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Posted in: Sciatica, Spinal stenosis, and Surgery.

Surgery for Spinal Stenosis??

Started by gigi68 on 03/16/2010 1:33pm

Hi~
Is anyone happy they had back surgery?? I am 41 years old and not overweight or unhealthy but have had back pain for at least 10 years. Last year I finally went for an MRI and was diagnosed with severe stenosis. I've had physical therapy, epidural shots, I've been to a chiropractor, and now I'm trying swimming and modified yoga...nothing helps! I can barely get my socks on and have constant sciatic pain down my left leg. I can't sit too long or stand or walk very long.
I just joined this discussion group to try to find some advice but everything I read is so discouraging!! Is there anyone out there who recommends surgery??
My neurosurgeon said I need to have a laminectomy and fusion!
I'm terrified! If anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it!
~Thanks!

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I'm a 41 year old male and from personal experience, stay away from surgery as long as you can. You can end up much worse off.

Usually in time (2-6mths), the disc that is pinching the nerve will relax and the nerve pain will go away until irritated again. I highly recommend that you try traction, either through a visit to a physiotherapist or what I did was I bought an inverted traction bed. Buying an inverted traction bed will cost you anywhere from $200-$450.

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I would love to hear any comments~good or bad! Thanks

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I had a L4/L5 Disc Protrusion in 1990 and had a L4/L5 Disc Discectomy in 1991. I was able to go back to playing hockey, skiing etc. By no means was I 100%, I still experience a lot of lower muscular back pain because of the surgery.

Three years later I developed a L5/S1 Disc Protrusion (1993). The pain was insane, where I could only stand or walk for about 1 - 2 minutes. The pain was in the top of my left buttock. That lasted for about 1 1/2 months and I was back to my usual self. Walking through the pain was probably the best exercise.

I've recently developed L5/S1 Drop Foot Dec 9, 2009. I lost all feeling in my 4th and 5th toe on my left foot. It feels like it is asleep. I have absolutely no strength in my foot where I cannot stand on my tip toes or spread my toes apart. The nerve pain is insane as it goes from my hip (inside and out) right down to my 4th and 5th toe on my left foot. I limp when I walk as I have no muscle strength to propel my numb left foot forward. I dragged my foot as I walked.

I'm not one to take medication unless absolutely required. I only took T3's (for pain) and Naproxen (muscle relaxant) when I couldn't walk. My doctor told me that 85% of people will recover within 2 to 6 months.

I went to physio for a month and half (Dec 12 - Jan 30). I was unimpressed with physio as all they wanted to do was apply heat and tens. I could have done that at home and I wasn't getting any better. They started me on traction on about the 3rd week with 75 lbs. After about the 3rd traction session I noticed that I could start to spread apart my 4th and 5th toe (a bit).

On February 12, 2010 I bought an Inverted Traction Bed and have used it every day at home. Oh, by the way the physio therapist told me that it would be a bad idea to get a traction bed. HA! I can now fully spread my toes apart and can feel the strength coming back in my foot. My foot is still numb and I limp while walking, but at least I can start to feel the strength coming back. The nerve pain has pretty much stopped.

It's now March 17, I'm no longer limping and I'm about 85% back to normal.

I'm hoping that I can stay away from another operation and will continue traction at home.

Here's the MRI Results for the L5-S1 (Dec 18, 2009)
There is a large posterior and left paracentral disk extrusion. This significantly compresses and posteriorly displaces the thecal sac. The exiting nerve roots are free of compression. There is severe compression of he transiting left S1 nerve root as it passes through the left lateral recess.

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Thank you so much for sharing!
I was actually wondering about those inversion tables...You've helped me decide what to try next!
Thank you thank you!! And good luck to you~glad you are improving!!

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Just for your information I bought a Teeter Hang Up F5000 and really like it.

