Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Lumbar Spinal Fusion - Personal Experiences

I am 69 years old and have battled arthritis since my twenties. I have lost the war! I now need both knees replaced AND my neurosurgeon says I MUST have spinal fusion surgery. I can't think of or don't know of any medication and/or treatment I haven't tried. I am terribly afraid to have back surgery for two reasons:

1. A MTHFR DNA test through the Mayo Clinic on March 17, 2014 indicates I am positive for C677t gene mutation. The first problems listed on the results is a risk factor for arterial disease and venous thrombosis. My father and a young first cousin both died from blood clots during orthopedic surgeries.

2. I have talked to no less than a dozen friends, neighbors and family members who have had lumbar spinal fusion and not one reports having a positive experience. Without exception they all say they are in worse pain now than before the surgery.

My question is has ANYONE had good luck with spinal fusion surgery?

If one cannot or chooses not to undergo spinal fusion surgery, is there any hope for pain relief? I'm at the point now where I feel like Tramadol is making me physically ill. I've been taking it for four years - Tramadol being considered the best pain drug for me.

I have a rheumatologist, a knee specialist, a neurosurgeon for my back, and a pain management specialist. I feel like a worn out old tennis ball continually being batted back and forth between different doctors but making absolutely no progress. I'm sincerely worried about deepening depression and anxiety.

Any personal experiences would be very much appreciated. I feel like I'm at the end of my rope and pretty much out of options. My doctors tell me to stay away from the big spinal treatment medical centers.



  • I had a lumbar spinal fusion about 7 weeks ago. I am much better than I was before, though I am not 100% pain free or anything, it's a lot better.
    I can not imagine not having had the surgery, as I could barely walk before that.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the gene issue, you are aware of it, so they can be aware of it and use medication appropriately to prevent clotting.
    I have a collagen disorder which makes some surgeons nervous, but my surgeon just "read up on it" and did what was recommended and I didn't have any healing issues that others with my disorder seem to be prone to.
    You could of course, seek a second Neurosurgeon's opinion. I avoided fusion surgery for a year, and I wish I had done it sooner.... I was completely out of options, it was surgery or walk with a walker.... I am walking very well now, with just some numbness and tingling in my right leg where most of my nerve injury occurred. I would say to be very careful in selecting your surgeon. I consulted 5 before my fusion. Not one told me that I must have any surgery as it is an elective procedure but they all concurred that without the surgery my back would continue to deteriorate...so I'd be cautious of someone who insists that you "must" have surgery. I was literally falling down frequently and the last guy I consulted still said, that it was my decision.
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 731
    I'm near your age (62) and I also struggle with arthritis... specifically Psoriatic Arthritis which causes crippling swelling and pain in my toe joints, knee joints, and wrists. Earlier this year I started weekly injections of Etranercept which is one of several drugs in a new class of treatments called Biological Response Modifiers. It has done WONDERS for my arthritis joint pain!!! I'm like a new person after so many years of struggling. I don't know if you've tried or discussed this treatment with your rheumatologist but I would highly recommend it. Prior to that I went through all kinds of nonsense treatments for years and I even had orthoscopic knee surgery twice and was considering total knee replacment.

    For the lower back fusion surgery I've been through this twice in the past 3 years and as you found by talking to your friends it's a MAJOR surgery and recovery is a TOUGH LONGGGG road... taking many months. Especially at your age it will be extra tough. However having said that without the surgery the nerve pain in my back was completely unbearable prior to surgery and I'm now pain free. Like you I also took pain meds prior to surgery but they were not really solving the problem... just hiding it. If you've tried the other more conservative treatments like ESI injections and physical therapy... then the only real choice left for true relief is surgery. Yes it's tough... but without it you're doomed to be stuck on and maybe even addicted to pain drugs for the rest of your life... as well as possible permanent nerve damage.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
    edited 12/26/2015 - 6:05 PM
    has anyone tried spinal decompression? I have heard some promising results. Non surgical. But pricy and the price tag isn't consistent. Usually performed by a Chiroprator.

    I was injured in a horrible motorcycle accident where I flew through the air and then it the ground hard and rolled a long time. First surgeries were elbow recon and left knee recon, then total knee replacement in 2009. Then in 2011 I was crushed by malfunctioning electronic doors and that was what sent my back into horrible pain. I have had multiple epidurals in mid thoracic and lumbar, PT, Tramadol, Alieve. Then Microdiscectomy for L5S1 in Dec 2012.

    Now that same area has re-herniated 4mm. Chirono help of course as you can't correct a herniated disc w adjustments. Accupuncture gave some relief initially then that diminished. Finally just had another epidural. Then slipped and fell 2 days after!!

    So I am looking into Lamenectomy Discectomy, Fusion, Disc replacement and Non invasive no surgical Spinal Decompression.

    Would love some feedback on this.

    Mnay thanks

    Kristina M
    Kristina M
  • Hi guys! I didn't intend to post my question and then vanish. I don't know if I belong here or would be better suited for a School of Hard Knocks forum! There is so much grief and frustration happening in my life right now that I would say nobody would believe it but I know they would and that so many people have so much more to try to contend with.

