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L4-S1 fusion in 2005 now L3 herniated disc... And I'm only 26!

From: NCmntgirl83 - on 03/14/2010 12:26am

I was diagnosed with DDD and an L5 herniated disc when I was 18. Had my first surgery- discectomy at 19. Having been an athlete my whole life I recovered and returned to running track in college only to have a 2 level fusion(L4-L5 and L5- S1) the summer after I graduated in 2005. I recovered well and had significant reduction of pain for almost 3 years. In the summer of 2008 I began having low back and leg pain. After new MRIs and a CT Myelogram the doctors could not figure out what was causing my pain so I was referred to a pain management dr. Muscle relaxers, pain meds, and a tens unit I was able to "manage" my pain. Then on Dec 23rd 2009 I woke up to severe low back/leg pain and spasms. That day I went to my chiropractor and was able to get some relief. Within a few days the pain was back full force and has no gone away since. I went to my neurologist after the holidays and started a medrol dose pack and PT. With yet again no relief an MRI was ordered. The scans showed a very herniated L3 disc. I knew this was a possibilty considering the fusion I had in 2005 but was told that it would be 8-10 years before I had to worry about the possibility. It has only been 4 1/2 years... I tried epidurals again with no relief I am scheduled to see a surgeon on March 31st. I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE SURGERY AGAIN. What are my options?!? Are there any? Are there any other people out there that are dealing with or have dealt with a herniated disc above a fusion?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! I would also be interested to find a clinic that has seen cases like mine.... Every doctor I've seen says they have never seen anyone my age with such aggressive degeneration. I wonder if there might be another disease or condition that is being overlooked. I also have a history of knee and hip degeneration.

Thank you!!

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on 03/16/2010 10:40am

NCmntgirl83 -

I totally feel your pain. I have 2 herniated dics' at L4-L5, L5-S1 with annular fissures. I have been through multiple rounds of conservative treatments. Facet injections, Nerve root blocks, pain meds for as long as I can remember, and nothing has worked. Like you, I consider myself to be way too young to be dealing with DDD at only 33 yr old. My surgeon has recomended 1 last treatment option for me before I have a anterior double lumber fusion... Spinal Cord Neurostimulation. This treat provides electronic stimulation to the area just above the affected vertabre. It controls & prevent the feeling of "pain" from the herniation from traveling up the spine to the sensors in the brain that resonate the feeling of Pain. It is not a guarantee that this type of procedure will work for all, but results have shown that having the implant can reduce &/or eliminate the transmission of pain signals completely without having to have another permanent fusion done on your spine. Same as you, I was told that a 360 dbl Lumbar fusion will likely cause additional issues with vertabre above the current L4/L5 area, but not for like 8 - 10 years. You are the primary (and unfortunate) example of why I am hesitating having the fusion done at all this early in life. I pray for you, & hope you can find a resolution without having an additional fusion type of surgery. SCS may be an option for you, and I would suggest discussing with your doctor. If you are anywhere near or can come to the Dallas Tx area, I would recomend that you see Dr. John Peloza MD. He has performed more minimally invasive fusion surgeries than any other Doctor in the world. Please take a look at his website to see treatment options & patient testimonials. I am an avid advocate for Dr. Peloza as he is very leading edge in the field of spinal surgey, and have complete confidence that in the event I have to undergo the Dbl Lumbar 360, that he is th only one I would allow to treat me. I hope this helps, and am so sorry for what you are dealing with. I can totally understand & sympathize with your pain.

Sincerely,

Bwm1586

http://www.centerforspinecare.com/

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on 03/25/2010 4:22am

I understand your situation and can make several
recommendations. I am fused from L2 through S1. Typically multiple fusions just multiple the stresses on the next ascending level. I would discuss with a world class neurosurgeon cleaning up the damaged disc and in lieu of a fusion utilizing an "Isobar" Dynamic Stabilizer. This allows just enough flex to absorb and prevent blowing out the next level of discs and leaves you stabilized, better than a fusion. This will repair the mechanical problem. If several months down the road you still have unmanageable pain, find a physiatrist and get evaluated for an implanted Spinal Stimulator. You can read more about I.S.Stimulators in articles from patients in responses to your question.
I believe it is important to fix the damage BEFORE you block the pain as permanent nerve damage can occur left un repaired. Then block the nerves. Good luck. I had six spine surgeries over thirty years before the technology advanced to what is available today to you.
My answers were found by the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center. G.G. Horn

