Thursday, September 18, 2008 res-q-u, Community Member, asks

Q: L5-S1 Fusion Surgery Yes/No

Doctor has reccommended a fusion for my low back.  I am so scared and not sure what to do.  I had an lamenectomy in 1996.  I have been almost pain free for 10 years.

Now, I hurt all the time.  I have had steroid injections, lumbar epidurals, physical therapy, chiropractic care, pain medications, and on and on and on.


Has anyone had this "fusion" surgery?  What was your experience?


Thanks so much.



Answer This
Answers (37)
9/19/08 7:32pm

I take care of many people who have had a fusion procedure. I take care of many people who are contemplating surgery. Ultimately, the desicion to have surgery is a very individual and personal decision. Before you decide to have another surgery, ask yourself this: Are you willing to risk your pain getting worse?  If you are willing to take that risk, then you should consider surgery. If not, then you should find an alternative route.


Surgery is not without risk and the risk increases the more times the low back is operated on. Infection, nerve damage, scar tissue are just a few problems that can cause a poor result and more pain. Please weigh the risks and the potential benefits carefully.


I will say one definite rule about spine fusion surgeries. If you currently smoke tobacco, you should not have a fusion surgery. You must quit smoking for a least 3 months prior to the surgery or else it will most likely fail because the bones will not fuse properly.


Remember that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of that surgery fence. But if you do decide to jump the fence, go with a positive attitude and optimal health because attitude and health will better your chances for success.


Dr. Christina Lasich, MD

Aptos Gimp, Community Member
11/ 8/10 6:36pm

I have been suffering from chronic pressure and pain in my right hip for 2 1/2 years, ever since I started walking after being non-weight bearing for 12 weeks while recovering from an acetabular (hip-socket) fracture in my right hip. The pressure actually began first, half way through my recovery period, coming on literally overnight. I didn't feel anything wrong one day and woke up the next morning feeling like I had a brick in my hip. The pain did not begin until after I started walking again on 4/1/08. It was first diagnosed as trochanteric bursitis and subsequently IT band syndrome, and then something called trochanteric insertion tendinitis. I had two cortisone shots administered in my doctor's office and later, two flouroscopically guided cortisone injections directly into the bursa(s) at Stanford. I went through multiple physical therapy sessions. Nothing helped.


Finally, a pain-management doctor suggested that the pain was coming from my back and ordered an MRI which revealed that my L5-S1 disc was severely herniated and pressing on the sciatic nerve. He tried to relieve the pain with epidural injections -- three over six weeks. They didn't help. He sent me to a neurosurgeon, who performed a laminectomy on 5/27/10. That procedure did help, somewhat. Immediately prior to the operation, the pain in my hip was so severe that I was having difficulty walking more than a few blocks at a time. Afterward, I was able to walk much farther, even though my hip was still painful.

But I did not get the pain relief I was hoping for.


The neurosurgeon said his next option would be an anterior L5-S1 fusion. I have been reluctant to go that route and have been trying to manage the pain with medication -- Lyrica, tramadol and most recently, methadone (low dose so far). None of these pain medications have helped me much. My primary-care doctor started pushing methadone at me two years ago. I started taking it in low doses on 10/13/10 -- 2 1/2 mg once a day to start, then 2 1/2 mg twice a day, and most recently three times a day. The doctor wants me to work up to 5 mg twice daily. But I have not been getting any real relief and the pain even seems to be getting worse.


So at this point it seems that my options are (1) to continue as I am, enduring constant pain and pressure in my hip and taking ever-increasing doses of methadone in hopes that I can manage it or (2) have this surgery with the hope that it will finally relieve the pressure on the nerve and significantly reduce my hip pain.


I am concerned that this surgery may not relieve my hip pain. And I am even more concerned that I might end up with serious back pain, which -- ironically -- I do not have at the moment.


I am 65 years old and fit -- height: 5'11"; weght: 165 lbs. I swim 1,500 yards five days a week. (Before I broke my hip, I swam three days and worked out on eliptical trainers for 35 minutes three times a week.) I have been able to travel despite the pain. In September, we went to Italy for a couple of weeks and I walked a lot -- with a cane. But I was in pain the whole time; I just ignored it.


