Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Chronic Pain after two surgeries. Looking for advice/suggestions

JCoxJJCox Posts: 15
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Chronic Pain

New to the forum and this is my first post.

In 2003, I ruptured a disc after picking up wood. I ended up having surgery to have that cleaned out. It was at T12-L1.

In April of 2009, almost 6 years to the date of my first injury, I re-injured my back, not sure how, but the pain started again with the pain radiating to my right leg. After a MRI, it was learned that I had re-ruptured T12-L1 and ruptured the disc above that, T11-T12. My surgeon decided on doing a fusion of T12-L1 and cleaning the other out.

Almost a year after that, I started having pain several times a week. To make a long story short, the pain has increased and is now on a daily basis. I had gone back to my surgeon and he put me back on Hydrocodone and Diclofenec (anti-inflamatory). The anti-inflamatory worked for about two weeks and that was it. He ordered for me to do Physical Therapy but by this time, I was hurting on a daily basis and not able to go. I have gone from taking a half pain pill to now taking 1 1/2 to 2 almost on a daily basis and about every 10 hours. I'm now out of work on FMLA and had another MRI two weeks ago. He gave me a TENS Unit and that has not helped. He ordered the MRI to make sure he wasn't missing something as I'm not having the radiating pain. My pain is to the left of my spine and a few inches up from my surgical site. He has told me that if the MRI does not show anything, he's going to start my paperwork for disability. I am a 911 operator for the Sheriffs Office and we work 12 hour shifts, 2 days on, 2 days off, 3 days on, 2 days off, 2 days on, 3 days off (every other fri, sat, sun off). I'm not able to sit more than a couple to a few hours nor stand for about the same. I'm litteraly hurting all the time. It's gotten so bad that I had to go to my primary care doctor and get something for depression. I've not been pleasant to be around my wife and kids and constantly snapping at them and that's when I'm hurting. I love what I do at work and had never planned on having to retire this way.

I go back this coming Monday and I feel certain that he's going to start the paperwork for my disability. My question is this:

Am I going to have to live off pain pills for the rest of my life? Is there an easier way to manage the pain? Anyone else with similar situation as mine?

Thanks for any help


  • I didn't understand the part about not being able to go to physical therapy because you had pain. Physical therapy is a very effective treatment for back pain- it usually is considered the primary treatment, with surgery being the last resort when that and other conservative treatments do not work.

    Did you try any conservative treatments before surgery? How about after, have you tried injections or other non-surgical treatments?

    Many of us do end up on pain medications for life, but to delay that as long as possible, it's important to understand what the effective non-surgical treatments are and take advantage of them. Have you been to a pain management doctor?

  • Can you get a second or third opinion about your options? It might be worth it to get a second pair of eyes on you case. It seems to me your surgeon could be be neglecting the T11 spot.

    Have you started working with a PM- you can try nerve blocks as well as other treatments?

    As far as living on meds- most of us are on a combination of meds, PT, and other treatments that work together to help give us some kind of relief (however small or large it might be).

    Some days are better than others. Welcome to Spine Health :)

  • Gosh it seems like the surgeon is jumping the gun on the disability if nothing else has been tried yet. Of course, it is your body and your doctor and I know you are the one to make the final decision. I agree with having a second opinion as well as trying some other treatments before accepting this path. My issues are cervical and I have always been grateful in a way that they aren't in my lower back because it would have made it much harder for me to function in my job, which requires a lot of driving and sitting at a computer. Physical Therapy has "saved" me many times when I was in severe pain. They don't try to strengthen you when you're hurting so bad, but work on easing the pain through use of various methods, including massage, ultrasound, tens units, aqua therapy, traction, etc. Obviously the treatment plan is geared towards your specific problem. I was able to avoid surgery for almost 8 years because of physical therapy. I've had really good medical guidance throughout my process, beginning with my family doctor who referred me to a neurosurgeon and then ultimately, after disc surgery, to my pain management doctor who did facet injections and ultimately an SCS and he now manages my medication and SCS. My neurosurgeon did not immediately suggest surgery either and because she worked so closely with my family doctor, together we managed my condition, kept me working, being a mother, etc, still experiencing pain, but able to function for a long time and she was the one who ended up turning me over to pain management about 1 1/2 years ago.

