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Running from a fusion for about a year...and maybe about to turn around

dmt683ddmt683 Posts: 27
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello all,

First post, but I have been reading in all the forums since February. I have also been in aggressive PT/Occupational Rehab since Feb. My pain started in 2009,and I have a very heavy job; I sought PT on my own and dealt with it. It rapidly progressed and lead to 2 work injury/aggrivations creating the issue of a "ruptured" disc at L 4-5. This year ive had MRI and CT confirming the conditions listed in my signature. All the docs (4 specalists) have maintained that the only possible surgical intervention is fusion due to the spondy/instability and severity of disc deterioration. Along with PT ive gone through 3 steroid injections. The first 2 were epidurals at L 4-5 which provided some good relief for a week to a month. My last injection was a pars block at the L-5 stress fracture which made virtually no impact in either direction. So I think its narrowed down to a 1 level ALIF of L 4-5. My Dr. is the director of spine surgery Post Edited and he is also a Professor there too (can't hurt to stack the deck on my side). I am not always in 10/10 pain anymore thanks to PT and rest but I am probably around a constant 5-6 with "spikes" into higher thresholds (usually relating to flexion/hyperextension of L spine). I cant stand more than 10-20 min without really paying for it and bending/stooping/squatting/twisting also really aggrivates the situation. BUT i can walk for indefinate amounts with little pain and i can even lift 75 lb crates (under PT guidance)without wanting to die. It's been a long ride too on the meds; they have had me on the entire anelgesic section of the Physician's Desk Reference this year: sytemic steroids and NSAIDs norco 10mg soma valium oxycontin 20 oxycodone IR 10 and pain patches. And recently I snapped and stopped taking these drugs. They lost all effectivness due to length of prescription, and they were hurting me WAYYY more than helping. I only use herbal medications and ice/heat therapy now for pain daily with occasional NSAIDs or tylenol. I can tell though that continuing on, I will want meds again for the pain, and that the problem isn't going away... so I'm about ready for voluntary spine fusion at age 28... unbelievably. Anyone who wasn't bored to sleep and is still reading... any and all resposes and opinions are WELCOMED!!:) That's why I finally decided to post... and since I'm PROBABLY going surgical, I wanted to have before and after posts for other "prospective fusions" to read and think over!!!:);)

Post Edited to remove name of medical professional and facility. by Moderator haglandc


  • Welcome to Spine Health :)

    I had L5/S1 severe retrololistsis and had a PLIF L4-S1 in the summer of 2008. It was the best thing for me. All of my low back pain went away. The recovery is brutal. I was off work for almost 3 months. But it seemed like each week I got stronger and stronger. I went from having terrible low back pain (for 10 years) plus the intermitten numbness and tingling, sharp shooting pain in the legs/pelvis/feet etc to being about 100% Low Back Pain Free about 90% of the time. I do get sore when I over do it. Or I am on my feet for too long.

    Now if I could just fix my upper back!

    Good luck to you!

  • Welcome aboard! It is nice to meet you, although I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. I can relate to being young and having spine issues. I am 29 and just had my first spine surgery on July 6th. I am now facing the possibility of having to have another one, but I am trying other conservative measures before going that route again.

    The best advice I can give you is this: surgery is not necessarily a cure. You may end up having the surgery and still be in pain afterwards. Likely they are recommending a fusion to stabilize your spine. Hopefully it'll help to some degree with your pain, but go into it with realistic expectations. When I had my surgery, I was overly optimistic. I knew I'd have some incisional pain afterwards while I was healing, but I thought it would help with most of my radicular pain. Well, that it did. However, two weeks after my surgery I developed new pain caused by another herniated disc. My surgeon still deems the surgery a success being that it alleviated most of the pain I had prior to the surgery. He swears that this disc would have caused problems eventually anyway. We knew it was herniated even before the surgery, but I wasn't having symptoms so he left it alone. Two weeks later, the pain from that disc started and it has continued to worsen. I'm not convinced that the surgery didn't rattle things up and speed up the progression of this herniated disc.

