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Anyone with bone on bone vertebrae??

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,372
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:39 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease

Hi, I have been told that I am almost bone on bone and likely to have my vertebrae fuse themselves. I am interested as to what that is likely to mean.

I would love to hear of your experiences.

Did your vertebrae fuse themselves?
How long did the disc take to wear away to bone on bone?
If you had surgery, were there any complications caused by the bone on bone / self-fused vertebrae?
How are you now?

Any information would be interesting. Thanks in advance.


  • I'm a bone on bone person too. I have heard that they will fuse as well. However that doesn't seem to effect the fact that a fusion is in my future. Right now I'm not "bad enough" to have it. Meaning I have all these issues (look at my signature), but because a fusion is so risky, my doctor told me the fusion is the last thing to be done. When I get to the point that I am at risk for permanent nerve damage, paralysis, etc, then they will operate. It could be 6 months or 6 years I guess.... The fact that I am always in pain and have no quality of life is not a reason to go in and risk more damage with a fusion. It's a tough concept to grasp when living with it day to day, but I also understand the logic.

    AZ is a conservative state though when it comes to surgery because at one point the malpractice suits were so high, that there is now only 1 malpractice insurer for the entire state.

    As far as how long it took for my disk to disappear, I'm not sure. I had back pain and spasms off and on for 4 years, then I totally blew the disk. I had a 11 milimeter herniation. At that point I was told that essentially my disk was gone.

    I just want you to know, I know that pain you are in. It's terrible. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I have terrible back pain, like I literally can feel "bone on bone", and I get sciatic pain as well.

    Welcome to the board!!!! You have come to a great place of true understanding and friendship.


  • I am with you. I had a radical endoscopic microdiscectomy and I am now bone on bone. It has not fused yet to my knowledge.

    I wear a back brace at times and I guess that does help to stabilize my spine because I do get some relief when I wear it.

  • Hi & Welcome to the board,

    I'm a member of the club too. I had no idea of the nature of the spine issues I had til May. I'd had episodes of sciatica, back sprains in past, which I attributed to overdoing it one way or the other. I had my first bout of sciatica at age 25, believe it or not, I threw out my back folding the ironing board to put it away. I believe this was probably when I herniated a disc(s), felt like I'd been knifed when I bent the 'wrong' way. As to when/how it progressed to bone on bone, I can't really say.

    In May, I learned what my problems were due to with flexion/extension x-rays followed by MRI & CT, I was 51 at the time. I made the decision to go w/ surgery since I had major neurological deficits along with pain, numbness, weakness, drop foot. My OSS had anticipated about 2 hours in surgery, ended up about 4+ hours. It took quite a bit of effort to 'pry' apart the fused vertebra and do the repair work needed. I'm 5 months out from surgery and find I'm feeling better & better each day. The sciatica & weakness are pretty much gone, once in a while, I'll get a twinge in my back but nothing major. I do have some lingering numbness in my foot, it is improving and I hope I'll be able to get full function back w/ time.

    Hope this helps
  • I thought I'd read here that someone had needed a much longer operation to seperate fused vertebrae. I guess it was you.
    This does worry me a bit as I've been told that the treatment for my spondylolisthesis is a fusion.
    How was your recovery? Sounds like you are doing really well now.
  • Hi back Jelly,

    I'm not the only one here that had a longer than anticipated surgery. Recently, another spiney (sorry, but I can't remember who) wrote about their experience - 12 hours surgery, multiple units of blood - makes my surgery seem like a walk in the park in comparison. The hardest part of recovery for me were the first 3 days post, I had a lot of trouble w/ horrible back spasming. Fortunately, the right RX 'cocktail' was found and from that point on, it was a slow & steady improvement. A positive attitude is invaluable in recovery. Couple that w/ following the directions of walking as much as possible, resting when needed, no BLT (bending, lifting, twisting), eating well and taking your calcium & B complex supplements (to aid your fusion & nerve healing) and you'll maximize the potential for an easier recovery. One thing I was forced to do was to come to the realization I might not be able to do things the same as before, or I might not be able to do them for some period time, or in certain situations they might be things of the past. I'm very thankful for the progress I've seen so far, but, it can take a year or more to heal from this type of surgery. I just go day by day and have had to learn to be more patient with myself. That was the hardest part for me as I'm really not wired that way - I'm a go go, do do type normally.