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on 03/25/2010 11:16am

Hello, my daughter has been diagnosed with DDD among other things. Doctors tell her she has a back of an 80-year-old person. She is only 26 and has been suffering for 5 years. I totally understand where you are coming from and really, the only thing I can say is I SUPPORT YOU. It is the hardest thing to watch as a Mom; is your daughter that was a runner (like you), very active, had lots of friends and now in severe pain that she sometimes cannot attend family dinner. The doctors and pain management say the same thing "I wish there was something I could do for you" other than the meds, epidurals, and nerve block shots (5 in one session all down her back).

Good luck with your upcoming doctor visit. I will be thinking of you on the 31st,
Smile it makes the day better,
JSS

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on 03/25/2010 11:26am

Hi, again. GG Horn. Where can I get information on the UCLA spine center you mentioned in your post. JSS

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on 03/31/2010 3:03pm

Hello I know what this is like for the past two months I have had such horrible pain from an L5 - S1 disc herniation. I think I have DDD as well I am only 37 and I had back problems before but nothing like this.. it's taken my active life away from me.

I am on SSI and Medi CAL and I was told that there is only one place that takes my insurance.. and I will only be able to see a spine doctor in about a YEAR.. it's ridiculous.. I am severely depressed and suicidal. I can't stand this pain every day I wake up to pain.

Is there any way that this will heal.. I have a 2 mm disc protrusion at levels L5-S1.. I am just at my wits end.. I don't want to life like this anymore

and the doctors aren't helping me just giving me pills .

Tiff

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on 03/31/2010 3:05pm

To JSS I have a back like that of an 80 year old I am already shrinking I was short to start with.. becoming shorter I just want some relief.. :(

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on 03/31/2010 3:38pm

Misstiffee- You are not alone out there. I feel the same way. I want to be fixed and out of pain... I went to the dr today and was told that I am going to have to have another fusion but they aren't sure when. In the meantime, my drs have given me more pain meds while they take some more time to figure out what they are going to do for me in the longterm. Looks like I will be celebrating my 27th birthday recovering from ANOTHER back surgery :(

There are days that I don't even want to get out of bed let alone go to work- I am in outside sales and drive all over NC and SC which KILLS my back. The only thing that I have been able to do to get through the pain is by taking it one day at a time and living each day that I can to the fullest- even if that means doing nothing but resting.

It is not easy but it is all we can do. Our back pain and problems are out of our control.

Please don't think you are alone out there...

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on 03/31/2010 5:07pm

First of all, I'm sorry for your current condition. You mentioned in your post that you have seen a chiro. My advice to you, after 18 years in practice and managing many cases like yours, is to find a CBP (Chiropractic BioPhysics) practitioner. The website is idealspine.com. The core of your problem is: why did this disc herniate in the first place? Probably from uneven load bearing at that level, and abnormal stresses across the joint space. This means it's critical to evaluate the overall structural load bearing of your spine. If it is off, a CBP practitioner is the only person that can repair it. I commend you on receiving chiro care, but sometimes even within chiropractic, someone who specializes in bio-mechanics is the best choice. I wish you the best of luck!

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on 04/09/2010 2:48pm

I REALLY FEEL FOR YOU I HAD MY FIRST L4 L5 S1 FUSION IN 1998 THEN L3-L4 WITH ALL THE NUTS & BOLTS THEN HAD TO REMOVE THE HARDWARE & FINALLY I WAS DOING BETTER FOR SOME TIME THEN JUNE 6 2006 I FELL DOWN STEPS @ WORK BECAUSE I DIDN'T SEE THE LIQUID ON THE STEPS!! MY ANKLE HURT THE MOST SO HAD IT CHECKED FIRST & ONLY MUCH LATER DID I FIND OUT MY NECK NEEDED FUSED AT C5-6 6-7 THEN I HAD TO HAVE MY ROTATOR CUFF MAJOR REPAIRED IN 2008 & NOW I AM IN SOO MUCH PAIN & NUMBNESS I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO MY DR SAID I HAD A WEAKEAND THORASIC AREAA AFTER MY FALL BUT I REALLY HATE TO GO BACK & BE TOLD I NEED YET ANOTHER SURGERY & I HAVE ASKED ALL ALONG ABOUT THE ARTIFICIAL DICS REPLACEMENT ONLY TO BE TOLD NO IAM NOT A MATCH FOR IT. KEEP ON PRAYING & RESEARCHING YOU WILL FIND SOMEONE TO HELP YOU.