So my question comes down to this: Should I continue as I am, enjoying life as best I can, with pain; or should I go ahead with this surgery? What are the chances that I will end up with more pain than I have now and less ability to do things -- like swimming, walking and holding my 17-month-old grandson?



popcorncarl, Community Member
5/17/11 10:51am

HI, I just had L5/S1 fusion 2 weeks ago. I was walking almost immediately and going up/down stairs within 2 days. I am an avid golfer and not yet able to bend enough to practice chipping/putting - but - it has only been 2 weeks - perhaps I'm impatient. At any rate, I have not had any pain meds since leaving the hospital and the "old" pains seem to be gone. I have talked to many that have had the same surgery and everyone of them said they were glad they did - I expect the same from mine. Before surgery, I went to the gym and worked out as much as I could for several weeks. I also ate yogurt every day (something about good bacteria), because it couldn't hurt. At this point, I am very optimistic. Wife and I went to a local festival yesterday and at these events (with slow walking and just standing) my back would be killing me - that did not happen at the festival and I was VERY encouraged about my future. 

Ted, Community Member
6/28/11 10:33am
I am cosidering l5s1 back fusion for an ongoing pain. I have had for several years. I tried injections and physical therapy, but nothing seems to work. I would like to see how your doing 6 weeks after your surgery. Reply
sassynoodle, Community Member
7/ 2/11 5:11pm


I'm a 34yo female, very active, and am a physiotherapist. One would think that becasuse of my profession that I would be walking into this surgery with the best possible information and confidence. This will be my first sugery- the plan is for a L5/s1 fusion- secondary to a sequestrated disc and subsequent instability. It is my first lumbar surgery, and although I know what to do/not to do after surgery, I am concerned about the pain, and more so, the long term health of my back.

I ahve read so many negative posts, and when I came across yours, I finally felt like I have a chance at living relatively pain free post-fusion.

Just wondering how things have been for you since your last post?

What type of approach did you have for your fusion, and was there a one graft (autograft or allograft?).

Thanks again for giving me a 'light at the end of the tunnel'

xsquid, Community Member
7/17/11 2:10pm

I to am on the chopping block. Or I should say cutting board. I have to let the doctor know by Aug 1 if I want to go ahead with Anterior lumbar spinal fusion. I

had a discetomy in Jan 2009 l4 - l5. All went great. About 6 months later pain in my

right foot again. Two year of trying everthing had a discogram. L5 S1 gave me the most pain. I am only 44 years old in great shape . Don't smoke. After reading your post I am hoping there is some hope with the ATLF. Walking gives me the most problems. But some day are not as bad as others. Last week tring to cut the grass

was hell. This weekend not so bad. It always hurts. Just some times not as bad as

others. I sleep through the night most of the times. Working all day at the machine shop has been hard. Being on my feet. So times I have to take a Tramadol. It's been like a roller coaster. As I type right now it's not so bad.

But I know I will happen again without warning. Don't know what to do????




Rocky, Community Member
3/20/12 2:17pm


Dr.’s diagnosis: L5-S1 isthmic spondylolisthesis treatment options:


Dr.’s 1st choice mini anterior lumbar interbody fusion with minimally invasive instrumented fusion.


Dr.’s 2nd choice L5-S1, transverse lumbar interbody fusion open decompression & fusion.   


