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Marijuana and Artificial Disc Replacement

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I smoke for pain as of the dozens of pain medications I've been rx'd over the years either have horrible side effects (nausea, vomiting, lethargy, confusion), don't work at all, or carry risks I'm not willing to accept (liver damage, etc). I'm not ashamed of what I do and I'm not interested in engaging in a debate as to the benefits of medical marijuana as I essentially view those who demonize it as uneducated and willfully ignorant.

That aside, I have a meeting with a surgeon on Friday to get evaluated as a candidate for artificial disc replacement (I have DDD, L4/L5, L5/S1). At the moment I'm in the worst pain I've ever been in in my life and I don't know what I'll do if he says I'm not a good candidate (osteoporosis runs in my family). I've tried everything for the past 7 years and nothing has worked. This is my last hope. I'm 21 and I need my life back.

My concern is about being honest with the surgeon/anesthesiologist. I went to the ER a couple days ago because the pain was unbearable, and after telling the doctor I wasn't interested in any narcotics, but that I needed something better than robaxin (for example), he asked me what I usually did for pain and I told him honestly. He wrote in my chart that I was a drug abuser and threw me out the door with a prescription for skelaxin (I had been hoping for a steroid shot or something).

I want to be honest with the doctors on Friday (particularly as I would plan on using marijuana as exclusively as possible for pain once I got out of the hospital since I don't like or trust narcotics, and anything less than a narcotic doesn't help at all), but I don't want to be written off and lose my only chance at this surgery. Can anyone please advise? I feel completely helpless and hopeless at this point and I don't know what to do.


  • I think an telling an ER doctor and telling your surgeon/anesthesiologist is totally different. At the ER they really do see tons of drug seekers everyday. It's a shame but they have to be careful with what they give out to people there. As for your surgeon & anesthesiologist, they know you are seriously in pain and that you are considering surgery to take care of it, that's pretty major. In my opinion you should be honest with them about anthing you are taking to relieve pain, you never you, you could have an interaction or something.

    I told my surgeon's assistant and anyone else who asked that I smoke marijuana for pain. Nobody bat an eyelash at me, in fact the surgeon's assistant just said "Oh I totally understand, not a big deal at all".

    I'm a huge advocate of using marijuana for medicinal purposes. For a long while it was the only thing that relieved my pain since doctors NEVER believed me that my back hurt.
  • Thanks, I appreciate the reply. Good to have someone else going through the same thing to give you advice.

    A little OT but would you have any idea whether what the ER doc put in my file is going to follow me forever? I don't want to be marked as a drug seeker/abuser and have any doc who looks up my file be able to see that for the rest of my life. I don't ever seek out narcotics, but I can't help feeling that this will color future interactions with medical personnel (if they think I am just trying to scam some drugs).
  • I'm sorry but I have no idea. I would ask your surgeon that question, and tell him/her the same thing you just said on here. I think it's a valid concern.
  • If the hospital is part of a medical group that you will be using for other things, I would imagine it is in your file. I recently asked for all my medical records as I was considering seeing a surgeon in another state. There were some inaccuracies in my pain management doctor's records that I felt should be corrected. They had nothing to do with my treatment, but with my history, but I felt it was important to get it accurate. I was told the way to have it corrected was to contact the doctor...that he was responsible for what was in his records of me. I presume you will run into a similar situation.

    We do not yet have medical records that merge treatments from various physicians and groups into one record. If you have nothing more to do with that hospital, no new physician would have a copy of it.

    It would be important for anyone who operates on you to be aware of any drug use. Anything that affects the pain receptors in the brain is information the doctors will need to know. I do not know have marijuana affects all the systems of the body. Perhaps it might affect the speed at which blood coagulates or something to do with oxygen saturation rates, etc. I would think it might have an effect on the work of the anesthesiologist.

    Many surgeons are reluctant to use artificial discs in someone as young as you. Any of these bio-materials that are currently used in the body have a life-span of twenty years. At the point of failure, the disc would have to be replaced, which at this point in time can be a life-threatening surgery. As technology develops, it will probably not be the case, but as of now, this is a real concern for spinal surgeons.