    If you have any other questions, please post them, you'll find the group here is more than willing to help another with any concerns they may have.


  • Thanks for your reply. Do you know what causes spasms in your back and legs? I haven't had surgery, but I still get spasms in both my legs and feet in the early hours of the day, while I am in bed. It seems to happen as I start to move my legs and straighten them after having had them bent while sleeping on my side. Sometimes they progress into cramps, especially in my calf muscles but also the top of my feet. (Hardly got any muscle there, but I get cramp that I don't know how to get rid of it. This morning, my husband was woken by my groaning, and he tried to rub the tops of my feet to get rid of the pains. I do get twitching in my leg muscles during the day as well. I think this is probably all caused by the compression or irritation of nerves, but I wish I knew how to stop them.

    I am trying to keep a positive attitude while avoiding fusion surgery. I walk every day, exercise, and eat well. I've even managed to lose about 25 pounds.

    I am learning a lot on this site.
    Thanks to all for sharing your experiences.

  • Hi Jelly,

    Sorry for the delay in responding, it's a bit hectic w/ Christmas coming up and getting ready for it. I'm sorry that you have a lot of trouble w/ cramping & twitching, I believe it can be attributed to the compression/irritation of nerves. Kudos to you in trying to stay active and the weight loss, all of these help a great deal when you have spinal issues. There's a school of thought that calcium & Vitamin B complex can be helpful with leg twitching and nerve issues. I also find heat and massage helps some, in any case a warm soak is nice regardless. Muscle relaxants can sometimes help too. I'd suggest you ask your doctor if he/she feels the above can be of help with what you are experiencing.

    Please keep us posted.

  • I don't take a supplement for calcium or Vitamin B complex, but now eat very healthily. I will ask my doctor about it. Thanks for the advice.

    I have heard that magnesium is supposed to help reduce cramps and have used Epsom salts in baths sometimes, which has possibly helped.
    I agree that heat is helpful, and think that if my legs are not nice a warm, I am much more likely to have problems.

    Sometimes, I feel that my life has been taken over my the problems with my back, and just wish that I could have a break from it all, and get back to a normal life!

  • Hi again,

    Again sorry for the late reply, Christmas this year super busy for the family. Spinal problems unfortunately do seem to take over, between feeling incapacitated and not being able to do things, many times the 'guilts' take over as well. Women after all seem to want to take care of everything & everyone and get frustrated and angry with themselves when they can't. Try not to be so hard on yourself, remember we're here whenever you need to vent or need some support.

    Take care,

  • It is so helpful to feel that we can vent our frustration and how fed up we feel, with people who know from experience what we are struggling with.

    Christmas was busy here too. I was pleasantly surprised how well I coped with all the entertaining. I got plenty of help from my husband and youngest son. I've had a couple of restful days, ready for another family gathering on New Year's Eve.
    Out for dinner tomorrow evening, which will be lovely. An hour's journey each way in the car though. I'll take my trusty cushion, which really helps.

    I saw my GP today and she is referring me to another surgeon for a second opinion. In the UK that could take 18 weeks, so I needn't worry yet.
    I don't know what I hope he will say. I just don't know what to do. I am so scared of surgery, but don't know how I can live the rest of my life without it. I feel trapped by my back and wish I could escape!

    Hope you have some good days, free from pain. Happy New Year.
  • the doctor gave me a prescription for Amitriptyline for the muscle spasms and nerve pain.

