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history of lower back pain

where to start ... my name is Willi and I've scanned through this site a bit, seems like much info.
but then I understand that there is much to back pain, mine is likely one of 100 different types.
so many folks have tried to compare their or their relatives pain to mine ... of course I don't agree.

let me just give you my take on things, but first my history, it's long but i'll be brief:
I've had back problems for about 15 years, much because I always tried to do everything myself.
I'm only 5'6" and shrinking, but have enjoyed life and all the nice things I built for my family.
now I'm paying ... bad ... started hydro back then, the first pill made me feel like a kid again.
my military time was also part of my problem, did things I shouldn't have, but also moved a lot.
my company moved me around, Germany, Michigan, and now back in Texas, always much work.
12 years ago I tried shoe inserts, some light injections, and then saw a surgeon ... he said YES.
was going to fuse L4 / L5 and I chose not to ... wisely; kept going with a couple of hydos per day.
10 years ago in Michigan I lived on Bayer back pills, saw another surgeon, he said NO!
then I knew I couldn't trust them; but the pain got worse, now I can't do anything, no light lifting.
came back to Texas 7 years ago in bad shape and started seeing a pain manager; went to 8 pill a day.
went through 15 or so injections, three rhizotomies, the L4 got better, now L5 / S1 is the worst;
had several MRI's, I now have arthritis, the pain level is about 5 to 7 with the meds and up to 9 in a.m.
it's been a long road, so I saw another surgeon here, and he said YES to fusing it L4 / L5 / S1
he said to go to the pain manager to get a discogram ... my pm declined and went to another round of injections.

I really feel like the two compete ( I've already had a second opinion with pain management ) and are in it for the $

I know I don't really want the metal in my back but the pain is just ridiculous ... I don't have a single minute without it.

I also know that I have to make the decision ... I wish there was another answer ... I'm waiting for a cure for arthritis

the last mri report was very critical of the L5 / S1 and I also have tarlov cysts; I know how to read mri's completely.
for sure want to get of the hydrocodone, tried oxy also, did not help any more so went back to hydro.
but I'm getting real close to the surgery decision as I just can't go on like this; I'm three years from retirement.


  • Hi Tex

    Sounds like you're in a very painful place right now. I can give you a few pros and cons to a L4-S1 fusion based on my personal experience, but you must always get your medical advice from the docs who see you and read your mri's etc.

    I had a herniated L5-S1 in 2010. Got it fixed but retained residual leg and foot numbness. Worked hard at PT and got back to walking distance and running. Then it went again in a very dramatic way in early 2012 and I had an emergency fusion of L4-S1.

    I immediately had trouble walking - bilateral pain now rather than just one leg. 6 weeks after surgery I went to do my taxes and the tax guy said he'd had the same fusion in the same month as me. Now I just about crawled in there and he was up and about gathering tax forms and greeting folks... He said he had felt immediate relief of all symptoms and was a new man. I am mid 40's, thin and fit, he was older, heavy and admitted he skipped his PT sessions.

    So... it's a bit of a gamble and there is no way of knowing when you go into it what your outcome will be.

    Nearly three years later I am down to using a wheelchair for anything more than getting out of a car to walk into a doctor's office. Husband does all the shopping, goes on bike rides alone, takes me to the craft store in the wheelchair. It's not exactly my former busy life of full time work, full time school, good social life.

    I have had to fight and fight and fight to get anything more than xrays and CT scans done to figure out what is wrong. I've seen 3 different foot docs in the past year and countless other docs. I have now found a spine doc who says a pocket of fluid on my MRI is probably from a dural tear that happened during the surgery. So, possibly I have had no life for nearly 3 years because of an undiagnosed dural tear. Dural tears happen sometimes in surgery and it's just one of the risks you take, but it just goes to show what a delicate surgery it is and that even the best neurosurgeon cannot guarantee results.

    Regarding the pain meds... my neurosurgeon who did the first two surgeries warned me to stay off pain meds as much as humanly possible because they can physically change how your neurotransmitters fire. I have had 3 years of constant pain as a result.. Checked with the new spine doc (I moved states last year) and was hoping he'd say I could take something between now and the surgery in 4 weeks. Nope, he agreed with the previous doc that to get the best pain relief after surgery I need to avoid the pain killers now. Pain doctors will dose you up and tell you there's no other way to live, neurosurgeons will tell you to wean off even when you think it is impossible to live with the pain. I'm here to tell you it is possible to live with the pain if you want to get off the hydro etc. It's harrowing, but it is possible.

    I hope you look around this forum and read some of the other members' personal accounts of this surgery. Bear in mind that most people who post here are doing so because they still have problems - people with excellent outcomes are off living their lives and going hiking :)

    If you go for the surgery, there is a really useful list somewhere of how to prepare yourself and your home for coming home from surgery. I'm about to go find it myself as I prepare for my third back slice-and-dice.

    Good luck!

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