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I'm new too - possible 3-level lumbar fusion

lstellerllsteller Posts: 1,428
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:23 AM in New Member Introductions
I fell backwards onto my lawnmower in May 2007, striking the bottom of my spine on the corner of the engine. I herniated three discs. I had one steroid injection and nearly went through the roof. @) Then did some chiropractic and physical therapy and all was good. Then in late October 2007, it got really bad again. Major sciatica in the right leg, back pain. I ended up having a microdiscectomy and foraminotomy at the L5/S1 level in mid-December. I did more PT and I was doing GREAT. I had built up to walking 5 miles a day and was feeling really healthy. One day on my walk, my right leg buckled right out from under me. The pain was excrutiating. As long as I was careful when walking, I could pretty much avoid the pain, but it got worse and worse till I was reduced to an old lady shuffle and now have pain all the time. I had another MRI, discogram and CT scan. I have arthritis, and my three discs (L3/4, L4/5, and L5/S1) have annular tears all the way across from left to right. I have had two surgeons tell me my condition is inoperable, and that I can have a spinal cord stimulator implanted if I like. I don't like! I want to be able to move, to breathe, to walk!! I'm 54, but I'm not old enough to be put away in a corner yet. I hope to retire next year and I want to begin my second childhood. I have done a lot of reading on the web and most say that a three-level lumbar fusion is not recommended. I am still in physical therapy, but I am not getting better. If anything, I am getting worse. I have found a doctor who thinks he can help me and says that if I have the fusion, I will have a stable base for my spine and if I continue my PT and am diligent about my exercises, I can probably get 5-10 years of relatively pain-free life before anything else needs to be done to my back. Do any of you know of anyone who has had the last three discs in their back fused? Are they doing well? I am currently on duragesic patches and also taking percocet for the 'break-through' pain. I do not want to be on drugs for the rest of my life. Anyone in the same boat? I guess I'm just looking for other's experiences and a little reassurance that I'm going to do the right thing. I know I can't live with this pain for the rest of my life.
3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.


  • Welcome to Spine Health, first off. As you read through these forums, you will find you are definitely not alone. Many of us have had multi-level fusion, myself included and in the area you are having troubles.

    You say that you are not a candidate for surgery.... ehy? What is their reasoning?

    Anyways, look forward to seeing you in the forums

    Best Wishes,
  • The two surgeons said that if they did a three level fusion, it would, in a short matter of time, make the disc in the level above those three unstable and I'd end up with more ruptured discs and more pain. As my PT says, how can I possibly have more pain than I have now? Since they did the micro-surgery, maybe they are afraid I'll blame them for my current situation? Maybe they are afraid to do three levels? I don't know. I think I'd rather try that than the spinal cord stimulator. Something about that just creeps me out. I don't want a pacemaker in my butt!

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • :) hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i do not have your problem but my problems are inoperable as well. you have a decision you must weigh very carefully. you are so smart to be asking your questions now. :? good luck with your decision and i hope you find a pain program that suits you. Jenny :)
  • Thanks for the support. I keep trying to convince myself that I will be fine with no surgery. I do my PT as best I can, small movement exercises. I walk with a small gait and try to be as active as I can without hurting myself, but I just seem to crumble. I don't like the idea of being fused, and I really don't want to be in a brace and out of commission for months, but I'm beginning to think it's my only option. The pain is unbearable most of the time. I don't want to live like this -- I need freedom (or at least a big reduction)in the pain level. My PT is thinking I'll probably be better off with the surgery and rehabilitation afterwards, as I'm not improving.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • :) Linda, read the "Good News" forum for some insight into successful surgeries from other forum members. =D> i know how you feel about having pain forever. having a possible option must be a breathe of fresh air!! :X Jenny :)
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  • Hi Linda Im a newbe here also, and after many years of pain, I have decided I want my life back. I went to a Pain mgmt sp 2 SNI, and I told him I wanted a neuro stimulator so I could get on with my life. He refered me to a Neurosurgeon, and both have recomended 2 level fusion, it makes since to me and I just turned 49 and I too want my 2ed childhood. I have decided after reading this site almost 24/7 and doing research, I feel this is the best option for me. This site offers so much info, read read read, and maybe get a 3rd openion with a differant doc, maybe a neuro or a ortho sp. good luck hope to see you around. Rose
  • Hi,

    I am new to the site but just found your post while surfing for some related answers. I have had a back problem since the 1980's. Had a microdisectomy on L5/S1 in 2003. Just had the smae levels you mentioned fused together in July. I had a procedure called axialif. I was not out of work for 6 months as I had planned. I was out for two weeks!! I am still taking it easy but I am back in the gym doing very light workouts. Still have minor leg pain/burning. The back pain is gone. I sometimes forget that I had the procedure and I do stupid things....

    good luck and there is hope.
  • Good morning Isteller,
    It's a big deal to have your bones fused together...but...my surgeon told me I could expect a reasonable amount of relief. I had said %50 reduction in pain would make me happy, no spasms that drop me like a lead blanket's been thrown on me. And...that's about what I got...I still have alot of pain...but my leg pain when driving is minimal (and it was killer before) The 2 disks above my fusion levels are torn with bone spurs,so I am currently addressing that,and now my NS thinks my sac joint is the problem for my constant and sometimes dibilitating hip pain. But you know, I had my 2 level alif in May,I planted my garden (with a little bit of help from my 5 year old) I did as much outside work as I could stand this summer and I'm none the worse for wear! So I guess I'm saying go fo it! %50 may not sound like alot for what the surgery is, but I haven't laid on my sidewalk unable to move for several months now! I just went back to work (industrial sales) last week, and so far...I'm able to deal with it all. You sound like somebody that would bounce right back from the surgery. And this is a great place to get support and information, so keep coming here and you'll be just fine!
    Have a beautiful day......
  • if u know what i can do to find out what is causeing my problem i have had for along time and continues to get worse leave message at jhgwells@yahoo.com thanks.
  • Thank you all for your replies. I have decided to go ahead with the surgery. PT isn't really helping, although at this point, I do end up getting a pretty good massage twice a week which feels good. Yes, I'm thinking a 50% reduction in pain would be wonderful. I'm going to be having a "minimally invasive" procedure with instrumentation, but I don't have all the specifics yet. They will be sending me a packet, then I get to ask all sorts of questions at the pre-op. I just want my life back. I end up with those severe jolts of pain all the time, even when I'm almost asleep and my body finally lets go of all the stiff muscles it's been guarding all day. YIPES!! We'll see how this goes. November 19th is the day.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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