I had a fusion at L4/L5 in 2002. I would be more than happy to share the entire experience with you but can you tell me exactly the description of the diagnosis? MRI results? Extent of injury?
Dear pain behind the badge
I can relate to everything you mentioned although I hurt mine lifting weights. I also went through all the tests (double ouch) you did and tried everything (except voodoo woman) to relieve the pain and fix the problem. First let me say the one thing I have learned in the last 7 years since I hurt my back was that you have to make your quality of life #1 and your job second. Now, I know of what you speak because I was a single mother of 2 when I went through all this. I went from a $70,000 a year job to now making $38,000 and about to go to no job, no income, and no health insurance due to my back. This forum is full of people who have lost their livelyhood an survive on next to nothing. If you don't take care of your back you will turn into one grumpy person and your family won't like being around you. The money is not important. I thought my life would end with a decrease in salary but trust me , it all works out in the end and you will survive.
Now, about the surgery. I felt the same as you about taking pain meds but one day woke up and said "hey, I am not addicted to pain killers, I am addicted to not being in pain". Pain can take you to the lowest spot out there and ruin your life. Take your meds and don't feel bad about it. I did lots of research about surgery before considering it. I was to the point where I could do nothing without wanting to cry anymore. You just wake up one morning and say "gotta do it". You will know when you reach that point. After much research I was accepted into a program in LA involving a trial study of a device called "charite". It is a disc spacer and very cool. The recovery time is cut to 1/4 and the success was amazing. It has been used in Europe for a long time. Now at the time I had surgery it was not approved here but that was 7 years ago so please check it out. I had to go to another state to do it and at the last minute (no kidding 14 hours before surgery) my insurance company changed their minds so my doctor went ahead and did a interbody cage fusion with fixation devices. Again , with much research my doctor consented to go in through the front to take out the effected disc and put cages in then, went into the back with 4 small holes to put in screws and rods. My fear with research was that when they cut you open in the back and do all the work from there they risk nerve damage and I read many horror stories. Also, with typical fusions they use bone from another site (hip usually) to pack around the cages so it will fuse properly. Again through research I found out the recovery from the bone graf is far worse than the actual back surgery soooooo my doctor used something new that was an artifical protein of some kind that was injected at the fusion site. I wish I could remember the name of the protein but try to google it. I am sure it is out there. Now, I dont think back surgery is worse than any other but for me is was a horror because the first shot of morphine i was given with my own little controlled pump made me throw up and very sick so I had to go through the hardest part with no pain meds. I remember thinking if I could make it to the window I would jump out but I was at Cedar Sinai hospital where all the movie stars go and I did not want to be on the 6pm news. Now as for recovery, I was back to work part time in 3 months and full time in 6. I can almost remember to the day (12 months later) that I woke up and felt like a million bucks and like I could do anything. It truly took about a year. Now that was in 2002 and about a year ago I started in with pain again. I continued and I found out the hard way and have been told by many doctors when you get a fusion at L4/L5 it is wise to also do the one below and above as that is the major point in your back for stability and because the one above and below has to now work harder those 2 will go bad eventually. Hindsight I guess but I do suffer with pain and take 3 vicadin a day religiously without guilt. The best advice I ever got was "keep moving after surgery for the rest of your life". Right after surgery I started walking 1 mile a day around a track with my unattractive brace on. I was soon up to 3 miles a day and that is what will heal your back the quickest and make for a good fusion. I can keep my pain tolerable if I keep moving. I have chosen jobs that allow me to move constantly. The worst part is getting up in the morning as the pain is bad but I just have to move around and off I go. I am sorry to say you will probably have to give up being a cop out there but I am sure there are many options for you in law enforcement that will accomodate your back. It is not easy to give up what you love but believe me you have to take care of your back to be happy. I recently hurt my back while working (the first time since surgery) and am looking at changing careers again in order to find something I can actually do. It is hard to let go of it but I have to be able to smile everyday and love my family and friends. I am guessing as yours is a workers comp claim they will pay for everything so that is good. I would think you could get on disability after surgery if you cant perform your police duties? Don't know much about that as workers comp is new to me also. Do your research on the surgeons and go to more than one of course to discuss surgery. Google the "charite" device I mentioned as well as the protein. For sure if you decide on a surgeon ask for patients that you can talk to that have had the same surgery. There are plenty of them that don't mind sharing their experience with that surgeon with you. I don't want to minimize the recovery period. It is a drag and you need lots of help from your family to get through it. If you can tolerate the pain with meds and live a good life don't have the surgery. Use it as a last resort but as I said, you will know the moment you can't take it anymore. The most important thing for me at the time was to join a pain support group like this. I truly don't think I could have gotten through it all without the ability to talk to those who have gone through it. My kids got me through mine but I am sure it got old always listening to my whining. Let me know if you have any more questions......................we are there for you
I'm so sorry you are in such pain, but I can totally identify with your situation. I have all sorts of problems with my back, especially at S1, L4, L5, C6, and C7. Both my orthopedist and my pain management doctor agree that I will need to have my lower spine fused at some time, but because I'm only 42, they think I should put it off as long as possible. If I were to have it done now, I would have to have it redone sometime down the line. Nobody should have to go through that kind of surgery more than once. Thus, I'm stuck getting useless epidurals and nerve blocks, and staying in constant pain because nobody wants to put me on any pain meds. I hope things work out for you.
Hi Pain Behind the Badge,
I too wanted to welcome you to HW. I am sorry you have to be here, but at least you came to the right place and found us.
I think Mexximelt gave you the best summation I have seen in a long time concerning back surgery.Everything she wrote there is the absolute truth. I worked for attys over 20 yrs,we handled W/C claims and Personal Injury. In my time of working, I saw thousands of neck & back surgeries over the yrs. If I were having back surgery, I would lean more towards a neurosurgeon doing my surgery versus an orthopedic. Why, be cause he is more trained to deal with nerve part of the surgery, that his specialty. I saw many successfull surgeries over the years. The ones that did not do well fell into 2 categories, 1. they didn't have a good dr or 2. they didn't have their head on right having the surgery and made their mind up they would never be able to do anything again. Guess what, they didn't, the dr did his part but the patient did not do his/her part.
Walking after surgery is the best form of exercise you can do. It strengthens you, your back and builds your stamina up. The first 6 weeks are the roughest because you have to be so careful as to not disturb the fusion so it can start becoming solid. Most of the drs here limit riding in the car to coming in for office appts in the begining, don't need to get hit with a soft fusion, no sitting, puts too much strai on the back and fusion. The drs here put you on 6 wks of bedrest except to get up & go to the b/r or to eat.
It does take one year to totally heal and have a full recovery from back surgery. Trying to push things along quicker will only set you back. Yes, you will have some limitations, but look how limited you are now. You might ask your dr to have one of his back surgery patients call you and talk to you about the surgery. They can tell you how he handles his patients.
Educate yourself as much as you can. Asking on forums you are going to get mixed reviews, so really you just have to take it all with a grain of salt. Everyone is different so keep that in mind. Keep us posted on how you do. Susie