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It DIDN'T work!

MJMcDevittMMJMcDevitt Posts: 71
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Had fusion of L5-S1 and decompression-laminectomies of L2, L3 and L4 on July 16, 2010. The plan was that the fusion would relieve my facet joint pain and the laminectomies would relieve my tingling in both feet, weakness in legs and numbness in right calf.

Returned to surgeon yesterday for check-up. I still have facet pain, exactly the same pain as before the surgery. NO IMPROVEMENT AT ALL. The surgeon's answer was that the surgery didn't work fo me and that "we don't do facet pain well", WHAT??? Could you have told me that before the 10 hour surgery?? Before the 4 days of intense pain in the hospital? Before the 2 weeks in the hospital!!!?? WTF?

I have improved in other areas, I can now stand straighter and the numbness in right leg is 75% better. The right leg went numb in Jan 2010 and now is getting better, so I hope that the other things that happened in Oct of 2008 will eventually respond. But I would give it all up for the back pain relief that I didn't get. When I told the surgeon that I do better walking with a cane his response was " a cane, that's not bad". Yea right, 50 years old and I have to use a cane for the rest of my life!

That's for letting me vent.............



  • Matt,

    Everyone heals at different rates. The improvement with numbess means the nerve is not being pinced like it was. You seem to have done well in that area and it can take 1-2 years. Or, it may be as good as it gets. Give it time, you are early on. I had a lot of pain for 3 months then things quickly improved. Some folks take longer. Still mild pain, but not a problem day to day. Some tylenol as needed. I am careful on the bending straight down till I fuse. But, I pretty much started to do what I could depending on the pain as soon as I could. A lot of your current pain can still be the surgical site, mine was that. Still a little numbness in leg and foot, not a problem either. Your doctor seems not very caring based on your comments. Can you see another? I think in one to two more months you will feel better. It is a very slow process measured in months not weeks or days. And, sometimes it feels like 2 steps forward and one back.

    Take Care,

  • I've read from many different sources that fusions are not good at relieving back pain, but mostly are for relieving leg pain. I'm also hoping to be the exception (although my case is a big different because the most offensive facet joint will be going away).

    Sorry you didn't get the relief you were hoping for.

  • happyHBmom,

    Good Luck on your surgery. I did get extensive pain relief with my surgery and had a lot of bone removed from behind L5-S1. Best decision I ever made.


  • I had a 2 level PLIF in Dec 2008. No leg pain, only Severe back pain. Had 3 discs with tears. Did it work? Not alot, but I am still healing, almost 2 years out. Please give it time. It takes sometimes 2 years to realize that it has helped. It is a slow process, and you are very early. Keep your chin up and dont give in to it yet. PM me at any time for a cheer up rah rah speech. We all need them sometimes. I am serous, please give it more time and keep positive.
  • Hang in there! This is such a long, long recovery. I am 7 months post and still recovering and still making steady but slow progress. They really do mean it when they say a year to recover from the fusion and 12-18 months for the nerves to recover.

    I have had a lot of difficulty with the facet nerves and have had the nerves injected and later burned/destroyed. Maybe this could be an option for you once you have healed from your fusion.

    Please try to keep your spirits up! I can tell you first hand that stress really increases the pain! We are hear to help!
  • I had the Medial Branch Rhizotomy L3-L4 L4-L5 L5-S1 in Nov of 2009. That didn't work either, doctor was very shocked.

    As I said I do have some improvement with the nerves, however the doctor did say that if I have the same pain in the facet joints now that I had before surgery it is safe to say that the surgery was unsuccessful. If it was successful I would have gotten relief from the facet joint pain right after the surgery.

  • Matt I'm sorry to hear your surgery isn't showing signs of working yet. Very surprised that the doctor is admitting it so soon. As Jayhawk says you are early in recovery.

    I also have facet issues and my surgeon said he could do a fusion to stop movement but that he didn't think it would get rid of all the pain. I guess until they can come up with something better I will learn to live with it.

  • I wish that the doctor had told me "we don't do well with facet pain" BEFORE the surgery!
  • Don't second guess. I had one doctor say he could fix me and I was ready to do a major fusion. Thank goodness I came to my senses and got another opinion.

    When we are in pain we grab onto any branch that is thrown out way. THink of it this way..if it had worked you would be so happy right now.

    Life is full of risks. Maybe with some time it will get better. Remember positive thoughts work miracles.
  • So sorry to hear your frustration. I'm coming to the conclusion that it's best if the surgeon doesn't make any promises about outcomes. You say that "the plan" was for specific types of relief but I can't tell if your surgeon actually told you to expect a specific outcome. Seems like a wise surgeon wouldn't do that because nobody can know for sure what will happen when the spine is altered.

    I'm 6 days post-op laminectomies/PLIF L4-S1 and my surgeon said "I THINK I can help you with this surgery". I went into surgery hoping for the best but ready to accept the actual result. I'm also keeping my hopes and expectations in check, being ready to rejoice with the improvements as they come. Since I'm barely out of surgery, I realize that with all the trauma to nerves, muscles and soft tissues, I will likely feel significantly different down the way a few months. Thanks to the invaluable information I've gained here on SH, I also know to be patient.

    The things I've said don't necessarily answer your frustration over why the surgeon didn't tell you pre-op that they aren't very good with facet joint pain, but at this point it seems that your options are to accept what is and adjust your expectations for the future when you're actually healed from the surgery, and be amazed if/when more of your pain actually is resolved. My best to you!

    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
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