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Am I the only one without surgery?

The cause of my chronic back pain is due to a multitude of factors; mainly genetics (i.e. no accidents). I have not gotten surgery, nor can surgery fix any of my back problems. My pain management consists of medications, exercise, TENS, heating pad, and other little therapies. It seems like everyone on the forums has had surgery, or is going to be getting surgery. I was just wondering if anyone is on the same boat as myself.. chronic back pain (due to genetic factors) that will get progressively worse, but no surgery?


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    I, too, have never been a candidate for surgery.
    From the beginning of seeing PM doctor, he said "we will be treating you as a cancer patient."

    The medication takes the edge off and when other symptoms hit, I have PRNs for if it gets too much for me to handle.
    I'm thinking of the ever present nausea in varying degrees.
    But I really try to not take my PRNs, not even breakthrough medication as I want them to remain effective. I may need to manage my pain for couple more decades.

    And yes, I do find myself with more and additional pain, and more limited in activity as the years go by.
    You can click on my user name for list of my issues. I would call some of them genetic...but also, just issues that complicate things.

    But I'm not in the ER for few years now, so that is huge for me! And doctor considers me stable!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • William GarzaWilliam Garza TexasPosts: 2,393
    edited 08/20/2015 - 8:31 PM
    Accidentally frequently.
    No surgerys
    No pain killers
    No treatment modalitys
    William Garza
    Spine-Health Mod

    Welcome to Spine-Health

  • I haven't been a candidate for surgery either! Has your doctor explained to you why they won't do any surgery. I'm 65 & have had severe problems since I was 32. I find people don't take my spinal problems seriously, since I haven't had surgery!!! When it is actually quite the opposite, with my spine not being in a condition for a surgeon to want to touch it! I'm also on pain medications, which I use very carefully, since I don't want them to stop working and my doctor have to increase my dosages!
  • Yes, the neurosurgeon and pain management doctor said my problems cannot fixed by surgery. I started having back pain in my early teens, I'm 23 now. Unfortunately, outsiders don't always take me serious when I tell them I have back problems because I'm so young and physically fit.
  • I've been on pain a long time, After MRIs of entire spine I've been diagnosed with stenosis, herniations, osteophytes, bone island, facet joint syndrome (cervical, thoracic and lumbar), 2 tarlov cysts ( at T area - very rare) , after EMG... Pinched nerve in neck and Lumbar causing right leg pins and needles, ulnar nerve damage both elbows, carpal tunnel... It sounds so crazy when I write it down... I met with 2 surgeons...and I'm not really a great candidate.... Although one said I might be for neck surgery but I haven't pursued it yet. Anyway, back to your inquiry, mine is possibly genetic and from being a runner and high impact aerobics in my 20s ...I'm 49 and plan to continuing to manage with yoga, heat, Ice, massage, injections, PT and meds the best I can. I stay on low dose of meds - at about 3-4 on the pain scale with medication - to be sure I can stay with the meds for years and not get too tolerant to quickly. Wishing you all the best and a pain manageable day
  • the doctor's keep telling me it's too late. They say that if they had caught it in my teens they could have done the surgery and it might have made a difference. Oh well.
  • I've had first back pain at 18 and I'm 77. Years of chiro, osteopath, acupuncture, massage, exercise, PT, ice/heat, supports and I don't want a back surgery. I can bend over and do a lot of stretches to keep as limber as possible. I've heard too many stories, one leads to another and another. I use joint supplements and ibuprofen and Pain RX herbal pain supplement..

    I had a hip replacement in 2010 at age 72 and I'm left with too many complications from Anterior approach. I deal with those complications now.
    Bodywide OA, Fibro and complications from Hip Replacement.
  • PlumbTuckeredOutPlumbTuckeredOut Philadelphia, PAPosts: 325
    I've been feeling like I'm the odd "man" out! Despite having 2 surgeries and pain treatment I am still crippled by back pain. I feel like people probably feel like "She must be faking it because she's had treatment and must be better!" I think we probably all try to interpret how our pain and misery is interpreted by others. I can hear my shrink saying, "Who cares?" but I know because pain is so subjective and it feels like we need to convince others how we feel.

    To those who are in pain and under 30, I remember that! The pain was debilitating but "she's just a kid"! Then I went through the state of all docs assuming I was drug seeking. (Yeah, that's what they all say!) And now, at 48 I feel like I've been battling pain for my entire life and why wouldn't anybody take me serious earlier?

    I don't know if this will help anyone or cause more frustration but even the best treatments leave us in some pain. It's been worse for the last few weeks and I haven't been able to stand for more than 10-15 minutes. I know that I have doctors who are willing to help so that is a plus. I wish I knew what to suggest as that magic bullet but I don't. As one of the moderators keeps stressing, try every available therapy modality. I had laughed when I first saw "aromatherapy" suggested but I like it. It distracts my mind from pain because the scents cause me to feel good, not pain free but happier. And I have a lavender scented hippo I bought on Amazon- I sleep so much better with that soft stuffie by my face. Treat yourselves to the small things, anything that brings joy or happiness.


