I'm M.J., and I've been reading these forums for some time and they've been incredibly helpful.
I'm 41 years old, and have a whole mess of back problems, beginning with acute muscle spasms at the age of 32. From there I was diagnosed with bulging discs at L4-L5 and L5-S1. The spine specialist I saw recommended cortisone injections that didn't help the pain at all. I lived in Atlanta at the time.
Fast forward to 2010; I moved to DC. Found a great PCP who recommended I get an MRI which revealed the bulges were now fully herniated and torn resulting in spinal stenosis and a diagnosis of both degenerative disc disease and scoliosis. I saw a neurologist who recommended that I avoid spinal fusion at all costs due to my young age so I worked really hard at PT to strengthen my core but unfortunately the pressure on my spine resulted in sciatica down my left leg.
During this same time I had breast reduction surgery, and a cervical MRI done to help qualify the procedure as medically necessary revealed a bulge at C-7 as well. Breast reduction surgery helped relieve the pressure in my neck but the lower back problems worsened over the years.
Before being referred to pain management my PCP recommended an MRI on all 3 areas of my back, which revealed a new bulge in the thoracic spine as well as a disc explosion (definitely not a medical term!) at L3-L4 that was oozing disc fluid and pressing on my spine which resulted in sciatica down the right leg that made my leg feel like it was on fire. Mobility tests have shown definite weakness in both legs.
At the moment I'm waiting to see an orthopedist at Georgetown as well as another neurologist for surgical consults. I still go to pain management and we're keeping me functioning with a combination of bracing, PT, and meds (Fentanyl 100mcg x 48 hrs, oxycodone 15 mg every 4 hours, and Lyrica 200 mg 3 x/day). I also receive steroid injections for the sciatica and facet joint injections for the bone-on-bone pain in my lumbar spine. L5-S1 is completely desiccated. My PCP said it's basically like a dried-out leaf. Even to an untrained eye my lumbar MRI is pretty nasty to look at.
I'm terrified of surgery because I know it's not a guaranteed fix, and that many patients are worse off after spinal fusion.
I plan on seeing these two surgeons with an open mind but I'm just not sure how to move forward. I have good days & bad days. My pain management doc and my PCP both agreed that Prozac would be an appropriate therapy for the pain-related depression I've found myself in and lately I've been having anxiety attacks due to the fact that I'm not working and unable to have an income. I applied for disability a few years ago but was told my husband makes too much money for me to qualify. His salary literally is a few hundred dollars over and it's incredibly frustrating as we cannot continue to pay the rent with only one income.
Just wanted to share my story; I know it's a long read...but to everyone on these boards hang in there, and thanks for listening.