Good afternoon. I'm new to the forum, yet have been lurking as a non-member for a while just trying to gather information. I'm glad I found the forum and it's good to hear all the viewpoints and have access to tons of information.
A bit about myself:
About 5 years ago I noticed that when I laid down in bed at night my legs would start to go numb, primarily from the calf down, mostly on the left leg. This went on for a couple of months and I finally had a checkup with my Primary (hadn't seen a primary doctor in 6 years). Well, he went with the full physical and noticed what appeared to be a slipped disc (now I know it as Spondylolisthesis) and referred me to a spine center. The spine doctor (ortho) ordered an MRI and took more X-rays. Bottom line, about 5 years ago I was diagnosed with stenosis, Retrospondylolisthesis and degeneration at L5-S1. The cause... L4 was naturally fused to L5 forcing the extra pressure down below. He said surgery would be required sometime in my life, it was up to me.
I went through about 8 weeks of physical therapy and the doctor started me on Gabapentin 300mg 3xday. The physical therapy and Gabapentin reduced the numbness to tingling and occasional lower back muscle pains. I have had some of the side effects on Gabpentin, including: mood swings, suicide, irritability and definitely short term memory loss, even on what I now know is a low dosage. But, it has helped the numbness.
I joined a gym and have gone pretty much faithfully 3-4 days a week for the last 3 years. Losing about 25lbs getting down to my target weight and focusing on core strength, stretching and continuing what I learned in PT. Lots of time on the seated bike and the elliptical. The treadmill and long walking hurts too much.
October 2008 - numbness returning, tingling worse, down hips, etc. Had my first steroid injection and another MRI. Vertebrate moved a mm or so further into the spine. Paid a bunch of money for the injection which gave me about 10 days of holy freedom! Did see a different doctor in between, confirmed findings of original spine doctor.
Last 9 months the tingling has gotten to be a constant and now when standing or sitting the left foot just throbs. At night, both legs tingle, both feet throb and eventually go numb. Waking up during the night in pain/discomfort is a frequent event. Now left buttock is hurting all the time as well. Taking NSAIDs for the inflammation. Not working and they make my stomach hurt.
Saw the spine doctor on the 15th, more X-rays, looks like some movement again. Did an MRI on the 22nd, see the doctor for results/consultation on the 8th. She increased my Gabapentin, now I feel more loopy, short term memory.... forget it. We discussed surgery and she says that we'll discuss it on the 8th, but that I would be looking at an L5-S1 fusion, with a disk spacer (something like that) along with removing some bone spurs off the vertebrate and that it would be (learned these acronyms through the forum) a combo- PLIF ALIF surgery. I think that I have tried everything that I can and am to the point that I just want to feel and move normally.
Just checking in. I've seen lots of L5-S1 stories, but if anyone has any specific thoughts or ideas, they'd surely be appreciated. I do feel that I have a good medical team working with me and they have been very willing to try and recommend things outside of surgery.
One question for the forum though. How do you know when it is time for surgery? I know it's a personal decision, but for those that have had surgery, what was the final impetus? For those still in the wings, what is your personal trigger point?