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Chronic pain 5 years after L4-5 Replacement & L5-S1 Fusion

I am posting this on behalf of my brother. He has had 3 back surgeries since 2004 with the last being done in 2007 after he fell off a roof whilst at work. He has had the L4-5 discs replaced, fusion of the L5-S1 and L4-5. well to say he is in constant pain is a understatement! - he cannot sit, stand, bend, walk or do any sort of movement for more than 10 minutes before being in agony! - hot water bottles on the back, spas and medication prescribed from his doctor including Ibuprofen and Gabapentin taken in even the largest doses do not help the pain for more than a few hours at a time. He is getting more and more unhappy and is not the lively outgoing brother I miss. I am here to see if anyone else has had the same type of surgery and what, if anything you are doing to help with the pain and live "normal" day to day lives. is there any alternative therapies he can do, or particular doctors he could see to try and help him and get him active again without the constant pain. any help or comments would be appreciated as I am struggling to find some way to help him!

Catherine and Paul :)


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Welcome to Spine-health
    I am glad you have found this site, you will find lots of help and support
    There is information and posts from people who are experiencing the same or similar surgeries, and what they have tried to get some relief.

    Your brother is lucky to have you as a sister, your support and concerned trying to find him help,
    I hope Paul finds something to ease at least some of his pain

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • ouch2oouch2 Posts: 1,270
    edited 07/25/2012 - 2:51 AM
    Welcome to SH! Nice to see caring family members on here, I am sure it is so hard to watch your brother in so much pain.
    Did Paul have his artificial disc at L4/L5 fused over? I recently (5 months ago) had an adr at L5/S1...haven't had relief from it.
    For myself it takes a real combination to get some relief from the pain. Medication, heat/cold , tens. I am hoping to give injections another try.
    Does your brother see a pain management doctor?
    Wishing you both all the best
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • hey am sorry to hear that. in few weeks time i will be doing L4-5, L5/SI ANTERIOR DISC REPLACEMENT . I did rhizotomy 3 weeks back with no relief. Doctors say it takes 2 months to get back on track again. hope this site will help to get more support and advices.
  • hamrs_62hhamrs_62 Posts: 38
    edited 07/26/2012 - 4:25 AM
    so you fix the problem, then kill the nerves that are causing the pain,? then you stay away from any action that would cause injury because you would not have the pain to tell you there was something wrong
  • PaulsSisterPPaulsSister Posts: 3
    edited 07/26/2012 - 11:10 AM
    will pass that on to my brother. :)
  • Hi Ouch

    Paul had the L 4/5 disc replacement in 2005 then fusion of the L5 S1 in 2006 . In 2007 they lengthened the fusion so that the L4/5 and the L5S1are fused together now.
    what sort of injections are you planning on trying?
  • I totally agree with these advice and think its awesome how you & your brother care for Paul, your brother. A lot of people turn away bc they cant handle being the caretaker of someone with chronic issues, and I think youre doing a great job. Anyway your brother needs a pain doctor/clinic- motrin & gabapentin isnt cutting it and I am appalled thats all Paul gets for pain after a fusion fails to ease his suffering. It happened to me too, I had complications and today have a pain pump & other meds. There are better alternatives to his current regiment and theres no reason for him to go on suffering like that. Take care ok
  • ouch2oouch2 Posts: 1,270
    edited 07/27/2012 - 3:55 AM
    Hi again, I completely agree with Meydey, your brother is on very little medication, I hope that he can find a doctor that will look at his meds, maybe try different combination of meds, as well as other options...injections, tens, scs etc. I hope to try facet injections again, as well as SI joint (to see if that is part of my problem) There are others, ESI, caudal injections,and if those are helpful...rhizotomy.
    Don't give up looking for ways to help, there are great doctor's out there that want to help...sometimes it takes a while to find the right one.
    Busi, wishing you all the best with your upcoming adr, I hope that it is helpful to you. Two months is a very short estimate on recovery in my opinion. If all goes well you should be feeling much better at that point, but need to be very careful. I was on full restrictions for bending lifting twisting for 3 months. Unfortunately 5 months post op I am struggling. Please let us know how you are doing. You will be in my thoughts.
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Thanks for the support. Its just few days before the op,spending sleepless nights. Once thought of not doing the op but due to the pain am enduring after rhizotomy,am left with no choice. Iwill keep you posted after my op. What an agony,but I hope the best is yet to come.
  • backache99backache99 Posts: 1,338
    edited 08/10/2012 - 7:50 PM
    your comment are typical with someone with this condition .on the lucky few a fusion as almost a cure but the the most of us it will just stay the same or get worse .like you brother i too got worse after my second operation and suffered for 5 more years now after my third operation i am still in pain .with no social life no work no sex no nothing excerpt pain and sleep deprivation and medication and hospital visits .so YES i know what he is going through .the only thing i could say that may help is go to your doctors and see about changing his medication .gabapentin and anti inflammatories are ok for some ,but it sound like maybe he needs to step up the pain relief ladder but only a doctor would be able to confirm that ..i hope he can get a little comfier its not easy i have tried all the tricks in the book and been a long standing member of the back back club for many years now my life has changed beyond recognition all due to chronic pain .its hell and i feel for him and his family
    tony {UK}
    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
  • Welcome to Spine-Health and I'm happy to see what a caring sister Paul has.

