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1 year post op L5-S1 Spinal Fusion

Hi all,

I need some advice and help, and was wondering if anyone has been through something similar to what I am going through.

I am 34 years old, 6'4" and have had 3 surgeries on my back and all of them at L5-S1. The 1st was a Microdiscectomy in 8/2009, 2nd was a PLIF in 10/2010, and the 3rd was a redo of the fusion with bone material taken from my right hip in 4/2013.

Before my last surgery I was having radiculopathy into the right hip and down the right leg, and my Dr said that I never completely fused at the site. After doing the 3rd surgery I am now in worse shape than I was before it. The Dr says that I have fused nicely, the screws are in good positions, good spacing, but I am still in chronic pain. I have been taking Tramadol, Vicoprofen, and Gabapentin for 1 year now.

When I reached 6 months post op my Dr had me do a EMG, x-ryas, and MRI and said everything is fine and referred me to pain management. 4 months ago my new Dr sent me to physical therapy, and made no progress what so ever.

Just recently he ordered another EMG and I had it done yesterday, 4/22/2014. The Dr that performed the EMG said that as far as a pinched nerve everything is good, but... The Dr said that I have atrophy of the nerve itself, like it is not getting enough nutrition or something.

What I'm going through has me worried and concerned now. I have a constant aching pain in the outside part of my right calf, constant pain in my right hip in the front near the groin, and constant pain in my low back. When My wife puts the Analgesic cream on my back she has to be careful when rubbing it in on/near the incision at the right hip, that site is still extremely sensitive and the slightest pressure is extremely painful. Also when applying the cream along the nerve route at the buttock it is extremely painful if any pressure is applied there as well. When I stand up I cannot use my right leg to support me or it will collapse, when standing I can only do so for approximately 10 minutes before my back and my right leg start spasming and hurting. I am constant pain even with all the medications, over 500 pills every month.

I see my pain management Dr in 2 weeks to go over the new EMG results. But nothing is looking promising to me to be able to get back to a semi decent normal relatively pain free life. If anyone knows what I can look forward to or knows about my condition please let me know that you have done or what I can do.

Thank you and keep trudging on.


  • I have a similar history to yourself .laminectomy 1997 {L4/5] re do 2007 {L4/5 and S1} then the big one ALIF 2011 my problems started to get worse on operation number 2 and by the time I had the ALIF I was in agony ..the ALIF was hell and recovery from the operation took around 18 months .I am now 2 and a half years post op and still in pain with leg problems foot problems and ED !! .I don't know about you but I can't wear anything on my lower body I can't stand anything on my legs or feet so I have to wear baggy shorts .I sleep for 2 hours a night as pain wakes me ..my consultant told me that the ALIF was done to stabilize the spine and any pain relief would be a bonus and not a guarantee .I think the ALIF has been the worst thing that I have ever been through I am in pain 24/7 have no social or sex life and spend my life in my recliner I also take around 500 pills a months oxycontin/oxynorm.diazepam /temazepam ..I have tried all sorts for the pain but only the pills help and they don't take the pain away they just make it bearable .I used to use a good TENS but after the ALIF I have found the TENS doesn't work on me .I have a top end second generation memory foam bed but still I can only get an hour or two ..if I walk or even stand my legs and feet swell and they are always red hot {they were fine before the ALIF} .I don't have any answers .I just wanted you to know your not on your own I am now 17 years in pain and it not getting any better ..!! good luck let me know how you get on
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • I know exactly what you mean and everything you are going through Tony.

    One thing I have found that helps me to sleep at night is a full wave waterbed. One of the ones without the foam inside it to prevent waves. With me and my wife asleep I am almost in constant motion whenever I, me wife, or the dog moves on the bed and helps me to not get still when sleeping. I also spend most of me time in a recliner.

    Have you aver heard of atrophy of the nerve in the leg?
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  • If the nerve is compressed for some time, it can die off........meaning that the conduction to the nerve is no longer there.......and it can atrophy.. What dose of gabapentin are you taking? There is a very large window in dosing that particular medication used to treat neuropathic pain.....from 100 mg to 3600 mg per day.
    Opiates don't treat nerve pain well so it might be worthwhile talking to your doctor regarding adjusting the dose of the gabapentin.
    The other thing is that you are only four weeks out from your last surgery, and there is no real way to determine if or when the nerve may recover at this point.......time is the only thing that might show you improvement.........
  • I'm coming up on year two of my fusion recovery. Just got back to work two days a week for only 4 hours and it's really easy work. Boss knows of my back history and is willing to set aside my disabilities due to the fact I made him his company logo haha. But after my fusion I was good until a spinal leak in month two of recovery. After that it's been downhill. They told me I would be on medication for the rest my life. I'm 25. Suck my bells I'm taking mess forever I said and went and got myself a spinal stimulator put in. Pretty amazing. They can target specific areas so if you have only pain you your left leg. No problem. Left leg it is then. I'm now down to 5 mg opioids occasionally . Instead of 150mg DAILY. Check it out. Might change your life :)
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