    Good luck, and let us know what the surgeon proposes for you.
  • The only person who is willfully ignorant,is you,just because people disagree with marijuana is no reason to make a statement like that !!!!!!
  • I'm sorry but to deny the thousands and thousands of people who truly benefit from marijuana use based solely on misinformation disseminated by the morality police and lies originating from industries that stand in direct competition with the cannabis industry is, in my mind, unconscionable at the least and criminal at the worst. It's particularly heinous when those same people have no problem with alcohol consumption, despite the staggering statistics of overdose, traffic fatalities, assault, (the list goes on) associated with alcohol use. Those statistics dot not begin to compare with marijuana. Just because you were raised to believe it is evil by a government that puts out PSAs that essentially liken it to crack addiction does not mean that is is a dangerous drug.
  • I would ask your Primary Dr. for a prescription for it. It's legal here with a script and I've seen people benefit from this prescription drug although it's not for everyone. I hope you can get some pain relief soon. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Hi Charry...unfortunately it hasn't been legalized yet here (although I would still have reservations about telling my doctors about it even if it was legal since I know many doctors refuse to look past the stigma), but hopefully it won't be too long...thanks for the reply!
  • gwennie: Thank you very much for clearing this up for me. I've never been able to find out just why exactly the first surgeon I went to cited my age as being the reason for turning me down (I had gone in not knowing exactly what my problem was and fully expectant that a surgery would be something that would fix my back so that I could re-enter the military, and so I was too upset to ask any questions). I think you have a point in that medical technology is progressing rather quickly, so I think I will be more insistent this time around about having the surgery (if I have any say in it). Thanks again.
  • Spine-Health has had quite a few posts on the topic of marijuana use for pain relief and it's a legitimate topic.

    Please keep your posts on topic and refrain from any abusive or accusatory posts and do not use this post as a forum for pro- or anti-marijuana rants. We've had this topic become quite heated in the past and if any of the Moderators or Authority Members see any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior happening, we will be forced to lock this thread.

    So again, please keep this on topic or it will be closed.

  • I wasn't actually asking about MMJ in terms of pain relief so much as whether or not it is something to be concerned about in the context of surgery and informing my doctors.
  • Mossbreaker, I'm only issuing this warning because we've had problems in the past. Your question and posts aren't a problem, I just want to make sure all posters adhere to the rules.

    Carry on. :-)

  • Duly noted, sorry for the trouble!
  • Hi Mossbreaker,

    My opinion is that you are going to have to inform your surgeon in the future sometime.It is the WHEN which is your problem. You are taking a pain killer which comes in an unprecise dose, and has varying degrees of interactions with anaesthetics and painkillers given during and after surgery, so thats a huge risk,(many surgery candidates are told to stop or change certain medications weeks before surgery)so a prescribed pain medication where the dosage is concise and the side effects are known is a must, I have not been able to find out anything on the blood thinning properties of MJ, but not having clotting of your blood and limiting the healing and development of bone graft isn`t going to get you anywhere if you want your spine fixed.

    It took me and my doctor ages to find the right cocktail of meds to keep my pain levels down to bearable, even some times taking an anti-nausea medication a ½ hour before pain meds & keeping a pain diary.

    When I asked about the life time of my artificial discs I was told "longer than my lifetime!" I have bone graft filled PEEK spacers as my DDD wouldn`t stand for the artificial disc sort which still give mobility of the spine.

    At the moment any doctor reading your journal would assume since there are no prescribed pain medications then there is no pain, and your journal may well be swept to the bottom of the pile in favour of someone with documented pain.

    I do not envy your decision as to when to inform your doctors, but wish you the best of luck in finding a solution .

  • Thank you very much for your input. I have heard very sound arguments for both sides but after reading your response I think I will go ahead and discuss this with my doctor. Thanks again for taking the time to reply.
  • Hi there mossbreaker. I hate to hear you are so very young and familiar with backpain like you are. My thoughts on the ER visit are these: if you used insurance, the fact that they labeled you a drug abuser could follow you a bit. If not, only those in that hospital or network will be privy to your files there. This has been said before and I'm just agreeing with it.

