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Failed Back Surgery and returning to work

AnonjenAAnonjen Posts: 1
edited 10/25/2015 - 6:27 AM in Chronic Pain
Good morning everyone.

I have been lurking around these posts for months and I've decided to turn to you guys to help me keep my sanity.

Background: Long story short, I was stopped at a red light in the work car 2 days before last Christmas (on a day I was supposed to be off work but alas) when an older woman ran into the back of us. The symptoms started as stiffness and soreness but by March, I could no longer walking without severe sciatica and weakness. I am 26 and I think that I've heard "You're way too young for this to be happening" more times than I care to count, and half of those times were out of the mouths of medical staff. I tried all conservative treatments and ended up having to have EMT support to get out of the bed and to the hospital more than once. They finally conducted a MRI in may and planned to do a microdisctomy on L4-L5 , S1. When the doctor (non-surgical) used the word prominent and the radiology report came back, I knew my options were limited. I had the surgery at the end of June, but I woke up several hours later than I was supposed to and with a scar 3 times as big as originally stated. When they cut into me, the herniation was protruding and they ended up performing a laminectomy/ disectomy instead. I have been on worker's comp leave ever since.

Now: I had a follow-up MRI which showed black discs (degeneration in the lower spine) and I told my surgeon that I was still in a lot of pain , but it was more localized than before. He reminded me that he told me I would need a fusion at some point in the future. It is still unclear to me whether the future means 3 months , 3 years, or 10 years. He said he would schedule me for another Epidural Injection to see if that would help with imflammation. I ask him if I could return to work and he said if I felt like it, I could. I can't really afford to keep living off of 2/3 of state employee salary anymore and I wanted to go back so I asked him to sign off on it. Friday, I received a call saying Workers Comp wants a second opinion before they'll give me an ESI. On top of that, I have no leave to keep jumping through doctor's appointments. I spent the last couple of days preparing to go back to work as I know I will not have as much energy as I once did. Friday night, the electrical shock pain started in my leg again. Yesterday, I woke up in pain but tried to stay busy doing light things to keep it at ease. This morning I am sitting here writing this because the pain and inflammation is so bad that I can't sneeze or move without crying. I spent an hour googling the cost of walking in off the street and paying for a Hot Shot steroid injection since worker's comp doesn't do weekends. I'm afraid I'm going to end up back in the ER. I just want to go back to work and have a normal life, but I know normal will probably never be the same. My job can be quite stressful, with overtime, long car-rides , and insanity but I need to do something other than sit here. I'm lucky that I've had supportive friends up to now, but I am afraid that eventually they'll be fed up. I feel like a burden and they feel bad when they ask me to do things that I can't anymore. I am afraid that I am getting depressed . I feel frustrated a lot of the time. Anyway, I guess my question is .... is there hope? How do you deal with being jerked around by this whole thing? Do you have similar episodes like this? What do I do when the pain gets like this and I have to work? I've had Percocet and steroids in the past. I still have percocet. I try not to take it unless I absolutely have to and I obviously can't take it at work (even though it has no real sedating effect on me). I have muscle relaxers. I have prescription strength ibuprofen. None of it really helps so I guess I am just looking for opinions or support.

Welcome to Spine-Health

One of the most important things that members can do is to provide the rest of the community with as much information about themselves as possible. It is so very difficult for anyone to respond when we do not have enough information to go on. This is not meant to indicate that you are doing anything wrong or violated any rule, we are just trying to be pro-active and get the information upfront so that people can start responding and your thread is more effective.

So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong, The fact that your test results are negative does not mean that you are fine and without any concerns. Many times it takes several diagnostic tests and procedures to isolate a specific condition.

Here are some questions that you should answer:

  • - When did this first start?

    . Year, Your age, etc
- Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
- Are there others in your family with similar medication conditions?
- What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)

  • . Which doctor did you start with? Ie Primary Care Physician
    . Who are you currently seeing?
- What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?

  • . Physical Therapy
    . Ultrasound / Tens unit
    . Spinal Injections
    . Acupuncture
    . Massage Therapy
- What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)

  • . Summarize the results, please do not post all details, we cannot analyze them
    . How many different tests have you had over the years? Similar results?
- What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)

  • . Name of Medication
    . How long have you been using this?
    . Results
- Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
- Is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
- What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
of your situation and make it easier to respond.

Please take a look at our forum rules: Forum Rules

I also strongly suggest that you take a look at our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which can be found at the top of the forum menu tab or by going to FAQ There you will find much information that will

  • - Help you better utilize the Spine-Health system
    - Provide pointers on how to make your threads / posts
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    - General pieces of valuable information

Please remember that no one at Spine-Health is a formally trained medical professional.
Everything that is posted here is based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research.
As such, no member is permitted to provide

  • - Analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie MRI, CTscan, Xray, etc)
    - Medical advice of any kind
    - Recommendations in terms of Medications, Treatments, Exercises, etc

What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are

I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways it’s like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then it’s up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 10/25/15 12:27est



  • Hi Anonjen, how are you doing now? Have the doctors given you any indication of why you are still in pain? I had kind of similar experience. I was early 20s when out of the blue my disc herniated. Started as a slight twinge and progressed to disc sequestration within a short space of time. Similarly, I often hear "you're too young" especially when I didn't have an injury to explain it. It's very hard and coming out of a surgery and still having pain is extremely difficult to deal with. I've had back pain for 3 years & my doc said I would so I did expect it but thought it would be just a little bit of pain. It's changed my life & it does change your relationships with people. Some friends will get bored and frustrated through lack of understanding. Others will surprise you with how supportive and caring they can be. Focus on these friends. I have friends who I rely on and others - I call them my fairweather friends who I avoid when I'm not well. Being in pain for a long time is awful and can be very depressing, but there is hope and it does get better. The emotional and physical pain which you feel now will change and even though you're young, you can still live a good life. Things might be different but you get used to it. I think we are more resilient than we think. How are you feeling now? Take care
  • I can relate to the amount of pain you are having and there is no warning that today is going to be worse at example 1pm and don't schedule anything that may keep you standing or sitting etc.  I am not trying to be funny I am just being honest.

