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Old 09-30-2013, 20:46   #1
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Fusion or scraping of spine Vertebrae

I've had pain in my lower back and going down my right leg for a few months. I set an appointment for surgery on the 17th. It seems L4-L5 is pressing on a nerve causing my pain. My options are scraping which may not eliminate all the pain, or fusion, which will reduce my range of motion but will stop the pain.

I'd like input from those who have had either type of surgery done. Did it help you? If you had fusion, how bad was your loss of motion? How long was the recovery?
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Old 09-30-2013, 20:51   #2
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I had vetebroplasty, injecting a concrete like substance, in my t5 t6 and t7.

Did not really seem to help. After about 6 years, a substantial part of my pain is gone. That being said, I can still feel a burning in my chest if I turn my torso the right way.

Is the sting not an option for you? I opted out of it, as it made my chest go numb when we did an injection test.
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Old 09-30-2013, 20:57   #3
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Fusion, haven't heard anyone who had that would recommend it. I specifically told my doctor no fusion when I had a double laminectomy. My brother-in-law had a double laminectomy also (same vertabrae) and fusion. While I've had issues in the 20 years since, he's had extremely more problems with pain and stiffness.
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Old 09-30-2013, 21:03   #4
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I had a spinal fusion done over a year ago! I had a microdiscectomy in 1983, and they doctor told my that I would probably have problems later in life... he was right. I had 2 options for returning to work, either tons of powerful pain meds or have a fusion.

I don't regret the fusion at all! My back is better than it has been in 20 years. If you don't do alot of heavy lifting, a fusion may work for you. But if you constantly put your back under physical stress, a fusion will just move the problem up to the next vertebra.
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Old 09-30-2013, 21:26   #5
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My fusion in 1999 eliminated the pain. They fused L4-L5 and L5-S1. I woke up with both lower legs feeling numb and that never went away. It affects my balance and I often get a feeling like my foot has turned wooden. More discomfort than pain. Surgeon said my cord must have been damaged while they moved it out of the way for the fusion. Not saying this happens often but if I could go back 14 years I would have worked at finding another solution.
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Old 09-30-2013, 21:27   #6
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If your problem is beyond something conservative like chiropractic and/or physical therapy... The problem with a fusion is that it puts more strain on the discs and verebrae above and below. The problem with the scraping is that when you disturb the periosteum of the bone it can grow back with a vengeance and you'll have even less room than before for the nerve to get through. Both should be a last resort.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:57   #7
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"Approximately 42.7% of workers who first saw a surgeon had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor."
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:08   #8
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Me of little medical knowledge, back and spinal pain seems to never go away or compounds itself due to people's misuse. My lower back been hurting on and off a few years now. My remedy is a simple rub down with lots of rest.

Having any type of surgery on my spine is very QUESTIONABLE. Medical knowledge has not reached a level where I feel comfortable allowing it to happen.
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:10   #9
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I have the same thing, happened to me in 2001, and I will repeat the advice my doctor and my father's wife gave me (she's a radiologist and has assisted on many back surgeries...)

If you can sleep at night and you don't have over 50% weakness in one or both legs, don't get surgery. Back surgery is very serious business and only has approximately a 50% success rate. You can rehab that injury, it takes time and effort though. I still to this day deal with a numb right leg/foot and slightly smaller right calf. However, I can go weeks without giving it a thought. For a few weeks I was in a lot of pain but it subsided and doing core exercises the correct way, and just getting into decent shape will probably fix you up better than any back surgery will.

That's my advice, given to me by two doctors and then verified by my own experience.

Just so you know, at one point I couldn't even move for over 24 hours. It was the worst pain I have ever had, period. Excruciating.
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Old 10-01-2013, 08:50   #10
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I've had lower back issues for 35 years or so, never had surgery. What's worked best for me for my back and various other injuries over the years is physical therapy. A competent therapist (the one I've gone to for many years was trained in The Netherlands) can do wonders for you if you're willing to put the time and effort into the proper exercise program. I would strongly recommend PT before committing to surgery.
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Old 10-01-2013, 10:14   #11
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Originally Posted by Dave514 View Post
"Approximately 42.7% of workers who first saw a surgeon had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor."
Interesting. Well if you go to a tire place you are going to come out with tires. Everyone has their specialty.
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Old 10-01-2013, 12:36   #12
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As they say- To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I'd rather get my front end aligned than buy new tires every 6 months. (The elusive point being you can't get new tires for your back, your car isn't out of comission for 6 weeks, they won't accidentally kill your car and it's not a $40,000 work order that has a 50% chance of working)

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Old 10-01-2013, 12:44   #13
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One of guys just had back surgery where they fused those exact vertebra. He tried acupuncture, chiropractors, massages. They only bought him six months of light duty. Eventually he couldn't make it in so he had his spine fused. He likely will not make it back to full duty but he will at least be on light duty until he reaches retirement age. He does say if it weren't for the surgery he would not be able to function.
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Old 10-01-2013, 12:51   #14
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My dad had it done 34 years ago. The pain is less, but not gone, and one of his feet is numb. The fusion has affected his ability to turn his torso, but not his ability to walk - even with the numbness, he was doing 10-40 (yes, that's 40) miles in a day up til he was 70. Then the arthritis caught up with him, and now he's down to 2-5.

I'm fused T3-T12. It was painless BEFORE the surgery (pain wasn't the reason for the surgery). It is NOT painless now, because the fusion transferred all the stress that should have been handled by 10 vertebrae down onto one (L1). It acts up periodically. When it gets bad enough that I can't sleep, I see an osteopathic physician, who ties me up in knots, and then it stops hurting til the next time I stress it out.

