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Author: Subject: Back Surgery. Any Advice?

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 05:28 PM
About 3 years ago I learned I had a moderately herniated disk in the S1/L5 region of my back. I've gone through 2 rounds of physical therapy, had two epidurals, and a disc o gram which simply proved the path of my pain. This is along with the rounds of medications they've got me on which I have to say have really worn out their welcome as far as I'm concerned. I've had a 2nd opinion on the matter, along with the opinions of the 3 doctors (pain, neuro, spine) in the group I'm working with, however I have not sought out a chiropractor. I've researchd what they have to offer, but it seems like it's all temporary and I'd wind up back at the orthopedist anyway. It appears I'm at the end of the road with it, meaning the next step is to have the area fused. Initially I was going to have the disk replaced, but the last MRI revealed some arthritis that has resulted from the herniation, so keeping that range of motion in place would like make the inflammation worse around the area.

Whatever the case I'm tired of the daily, constant pain, tired of percocet, tired of the whole business. Has anyone here had this procedure done, and is there any advice on what I can expect after it's done? Thanks for listening folks. Peace.

 
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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 05:35 PM
Hey Vic, good luck bro. Stay strong! pmotw.
 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 05:43 PM
I'm a freakin' expert.

First, how old are ya?

PT does nothing for a herniation ( a hard tissue injury) Depending on the severity of the situation ( sciatic nerve being affected?) Forget a chiro too. They shouldn't even be allowed to practice. Get used to the pain, it's probably life-long. The best bet is an orthopaedic surgeon. I had herniations in L-4, L-5, S-1. Two operations, '89 and '91. I was told the pain would subside (it did ) but the big thing was the sciatic nerve damage and it's effect on walking. Always be careful, a good mattress is imperative, do those back excercises...gently, wean yourself off the beans (Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) If the pain starts to inhibit your daily functioning, either replace or fuse the disk but the pain never really goes away. Just be careful how you move and if you're overweight, LOSE IT.

good luck, keep me informed.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 05:56 PM
Thanks for responding Piacere! I can use all the advice I can get. I'm 34, and I can give you a resounding YES that the sciatic is being affected. It's a searing pain that dominates most of my days. I share your same sentiments about chiropractors, but since this is actually happening now, I thought at least giving it a shot wouldn't be a bad idea. The orthopaedic group I've been working with is among the most respected in the state and they've been great as far as the treatment I've received. I've continued with the stretches and excersises they gave me during PT, and the first round actually did help for a few months, only to have the pain return like an in law who doesn't know when to go home. As far as inhibiting my life goes, the pain is daily and it's constant to varying degrees, meaning I have days that are worse than others. The irony of this whole thing, since you mentioned weight, is that this happened in the gym. I wanted to loosen the waist band a bit, and was successful in that I lost 47 pounds which was actually a lot more than I really needed to lose. The only trouble is I hurt myself in the process. A good part of the weight came back but I'm working on it very carefully at this point. Hopefully this surgery will provide some relief, but I do realize that pain will be there to one degree or another for as long as I'm around. As for the pain pills, I can't wait to get rid of them. I don't even like takin aspirin for a headache so it shouldn't be too much of an issue once I'm through the procedure.

Again, thanks for weighing in on this. The advice is appreciated.

 
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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:01 PM
My back aches constantly, too. I am living with it for the moment. Chiropractic care has helped me in the past, though. And lately, my left knee is giving me fits (had it operated on 27 years ago. I take nothing for pain, maybe an occasional Mobic that my wife pushes on me. I gave up on daily Ibuprofen for fear of damaging my liver and kidneys. I'd much rather have vicoden, but I doubt my doctor would agree.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:07 PM
quote:
I'm a freakin' expert.

First, how old are ya?

PT does nothing for a herniation ( a hard tissue injury) Depending on the severity of the situation ( sciatic nerve being affected?) Forget a chiro too. They shouldn't even be allowed to practice. Get used to the pain, it's probably life-long. The best bet is an orthopaedic surgeon. I had herniations in L-4, L-5, S-1. Two operations, '89 and '91. I was told the pain would subside (it did ) but the big thing was the sciatic nerve damage and it's effect on walking. Always be careful, a good mattress is imperative, do those back excercises...gently, wean yourself off the beans (Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) If the pain starts to inhibit your daily functioning, either replace or fuse the disk but the pain never really goes away. Just be careful how you move and if you're overweight, LOSE IT.

good luck, keep me informed.