    I said all of that to encourage you to not give up easily and really search out and take advantage of other options. Good luck to you!

  • has suspended my PT for now after having three lysis of adhesion procedures with increased numbness in my legs and because of nonunion fusion, but wants me to continue walking at this time.

    Do you know the status of your fusion?

  • All of us ! J

    It is never easy when the cure we want most becomes distanced and not at the expected rate of repair or reduction. Only your surgeon can tell you if any potential surgery is preferable or not, some here are advised that no surgery would provide reasonable improvement and the wisest thing to do is follow the advice of how any process will impact on you.

    Additional opinions are only valid when they concur with the original, once you start looking for an alternative remedy then every additional opinion only brings confusion rather than consolidation of the first review.

    My own professor said, my failed fusion could not be repaired, I could have spent the last 20 years looking for that illusive cure and every avenue should be explored to its fullest before we come to accept the best option maybe to live with what you have.

    Some here have regretted having addition surgery that has taken them away from what they wanted in the first place, when it is time to stop can only be your decision as it is you that has to live with the consequences, I take some comfort that in stopping myself I decided that was managing my pain and taking responsibility from the hype and hope of any potential improvement, all surgery sounds effective it is the reality we all have to live.

    We are all responsible for our actions while in pain and you recognise an area that may need more support or encouragement, we have all said things, in the heat of pain that we live to regret, the important thing is that we acknowledge that and make some changes to our strategy to change how we react in the future. Pain and all these emotions go together; imposed change is never easy to our relationships, lifestyle and future.

    I as you live in pain constantly, I work and do try to manage myself, this takes time, experience and support, you are surviving in challenging and difficult circumstance that we have vast experience here and willing to help. That commitment to work is only something you can decide and the implications any long term pain will have, you need to develop a strategy that works for you in doing anything that helps and less of the things that do not.

    Hug your family, this is not what they expected and impacts on them too, my own three children have lived with my pain every day and I do everything I can to reduce that impact and be the person they look up to by example.

    Take care and good luck.


  • of us are chronic pain sufferers. Sometimes I can go for months without pain. Then the cold and damp of winter comes, and I'm raking leaves and doing maintenance around the house and at night I ache down to my bones. I too do not understand how you were in too much pain to go to physical therapy. Throughout my ordeal, when the pain got really bad, that's exactly where I would go. I do remember freaking my therapist out one day when she started to stretch me and I went into spasms - sort of flopping around like a flounder on the table! ;) Anyway, she worked with me a little more and got the spasms to stop. Got in some good deep tissue work, and I went home to take a hot bath and go to sleep. There's absolutely nothing like it. I had my surgery a little over two years ago and I still go to physical therapy. I do lots of exercise and pilates and it really, REALLY helps.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to give me your input, suggestions and experiences. I will try and answer all of these questions but I'm sure I'll miss some of them.

    I want to remind you that I had surgery in 2003 and then again last year when the same disc re-ruptured. He fused that one. As to the "status" of it, I'm not exactly sure what you are asking other than I think it worked. When I re-ruptured that one, I apparently had ruptured the one above it (T11-T12) and he cleaned that up while he was doing the fusion. That surgery was last July. I just started having the pain again this past June/July but it's not the same pain. I don't have the pain rediating down my legs like I did before. It's to the left of my spine and about 4 inches or so higher than my scar.

    I was hurting so bad that I did not feel like I could do the physical therapy so I did not go. My only relief at that time was ONE Hydrocodone. In a matter of 2 1/2 months, the pain has progressed to where I have to now take 2 or 2 1/2 to get any relief.

    When I went back to him a month ago, he ordered me a TENS Unit. I got it the next day and it doesn't work. It give me a different quality of pain but I still have pain. At times, the pain overrides the pulses that the TENS is putting out. It's really hard to describe.

    In the past, I have had injections and it did not work. My primary care physcian who put me on Zoloft for my depression asked me about the Pain Management Clinic. My surgeon has not mentioned that yet but I'm going to bring it up on Monday. I am to the point now where I hurt every single day, almost all day and all night unless of course I've downed two pain pills and then I can't think straight, make decissions, drive or anything like that. I wake up in the middle of the night moaning and crying which is not fun, of course. I cannot work and deal with this kind of pain cause my job is sitting for 12 hours. I've done this for 14 years TODAY. I can't stand more than 2-3 hours, sit for more than 3 or so aggrivating and disheartening, it is that to the extreme. I'm miserable.

