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Please Help with decision L5-S1 and any stories you may have fusion

ksucknokksuckno Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
On April 5th i had a L5-S1 discectomy. I had leg and back pain up until 3 months after the surgery (roughly end of June) where the leg (Sciatica symptoms) went away. This was great news. I now experience back pain where the bad disc is, and it really only hurts when i sit for 3+ hours, or if i do any sort of exercising. Even if I walk 2 miles i will have issues with the stairs as the slope is hard. The Doctor says that I can now get an L5-S1 fusion and it has teh ability to make me perfect. Obviously from reading this forum, i know that the fusion is no sure thing. Could people please advise/tell their story about a similar situation and if i might still see improvement on the back pain. The doctor seems to think its whether i can live with the current pain and that it won't go away because the disc is bad. Thanks for any help



  • Have you done any Physical Therapy? I'm just curious if you've done anything to strengthen your core abdominal muscles. The best way to correct the sitting problem is to not do it. I have a kitchen timer in my office at work and I set it to go off every 30 minutes throughout the day to remind me to get up and move.

    There's still time that everything will come back to a somewhat normal state. It's possible a fusion may be in your future but I if it were me, I would try every conservative method to avoid it. Once fused, you will not be perfect. If your Doctor indicated that, he/she is being disingenuous. Maybe a second opinion wouldn't be a bad idea.

  • I agree, before any additional surgery i would get a 2nd or third opinion. I am yet to do any physical therapy, the doctor hasnt even mentioned that. I agree with getting up to walk every 30 minutes, but i was hoping it wouldnt have to come to that
  • I posted a long story somewhere about my experience.

    Stenosis, Retrospondylolisthesis, DDD at L5/S1. Pain started nearly 5 years ago. I went through physical therapy, s and went to the gym faithfully for 4 years after PT. I lost about 30 pounds and improved my core strongly. I also started on Neurontin. My attitude was to put it off as long as possible. I think I did.

    Finally this June, I underwent surgery. It was to the point where I could not sleep, pain was worsening. I had L5/S1 surgery June 11th. So far, it has been a success. Pain is recovery related, not the pain I had before. Long recovery, but I am optmistic.
  • It's a small price to get up every 30 minutes. Sitting puts a tremendous amount of stress on the lower lumbar area. You should definitely inquire about PT. If they're, therapist, is worth anything, they should be able to set you up with a sound exercise program and provide tips on what you can do to avoid further injuring your back.

    Good luck in whatever you decide.


  • Sorry to hear that you are still having back pain after your discectomy.

    I would definately try every conservative treatment possible to try to avoid fusion surgery.

    I was told by 2 doctors, that my fusion surgery would relieve my sciatica in my legs, but not help with my back pain. My surgeon did think that it could help my back pain too. I am very pleased with the result, and both my leg pains and back pain are much improved.
    If in the same situation again, I would still do everything I could to try and avoid surgery, but for me the surgery has given even better results than I had hoped for.

    I found that exercises and walking did help me before surgery, but it couldn't deal with the structural problem with my spine.
    My recovery was made much easier because of the good condition of my muscles and core stability due to all the exercises I had been doing.
    I think that drinking lots of water is also adviseable when there are problems with the discs.

    I hope that you find a solution to your pain. :D

  • Thanks for all the advice. I think i know the answer is to try the conservative items prior to any surgery. It seems like its just managing the pain until you cant anymore. When that happens, then it is time for the surgery.
  • What your doctor said about the disc never getting better made me remember years ago when I herniated a lumbar disc and didn't have any treatment for it. Over time, the pain went away. My husband also had a similar experience when he herniated a disc shoveling snow and eventually the pain did go away with just physical therapy and being careful with his back. A disc that isn't ruptured has the potential of returning to a more normal shape and thus the pain being relieved.

