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surgery or no?

mchase215mmchase215 Posts: 3
Hi all! Just looking for people's opinions.

Back pain started as far as I can remember in July 2012 (maybe earlier). Went to a chiropractor in January 2013 for the first time. Condition worsened eventually and I got my first MRI in December 2013. I found out I had two herniated disks and one bulging disk. This chiropractor specialized in sports medicine so I pretty much had physical therapy and felt great with around 6 months of treatment. Stopped going to this chiropractor completely for around 6 months and started to get the same back problems in December 2014.

Since December 2014 I have been going to a new chiropractor (not sports medicine) two times a week. My condition has worsened and I now have sciatica issues (cannot stand for 30 seconds without pain, trouble walking, etc.). I went to a primary physician and he sent me for my second MRI in June 2015. Herniation is much worse in my L5-S1 disk. When you Google "stage three disk herniation" it looks exactly like that. Primary physician has recommended pain management. The chiropractor I see now recommended I see a neurosurgeon based on how bad the herniation looked. He told me he is scared the nerve will "die".

Today, I met with a neurosurgeon. He said he would certainly do the surgery but ultimately it is my decision. Not emergency surgery; said the disk could get better or worse; prescribed me Neurontin. Now I am more confused then ever.

Anyone have any thoughts?

- Meghann

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--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 07/07/15 20:11 est


  • Hi. For a start a chiropractor is NOT a spine specialist. They should NEVER perform any kind of adjustment on your spine. Every specialist I've ever seen has said the same....even my first chiropractor refused to touch my back after seeing my X-ray. She told me to go to a spine specialist. With structural damage it can be so incredibly dangerous. PLEASE listen & read some of the horror stories. This isn't just my opinion. This is what surgeons & spine specialists have told me.

    Seeing a neurosurgeon was a good idea! Did he study your actual images or just read the MRI summary? Definitely find a new one if he just scanned the report! To my knowledge spine surgery, even 'CES emergency' is always elective. The surgeon tells you if you are a candidate, then it's up to you to decide. What did he advise? Does he think that the nerve compression is serious enough to cause permanent nerve damage if you don't allow him to operate? Conservative treatments or surgery are your options. Does your surgeon believe that you could heal without surgical intervention? How long does he think you should try the conservative stuff for before going back to him if your pain doesn't go?
    There's a list of questions you should ask your surgeon here. I 'think' it can be found on the surgery forum. I wouldn't consider surgery before getting several different opinions from respected board certified surgeons. It's the rest of your life!! With severe nerve compression I'd seriously consider it. I have permanent nerve damage ;-(
    If there's no immediate danger of permanent nerve damage, surgeons believe you could heal with concervative treatments, I'd definitely try that first but ask how long you should try for & what symptom changes you should report to them.

    Spine surgery is a HUGE step. It should never be done lightly as a quick fix...It's definitely NOT! I wouldn't wish permanent nerve damage on anyone. It's such a difficult decision to make that's why I say please get other opinions. Eventually you will be sure that you're doing the best thing.

    I always take a notebook with questions that I have for a specialist & make sure that I get the answers. I research my condition so I can ask the right things. My pain flares with the traveling, waiting around, being pulled around. I find it hard to concentrate & focus on anything other than my pain. It really helps me get the most from my appointments.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • mchase215mmchase215 Posts: 3
    edited 07/08/2015 - 4:10 AM
    Thank you for responding! Also, thanks for the tip on the chiropractic care. I will definitely research more and see a spine specialist going forward.

    The neurosurgeon I met with studied my images and had them up on the screen when I was in his office. He also studied my old images and both MRI reports. He didn’t really have an opinion and said it could get better or worse. Worse thing was permanent nerve damage, it could start affecting my bowels/bladder if the herniation worsened, etc. Best thing was my body could heal itself over time with the appropriate treatments of shots and physical therapy. He said if the pain management was working, I should start seeing results within one to two months and if I decided to do the other treatments first, he wants to see me in 4 to 6 weeks. Said if I chose the surgery to give his secretary a call and schedule. Probably wouldn’t be for a while because he is so busy. I have heard nothing but good things about this specific doctor and am having trouble finding another neurosurgeon for a second opinion.

    I was not prepared for my appointment and I am well aware. I went in thinking this doctor would make a decision for me pretty much, which was a huge mistake. Is it weird if I want to meet with him again to ask more questions about surgery? Or see another doctor in his practice? There are multiple doctors in his practice that specialize in the same area.

    Also, wanted to let you know I am 27 now, started having back problems around the age of 23/24.

    Thank you so much again,
  • sandi123ssandi123 Posts: 456
    edited 07/08/2015 - 4:16 AM
    understand is that most cases of spine surgery are considered "elective", meaning that there is not danger of imminent death or serious injury if surgery is not done immenently.
    All that really means is that it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to wait or go ahead at this point in time.

