Back Surgery Questions

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Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 26
   Posted 12/3/2008 4:11 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi I have been following this site for some time but this is my first post so if I have posted in the wrong section sorry. I will give some background and any advice or your experiences with surgery would be greatly appreciated. The first thing I am in Australia and while helping coach at our local football clinic were my 6 year old played I did my back injury that was May 2006.

I was unable to walk for about 2 weeks and then was on a gutter frame for 3 – 4 months due to being able to bear body weight. The good news is since then I have been able to walk and have got rid of the frame.

I am on allot of pain meds Tremadol, painden forte, oxy codeine as well as physio ect.

I have the neurosurgeon say in the past that my back was not bad enough and the risks were too high due to my age (I am to young) the surgery said if I was 70 or 80 they would do the surgery no problems. After heated discussions as the surgeon he agreed to another MRI and after seeing him yesterday with the new MRI he has agreed to do a discectomy.

The MRI states the following:

L3 – L4 and above are unremarkable

L4 – L5 Broad-based disc protrusion which extends into both exit foramina, with central superimposed extrusion measuring 19mm transverse x 11mm AP. Endplate degenerative changes with disc desiccation and height loss noted. A resulting moderate central canal stenosis and bilateral moderate to severe suprapedicular recess stenoses. Mild left foraminal stenosis.

L5 – S1 disc desiccation and height loss, with shallow broad-based disc protrusion extending into exit foramina. Posterior annual fissure.

My questions are:
1) Feedback both good and bad from a discectomy
2) Are there other options I should know about?
3) What exercises should I be doing prior to the surgery to reduce recovery time?
4) What is the recovery time
5) Any other info would be helpful

Thanks and a look forward to your feed back


Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 554
   Posted 12/3/2008 8:40 PM (GMT -6)   
David- welcome to the forum. Everyone is super nice here & you will find comfort here..... trust me. You did post in the correct area as most of us have back pain in here. I'm sorry to say I have no idea what your back issues are, all I can say is from my experience is my situation is no hope even with surgery & could even possibly make it worse. ((no thanks!)) so my decision is because I am 31 that hopefully science will improve in the years & when the time is right for me, I will have the surgery (if it exists). My question to you is are you 100% sure surgery will help? Just please be cautious. Again I don't know your situation but I might consider a second opinion JUST INCASE!! Have you seen a pain management specialist? Can medication help you? I have been all over the place with medication, injections to patches to pills.... I have the hat. I am actually up for surgery next month for a pain pump trial. The medication is stronger, bypasses your liver & no constipation. (I don't know if you have that issue I assume so if you are on strong meds) There is actually a great post started by another member in regards to a pump if you are curious. I would just explore every option first. Sorry I am not much help, but we are all here to support you. Hopefully someone else will chime in. Good luck!!
RX's: Oxycontin 80 MG 2x's daily; Dilaudid 8 MG 4xs daily; Zanaflex 4mg 3x's daily; Restoril 15mg 1x; Soma 3x's daily; Lyrica 100 MG 3x's daily (pain & fibro.); Phenergan 25 MG (as needed); Amitriptyline 25 MG 1x (chronic pain); Cymbalta 60mg 2x's daily (pain from fibro); Metoclopram (as needed) & Senokot (as needed).
"The most critical choice you'll ever make is the one you make about what you're going to do with this. The past is over. The future hasn't happened yet. The only time is now."
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Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2268
   Posted 12/4/2008 12:00 AM (GMT -6)   
I'm having a surgery later this month as well (looks like mine is going to be a fusion of L5-S1 b/c I have joint probs as well as disc probs). I don't know the answers to most of your questions b/c I'm still finding out for myself, but I know a lot of people here have had disc replacements though so I'm sure they'll be along with advice.

As far as the physio exercises, probably best to work with a physical therapist to develop a personalized program. People here can share what they did, but each of us have different bodies that respond to different exercises. For me, my pain specialist works with a physical therapist who has special weight machines that target the core muscles/lower back. I've done them in the past & must say they are brutally painful, but I hope to work on that again to try to build up pre-op & also will be working with the PT for leg exercises to strengthen my legs since that is also part of the reason why I'm having surgery.