Try an osteopath before seeing the surgeon. It's cheaper and less painful and may be more effective.
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Old 10-01-2013, 13:01   #15
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I had the same symptoms as you to varying degrees for years, and MRIs confirmed it was an L4-L5 and L5-S1 issue. The only thing that made a lasting difference was physical therapy. Specifically, lifting weights, especially squats and deadlifts as counterintuitive as that may seem, has made me pain free 95% of the time. I have a flare up maybe a couple of times a year, but the intensity and duration is far less than in the past.

This may not be the best route for you, but I'd think long and hard about surgery. Even the couple of surgeons I saw discouraged surgery except as a last resort in the absence of serious neurological symptoms, e.g., lack of bladder control.
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Old 10-01-2013, 18:38   #16
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Had L5 S1 hurnation (motorcycle wreck, wife passed out and fell off) 2 years ago. April 1st had surgery, trimmed the disc. Back has stopped hurting but still have some pain in the leg. Calf feels like I got hit with a baseball bat, at first but it;s slowly going away, like the doc said it would. I almost waited too long, inflamation almost prevented him from getting to the disc.
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Old 10-01-2013, 19:35   #17
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My husband wanted to reply to this since he is the one with the back surgery. I have a broken back, decided long ago not to have surgery, because back then I didn;t find one person who had the surgery who was pain free, they ones I spoke with said it was trading one kind of pain for another.
Here is hubby's reply to you.
If I had it to do over again, I would NOT have the surgery. The first surgery was in November of '93, second was in July of '95.

I had back pain radiating down my right thigh, fusion in L4 and L5. And I am still waiting for the pain to go away. I had fusion in '93 and an add on to the surgery in '95.

My back injury was in '91. Since then I have had maybe five days pain free, and those days were not in a row. When there was no pain, it scared me. I have as much pain now as before the surgery, about forty percent less range of motion, nerve damage, pain in my back radiates down my right thigh, additional neuropathy in both feet.

Nothing else can be done for me according to many doctors. I have been told to learn to live with it. (the pain).

The treatment that gave me the most relief was acupuncture, believe it or not. And that doesn't work anymore.

If you can get buy without buying a surgeon his new Mercedes, I suggest not having surgery. Of course this is my experience and my opinion. Others have had good results. This is your decision to make, whatever you decide, good luck to you.

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Old 10-05-2013, 19:04   #18
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Thanks for all the replies. Based on all of you and other sources, fusion seems to be the only way to go only if other options have been tried or there is severe damage. I will give PT a closer look and then go with scraping if needed.
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Old 10-05-2013, 19:16   #19
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I'm not sure if it's an option in your situation, but have you ever had epidural steroid injections?
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Old 10-05-2013, 19:23   #20
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Just had a disc replacement this past tuesday. Spent 3 days in the hospital. Have been 2 days and aim getting around pretty well. It was on L 5 and the approach was from the front . I am having some pain in my abdomen but so far I am optimistic
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Old 10-05-2013, 19:42   #21
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I had l4-5 disc removed.. it was herniated with a bone chip.. I was removed in 92..
no fusion.. I thought only fusion was done up top?
good luck..
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Old 10-05-2013, 20:01   #22
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I had the epideral injection,it helped for a short time only,going to a new doc later this month,we'll see how that works out.
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:59   #23
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I had an episode about 10 weeks up in the AM and could NOT put weight on my left leg. I suffered with extreme pain for about 6-7 weeks -- essentially could not walk for all that time. I saw my family Dr. (after 4 days) and after x-rays, they diagnosed pinched nerve (L4/L5).

After self-treating (as directed) with heat, stretching, and ibuprofen, I'm about 95% recovered...resumed my daily walking routine (working back up to 2 miles).

Still not satisfied (some residual weakness and atrophy in leg), I'm starting PT in a week...I gotta get better!

Point of all this: I feel (felt) your pain...and I had surgery in the back of my mind -- and was determined to avoid it at all costs.

I have a friend who had the epidural steroid shots...and, as one poster said, just temporary relief. She is now trying hydro-therapy (she's a bit overweight and this relieves the stress on the spine while exercising).

I know people who have had major success with chiropractors...not for me (yet)...YMMV

Nobody I know who has had back surgery -- even with the "best surgeon available" -- has been happy with the results.

I will continue to work through this:
  • stretching: really helps! (see book "Stretching" by Bob Anderson...the "bible")
  • exercise: walking (for me...) is good...I feel like I'm learning to walk all over's tiring, but if I don't, it gets worse.
  • heat: heating pad on high for 60 minutes feels great...loosens up muscles and is generally relaxing
  • physical therapy: I hope to regain strength, functionality and muscle tone in my leg...TBD (starting in a week)
Sorry for the long-winded post, but I wanted to share my experience and report that there are options other than surgery, and surgery should be IMHO avoided at all costs. And if you must have surgery, get a second (and maybe a third) opinion.

(BTW, I am 66 years old, and have never had any back problems until this (other than muscle strains from over-work). I am in very good health -- and I am a terrible patient..I hate being out of commission for any reason!)
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:26   #24
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I had a C4-5-6 fusion in 1999. I had issues for several years, had dozens of injections in my neck as part of Prolotherapy, found a Chiropractor who was very good and capable of adjusting my neck above the fusion.
Started doing Tai Chi several years ago which has almost stopped the Chiropractic adjustments. The only pain in my neck now is from my bad shoulder which is going to be replaced.

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Old 10-06-2013, 05:35   #25
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I am one year out from my fusion (L5-S1). While I'm not 100%, I'm doing a lot better than before the surgery. I'm a firefighter and was back to full duty after four months. I've had back problems for twenty years. Had a laminectomy four years ago then the disc degenerated down to nothing. Not much else to do after that but surgery. Overall I'm pretty happy with the results of my surgery. I wish I would have taken better care of my back when I was younger. Could have avoided a lot of trouble

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