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Laminectomy or another epidural?

So today is the one week mark since my epidural. I feel some relief, but I'd say overall it is 10-20%. I now understand how narrow my thecal sac is. It is 7mm, normal is 12mm, and at just 10mm it is considered stenotic. My hubby's is at 8-9mm and 3 years ago Dr. IMovedAwaytoTexas was going to do the minimally invasive surgery, now if he has surgery, it will be a bit more than that, he will have a laminectomy but just at one level - and he's been through the gamut of conservative therapy including epidurals. He never got much relief. Monday, I can call my doc with my decision on whether to get another injection or just go on with the surgery, which I know involves a laminectomy on 3 or 4 levels and possible rods and screws. I've gained my weight that I always do when given steroids - doesn't help the back. We all know epidurals provide pain relief but don't 'fix the problem'. Part of this is that hubs and I feel we need to close the book on the accident that put us in such bad shape. The down side of surgery for me is a 3-4 day hospital stay, which sounds to me like a lot of pain and using up my vacation days and possibly needing to go on short term disability for a week or 2 at 60% pay and I"m the major bread winner. Some day, the other driver's insurance will have to pay for that, but until then we play banker for the insurance company. I do telecommute and work from my computer all day for my job. So, for those of you that have had surgeries, how soon do you think I'd be able to do that? Pretty intense work, yes I can get up and take a break, but if I'm in the middle of a report, sure don't want to, basically have to start all over and the more I do, the better it is because I can possibly make a bonus each week. Not making the bonus wouldn't be the end of the world, but not making just the goal would disqualify me from making that bonus for 2 weeks. But I'm leaning towards having the surgery and getting it over with. My hubby doubts his epi will work but is hoping and praying, but will definitely have the surgery if he doesn't have superb results, and he had 3 already - last June, August and in Feb, one week before the wreck. He won't get paid while he is out and he'll be out completely for 2 weeks, and then can work part time and work himself back up to normal over a period of time. I think if I just go on with epidurals indefinitely, I'll be like him and need even more surgery. His doctor even said there is a 10-20% chance he'll need more surgery on the discs above L4-L5 later on, which he'd do if he had to. So I'm at a crossroads. I have to take a vacation day every time I have an epidural, and I'm just a couple days away from not having the required 2 weeks of vacation in order to get paid for the first 2 weeks, so there is that to think about too. I know I've read about people in spine-health having surgery and the overwhelming majority are so glad they did, wish they would have done it sooner, etc. So at 2am, I'm up thinking what should I do, what should I do.
If the epidural would have provided more relief, I'd probably stick with them for a while. The day after was great, but it's been a roller coaster ever since and I certainly can't do all the things I need/want to do, even around the house. Still can't lift my grandbabies - and they only stay babies so long and that's paramount to me.
What would you do, each of you?
I am who I am!


  • My new surgeon reckons you need to give the injections at least 2 weeks to tell if it has worked. I know some say only a week though.

    It is a tough decision to go for surgery. Are they fairly sure it will provide relief?

    As far as the work thing goes - I don't know! Do you have a laptop so that you can work whilst reclining? That might help you get back sooner.