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I had severe adult onset scoliosis that got worse from age 60-63. I had had 2 prior back surgeries for spinal disc herniations L4-L-5 and had been having pain for almost 10 years. I had 3 surgical opinions and finally one year ago at age 64 I had a spinal fusion at UCSF by Dr. Bobby Tay. It was the best thing I have done and I would do it again. He cured my pain and curve and I am 3 inches taller and look younger. I can walk now without pain and I can even play kick ball and other sports with my three grandsons. It was not an easy surgery. It was 13 hours long but I had one done (anterior) first then 5 days later the postierior. I was in the hospital 2 weeks and in a brace 3 months. I have 2 pounds of metal in my spine from T10,11,12 down to S-1 with cages between L-1-L5. The worse post op problem I have is I cannot cut my toe nails but I also lost my appetite but it is coming back now. I lost about l5 pounds or more but have gained back some recently but I went from size 8 down to size 2 so I had to get all new clothes. If you decide to have surgery go to UCSF Spine Center on Parnasuss St. in SF and try to see Dr. Tay. All the spine surgeons there are excellent but I love him. My life is so much better now. I really feel for you and I wish I had done the surgery sooner. If you want to talk to me on the phone I will give you my phone #. I know what it is like to not be able to fit into clothes because of the deformity. My curve went from 30-60% in just 18 months. I was scared to have the surgery but it was not as bad as I had expected it to be. I had more post op pain from my rotator cuff (shoulder surgery) than from the two operations at UCSF.

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I am scared.. I just found out that I have a bulging disc with spinal stenosis and I am only 37 years old.. I think I might have exercised too much doing high impact aerobics and caused repetitive injury I am on SSI and I cannot afford a traction bed I wish I could.. I am just wondering about surgery I am 4 ft 7in tall and would surgery make me shorter not that I would care but I just want some relief.. my left leg hurts all the time and my left buttocks...

yeah I know it's discouraging I was hoping to get back to school to get a career.. I'm really sad

if anyone can help it would be appreciated

Tiffany

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Dear love2read~
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and giving me hope! I truly appreciate it.
It is so nice to hear something positive! Good luck with your continued success:)
Sincerely,
Gina

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Dear Colviced~
Thank you for giving me the name of the inversion table~ I'll be going to Dicks soon to try it out!
Thanks so much!
Gina

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Hi gigi68,

I too have recently found out at age 46 that I have (moderate?) spinal stenosis in my cervical spine. C5/C6 is the worst area. The diagnosis is recent so I'm still on the journey of hearing about the options. I've seen a chiropractor for 10 years and have been doing physical therapy for the neck for about the last 6 weeks. Previously when the chiropractor or physical therapist have done 'distraction' it has been no issue for me. Last week I ended up receiving 'distraction' twice - Thursday from a woman, Friday from a man. Friday night I had what I believe was some kind of neurological flare up. Friends cannot believe now that they hear my Friday night story that I didn't go to the ER right then and there.

So, all I'm really trying to say here is ... if you have cervical spinal stenosis, you may want to understand whether 'distraction' and 'traction' are the same thing - (I'm still figuring that out myself) - as well as know how your body responds to traction before buying a home device.

Personally, while I think it possible that two 'distraction' sessions for me in one week may have pushed me over the edge to the flare up I had, I think a bigger culprit is I undoubtedly have a large amount of inflammation going on in my upper back and neck area plus some neurological irritation from my spinal stenosis. Last week was a stressful work week, and I'm betting that the stress increased the inflammation which then increased to an undesirable level post-distraction feelings. i.e. I cannot 'blame' the physical therapist or the chiropractor for what I experienced.

I started Neurontin 2 days ago (had it on the shelf but had resisted starting) and am 98% of the way to having an appointment with a neurologist on 30Mar2010.

Hope this helps!

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Dear misstiffee~
It seems we have many similarities! I too have a bulging disc and my pain is low in my back, butt and left leg. They hurt all the time and with every movement especially bending. I am also "height challenged" ~ I am only 5 feet tall. I'm guessing that after surgery we would have less pain and therefore, improved posture.
I recently started back to college also and I agree, it is very scary not knowing what I will be able to do physically in a future career...
I am still undecided about the surgery. I am trying to deal with the pain as long as I can and when I can't take it anymore I might opt for the surgery and pray for a positive outcome.
Is the surgery they are recommending for you the laminectomy surgery?? Or the fusion? Or both?? Good luck to you in your quest for pain free living!
~Gina

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Dear keesiewonder,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. I have never heard of "distraction" I'll have to look that up and find out more about this. My stenosis is lumbar spinal stenosis~in my low back.
I am also hesitant to start the prescription medications the doctors are offering. Currently I am only taking advil tylenol and alleve but it doesn't seem to help much.
But I agree with you 100% about the stress impacting your pain level! Stress is so powerful it's scary how much it can increase the pain. I have recently started keeping a "pain journal" just to try to make sense of the pain and keep track of what I was doing and when.
Thanks for trying to help and good luck to you.
I hope the neurosurgeon gives you some good news!
Gina

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Hi gigi thanks for commenting... about my little post.

yeah it hurts all the time too last night and the night before I couldn't sleep ... esp. last night sometimes the pain keeps me awake ...

