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New to the forum, seems a long time in this spine journey.

Hello Everyone!
I'm a 34 year old gal living in the Bay Area (California). I'm currently more or less disabled...otherwise I would consider myself a student and an EMT.
I've had back issues since my teenage years and particularly in my lower back since my mid 20's. In the last 2 years it's become a major burden in my life; This past December my lumbar region kind of took me out of the game and made me a permanent home body. After many X-Rays, several rounds of PT, an MRI, and finally a visit with a great surgeon I feel like I'm getting somewhere.

I'm certain that many of you have been going through a similar journey and wondered why there's so little guidance along the way. I found little help from many of the doctors I've seen and had the most knowledge and support come from others who have gone through this too.

My first doctor insisted on prescribing me endless amounts of Naproxen and PT, and finally with my insistence sent me for X-Rays...but only anterior and posterior views which didn't really show anything significant. More PT and the addition of Tramadol and Neurontin. The next day after the X-Ray reading I scheduled an appointment with a doctor who managed sports injuries and was immediately sent for an MRI. Finally! Look! There's herniated disks and spinal stenosis! Not that I was happy to have the problem but I was relieved to have a better answer for what was causing all the pain. BUT more PT was recommended, this time along side steroid injections. I demanded a reference to a surgeon. I didn't use the referral right away because I wanted to give the steroids a chance but when they didn't help at all the doctor managing the injections recommended more PT.


Fed up I went to the surgeon...who has been the most informative and helpful. He's not only taken the time to examine all aspects of my spine anatomy but he's taken the time to learn what my goals are and how my life is. It's amazing how humanizing it is to be understood.
As it turns out, yes, I do have a herniated disk between L4-L5 but L-5 is transitional and completely fused to the sacrum AND tilted forward causing the L-4 to slip forward and almost fully impinge on the nerve. PT is always good, he says, but it would never fix this. And because the pain is pretty much unbearable without being drugged to the gills surgery is the best chance at returning to a normal life. So I'm going to have a variation of a TLIF with a spinal cage, bone grafts, and pedicle screws. I'm nervous, a little scared, but mostly hopeful for the first time in who knows how long.

So there it is.

Thank you all for hearing out my vent. I look forward to getting to know many of you and supporting you as well through your journeys.

Happy Weekend!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I hope your TLIF sorts you out but please remember the spinal operations done with instrumentation are for spinal realignment and stabilisation and not for pain relief ..if you do get any pain relief it will be a bonus and not a guarantee .I had ALIF 2 years ago and even though the ALIF is a technical success I am not better off pain wise .this is my 3rd spinal operation over 17 years .and I am at my worst now .I hope that you have better luck
    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
  • I know it's no guarantee for pain relief but despite that I'm very hopeful that once the nerve is no longer being crushed I'll be able to function. I can handle a good amount of pain but not when it keeps me from living my life.
    I am sorry to hear, Tony, that your issues haven't been resolved successfully. I wouldn't wish this kind of pain for anyone and I hope you will find relief.
    I appreciate the dose of reality but I am still very hopeful and optimistic so forgive me if I seem overly enthusiastic about getting surgical aid. Seeing this doctor has been the first time in this whole journey that I have felt heard and understood. He promised nothing but giving me the best care he's capable of--considering the time and effort he took to get to know my spine and me as a person I believe he really will.
  • norcal929nnorcal929 Posts: 6
    edited 04/13/2014 - 12:37 PM
    I want to add that I followed the usual sequence of treatment and patiently followed every direction, exercised as my PT dictated, and probably didn't push enough for my own well-being. The lesson/ reminder, especially to myself, is that I am my first advocate and sometimes I need to take the initiative and be aggressive about my own care.
    Surgery was never my ultimate goal (but my family really pushed for it) and I went along with treatment as advised until it seemed like I was going in circles, repeating treatments that didn't help in the first place. Yes, I still do the stretches, I still use my TENS unit, and I ice pretty regularly. But the Tramadol is what keeps me moving unfortunately. I don't want that to be the case forever...unless I really have to. Surgery isn't the answer but it is the next step and may help enough to move on with my life.
    Forgive me for rambling but it's been a long time since I've really put my thoughts and feelings out there.
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