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on 04/18/2010 2:01am

Dear NCmntgirl83,
Have you been having laydown type MRIs? Check out FONAR Upright MRI. It is an all position MRI. It can be done standing,sitting or about any position. While your disc are compressed. A mother can hold her baby,watch TV,and the MRI can be done on the baby. Good luck getting one done,good chance you Doctor has never heard of one. Maybe you live in an area where the doctors care enough to order one. So far I have not been able to get one. But I will ,when I can pay for it myself. I would highly recommend Medica Stand-up MRI of Atlanta. The staff there has really tried to help me get one. Ask your doctor if you haven't already. Hope you get well.

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on 04/18/2010 2:42am

I have comparatively far less problems than you, as a 58 yr. old man, with L5-L4 bilateral diskectomy with foramenectomy, now 4 years ago, March 20, ´06. I had been left with the disk hermiated for 16 months, by which time I was numb from my sternum to the bottom of my hips.

I suffered excruciating pain after the successful surgery. Did not sleep for more than 2 hours at a stretch in 5 years. Ignored by doctors in BC, who seemed quite surprised I should have this condition, and generally intimated I must be engaged in drug-seeking behavior. Of course, the fact of the matter is that even surgical morphine is ineffective against spinal cord pain. So´s Oxycodone and all the other opioid derivatives. ¨De-carboxidized¨ (meaning heat treated to knock off an oxygen, and a carbon, atom) marijuana capsules work far better against spinal cord pain. Unfortunately, it still leaves you somewhat ´stoned´, so it´s still not like returning to real life.

BCHealth recently opened a ¨Pain Clinic¨, where they do (inter alia) ¨X-ray Caudal Injections¨. ¨Kenalog¨ is the chosen cortico-steroid. When they say ¨caudal¨, they mean ¨tail bone¨, so it is a carefully placed spinal cord injection. I had begun to suspect I had too much spinal cord for columnar space, and so it was getting squeezed in toto.

It was successful for me. I had what I called a ¨silent scream¨ going on for 5 years, and that got to it at last. I´m told it can be repeated every 4 months. I´m 50% back to ¨normal¨, and hopeful for the first time in 5 years.

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on 05/12/2010 11:27am

NCmntgirl83,

I am in the same boat as you are right now. I am a 30 year old female with chronic back pain, that has been lasting for about 4 or 5 years. It is extremely difficult to work, sleep, or even manage every day activities. I decided to have my L5/S1 fusion done this past November. However, I only had about a month or so of relief. When I went back to my surgeon he told me the hardware was not holding up, and that they needed to put in more screws and rods to support my spine. Also was told I "overfused" and too much bone grew when I fused together. Therefore, 4 months after my first surgery....I had yet another one.

My second surgery was only about 8 weeks ago, and I woke up in more severe pain then even before my operation. I told the docter something was wrong, but he said everything was fine. I finally talked him into ordering another MRI and of course it came back that my L4 is herniated too. I have now had more steroid injections which have not helped at all. So now surgeon is stating another surgery is needed.

I am completely at a loss honestly. I was dumbfounded that I could herniate another disc within only 6 months of a fusion. Also that I am only 30 and they want me to undergo my 3rd back surgery in 6 months time. I have absolutely no desire to go through another surgery, just like you. However, I am also at a loss because I can't keep living like this either. I am on pain medicine but noone wants to be on them long term. Also they only take the edge off the pain, its not like they are really effective. So like I told my surgeon, it's either you have the surgery yet once again and hope it works this time, or keep living with pain every day of your life.

I also have tried chiro, physical therapy, injections, tens, etc. If you find anything that helps please let me know. I am sorry to hear that you are going through this much pain at such an early age. I understand what you are going through, and honestly would not wish this upon anyone. Its extremely frustrating, and mentally & physically exhausting.

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on 07/17/2010 3:46pm

I have been meaning to get on and update so here goes...

