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Help I'm in pain why did I have the surgery?

martyjommartyjo Posts: 57
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi all.. I;ve written here before after I had my surgery TLIF L-3-S1. I;ve got 8 screws and 4 plates ( I think) in my lower back. The fusion is healed with nice bone formation. The problem is I still have pain in my lower back. I had thought by now 2 1/2 years later I could take a walk without waiting for my pain pills to kick in. Oh, by the way, I'm only taking Vicodin 5/325 maybe 2-4 a day. If I take more I don;t feel well. I feel sick. So, at my last Ortho docs appt. he wants to do surgery again on L2-3 and remove my hardware. Since my original back surgery did not go well 5 1/2 hrs and blood transfusions, plus the worst pain I've ever felt. It was like having 5 dry sockets ( dental term) I've had one dry socket and it was miserable. I need help deciding if I should have the hardware removed and if it helped other people who have L3-S1 fusions. All I can think about is the pain and also, since now L2-3 is bad. It was bad before but now really bad. Where does it stop. Do you just keep working your way up my spine? I already have problems at C5-6. I think I should be able to get pain medication to help me do my activities of daily living without pain or sitting down every 10 minutes. I see all sorts of people on these sites with really strong pain meds. Well, I missed my appt today went to the wrong place so I see him next week. I've got to have some answers somehow so I can figure out my future.I'm 62 and if I have to have all this done then I'd just rather get it over with and done and spend the winter recuperating. What say you all?


  • Howdy Marty,

    Sorry to hear you are still hurting. I haven't had lumbar surgery yet, but it's coming! At any rate, my surgeon told me that there isn't any guarantee that the back pain itself will be gone (most times it is), but the surgery *should* resolve the pain away from the spine, down the legs and associated neuropathy.

    As to the hardware. Did your doctor do any tests to verify if your hardware is causing your present problems? If you were set L3 on down, and now L2/3 is going (that's my levels), he would probably have to remove the hardware so he can anchor the new hardware? It sounds like you will have answers next week for sure.

    I've seen lots of 'fellow' adjacent level members on here (myself included), and it seems that most times in the cervical, the levels below the fusion go first, and lumbar seems to be the levels above? Weird, some gets it both ends, but you know... Please let us know how it goes Marty. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    I am status post 4 cervical spine surgeries starting
    3.5 years ago when I was 44. I am now 48 and am still in pain and need to take many medications.

    The best answer I can give you is we had surgery to continue to be able to walk. To not cause or allow further damage to our spinal columns and all those nerves that allow locomotion (in the case of lumbar) and use of things like arms and lungs and intestines in the case of cervical.

    Never did any of my surgeons tell me I would be pain free - but that they would be able to stop the progression of the damage. Great word there DAM - AGE.

    Get in to see that doc and rattle his cage!

    Best regards,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • I had L4/5 fusion 7/08. For two years I had intractable low back pain and leg symptoms. I just had my hardware out a week ago and I am feeling less pain, can stand longer and walk longer distances. Have you discussed hardware removal with your surgeon?

    Best wishes,

  • I would get it out the surgery is NOTHING compare to getting it in. I have had so many fusion its sad, but the best thing i did was have the surgery to remove the lumbar hardware, posterior only of course. Also had 3 level fusion, and the disc is bad about fused area but not as bad as expected, IT WAS the hardware hurting me so so bad, I felt better the 1 few days after surgery and healed in 2 weeks. I would have the hardware removal and then go from there, I was looking at the removal and a new level fusion but can hold off still for another surgery.

    As for your pain meds I feel you should be able to get the ones you need for the severity of pain you experience. My past experience is to have my primary write all scripts, except for 2 weeks after each surgery. That way you have a solid person to get the meds from, nothing is worse than having pain and not the right meds. It took a few years with my Dr. to get on the same page but being so young with many years ahead with this,and knowing i try to lower meds after each surgery now days if i call or come in she does not question me on asking for stronger meds. If they do not help you then go to other Dr. until you feel you getting the proper care....

    Good luck and hope some of this may of help you...