I haven't been told that I have to have surgery yet.. I think I will opt for it tho.. it's been only a couple of months but this stuff is driving me nuts..

whoever is on Neurontin yeah that's some good stuff and Elavil.. those are the the two meds I am on that really help.. however I need a higher dosage coz mine is too low

Thanks all I will keep you in my prayers

Tiff

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Hi. I had a laminectomy 3 weeks ago and I cant believe how different I feel.
I had lumbar canal stenosis at level 3 and 4, a bulging disc and degeneration of all other discs. I was in such pain that it made me cry, I could only walk very short distances and even that took a long time. I also had foot drop which was strange when I kept tripping over my own foot.
I have been off work since the end of september 09 and didnt think I would return at all.
Just days after my op I was walking further than I have walked for about a year and now I can walk for an hour at least. I am no longer in pain and feel so much better. I will be returning to work in june.
I would say have the operation, it really works!

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Can I also say that I am only 4' 10'' and my surgeon said that they had a bit of a problem arranging me on the operating table because of my size, however, it didnt stop them.
My main problem straight after the op was sitting. I could walk really well, but sitting down did hurt. I think this was more to do with having such short legs rather than anything else though. I bought a wedge shaped cushion which has helped, and my physio gave me some excercises which also helped.
Dont be put off having a laminectomy if you are offered one, it has certainly changed my life and given me my independance back.

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Hello redjune~
Thank you for responding to my post. It is so refreshing to hear such amazing results!
I have been brought to tears many times too because of the pain. Luckily though I haven't experienced "footdrop". I wish I could have the laminectomy surgery without the spinal fusion~ then I would agree to have it done. But I'm still not convinced the fusion surgery is a good thing, it seems like there are so many additional problems once you have it done...

Thanks again for sharing and keep on feeling great!!
Gina

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I am an RN who has the unfortunate genetics that predisposes me and my family to spinal disc and nerve problems. I am 46 years old and experienced my first lumbar spine injury when I was 19 years old. At that time, I utilized any and all treatment options to alleviate the pain, numbness and tingling in my right leg. A little over a year after my symptoms began, I was diagnosed with herniated discs at L4-L5 and L5-S1 and had a lumbar laminectomy (no fusion). My pain and tingling went away immediately, but I was left with some numbness due to extensive nerve damage as a result of waiting so long to repair the problem. I enjoyed a normal life and resumed activities without deficit (other than mild low back pain) for many, many years. In 2002, I experienced another injury (caused by twisting my body to keep a patient from falling) that quickly became emergent. Within 3 days of the original symptoms, I developed foot drop, complete numbness of my left leg and numbness of the perineum affecting both inner thighs. I had an MRI (showing herniation and extrusion of lumbar discs at L3-L4-L5), saw a neurosurgeon late the same day and was in surgery the following morning for an emergency lumbar laminectomy for spinal cord compression. At the time of the surgery, it was found that all discs from L2-L5 were involved. Unfortunately, I had numbness of the left lower leg that was permanent due to nerve damage. I followed the surgery with 12 weeks of physical therapy for strengthening, alleviation of foot drop and work conditioning so that I could return to work. After working in a light duty status for about a year and a half, I again developed pain, numbness and tingling in the left leg. An MRI and myelogram showed stenosis at the previous surgical sites. I underwent lumbar epidural steroid injections that initially seemed to provide relief but eventually only seemed to aggravate the pain. In 2004, I again had surgery to alleviate the stenosis by removing bone and scar tissue. As time has went by I had some measure of pain relief and have learned to live with the other annoying symptoms caused by the nerve damage. I have most recently developed more sciatic pain and a very annoying symptom of a burning sensation on the soles of both feet. It literally feels as if I am walking on hot coals! An MRI and myelogram once again had pinpointed stenosis has the cause in addition to finding a herniated disc at T12-L1. I start therapy this week (muscle stim, ultrasound, etc.) for the next 3 weeks to try to alleviate the symptoms. I'm not optimistic since none of this will truly change the scar tissue and bone growth causing the stenosis.