    In any case, try to remain optimistic but also be realistic.
  • Thanks so much for the insight on your positive fusion results! I'm very sorry to hear about the upper spine issues, I have minor (but painful)compensatory posture issues with my T spine due to my low back... but those sympotoms are nothing compared to what you're dealing with, best of luck on treatment with your upper back!!
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    It's very hard trying to work out if fusion is the right surgery because there are no guarantees that it will work, but for lots of us here, it has given us our lives back.

    I had an ALIF of L4-5 nearly two years ago because of spondylolisthesis and stenosis. The surgeon said L3-4 and L5-S1 weren't much good, but didn't want to fuse them at the time. I'm having more pain now with L5-S1, but not enough for me to go back into surgery.

    Fusion has been a blessing because now I can do most things, apart from sitting still or standing for long periods. I have to modify the way I do things; eg some exercises which involve twisting or weights. Prior to surgery, all I could do was watch the world go by and I was so jealous of people out walking. I'm about 80% pain free and that's the level my surgeon aims for. I do have pain flares from time to time but that's because I either haven't been careful enough or done too much, and that's pretty easy to do.

    My first surgery in 08 was a laminectomy/discectomy, and that increased my pain levels, and I had to retire from work earlier than I'd planned. It then took me another year to find a surgeon that I felt comfortable with. He intimated that the first surgery was the wrong procedure for spondy. He didn't correct the slippage but put a large cage in to open up the area.

    I had no problems with the surgery and was in hospital for 5 days. My pain was well controlled and the medication I took home with me helped. Initially, all one wants to do is rest, walk and wait for the next dose of pain meds. To keep me occupied, I mainly watched TV/DVDs.

    Recovery is a long and tedious time but I was determined to get well. There are bending-lifting-twisting restrictions and your doctor will guide you with this. Good preparation is essential. I live on my own with two large dogs and I cooked and froze meals to last me for three months. I also bought in extra provisions to last for this long. Prior to going into hospital, I put out all the things I thought I would need when I got home at waist height (on the table). I bought a grabber, shower chair, walker, dressing stick and toilet seat (which I didn't need). I also did all the chores that I knew I wouldn't be able to do during recovery. I couldn't walk the dogs until about 7 months, but they were great and knew things were different. I had a domestic service come in once a week to clean the house and do the washing. Hanging out washing is not recommended.

    I did two months of physio but it made me worse and I found that walking and gentle stretching was the best for me.

    I was fused within 6 months, but it took another 6-8 months before that part of my back felt strong.

    I had help from lots of friends and family and they cheered me up heaps. I started driving at around 6-8 weeks out. It took 6 months before I started feeling normal.

    Keep doing lots of research and go through the Post-Op Must Haves at the top of this section.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Yeah it's really disheartening to go through surgery and come out not cured or even WORSE, but it seems most of us decide to weigh those odds out against just living with the pain without trying. To me at this point, not trying the surgery would forever leave me wondering "what if" I got so much better if I did it. And the lessened quality of life with chronic pain makes it worth taking the gamble to me. After 6+ months of doing nothing but resting, walking, and pt (plus 3 cortisone injections) with little change in overall pain, it's almost impossible to not want to try surgery. They always say the spine will never be the same after being fused... but my L4-5 area is so trashed that it's never going to be the same no matter what! Well I hope you can find a solution for your problems as soon as possible, Tspine pain is so hard to take, I don know WHAT I'd do if my lumbar issues were up in my Tspine. :(
  • Thanks for the post op tips;) I am very glad for your success. It was especially nice to hear feedback from someone who underwent the same procedure at the same level that I will undergo. It is very scary with adjacent segments being overtaxed due to fusion. I too have "questionable" DD above and stress fracture + spina bifida occulta below so adjacent segment stress is a big concern for me. But with the constant irritation, pain, and suffering that can come from listhesis, disc degeneration, and stenoisis it is worth the risk to other segments in my mind!:)
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