Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Asking for advice from those who know!

bellFLbbellFL Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
This is my first post and I was hoping that joining one of these forums would help me with the continuous frustrations and questions I still have post surgery.
Briefly, I am a 39 yr.old woman who rather quickly developed severe lower back pain about a year ago. I was eventually diagnosed with DDD with severity at L5-S1 area. 6 months ago I had an L5-S1 fusion. I tried everyhthing prior to surgery including tranformial blocks and various injections through pain management. After meeting with two separate neurosurgeons, I was basically told that no other options were available that would help me and that a fusion was my best option.
My post-op experience was extremely difficult with severe pain and muscle spasms that lasted more than 9-12 weeks. I am back to work as a teacher but my problems have unfortunately not subsided. I continue to have lower back pain, sudden jolts or catching pain, painful numbness and tingling in my toes, and muscle spasms. Inronically, I recently saw my neurosurgeon and he has determined that through various X-rays and CTs that a fusion had developed and that he sees nothing abnormal or cause for the pain I continue to experience. He offered to "go back in" to see what he could find or to "tighten this up", or my only other option would be a referral back to a pain management doctor. Now, by no means did I think that surgery would be a "cure all" and I would not have any pain however, I didn't think I would continue to have debilitating and daily pain. I would have not put myself through such a painful ordeal to have my painful sitution repeat itself. Going back to pain management makes me feel I've come full circle, back to where I started.
I'm hoping there is someone out there who has had similar experiences and can offer the support and advice I just don't feel I'm getting from my doctors. I've read many posts I appreciate all the experiences and knowledge those in simlar situtions have offered thus far. I'm too young and stubborn to accept that this pain will be with me forever. Like many of you, I've got too much I wanna do!!!


  • I don't have any experience with fusion stuff, but I just want to encourage you to keep fighting for your well-being and hapiness. Do not give up!
    I truly feel that there is a right solution and surgeon for everyone. Just a matter of finding him/her.

    Did you have a discogram before any of your procedures?
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hi BellFL: Perhaps you went back to school too soon...? I can say that b/c I am also a teacher, also had a lumbar fusion & also had a rough recovery..but if I'm calculating this correctly, you had sugery in June (?) & went back last fall (1st semseter)after only 3 months & are attempting to do full days (?) at only 6 months out...is this correct? If so, may I suggest you are doing too much too soon & your back, altho "looking good" on the x-rays etc, may need more time to heal & get stronger. Hence the on-going pain, numbness, tingling & muscle spasms.
    Forgive me if I presume too much, but as a teacher also, we forget what physical stamina it takes to teach all day & if we are compromised in any way (& a fusion is a BIG way!) it will take its toll.
    I had my PLIF in Jan of 08 & didn't return to the classroom until Sept 08 & even after all that time "off" I was in a lot more pain than now. It takes a full year or more to fuse & until you do, any energy you expend in another area will cause an increase in pain levels.
    What grade do you teach? Can you stand? Are you sitting too much? Do you drive to work? Can you come home at night & crash or are you grading papers, attending mtgs & conferences, etc...? All these things will tax you until you are fully healed.
    My heart goes out to you. We love our profression, we are lost w/o it, we need to be with our students, etc....but if you try to do too much b4 you are ready, it will cost you, physically.
    You could try more PM stuff, or trust your doc to "go back in there" (!) but honestly, I would suggest, as difficult as it would be for you to do, cut back on your hours, teach PT or job-share, or hang it up for a semester (I took FML for the semester after my fusion & was paid disability) & see if things get better. At 39, you have a lot of years ahead of you. Perhaps waiting until next fall would be an option?
    Sorry for the long post---teachers & back pain seem to be a common combo---bending over all those desks, etc....
    Hopefully you're on holiday break--maybe a week off, resting more, using ice & walking etc. can break the cycle...I know how you feel, truly I do. It's totally frustrating & then some.

    Welcome to the Board! Many teachers here!

  • Discogram - excellent suggestion Paul - I'm a firm believer in the discogram for identifying where your pain is coming from and what level is causing it. It's not a pain-free test, but well worth it.

    Without the discogram my NS would have operated on L4/L5 and left S1/L5 alone for a year. The discogram proved that I would have had almost zero relief until the S1/L5 was fixed! I would have had 2 surgeries a year apart with no relief inbetween.

