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Degenerative disease of the lower spine

Started by TAZ on 05/10/2013 7:38am

I am a 54 year old male and i have been suffering with a degenerative disease of my lower spine for over 3 years now and my condition is getting worse as time goes on. I am in a lot of pain most of the day and night, despite being on a lot of medication inc 100mg morphine every day, the pain is always there.
I find it impossible to walk or stand any more so i have to use a wheelchair most of the time. My wife has to help me with most of my daily needs, i.e. cook my meals, help dress/undress me, help me in the shower.etc
I don't have any quality of life any more. I can no longer work or do the things i use to do like DIY. gardening,
I can't even drive my car any more due to the pain and discomfort it causes me, and because of all the medication i am having to take every day.
My spinal consultant has told me that an operation on my spine is out of the question because there are to many risk involved in such a major operation. I have been to pain management, i have had injections in my spine, i have had acupuncture and physiotherapy to try to help me with the pain but none of this has done any good and my condition is just getting worse.
Is there anyone who is going through the same problem as mine, who can give me some advice on how the cope with the pain and discomfort and how they go about having any quality of life.
Thank you.

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7 Responses


I empathize with your situation. I've had chronic pain for the past 6 years from a degenerative disc at L5 and a narrowing of the vertebrae between L4/L5. The pain issues from a fall I had at that time. The pain was minimal at first and has gradually increased. I can no longer stand or walk for more than 10 minutes without suffering what I'd call pain of 10 on a 10 point scale. I've tried both naturopathic and medical treatments for the injury and the pain. Cortisone shots never did work well and I'm now taking 4mg doses of hydromorphone t.i.d. My tolerance level is so high the meds have practically no effect. My pain mgmt doctor refuses to increase my meds to any stronger dose or type. I am allergic to Tylenol which makes prescribing pain meds that more difficult.

I did start a work out regimen a year ago with a trainer--we focus on strengthening areas of my body that do not affect my back but keep my circulation going and strengthen my core and upper body. I also invested in a recumbent bike which puts no strain on the back--I use it daily for up to 60 minutes. Doing these things does not alleviate the pain but it's toning parts of my body and the endorphins help my mood. I highly recommend at least using the bike. If you consider surgery, you need to be in some better condition than you are now. This does not mean you are in much worse shape than I. When I started I was a 59 year old blob, gaining post retirement weight. Now I'm 60. I haven't lost much weight but I feel and look much fitter.

My first sense upon reading your post is that you've given up and are very depressed. I would be too and have been. Being in poor physical and emotional health makes pain and everything else worse. Your "spinal consultant" sounds like he simply does not want to deal with your case. There are many surgical alternatives and I doubt that he's discussed all of them with you. For example, have you discussed the possibility of inserting a nerve block, which essentially is an electrode embedded in the offending area; when the pain is bad you turn up the stimulation to block the pain's intensity.

After at least the last 2 years being extremely frustrated and angry--retired and unable to travel--I started looking at surgery options. I'm lucky to be in an area where a noted neurosurgeon is doing innovative work on minimally invasive spinal fusions and other such procedures. I essentially understand the procedure but after a month or so of study via the web and at my consult with the doctor, the method is becoming clearer. Have you studied the various surgical options? Information makes one free.

I don't want to misrepresent the method, so this is my guessti-explanation. In this type of surgery, using basically microscopic techniques the area is opened and the muscles are pulled away from the spine (the usual technique is to cut through them). Using high quality artificial bone and screws, the disc is removed and a "frame" or "window" is created. During the healing process this area fills in (still reading about this). Compared to older procedures, the result is stable but not rigid which minimizes the chances that other areas of the spine will destabilize. The initial hospital recovery is less than half the typical procedure requires, followed by 2 weeks of very limited activity and then 3 months of cautious movement (you can't do yoga--LOL!). My doctor tells of a story of doing surgery on a colleague who was back in the OR the following week!

My point is for some reason you've stopped looking at options. You need to talk to I would say at least 3 neurosurgeons for options and ask their approaches. Find these people at major medical centers--preferable those associated with universities. That's where the cutting edge work is being done. My surgeon has been training visiting doctors in this technique for at least the last 10 years. So there are probably plenty of neurosurgeons doing cutting edge work now than in 2003. Another recently conceived device is the X-Stop, which is like a "tire jack" that is inserted between two vertebrae and cranked open far enough to stop the pain.

My surgeon is affiliated with Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. I don't know where you are but I feel like you don't have many medical options. If you call FMC, I'm sure they might be able to give you the name of a surgeon close to your area. You might ask whether they know of a surgeon in your area who's trained with/visited the OR when Dr. Ritland was operating. He asked me for permission to have an observer and of course I said yes. I'm a scientist and I'll do anything to further advancements in any field.

The hospital's web site is


(928) 779-3366.

Good luck.. I wish you all the best. But start taking action. Scour the internet. Learn. Your doctor may be giving you BS. Find other fora and keep asking questions. Walk 10 steps tomorrow. Then 11 the next day. You must move. Get that bike. (I recommend a NordicTrac recumbent--the basic model isn't expensive. Don't get hooked into the iFit option. There's plenty to do with the 20 some built in programs and it will be awhile before you'll need the iFit module!)