Everything he said I agree with. I herniated 2 disc in my back doing a stunt in the movie The Peacemaker 10 years ago, and after all the treatments know, only surgery brought me back to what I was, and being able to do what I can now. Palates is also a good regime for the back once repaired. And even though you may feel some pain afterwards, it is nothing compared to the pain without it..plus the debilitating, and deterioration of the back without it.
This is based on one persons experience. Some will tell you to stay away from surgery
But one thing is for sure. A Herniated disc can never get better without surgery.
Good Luck, and hang in there, keep mentally strong, and your spirits high.
If you do have to rely on painkillers for a while, make sure you take some kind of natural fiber along with it to keep your body functions on schedule. But try not to take the pills if you can help it.
Welcome to the Club.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:08 PM
good luck...man that is TOUGH ..sayin a little prayer for you

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:14 PM
Vic man, that's just how old I was when I had my first surgery. The simplest things, like crossing your leg ( left foot on right knee or vice-versa) for too long or sitting "sideways" in a chair, can be really painful. That's why I say, be careful how you move. It sounds corny but sit up straight. Good, comfortable shoes, sneakers.

ditto SkyPuppy's comments on staying mentally strong. That's a biggie.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:27 PM
>>But one thing is for sure. A Herniated disc can never get better without surgery.<<

And this sentence is what I keep telling myself. These new spinal decompressions and acupuncture procedures don't seem to offer anything long term. I think all they offer is prolonging the inevetable which is why I'm buckling myself in for this now while I'm still young.

I'll tell you what guys, despite being frustrated and tired of all of this, I'm very optimistic about the procedure working. I figure going in there with even an inkling that this isn't going to work isn't going to help me in any way. I know it's not going to put me back to where I was before I got hurt, but I'm very hopeful at least some relief is in sight and that's good enough for me. I know the two or three months I'll be out of work will be long ones, but in the end I think it will be worth it.

I hope you guys are feeling better than you were before your procedures and continue to get relief. Thank you everyone for the kind words and encouragement. Quite a club isn't it?

 
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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 06:38 PM
Vic,

After 25 years of low back pain things finally got so bad in 1999 that I was pretty much non-functional. The physical therapy wasn't effective anymore. I spent a year at the pain clinic doing epidurals, nerve blocks, etc. As a last resort I considered surgery. I consulted with an orthopaedic surgeon who proposed a lamenectomy, and a neurosurgeon who proposed L5-S1 fusion surgery. I opted for the fusion because the neurosurgeon was able to explain the films from my discogram and MRI's and I understood the procedure, the risks, and potential benefits. The orthopod didn't seem to really know what my condition was, he appeared to just want to go in and get paid. Anyway, late in 2000 I had "anterior interbody lumbar fusion" at L5-S1. They went in from the front laproscopically and insert metal cages to re-establish the disc spacing, and then used bone harvested from my hip as fuse material. I had two incisions each about 2" long, one below the belly button and one above my left hip. I was 2 nights in the hospital, and actually got up and walked a few steps the first night. Recovery was slow and steady. I started walking, just a little at first, up and down the street after a couple weeks. In all I missed about 3 months of work. I kept feeling continuous improvement for about a year after surgery.

I was 46 when I had the operation. It's been 6 1/2 years and I have been 95% pain free since the operation. The result was better than I expected, and I feel like I got my life back. Not everyone has as successful a result as I did, and nothing is forever. I realize that someday I'm likely to have serious issues at an adjacent level in my spine, but given the circumstances for me it was absolutely the right decision. Good luck to you. Please let me know what you decide, and how you are doing along the way.