  • Hi Jelly,

    Glad to hear that Christmas went well, and hope that you very much enjoy the New Year's outing. We have similar plans to have dinner out w/ some good friends, however, it's w/in walking distance of home so no need to bring along my 'special' pillow. Try to calm your fears, it's normal to be scared of a potential surgery. The good news is that you're on the path to learning what your options are, hopefully, there can be some resolution to the pain. It's unfortunate that in the UK there is such a long wait to see specialists, especially when there are issues w/ pain and a person's quality of life. Hopefully the amitriptyline will help.

    Sending you gentle hugs and good wishes for a Happy & less painful New Year


  • We had a great New Year and today, I've had a very restful day. We went for a walk in the countryside, which was lovely. Hope you had a good New Year too.

    I had a phone call from the surgeon's assistant yesterday morning and they have given me an appointment to see her next Wednesday. So much for having to wait 18 weeks! In one way, I'm glad to see her so quickly, but it did make my heart pound when I put the phone down. I wonder what 2010 holds in regard to my back. Perhaps this will be the year that it gets fixed. That sounds good, but I wish I didn't have to go through surgery to get there.
    I know that there are others that have faced far worse than me, but I just dread the whole thing.

    Thanks for your listening ear (reading eye!).

  • Hi Jelly,

    We had a lovely evening and spent a quiet New Year's Day at home. It's nice when the holidays fall on a Friday, gives you a few more days before having to get back to the usual routines. Better sooner than later for the appointment, looks like 2010 will be a better year since you'll get some answers quicker than you'd anticipated. I'd suggest you jot down any questions or concerns you may have, when there's nervous anticipation it's easy to forget what you want to ask or discuss. Try to stay positive, and remember you have many caring ears & eyes here at SH. Please keep us posted.


  • I already have my list of questions prepared for Wednesday. I generally do that for medical appointments because, as you say, it is very easy to forget things that you want to ask.

    I returned to work today (in a school). It is hard to get back into the routine, but I know in a couple of days, it will seem normal again.

    Take care, and thanks for caring

  • Hi Jelly,

    It's my pleasure, take good care of yourself and go slow. Please let us know how your appointment goes.

    Hope today is a good day & pain-free for you.

  • Here I am on yet another user forum after surviving cancer in 2007 & 2009 and a couple of heart attacks sandwiched in between (2008 & 2010).
    All of the surgeries and recoveries having to do with the prior issues in my health history were made easier with advice and insights offer by other regular folks going through the same things. I am hopeful that remains a truth as I now face back surgery to repair at least one problem and possible as many as three.

    Apparently the most urgent issue is a "bone-on-bone" problem at L4/L5 that is infringing on the nerve root and causing some pain. However, to be honest and from my point of view, a problem with my neck is much more irritating and described in the radiology report as:

    C2-C3: No significant disc/facet abnormality, spinal stenosis, or foramina stenosis.
    C3-C4: Mild disc degeneration with minimal uncovertebral joint spurring on the right. The central canal and foramina are unremarkable.
    C4-C5: Mild disc degeneration with mild bulging of disc material out laterally into both foramina. Mild
    uncovertebral joint spurring contributes to mild bilateral foraminal narrowing. Small annular
    fissure defect seen along the posterior disc margin on the right.
    C5-C6: Mild annular left-sided disc bulge narrowing left lateral recess. No spinal cord or exiting nerve
    or sleeve compression.
    C6-C7: Mild left posterior disc bulge C6-C7 narrowing left lateral recess and slightly compressing
    exiting left C7 nerve. Right foramen is clear.
    C7-T1: No significant disc/facet abnormality, spinal stenosis, or foraminal stenosis.

    CONCLUSION: Mild left-sided disc bulge C6-C7 narrowing left lateral recess and foramen and
    slightly compressing exiting left C7 nerve.

