I’ve had back pain for many years. It used to be nothing that a few trips to the chiropractor couldn’t “fix,” but it started getting worse. I was in constant pain.
I went to the doctor, who referred me to Pain Management. The pain management doctor started me on Cortizone injections in my lower back and SI joints. He also referred me to physical therapy. I got the Cortizone injections about four times total, but they didn’t work. Neither did physical therapy.
Next, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon, who sent me to get an MRI. He said that the MRI showed degenerative disc disease at L5-S1 and some posterior bulging. He said that it could easily be fixed with surgery and it would take away the pain I was suffering from. That sounded pretty good to me, so I opted to have the surgery in October, 2016 and only stayed one night in the hospital.
After the surgery I was in so much pain I thought I was going to die! I’ve had 15 surgeries over the course of my life and I’ve never been in as much pain as I was in after this one. I was taking Oxycodone every four hours and Dilaudid every four hours, but not at the same time. I took pain medication every two hours, alternating the two. I was so heavily drugged that my mom said I was like a zombie. It was necessary, though, because I couldn’t handle the pain.
I continued taking pain medication for about six months. I was miserable. The doctor kept prescribing them and I kept taking them. I was going to physical therapy, but was still suffering from pain that I couldn’t deal with. In July, I tried to make yet another appointment with the surgeon to discuss the pain, but he no longer worked for my medical group. He left the state.
I had to see someone, so I made an appointment to see another orthopedic surgeon. I was so glad that the original surgeon was gone, forcing me to see someone else, because the second orthopedic surgeon wanted to find out why I was still having so much pain. He also reviewed my records and told me that he NEVER would have done spine surgery on me in the first place, because the problems I had weren’t that bad. He asked why I didn’t get a second opinion and I immediately felt “stupid” for not doing so.
He sent me to get a CT scan. The results showed that my spine never fused and the hardware was loose. Apparently, that’s why I was in so much pain. So, I had to have surgery to repair the problems. I wonder how long this would have gone on had the first surgeon not moved out of state, because he never bothered to check it out?
I was scheduled for two surgeries this time, because the surgeon wanted to go in from the side to secure the spine from the front, then go in through the back to finish the repair. It took months to get scheduled for surgery, because the doctor needed space on his calendar to fit the two surgeries in. On January 2nd and 4th of 2018 I had the surgeries. I was in the hospital for a week.
The doctor grafted cadaver bone and injected cells into my spine to help it fuse. He also replaced all of the hardware from the first surgery with bigger hardware. I had to wear a bone growth stimulator for nine months after surgery and a hard turtle-shell type of brace for a few months. I was in pain for a short while, but NOTHING like the pain I had after the first surgery. I only took Oxycodone for about a month after the second surgery. I did not take any Dilaudid at all.
About four or five months after surgery, I noticed a big lump on my side where the incision was. It turns out that I developed a surgical lumbar hernia where my side incision is. I was referred to the surgery department to have it repaired, because it was quite large and my kidney was right by the opening. I had that surgery in August of last year. Healing from the hernia repair surgery was very painful. It felt like my skin was being pulled apart and it was hard to breathe. Fortunately, the pain stopped for the most part after about a month.
I have seen the second orthopedic surgeon a handful of times since surgery and am scheduled to see him again next month. I STILL have back pain. Unfortunately, the pain is worse than what I had before the surgeries. I had another CT scan and this time, my spine is fusing and everything looks good, but I still hurt. The surgeon said that the pain I am feeling is most likely due to Fibromyalgia. He said that he never would have performed surgery on me, because I have Fibromyalgia and it’s difficult to tell what is causing the pain. He only performed the surgeries because the first surgery was unsuccessful and needed to be repaired.
I regret ever having spine surgery in the first place. I am still in pain, except now it is worse, because I can’t do things like I used to. I can’t bend easily from my lower back, because my spine is fused. I have screws and rods from the L3 to S1 discs. I have cross bars at L3-4 and L5-S1 and disc spacers at L4-5 and L5-S1. I also have a bone cage at L5-S1. Just turning over in bed is difficult. Drying off from a shower is exhausting.
I have a lot of work to do to be able to physically do some things, but so far, the surgeon hasn’t given me permission to lift any weight over 15 pounds. He told me not to go to the gym or lift anything heavy, because my fascia is very thin. He said that he doesn’t want me to bend my back, but sometimes I have no choice. Even then, my body doesn’t work like it used to. I’m not sure what kind of exercise is safe for my back. I do take walks, but after a very short time, my lower back hurts. I also have a lot of foot pain from my past foot surgeries, which I talked about in an earlier blog.
I wish I would have seen the second surgeon first, because I never would have had spine surgery. I did learn from this experience, though. I will never have another surgery without a second opinion.