I'll check back in a few days for an update. :-)


thanks 4 lettn me know what im in for after 12 yrs of this shit L4/5gone L3/4 moderate severe ,ya with all the dressings, narrowing nerve canal, o boy paralized soon ,.stenosis bs, too much too list ,im dieing hear,wtf ,does nt no one care,lost in morphine melts under toung only thing keeping me alive yet dieing.
ur my 2nd post..thanks for lettn me vent f I HURT


Get out of your morphine fog and see a surgeon STAT. If you can't drive, find a driver. Call local hospitals to find the youngest, most up to date surgeon. Then do the surgery. It won't solve all problems in your life (I sense there are many) but some will improve. And you'll feel better because you took some sort of action. Apparently you're still not there yet. Do you want to be a junkie (it is tempting--I felt that way until the meds stopped working) or do you want to be well? I feel I'm enabling too much. So I wish you well. I hope you have the surgery.


Hi Taz, im sort of in the same way here, ive been dealing with this for close to 10 yrs now. i had a dicoctomy done about 6 months ago. before that i had epidurals. still no relief. now i have a tlif spinal fusion scheduled for next week. i have problems doing normal everyday task. depression alot and my life seems to be at a stand still. im 41 and i smoke a pack of cigs a day. that on top of no exercise fromthe injury it really su cks. I guess ya just have to keep on keepin on. im just worried the fusion wont take because of the amount of nicotine i keep poisoning myself with. but keep you head up bro.


Chris, try to find a surgeon who specializes in a technique known as "minimally invasive spine surgery." That puts minimal stress on your body during and after surgery, and it will minimize the likelihood that you will have another disc problem. Check out this article.

Lumbar Discectomy: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Oh, I see you've already had one procedure. I'm going to assume you had some sort of fusion. You should already have had positive effects and should be on weaker pain meds now, but I don't know what type of treatment you had or what recovery period your surgeon predicted. Apparently the first surgery was not sufficient. I admire your courage and respect your desire to find a permanent solution to your back pain.

I don't think the nicotine affected the outcome of your surgery but you probably know nicotine use is related to osteoporosis. You should treat it just as women are advised to treat their osteoporosis: bone building meds and at least 1200 mg of calcium/1600 IU Vit D3 in divided doses daily. It's never too late to improve your bone density. Or stop smoking. I'm an ex-smoker. Did it with Nicorette. (Then your dentist starts complaining about your gums!)

Also, I look at my pets and think about the damage of second-hand smoke on them or about dying and wondering who will care for them after (assuming my older husband is gone as well). Both my maternal parents died of lung cancer at relatively young ages. My paternal parents lived into their 90s. They didn't smoke. I am not preaching. Those are just facts.

There are meds that reduce nicotine cravings. You might discuss this with your MD.

Good luck.


Hi I am responding because I understand your pain all too well. I have been dealing with degenerative disk disease( lumbosacral spondylosis), lumbar stenosis, chronic pain and fibromyalgia for 35 years. I started to have the chronic pain when I was 23. I even had spinal bone spurs which seems ridiculous as that is not supposed to happen until around age 60. This was back in the stone age before anyone even thought fibro was a real disease. As you might imagine I was labeled a neurotic head case right away. A MRI was brand new technology and until I had one of those NO BODY thought my pain was real. I have had a double laminectomy years ago. It helped and might need it again but the real relief came when someone gave me a fentanyl patch. It is worn round the clock, so you have around the clock medication as I found that with pills it would wear off and the pain cycle would rev up and by the time the next dose was ready the pain was out of control and much harder to calm down. Yes it is heavy duty and you will become addicted. The withdrawl effects are NOT pleasant. I find that it is worth the price of addiction. I take a 100 mc patch every other day along with vicodin as needed. It does induce some drowsiness but I take nuvigil to counter that. That medication is for narcolepsy or work shift problems. I find it wakes me up so I don't feel so sleepy during the day. I have been on this routine for about 7 years and if I had not had the good fortune for a doctor to start me on this I would have blown my self away yrs ago. I went for yrs in that kind of pain and it kills your soul. Man was not meant to bear that kind of pain day in and day out. There are new treatments such as a pain pump, a electric pain stimulator which blocks the pain signal and there are devises that can be implanted to disrupt the pain signal. The main thing is find a pain specialist they are most generally anesetheologists( sorry about the spelling) and they are GOOD. They understand how pain works and where to direct treatment. Don't go to anyone who wants a ton of money up front along with x-rays as they are quacks who will buy your need for meds with little regard for you. I don't know where you live but Florida has tons of these cheesy pain clinics. When I first went to mine I had to wait for drugs They usually want to try and check if you are only drug seeking I still have pain but I can live some what normally. I must say I was placed on disability at the ripe age of 42 and that has been a problem. What do you do at a young age if you don't work? Don't give up there is help and I will watch for your response I will try to be here to help if I can because I do know how crappy it is to live like this. Hope your day is not too crappy Talk to you later if you have questions etc Sue


I understand all the frustration. I am 40 and always been active. The last 5 years I have put on 50 pounds and quit excersizing due to the pain. Just in the last 5 months have I gone significantly down hill. I am barely able to work part time and getting very depressed. Since Feb,mi have had three infections and discussed a few different approaches. My L5 S1 are severely degenerated. For some miraculous reason I just sat down my cigs one day almost a year ago. God has a plan, I have heard.....but I work in the dental field and know how detrimental smoking can be on the life expectancy of implants. I am scheduled for a 360 fusion next week. I am almost excited. But I have no idea what to expect short or long term? Eager for any feed back.