    Good luck in your decision making.
  • as a person with many years experience of pain 3 operations and many painful procedures .i would avoid any operations for as long as you can .especially if you are the money person .if you can still work and function relatively well then keep away from operating theatres .until pain forces you to do so .....trust me !!
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • But I'm not earning the bonuses I used to earn, I end up working nights and weekends to get enough done. I find it hard to concentrate because of pain. I can't handle many simple household chores anymore. Sometimes I need help with part of dressing myself. Doctors here are afraid to give pain medicine that is effective enough and you're lucky to get something that might take the edge off. I can't have nsaids - so no advil etc for me. I can't have Celebrex, because I'm allergic to sulfa. So there aren't a lot of options for me that way. The epidural helped for a day and a half. If I wasn't miserable and it wasn't affecting my job and life, I wouldn't have had that done. I'm 99.9% sure that come Monday, I'm telling the doctor to schedule my surgery and I'll hope and pray I'm among the 70-80%. If it means more surgery later on, so be it, but from the sounds of it, he's going to pretty much repair almost my entire lumbar spine. Then after that we can work on the neck issues which gives me almost completely non-stop cervicogenic headaches that turn into migraines every single day - and my job involves working at the computer all day long. I just can't afford to live this way anymore and I can't afford to risk taking any more days off for procedures and not have enough left to cover the 2 week waiting period for short term disability - which I'm hoping since I work from home, at 2 weeks, I will be able to return to work. I hear more good results about surgery than I do bad. And I hear more bad results from epidurals than I do good.
    I am who I am!
  • Wow I guess I just thought it had all but worn off all week, and had been saying 10% relief. Then I woke up this morning. I think I'm worse now than I was before the epidural 8 days ago. So I want either the surgery or my legs cut off, really doesn't matter which! Over this pain! Holy moly - anybody feel worse a week or so after an epidural?
    I am who I am!
  • I know that initially the injections can actually irritate nerves and cause an increase in symptoms but that would be right away. WHen I had foraminal neck injections I had horrible symptoms for 3 days, then 2 days of mild relief and then I was back exactly how I was before. Then with the cervical epidural (which supposedly are worse than the lumbar ones but I think it just depends on the person honestly) I was in quite a bit of pain the first few days, couldn't sleep at all, and now I think my symptoms are back worse again than they were before the epidural. Needless to say I am also considering surgery at this point. I have the same symptoms in my legs now too but going to deal with my neck then get an MRI on my lumbar and go from there.
  • My husband has undergone 2 neck surgeries and rarely has neck pain now. Good luck!
    I am who I am!
  • Yes I do have a laptop and I work from home. Although sitting all day can bring on pain, I'm hoping that will be my saving grace about returning to work quickly. Our doc will not make us get the series of 3 epidurals first - thank God. I don't want to waste time and money on something that obviously isn't the answer for me. During the week, I was trying to decide but yesterday and today have etched my decision in stone for me. It will be difficult now to function either dealing with what seems to me as unbearable pain or trying to function with the pain med. I can do okay with the pain med if I give my self a 20 minute break or so once it kicks in, but the muscle relaxer (soma) with the new pain med zonks me out. Sleeping for 45 min or an hour after those kick in - I don't have a choice. I think my plan for this week will be to take the soma just before lunch and then go lay down for a short nap. Since the doctor told me beginning of May he would 'pencil me in' for surgery just in case, I'm hoping he will call and tell me it is this week coming up or next. But I kinda doubt it.He is very good, so he stays booked, but he promised both the hubby and me he'd do his best not to make us wait very long if it came down to surgery.
    I am who I am!
  • I have had 2 steroid injections for L4/L5, the first one was a miricle. I noticed a difference within 24 hours. I had ZERO pain for 4 months. It was before my wedding, and I think the stars just aligned. After 4 mos, leg/glute pain came back and so I had another injection. That time it did not work at all. I noticed no pain reduction at all.
    I am 2 weeks post laminectomy.microdiscectomy. So far so good!
  • Wow - I would have loved to felt the way I did the day after for 4 months. I know a lot of people who have said the second one did nothing. Wonder why that is? So 2 weeks what sounds like the kind of surgery I'm having. How much pain do you have now? I don't know if you work or not, or if you do - what you do, but would you be able to sit at home in the most comfortable chair/recliner you have and work at a laptop all day at this point?
    I am who I am!
  • I know that my husband will NOT be able to return to work 2 weeks after. No way could he drive around and get in and out of a car all day, or half the day even. Since my back injury came from a wreck, now I'm afraid to get in the car. Not because of pain, but because I'm just as terrified as I was the early days following the wreck of being in another one. I have cabin fever pretty bad - what a paradox. But since I work from home, I am used to spending a great deal of time at home. That's not true for my husband.

    I have my post-op this coming Friday which will be 2 weeks 5 days post op, and I'm hoping I get released for work. That will at least take my mind off all this as I work - from home.
    I am who I am!
  • Thanks for that info ouchy-head-neck! I'm glad that they worked for him and really really hoping it helps me! It's scheduled for 7/12 - posterior laminctomy foraminotomy at C5, 6 and 7 - no fusion.
  • So did you already have the surgery?
  • I had surgery June 11. I have no more pain in my legs except for some of what feels like muscular pain on the outside of my right leg - but that was the leg that had nerve damage that the doctor thought may be permanent so I wasn't walking heel-toe, heel-toe because I couldn't. I think I have the occasional muscle pain because now I am able to walk correctly. There was a lot more work for the doc to do than he thought - which goes to show you that not everything shows up no matter how many different tests they order. First week was the hardest, and he said it would be. I'm back to work now but only because I work from home, I can now drive short trips, but I cannot bend, lift (over 10 pounds), stoop, kneel, twist, etc until I get to the 8 week mark and he sees me again. If I'm doing well then, my husband will have his back surgery the following week - but the doctor wants to make sure that I'll be able to take care of him, because then he will have all those restrictions. This wasn't easy surgery but I've been glad I did ever since I woke up in the hospital asking for pain relief - because when I woke up there was absolutely no pain in my legs and feet, so I knew we had come a long way. There is a chance I will need surgery on the discs above L4-L5 later on, but I'm hoping to prevent that.

    Basically I had an open decompression/laminectomy, bone spurs removed, herniated disc trimmed and however it is that they clean out around the nerve root spaces so that my nerves could move freely - he said they were really buried and that he's amazed I didn't have pain before the wreck.
    I am who I am!
  • So glad that it went well and you're doing so well! I hope you will be in good enough shape that your husband can have his surgery and won't have to wait. Thanks for the update!
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