  • It's just an extremely hard decision to make. I am so bad at making decisions! All I know is I don't want to be in pain anymore.

    Thanks again!
  • EnglishGirlEEnglishGirl Posts: 1,825
    edited 07/08/2015 - 2:22 PM
    I can completely relate to you! I was such a passive patient. I just went to the clinic I was referred to. I was a good girl & just did everything they told me to. I never even researched anything on the computer. It took moving & being forced to find a new doc to get a 2nd opinion! It's not weird at all to make another appointment to ask more questions. He gets paid ;-)
    4-6 weeks is a short time for a surgeon. I'd guess he thinks you'll need his services. I'd make some notes, meet with the pain management doc & get their opinion. Return to the surgeon & be honest. I ask "What would you do if it were you or your wife/daughter?". I know what you mean. They have the medical expertise. Why don't they just tell us what to do?!? Tell him the truth, you're scared & have no idea. Surgery is really frightening. What does he think your odds are of natural recovery vs successful surgery? This isnt the time in your life to worry about being a pest or 'weird'. Do you know what surgery he's thinking of?
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • Sorry you are dealing with this. I was so bummed when I looked for reassurance on the Internet while I was going through this until because everything was either a horror story or a surgery story. But I realized that most people don't get back on these forums once their pain is gone. They are just so stoked to be done with this they are off and running. So I wanted to come back and give my story for those, like I was, up at 3am in excruciating pain and scared shitless. Here is what I wrote to a few others: Good Luck!

    In August 2014 I started having severe pain in my right hammy which would take time off to torture my right glute, calf, and foot as well. It got progressively worse with my day to day pain at about a 7, a few episodes in the 9 and 10 range, and could get below a 5 temporarily with swimming, acupuncture, or percocet. My diagnosis after the MRI was a 10mm herniation at L5/S1 with extrusion.
    I finally caved after 2 months of the pain and got the round of 3 steroid shots. Round 1 barely touched it. After I stressed to the administering doc that my pain was all sciatic, he hit me lower and with greater volume on the second shot and dropped the pain over 50%! That saved me from surgery. The third shot helped it a little bit better and by November my pain was a temporarily manageable 3.
    I was off work for 6 months which really helped because I could completely regulate my day and my pain. By early February (2015) my pain was at about a 2. But I was still popping 2400 mg a day of Ibuprofen. I went to Light Duty at that point and took a few steps backward. Sitting for an hour or so, driving around town, and just being unable to completely regulate exacerbated it. But gradually I was able to get back to that point, cut back on the Ibuprofen, and ultimately quit it all together. Right at the 9 month point I was at a 2 pain level without any drugs to help. I took another month to test it and returned to work Full Duty at 10 months. I've only gotten better over the past few weeks. I'm still careful with weights but started running a bit lately, have been hitting stairs with a 30 lb pack (80 floors), and doing pretty much every other CrossFit exercise besides Olympic Lifting (pull-ups, rowing, box jumps, etc.)
    Personally, I believe time was the biggest factor. You've got to let the inflammation die down and NOT inflame it back up. I kept testing it along the way and would pay for it here and there. I fell on my skateboard on a mini-ramp (I know, stupid!) and that set me back a couple of weeks. Other than that, Press-Ups (from the McKenzie Method) seemed to really help. One night at dinner like 4 months ago, a 4 or 5 pain hit me out of the blue. I dropped to the floor, did Press-ups for a minute, and the pain was gone! It only worked that well the one time but made a believer out of me. Swimming was awesome. Allowed me to stay in shape during it all, the reduction in gravity (while some believe can make it worse once you get out of the pool, not me!) gives you short-term relief while you're in the pool and lasts an hour or so afterwards, and the careful, long pulls potentially stretch you out. I did acupuncture for a couple of months early on. It gave me immediate relief but within an hour I was right back to where I was before. And the last time I went I came out hurting more than when I went in. Not for me. I tried Yoga while I was still in Hell and I wasn't ready. I've been following ROMWOD.com religiously now for over a month and feel awesome.
    I hope any or all of this helps you brother. I feel your pain and 22 is waaaay to young to be going through this. Someone once told me that its a year recovery whether you have the surgery or not. You just have to deal with the pain longer if you can hold out. But surgery scares the crap out of me and I am holding it as a last resort.

    Update: Been ROMWODing for 2 months now and will never stop. Helping me tremendously! I've upped my CF to muscle ups, HSPUs, Box Jumps, etc. but still staying away from moderate weight. Getting there without surgery is possible. There are a lot of people on these forums that have had the surgery and still have pain. That sucks and I feel really bad for those folks. But maybe some of these same movements such as swimming, core work, and ROMWOD can help them too.

    Good luck everyone.
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