Bob

[Edited on 3/5/2007 by bob1954]

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 07:06 PM
Bob that's great you're doing so well after all those years of enduring that pain, thanks for sharing. That's the EXACT procedure I'm opting for as well. They've actually offered an alternative of using cadaver bone too, but I think that would be really weird! The neuro has been my primary doctor throughout, but like I said, everyone on board has taken the time to make sure I understand what's happening and why and what each of their roles will be in the procedure and what to expect afterwards. I figure a doctor can tell me all day long what to expect, but stuff like this is exactly what I was hoping for when I posted: actual people who have gone through it. I'll keep you posted on my progress and hopefully I'll be able to share something as positive as what you experienced. Many many thanks.
 
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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 07:15 PM
Vic, sorry to hear of all the discomfort. I know we talked of this before and I am sad to hear that nothing has changed for you yet. You got some good advice from our brothers. Good luck with it all. Stay in touch.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 07:43 PM
quote:
Vic, sorry to hear of all the discomfort. I know we talked of this before and I am sad to hear that nothing has changed for you yet. You got some good advice from our brothers. Good luck with it all. Stay in touch.




Right on Sue, thank you. And you're right, good advice all around from good folks. Hope to see you for the Beacon this year!

 
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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 07:44 PM
BV,
Sorry to hear about the mess you're going through. I don't have alot to offer except that a few years ago an older (55-60) co worker had his back fused. I'm not sure of a lot of details except the end result was much decreased amount of pain and his mobility increased. Hopefully this operation will improve your condition as well!!!

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 08:34 PM
I'm sure you have gotten a second opinon, right? A few years ago I lost sensation and movement below my left knee; couldn't walk right or lift my foot if you offered me a million $. Dragged my foot around like a bad suit. Foot-drop they called it. The neuro was 100% sure it was a disc like yours and had surgery all set up until he saw the MRI results and told me my back was fine. Make sure they know what they are going in there for. I ended up having nerve damage from an unknown cause. Scary as heck, still.

On a positive note, a co-worker had your operation and never looked back, best thing he ever did and is now pain free.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 08:38 PM
what did I tell ya Vic

Plenty of help here !

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 08:47 PM
vic, for the arthritis you might want to try 'udo's oil'. a blend of omega 3, 6, 9, flax, sunflower and sesame oils, amongst others. all the good fats that fight inflammation. 1 to 6 tbsp a day (you have to experiment to figure out how much you need). if you want more details, pm me. i wish you the best.
 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 09:09 PM
vic, can't emphasize enough the need for 2nd opinions when considering surgery. At the 2006 North American Spine Society meeting in Seattle Eugene Carragee M.D. presented results from recent research that showed in a multinational study that a major disconnect exists between presurgical expectations and postsurgical outcomes. Also, a recent study done here in Ohio showed that of 725 subjects with work related injuries who underwent fusion, 64% were still off work 1 year post-op. 90% were still taking narcotics at one year post-op. The bottom line is that fusion for pain only is a roll of the dice. If you have objective neurological changes that is a very different story. Good luck.

 

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  posted on 3/5/2007 at 09:10 PM
Hey Vic! My Dad has had similar experiences like that before! He's had to go to the hosp at times. He had cortizone injected in him a couple of times! He's been doing great here the past several years! Some I get to points where I can't even bend over!
 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 10:20 AM
i have a slipped disk and a slight herniation toward the bottom vertbrates, i forget which ones. fortunatly the pain only manifests itself after a long show dancing or whatnot, and even then its just stifness.

i firmly belive that Yoga has helped to alleviate my pain. your mileage may very. check with your doctor of course, but i feel immediate relief when i stretch properly.

 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 10:48 AM
Vic - very best of luck with whatever route you take. Constant pain is a miserable way to live - hope you find the comfort you deserve.

 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 11:07 AM
quote:
I'm a freakin' expert.

First, how old are ya?

PT does nothing for a herniation ( a hard tissue injury) Depending on the severity of the situation ( sciatic nerve being affected?) Forget a chiro too. They shouldn't even be allowed to practice. Get used to the pain, it's probably life-long. The best bet is an orthopaedic surgeon. I had herniations in L-4, L-5, S-1. Two operations, '89 and '91. I was told the pain would subside (it did ) but the big thing was the sciatic nerve damage and it's effect on walking. Always be careful, a good mattress is imperative, do those back excercises...gently, wean yourself off the beans (Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) If the pain starts to inhibit your daily functioning, either replace or fuse the disk but the pain never really goes away. Just be careful how you move and if you're overweight, LOSE IT.

good luck, keep me informed.



