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Impatient or am I in trouble?

Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am a new member but a long time reader. I was diagnosed with DDD and herniated disk left side protrusion about two years ago, after PT and epidural's with no help and a progressive radial pain all the way to my left toe I had a TLIF fusion L5/S1 in Sept. 2010. When my NS did the procedure he discovered I also had a cinovial cyst build up on the right side of my vertebra that had attached to my right cyatic nerve. During the procedure, my NS had to remove the cycst which has caused pain and numbness from my hip all the way down to my right toes.

Since the surgery, the radial pain in my left leg is gone although the pain in my lower back is unbearable and the numbness in my right leg is constant. I had xray's at 4 weeks and then again at 5 months I had another xray and MRI along with a nerve test which was very painful. My NS said everything looked good, and was healing correctly and I had some nerve damage which was caused by the removal from the cycst. He told me this would heal over time along with my back pain.

I am 44 and in fairly decent health, not overweight although I am a smoker. I have had to deal with the depression and the medication from that was nearly suicidal so I stopped it right away, I was able to return to work but with my job I can not take narcotics (which is the only thing that works for my pain) and continue to live in pain everyday. This has been a tradgic life changing event for me and I dont know what to do. I know I need to stop the smoking but I my NS continue's to tell me I need to give it more time. I am tired of hurting and don't know if he is just telling me this because he has failed or if he is being honest. I have talked with people who said they had healed in several months and some say longer. The only meds I am taking is Mobic and Darvocet/acetamenphine, I am not sure I need to be taking the NSAID because the healing process of the fusion but I am confused, in so much pain and don't know if it's time to get another opinion or keep listening to my NS. He is a well respected Dr. and has a high rating.

Any advice or info would help.


  • Sorry to hear you are having such a rough go. It's tough to be patient while you heal. I hope you understand I'm not being critical, but smoking is the worst thing for healing? My doctor requires patients to quit smoking before surgery. He feels that it is that important. Another thing not allowed is any type of anti-inflammatory medication for pain as it interferes with bone formation. My husband's ortho said the same thing after he shattered his leg.

    So maybe you can stop at least one thing and it will help. Both would be better.

    I wish you all the best,
    Pat Gibson
    L5S1 ALIF 2-22-11
    Now L4 Retrolisthisis
  • Thanks for being critical, I know I need to quit but it is hard and I am going to try.
  • Ice Man---On 3/28 I had T10 discectomy with fusion and in the car on the way to the hospital before surgery I smoked my last cigarette. I figured it was a great time to quit after 16 years because I was going to be in the hospital. So 7 days in the hospital and then home I was able to quit.

    I know it's hard and my husband says that probably the only reason I am still not smoking 45 days later is because of the rate of failure with smoking and fusions. He's right as bad as that sounds. I read somewhere (lots of different numbers in many sources) that the success rate of a non smoker is aprox 80-85% for a lumbar fusion. For those that kept smoking the numbers are often less than 73% success.

    I feel that my back is more important than being addicted to a drug like nicotine. My back brings me joy, allows me to enjoy my hobbies, enables me to work, drive and do so many different things, all the cigarettes do is kill me. So when faced with that thought every morning even when I miss smoking I find the strength to go another day without one.

    Sorry to get on a soap box but I think that you are in a lot of pain, depressed and sound like you feel guilty about still smoking which is just adding to your depression. Maybe for your own piece of mind you should talk to another doctor, get a second opinion. I know it can be very difficult to live with chronic pain and stay positive that it can get better and that sometimes it does just take time. I have heard lumbar fusions take a long time to heal, and you had the additional complication of the cyst. I feel bad for you and hope that you find the answers you seek.


  • Thanks for the advice it is nice to have a support group. I have made some tremendous efforts to quit and I will. I spoke with my NS yesterday and he revistited my xrays and assured me the fusion did take so that was good news. I have begun to rebuild the muscle's in my back and that seems to be working for me. The most relief I have had since my surgery is when I was able to stretch the muscles in my back. I hope this helps for anyone else looking for relief. I have also been able to cut back on pain meds.
  • That's great news about the fusion taking and the pain meds! When I take Percocet they seem to make the mental side worse...I swear I'll start crying over anything...if you can imagine I started crying the other day and my husband asked me why and I said "because I don't think i will ever be able to ride a mechanical bull" He just looked at me and then nicely said "Honey I didn't think you ever wanted to ride one" LOL Well that wasn't the point it was that I COULDN'T! So now I try to think of things that I can still do or have a chance to do rather than the things I can't do anymore...it's a lot less depressing that way!

    It sounds like things are progresing just slower than you were hoping so remember they say it can take up to a year for it to heal...maybe you will be one of those "lucky" (sarcasm) people that take that long...

    Progressing in my mind means there something that is better than last week. It could be a few minutes more pain free, it could mean being able to do something you couldn't last week without pain no matter how small.

    Good luck and don't get discouraged and I am sending good thoughts your way!

  • Angela, I found a book that is working really well for me and I started seeing results after only a few days. I read a book called Healing Back Pain Naturally by Dr. Art Brownstein. I am not trying to promote or endorse anything but if it helps you or anyone else the way it has me then I will share the information. After 8 months and almost giving up on being back to normal I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel and it is due to this book. I actually worked out and ran about a half a mile this morning and have not had to take any pain meds. What a wonderful feeling. Hang in there. Chad
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