I can totally relate with you.
Started waking up with bad back pain almost 4 years ago. Saw my Gp, had x-rays done and was told simply that I had a curved spine in my lumbar region. He told me to try physio and some anti inflamatories. I did that for about 3 months and it just got worse.
I saw my Gp again and he put me on the list for a ct scan ( I live in Canada) I had to wait about 6 months for one. Once that was done, they discovered that there was more of a problem and I should see a specialist/ortho surgeon. I was put ont the list for that and was told it would be about 3 months for my first visit, it took a year!
Even though I still didn't have a proper diagnosis I was sent to see another specialist while I waited to see the other one. He decided that I should do some ESI's. Those did nothing for me, in fact for the first few days afterwards I was in way more pain than usual. I also had a bone scan. Finally like I said, it took a year for my first visit with the surgeon.
At that appt he ordered an MRI and we discussed possible surgeries. It took about 3 months for my MRI and then I met with my surgeon again. At this appt he told me had had spondylolisthesis with an L5 S1 fracture, mildly curved lumbar spine and suffer from sciatica. He thought that maybe because of my age (23) the best treatement would be non surgvical. I agreed as I did not want to under go surgery. I felt that the odds were not that great and I would be better off if could avoid it all together. It was also my worst fear to have surgery and most of all a hospital stay! So we decided to try some more physio. This time we incorporated accupuncture. It wasn't something that I can say gave me much relief. After a session sometimes I felt a little more lose. However, certainly no cure. After another 3 months of this every 3-4 days. I decided I wasn't getting anywhere and needed another appt with the surgeon.
At this appt he still was uncomfortable with surgery and thought there may be another way. So we looked at all angles and decided that more therapy of a different sort as well as a bit of weight loss could make a difference. I was not that over weight but I went from being a very active person to someone with next to no activity because of pain. So naturally I gained a little bit.
So, I went to a type of rehabilitation clinic. It was something I did 5 days a week in the morning for 6 weeks. There was no massage or anything like that. It was simply a matter of having a trainer and she showed me how to live with pain. How to move, bend, twist etc. She showed me how to strenthgen the core (which I strongly believe in for anybody, especailly those of us with back problems). We did weight training, yoga, all sorts of things. I was quite enjoying it even though once I go home I was pretty much done for the day as my pain was through the roof. But I thought it has to get better before it gets worse so I kept going.
I guess you should probably know that my insurance company was the one that was paying for this and of course wanted to rush me through everything. So they decided that because I was making a little progress that they would start making me carry heavy weights and do things I was not comfortable with. The pain was getting worse and worse and I kept telling my trainer that but she didn't care and there were threats that if I didn't co-operate I would lose my benefits etc. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and my doctor stepped in and told them to cut it all off and I scheduled another appt with my surgeon.
It took a couple months to see him so during that time I maintained a regular therapy session each morning (at my home) based on the positive things that I had learnt from my rehab clinic. I walked every morning on the treadmill , I did a lot of excercises for my legs, back and stomach. I did weight lifting and some excercises with the ball. This was all in moderation but I was losing weight and gaining major muscle. Even though I was still in a lot of pain and sometimes more. I was started to feel my legs do more of the work than my back and I just felt lighter on my feet. I was able to move around and know what do do when I sat down to not hurt my back further when I was doing it. It's hard to explain but the building of the muscles is a very important part in regards to our problems. Not only was I hoping to help myself non sugically but I knew that if it came down to it and surgery was absolutely neccesary than I knew I would be better off and stronger than most because of all this hard work.
At my appt the surgeon decided that even though I worked so hard and made such drastic improvements, I could only go so far and I was maxed out. It was time for surgery. I was scheduled for an L5 S1 fusion with autograft form my iliac crest. I was scheduled for January 24th 2006. The date was changed several times but it ended of being on the 26th of this past January. I am now 4 weeks post op.
Now for the month and a half up until my surgery I continued with my at home therapy almost everyday. The surgery was approaching and I got more scared everyday. It had always been a life time fear of mine and I was being forced to conquer it. I was crying all the time but I didn't want to people around me to see it so I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Anyway I then just got myself excited to get my life back. I hadn't been able to work for 4 years and everything in my life was limited if not gone all together.
Well the day of surgery came and I was surprsignly strong. I didn't cry that much. My surgery was scheduled for 1230pm and I had to be there 2 hours a head of time. During those 2 hours I was kept busy, there was paprer work to fill out, I had to change, do some blood work a urine sample, get an IV going etc. When they finally wheeled me in the OR, everyone was so friendly. There were a lot of them and it was a bit over whellming but it was also very comforting. I was not a wake for long. The anesthesiologist came up to from behind as I layed on the bed and he gave me a mask that I was to breath through. So I took a few breaths got dopey and just remember waking up in the recovery room.
For the first night I was part of a study for a new drug so I had 2 nurses with me all the time. It was actually comforting even though they had to keep bugging me. I remember seeing my family for the first time and knowing that they weren't telling me everything. But I was too doped up to care and knew that I would find out in the morning.
It ended up being a 6 hour surgery and a very complicated one at best. My surgeon was expecting to go in minimally invasive and do a standard fusion with bone from my hip. Well it ended up not being MI because once he made the first incision he saw that there were too many complications. He made an incision about 3 inches long. My nerves we apparantly twisted in knots and all over the place and instead of the "hair lign" fracture that it was suppose to be it was a sorts of little breaks throughout my lumbar region. None of this was seen on any of my tests. So, because of all the extra bone he didn't have to do a bone graft (which was positive). He took the extra bone and did the fusion, he got the screws in but coudn't not get the plate in because I had a nerve that was laying directly across where he needed to go. He untangled all the nerves and cleaned everything up. He decided that to get the plate in he would have to do it the the front through my tummy. So he closed me up. I had been through too much already and decided to finish it would have to be another surgery.
My hospital stay wasn't too bad. I slept most of the time. So my surgery was on a Thursday afternoon at 1230 and I went home on the following Sunday at around noon.
I was in a lot of pain a was extremly swollen in my lower back, I did not reconize my back, it was weird. It took a couple of weeks for it to go down too. So when I got home I knew that I had an appt to see my surgeon and to get my staples out in exactly 2 weeks time. For the first 2 weeks it was rough. I did have a lot of pain however, the best thing of all was that I no longer had the sciatica and no pain in my my feet. I thought the surgery was worth it just for that! I was so happy! So, I was on a lot of meds and was sleeping a lot but for no more than about 2-3 hours at a time. I was able to shower but my incision had to be covered up so it couldn't get wet.
After the first week or so I started to get pain in the left side of my butt. It was familiar pain which I use to experience with my sciatica on the right side. It kept getting worse and spreading throughout my leg and into my foot. I finally saw my surgeon and got the staples taken out.
He was very concerned with my pain and got me in for an x-ray and then 2 ct scans that same morning. He was concerned that a screw was hitting a nerve. There was no obvious sign of that though. So I was given some nerve meds and was sent home for 3 weeks. I now have 1 more week left on these meds and then I see him next friday. The pain he now in my right side just like before and my feet are being affected as well. So that part of it is rather dissapointing. However, it may not be anything to worry about. It could just be that the nerves were manipulated during my sugery and are in the process of recovering.
Anyway, I know that this is really long but trust me this is the quick version of it all. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions. I am definitly here if you have more or if I missed some, which I am sure I did.
As it stands I am happy that I went through with it. I don't have a date for my second surgery as it has been put on the back burner until my nerves get sorted out and I expect to know a lot more next Friday.
I look forward to hearing from you. Kristy.