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Surgery the ONLY other option?

Hi everyone! My name is Meagan and this is my first post. Here's my back story (no pun intended)...

I've suffered from DDD for 15 years (since I was 15). It's progressively getting worse so I'm seeking help now. My most recent MRI shows DDD, stenosis, deydration, 1 herniated disc, and arthritis. I was referred to a pain management doctor and my appointment was with her, today. She recommends trying the steroid injections. I am terrified of this, by the way. It seems invasive and dangerous, painful and scary. I'll do it, though. Anyway, she said if the shots don't help the next step is a referral to a surgeon. Does this seem a little extreme after trying only ONE type of treatment? She also suggested PT and I'll try that as well. So, surgery if shots and PT don't work? There HAS to be other treatment options, right? Also, she didn't prescribe any pain medication to me, which is not a huge deal- I figure most doctors have to be very careful these days. I would have liked some kind of relief between now and my shot date, but oh well. Anyway, can anyone suggest other treatment options besides surgery for my conditions? I need to be better prepared next time.
Meagan
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Comments

  • There's lots of things that might can help you... the injections are a start. I'm some what surprised that they are doing those before PT, but I'm clearly not a doc, so I imagined he/she has reviewed your tests and think the injections might provide you the most releif. They are usually done in a series, 3 being a common number, and lots of people don't get real relief until after the last one, so don't give up on them after the first one if you don't get relief (though you might!). They are basically just a shot, nothing too painful usually... once the needle is inserted they usually put lidocaine or some kind of numbing stuff in it so you only feel pressure for the rest of the procedure. And lots of people get tremendous relief from physical therapy. I've done multiple rounds of PT, they all seem to be different. Of course they all focus on building core muscles, etc. I found the most successful ones used TENS, heat, and massage as well. Another option is accupuncture. My orthopedic group has even hired trained people in this to aid in narcotic free pain relief, etc (or to work in conjunction with the narcotics if necessary). I have no experience with accupuncture, sounds somewhat scary, but it growing in popularity even amongst physicians.... I also know lots of people who have gotten relief from chiropracters... I have never been to one, but still something to consider. I know you only had your first appointment with pain management (and honestly I've never had pain managment so can't speak too much on that) but take a look around this site and come up with a list of questions for your next visit, as well as some possible "conservative treatments" you might like to try. And if pain is a major issue for you, you do need to inquire about medications. I am a proponent of putting off narcotics as long as possible (though I do believe they should be used for chronic pain suffers), but there are other types of medication that might could help. For example, if the DDD is causing nerve pain, there are nerve medications.... muscle relaxants, etc. You might also want to know what OTC drugs your doctor recommends for you with your personal medical history. Good luck and keep us updated! PM me if you like.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Forgive the multitude of grammar/spelling errors.... I'm bad... but not usually that bad....lol
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,135
    I know you will find your time here rewarding.
    Regarding treatments, unless there is a disc that is impinging a nerve root, almost always the conservative treatment route should be taken.
    Spinal injections (that are not nearly as bad as you think) along with Physical Therapy, Traction, Acupuncture, Massage therapy , Aqua Therapy are just some of the other treatments you might be going through]]

    Have these types of discussion with your doctor. Pict their brain, so what there plans are for you. I would not been all that keen on any surgeon that wants to jump into surgery without exploring other options, and if there are no other options, that that information needs to be given to you.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • dilauro said:
    I know you will find your time here rewarding.
    Regarding treatments, unless there is a disc that is impinging a nerve root, almost always the conservative treatment route should be taken.
    Spinal injections (that are not nearly as bad as you think) along with Physical Therapy, Traction, Acupuncture, Massage therapy , Aqua Therapy are just some of the other treatments you might be going through]]


