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New member, old pain (L5-S1 disc degeneration)

edited 06/25/2015 - 7:36 AM in New Member Introductions
I'm a brand new member, but am not new to back pain, having injured myself moving in August 1986 and dealing with episodes of pain between periods that were relatively pain-free ever since. The initial diagnosis spotted on X-ray was a herniated L5-S1 disc, and while that hasn't gotten better or worse, the disc itself has been degenerating substantially over the years. Last September I started to experience pain, soreness and stiffness daily, and the winter snow in New England only added to my misery. I've had 3 epidural injections since October, but even though the snow is long gone, the pain has been constant. Physical therapy has provided strengthening, but otherwise no relief. I finally consulted with a well-known Boston back surgeon this afternoon.

As suspected, the latest MRI reveals there's not much left of the disc. On the plus side, the rest of the spine looks fine. The doctor recommended ALIF, and to be honest, it was the first time I'd heard of it. This website indicates that it's ideally suited for degenerative disc disease, and is particularly effective with the lower lumbar spine. I'd be curious to know how others with similar experience (ALIF surgery, single level lumbar) have fared and whether or not they'd recommend the procedure to a surgery neophyte.

Just to elucidate - I've tried chiropractic, physical therapy, and acupuncture, all of which have helped with sciatica but not with my most recent bout of lower back pain. I've never had any surgery beyond epidural injections and a facet nerve block. Naproxen has helped with soreness in the past, but I've discontinued it as I understand that long-term everyday use can cause kidney issues. I first injured my back at age 26 and am now 55, still in good health otherwise and with no other back problems beyond the L5-S1 disc. I've been under the care of several orthopedists and spine specialists over the years.


Welcome to Spine-Health

One of the most important things that need members can do is to provide the rest of the community with as much information about themselves as possible. It is so very difficult for anyone to respond when we do not have enough information to go on. This is not meant to indicate that you are doing anything wrong or violated any rule, we are just trying to be pro-active and get the information upfront so that people can start responding and your thread is more effective.

So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong, The fact that your test results are negative does not mean that you are fine and without any concerns. Many times it takes several diagnostic tests and procedures to isolate a specific condition.

Here are some questions that you should answer:
  • - When did this first start? . Year, Your age, etc
- Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
- Are there others in your family with similar medication conditions?
- What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)
  • . Which doctor did you start with? Ie Primary Care Physician . Who are you currently seeing?
- What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?
  • . Physical Therapy . Ultrasound / Tens unit . Spinal Injections . Acupuncture . Massage Therapy
- What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)
  • . Summarize the results, please do not post all details, we cannot analyze them . How many different tests have you had over the years? Similar results?
- What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)
  • . Name of Medication . How long have you been using this? . Results
- Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
- Is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
- What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
of your situation and make it easier to respond.

Please take a look at our forum rules: Forum Rules

I also strongly suggest that you take a look at our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which can be found at the top of the forum menu tab or by going to FAQ There you will find much information that will
  • - Help you better utilize the Spine-Health system- Provide pointers on how to make your threads / posts- Tips on how to create your avatar (your picture), posting images, etc- General pieces of valuable information

Please remember that no one at Spine-Health is a formally trained medical professional.
Everything that is posted here is based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research.
As such, no member is permitted to provide
  • - Analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie MRI, CTscan, Xray, etc)- Medical advice of any kind- Recommendations in terms of Medications, Treatments, Exercises, etc

What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are

I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways it’s like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then it’s up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 06/25/15 10:41 est
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