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What if I do nothing? (L5S1 disc)

I've had a herniated disc for 7 years. I had MRI's 7 years ago and then one recently which show that the disc has basically completely broken down. A discectomy isn't an option for me because of the damage to the disc.

I am not in horrible pain every day. I take Aleve daily, when I don't I'm achey and stiff. I have numbness in half my right leg and some foot drop, but from what I understand, it's been so long I probably won't ever resolve that.

I have read nothing but horrible things about fusion surgery. People seem to have it and it seems like it deteriorates their quality of life quite a bit, so I am having major second thoughts about going through with it.

My question though is........what could happen to me if I DONT do it now? Am I risking paralysis? Or will my pain just increase? Or..?????
39y.o. mom of 4
3/2/16 - L5/S1 fusion after a decade of trying everything else
2015 - developed Occipical Neuralgia and bulges at C4/5 and C5/6


  • You'd risk permanent nerve damage, but with the issue being untreated for so long, you could already have that. Keep in mind you'll see more failure stories than success stories for any type of surgery online. I had a fusion 3 months ago and am 100% happy with my decision. I wouldn't have had the surgery though unless I was in horrible pain on a daily basis.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • cspencer13ccspencer13 CaliforniaPosts: 37
    Yes. I don't expect to cure the nerve damage that I have. I am not in horrible pain. I have a couple of times a year the disc flares up and it takes me about two weeks to recover.
    39y.o. mom of 4
    3/2/16 - L5/S1 fusion after a decade of trying everything else
    2015 - developed Occipical Neuralgia and bulges at C4/5 and C5/6
  • cspencer, i also have a herniated disc l5,s1, has been this way for at least 2 1/2 years, i do take a pain med, and gabapentin, but at this time i am not ready for surgery, it could change any day. but i do lots of things to avoid it, drink plenty of water, do stretches daily, i am not over wieght, just a few examples.plus i learned on here that surgery is done to stabilize the spine, not to get rid of pain. good luck to whatever you decide.
  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 02/14/2014 - 1:00 PM
    Your spinal cord terminates around L1-L2. So if you're talking about the traditional understanding of paralysis, you are fine. However, the nerves you are currently impinging can be damaged beyond repair and that is your issue. It's great that you're not having any significant pain, but pain isn't the entire story and the only need to operate. If you're having a foot drop, I'd really consider having the operation.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
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