    My first surgery was in Jan 2013 after many years of epidural injections to calm down my sciatica nerve from me wanting to cry and pull my hair out, mind you I am in consulting and was living and working in NYC, the midtown of walking, carrying heavy things like computers, paperwork, suitcases, purse and anything else that I required for the day, I dreaded the days when I had to go home for the weekend knowing I would suffer more with the stuff I had to carry and cried until I sat down on the plane.  This was a three year contract and travelled every week for 45 weeks a year.  I couldn't take it any longer so I found a sports medicine doctor and he gave me some pain meds and recommended a spine neurologist and pain doctor, after many injections I was able to tolerate the pain free months I had but it started to get worse, he did a new procedure with a needle that scraped the disc to reduce pressure that didn't seem to do anything either so when I got home that next weekend I called my family doctor I have been seeing for 25 yrs and he sent me to a neurosurgeon, I was on the table within two weeks, wow did that surgery hurt like hell, the worst pain I have ever had but felt I needed to deal with it and it will feel better.  So long story short here, after 4 months of having horrible post surgery pain he said I shouldn't be and that I needed to swim I had no access to a pool and also said I don't want to turn you into a drug addict so he wouldn't give me any more pain meds so I was a zombie, laid in bed all day, worked a little via phone and computer until my contract ended in September and that's when I jumped into seeing a pain doc locally here and found a wonderful man.  He put me on a regimen and kept changing it because it wasn't working for the pain and breakthrough pain and during all of these injections one of his camera angles showed a broken screw, have no idea how or when this happened, I did try to go back to work in 2014 and I failed the pain was so bad and because of that my anxiety and focus was horrific.

    I had the second surgery in Nov 2015 to fix the screw, he put in a new one but didn't remove the broken one said he didn't need to it wasn't doing anything, well I am worried in the future it could move and I think its now a culprit for my pain I have every day!  I just had another MRI for his diagnosis of Failed Back Syndrome aka failed back surgery and I am very upset, what does that mean I live with this forever and now I have to see if I can get disability, I haven't had a paycheck since March of 2014 and it was for 3 weeks of work and I spent 3x that to relo for the contract job.  I had panic attacks and now I twitch when I am active for more than an hour, grocery shopping is even out of the question my husband has to do everything now.  I fall, I drop things (just fractured my foot from a foot twitch episode a couple weeks ago) just what I needed another problem.

    You are not alone, I almost wish I didn't have the surgery to begin with because I am miserable, depressed and have no future in being close to normal again.  Friends and family don't want to hear about me anymore so why do they ask, I have learned I say I am good thank you and change the subject.

    NO ONE WILL EVERY KNOW HOW THIS FEELS UNTIL THEY GO THRU IT THEMSELVES.  Oh and to add to this exciting email I take so much medication its upsetting, I am at Walgreens every week picking something up and they know me by name and treat me like an addict at time which adds to the stress of FBS.

    Good luck to everyone, I love reading these posts because I learn a lot about myself and that I am not alone and its nice to talk to others and learn things too.

    I will let everyone know how my disability case goes, its in front of the judge July 28th, I have no reason to be nervous because its all true and just more worried they have so much power to say NO, its not much compensation but its something and I have worked since I was 14 so I am a hard working person and paid into that fund if I didn't need it I wouldn't be asking.

  • Hi Linda. My name is Bob. I'm 58. Also worked in NYC. I was in a skiing accident in 2001 and so began my 15 years of chronic  back pain. I have had 3 laminectomies prior to a T1 - S1 spinal fusion  with pelvis base rods in September 2015. I am in more pain now than before the fusion.  I see a pain management doc 1x/ mo. We have tried everything including fentenayl patch.  It's dangerous, in my opinion, but I am out of options.  Had to stop working since March 2015 because of the pain. I hired a great attorney to help me with disability insurance. I am grateful I bought a private policy 20 years ago.  But as much as that relieves the financial burden a little,  I have no life anymore. I was doing PT for 4 months but it was only making the pain level worse. Now my big adventure is a trip to the supermarket or pharmacy. Emotionally I have good and bad days.  In the end,  no one seems to know where to go with this.  I keep hoping.  
  •  I've been diagnosed with post laminectomy syndrome which is the same as FBSS. It wasn't work related but I know how frustrating is to deal with WC. More than likely they will try to deny your case, saying your back problems were preexisting. This happened to my ex husband and he was denied prior to surgery. No more office visits, no medicine, nothing. He was in limbo at his job..they wouldn't fire him or let him work either. As for me, all I can do is manage with the help of my pain clinic. I had to learn to live with limitations and not over do it on good days. I ended up with a pain pump after my fusion since further surgery was considered too risky because of the scar tissue. It's all too common to develop new back problems after the original injury, especially with prior back surgery. I now have degenerative spinal stenosis in adjacent levels and in the thoracic spine. It's a tough journey and it's hard to tell what will happen down the road, but try to stay optimistic and live life as best as you can. 
    Ol' Spiney...Microdiscectomy L4-L5, TLIF L4-S1 -post op central disc herniation L4-S1, sciatic nerve damage, retrolisthesis, epidural fibrosis, facet arthropathy, severe DDD & OA.FBSS- Medtronic SynchroMed II pump.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Hello restelzl36 !
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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