My name is Kathy and I am new here. I am looking for information and opinions. I have been scouring the forums and am so grateful to read about other people's experiences and advice.
I had a discectomy at L5-S1 approximately 6 years ago.
I had a decent period of relief, post surgery. I had some bouts of sciatica and muscle spasms, but really nothing unmanageable-without any meds.
About 3 years after my surgery, I picked up my then 3 year old, who was about 45 lbs. I felt something pull in my back and my sciatica and back pain started again. An MRI showed a bulging disc at the site of my previous discectomy. A neurosurgeon in the same practice where I had been treated previously diagnosed degenerative disc disease but advised that I wasn't a surgical candidate at that time and referred me to pain management Dr. I spent 2 years under the treatment of a pain management Dr. I tried various injections, nerve ablation, the trial for a spinal cord stimulator. I got no relief with any of the injections and got a month or so worth of relief from the nerve ablation. The SCS was moderately successful but I didn't have the permanent implant because shortly after my trial, I was laid off and no longer had insurance. When I lost my insurance, I changed back to just seeing my primary care Dr. He was treating me with Zanaflex, Ultram, and an anti-inflammtory in three month cycles.....much more affordable than seeing the pain mgmt Dr, as I was paying for everything out of pocket. That worked for about a year or so with no real issues. So, I've muddled through the past 3 or so years, between the pain management Dr and my primary care Dr.
That is, until about 3 weeks ago. I noticed it starting kind of slowly....the pain just increasing more and more. The Ultram wasn't working like it once had and I assumed I was just getting tolerant of the medication. It wasn't long before I figured out that something else was wrong. I went back to my primary care Dr, who gave me a shot of steriods and a short term prescription for Lortab. That same night, I ended up in the ER because the pain was so bad. They administered Toradol and Valium. It didn't offer relief as much as it just relaxed me enough to rest.
I went to a new pain mgmt Dr, who sent me for another MRI since it had been almost 3 years since my last one. He also referred me back to my neurosurgeon...he really feels like he's out of options to treat me. He would be willing to go through with another trial for the SCS, but the worst pain right now isn't nerve pain/sciatica...it's the acute pain in my lower back. It's his opinion that the SCS really wouldn't help much, at this point.
The MRI reflects the previously operated on disc still bulging-more than it was 3 years ago, but not herniated. There is much less disc space between L5-S1 than there should be. The neurosurgeon who did the discectomy thinks that spinal fusion is the next best course of action. He isn't sure if the disc is causing the pain or if there's scar tissue but, in his opinion, it's clear that that part of my back is unstable. Frankly, I'm fine with that. *Something has got to help. I am at the point I can't do anything. I am out of work because I can't sit, walk, or stand for more than about 10 minutes at a time...and when I attempt to, it's excruciating. I am currently taking Lortab 10 mg every 4 hours, Celebrex 200 mg once daily, and 4 mg Zanaflex 3 times daily. The Lortab lasts about 3 hours before I can hardly stand the pain.
My neurosurgeon says that he isn't comfortable doing the fusion himself. He told me that he doesn't really do many of them...and while it's in his opinion the fusion will provide the relief I need, he just doesn't feel comfortable enough to do the surgery. He referred me to another neurosurgeon in the practice that does many more of the fusions and told me that he would get me an appointment ASAP. I called after not hearing anything for a week....and the soonest appointment that they could get me was over a month away.
At this point, if the neurosurgeon who did the discectomy wouldn't perform the spinal fusion himself, I'm wondering if it's even worth waiting the nearly four weeks to see the other Dr in the practice. Should I attempt to get in to see an orthopedic surgeon instead? Should I be looking at other options, rather than the fusion? I can't seem to find any good alternative.
I'm just so frustrated. I can't do anything, I am in a lot of pain AND medicated. Any advice, thoughts, opinions are all appreciated....