    What kind of pain is he having - is it nerve pain or pain in his back are or both? I've had a fusion at L4/5 and because of my work environment (lifting paper boxes, lots of movement and bending), I have adjacent problems above my fusion and will behaving a 2-lvl fusion at L2/3 and L3/4 in December. While the fusion area is very strong (assuming it has fused properly, as mine has), the levels above and below (above in your brother's case) take on the extra load and can cause all sorts of problems, such as disc issues or mechanical pain. Mine is mechanical, as I have facet joint problems, bone spurs and spondylolisthesis (offset of the spine).

    I'd like to see your brother start with a fellowship-trained, board certified spine surgeon and go from there. They only work on spines and know all the tricks in the book. You have to have confidence in your doctor, 100%.

    Good luck on finding the right path. But knowing where it's coming from is important to finding the right way to deal with the problems.

    Take care,
  • Hi, it's lovely to hear ur such a caring sister. I to live with chronic pain after two spinal operations. I am struggling to reduce pain level although I am on morphine 200mg daily plus amitriptoline at night, I sleep for only a few hours at a time which on top of pain makes daily tasks very hard. I had to give up work,driving and sports. My mum is my main career whilst my husband works, we have two beautiful children aged 15 & 7. I would love to spend a day pain free, any advice would be much lay appreciated Sami x
  • I had my fusion in 2008. From 2006-2008. Dr.s now have a better understanding about fusions. They didnt cut me down the middle they made 2 small incisions on each side of the spine at l4 and l5. L4&l5 was blow 5mm and l5-s1 was blown 2.5mm. Was off work 36 months. To ease my pain i lay down and put a pillow under my legs and sleep with a body pillow between my legs. It takes the pressure off the spine for me. I also use a 10's unit for electrical stimulization, to help the blood flow. Your brother has to get off the pain killers. Gentle stretching also helps. Warm baths or jacuzzie works wonders.
  • terror8396tterror8396 Posts: 1,832
    edited 08/03/2013 - 8:48 AM
    hay sis
    after many years and surgeries and chronic pain it's nice to see family members be supportive. my wife is but she has had 12 years to get used to all of the things, pain, lack of sex, spending money on meds, my complaining. being supportive is the best thing to help others. i don't know about work or if he plans on working in the future, but from my experience, work people don't care at all so any support is helpful. i am an only child and wish i had an extended family to talk to but my wife is very supportive. it takes a while to get back from surgery and sometimes one never does. after my first two fusions, i felt a lot better but after the last 2 it has gotten worse. if he has a pain dr, try different meds
    good luck
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • I'm sorry that your brother is still having pain after his surgeries. I am including a link to a guide to getting chronic pain treated, maybe it will give you some ideas to give him and you some hope that there is more to life than what he is currently experiencing. Proper pain management will help him increase his ability to function, and participate in life , rather than waiting for it to pass him by.
    If you have any questions or need help, my private messages are always open.

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