    I honestly don't know what to do or where to turn. My neurosurgeon, when I told him I wouldn't have lumbar fusion surgery as long as I had any other options, referred me to a pain management specialist. This same doctor treated my mother with radiotransmission ablation (?) ten years ago and her back pain has never returned. She was 94 at Christmas and can put on her socks standing straight up! LOL! I couldn't do that before my back and knees went south!

    I saw the pain management doctor twice. The first time he was concerned because I told him I thought I had injured my right hip, I kept telling him my "hip" hurt. He thought it would be prudent to give it a little time. Six weeks later I went back thinking Santa Claus was going to come early and give me an X-ray guided injection in my painful "hip". When the doctor asked exactly where my hip hurt, I pointed to the exact spot - toward the upper part of my right HIP. The doctor then announced that that was not my hip! Who knew?

    Santa put the cortisone back in his goody bag and sent me back to my rheumatologist to find out more about my "hip" pain. I had to wait weeks for an MRI. I now absolutely believe what I thought was hip pain is Piriforus Muscle Syndrome. The MRI showed osteoarthritis in both hips but that really does not hurt - this piriforum muscle, which I understand runs directly across the sciatic nerve, is still giving me fits but I'm trying to manage with stretching exercises and my TENS machine.

    Now I'm waiting. My next appointment with the rheumatologist is in March. Where I live, in north Louisiana, healthcare has become the biggest waiting game on earth! We have very few specialists in any field and the good doctors are booked for weeks and months in advance. In the meantime, my husband and elderly dog are both terribly ill and all that has my anxiety levels soaring. Besides learning where my HIP is, I've also learned from experience that stress and anxiety make arthritis pain a hundred times worse!

    My husband has a 1:30 appointment with his cardiologist (after two open heart surgeries) so I'd better get with the program. I am going to make an all out effort to be back regularly and read more about other's personal experiences. That seems to help me more than anything any overworked doctor hurridly tells me.
  • mrobbmmrobb Posts: 2
    edited 01/23/2016 - 2:43 PM
    To NOMOREPAIN2: I have done decompression, twice for DDD in the L5-S1. The first time I had more hip pain than back pain and the decompression resulted in nerve pain in my hip, but as it turns out I had some tears in my labrum, a quick scope cleared that up. So two years later after my DDD progressed quite a bit despite all the things I was trying, I gave it a go again. The second time, I was only having back pain, and I saw a different chiropractor. Decompression did help relieve my pain, but I have DDD, no herniation and no nerve pain. Some chiropractors will do a consult with you and give you an honest opinion about what your options are. Also, I believe some physical therapists can do decompression or traction. You may check around. Best of luck to you!
    32 yr old female
    L5-S1 DDD
  • For your anguish! I fought lumbar back pain for a looooong time with all of the usual conservative treatment options. It just kept getting worse. I went for several"second" opinions, and a doctor from a well known orthopedic outfit in my area finally leveled with me. "Surgery IS going to help you! Until I see you back in this office, and we're talking about your surgical plan, it is going to continue to be a battle of wills between you and your pain.
    You just let me know when you're ready." Now although it is certainly NOT one of my better character traits, I can be a good bit stubborn--so when I left his office, I still had the notion that my"wills" were going to do battle just fine thankyouverymuch! After 3 more failed spinal injections and being on pain meds that never truly did much, I realized the doctor was right. I was SO tired of fighting a losing battle with pain. I went back to see that same doctor, and as of today, I'm a hair past two weeks into recovery from a double spinal fusion surgery. Am I dancing the tango yet? No..but every day I am improving in some way (some days it's more psychological than physical! ), and I'm using that same stubbornness I've always had, only I'm channeling that into recovery now!
    Oh one last thing....my doctor also guaranteed that I would experience 80-90% pain relief from the fusion...I'm really striving to do all the doctors recommend so that I'll enjoy those percentages as my fusion heals. Another--and perhaps the bonus I'm MOST thankful for--is that the doctor found a problem (pars defect) after he opened me up that hadn't shown on any of the xrays/MRIs I'd had. Left untreated, this issue could have led to some pretty unsavory complications down the road.
    Yes recovery is painful at times, frustrating, and NO DOCTOR OUT THERE can say you'll be 100% pain free afterwards. You might not think so right now, but you haven't made it this far in the journey of life without at least a little bit of"tough cookie" in you! I do know that pain, fear, and despair can make a person feel as though"strong" would be about the LAST word they'd use to describe themselves.
    I wish you the absolute best in your decision process. You HAVE come to the right place in terms of finding people who are on various levels of their own healing paths...peace! :-D
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • I had an L4/L5 fusion almost 3 years ago and I have my life back. I am currently 54 years old and I still have my 13 year old daughter to take care of. (Other kids are grown). I can exercise, lift weights, ride a bike and I'm able to take care of my house, cook meals and host my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm not completely without pain, I still see my pain management doctor for meds (Tramadol is pretty much of a daily med, Norco is as needed, maybe 10-15 per month), but I don't need procedures anymore and can control my situation by adjusting my activities.
    Lumbar laminectomy L-4/L-5, 2006
    XLIF with posterior pedicle screws L-4/L-5, 4-23-2013
Sign In or Register to comment.