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10 months post L5-S1 ALIF, still have nerve pain

37yo male, had an L5-S1 microdiscectomy Feb. 2012 and an ALIF in August 2012. Been on pain meds/gabepentin/neurontin, etc. Transferred to pain mgmt doc due to DEA rules and have tried cymbalta, lyrica, nucenta, morphine, etc. My latest scrip was the morphine which helped greatly for two weeks or so and then the nerve pain started back up again, but it was manageable. I stopped taking it a few days ago because of side effects (ill tempered, little patience, loss of sex drive/ejaculation, and we can't have that) and it's almost like the nerve pain has barely gone down since before my fusion. I've had four injections including a caudal and my pain mgmt doc says there's no way it can still be inflammatory, it has to be scar tissue and/or permanent nerve damage at this point. I am crushed. I detest the idea of being on opiates for the rest of my life but I'm scared at the prospect of a spinal cord stimulator, which is what he recommended if the nerve hasn't healed by the 1 year point after fusion. What the hell should I do? He says I'm a perfect candidate for it given the type of nerve pain I have down my right leg. What about an interferential device? Has anyone had success with those? I feel like I'm at the end of my rope with this, and very angry/scared/upset at my prognosis.



  • I'm sorry your fusion didn't give you the results you were hoping for. Sounds like you are actively seeking treatment, and that's a great thing. So many people get frustrated and give up. I must say gabapentin has helped and continues to help me tremendously. I was fortunate that my doctor started me on the lowest dose once a day and we worked up to eventually 6 pills a day. We did it this way to avoid too strong of side effects and it took MONTHS before I really saw a difference. I'm so glad I didn't quit on it. I have also been told repeatedly by my surgeon, and by the nurses and therapist that work ONLY with "spinal cord injuries" that nerves continue to heal for a full year (so you do still have 2 more months) and most swear that their patients continue to see slow but continual improvement well after the year mark. So just hang in there. Who knows, maybe your nerves are "getting close" and if not, at least you are looking into some more options.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • TIA, I'm really sorry to hear your recovery is not progressing as planned. I'm 5 weeks post laminectomy and am having leg pain that I thought would have disappeared. I'm actually feeling much worse than I was before surgery. To a much lesser extent I understand how you feel. I'm no expert, but I have researched treatment options extensively and have seen at least a dozen MD's since my symptoms started. The one thing I hear over and over again is how slowly nerves heal themselves. A neurosurgeon (NS) I recently saw recommended I have the XLIF (fusion) procedure. I opted out, but asked dozens of questions before doing so. The NS told me that recovery from a fusion is generally a year or more. He said I would start really seeing some noticeable differences within 18 months. 18 months!! I'm a 42 yo active male and understand how you feel. Hang in there Brother. You may actually turn a corner when you least expect it. Also, why be worried about a spinal stimulator? I know it sounds scary, but who cares if it works. Don't give up man...
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