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Advice Needed

So I have three bulging discs and degenerative disc disease. My MRI says that nothing is hitting the nerves. And that I am not a candidate for back surgery. I have been in pain mgnt for over two years. Last week out of no where my pain level shot to a 10 and was advised to go to the ER. I did and they did an MRI while I was there. Referred me to an ortho surgeon. He said I was not a candidate for surgery and to continue to go to my paid doc. My ability to function has seriously declined. I cannot even find a comfortable position to alleviate my symptoms. I felt my pain doc was in it to just sell his shots and my current doc is in it to sell his spinal stimulator. And listen I am all for not having surgery if I do not have to. But when my ability to do the bare necessities in life has gone i feel it my bee my only option. Should I push for the surgery and take my chances? I mean it really can't hurt at this point right? How much morse can the pain get? Rhetorical on the last one. I am at a loss with my situation and fear that if I do not have the surgery I will stay at a 7 to 10 range till I do. I cannot continue to live this way and would like to hear some opinions has to some of your choices you faced when dealing with similar circumstances. I have had ACL Reconstruction, C5-C6 Fusion, Rt Shoulder Capsule Repair and both Knees Scoped. And I can say this, in every instance with each of those surgeries I knew that something was broke bad enough to have to have something done. You can't tell me that living with this much pain just because your MRI didn't show the kind of damage they like to see before suggesting that person have surgery is still ok? The persons ability to function an have less pain should be a huge factor too. All I know is what I have going on with my back right now is not cutting it!


  • should be a last resort, especially if you are dealing with three levels of damage. At least a three-level fusion. I had one in November of 2008, and I can tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. I've had a rotator cuff repair on both shoulders, a hysterectomy, and a few other ankle/foot repairs, and none of them even came close to causing a .5 on the pain scale compared to the approximate 20 of a three-level fusion. If you do not have evidence in your MRI showing that surgery is indicated with an orthopedist, I would recommend visiting one of those laser spine clinics or seeing a neurosurgeon about your back. Have yourself evaluated there and see what they say. I know how you feel about having to live with the pain. I refused the spinal cord stimulator, but I had nerve impingement, DDD, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, and spondeolisthesis (sp?), on top of the squished discs as well. There is also a new treatment that involves injecting a solution back into the disc space and sort of giving that disc space its original height again. While I don't encourage you to jump into surgery, I do encourage you to explore other routes to relieve your pain.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Back surgery to alleviate pain is not considered a good "reason" for back surgery. You asked a rhetorical question about how much worse the pain levels can be post op when surgery is done and I can tell you, that I thought a lot like that prior to my first surgery but realized afterward , that I had no idea what a 10 was in pain until I had to learn to live with constant pain levels of a 6-8 afterward..
    In fact, any surgeon worth his salt , will tell any patient facing back surgery that pain is NOT a reason to go ahead with back surgery- the only reason is to correct a mechanical or nerve compression problem, not to address pain levels...
    Physical therapy to improve muscle strength, using muscle relaxers, the old tricyclic anti depressants, cymbalta, etc all help to work in conjunction with pain medications to treat pain levels..ice, heat, massage, TENS, scs units, swimming, stretching all will contribute to pain decreasing over time...but you have to be willing to use all of the modalities every day to build an arsenal to help deal with the pain...
  • charryccharry Posts: 5,657
    edited 07/18/2012 - 12:11 AM
    I know it's awful to just go to pain management. I'm going for a diagnostic facet joint injection to see if I can get radio frequency ablation nerve burn. I've been for 4 Surgery consults and the same no surgery required. I've found some relief with the Fentanyl patch though as well as the answer above using ice, warm water aquatherapy and using a cane or a walker to assist me going for a walk and ice afterwards.

    I use a backjoy seat for my desk chair at home and keep my feet on a small stool under the desk. using stretches several times throughout the day. I hope you have a good Pain Management Dr. I finally found a good one at a hospital but the wait times are awful but at least they do injections using flouroscope x-ray instead of blindly at the Pain Clinic. I've been to 4 PM Drs. Keep looking for the right Dr. to help you and perhaps a PT that does aquatherapy?

    I was also told until I fall down and can never walk again or have cauda equine symptoms I can't have surgery unless I develop spinal stenosis. My leg sciatica has eased up over the past 4 years since hurting my back though but the back pain is awful. I hope your Dr. can better manage your pain.

    I would get more than one surgeon opinion though. This site has been a great place of support for me for almost 4 years. Is it your lower back causing the pain now? Well never give up hoping technology will advance and find something to help with the pain levels. There's other treatments I haven't tried like Prolotherapy etc. Take care and welcome to SH. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Cath111CCath111 Posts: 3,702
    edited 07/18/2012 - 5:28 AM
    I've recently had an MRI due to severe back pain and it showed some very serious problems at L3/4 (above my L4/5 fusion) and at L1/2. My surgeon said that eventually I'll need a 5-lvl fusion as my spine is awful, but until there are nerves involved, it would not even be considered. We tried facet injections at L3/4 (worked for about a week or so, now back to high pain levels), but we can only manage it with the conservative measures - pain meds, muscle relaxants, ice/heat, etc.

    Surgery is never to be considered until all conservative measures are tried and then, only if you have radicular nerve pain. My spine is unstable due to spondylolisthesis even, but still, surgery is not an option until or if I have severe nerve pain. So again, you have to just manage the pain until surgery is warranted.
  • I was amazed at the money I spent on pain management and physical therapy and MRI's to find out on my 4th MRI, it finally showed that the disc between L4 and L5 was herniated and torn. Surgery followed with a fusion. 2 months later, I'm still in a lot of pain. Seeing the doc soon and will ask for injection to get rid of this sciatic pain. The beer wears off too soon.
    Brenda Hull
  • That was awesome! Okay you guys have all had great advice. Thanks. I was having a real high pain level day. And on those days you just want to cut it off if it hurts that bad. Sounds like there is no real solution. Hey where do the people who have had successful back surgeries hang out? I want to talk to them too?
  • Gosh, I know that feeling! Sometimes I beg my doc to please just cut the spinal cord so I feel nothing.
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