    My surgeon - on the other hand - is very concerned with the lumar report and wants schedule surgery as soon as possible:

    L1-L2: Mild disc degeneration. The central canal and foramina are unremarkable.
    L2-L3: The disc, central canal and foramina are unremarkable.
    L3-L4: Mild disc degeneration. Disc material bulges out laterally into both foramina without exiting
    nerve or sleeve compression. The central canal is clear.
    L4-L5: Severe disc degeneration and narrowing. Marginal osteophyte formation narrows both
    foramina with slight encroachment upon the exiting right L4 nerve. The more significant
    narrowing is on the right. Mild bilateral facet joint degeneration
    L5-S1: Mild disc degeneration with minimal annular disc bulge. Mild bilateral facet joint degeneration.
    The central canal and foramina are unremarkable.

    CONCLUSION: Severe disc degeneration L4-L5 with mild secondary osteophytic spurring
    narrowing both foramina. There is mild encroachment upon the exiting right L4 nerve.

    The L4-L5 severity seems to be the driver and he (the surgeon) seems to think realigning my spine with an ALIF will help the Cervical issue without surgical intervention.
    I do not have a great deal of intolerable back pain most of the time - saved the couple of time a year when I twist or strain an end up in bed for a week with medication and
    cursing the world. I do have trouble sitting for periods of time then trying to get up and getting out of bed each morning is a process that takes some time.

    Still, I feel the back pain is somewhat manageable - albeit with massive doses of Vicodin (5x 5-500 on average daily)

    The neck pain leading to incredible headaches is another matter and another reason I am so dependant upon the narcodics and sedatives.

    I am 56 - slightly overweight but not too bad (5'11" @ 240lbs) - nonsmoker, non-drinker other than an occasional beer or two.

    Anyone out there faced a similar decision and willing to share advice and outcome?

    I am also very interested in input concerning ALIF L4-L5 Fusion recovery time and post-surgical pain?

    What is the worst case scenario if I do nothing?

    I am also concerned as to the odds of a succedssful outcome given all the chemo and heart meds I have been subjected to - most significantly Plavix.

    The neurosurgeon is very insistant that surgery is a must and that - in and of itself - has me concerned.

    Thanks to all that take the time.
    Very much appreciated.

    Thank you all - very much.


  • I notice that you are quite new to Spine Health, so let me say 'welcome'.

    Have you posted on the new member thread?
    This post is quite old now, and it is really just luck that I happened to see your post.

    I am nearly 12 months afteer my PLIF fusion with decompression on L4/L5 now.
    I would definately say that my surgery has been a great success and am in far less pain, but I do still have issues in my spine, which cause pains and symptoms in my legs and lower back, but I am also getting increasing problems with my neck, arms and thoracic area (around my chest).

    I am seeing a neurosurgeon next week to get the results of my neck MRI, but just yesterday got the results of some blood tests that have shown that I have a vitamin D and calcium deficienty. The symptoms for that are the same as I am experiencing, but they could also come from my neck and back. Who knows!?? I guess taking a supplement for the vitamin D and calcium problems would be much easier than more spine surgery!!

    Really, the best person to advise you on which treatment would best help you, has to come from your surgeon. He/she has been trained medically and has seen the scans and examined you.

    What I would say, is that a second opinion would be an idea to either confirm what you have been told, or to get you thinking about other options.

    I got 2 opinions from 2 ortho surgeons (that is what I was told I needed for my slipped vertebra problem). They both suggested the exact same surgery, so that helped to give me condidence that was what I needed.

    You certainly have lots of problems with the discs of your spine. There is someone else on here who has had treatment for cancer and she also has multiple level problems.

    Have you asked your surgeon to explain to you why he says that surgery is a must?

    Very often cervical problems seem to be deemed more urgent that the lumbar spine, but my surgeon also said the lumbar area needed to be treated first. At that time, I didn't think that my neck was going to need treatment. A year down the line, now I am not so sure. His words of 'we'll sort your neck out next' echo in my mind with trepedation.

    Again, welcome to this friendly site full of useful information and lots of supportive people who will listen to our frustrations. :-)

  • You have a lot of the same things wrong with your back that I have with my back
    But you are so young!!! I'm in Apache jct. AZ.
    We live close by each other.
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