I was told that for either a fusion or discectomy that a "good result" was considered to be 10-15% reduction in pain & no loss of my ability to hop. An "excellent result" would be a 50% reduction in pain (maybe then I would actually care whether or not I can hop - lol). Recovery time averages 6 weeks, but could be as soon as 2 weeks or as long as you can imagine, or never occur at all (some people have increased pain, others have no change in their pain). In any case, you will probably stay in the brace for at least 6 weeks regardless of how quickly you get up & about after surgery in order to make sure you heal properly. Maybe your NS would advise you differently though, so best to ask him directly.

Kttn had some great suggestions too & I would definitely suggest looking into those before settling on surgery. Really, 10-15% less pain is not that fantastic of a result if you ask me. Unfortunately, I've run out of options & need to take what I can get and pray that it's enough but it generally seems like the best option is to avoid surgery for as long as possible.

Best wishes for your decision!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 12/4/2008 12:34 AM (GMT -6)   
I wish you all the best with your fusion. I had an L4-S1 last year, but it didn't help. I think we all have to remember that the people who have successful surgeries probably aren't posting here - and I think that's something for you to think about also, David.

As far as interpreting your MRI, David, we're not doctors and can mainly offer support and share our experiences. I learned a lot by asking my doctors lots of questions, and reading about the spine on sites like (a site recommended to me by one of my former pain management doctors). Also, I researched on, which allows you to access some of the same research the doctors use.

I would strongly suggest you get at least a second opinion, and if possible to do that at a teaching hospital if you have one within reasonable travel distance. I know Cleveland Clinic even has some way of getting a consult electronically, although you have to pay out of pocket. I would ask your neurosurgeons and other doctors for honest responses about what you can expect. I am in my late 50's and took a bad fall 4 years ago. My first neurosurgical consult was 3 years after the fall because I wanted to do all the PT, injections and any other treatment I could to avoid surgery. Finally, the initial neurosurgeon told me I'd have about a 40% chance of success with surgery, and he didn't recommend it. I went to a teaching hospital and was given an 80-90% chance of success, so of course I went for it. Turns out the first doctor was probably right. But spines are so complex it's difficult for any of us to tell you what's right for you. I would ask your doctors questions until you feel you understood, in lay terms, what was going on with your spine, and the future prognosis. There are also different ways to do the same procedure. I had a minimally invasive approach to the double fusion, and I will say that wasn't terribly bad (all things consider) to heal from. BUT it took much longer than the doctors said. I kept hearing 6 weeks as a marker, but at 6 weeks I was just beginning to get in my car and drive around the block. I still have tightness in the muscles around the incisions but that's the downside of surgery. If it would have eased the nerve pain down my leg, and numbness in my feet, the tightness in my back would be a piece of cake to manage. Now it's just been added to everything.

Hope some of this helps. Also, be sure to read a lot of old threads here, because there's lots of good information fomr many people.


Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9090
   Posted 12/4/2008 1:22 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi David and welcome! It's great to see you posting.

I really can't offer much...I'm in a situation with back issues also. Mine is collapsed disk at L5/S1. The nerves down my legs are being pinched and I have shooting pains down the legs most of the time. But my orthopedic surgeon recommended against surgery in my case. Usually some of the pain will go away only to return again within 2 years, on most people. But your case is very different than mine and more extensive. I'll leave any other comments to those with more similar issues.

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Fibromyalgia, Ulcerative Colitis, Insulin dependent diabetic, collapsed disk, dermatitis herpetiformus, osteo arthritis in spine and other locations.

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Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 26
   Posted 12/4/2008 1:00 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi All,

Thanks for the replies. I have seen 4 different neurosurgeons for their opinion and they are recommending the same procedure as I have already gone thru every possible other non-surgical treatment. As for pain relieve I found that acupuncture work great for me.

To my surprise I was first asked one of my physios at the hospital about it. Thinking they would recommend me to a small natural path or similar. But no the hospital has some of their own doctor qualified in acupuncture. Now when I said it worked great I mean I could reduce the pain meds for up to three days that cleared my head and I was able to think. I have done both tradition dry needling and also laser acupuncture I have found in that the laser worked better.