Dld you go ahead with the Anterior lumbar spinal fusion & if so how are you doing? What type of surgery did you have:  Did you have anterior (frontal) or posterior (back) or a combination of both?  I am only in moderate pain one week on 2 weeks off for 4+years. I work out & don't smoke.  The doctor I saw today is sending me for an MRI.  Although today he was viewing my Xray & recommends L1/S5 Fusion going through the front and back as opposed to just back.  He is going to put in screws.  Two scars in the back and two scars in the front. Told me to expect to be out of work 6-8weeks but I would start physical therapy the next day in the hospital.  Surgery is approximately 4-5 hours.  He also said 1 out of 10,000 men may have sexual side effects using the frontal procedure mentioned above.  Dr.  prefers this procedure because it promotes healing of the bone better.  Some guys opt for the surgery going through the back only to lower the risk of this possible complication.  Going through the back has significantly less risk of this sexual complication which by the way is ususally irreversible. Has anyone ever heard of this?  This week I am getting MRI, beginning physical therapy for 4 week.  Do I have the time to wait and see if my pain increases or lessens over the next couple of years or so?  Again, my pain does not stop me from living my life. Since he told me the bone is fractured & the disc is detererating, should I do the surgery now to preempt further damage?  He said the sooner the surgery the easier the surgery.  If things suddenly go bad won’t I experience warning pain? I am an otherwise healthy 27 year old male. Any help you can give me is appreciated. Hope your health has improved since your post & you are off that roller coaster! 


xsquid, Community Member
3/20/12 7:53pm

Rocky I feel your pain still. The doctor that had talked to me about doing the Anterior Lumbar Fusion was the same doctor that had performed the Disectomy in

Jan 2009. This is a comp case by the way. Around Sept, Oct, 2009 is when the toes on my right foot started pulling upward with out warning. It has not stoped since. He gave me the impression that this was the path we were going to take. I went to Physical Therapy through my own Ins, Plus comp for over a 4 month time frame. The therapy did strenghten my core. But It never took away my foot pain. When I returned to that doctor he said he was not sure he could really help me. As there is still nothing major as far disk bulge on the MRI's I have had done. But he belived my pain. Try Pain Management. At that visit I my self could not commit to surgury. As it was an Ok day. You know how it goes. I still had Physical Therpy visits left. As I did those visits I started to devolep the same pain in my left foot, but not as bad. I went and had a second opinion with a neurosurgeon different practice. Did Cat scan Mri." Findings More severe at L5 -S1 level where significant bilateral neural Foraminal stenoses result from bulging disk Material and Facet Prominence". WOW! Anyway he said he could do a 2 level fusion through the back. L4 through S1. As l4 l5 is where I had my disectomy. He wrote a letter to my Attorney so I could swith doctors. Last week had a bad episode at work. Right foot killing me. Trembling with pain. Went and saw first doctor as I am still in his care. Was in tears. Don't want to do this. You know the felling. He will put in his notes how It might be time for Fusion. Like you I still do what I can. I played golf with my daughter last year. Might have took a tramodol after. Road my motorcycle last Sunday. I was ok. Almost took a tramodol today at work. Walking is the worst for me. The more I walk or move around I get the increased stabing in my right side and my right foot starts to kill me, and now my left. But who need to walk right?? Any way that is were I stand. Waiting to switch doctors. There is that risk with the anterior approach. As my doctor said the same thing. I you plan on having kids it is somthing to think about. I myself am fixed so It was not an issue for me. So I don't care how it gets done, as long as it is done right. The Therapy might help you. I to am worried that the longer I leave the nerve pinched I will mess it up. All Most three years for me. Four years is a long time my friend. Have been working with ice on my back almost ever day. Taking Tramodol only when I can take it any more. Some times I can go as far as 10 day. Wife says I should have it done. She has got my Back. HA HA. I Know people who have had both Anterior and Post. They are much better now. My biggest fear is that the foot pain will stop. But will have more back pain after. Or some screw will come out. Screws! That is just not right man. Will make a decision when I see the second doctor again. Still riding the roller coaster. Want to get off! Xsquid

Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 6:22pm

When pain starts to spread to other areas w/o a known cause, it can be RSD, regional sympathetic disease or dystrophy.  This can come on from a splinter or any havoc on your body.  It sucks, let me tell you.  I a have been getting relief from my feet w/a spinal cord stimulator that was implanted. (Before I broke it, had 2 er surgeries and the darn thing still isn't right). For 6 years it was awesome and something to think about.


