The statistic that's pretty generally thrown around is that about 90% of people who have back surgery end up satisfied with their results -- and that leaves 10% of people who end up either no better off, or with more pain, more frustration, less hope.
Like a lot of the people who post here.
In full disclosure, I'm not a 10 percenter. Or a 90 percenter. I haven't had surgery…yet.
I have a long meandering odyssey that started with me, as recently as a year and a half ago, being a passionate runner who was logging as many as 90 miles a week. I kept having a problem with my calf muscles and the outside of my left foot that I just couldn't put my finger on…
Fast forward to today, when I've finally been diagnosed with a pinched nerve at L5/S1, caused by stenosis.
I am so humbled by the stories I read here about people who've endured so much -- so much pain, so many treatments, and they keep going.
I've been lucky, sort of. No pain, but the weakness and numbness is to the point that I can't run, and it's slowly making another back condition worse. I'm still fairly active -- gym and hiking and even swimming, but it's not running. The grief from losing running has been as intense for me as losing my parents.
I've had a couple of cortisone epidurals, and they work remarkably well. I get a lot of strength and feeling back, it's just that they don't last. (often times because I feel so good, I overdo it)
I just had another one yesterday, and it is remarkable how close to feeling whole I am.
I also have an consultation with a surgeon in three weeks. Because I'm relatively young and healthy -- and since the epidurals work so well, it means I don't have nerve damage -- it means I'm probably a pretty good candidate for surgery.
However, I'm scared to death. I read so many stories on these boards about how hellish post-op life can be.
This is where the 10% comes back in. I'm hoping for every one of these stories I read, there are nine people who think, "My life is so much better, I feel great and I'm glad I had the procedure."
Because to me, it looks like I can continue to get the epidurals (which have horrible side effects, like periods that last 18 days) and drastically curtail my athletic pursuits, the things that have been a driving force in my life for 20 years.
Or I can roll the dice and have surgery -- possibly, eventually getting my life back, possibly staying the same, possibly having problems so bad, I'll have wised I'd never thought of it.
Honestly, I feel like such an ungrateful a-hole when I write these words, since there are people out there who are truly suffering.
Maybe the surgeon will tell me something unexpected. I don't know if I can go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop -- ie., not having surgery, always wondering if I'll get worse, if new symptoms will develop.
But then, if I do opt for surgery, I wonder which side of the fence I'll come out on: the 10% or the 90%.
Thanks for letting me vent. It's been an emotional week.