    Did I read this right - you are only 6 mo. out from surgery? At 6 mo. I was just barely returning to work and it was difficult! I hurt every day and was incredibly unhappy to have to deal with the pain of it all.

    Is your pain different than before surgery? Have you looked at a dermatome map to see if you can determine what nerves/levels are giving you the problems? If you google image 'dermatome map' you get quite a selection -some are more accurate than others.
  • Bell - I had a 2 level fusion in July and am starting back to work on Jan. 4. The advice of the other teachers here on this site helped me to realize that it was way beyond expectations to go back at 3 months as I had originally planned. I am honestly quite concerned about returning to work at 5 months post-op. While I have been diligent at PT and walking and feel relatively strong, I am concerned about spending at least 8 hours a day on my feet. I wish I had some advice or words of encouragement for you. I may be in your same situation in 2 weeks. I am trying to be positive. As I stated, the other teachers on this site truly understand and have great advice and compassion. Feel free to PM me and we can compare notes.
  • these surgeries (fusions) takes a long, long time. I'm not a teacher - I'm an administrator in higher ed, and I spend most of my day, every day, at a desk. I went back to work gradually about a month after surgery. At first, I just went into the office, picked up piles of work, and brought it home to do while lying on the couch with my knees up and the laptop in my lap. I went back to work full time at three months. Was this a good thing? NO! I'm over a year out of surgery now and I think am just beginning to feel better. I've had a few times of feeling on the mend since surgery, but I quickly get knocked back down and end up having to take pain meds, muscle relaxants, etc. I've finally getting to the point of being able to do things and not end up flat on my back for weeks at a time.

    Give yourself some time to heal. I know that we can't always do that for financial reasons -- my main reason for going back to work so soon. I hope you can find a way to take the time you need.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I had severe DDD and severe bilateral foraminal stenosis at L5-S1, which was cured by a laminectomy and fusion. At 6 months, you are still relatively early out of surgery, and being a teacher with a lot of standing can be tough.

    I had hardware complications which were causing me a lot of lower back pain at 6 months, and so had my hardware removed at month 7. I'm not suggesting that this is your problem, but it might be and should be checked out by your surgeon.

    Did you follow through with a good post surgery physical therapy rehab program? I found that this was essential for me.

    If you are not feeling happy dealing with your current surgeon, by all means consider getting another opinion from another specialist. Also ask about the discogram.

    Finally, not to sound discouraging at all but I consider myself a success story however it still took more than 12 months and a lot of post surgery physical therapy and exercises at home to get me to that point.

    All the very best and keep us posted with your progress.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • Little more to offer as I haven't had a fusion.
    I just wanted to say that I have been told if I do end up needing a fusion to understand I will be out of work at least 3 months but plan for 6 months.

    I was told that in reality I need to plan for 1 full year to be 'done' with recovery. So what folks are telling is consistent with what I was told.

    In addition, you may want to understand other options than 'exploratory' surgery. It may mean several opinions. But believe me when I tell you that when I had recurrence with my herniated disc, I went to 5 doctors in addition to my surgeon and got a remote opinion for a spine clinic. I got 2 options and it was 50/50 on those who recommended fusion vs. revision. But reading on fusion, I wanted to do least 'risky' thing. So with that thought, surgery is risky so I would try to find out what the goals of the surgery would be. Otherwise, diskogram or mylogram (which might help understand nerve pain), and I think speak to other doctors and do some more research on what could cause this.

    I do agree you are still 'early' but at the same time, you know your body and if you feel your progress isn't quite right . . .don't give up.

    I had pain from my microdiscectomy and just didn't recover the way I was told I would. My doctor wasn't concerned initially so I tried to keep my patience but continued to tell him I wasn't as pleased as he had led me to believe I would be. Because of that at 6 weeks even he was worried and at 10 weeks he ordered more images . . .and I was right, something was wrong. I had another disc herniation pressing on the nerve.
  • I will just add to the other wonderful comments-I substitute teach,and I have not even done that the last 2 monts-I am pre surgery,but I did have a spinal fusion 2 years ago as well.Unless you teach high school,where you are not as physically involved as with the little ones,you have to take it easy!Having to be mentally on top of things can wear you down as well.I was still using a walker at about 21/2 months!Please take it easy! As a former teacher (and now sub),I know it is hard to give our kids over to someone else,but you have to take care of yourself.Keep posting-it helps to talk it through!
Sign In or Register to comment.