    Second Opinion? I'm not saying I won't. I may even have to for my disability process and if so, I'm okay with that. However, I really trust my surgeon and I don't think he's jumping the gun, I honestly had already thought about it based on the fact, my only comfort is narcotics.

    Thanks again for all of your input. I will let you know how it goes on Monday.
  • From what I have seen here, disability seems to be difficult to get until you've exhausted all options. Given that you don't seem to be in a medical pain management program, that might be an issue.

    If you can function on 2 1/2 vicodin a day, I'd say you're a prime candidate for pain management. I'd expect long term disability to require that you've tried that road as well as those not requiring medication (although I know each provider is different in their requirements).

    Physical therapy should adjust procedures to provide pain management services if the pain is increasing- things like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and other passive modalities along with gentle stretching. It should definitely not be something you skip when you are feeling more pain!
  • I'm taking 2- 2 1/2 hydrocodone every 6-8 hours and I'm not able to fuction. That is the problem. I'm totally zoned out, can't think straight, can't answer questions and stuff like that. One example is I've had my same banking account number for 13 years to sign in online and the other day after I had taken the pain pills, I could not think of the account number to save my life. My wife says it's not a good experience seeing me that way. Again, I'm taking them several times a day as I hurt constantly when the meds are wearing off or I don't take them or first thing in the morning.

    I go back tomorrow for my results and see what he's going to do and what the MRI showed. I will mention the Pain Management as my primary care doctor mentioned that to me as well the other week and I've heard others speak about it as well as on here.

    Thanks for all of your suggestions and input. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • Have you considered going to a neurologist instead of a surgeon. In all that you have written I don't see anything about finding a diagnosis for your pain. THere has to be something causing the pain. A neurologist is usually better at looking for these causes and for non-surgical treatment.

    My guess is that this is muscular. I had similar problems after my surgery...just to the side of the incision. It took alot of deep tissue massage and weight work to get the muscles straightened out. So PT might be your answer. You also need to be careful about being labeled non-compliant.

    ANother opinion would be good whether it is a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. You should also get some answers about whether your fusion worked and what is happening with the microD. It could be as simple as a reherniation or some debris that is floating.

    Yours is a job that should not be done on medication. I know I wouldnt want my 911 operator messing up. But don't give up yet. Sometimes the answer is just around the corner.
  • Hey all, I'm back. I had my follow up apptointment on Dec 6th. The MRI did not show anything and I had 3 X-Rays the same day. He told me that he had been fighting with himself to extend my fusion from T12-L1 to T9-L4 but he was having a hard time convincing himself that this would work. I told him that a friend of mine who was a police officer had L3-L4 fused and he was permanently disabled. My surgeon told me that regardless, I'm looking a disabilit but he was just trying to get me some pain relief. I have a second opinion on the 28th of this month with a Neurologist and they finally called me for pain management which my appointment is January 18th. So, I have the ball rolling even more than a month ago so we'll see.

    I have submitted my paperwork for Medical Retirement thru the State of North Carolina and should hear back from them in the next month if not before. I'm sure I will be turned down for Social Security but if so, that's fine, I'll do whatever they want me to.

    I'm still taking 2 to 2 1/2 hydrocodone every 6 hours or so just to get some kind of relief but I'm learning to live with what I can do and at least try and enjoy my kids as much as possible. I want to thank you all again for your input. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say and hopefully, I can help others just as you have helped me.

  • I've only just read your post for the first time today. I'm so glad that you have the other appointments set up, that's great, moving forward!!

