and possibility of surgery; I just kind of looked up at my NS, and asked, is there any hope? Any way I can exercise this away? Mentally overcome the pain? Anything??

    He sat back, crossed his legs (was this an unconsious defensive position? ;) LOL ) and replied - 'Do you believe in the resurrection?'

    Got to say it - he DID make me laugh, a tall order for where I was at mentally that day. But there is many a day that I recall that conversation, have a chuckle, practice some good mind over matter and try to cope.

    p.s. - my comeback (the comment that made him chuckle) of course it took me a year to come back with it...

    When he asked how I was feeling post-op, mentioning that I was looking much better that day -

    I looked him in the eye, smiled a mischevious smile, and with an affected posh accent said, "It's better to look good than to feel good"
  • Hi Everyone
    Thanks for the replies, I am getting the feeling that its going to be a case of learning to cope as I am and making the best of it (which is still better than I was before surgery!).
    I just need to look at it positively and think about how much I can do now, not what I still struggle to do!

    All continued advice and stories welcome still

    saltzworks - that made me chuckle!
  • My neuro told me that I will always have back pain to some degree after fusion. Honestly, I have been in pain since I was a teenager and hurt my back at a summer job. There are a number of stupid things I did when younger, and now I'm paying the price. :-)
    I do hope that the pain will decrease after my surgery. I've been building up a good support group of people who have been through it, along with good friends and family. Just walking my dog around the block will be an exciting event for her AND me. LOL
    Thanks again for everyone's insight on surgery. I really appreciate it.
  • I am a little over 2 years out from my 360, lumbar fusion. As I've said before, its a long long road to recovery. I can tell you what got better. I no longer have numb feet. Actually, I have full feeling back all the way up my legs which I didn't have before. I can walk for miles, the earlier in the day the better. I have no lifting, bending, or twisting restrictions. I just opened my pool today and did a lot of those things with no ill effects. I am even golfing badly again, haven't been able to do that in over 3 years.

    Now the bad stuff. Evenings are rough. By then my back as my wife likes to say is "Toast". Trying to remain straight becomes a problem and some sciatic pain returns to my buttocks. I try to take it easy at night and go to bed around 11. In the morning, I am perfectly fine and start the whole process over again. As for pain, I feel a pressure pain all the time but it is tolerable and a few Aleves takes the edge off.

    Am I as good as I was before all my back troubles? No. Will I ever be? Probably not. What would have happened to me if I didn't have the surgery? Without a doubt, I'd be using a walker all the time and maybe even be in a wheelchair. I wouldn't be able to drive a car safely for more than a few miles and I'd be mostly housebound. Am I glad I had the surgery? YES!

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • In April 2008 I had 2 level fusion L4-S1 and I was one of the 30% who it did not help. I still have horrible back and leg (right and left) pain. Since then I have been on a search to find something to relieve my pain. I have tried everything. For the time being, I think I found my last chance for relief and that is a spinal cord stimulator. I heard it only works for 50% of the people who try it. So I am prayimg it works on me. I go for my trial on June 4th. Sorry to be a bummer. You said all stories welcome so I guess I went over board,

    Any way, are you on any meds? Maybe you need nerve pain meds or something for break through pain. Maybe find a good pain management doctor. I absolutely love mine.
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