Susan, Community Member
4/23/12 8:33pm

I am sorry for you both too, I am going through the exact same thing but also have herniated disc's and spinal stenoisis in my neck as well from car accident...Been almost 2 years and going for another MRI on my lower back, L5/s1, suppose to do fusion on my neck but not ready for that yet.  Its the back that kills me, as long as I don't lift anything or look down with my neck for very long...and I am only 44 and can't work.. Disability has denied me twice., I have an attorney .I so wish I could work!! I don't know what to do anymore!! Susan

JEANNETTE, Community Member
5/11/12 11:50am


Peachescute123, Community Member
9/10/12 6:57am
Did you get disability? Reply
Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 6:00pm

I would go to a pain clinic and get injections and good meds first. This should buy enought time to think.  I have seen 4 docs. for a frontal l5-s1 fusion and was told it was unethical and then others said lets do it.  So, my next piece of advice, go to only THE HEAD OF NEUROSURGEONS at the biggest hospital closest to your house!  my husband had a l5/s1 posterior fusion and has nothing but bigger problems. the discs above that are taking all the shock and as a result, they are damaged. yikes


Ro, Community Member
6/12/13 8:29pm

Hi, I am 44 years old and I am a nonsmoker. I am told that I have 5 options dealing with my lower back pain. First do nothing, 2nd exercise, 3rd drugs, 4th injections ( which the last three may give me temporary or no relief) and 5th anterior fusion of L5-S1. My doctor told me that this approach causes less pain and that the procedure is 45 min. to an hour. He also said that there are not many surgeons who do this approach because they do not know how. He also told me that surgeons who do  a 360 (which means anterior and posterior approach) is because they can charge DOUBLE. I really appreciate my doctor telling me this since I work in the O.R. and I was seemed to question that approach. My pain is extremely painful on my work days due to the long hours of standing. I am mentally preparing myself for sugery at the of this year although some days I am physically ready.


Ro, Community Member
6/12/13 8:32pm

Hi, I am 44 years old and I am a nonsmoker. I am told that I have 5 options dealing with my lower back pain. First do nothing, 2nd exercise, 3rd drugs, 4th injections ( which the last three may give me temporary or no relief) and 5th anterior fusion of L5-S1. My doctor told me that this approach causes less pain and that the procedure is 45 min. to an hour. He also said that there are not many surgeons who do this approach because they do not know how. He also told me that surgeons who do  a 360 (which means anterior and posterior approach) is because they can charge DOUBLE. I really appreciate my doctor telling me this since I work in the O.R. and I was seemed to question that approach. My pain is extremely painful on my work days due to the long hours of standing. I am mentally preparing myself for sugery at the of this year although some days I am physically ready.


Ellisjm, Community Member
7/27/12 12:21am
I was diagnosed with the same thing about a year and 8 months ago but no fractures, but several other things are wrong with me and most days I'm in excruciating pain..nearly in tears, sometimes in tears. But in my opinion if u have no pain now an u have a fracture then u could be in the same amount or more pain that I'm in within the matter of a step the wrong way..I would highly consider it before it causes permanently damaged nerves like it has me!! After it does that surgery won't help! But I'm not doctor and wouldn't want that surgery to make it to where you are in pain constantly it's no way to live ur life and I'm only 23 so were pretty close to the same age! But I with the best of luck to you! And hope all goes well if u choose to go with it/already have/or if u choose to not go under the blade! Josh Reply
karenp, Community Member
7/30/11 10:30am

That is so encouraging!   Can I ask why you got the surgery?  My disk is gone at l5/s1 so that is why my doc wants me to have the spinal fusion.  I am only 44 yrs old and he said I would probably need it again in 15-20 yrs, but he could guarantee a success rate of 98%, which seems high to me!  Thanks.

Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 6:06pm

weird, i am same age, 4 medical options and the best percentage was 65%/35% WITH guaranteed problems in the near future. My husband had one 10 years ago and now the discs above need the same surgery. I personally am leaning toward a pain pump to see if mother nature will do her thing.  My l5-si is bone on bone but does show "disc vacuum phenominom" which means there are little pieces of osteophyetes that are growiing on each side forming a small curl. Given time, they may come together and fuse themselves.  My radiology report read "severe" all over it and maybe thats what happens when it gets severe.  I would go to a pain clinic and try to get your pain controlled first to at least buy time to make an educated decision. 