I also have had herniated discs in my cervical spine resulting in 3 surgeries, 2 anterior and one posterior, with the last one a result of stenosis due to scar tissue and bone growth. My neurosurgeon has said that my issues are genetically related as many members of my immediate family requiring surgery for herniated discs and stenosis. My father has had 3 lumbar surgeries, 2 with fusion, and continues to have severe back pain daily. My younger sister has had 2 lumbar surgeries and 2 cervical surgeries. When my oldest daughter was 13, she herniated a lumbar disc by twisting while getting up from a computer chair. She tried therapy but ended up having a lumbar laminectomy. So far, she has had no further problems.

I don't know how to really weigh in on the pro's and con's of surgical intervention. I've been on both sides of the issue but in the end welcomed surgery to keep from suffering further nerve damage, but I often wonder how much the scar tissue and bone growth caused by the surgeries will affect me in years to come. I just thought I'd share my story and discuss the role that genetics can play in these situations. I wish everyone the best and have empathy for your situations.

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Dear Brenda,

Wow~ I feel so bad for you! You have been through so much and so many surgeries!
I can relate to the sciatic pain you are describing~the burning all the way down to your foot. It is really horrible! Hopefully yours will diminish with the therapy.
My orthopedic doctor and neurosurgeon both said my stenosis can be genetic since I have never had an injury or accident and my mom has back problems as well...

Thank you for responding and I wish you and your family the best with pain free days in the future!!
Gina

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Dear Gina,
I wish you the best in finding the solution(s) that will offer you relief and recovery. I have always said that others who have not experienced these problems truly do not understand how difficult daily life can be and do not have the ability to be empathetic. I am on a permanent weight lifting restriction of 10 pounds (one gallon of milk is 5 pounds!) and am unable to work as a nurse any longer. I was "let go" from my previous hospital position as I could not meet the physical job requirements. It is frustrating and quite frankly depressing to know that I am 46 years old and for all intents and purposes disabled. I am currently covered under BWC but that is a struggle to maintain since my company is self insured and would prefer to have me "off their books". Filing for, and being approved for, permanent disability is a daunting challenge because of my age. Most days I find it difficult to get out of bed and have difficulty coming to terms with my purpose in life. Although I've had to endure the surgeries I have had, I would do it again as the permanent nerve damage I have suffered has only compounded my issues. I hope you have physicians in whom you trust and can discuss all viable options. Faith in them will be the first step in knowing you are making an informed decision in your best interest. God bless you and guide you in what comes next. I wish you the best! Brenda

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Any one on this list have or considered to have laser surgery on their spine? I have similar conditions with L5-S1 and have looking into a laser procedure. Any one with pros and cons of this type of procedure or know of any one in Texas that is doing it?

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Hi Brenda~
I have had some days of that despair and it is very very scary...I am normally a very positive happy person but sometimes it just gets overwhelming. Hopefully though, talking with others who understand may help us cope!!

Thanks again for writing Brenda and take care of yourself, hopefully today will be a good day!!

~if I discover anything that helps I will definitely post it!!
( I just bought an inversion table and used it a couple times but it's too early to tell if it's helping or hurting...

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Dear geewiz~
I'm sorry I don't know much about laser surgery. I have read a little about it and it sounds alot more appealing than the traditional surgery! My neorosurgeon never discussed laser surgery but when I talk to her next I will ask...
Gina

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Gina, I am 73 years old and have had back problems sine 1968. I ruptured a disk at L5-S1 and had a laminectomy and fusion. This helped for about 15 years. MRI's show bad stenosis for the entire length of my back now. About 20 months ago I went to LSI in Tampa, FL and had minimal invasive surgery for stenosis at L3-L4. Surgery began at 0630 and I was standing outside the facility at 1030. Walked about a mile that evening. Back felt great. In fact it felt so good that about 4 months ago I reached out to pick up a 5 gallon gas can without thinking and hurt L4-L5. I highly reccommend LSI with the exception that they are expensive and medicare doesn't cover the costs. I am going to Dallas for this next time around where I will be covered with my own insurance. Endoscopic surgery only leaves about a 1/2 inch incision with hardly any muscle damage (muscle is spread slightly to get instruments into incision) instruments go thru what looks like an oversizeds straw--very small opening. Search the internet for minimally invasive back surgery. There are more and more fellowship trained back surgeons doing this. Be sure that they will accept your insurance. Good luck-I swear by this surgery.

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Dear Ace~
Thank you thank you thank you!!! Wow that laser surgery sounds amazing!! So glad to hear how well it worked for you! I will definitely be asking my doctor about this!
Good luck with your recent injury and thanks for posting!!
Gina

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Ace, where in Dallas are you going for surgery? I would love to be able to stay closer to home for laser surgery.