Prior to having the first treatment I was not a big fan of this sort of treatment but I will admit does work and best of all it’s not just swallowing more drugs.
Knnt like yourself I am only 36 and I put of surgery and even going to see a neurosurgeon for as long as I could my neurosurgeon has said that there are no guarantees as every case is different but he gives a positive outlook on the results. And as he is the second best neurosurgeon in Australia and works out of the largest teaching hospital on Victoria I know he has the skill and the equipment at his disposal.

Frances good luck with the surgery and my NS has said with fusions of L5 – S1 has the highest success rate and as you go up the back they get worse. His success rate with fusion is about 90% I have meet both people who have that success and those that have been unsuccessful. The successful ones have no pain and can do every-thing (we all hope for that) and these people most of them are L4 – S1 as for the non successful they tend be L3 and above till you get to C3

PaLady thanks for the sites and I hope with time you will get better and a reduction in pain.

Chutzie can I ask why you decided to see a orthopedic surgeon and not a neurosurgeon and please correct me if I am wrong but a orthopedic surgeon specialise with bones and neurosurgeon specialise with nerves or am I wrong?


Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 2976
   Posted 12/4/2008 4:33 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi David,

I'm so sorry about all your back trouble and your pain. Unfortunately I can't offer you anything other than support, as I am one of the lucky few on this board who doesn't have back pain, although I have my own form of horrific pain (my chronic pain is in my eye).

I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit about laser acupuncture. I have been doing acupuncture religiously for 6 months now. It helps, but not as much as I would like it to (on average I get moderate relief for several hours). The problem is that my body is too stubborn. Every time we find a treatment that works well, my body adjusts & so we have to rethink our approach. I've had electro-acupuncture done as well as regular acupuncture, but I've never heard of laser acupuncture. Any information you could give me would be helpful. Thanks!


Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 13354
   Posted 12/4/2008 11:30 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi David, I too want to welcome you to HW. I hate to see you here but you have come to the right place. The people on this forum can really give some great tips on many things and CP is one of them. We also try to lend an ear if a person feels like they need to vent and you will get a ton of support.
I had surgery offered to me back in the mid 90's by a neurosurgeon. When I told him I was not planning on having surgery at that time, he walked out of the room very rudely in my opinion and sent his nurse in to finish the exam!!! Of course, I already knew if I were going to have surgery, I already had my neurosurgeon picked out. I saw hundreds of his surgeries, he worked with an orthopod on lumbar fusions, I told them they were a tag team. Both of these guys are excellent surgeons. Yes, you are right about the difference of the two drs. Since nerves are always involved in any spinal surgery, I would only agree to a neurosurgeon working on me. I have seen the difference of a orthopod doing a cervical fusion versus a neurosurgeon and in my opinion its not worth it, same with a back. The difference in recovery time was something else and the person truly did not do well. Always get board certified specialist.
From ready what you wrote about your MRI you sure do have alot of narrowing going which is stenosis. I have seen in many instances a person to actually have a herniation behind the narrowing and it was not picked up on the MRI or CT. Then you have your disc problems on top of that. I can certainly see why you are in pain. It looks like you are losing some of the fluid in your disc which is called disc dessication. Do you have any pain in your buttocks or pain in the back of your legs? Pinched or compressed nerves can cause this sort of problem. The stenosis is probably what affected your ability to walk and probably even now you are limited, as it is know for causing this problem too. I read an article recently that alot of people with lumbar stnosis actually feel better sitting as it causes the canal to open somewhat further.
You seem to have your head on right about the surgery, and believe it or not thats half the battle. I have seen people go in for surgery and all they would say is I am never going to be the same again, or I am going to hurt forever or feel like they were half the person since they had surgery. These people never did good after surgery. A positive outlook can go a long ways. I am assuming your recent MRI showed more progression since the previous MRI.
I think I would ask my dr about any kind of exercises to do prior to surgery. You sure don't want to be doing something you shouldn't.I too have heard 6 weeks to recuperate, but in all reality not everyone is alike. Alot depends on how fast you heal, lets face it, any surgery takes a little something out of a person. Whatever you do, don't try to speed up your recovery, it will hurt you in the long run. Just take each day as it comes. Overdoing is a big problem for many and that just knocks you back. Rest and be kind to your bosy and let it heal properly. Walking is the best form of exercises you can do after surgery. It will help get your strength back and help build you up. They will have you up walking fairly soon after surgery and that will also help wake up your bowels and get them working again.
Keep us posted on how you are doing I hope you have low pain day. Susie

