I’ve spent the last week or so contemplating my back surgery. I scheduled surgery for November 5th, 2012 and I was scheduled to have a partial diskectomy (shaving off the bulge on my L5-S1 disk) and a have my L4-L5 joint fused. Well, spinal fusion is a big deal. I’ve read so many negative things about it and the pain and recovery are intense. I read one study that said the average recovery 15 months! Additionally, fusing one joint puts more strain on the surrounding joints and many people have additional fusions to fix the problems the first fusion causes.
I have leg pain consistent with a pinched L5 nerve, the nerve that exits the spine between vertebrae L-5 and S-1. Just so happens I also have a herniated disk right there and on the same side the pain is on. The evidence seems to point to that herniated disk. I also have that slipped disk and my spine is offset slightly just above that, but I have no pain I can associate with that. The L4 nerve, the one that exits between L-4 and L-5, runs down your leg also, but in different areas. I have no pain in those areas and no significant back pain.
Back surgery is usually a last resort. I’ve tried exercise, chiropractic care, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and a cortisone shot to help that leg pain and none worked. Surgery makes sense, especially because the surgery for the herniated disk is fairly straight forward. Spinal fusion is not so straight forward and I’ve never tried to fix the problem, a problem I wasn’t even aware of before the surgeon took an x-ray to help him with my herniated disk surgery, with non-surgical methods. I haven’t done specific exercises, lost weight or done any physical therapy, decompression, etc.
I should though. Without specific pain and without any non-surgical treatment for the slipped disk and offset vertebrae, I can’t see doing something so invasive and recovery intensive. If I had debilitating pain from that problem, even then I’d try non-surgical techniques first. Spinal fusion is serious business and can cause other problems. The failure rate is relatively high. I’m 46 and I have a lot of time left to live and do damage the surrounding joints that would have to work harder to make up for the fused joint. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life climbing up my spine with fusions or cause a new problem to fix something that really isn’t a problem.
I’ve contacted my surgeon and I’m waiting hear back. I’m hoping they will go along with my wishes and see my logic. If not, I’ll find another surgeon. I would have to hear a lot to change my mind. People, maybe even you, live with slipped disks, compressed disks, herniated disks, etc. without any symptoms or with manageable symptoms. I’d rather lose weight (4.6 lbs so far), do physical therapy, even take mild painkillers than spend 12 months in pain and recovery. I’m young and I’d rather be out doing stuff.
So, that’s the latest update. I’ll post again after I discuss this with my surgeon, hopefully today or Monday, and see what’s what. Oh, by the way, if my medical terminology is off, please excuse me.