    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by...... (Robert Frost)
    I still don't know if I should have taken the one that said, "Caution! Dead End" (Me)
  • Thankfully my PM doesn't see me that way. He literally said "hydrocodone works for you, that's not a big deal." But he understands why I'm in pain given my MRI and medical history. So he doesn't have a problem with it.
    The pharmacy on the other hand, kind of gives me trouble because I have an ER and IR narcotic, and Soma every month. I understand there are many people in my age bracket (I'm 23) who abuse narcotics but I am not one of them, in fact, I generally take my medication less often than prescribed. It's not fair that I (we) receive scrutiny from pharmacies because of people who abuse the system, but it is what it is.
  • Kelz - I am on a similar regimen. I love to do yoga in general, it just so happens to help with my back, which is great! Heating pad, massages, and my TENS unit also help. I still need my meds to not be in excruciating bed ridden pain, but I've come to terms with it. The meds don't take away all pain, that's where the other modalities come into play. The combination of them gives me quality of life, for which I am grateful.

  • I am glad you asked the question. I, too feel like I am the only one who hasn't had surgery. I have L4-L5, L5-S1 herniations and annular tears that cause local pain and sciatica. I manage with anti-inflammatories, Neurontin for nerve pain/ sciatica, PT with deep tissue massage, yoga, heat & ice. I get ESIs when my pain flares. All of this helps to keep me at a 3-4 pain level that I can live with (though I am not as active as I would like to be) My goal is to avoid narcotics and surgery as long as possible. I have found a lot of support here in the forum as I read others' posts.
  • At first, I was terrified of taking narcotics. I wouldn't take it even when I really needed it. But my PM doctor made me more comfortable with it. When I started taking my meds more consistently (2-3x daily), I experienced a dramatic change in my quality of life. By no means am I suggesting you should use narcotics, especially since your regimen works for you. But I understand where you're coming from in that aspect. Best wishes!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    to have surgery at this point (for whatever reason)

    Spinal surgery, like any surgery is a very personal matter. You always need to way the Pro's and Con's of surgery.

    35 years ago, lumbar surgery was beginning to take shape, cervical surgeries were far and few apart, and thoracic, forget that, nobody herniated
    a thoracic disc (that belief was still fairly true as recent as 8 years ago)

    Spinal surgery started to take on more of a common occurrence. You go to the doctors, have diagnostic tests, the solution surgery. There are so many people that went that route and are doing fine today. Then of course you have those that had years of problems. Its very encouraging to hear more and more from the medical field about not rushing into surgery.

    Anyone who even is a remote candidate for surgery, should always try the conservative treatments one time, perhaps twice and get second opinions. So, if/when the time comes for surgery, you are ready.

    Then there are so many I read about that indicate that they are not candidates for surgery. I get sort of a mixture here with those that are not healthy enough for surgery, or those that surgery is not going to correct anything.

    For those that are told that surgery is not going to correct anything, what options have your doctors told you in terms of an ongoing long term maintenance program? Injections, Pain medications, Therapy, etc?
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • No surgeries until last month. CRPS/RSD right arm last 17 years ... and right handed. Cause was never known. Unfortunately over the years slowly started needing pain management medications now including tramadol and gabapentin. My new primary doctor started having ethical issues refilling pain meds last year thanks to the feds elevating tramadol to the controlled narcotic list. So off to the pain management specialist again so my primary doctor has secondary source recommending the pain medication refills. Pain specialist said I should try a spinal cord stimulator trial ... So I did a few weeks ago ... most painful procedure I have ever had the displeasure of feeling. I was awake when theynimplanted it and took 1.5 hours per the PM doc to get the first lead up my spine due to a likely narrow epidrual space. They kept hitting or rubbing a nerve I am guessing because I would almost come of of te operating table ... PM doc almost stopped the surgery. Had the trial in for a week and only received ~30% pain relief and I could actually feel the leads in between my shoulders when I moved my head forward or backwards which was uncomfortable. Also did not like how the leads would move and stimulation would decrease so I would turn up the intensity then move again and would suddenly be so intense almost could not control my arm. With 50% pain reduction being the recommended cutoff for viabilty of the SCS, only receiving the 30%, and the discomfort ... Had it removed ... Now have a 2 or 3 inch scar in my back healing, got no furture pain relief out of this trial, but avoided the possible complications if it would have stayed in my spine regarding a permanent implant. After reading that effectiveness after 1-2 years can decrease, possibility of scar tissue around leads possibly causing pressure on spinal cord and traumatic side effects including paralysis ... I had to make the personal decision to have it removed. This site says do not make recommendations on treatments so I am simply going to say educate yourself of the upside and downsides of choosing surgeries as well as the success rates. SCS device websites state only 50-60% success rates yet my PM and his rep state much higher they have experienced ... Imlean toward trusting the 50-60% as mine was not successful. But now my hope is that since I was compliant with my doctors recommedations ... even invasive surgery that failed ... they will refill my low level pain meds so I can get back to work as an educated professional who has never stopped working even in pain. Sorry for the long-winded commentary but hope this sheds some light on someone that had no surgeries until this expensive failure ...
  • Ron, my options right now are pain medications in conjunction with various therapies such as heat, exercise, and TENS. The doctor said I will need injections, but wants to hold off because of my age; for now, he prefers oral steroids. He said I will need to be on pain medication for the rest of my life, as well whatever therapies I can do as time progresses.
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