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 26
   Posted 12/5/2008 7:11 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Skeye,

I am no expert on the differences between traditional and laser acupuncture. To be honest prior to my back problem I did not think much of eastern medicine but I am now the first to say if you have not tried it don’t knock it.

I have attached a link of a website that has some basic info and a video in case this is the same as you have already had but under a different name.

I found that laser acupuncture worked better for me. It gave me about half a day more relief and the same doctor did both traditional and laser so this is why I think it was the laser being the difference and not the doctor.

Hi Susie,

Thanks for the reply. Yes you are right the MRI shows my back has got worse. And my GP which I trust whole hearty as like me he believes in the conservative approach after seeing him today he looked at the MRI images and has basically said due to the amount stenosis He believe surgery is now the only answer. And as he puts it I am slowly going to become a paraplegic millmeter by millmeter as the stenosis has got to a critical stage.

I have put the scan on one of my servers if you are interested as even as I know we are not doctors we have all got very good at looking at MRI’s and I would like to know what others think. Just click the link below or copy the link into your browser.

And you are right keeping a positive approach is the best way to get better.

I hope you all have a lower pain day.


Post Edited (DavidH) : 12/7/2008 9:41:53 PM (GMT-7)

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 13354
   Posted 12/7/2008 10:42 PM (GMT -6)   
Daivid I tried to click the link and nothing happened. Susie

Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 68
   Posted 12/7/2008 10:57 PM (GMT -6)   

David, I am sorry for your pain, but you will find everyone here very supportive and so nice. I am fairly new here myself and these people have saved my life and answered a lot of questions. I have had 4 back surgeries on the L4-5. they started with a microdisectomy and finally ended after 7 years of horrible pain with a titanium fusion, (by going through the stomach). all has never been the same since. that relief was good for some years, but now the scar tissue is so severe I can hardly get out of a chair. But my son had a back surgery where they did it almost like arthoscopy. he went home the next day and things are great for him..Technology has come a long way. anyhow David, welcome and I hope you find answers or support here.  Patty

 Degernative Joint disease, Depression,severe Hypertension, Ulcers, Nerve damage,OA, stroke & blindness in left eye
  Prozac 80 mgs, Synthroid, Ultram, Metroprolol, Lipitor, Norvasc, Vicadin,
  Bilaterla hip replacements, Bilateral knee replacements, Titanium Spine Fusion (L4-5)(4 spine surgeries)Oblation for SVT(supra ventricular tachycardia) Biopsy of left Optic Nerve, left shoulder surgery, revision of left hip
The hardest lesson in life to learn...Is which Bridge to cross and which ones to Burn.

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 26
   Posted 12/7/2008 11:57 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Patty,

I am sorry to hear about pain but I am glad to hear that your son’s surgery went well. It sounds from your description that is similar to what they are saying I need.

Would you be able to get me some more information on your son surgery and If he found any-thing he should have done different either pre op or post op. It looks like I will having surgery in late January 2009 and I am trying to prepare my body as best as I can. Also I am trying to find out as much information I can to ask my NS, GP and physio prior to the OP.

I have tried everything I can with little or no success. So for me surgery may not be the answer but at this stage I am out of options and my doctors are in agreement that surgery may help.

Hi Susie,

The link above needs to be copied as this forum has disabled HTTP code. So if you use your mouse and highlight the link by holding down the left mouse button and then pressing CTRL and C to copy the text. Then go the address bar in your browser and press CTRL and V to paste the link in the address bar. You should be taken to my server.


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