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L-5 Disc Degenerating/Causing Pain/Options???

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hello all-
I am a 38 year old female that has been in fairly good health. I have always had a "bad" lower back. In Jan. of 2009 I suffered an injury while exercising and have been in horrible pain since.
Had X-rays and MRI's done which showed that my L-5 disc is degenerating and slightly bulging.
I went through 3 months of PT before they told me they didnt think I was repsonding the way I should be. Also during this time I took 3 cortizone injections.
Recently saw my neurosurgeon who performed a cervical disectomy on my neck in 2007 with great success...who went over my MRI and said he believed the cause of my pain was the degenerating disc. He told me only I can decide how severe my pain level is and how long I can live this way and that should I decide I cant take it any longer he could perform a spinal fusion surgery at L-5..which he believed would be successful. I trust his judgement completely but now need to "mull" things over.
I would say on a scale of 1 - 10 on a pain scale my pain level is anywhere from a 4 going up to an 8 on how much I move around. I cant exercise how I'd like due to the pain it puts me in and I cant do things with my 2 kids as much as I would like due to pain levels.
I'm wondering if any of you have had a one level spinal fusion surgery with success at all?
Did anyone ever try chiropractic care and was it helpful?
I am currently eating Advil like it's candy, have muscle relaxers and more potent med's but dont like how they make me feel...I stretch, I ride a bike as tolerated, and I try to walk as tolerated. This has really affected my quality of life and I am worried as a mom how it will continue to affect my ability to just plain do mom things.
Thanks so much for any advice!!!!


  • I really empathise with you and am facing exactly the same decision as you are, so will watch carefully what you're advised to do!

    Apologies for not being much use re: advice.

  • Hi Val-

    I certainly hope you can get some relief soon. Just your thoughtfulness in writing to me is appreciated!!!

  • so frustrating not being able to do what you want. if only the pain would just go away...
    surgery would hopefully give you some relief but like dr says no guarantee. then down the line you might have the disk above go. these new artificial disks are showing some hope. also you hear of people who wait it out and the vertebrae fuse on their own...no scar tissue no surgery...
    so what to do?
    i think you should keep looking...meet with another surgeon to get 2nd opinion. keep exercising as best you can. if pain is just too much then you are forced into surgery. youre the one in the drivers seat.....hang in there....pete

  • Hey Jen, 39yo male - just had a Posterior L5/S1 Fusion on 6/24. Prior to that, I had a diskectomy in March of 08 and two Epidurals along the way. Eventually, I herniated my L5 / S1 disk, again, while riding the elliptical at the gym. I think it was going to go anyway, but that is what finished it off. I was taking 8 Norco/day along with Neurontin X 9. I'm now med free, except some occasional tylenol. My back is still sore, I still ice it nearly every day, but it's waaaayyyyy better than before. It's been approx 7 weeks, I have two boys, and I'm up and around doing quite a bit. I anticipate that over the next few months, I will continue to improve and have less and less pain. I really don't have any advice, I guess I'm just sharing how it's gone for me - I think very successful! Good luck with your back, I know how frustrating it is, hope it gets fixed soon.
  • thanks so much Pete! I am just confused at the moment on what to do and certainly appreciate your kind, encouraging words!
  • yea, a success story!!!!!! Exactly what I needed to hear! I am so happy that your story can be told with a positive "ending" to it! And yes, I believe at this point I would love to just be experiencing a sore back! It's simply amazing to me how the pain can at times consume me. Trying to keep a positive outlook while I weigh my options but I am truly happy to hear your story! I wish you continued success!!! Enjoy your 2 boys!
  • I am in the same situation. I am considering a fusion, but I am not sure as of yet. My pain level goes from a 4 to 8. I consider a 4 a good day. I tried to take only 2 lortab a day but sometimes depending on pain level in might be 4 in a 24 hour period. It does not take all the pain away when my pain level is high. I have been feeling pretty sad, but decided to start exercising again. (Very slowly and carefully)and to quit smoking. So never give up and do what you feel is right for you, but please considered a second opinion.

    I am here for you if you need someone to talk with.

  • i have just refused a fusion .after talking to lost of people that have had them and regret it and talking to my medical team {doctor /pain consultant etc} i would urge you to talk to as many people as you can and do your home work before going ahead with it ..because once its done that's it there's no going back ..and its a very big operation .if you were my wife i would strongly advise against ..i understand pain and i am in a great deal of it myself at the moment so i understand that when someone offers you a way out you may be tempted to agree thinking that it will be the end of your pain.i can say that with what i know that you will still be in pain afterwards please think long and hard and don't be bullied into it
  • I am in the same boat as you...L3 is ruptured, L5/S1 is degenerated to badly, they couldn't even fit at artificial disk in if they wanted (only 3mm left..the rest of my disk are 15-17mm")..

