After suffering through constant pain of varying degrees for nearly seven years, I finally reached the difficult decision to have back surgery.
Three months have now passed since my operation, and electing for surgery appears to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The Problem: A Herniated Disc at L5/S1
A herniated disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae was the cause of the relentless nerve pain that radiated through my lower back and midsection.
The disc had collapsed from 16mm to just under 5mm, lost its fluid, and was impinging on my spinal nerves.
Over the course of several years, I visited a chiropractor, did physical therapy, and had cortisone shots in an attempt to relieve the pain.
But I could not find a long-term cure for the constant, fiery nerve pain in my back and buttocks. My quality of life was noticeably suffering and continued to decline as the years went on.
After a great deal of thought and consideration, my trusted doctor and I agreed surgery had become the best option.
The Solution: Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) Surgery
In an ALIF surgery, the incision is made in the abdomen rather than cutting through the back muscles, which reduces recovery time.
A vascular surgeon made the incision to the left of my belly button then positioned my organs and blood vessels in such a way as to give my spinal surgeon access to my herniated L5/S1 disc.
My spinal surgeon removed the collapsed disc (now 5mm in height) and inserted a 16mm titanium tray containing bone filler material between L5 and S1. He inserted three titanium screws to hold the tray in place.
The L5 and S1 vertebrae will use that bone filler material to eventually grow – or “fuse” – together.
The Outcome: Relief, at Long Last
It has now been three months since my surgery and I am pleased to report the procedure has been a total success.
The relentless nerve pain is gone. My back and buttocks are no longer on fire.
The relief I feel today is nothing short of a miracle. I have a new, pain-free lease on life.
I still do have occasional tingling and numbness in my right leg, but this will likely dissipate over time as my nerves and nerve tissue adjust to no longer being impinged. I will trade occasional tingling for constant raging pain any day.
While I could not be happier with the virtual elimination of pain at this point, I also realize there is still a long road ahead of me. The fusion will take up to a year to ensure the vertebrae have healed correctly.
There are other factors that worked in my favor. I am relative young, in otherwise good health, and am physically strong. I have been meticulous about my physical therapy and following my doctor’s instructions to ensure a complete recovery.
Back surgery is a major decision.
And at least for me, it is one I am definitely glad I made.