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Chronic Low Back Pain

airborne72airborne72 Posts: 245
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in New Member Introductions
Folks, I need input from the list. I am currently a member of a prostate cancer list forum (had that bad boy cut out a year ago and now am dealing with side effects) and I fully understand from my experience on that list that there are several of you on this list who have life challenges (back issues) much worse than mine. For that I am humbled, and try to be grateful. But back pain hurts.

Short history - LBP diagnosed as grade 1 spondylolithesis in 1978 while in the Army. Experienced a few episodes of muscle spasms and temporary scoliosis due to jumping out of airplanes (remedied with rest, PT and drugs). In the mid 90's herniated lumbar disk and later herniated cervical disk as a result of too much manual labor at the house/farm (remedied with rest and PT). Ortho then said that low spinal fusion should be considered. I opted for "live with it." Currently, however, that option has proven to be daily pain that gradually increases through the day until I become a "grumpy old man" in the early evening (I am 59). Consult with another ortho in Feb 09 resulted in the same recommendation - live with it or have a double vert fusion (L5-S1 and L4-L5).

My question to the list members is - how do you know when the chronic pain has impacted the quality of your life such that surgery is warranted? Herniation shut me down. I could not move. My quality of life was zero. However, this dilemma is different. The degradation of the quality of my life (activities,etc.) is subtle and more noticable by others, more so than myself.

Anyway, I would appreciate comments from others who have faced this decision point.


  • I think we all just get to the point where we "know" that "enough is enough". That intuitive voice that says "get with the program". We can tough out a lot, but there comes a time that it is more in control of us than we realize. In fact we become so used to the pain, that we don't realize just how much pain we are in and how much it is really impacting our life. Family and friends are great thermostats for how well we really are doing.

    I just knew when it was time, and it allowed me to be better prepared for the possible side effects and or collateral damage.

    Welcome to Spine Health! Thanks for your years in service to our country.

  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can.so glad you dropped in! surgery is such a personal decision.. i do not want to lead you in either direction... that is entirely up to you.. it is always a good idea to get a second opinion when it comes to surgery.. the more information you have, the better for you.. good luck and keep us informed! thank you for your service! Jenny :)
  • Acceptance - As C says - you just know.

    I am in the camp - of not having surgery yet. I have looked over the research - medical reviews of thousands of cases. And long term is where I want to know how things are going to turn out. I am 49, now. When I began this journey - they did not have a CTscan. MRI was just an idea. And I was told for almost 25 years, that there was nothing wrong with me, even though, when you get hit with acute pain, that drops you to your knees, and you need help getting dragged to your car, so you can drive to the ER, its serious![Stubborn back then too!]

    Today - it is about accepting what is going to happen with a bit of positive knowledge.

    With the Prostrate - the side effects are significant, from the research and second-hand info I have from good friends. It remains just as important - to look at all options and consider how much improvement you may get, verses the recovery and other side effects.

    Do take care!
  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You'll find a lot of information on this site regarding surgery, recovery and what to expect in the form of articles and videos. You'll also get a lot of support and experiences from the members of the forum.

    I think that "C" and Centurian said it right - you just know and accept that it's time for surgery. That sounds so generic, so I'll tell you that my decision to have a lumbar fusion came when I couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes and after trying all conservative measures that my surgeon thought might help but didn't, he suggested fusion surgery. When when my husband had to put a stool in the kitchen just so I could cut a few vegetables for dinner, I knew it was time. I couldn't live having to sit 95% of my life and knew that for me, it was worth trying fusion surgery. My problems came from severe facet joint issues and stenosis, as well as spondylolisthesis. Those are difficult issues to heal on their own or with conservative treatment when they're so advanced.

    I have to say that I had 100% confidence in my surgeon, and trusted him, his decision and his skills.

    I had no choice to have cervical surgery (I used the same surgeon for both surgeries) because I was risking paralysis with the extent of my problems so that was a no-brainer. But I did have a choice with my lumbar surgery and have told you what made me go with the surgery.

    I wish you luck with your decision. My hope is that you are consulting with a fellowship-trained spine surgeon, ortho or neuro, but one that only works on spines. Mine is part of an entire spine team that includes surgeons, physios and PTs.

    Thank you for your service and again, welcome to Spine-Health.

  • In my haste to post on this forum last night I failed to mention a few items. I have undergone physical therapy twice over the years. Most recent was in 2009. Pulled on rubber bands and did leg raises to strengthen the core. No results. MRI was authorized. PA stated that "your back is a mess." Surgeon then recommended multiple layer fusion or just live with it.

    Not long after that I had to deal with prostate cancer (detected as a result of my presence in a doctor's office, etc.) so my attention was diverted for about one year. Back pain never subsided, only worsened as did mobility.

    So, with direct orders from my wife I participated in about 12 weeks of spinal decompression at a local chiropractor. Up front he was honest and said that he "might" could help. To show how determined I was for relief I paid out of pocket $4,000 for the treatments. At the end of the treatment regimen I could not detect any change. The chiro continue to treat/stretch me for another 4 weeks for free because he thought it might work. It did not.

    I am now receiveing treatment from a physiotherapist that was recommended by an individual who has had multiple surgeries. He said after the initial evaluation that my back moves like a door hinge instead of like a slinky. We are attempting to loosen me up so he can attempt adjustment/strengthening.

    Now, with all that having been said...is there anyone with a similar long history of issues that have gradually worsened to the point of intolerance? I have been advised that there is an optimum point for surgery (not too old/not too young; physical condition - weight, muscle tone, etc.) and I am in that window. Decisions?
  • I have been told for 20 years, that I have the spine of a 90 yr old. There is no movement.

    I still keep trying to move it slowly and gently. It aches like the dickens, and I am on Narcs and Nerve to get through the discomfort. Even with that discomfort, I keep working to move, because as we age, we only loose more motion. That is a painful fact of life.

    To tell you the truth - I have had this discussion with my Dr a couple of times. And once I met with the surgeon, with his words, I put my trust, in what was best for me. I was given a 5-10% chance of decreasing discomfort, 5% on increasing mobility. Due to the issues I have and overactive pain system, he felt that doing any surgery - would just stir up a hornet nest.

    So - I LIVE with it. Make every day count! And try to lessen my impact on negative situations.
  • Hi I was close to surgery too but fortunately for me a Pain Mgmt Dr that I had met strongly advised me to avoid surgery while other Dr's had suggested surgery. What he said put me on the road to research the heck out of every possible treatment. I found Ozone Therapy (hence my username), consulted with a doctor who uses Ozone Therapy and decided against that treatment. Then tried McKenzie back exercises which didn't help much. Then I found Prolotherapy,
    researched it, consulted with a Prolo Dr and started treatments in April. My results have been excellent with Prolo and at this time I don't think I'll need surgery.
    I think the bottom line is to research everything, look carefully at all of your options, do your due diligence, and not to make a quick decision.
    Good Luck.

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