    Has your surgeon told you about the stresses on adjacent discs that fusion causes? I am scheduled for a two-level lumbar fusion and my surgeon is not so worried about the adjacent discs in my situation since they are all degenerated and flat anyway, but if you have healthy discs on either side of the proposed fusion it seems like a prudent question to ask of your surgeon. I've talked to so very many people who wish they had never had fusion surgery done because of the domino effect it had on adjacent discs.

    Will be interested to hear how things go for you and what you decide to do.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • inchworm said:

    Has your surgeon told you about the stresses on adjacent discs that fusion causes? I am scheduled for a two-level lumbar fusion and my surgeon is not so worried about the adjacent discs in my situation since they are all degenerated and flat anyway, but if you have healthy discs on either side of the proposed fusion it seems like a prudent question to ask of your surgeon. I've talked to so very many people who wish they had never had fusion surgery done because of the domino effect it had on adjacent discs.
    Good catch Inchworm. That was one of the things my doctor mentioned in one of our first few visits when we discussed treatment options, including surgery. That was one factor in getting my butt/gut in shape and putting it off as long as possible. When I decided on surgery this spring, the doctor stated it was highly likely that somewhere down the road, the vertebrate above would likely require similar surgery. He also stated that being 41 years old, healthy, working out the core and treating my body good would only help. He said he's seen patients that have gone 5 years, he's seen other that have gone 10-15.

    The whole decision process of surgery is so all consuming that at times, I felt like going crazy. Ultimately, you can read all the threads. Talk to hundreds of people. Explore all the medical websites. Consult with multiple doctors in multiple specialties and at the end of the day..... It's a personal decision that only you can make in conjunction with the doctor you choose.
  • Hi there. I'm not going to tell you what you should do, but I've been there. I had my first discectomy last year in February, was fine, went about life, back to work, etc... and then ended up not being able to walk in August and had another discectomy and never got any better after that and then re-herniated again in December and have just had 360 degree fusion at L4, 5 & S1 in May of this year.

    How I feel about it is that at least now, I will know within 18 months what I've got to deal with. Either I'll be better or I'll have to deal with what I've got. As far as how I've been since the fusion - I have my ups and downs on a daily basis so far and have residual nerve issues in my left leg, but it's all been worth it - and I feel like I should have had the fusion last year. This being said, I am not even at a point yet where I know if the fusion is actually happening or not yet. I hope it does work, but I know that the pain is nothing compared to how I was before surgery.

    It's a personal choice and I knew without a doubt that fusion was the way for me to go.

    best of luck!

  • I got 4-5 diff docs and did alot alot of things before finally i hadmy l4-l5 fusion in 06.
    If i had to go back yes i would do it again...
    I got to a point i couldn't walk a babystep i would scream...
    I was fused good then had sharp pains exactly were screws were...doc went in and took all hardware out and the screws had come loose....
    I was really great after that....and resumed work and alot of activity..
    Its alot to consider for sure...alot of times pt works for me water worked doing exercises in water when i can helps...and the basic of core strengthing..some yoga works..
    Now if i could have just not worked at the stupid very physical job i had trying to keep up with the younger staff i prob wounldn't be in pain today...
    What have you tried so far....please try all you can to avoid surgery....I did mine so i could walk
    As inch stated really discuss all the other discs cause after fusion for sure they handle alot....
    good luck
    neck,bone spurs pain started 04, back issues and fusion l4,l5 06~hardware removed.
    good few yrs. 09 pain sharp, numbness feet,legs, diagnosed fibro, neurop. legs.lung issues.
    daily goal do good thing for someone.
  • Thanks for all the help once again. I think my main delima is that i dont have pain all the time anymore, but when i do activities, even walking, i get realy bad where walking up the stairs is extremely painful. But i realize life is not perfect, but at the age of 26 i just feel like i need to give it more of a chance to get better, and surgery may do that, i have so much life left and i cant simply say the pain is ok at my age i feeL?

  • Posted to wrong thread. Trying to delete.

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