I ended up having another fusion (L3/L4) on May 14th. The surgery went well but the surgeon had to do more work than he originally expected. Once he got in a could see my spine with his own eyes he quickly realized that my previous fusion had not fused completely. I was shocked that he was not able to see this on an x-ray or MRI but he said that it is hard to see everything with these test. He also said that my disc was in much worse shape than he expected and now understood why I was in so much pain. So frustrating- I wanted to tell him well yes, thats why I came to see you!! Anyways- He repaired the old fusion by adding more bone graphs and extended the fusion to the L3 level. So now I am fused at 3 levels L3 through S1 which includes 8 screws and 2 titanium rods.

My first fusion the surgeon made incisions along the sides of my spine and was able to avoid cutting through the muscle. This time the surgeon had to cut down the middle of my spine and through all the muscles which is much more painful!

After 3 days in the hospital I was able to go home. Once home I was having issues with irritation and itching around my incision. Long story short- a week after returning home I was back at the hospital in the ER with an infected incision. Turns out I was allergic to the glue they use to make the steri-strips stick better. After a CT scan they confirmed that the infection was still in the skin and had not spread into my spine which could have been very bad!!

Once my incision began to heal I began making progress. The first several weeks went by as well as to be expected after a major surgery. I was feeling a great relief from the pain I was in prior to surgery. After my 4 week check up I was given the ok to begin physical therapy. The first 3 sessions went well but then I began having severe back spasms and sharp stabbing pains. The surgeon called in stronger muscle relaxers and told me to take a week off PT. That seemed to help until I start back to PT this week… Had a pt on Tuesday and the spasms and sharp stabbing pains returned that night only to get worse each day. Thursday night they were so bad I was only able to get about 2 hours of sleep even with muscle relaxers and pain meds. If I could have driven myself to the hospital I just might have. I had pt yesterday and they told me that this was normal and that I needed to keep pushing through so I pushed hard and completed my exercises. I did start to feel better after but once I got home the spasms and sharp pain came back again! So I called my PT- he said that I needed to keep moving and stretching to get through the weekend and he would evaluate me again on Monday and may consider having me see the surgeon next week.

I am so frustrated because the pain I am in now is so much worse than before surgery. My greatest fear is that the surgery did not work and I am going to be in pain forever. I’ll update again next week.

Thanks, Shannon

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on 07/19/2010 8:26pm

Shannon,

Often times it is very hard to assess a fusion through x-ray...MRI is of no use in that department really either. You really need CT scans to assess the fusion. At any rate I feel for you having to have 3 levels done so young but unfortunately there is not alot of great news that can come in the future. You will usually get some relief but as age sets in and from what you explained initially, more degeneration sets in...so will more surgery. I really hate seeing cases like yours because you really can never tell whether it had to be done so early or if there was some other method. The good news is advances in regenerative therapies are coming along and hopefully you will find something that helps you out but the bottom line is don't give up hope. Follow the doctors orders as much as possible because nothing spoils spine surgery more than non-compliance! You seem to be a healthy and active gal so give it as much of a go as you can and I wish you luck.

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on 07/23/2010 2:59pm

Hi everyone. Although I'm not at all new to back pain, I am confused about all the fusing going on. I work in a PT clinic and we really never see good results with fusions (especially as young ages). I've never had a doctor even suggest a fusion to me, but have had several say that they would not recommend it to me. I'm sure it must be that we have different types of disc problems. I'm just curious if you have anterior herniations or spondylothesis or what has caused your doctors to opt for the fusions?

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on 08/02/2010 3:14pm

Hey,
I am 26 years old and I have also had a long road of back pain and related problems. It started about 6 years ago for me... I was snowboarding and fell on my butt like any other fall I have ever taken and continued to ride. The bus ride home was difficult and uncomfortable and little did I know that I was beginning the most difficult chapter of my life. In the past 6 years I have been through countless PT, alternative therapies, tried a chiropractor ( useless), Tens units, back braces, special chairs, pillows, heating pads, Cold packs, a seemingly endless array of pain medications, epidurals, vacet blocks, transFML radio frequencies, and about anything else I could think of to help.

As it stands I am going to the Hospital for Special Surgery to get a procedure called a TLIF http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spinal-fusion/transforaminal-lumbar-interbody-fusion-tlif-back-surgery).

