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Is surgery my only option?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Good eveing forum members. I've had spondylolithesis that I know of for 15 years. I'm 45 and female; however, when I was 30 and running several miles a week I began experiencing severe leg and calf pain that led me to the chiropractor. The chiro told me about the spondylolithesis and said I could no longer run. After crying a few days, I went to an orthopedic surgeon who confirmed the chiro's diagnosis but said that I could run until I couldn't stand it anymore. Well, it's 15 years later and after surgeries on my knee and shoulder, my pain has resurfaced with a bang. I have continual pain in the right hip and buttock(sleeping is the worst)and noticeable sciatica in the left leg as well. I finally went to a neurosurgeon the other day who said that my MRI showed severe nerve damage at L5-S1 (and this MRI was from 2005). The surgeon wants to do the PLIF procedure and I just want to know if there is really any other options for me. I fear the recovery and reoccuring pain. Any suggestions would be very helpful.

Also, is it normal to experience throbbing pain in the groin area with L5-S1 issues? The pain began close to the fold (where the groin and pelvic area meet) and now is moving to the back side of the thight. This has been going on for several months now. The pain is different than the sciatic pain that typically radiates down the back side of the buttock, behind the knee and into the calf. Should I be experiencing pain (different characteristics) in both legs with the spondy.

Thanks for any advice/suggestions.



  • I am not a lot of help, but I can tell you that I know how it feels to be in pain!!!!! :( I haven't had surgery yet, but I do hope there is someone here that can answer some of your questions!
  • I don't know if the surgery you mention is the only option, but I can tell you that I experienced pain in the "saddle" area (the area between your legs that would fit on a saddle) when I had sciatica. It was more to the right side, as was my sciatica symptoms. It went away not long after I had the L5, SI microdisectomy (and was much much better even right after surgery). I wish you the best with your symptoms!


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  • Hi...firstly I am so sorry to hear about your pain and your inability to enjoy your love of running. I don't want to alarm you but it is a little surprising that your surgeon is considering surgery after looking at your MRI from 2005 without getting an updated MRI (or has he?) The 'guideline' appears to be to not refer to any MRI older than 6 months - in other words get a new MRI if the last MRI is older than 6 months.

    There are lots of conservative treatments to consider before considering surgery. The following link lists most of the common pain conservative options http://www.spine-health.com/forum/pain-management/common-pain-management-procedures A good surgeon will take you through all of these before considering the final option - surgery.

    Before finally considering surgery, I would certainly recommend getting a second opinion from another spine specialist - this could either be a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon (the prime criteria being that he/she specialises in spinal issues such as yours).

    The pain that you are now experiencing in your groin area could be caused by a number of things and it is hard for any of us to comment on that as we aren't doctors. I certainly had pain in that area, which was related to my L5-S1 issue too, and it was different to my sciatic pain.

    All the best... Bruce

    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • It sounds to me that you have been suffering too long already. As scary as surgery sounds, after such a long time you may have run out of options. Your doctor is the best judge of that. If he think you are that point when surgery is your only viable option, you may not have any choice. The one thing you don't want to happen to you is to suffer permanent nerve damage. So if your surgeon thinks you are at that point don't be alarmed. Lot of us actually are happy that we went ahead with our surgeries. I had spondy and severe spinal stenosis and I feel 99% better (at least) after my fusion surgery. Once you are certain you'll have surgery there is a lot of useful info here that would help you to prepare. Also, don't forget to look up the "Good news" "successful surgeries" site.

    Good luck in your decision, and keep us posted.

  • until you have had a current MRI. Like most of us here I would also advise you to really try all other options first. Surgery can be very successful but it is a long recovery period and after PLIF i would highly doubt if you would ever run again. - I dont know if you expect to.

    The surgery options are discectomy (microD) which removes part of the disc but it depends on what the MRI says if that is an option or not. SOunds like you have passed that mark already and the Fusion PLIF is the only surgical option or a disc replacement. Again it depends on your condition.

    Blessings Sara O:)
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  • Spondy cases are written to be 90% successful following interbody fusions, whch are the gold standard for Spondy problems. Depending on your slippage and instability will determin whether the docs reduce the slip (or not)and the risk of non fusion and 360 appraoch (front and back)

    But once done is usually quite suuceesful. It is the DDD cases who are less likely to do so well. Thats my take on what I have raed, anyhow.

    S1 - radiates into the groin (but so does Sacro-illiac pain) and disc pain. Classic distribution.

    Dare I say, if your MRI is showing damage and you are suffering, consider the surgery. I am so debiliated now it has slowed my recovery down.

    Remember, spondy ppl usually do well. Good Luck!
  • I do have spondylolisthesis as well in L5/S1 and i have decided to go through with the surgery..I am really scared and nervous at the moment..

    I myself didnt do much for my spondy after 15 years then i decided on the surgery as i am scared of it getting worse and etc..I do have pain and numbness down my left leg now.

    You mention that you had surgery before in the knee and shoulder was it ? You meant that surgery caused your spondylolisthesis or something?


  • Thanks to everyone for their posts. I absolutely plan on having a second MRI and second opinion before I go under the knife again. I was quite surprised when this neurosurgeon didn't even touch my back, but took me to look at my 3-year old MRI. He said he knew what the problem was right off the bat since the MRI showed severe bilaterial nerve damage back then. I guess I didn't think the pain was as bad as it was until this past summer. After having knee surgery then shoulder surgery (torn labrum and rotator cuff)the past two years, I guess I was focusing on those things more than the pain that was in my legs. I guess that's what aging does for you.

    Take care everyone and thanks so much for all the comments and advice.
  • No, my knee and shoulder surgeries resulted from an accident by being chased by a big dog while walking my little dog early one morning. My little dog made it home safe and sound after slipping through his collar to get away. I unfortunately, didn't fair so well and ended up hitting the pavement hard while trying to get away. My knee continued to hurt after the initial surgery so another MRI was ordered. That's where the radiologist identified the spondy, but I already knew this from several years before then. The pain in the legs has come and gone for years, but this past summer the pain in the hip and SI joint area has been unbearable at times (especially while sleeping and getting out of bed).

    I anticipate having the surgery, but not until after the holidays.

    Good luck to you.
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