Dandaman, Community Member
9/28/11 4:08pm

Thanks for this post. I'm going in for L5-S1 fusion in a few weeks. Your positive experience is very helpful

James, Community Member
1/12/12 7:09am

I too had L5 S1 fusion in Dec 2011. I am now 5 weeks post op and am recovering well. Off the meds since week 3 and walking daily (up to 1 mile per day in three sessions). Although not pain free in the back I am pain free in the legs, which is the reason I had the fusion as the disc had ruptured into the spinal column causing legs to become numb one minute then burn with pain the next (walking/sitting was impossible). Surgury cured the leg pain immediately with only a slight nerve sensastion (like pouring warm water over the leg area) to cope with today. I was wondering when I could start going back to the gym or playing golf? post op plus 3 months or 4 months? I try push myself a little each day but am scarred to push it too fat too soon. Any advice?


Audra, Community Member
3/11/12 2:08pm

What type of surgery did you have? Was it from the front? Did you get just a cage inserted between the vetebre or do you have rods and screws? Also, was the surgery done by Ortho or Neuro? THANKS!

Popcorncarl, Community Member
3/11/12 8:48pm
First of all it was neurosurgery. Second, it was from the back - very small scar difficult to see. It was both cage and rods. Most importantly, it is now almost a year, my golf game is back to single digit handicap, I continue to ride motorcycle and I write this from my motel room on a cross country ride. I talked to quite a few people that had it done and their results convinced me to go ahead. I also had very good feedback about the doc. Mine was done by a neurosurgeon at MUSC - (medical univ South Carolina) . Not everyone is the same, of course, but if I needed something similar again, I would not hesitate - but I WOULD do my homework. Hope this helps. Reply
Scoliosis in Brevard, Community Member
4/24/12 3:48pm

Hello. I read your post in Health Central that you had a spinal fusion for L5-S1 and that you seemingly are doing quite well. I was wondering a couple of things. Is that the only area that they fused? How stiff are you now with that fusion? How are you doing now as I don't know when your post was dated. I have scoliosis and my surgeon just yesterday said that he can help the scoliosis with a fusion from T2-L4 but in order to help my pain which is mostly lower back, he would have to do the fusion to L5. That I would be very stiff and I'm wondering just what "very stiff" means.



Mike Miller, Community Member
5/30/12 11:35am

What type of fusion did you have. ( Cage or rods ). Im 46 years old and i need the same fusion . My right leg kills me at times , so bad i have trouble walking. Im taking meds and they are working but i cant take these forever due to i like my kidneys and liver working at 100 percent . if i take the meds for a long period of time im risking damage to them. The funny thing is  i can still play golf and score very well with this condition.    

angrybirds2012, Community Member
9/ 3/12 1:37pm
I am soo glad that you are doing well and I am interested in finding a surgeon for my dad and myself. Can you tell me what surgeon had preformed your surgery and what hospital so I can let my dad know who to look for to have his surgery. I was wondering many people state that they loose some functions that are very important. Did you suffer any of these problems. Or could your surgeon refer us to a surgeon in Toledo, Ohio. Kris Reply
roxana27, Community Member
11/ 4/12 10:48pm

Hi i'm Roxana and i have a large intrution in the L5-S1 disc and it really hurts me alot when im standing or walk for a long time like you say and its more excruciating when im trying to get out of bed especially . Its killing me and all the pain meds arent really working and random people  tell me that if i go thru the operation ,its goin to really damage me afterwards.So im pretty confuse about this percisure, and im only 27 yrs old . 