    As for the use of grass and not telling any of your doctors, think of this scenario. Let's say you find a doctor you are comfortable with and who is going to walk you through the process that takes you to backsurgery. You and doctor build a report and are formulating a plan of treatment for you and have both invested time and money. Doctor just happens to pop a drug screen on you when you get some routine bloodwork he requests. They do this. He sees positive for THC. Then and there, all of the trust built up is destroyed, doctor automatically has to go on the defensive because he has been treating someone who is positive for illegal substance. All bets are off and doctor just wants out. So see, you may want to think hard about not telling your doctors about what you use to treat your pain.

    I'm afraid they may also look at your young age and think to themselves that you are schemeing on how to justify your pot smoking. I'm not saying any of these things apply to you, I'm saying these are things that would come to mind if I were a doctor. I am one of the ones who believes you need to tell the doctors every single thing about your chemistry and about what you are taking and how often. When you find the right doctor or surgeon, it should be easy for you to be honest. I will say this, doctors are human and are going to make judgements on what they see and on their personal convictions. Some of them do and will frown on smoking pot or breaking the law.

    I hope that you can find a doctor that you feel comfortable with and who can help you with your back problems or maybe even help you get them repaired. I've had double fusions and a recent laminectomy + and have been so grateful to receive relief. Living in horrid pain is devastating and it makes me sad to think of a person so young having to wake up like that each day. My heart goes out to you. I hope you have a good day and that my input answers some of your questions.
  • Thanks Shannon. I really appreciate your note and the feedback I've been getting here in general. To be honest I wasn't getting my hopes up for any helpful answers but there seems to be an outpouring of very sensible and valuable input, so thanks again for your response.
  • I would be very candid with your Dr.

    Unlike some ER docs, spinal specialists understand the pain we are often in. They see adults weeping in pain on a daily basis and understand that this level of pain can often lead to heavy narcotic use and abuse, alcoholism, etc. It often gets to the point that you will do whatever it takes to relieve the pain. A good spinal doc will understand what you are facing and hopefully not sweat the small stuff like MJ.

    When I did my pre-surgery screening, I was also very candid. The pre-admissions staff was not even phased by my responses and in fact asked several specific questions around how much and how often to get a better idea of my pain levels and what chemicals might be in my system.

    There will be several blood tests just prior to surgery and i can imagine if MJ showed up then without you mentioning it prior it could throw up a red flag. Perhaps not for MJ but for whatever else you did not disclose. I was advised to cease several meds pre-surgery (advil, etc) due to blood thinning properties but there was no issue with MJ.

  • Something I have not seen mentioned, and I don't even know if it is applicable here ---

    Most back surgeons want you to be a non-smoker as smoking increases the risk of not fusing. So - what is in tobacco that prohibits fusion and would it be anywhere near the same for mj?

    Just something to consider
  • I wondered the same thing, saltzworks. My SA didn't seem to mind at all that I smoked (marijuana) though, and didn't tell me to stop prior to surgery. They did tell me to stop anti-inflamatories, but that was all.
  • I am in the same boat, but I split it down the middle. I use MJ for times that I need to be sharp(er), and save the narcotics for when I don't have any responsibilities.

    The pills don't allow me to drive, carry a conversation, or have any coordination. However, I am mentally normal (albeit relaxed) when I have smoked MJ, and have some pain relief.

    One thought is to quit a month out of surgery, which is what I am doing. No harm, no foul. The only reason I am is because I have to sign a form with my Pain Management Dr that I am not to use illegal substances.
  • They never ask... no one ever asked me if I smoked MJ only if I smoked tobacco or drank alcohol. I told the DR that I had noticed that when I drank (which was only a couple of times in a whole year) that the pain relief was amazing and that if I didn't need to have to have a life and look after babies and study then I would become an alcoholic .....lol BUT from that moment on he treated me like an alcoholic for pain relief means, he kept talking about drinking and reassuring me that under my circumstances that it was ok.....LOL I wonder what he would have said if I had told him about MJ...
  • I am sure I will get flamed for this, but look I have smoked marijuana a few times in my day...and by no MEANs whatsoever does that take the pain of DDD away. It may relax you and/or make you sleep, but the pain is still their.