    My doctor has also talked to me about a fusion, and gave me a 33% chance of even getting better...BUT if I was lucky enough to get better, I am only 32, and probably would have 4 more back surgeries in my life from other disc failing because of the fusion. ON TOP of that, they have to go in from the front and there is a chance of infertility if they do that, so my wife does not like that chance very much either. So for the moment I have chosen the pain management route...its a hard route to choose I have found, because what works in the begining, does not tend to work for long. :(
  • Welcome to the board.

    I'd be interested in hearing a bit more about your situation. Is all your pain in your back or does it also radiate down into your leg and/or foot? Do you get relief from changing positions...say, from standing to sitting? Are there some positions like sitting and lying down where you are mostly pain-free? A few more details would be helpful!
  • I'm in the same boat as you. Ruptured L5-S1, had a laminectomy on my L4-L5 seven years ago, doc is afraid that if he tries to repair the rupture I'll end up with a fusion. I have three kids, one who just turned one, and I am terrfied that I will be able to do even less than I am right now. The pain sucks, too! I'm a teacher and I have to do the up-down thing every ten minutes b/c standing or sitting too long is excruciating. As of now, I am trying epidurals to see if those will help...trying to avoid surgery as much as possible.

    I would get a 2nd opinion for sure, and then go with your gut. It sucks to be "young-ish" like we are and to have the backs of 80 year olds!

    Take care of yourself!
  • Thank you all for your thoughts! It's simply incredible to me how pain affects so many areas of my life.
    I have been to an Ortho, my neurosurgeon, taken 3 months of hard PT, 3 cortizone injections, exercise as best I can. Today I am going to a chiropractor. I read on spine universe that sometimes chriopractic care can help with pain being caused by a degenerating disc...depending on the extent of deterioration, of course. I am seeking all options and am headed in this direction now to see what becomes of it.
    Gwennie- my pain did radiate down to my foot when I initially injured myself. That pain has since eased up to jus a very hard/sharp/pain in my lower back and deep into my tailbone. Oddly enough (or maybe not) sitting KILLS me and walking brings me some relief. I do stretch and that gives me temporarily smaller pain levels. Last night lying down my pain wasnt terrible but the previous 3 nights I couldnt sleep due to the pain I was experiencing. I think it depends on how active I try to be.
    I emphatize with all of you! I hope all of you are still able in some way to do things with your loved ones in the manner you would like to!!!
  • How are you doing?? Well i hope

    I'm new to the board (hi everyone! :H ) and your post caught my eye as i'm in the same situation as you. My L5/S1 is degenerating and has a mild bulge (slightly impinges S1 when standing according to sitting/standing MRI...). I've been dealing with this for 2 years now and the symptoms came on very gradually and insidiously, there was no wham bam moment. My pains vary hugely day to day in location and severity. Some day's (not frequently) i have a burning sensation in the centre of my low back (gets better if i walk around), some days i get a feeling of something being 'stuck' just over the SI joint on the left side of my spine and the discomfort from that can radiate down through my bum into my legs but it's annoying rather than agonising. Sometimes i get a slight tingle in my toes but i've never had numbness or weakness. Sometimes i get a strong ache/pain in my glute so all over the place really!It seems to be worst following activity (i am pretty active but less than i sued to be and want to be :-( )but even that doesn't follow an exact pattern! Some day's i can do what i've done many times before and i could get a better or worse reaction! Some day's sitting for a few hours starts it all off and some days i can sit fairly comfortably all day! It's very strange and annoying!
    I've done lots of physio, had 2 ESI's but there's not been any massive improvement really and i seem stuck in this chronic situation, my neuro surgeon has said what i probably need is a fusion! I don't know what to do, don't know whether to give it more time and just bare it as best i can seeing as i'm not in agony?

    Does anyone have any advice?? Thoughts??
  • Hi there!

    I'm surprised your neurosurgeon hasn't exhausted all the conservative methods first and is jumping straight to fusion? If it isn't agonising, personally I wouldn't go down the surgical route just yet; if you read some of the relevant posts, sadly they don't all turn out well.

    Why don't you read some of the articles on fusion and that might give you a better idea (see below). In my opinion though, I'd wait until it has become agonising before allowing anyone to cut open my spine. You never know, it may never become agonising and may stay as it is. You might be one of the lucky ones!

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

    Bye, Val

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