  • thought that it would make you better.i am sure that you went through hell deciding on weather to have surgery or not ..you did the right thing at the time ..so dont beat yourself up..i always ask my self why did i have my last surgery ..and its for the same reason as you ..in fact i now need more surgery {a multilevel fusion} and if you have been following my post you will know that i have agonised too about should i should i not ??} we do things because we want to get better .i wish you well in what ever your next move is ..meanwhile there are things like electrical adjustable beds and rise and recline recliners and TENS units etc that can all make your life easier
  • RECOVERY, is worse than then the surgery it feels like a truck keeps running over yr legs, walk walk walk!! take baby steps!! it will take at least 3 months to feel a lil better i had 2 major back surgeries 10 screws rod/ plates ect, have to have my back and neck done again the neck tho is worse than the back!!! i will fdo that soon sorry to hear you r in all that pain but i do know how it feels!!! but you have to walk, try getting in a pool and walk i did it for 7 months!!!! be strong, if you needed the surgery , well then you had no choice but it will get better with time and u must walk!!!
  • Marty,
    We all had surgery expecting it to get better as suggested and when those expectations do not happen, we required to deal with that residual and increasing pain which is never easy. Nobody would enter surgery if they thought it would make things worse and could you have survived without surgery, we did not say that prior to having it. It is not that we have made the wrong decision and although my own fusion failed I would never use that as an example of giving all those with a chance the same opportunity for some relief.

    As least with recovery you have some hope of getting some improvement, doing nothing may be a current option and only with relevant diagnosis with your surgeon should we contrast the risks with potential improvement. No age is appropriate for this imposed lifestyle and any improvement will take time.

    Take care and good luck.


  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    Is very minor compared to what you previously went through. I had my hard ware taken out twice. For 2 different fusions. It's no big deal. But it didn't address the pain from the nerve damage. And that pain is still there. You can get a temporary hardware block, to see if that's truly giving you pain. Then decide. But if you have nerve damage, it won't cure that.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Hi MartyJO,

    I've had 3 surgeries. First one 2007. They have talked about removing my hardware too.

    One of the best nuggets of advice I received was this...Don't compare your recovery month by month - the progress will be too small. But look Seasons on seasons - In fact if I look year on year I see changes.
    The reality is the changes are more about my ability to cope and adjust to to living with pain. But I am in a different place than one year ago. As yet I have not opted to have the hardware removed. I can still walk, I live with pain yes but I had a close shave on the table and suffered complications post op (2008 TLIF) and so am very aware of risks. I am not in a hurry to have more operations.

    Regards the removal, only you can make that decision - weigh up the risks of more complications versus the chance of removal helping. Has the doctor identified any hardware failure? Have you got a screw encroaching anywhere it shouldn't?
    All questions to ask which should help your decision. Good luck.
  • Unfortunately having back surgery is no guarantee for a pain free future, as too many of us here have learned. As others have said, sometimes surgery is done to prevent nerve damage, stabilize the spine, etc. Electing to not have surgery or waiting too long can create big problems (like paralysis).

    In my case my first fusion was done to help reduce the hideous pain and stabilize my spine which had basically collapsed on itself. It was literally bone on bone, you could hear the bones rubbing against each other when I moved!

    My second fusion was directly below the first, typical of lumbar fusions. In this instance the fusion was done to stabilize my spine and get rid of the spasms the spondylolisthesis was causing.

    I am not pain free, doubt I will ever be. However, I know that it was the right decision. Had I not had these 2 surgeries: I can only imagine what my life would be like, maybe a wheelchair?

    It can be hard to not be dissapointed. However, you are not alone and we at spine health are here to help support one another. Best wishes to you,


  • I had a two level fusion in Dec of 2008. Like you am still in pain, and they did a dicogram that shows that the two levels above are painful. I had hardware removed as we thought it would help. The surgery is a breeze compared to the first fusion. Mine was bad also, I was on the table for 8 1/2 hours.
    The harware removal might help enough to give you some relief. Your Dr should be able to give you a block to determine if the hardware is the problem. It will help you decide if you want to go through it.
    Good Luck, and like you, although I am still in pain, I cant imagine not going through it and trying. I would also suggest you get referred to a pain Dr. They can give you better control of your pain.
  • Can someone tell me what this 'hardware block' is? I've been suspecting that my hardware has caused my ongoing pain but I was told that there was little evidence of ANY bone bone growth and I couldn't have the hardware removed... ever. Still, I'd love to know if there's a way to at least know if that's the cause of my pain. I'd rather spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair at this point than live in the hellish pain I've been left with.
  • I've had two spinal surgeries so far,one cervical laminectomy two yrs ago, the other a 5 lvl lumbar laminectomy 5 months ago. I have one more to go, 2 lvl cervical discectomy/fusion sometime in the next 4 or 5 months.

    My surgeries have not reduced my pain so far. I believe they have prevented further nerve damage. To me, they were worth it. Both times I went home from the hospital the 4th day.
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