Spinal Surgery Update

That is an exceptionally boring title isn’t it? I will change it when I think of something dazzling.

I had my Spinal Pathway appointment yesterday. This is an assessment appointment to determine if spinal surgery is an option. I saw this same man, Mr P (he is a senior practitioner physio something or other)  in early August this year, and at that appointment he was clear that surgery was not an option based on my MRI results from May 2012. His view was that a discectomy (where the offending bit of disc is removed to free the nerve) would not help as the prolapsed disc didn’t appear to be touching a nerve, and that spinal fusion is a last resort, end game situation, where I am nowhere near yet. However, he also agreed things were not right, which suggested that the MRI is now out of date and things have moved on somewhat since May, and he would review this decision in two months (yeah right!). The deal was I did aggressive physio first to get me standing upright. So, I completed physio which indeed saw me standing straight again after much pain, but the result was also an sharp increase in sciatic pain and numbness and transferred largely from my right to my left leg.

After much drama with nerve blocking painkillers, getting past a GP who felt I should be able to continue as a Zombie for the rest of my life over spinal surgery, and over 4 months later, I was back where he promised I would be, in his Office, discussing my continued and worsened condition. And this time he had a completely different opinion, following intense examination and concluding I have calf muscle wastage and significant leg weakness due to what appears to be nerve damage. No Shit Sherlock! He is not exactly telling me something I didn’t know. But, I didn’t realise I had such issues with standing on tiptoes using my left leg – that explains I fall flat on my face when doing aeroplane pose after wobbling all over the studio first in Body Balance.

A full and frank conversation ensued, and some tears from me, him telling me that if sometimes peoplg go through a few years of debiliating pain and the good news is that by the time they 50, the disc will be so disintegrated there is no more pain and the vertebrae will (sort of) fuse on their own (I have heard differently but hey ho). But, Hang On a Minute I said. My daughter will not need to be taught how to ride her bike when I am 50. My son won’t need comforting with cuddles in the middle of the night when I am 50. If I carry on like this I won’t have a career left when I am 50, and maybe not even my lover to please.  I don’t want to wait until I am 50. I want to live my life NOW. Cue more tears.

So after dangling the carrot there and baiting me with my potential fate, he finally informed me that I am now a suitable candidate for spinal surgery, and following a new MRI, I should expect several different surgical options to be discussed, as there are two different factors to my back problem, one is neurological (nerve related) and the other is orthopaedic (bone related, or ‘mechanical’ as they refer to it):

1. Discectomy – to remove the prolapsed (sticking out bit) part of the L5/S1 lumbar disc, if it is indeed prolapsed (it could still be ‘chemical pain’ causing the sciatic pain and back spasms, but chemical pain is less likely to cause numbness).

2. Spinal fusion – to stabilise the vertebrae which keeps ‘popping’ in a similar way that a knee with damaged cruciate ligament gives way. He admits he cannot see another alternative to spinal fusion to fix this problem. Except. Oh Hang on! There is! After I questioned why we can get a man on the moon but cannot replace a vertebral lumbar disc, he announces that this can be done, and is being done, and on the NHS. But not at that hospital. He was extraordinarily reluctant to discuss this in detail, only saying it is as risky as spinal fusion in terms of success and complications. But, this is a whole other blog post that will be written.

3. Possibly (probably) both the discectomy and spinal fusion. As the problems with my back are two fold, one is unlikely to fix the other.

So I now need to wait for another MRI, sometime after Christmas, probably 5-6 weeks away, followed by 10 days for the results, plus another 2 weeks for the results to be discussed with neurosurgeon and orthopaedic surgeon. So, despite this progress, it will be another few months before I can even discuss spinal surgery, let alone be put on any kind of waiting list.

And the advice on how to manage my condition until then? Don’t Give Up. This man is wise.


10 thoughts on “Spinal Surgery Update

    • Prolapsed disc, as long as two years, same with sciatica at low level but on a manageable level (I did not even realise the leg pain was sciatica, I just put it down to getting older pains and be being a bit of a hypochondriac so ignored it! thought, everyone gets aches and pains from time to time) Serious pain has affected my life since christmas 2011, and mild prolapse, annular tear and severe dehydration of L5/S1 was diagnosed in May 2012. Really serious pain and I have lost sensation in my leg since June 2012, spinal team suspect the disc has prolapsed further. It is, simply, getting worse, and not better as it should be with a disc tear.

  1. So if you are interested, Sarah Key has written about the four stages of spinal breakdown which includes prolapsed discs and surgery options….it is a relative easy read but still very scientific/medical and can help to understand things a little better (that’s what I found…). I found it also talks about the pain and describes it just like it was happening to the author at the same time. It helped me to look at things differently, took away the ‘mystery’ as to why some things worked and others didn’t. Anyway I won’t waffle on!! Here is the book title (she has done others) if you are interested ‘Back Sufferers Bible’ by Sarah Key – prolapsed discs are talked about on page 132 and surgery on page 139. Amazon/waterstones have it. I’m not suggesting it has all the answers but it has a great deal of accessible info which may be of use in your journey ahead. Best of luck.

    • That is an amazing link, thank you so much, I am going to town tomorrow so will pop in to waterstones for a copy (cant wait to order it!). I remember reading on your blog about Sarah Key and she seems to be highly recommended. I will definitely be reading it, thank you again

  2. Ooh progress of sorts? I am following your progress with interest and keeping everything crossed. My Discectomy update is that 7 weeks on I have zero pain, just some lack of sensation but that’s just nerve damage. Otherwise. amazing. SO wish the same for you.

    • i am so pleased your discectomy has been successful. i am pleased with this meeting, think it is progress, more so than i thought i would get this time, was fully expecting just a simple ‘you need another mri’ conversation. who knows what the future holds but its a step towards recovery of some kind, whether surgery or other. I feel more positive now than i have for a while, thank you for your good vibes. really appreciate it, long may your own recovery continue x

  3. I had a 2 level lumbar disc fusion 10-19-12 after suffering with back pain for 16 years and having many doctors tell me I was not a surgical candidate because I have too many discs with injuries. It was the best thing I ever did. I still have some pain but a lot of it is probably because I am still recovering. Don’t think of this surgery as an end-game strategy but a chance at a new life. I am back at work full time and no longer wearing the brace. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, Merry Christmas!

    • Thank you so much for your post. I really appreciate you sharing your experience, and a positive one which I really need to hear! Can I ask what brace you wore, and did it help? I have not been offered one, or had it suggested, maybe it is not suitable for me? I may well take you up on your offer of help with questions in the future. Merry Christmas!

  4. Pingback: 12-15 WEEKS! to see the neurosurgeon « Wine Can't Cure Back Pain

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