Good advice here. I had a herniation of L5-S1. I first visited a chiropractor and that was a mistake. After a few weeks I realized the pain was only getting worse. Went to a spine doctor, many rounds of physical therapy, epidural steroids and countless other tests. My final option was surgery which I had in 1992. Much to my dismay the surgery didn't help at all. They extracted the bad disc and fused my spine. My doctor told me before the surgery that I would be back to all activities including sports within four months. What a cocky bastard. I have never played sports again. Can't even do the older man sports like golf and bowling which I thought I would do forever. When I go to shows I have to really tough it out. I havn't worked in 13 years and barely get by on disability in NY. I am in constant pain of varying degrees whether it is sciatica or back pain. My advice would be to exhaust every possible option before you let them cut on you. I forgot to mention that while in the hospital my insision got infected and they had to open me back up and do a second surgery. Comlications are always something you have to worry about. So what was supposed to be a four day stay in the hospital turned into a sixteen day stay. I'm not trying to scare you here, just telling you what could possibly happen. I have also met people that have had succesful back surgery, so it's not the same for everyone. The rest of the advice above about stretching, exercize, and your bed are definetly worth listening to. I hope you are very careful with this decision and everything turns out alright.

Pete

 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 11:26 AM
quote:
quote:
Vic, sorry to hear of all the discomfort. I know we talked of this before and I am sad to hear that nothing has changed for you yet. You got some good advice from our brothers. Good luck with it all. Stay in touch.




Right on Sue, thank you. And you're right, good advice all around from good folks. Hope to see you for the Beacon this year!


When will you be there? I'll be there 3/30 and 3/31.

 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 12:38 PM
It was a year ago last month that I had the L-4 and L-5 vertebrae fused. Before it was done there wasn't a day that went by I wasn't in terrible pain. It got so bad in both legs I thought I was going to have both knees replaced. I had the surgery and I coudln't believe the difference. My knees stopped hurting....it was the sciatic nerve compression causing the pain and other than a little stiffness in the morning, I fell wonderful.

I offer this advice. If you have the fusion, wear the brace and don't lift more than you're supposed to....take the time to let it heal....I did and it worked....my dad didn't and it blew out a couple more vertebrae.

As for pain....I can't take narcotic pain medication and I did the whole thing on tylenol. (You can't take aspirin or Advil because of the inflamation issues) I had hurt so much before I went in that after the surgery, the pain was nothing.

The doctor used a synthetic bone graft to hold the vertebrae in place.....I would suggest that also rather than a doner bone or one harvested from your own hip.

Good luck.....I was 60 when I had my surgery and you're much younger....I know you'll do really well and heal quickly!

 

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  posted on 3/6/2007 at 01:32 PM
BigVic,

I feel your pain. 9 years ago I had back surgery. I was 28! I had a ruptured disc and a neurosurgeon removed my L5. I had been having back trouble off and on since the 9th grade, but in '98 I had my yearly 'can't get out of bed' pain episodes. The pain didn't go away on this occasion. I guess my back had degenerated so badly over the years the disc ruptured. I could barely walk, my back hurt like hell and my right leg was numb most of the time. Before I discovered what the problem was I tried PT and a chiro, no help. I think the chiro made it worse! I would not recommend a chiro, just my opinion. The neurosurgeon ordered an MRI and saw the ruptured disc, recommended surgery and I said whatever it takes to get rid of this awful pain I will do. I had the surgery, went throught the post-op PT and have not had a serious problem since.
Like others have said, do the back exercises after the surgery, do what the physical therapist says. Dont's rush the recovery, that would be very bad.
I try and get as much exercise as I can. I walk regularly, which my doctor says is a great way to keep the back muscles strong. That is what he stressed the most after the surgery, keep the muscles around the torso strong so the back won't have to do all the work. But, I don't try and overdo anything. I sure don't want that pain back.
And, as I tell everyone, "lift with your legs!"

Good Luck, BigVic, I'm sure all will be well in the end!


Wow, this is the most I have ever written in a post. I guess that back pain was a major part of my life for a long time. I don't wish it on anyone.

 

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