    Have these types of discussion with your doctor. Pict their brain, so what there plans are for you. I would not been all that keen on any surgeon that wants to jump into surgery without exploring other options, and if there are no other options, that that information needs to be given to you.
    Sorry, I should have mentioned (thought I did!) that the herniated disc is impinging on the sciatic nerve. I have burning in my right leg and numbness in my right foot. Thank you, both for the words of wisdom and suggestions. It helps a lot! I'm really nervous that she suggested surgery so soon. Perhaps I need a second opinion of the injections don't work.
    Meagan
  • Hi Meg. I have a long experience with back surgeries and trust me..you got a long way to go before that. You look young enough where you can help your back. As suggested, through pt and injections to start. Often, disks will pop back into place through tx, exercise and pampering your back. depending on what is wrong with your back should depend on the need for surgery. Is the nerve crushed? Is it moderate or severe? These are the answers you need. As I posted before, many places will tell you that you need surgery, there is big money involved. Many people do need surgery and many dont right away or may even never need it. do careful research before you jump in for surgery. As we get older, we all have arthritis. It is common as we age, even in the young. You have one herniated disk, again, you should get more details about it. Is it causing leg pain, numbness ect? Ask your MD, can it go back in? There are so many treatment options out there. I had an L4-5 Discectomy then 2 yrs later a fusion. I DID get relief from the fusion for 8 yrs. Now I have sudden onset R Hip/leg pain. Guess what? Now my l5 and s1 disk have now herniated from where the rod is attached, the nerves are completely crushed and touching the spinal canal. Im a mess all over again. Im actually getting injections Wed to see if it will give me some relief. So with that being said, Once you mess w/ the spine it will keep getting worse so only consider it if the pain is unbearable and you have tried all other options for relief. I am a lucky one who made it this far from my fusion but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I now have 4 in my back and 2 in my neck that are herniated, and still surgery is my LAST option, so hang in there and keep moving. when we lay around w/ bad backs it only makes it worse. Good luck and leep searching for options.
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  • Kristen said:
    Hi Meg. I have a long experience with back surgeries and trust me..you got a long way to go before that. You look young enough where you can help your back. As suggested, through pt and injections to start. Often, disks will pop back into place through tx, exercise and pampering your back. depending on what is wrong with your back should depend on the need for surgery. Is the nerve crushed? Is it moderate or severe? These are the answers you need. As I posted before, many places will tell you that you need surgery, there is big money involved. Many people do need surgery and many dont right away or may even never need it. do careful research before you jump in for surgery. As we get older, we all have arthritis. It is common as we age, even in the young. You have one herniated disk, again, you should get more details about it. Is it causing leg pain, numbness ect? Ask your MD, can it go back in? There are so many treatment options out there. I had an L4-5 Discectomy then 2 yrs later a fusion. I DID get relief from the fusion for 8 yrs. Now I have sudden onset R Hip/leg pain. Guess what? Now my l5 and s1 disk have now herniated from where the rod is attached, the nerves are completely crushed and touching the spinal canal. Im a mess all over again. Im actually getting injections Wed to see if it will give me some relief. So with that being said, Once you mess w/ the spine it will keep getting worse so only consider it if the pain is unbearable and you have tried all other options for relief. I am a lucky one who made it this far from my fusion but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I now have 4 in my back and 2 in my neck that are herniated, and still surgery is my LAST option, so hang in there and keep moving. when we lay around w/ bad backs it only makes it worse. Good luck and leep searching for options.
    Thanks for your reply! Surgery isn't an option for me. I mean, even if it's suggested I will decline. I'd really rather not go that route... especially if ever other option hasn't been explored. Thanks for bringing up some great questions. I will bookmark those and save them for the next appointment. I'm so bummed that I didn't do more research about this and come up with questions. I feel like it was such a waste. :( Now, I have ALL these questions. I didn't help that my babysitter flaked, so I had my two toddlers in tow. Anyone with kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, kids in the neighborhood, etc. knows that my hands were full at my appointment! UGH!

    Meagan
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,135
    The disc impingement on a nerve root is something that generally needs to be taken care of sooner vs later. Nerve damage is something that you want to avoid.
    No harm in getting a second opinion. Its always good to know that two doctors have the same view in terms of your condition and the same action plan
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • catfishmanccatfishman Posts: 185
    edited 03/05/2013 - 3:40 AM
    Meaghan, it might take a series of the shots to work, i have had a total of 4. the first 1 lasted about a month, i felt great, the next 1 lasted a couple of weeks, then the dr decided to go at a slightly different angle on the last 2. but they did not help that much. some people do really well, hopefully you will.i have not gotten surgery yet, i was diagnosed over 2 years ago with bulging l4,l5, and herniated l5,s1. i take nucynta er, gabapentin, and celebrex. i was doing really well, up until about 2 months ago. my pain used to be mostly in the pirifomis muscle area, now it is in the back of my calf, and it is alwful. i wish you the best of luck.
  • Just wanted to give you my experience with accupuncture. Like dilauro said, the most important thing for you is to get the disc impengment off the nerve. Sometimes the ESI will help the bulge shrink off the nerve and you get some relief. I have some permanent nerve damage in my left arm from waiting too long for surgery.
    Accupuncture for me didn't help with pain but did help me relax and would get better sleep for a couple of days after a treatment. the treatment isn't painful at all. Until recently I was afraid of needles and was very wary on my first accupuncture, I didn't even feel the needles go in. I stopped going after I got a burn on my back from a "chinese medicine poultice" Am currently looking for a new therapist hoping to get some better sleep.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
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