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Feeling of spinal instability/movement in back- what works for you?

I've just had a second discectomy. Since my first (3&half years ago) I've had a feeling of instability in my spine at L5S1 where it feels like the vertebrae are moving around a lot. It happens maybe 2-3 times a month and lasts from 1-7 days. In bad times, I've had it for up to 3 months. It causes huge pain & when I walk, a hunch and an odd gait. Also herniated disc & have based sciatica when this happens. My specialist has suggested that when it happens if I can't get relief, it would help to avoid sitting or standing (ie. lying flat as soon as possible) in short term until it settles to help with pain and muscles spasming. I've been told that I'm not a candidate for fusion. Whilst lying flat may be helpful, I'm not sure how practical this is for work or when I'm not in the house and can't home quickly. What helps others with this movement in their back?


  • Hi, I was just wondering if anyone would be able to offer any suggestions as I've still had no replied to this and would like to know what may help with my instability. Thanks
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 497
    edited 12/16/2015 - 9:21 PM
    Hi Lily.....I'm not sure about your exact physical feelings, and why your Dr says you're not a candidate for surgery if things are moving around causing you pain.

    I had a laminectomy, L4-5 fusion last March, and I don't know this for fact, but I thought on one occasion I felt a slippage in vertebrae, but I was actually laying down, rolling to side when it happened....and I didn't experience any pain with movement, as it felt like whatever moved went back into place directly after..

    Hope someone else can be more helpful....
  • Hi Sheri,
    Thanks so much for the response. My surgeon has said it is called mechanical instability and happens because a large amount of my disc has been removed and the two vertebrae are moving as they are not fully supported by the disc. It sounds like a similar feeling you describe as I feel there being movement which as you said can seem to go back in place quite quickly which is good but when it doesn't, it can feel 'out of place' for days/weeks and that's when walking is hard. I'm not sure that lying down every time this happens is practical as I need to try and live life and work. I'm sure a fusion would help, but as this doesn't seem to be a possibility, I hope something else may be helpful. Interesting this happened to you after the fusion, maybe it wasn't the same thing, I guess it's hard to tell!
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 497
    Hey Lily...I'm not sure either, I'll be seeing a pain management Dr the first week of January, I'll see what he has to say about it.

    For you though, I don't understand why your Dr is saying you're not a candidate for surgery. If you had a discectomy, and your vertebrae is unstable because their is too much disk space, then why wouldn't they do a laminectomy with a fusion?
  • Lily2014LLily2014 Posts: 84
    edited 12/21/2015 - 3:37 PM
    Thanks Sheri, will be good to hear another opinion. I've contacted my PT but haven't had any help as yet which has been frustrating as it has been feeling "in and out of place" for days now and sends jolts up my spine when I've been sitting for more than 10 minutes. Hopefully, I'll get to the bottom of it as I've found it quite difficult to lie down straight away especially when I'm not at home! I'm going to get a second opinion about a fusion, but from what I understand it's something to do with my sciatic nerve being very inflamed and damaged and each time I've had surgery, damage to leg got worse so surgeon concerned with a fusion, the nerve could become more damaged and paralysis in leg worse although still trying to get to the bottom of the exact cause of leg problems and foot drop.

    Can I ask on another note how helpful you've found pain management Dr? I've been hoping to get another referral as I went 2 years ago and Dr sent me straight back to my GP but they struggling to advise on my meds and pain.
    Thanks for advice
  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 497
    Hey Lily....So far I've only done a three month treatment plan with a pain management clinc, and that was about a year before my lumbar fusion this past March. I start seeing the pain management Dr my surgeon referred me to the first week of January, not the same clinic I've had previous experience with.

    Personally, I don't think the previous PM clinic helped my back, although I did lose almost 10 pounds. But the exercises they had me doing I couldn't continue doing, they increased the pain, plus I developed an insane case of plantar fasciitis from all the stretching, having to end up getting four shots in my right foot, which was the side I had all the sciatic problems with.

    I actually only thought I had a herniated disk, L4-5, but I also had spondylolisthesis, and I'm sure some of the exercises they had me doing didn't help me.

    During that treatment time I also tried taking Cymbalta, which I believe helped me deal with the pain mentally better, but it raises my blood pressure too high, so had to give it up. During the time I was taking it, my activivity also increased, because I could tolerate more pain, but in hindsight, doing more caused more damage....one of the bad things about taking something to mask the pain.

    I'll let you know what my next PM Dr has to say, and what he does for me.....Till January 4th....

    Thanks for all your info too.
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