Prior to the decision to take this step, drastic as it may be.. I went out and bought a inversion table, and to my surprise this has been a useful tool in relief from pain. It might be something worth a look and may even help?

I don't think I can think of anything that has affected life more than the injury that my back has, its exhausting and has brought me to my wits end more times than i would like to admit. I sincerely hope that your pain eases and your conditions improve! You aren't alone out there, it really gets depressing to hear " oh, but your so young" almost every time you arrive in a new Dr's office... but I have tried to look at that in a new light recently; I am young which means time is on my side. Yes, the pain is constant and time doesn't seem like an ally, but in the times we live who knows what new treatment is around the corner... Hang in there and keep your chin up

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on 08/03/2010 9:04am

Very sad for u. Kindly try homeopathic doctors around your place. Iam from india my name is charlin joseph. got well by homeopathic disease. and in alopathy there is hardly a cure available for these arthritical diseases.

I got well that's why iam telling you. Any assistance required please contact.
My god make you well sooner.

thanks

kevinjoseph51@gmail.com

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on 08/04/2010 12:27pm

Your story and mine seem a lot similar. I ALIF (anterior lumber interior fusion) on my L4-5 and L5-S1 but it was done 6 months ago. My Dr. said it would be another 5-10 yrs before I'd need another surgery but now the story has changed. I have had problems since my teens Well after my daughter was born it went from bad to worse. I did the whole pain management and epidurals, pain meds, physical theropy and I'm in constant pain and don't know what to do. What's your dr suggesting? My 3rd opinion said if he did surgery there is a 50/50 chance it will help or get worse. I s

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on 08/04/2010 12:32pm

Your story and mine seem a lot similar. I ALIF (anterior lumber interior fusion) on my L4-5 and L5-S1 but it was done 6 months ago. My Dr. said it would be another 5-10 yrs before I'd need another surgery but now the story has changed. I have had problems since my teens. I did the whole pain management,epidurals, pain meds, PT and I'm in constant pain and don't know what to do. My 3 opinions said if they did surgery there is a 50/50 chance it will help or get worse. I saw it's been a few months since you posted this and wondered if u had the surgery.
Thanks

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on 08/05/2010 9:29am

NCmntgirl83,
i hate to say this but i think i'm getting headed down your road. i'm just turning 17 yrs old and in march, playing lacrosse, i fell pretty hard and then a few weeks later i started with extreme leg pain in my calf. i first went to my family dr thinking that i may have torn my muscle in my calf then i was immediately sent to my ortho that takes care of my knee then he had ordered a x-ray of my back. in his office i was diagnosed with spondlylolisthesis on L4, L5, and S1 at grade 2. he sent me to a spine ortho and before i saw him i had an MRI and a CT done of my back. and there i was diagnosed with a herniated disc in between L4-L5. i went for my nerve block at the end of march and that did nothing. after a few visits with the spine ortho he told me that down the road i'm going to have a 2 level fusion from L4-S1. and he got me an appt with pain management and put me on his surgery schedule for a micro discectomy but i didn't make to pain management and i had an emergency surgery in june i had an open discectomy on L4-L5 and for a few weeks i was relieved from all of my pain up until 2-3 weeks ago i started experiencing sciatica all over again and now i have an appt with my spine ortho next week and i'm terrified of hearing a reherniation. but if there's anything that you've tried that has helped with your back pain please let me know!

best of luck :)

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on 08/30/2010 12:48pm

NCmntgirl83,

Thank you for sharing all of this information and updating us about your surgery and recovery. I am in a similar situation - College football player that had an L4-S1 fusion 10 years ago at the age of 19. After a long recovery things had gone pretty well until 4 or 5 months ago when the pain and numbness started again in my back, hip and leg due to an additional slipped disc above the fusion. The doctors don't seem to consider any option other than surgery, and I really don't feel like taking that route - especially if the end result will be another slipped disc in a handful of years. I'm a desk jockey now and sitting behind my desk for 10 to 12 hours a day is quickly becoming unbearable. I truly hope your story has a happy ending, we could all use some good news! I highly recommend a lunch at Mert's if you're ever having a bad day, always made me feel better when I was living down there!
Thanks again for sharing your story.

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