Why surgery is not a good option for my lumbar spine issues

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A few people have asked me why I don’t have spinal surgery.  I saw a neurosurgeon earlier this year, and surgery was an option, but in short, its not a good option.

The nerve impingement has caused permanent numbness down my left leg.  I have no feeling in some parts of my leg, and horrible electric sensations in others.  When Bella licks my foot, it feels like being shocked with hundreds of little cattle prods.  Very painful.

The numbness gets better and gets worse, depending on what’s happening in my spine.  Some days my whole leg is numb down the outside.  Other days its not so bad. I always have a paralysed calf though, I can’t push off with my calf, and have a significant limp.  Not having the use of my calf muscle has had a huge impact on my ability to be active.

Walking is even harder than it was before, because I am using my right side exclusively, it’s exhausting.  I haven’t done any gym classes because there are a lot of moves I can’t do.  I miss my old gym, but I can’t go back there.

So why don’t I have surgery and fix it?

Mostly because the chances of it being ‘fixed’ are almost zero.

And because of the low chance of success, I’m not going to fight through the medical PTSD.  I can’t put myself in that position again, I don’t trust medical staff enough.  What I went through after my hysterectomy was nothing short of pure physical torture. And it was because the nurses didn’t listen to me, and no one took me seriously. So they let me suffer. I can not risk that again.  Especially not for such a small chance of success.

My spine is very unstable.  My scans showed definite impingement at L5/S1, but there was also more minor impingement at the two levels above as well.  All the lower three discs are herniated, and have lost disc height. The surgeon could only do a discectomy at ONE level, so the chances are I would wake up with one level no longer being impinged, but the other levels would still be a problem.

I know the worst symptoms area caused on the left-hand side, at L5/S1, but the nerve pain and numbness moves. My left leg is always numb, but today my right leg is also numb, though not as severely.

The bottom line is my neurosurgeon simply can’t fix all the problems with my spine.  There is just too much damage.

I WILL need a spinal fusion at some point. I have spondylolisthesis, only grade 1 at this point. But this will continue to degrade, and I will need at least three levels fused one day down the track.

My neurosurgeon advised to wait as long as possible, because that surgery will be a long, 6-8 hour surgery with a 12 month recovery time and afterwards I will have a lot more stiffness in my spine, and even worse mobility than I do now. But hopefully less nerve pain and paralysis.

I agreed I would wait as long as possible. He told me the day would come when I could no longer walk at all, and the surgery would hopefully solve that.  But he could not ‘cure’ me, or give me all the feeling back in my legs, or the ability to jog.

There is just not much that can be done about a severely degenerated spine. I have severe facet joint arthritis at all five lower levels, spondylosis and significant stenosis.  My lumbar spine pain is the worst that I experience.  Every day feels like a knife twisting in my back, along with the shooting sciatic pain, down both legs, or one at a time.

It’s disabling, and it is my spine that keeps me out of the gym, and doing the thing I want to do .

And it can’t be fixed.

Many people still believe that surgery can fix everything…it just can’t.  My spine is too far gone.  Maybe if the doctors had listened to me years ago, and helped when the damage was moderate.  But its too late now.

Frustrating, but it can’t be changed.

1 COMMENT

  1. As a person with Ankylosing Spondylitis i hear you. Right now my back has a bend the size of a humped back whale. Sheryl says it gives her hope I will be a bench someday. she really wants a bench for the corner of the room.

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