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Hi Brenda I didnt know that the stenosis could come back! That must be really bad. So far I seem to be doing ok, but some days I can walk for up to an hour, no trouble, others I feel like Im walking through treacle and its a real effort. I dont know why this is, it doesnt seem to make sense at all.
I went into work for a visit last week ( Im a primary school teacher) and Im sure everyone thought I would be back in the next week or so. Just because I look well doesnt mean I dont have any pain. Im still on gabapentin and have days when I cant sit comfortably and get a lot of pain in my left leg ( my right leg was the problem before my op).
What amazes me is that last year at this time I hadnt even heard of spinal stenosis. I just thought that my symptons were a sign of arthritis.

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I just found this website and it is so full of information about spinal stenosis, it is really refreshing. I have suffered with this problem(lumbar spinal stenosis) for many years this year is starting the 7th and I too am wondering about surgery. Just like what I heard from others it is scary because I am not sure if I will be worse off than I am now, then I hear someone say it is the best thing that ever happened to them. I think if I am well informed of exactly what is going to be done, minimally invasive or major.If I have some type of control over my body I will not be so afraid.
Not everyone needs a laminectomy(removal of the lamina which stabilizes the spine) and spinal fusion, some just need a laminotomy and/or foraminotomy,which is minimal invasive decompression that provides opening the space for the spinal cord and nerve roots to pass through with limited or no muscle damage. This is accomplished with endoscopic instruments in a 1/2" incision as I understand it, this would mean a quicker recovery with limited risks. At any rate that is what I am going to ask my orthopedic surgeon if he can do that for me.
If anyone has any additonal information please let me know.

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Hi Brenda~
My neurosurgeon told me I needed the laminectomy (to make more room for the spinal cord and nerves to pass through) and that would help with the pain in my legs/ feet and butt. And then she said I also need the fusion with the rods and screws (to stabilize my small bones of my vertebrae because right now my bones slip over each other and don't stay aligned)
So that is what I understood from her. I have also read for hours about this disease and from what I understand some people only need the laminectomy. But it seems that some people need the laminectomy again in the future because this is a progressive disease and the stuff builds up and narrows the column again. But the laminectomy surgery seems to be alot more bearable than the fusion. It's less hours in surgery and quicker recovery. So if that's what you need and your doctor can do one of the less invasive procedures that would be great! The surgeries that don't cut through all the muscle would mean less pain for the patient right??
This is so much to think about~good luck with your decision.
Oh, what was the name of the website you found? I feel like I've read everything there is on the internet but maybe I didn't see this one...
Thanks Brenda!

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Hi Gigi68
The website is this one spineuniverse, there are many links with much info. I am 61 years old, work full time and I really don't have much time for long recovery, and I have had all the pain I want for the past 7 years. If I have to have a laminectomy with fusion I will but it will be after I have explored all other avenues. There are still many things I want to do that require flexiblity. Maybe the spine will still be flexible after fusion but it doesnt sound like it. I wanted the X-Stop which is an implant that is put between the vertebra but my insurance would not pay for it. This much I do know back problems seem to progressively worsen as we age, I first started with back problems at the age of 24, back surgery at 32, problems solved until 7 years ago. Genetics play a strong role in the spine game, but I just really don't think anyone ever gets away with only one surgery when they have a weak spine, especially if they try to lead a normal life.
Even vacuuming the floor, sweeping, or standing in the kitchen trying to cook dinner causes horrible pain in my butt, hip, foot, it is unfair but there is so much that go awry when extensive work is done all at one time. I just don't want to wind up worse than I am. You are young You have youth on your side I don't, I am healthy but not young. I pray that God guide me in the direction I need to go and you too. Good Luck !!

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Hi everyone. I had a laminectomy at the beginning of March and was doing really well afterwards. I followed the physiotherapy excercises I was given (and still do) and I walked every day. I had some aches and pains but was told that I should expect that. For quite a few weeks I have been getting a kind of pulling pain in my right thigh, the one that caused problems before my op. This has gradually got worse and at the weekend it was almost constant. I used my tens machine and heat pads as well as taking gabapentin and cocodamol, but nothing much helped. I couldnt sit, lay or bend properly and it felt like I was back to square one again.
I went to see my gp yesterday and she said that it looks like the operation wasnt a success. Is this normal? I really did feel well after the op, but do wonder if they should have put in pins, which they had originally said they would do. I just wonder what will happen next and will I be going back to work in June as I originally thought?

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