    If you are not on a pain management program, self medicating, and then go to the ER looking for something stronger...THAT IS ALMOST TO THE LETTER "a drug seeker", I would have thrown you out too.

    YOU NEED to go back to your pain doctor and get on a official program, or get a surgery.

    Did you know that out of all the back pain "CLAIMS" only 20% actually get surgery. This is the problem, they have to identify who truly has a problem and who is out seeking drugs or workers comp.

    just saying if you look at the situation it looks bad...
    "no doctor I am not seeing any doctor for my pain, I smoke weed, can you give me something stronger????"
    I mean how does that sound to you?
  • mavrick, just because it didn't take away the pain for you, doesn't mean it won't for someone else. I mean, Norcos don't affect me at ALL but they really help other people. Everyone is different. You are basically calling me a liar because I posted that marijuana helped get rid of my back pain, and I certainly don't appreciate that.

    You do realize there are different types of strains of marijuana? Some are grown specifically for pain relief. And why would some states even offer marijuana for medicinal usage if it doesn't help?

    I'm not trying to cause a huge marijuana discussion, but you are being pretty ignorant. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't dismiss the fact that it HAS and CAN work for others.

    OH... and about your claim that the OP needs to go to a pain management doctor or have surgery, that is bull. Some people get sick from pain pills. I agree that one should always be open & honest with their doctors about their marijuana usage, but sometimes due to insurance issues, etc. one is not always able to get just go see a PM doctor or have surgery right away.
  • I have been a chronic pain sufferer since the first car accident in 2004. I am an advent staunch advocate for marijuana for pain as well as recreational use if one desires. I have had a spinal fusion disc replacement in 2006 and told my doctor who was prescribing pain meds that I occasionally use marijuana to help with pain, stimulate the appetite and relax muscle spasms. I know it is a double edge sword. Many doctors today don't have a clue about the medicinal qualities. I was dismissed from a pain management doctor as he claimed my urine screen came back positive for marijuana. But I disputed that claim as I had been cannabis free for about 5 months. Needless to say, I have been depriving myself from using in order to get help with narcotic pain relief as marijuana is not legal for any purpose in New York state.....YET! I would recommend you use the narcotics for pain, it takes many years and too many narcotics to get liver damage.

    The problem i have is now doctors have found out that I used crack from 1988 to 1994 and say I have along term drug abuse history, although I have been crack and cigarette free for almost 16 years....now go figure that out. I have never abused narcotics or shown any aberrant behaviors. They say I'm not a good candidate for long term opiate drugs due to this so they prescribe short term mu-opiods like Nucynta which my pain laughs at. I was forced to go underground in order to get the proper narcotic relief just to function every day. I am fighting like hell to get my records corrected so I can be treated appropriately. I had one drug assessment counselor tell me to come in for treatment for opiod addiction,but they couldn't help me with the pain. I told them they were crazy, if they really wanted to assist, they would tell pain management to prescribe the meds properly so I would not have to go through such drastic measures for relief.

    I have been on a laundry list of drugs: Hydrocodone (10/650, 10/325, 5/500) Topamax, Desipramine, Lyrica, Tramadol, Ultram ER, Skelaxim, Cymbalta, Hydromorphone, Nucynta, Robaxim, Methocarbamol, Kadian, Indomethacin, Celebrex, Diclofenac pills and patches, Lidoderm patches.

    Unprescribed I've used with much relief: Oxy IR, Fentanyl patch 75mg.

    I have a high tolerance for opiods. I have gotten off of them when the pain is down usually during summer months and with the help of cervcial epidural which I can no longer get due to the Chiari Malformation I just found out about.

    Beleive me...I know what it feels like to be between a rock and hard place. Take the narcotics if they are willing to prescribe. I cannot tell you the number or Emergency Room horror stories I have and heard from other people. I know it's better to show up at ER WITH pain meds than without any. You have a better chance of being beleived if you have pain meds.

    Good Luck..reply and contact me if you need further support or opinions.