    I just wanted to mention something about the physio. I've been to pt on and off for the past 3 years for my neck. There were days that I just did NOT want to go, because i was in so much pain. One day, I got home from work, all I wanted to do was take my meds and lay down on my heating pad and rest. I called the pt office, the owner actually answered the phone, and when I asked if I could cancel, he said Absolutely Not!!! I was in tears, and said that I couldn't take my meds until after I'm done driving for the day, and that I had to drive to get to my appt. He said this: If you are in so much pain, then coming for your appt is the best thing to do, then go home and take your meds after. There was no way I was getting out of going. But you know what? He was right. After my pt had done the massage work, traction and tens, I was feeling just a little bit better. I've also been going for my knees and one leg on and off for almost 20 years. Any of those pts, especially after knee surgeries, always told me that you will have pain while going, but it helps in the long run. You can't give up on that!! Well, you can, it's totally up to you of course, but I just wanted to add my thoughts and experiences on the matter. Sorry I was so long winded!!

    Now, my thoughts on the meds, lol. Have you ever tried meds that are specifically for nerve pain? Like gabapentin (Neurontin) or lyrica or cymbalta? There are also other tricyclic anti-depressants that have been proven to help with chronic pain, such as amitriptyline or nortripyline. You could ask your doc about these non-narcotic meds to help, so that maybe it can even out the pain throughout the day. There are also a lot of different types of NSAIDs, other than diclofenac. Myself, personally, I've never found any of the NSAIDs to be of any help either, and I have a lot of arthritis throughout my body, but others do get a lot of relief. There are other types of narcotic meds as well, maybe hydrocodone just isn't the right one for you. I would definitely bring up to your doctor and definitely the pain mgt doc, that it isn't working out for you.

    I wish you luck with your upcoming appointments, I hope they can find something to help you out!! All I can say, is be patient, as it's unfortunately trial and error to find the right combination of meds, pain mgt procedures, pt and other things as well to help with your pain. As the pain mgt doc will most likely tell you pain mgt is meant to help in bring your pain down to a livable level and not to rid you of pain entirely. Take care, good luck, and let us know how your appointments go!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • As far as the other meds, yes, I have been on them. I can't take Neurotin. He had me on that in 2003 and it had some really bad effects on me and that's all I will say about that. Recently, I've been on Declofinac (or something like that) and it did not help. The MRI did not show any nerve compression so we're not sure what is going on. Anyways, I'll let you know how my other appointments go.
  • I went to my pain management appointment and he took me off Hydrocodone and put me on Nucynta 100/mg. This doesn't seem to be doing the trick right now but we'll see as it get more into my system. He also ordered Facet Injections for this past Friday (yesterday). He was going to do one at the top of the pain site and one below the pain site. I got in there and he done two at the top and two at the bottom. Needless to say, it was not fun. Came home and layed in the bed the rest of the day. I was hurting so bad, I couldn't sleep. I had to sign a waiver/agreement saying that I would not take the pills "as needed" but would take only as prescribed. I can only take 3 in a 24 hour period. Today is not much better but I guess we'll see after giving it a few weeks. I go back on Feb 7th and will know more then, I hope.
  • Okay, The nucynta is not lasting more than about 3 hours at the most. I had been prescribed 3 a day. I called back last week and one of the doctors approved me to take 4 but said they are probably going to have to switch my meds again. I go back this Monday so we'll see. The shots are not working so not sure if he'll do another round or not.

    When I went to my second opinion doctor, he said that SOMETIMES, the hardware from the fusion could cause the problem but there was a slim chance that could be the problem. We'll see.

    BTW, have any of you had your hardware taken out from a fusion and if so, did you get any relief?
  • Wow, I'm sorry to hear about the bad side effects from your meds. Yes, you need to tell your doctor about the suicidal thoughts, as well as how they're making you feel so that you can't function. So many times it takes multiple tries to get the right combination of meds to get things to a manageable level.

    I think it's pretty rare to get hardware removed, but it's been done and you can read where some members have had theirs removed, many with successful results. I believe they'll have to do more testing to be sure it's the hardware causing the pain, and if that's the case, I've heard that the hardware removal is much easier than the surgery itself.

    Sorry I can't help more, but maybe someone will come along that has dealt with a situation similar to yours.

