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25 years of chronic low back pain. Thinking of finally doing a micro disectomy and stem cell TX.

Hi Everyone,

Long story short I've been dealing with chronic low back pain for over 25 years now. Lead a very active lifestyle in my youth and into my 20's and probably messed it up weightlifting or snowboarding. Over the years I've done several MRI's, Chiropractor, Epidural Injections, PT, Massage, etc. Some treatments have worked better than others but I'm still in a lot of pain and an unable to do activities that I wish I could do without suffering the consequences. In the past, Doctors did not want to do surgery because pain was isolated in my back with only mild sciatica.

Fast forward to present and my pain has increased despite losing a lot of weight and doing a ton of core exercises and stretches. Latest MRI at L4-L5 shows loss of disc signal with a 3mm protrusion and annular fissure just to the right of the midline. Both foramina are moderately narrowed from front to back. L5-S1 loss of disc height and disc signal. 3-4mm central protrusion mildly flattens Dural sac. S1 nerve roots are normal. L5 nerve roots are normal as well. Degenerative changes of the facet joints bilaterally.

Haven't been to the Dr in years but found new ortho surgeon who specializes in ex-athletes, etc. He wants to do a micro discectomy at the L4-L5 level where he thinks the disc is causing me problems. He will also treat surrounding discs with stem cell injections.

Here are my questions;

1. Dr's haven't wanted to do surgery in the past because most of my pain was localized in my low back with minimal sciatica issues. Leg strength has always been okay. I have numbness and burning in right outer thigh but Doctors say that is from Meralgia Paraesthetica and not from my back issue. Wondering in my new MRI has made me a better candidate for surgery?

2. I have read that micro discectomy does not always help those with chronic low back pain without sciatica or lower extremity issues. Not sure why this is?

3. At this point other than the cost and recovery of surgery what do I have to loose since I've tried a lot of conservative treatments and have been dealing with this for so long. Is there a chance surgery can make things worse?

4. Are there any positive stories or outcomes with similar surgery and diagnosis particularly for those with isolated back pain and not a lot of sciatica or leg pain?




  • In my opinion any surgery can always make something worst, as well as make it better, or have no impact at all.  It's why we sign those releases that state this as well.  What do you have to lose?  It's the same answer.  You could lose a lot or nothing.

    This is why, to have surgery or not have surgery, is up to you and your doctor.  Let us know what you decide.  We will support you either way.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 5,587

    Welcome to Spine Health

    All new members should take the System Tutorial

    In a way you've answered your own question, what have I got to loose. There have been a lot of members that have had the same surgery and you can find them in Surgery Buddies. Click on prior months as July or Aug. There you will read their stories of before surgery and during recovery. You can also go to the search box at the top of the page and key in L4-L5 surgery. That will also pull up discussions from members. 
    Talk to your surgeon, he can't give you guarantees but maybe he can ease your mind. Below is a link for good reading material. With knowledge about your condition, it is easier for both of you to communicate.
    Take care and keep us posted.

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
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  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 5,587
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
  • Thank you for the responses. I think my biggest unanswered question then is why is surgery not always recommended or beneficial for chronic low back pain that is isolated and not creating a lot of lower extremity or sciatica issues. This is why doctors in the past never considered me a strong candidate for surgery.

  • I’ve had doctors tell me there has to be ongoing significant pain, numbness, weakness, etc in the leg, groin, etc to merit or warrant surgery. 

    Think about it this way: If you have a lot of weakness in your leg due to a problem in your back, you’re more likely to fall, which could cause another (even more serious) injury.

    I think it’s a quality of life thing too. 

    Back pain alone stinks but having the pain constantly shooting down into your groin, testicle, leg, etc makes the condition that much more debilitating (both physically and mentally).

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  • If the surgery is successful what keeps the disc from squeezing back out where the herniation occurred? I just picture a tube off toothpaste and any little movement or downward stress on the spine would cause more disc material to come out. I’m hoping that’s not the case. 

  • My 40 years of DD have caught up with me. I have looked at stem cells and it seems different Doc's have different stem cell treatments but I could find none that showed marked improvement with before and after imaging. If you are looking at this treatment keep in mind testimonials sell treatments and the treatments are not cheap nor are they covered by most insurances.

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