    PLEASE NOTE: The practice in using illegal methods to obtain any drug is not and should not be attempted by anyone
  • I am due to surgery on June 12th - yesterday I was in another state - did not have my pain stuff with me (I don't like the side effects for the little relief) and ended up hurting a lot. One of my friends (who also has severe back issues) came up and said your hurting aren't you? I smiled and said nothing to do about it - she asked if I trusted her. I said of course and she pulled out a little bottle of what turned out to be a tiniture of marijuana. (she is in a legal state) She asked if I ever used it before and I said nope never did anything even as a teen but I was willing to try and did. I was amazed...the pins & needles, the numbness along with the pain went away over the next hour for the rest of the day it seemed. Its back today with vengeance but I was able to get through the day.

    I am wondering though if they are going to find any when I do my preop testing on the 29th...I am going to tell the anthesiaolgist that I did use it that one time (one dose) but I was astounded that I could function (other then a bit light headed and more giggly then normal - kind of like being toasted a bit).

    Before this I would have been strict to my never going to do that even but I can see the medical benefits for pain management.

    Scheduled for ACD(and Possible)F on June 12, 2013 of C5/6 & C6/7
  • I live in a state where it is legal for everyone, but I also have my medical marijuana card. Still, I live in fear of my surgeon finding out I utilize marijuana to help with my pain. I also want to be honest with him, but he tells me to stay off narcotics on one hand (he only prescribes them after surgery), but on the other he says I need my fifth back surgery in 2 years. I've had 3 surgeries in my lumbar region, an ACDF and corpectomy from C6-T1, and now I have developed adjacent segment disease requiring an artificial disc replacement in my cervical region, all since 2011. I am only 34 years old, and I have 5 kids under the age of 11. I really don't know how my surgeon thinks taking aleve or ibuprofen will relieve pain that is great enough to require surgery, but it is what it is. Too many years of misinformation from the government, doctors, lobbyists, and religious conservatives.

    Regarding whether your pre-op blood work will show you utilized edible marijuana, it all depends on what your surgeon has requested in the blood screens. My surgeon has never checked for drug use, and even if he did, he would only find marijuana. A mom has to be able to take care of her children, the housework, and otherwise be able to function throughout the day. Without marijuana, I would be lying in bed, crippled with pain.
  • I am glad I am moving along fairly quickly to surgery - my pain when I woke up March 26th was beyond giving birth or kidney stones. Nothing touched it that the dr gave me - the only thing it did was make me feel out of it...I still knew darn well that it HURT.

    I really do wonder sometimes if the drs understand how much effect pain has on the body overall - the rise in blood pressure etc is not good long term plus it just adds to a state of depression etc.

    There was an article on the news last night about it locally...apparently someone on in the state wants to make it legal for recreational use in small amounts.

    I hope they get things straightened out for you...I am 46 and mad as a hornet about my body betraying me like this.

    Scheduled for ACD(and Possible)F on June 12, 2013 of C5/6 & C6/7
  • PurpleDiamondPPurpleDiamond Posts: 2
    edited 11/06/2013 - 7:32 PM
    I am wondering if you had the surgery & how are you doing now? I am in a medical state & we are required to grow our own. When you start learning about the plant & all it's components is when you see the healing properties. We realized it when hubby tried smoking it for arthritis & bone against bone (due to failed knee surgery) pain relief. He tried it & it worked (2005). Years later I end up with severe arthritis,(I can't stand for more then 30 seconds, at 15 I'm looking for a chair) I try it does nothing for me, tried using it in cookies, nothing just laughing & can't think. Then I heard about making it into the Cannabis essential oil threw alcohol extraction. It's been 6 months since I started it & I can now stand for a full 10 minutes AND climb stairs about half way up before I have to stop. side effects: weight loss of 55 pounds, from 2 blood pressure pills to a half it's now 90/55 to 120/85 range but usually in the lower range. For any of you who have access to cannabis give the oil a try, just make sure it was made with real food grade alcohol NOT naptha, butane, ISO or any other solvent ( the solvents are boiled off ). Also, for those who haven't heard there is a guy called "the pain whisperer" on facebook who says he can heal many of the back problems without surgery, he claims arthritis too but he's in New York & we are in Nevada. If this forum lets you contact each other feel free to message me if anyone has questions.
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