    Take care,
  • Jcox,
    Let me first start off by sayinig thank you for doing the job that you do. My mom is a new sheriff in Will county Illionois. She too has a herniated disc after injury of breaking up a fight, but nothing to the extent that you do. This was a while back ago and she had a partial disectomy which seems to help her but like I said she doesnt have as much pain as you.
    I can completely empathize with you on your mood because of the chronic pain you are in. Chronic pain can be hell. It can bring out the worst in us. I just wanted to tell you that you are not alone. There are people on here who empathize with you. Millions of people struggle with this to one degree or another. You have a supportive familly. Thats more then what a lot of people have. I know it that doesnt take away the pain but hopefully they can assist in making your life better. I really dont know how you and my mom sit for 12 hours with the damage you have. Maybe retirement is a good thing. After all, you earned it! Also, there are a lot of new technologies right on the horizon. They may or may not pan out but there is a lot of stuff that looks promising and that can either reduce our chronic pain or remove it completely. Keep your head up. Theres not shame in taking anti depressents for chronic pain patients as we are more likely to be depressed. In fact there is no shame in anyone taking any antidepressents or other legal prescribed drug. We are all just passing through trying to do the best we can. We are given a lot to deal with, there is no question about that, but keep up your hope and keep trying. Finding a good pain clinic would be a good start.
  • I just wanted to let you all know that I am now going to a Pain Management Doctor in Winston. As I stated in the last post, they have me on Nucynta, 100mg tablets. I was orginally prescribed 3 a day but my second week, I called them back and spoke to my Doc and told that these were not lasting more than about 3 hours at the most. He approved me to take 4 but "that was it". I went back last Monday and he asked me how that was working for me. He then said he wanted to put me on a nerve pain pill and mentioned Lyrica, Topamax and something else. I was familiar with Lyrica as my OS had me on it earlier on but it only worked for about 3 weeks. They have me over a period of a little over a week working up to two 75mg capsules in the morning and two at night along with my Nucynta. NOW, I am in my 2 second week and I'm taking TWO A DAY for 3 days. Tomorrow will be my last day just taking TWO A DAY. Now, I have found that taking it and my Nucynta, I am totally OUT, USELESS, IN-COHEIRENT,etc. I cannot remember ANYTHING that is said, happens or actions while I'm on this. It's scary to say the least. I know this is a family friendly site so I will spare the male genitalia slang that my doctor used but he said, It's going to knock your **** in the dirt, and he wasn't lying. I'm already on Zoloft for Depression because I can't do some of the household things that I used to do and my wonderful wife is not only doing what she normally does/did, but she's having to pick my slack up too and this really bothers me. (I DON'T SEE HOW SLACK HUSBANDS/BOYFRIENDS CAN DO THIS TO THEIR SIGNIFICANT OTHER.) Anyway, does/has anyone been on this combination of meds? I know everyone is different but I would like some input from others.

    I'm just looking at me being on 400mg of Nucynta, 300mg of Lyrica and 100mg of Zoloft. The other thing that's bothering me is one of the side effect of Lyrica is suicidal thoughts or actions. Does this mean I need to tell my other doc that I'm on Lyrica and I'm going to have to go up on that too.

    To Kris-NY, I did go to a Neurosurgeon as my second opinion and he's like the others, didn't see anything and just said they need to get my meds right. He did say that in rare cases and it's the last thing you ( I ) want to do but he said that we could take the hardware out and that MAY relieve some of the pain but due to where my pain is, he was doubtful.

  • Cath and Firewater, thanks for the words. I want to first correct myself. I am NOW going to a pain management doctor, not, NOT going. I just re-read that. They are the ones that has me on the new meds.

    Firewater, I'm glad that you can relate in what my job is. It is hard to but sitting there and not being able to get up and walk around at just any time, makes it hard. Plus, when you take the meds we are taking, they will not let you work as Officers lives are in dangers as is those people who call in needing help or assistance. I would not be able to live with myself if I got someone hurt or worse due to me being on my meds.

    Thanks again,
  • I know it's been a while since I've updated so here it is.

    I'm not officially medically retired from the Sheriffs Office. I am still going to pain management and currently enrolled in a trial study of Oxycodone/Naltrexone. Over the past several months, they have increased my dosages slowly and I'm now on 30mg of Oxy along with 150 Lyrica in the morning and 20mg of Oxy and 150 Lyrica at night. This seems to be working to some degree. Just wondering if anyone else is in this study. Would like to see who and what kind of affects, good or bad, it has on them.
This discussion has been closed.
Sign In or Register to comment.