Jas, Community Member
11/ 9/12 7:44am

Its quite inspiring reading about your recovery. I have had a back pain from the last four years. After seeing my MRI, my doctor had recommended a surgery but i was too scared to go thru, fearing the worst. Being an avid golfer, i have struggled to play every weekend and now finally the pain has got so bad that i am unable to sleep comfortably at night. Back at the hospital, and having got my MRI once again and seeing the damage that has been done over the last four years, I am now decided to go thru the surgery next week. I hope, I too, recover as you have. 

loretta, Community Member
4/26/13 7:55pm

I am glad everything worked well for you, because I just found out today via x-ray that my L4-L5 and L5-S1 is servere multilevel deneration.  Just about the same problem with the L5-S1 you have.  I have a problem bending, sleeping, etc.  Yet I play softball, bowl and weight lift (not as heavy anymore) and I don't want to lose that through surgery.  Sounds like I wouldn't and thanks for your information.Cool

Joe D, Community Member
7/27/11 2:45pm

the answer to your question is absolutely,have it done.i've gone through three which was 11yrs. ago. it was the  5th cervical.came out of surgery and felt it instantly,i was able to turn my head and nothing at all was wonderful.have had pain in L-5 for almost 10yrs.had surgery done and it was the most spectacular feeling i'd had in years. do this,as a man who's lived through this pain as it progressively worsened. yes yes yes!! am i not saying this with an absolute clarity?    YES  YES  YES !! i wish you nothing but the very best

Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 6:14pm

I am 21 years your junior and say no way.  Don't be afraid of the pain medication. I am on a Duragesic Patch of 100mcg's every 2 days along with percocet and still have pain.  The great thing is that I stuck it out long enought that its trying to fuse itself.  Don't get me wrong, at times the pain is so horrific I don't care what they do. You are in great shape and your body should repair that on its own. I would suggest follow-up xrays and CT's to see if any of the discs started the repair process (disc vacuum phenominon).  Also, hike up the pain meds and don't be afraid to use it, its better than an ambulance ride and a day in ER getting shots in hip of pain kills (not even in your specific area of need). Lastly, I would meet with a prayer minister at your home.  I did this and literally crossed over. It was awesome and taught me that I am not supposed to worry, God takes care of us, I just need to praise him.  I am not a bible banging person who throws religion out. This is a very personal thing I am sharing and thought it could help you!

Kelvin, Community Member
6/20/12 2:10am
I am 44 years old and L5/S1 fusion 10 years ago. It went well and it took about 8 months to properly heal. Once I was able to start exercising I didn't have any problems, oh by the way I am an active duty Marine. Now, 10 years later, I am having the beginnings of pain and a recent x-ray is showing bone growth in the area of the fusion that is messing with the nerves in the area. I will have a MRI soon and will see orthopedic surgeon about my options, oh by the way I am still an active duty Marine. I have no regrets for having the surgery and I think it was the best choice at the time. Kelvin Reply
Rocky, Community Member
3/20/12 2:27pm


Dr.’s diagnosis: L5-S1 isthmic spondylolisthesis treatment options:


Dr.’s 1st choice mini anterior lumbar interbody fusion with minimally invasive instrumented fusion.


Dr.’s 2nd choice L5-S1, transverse lumbar interbody fusion open decompression & fusion.   


  I am only in moderate pain one week on 2 weeks off for 4+ years. I work out & don't smoke.  The doctor I saw today is sending me for an MRI.  Although today he was viewing my Xray & recommends L1/S5 Fusion going through the front and back as opposed to just back.  He is going to put in screws.  Two scars in the back and two scars in the front. Told me to expect to be out of work 6-8weeks but I would start physical therapy the next day in the hospital.  Surgery is approximately 4-5 hours.  He also said 1 out of 10,000 men may have sexual side effects using the frontal procedure mentioned above.  Dr.  prefers this procedure because it promotes healing of the bone better.  Some guys opt for the surgery going through the back only to lower the risk of this possible complication.  Going through the back has significantly less risk of this sexual complication which by the way is ususally irreversible. Have you ever heard of this?  This week I am getting MRI, beginning physical therapy for 4 weeks.  Do I have the time to wait & see if my pain increases or lessens over the next couple of years or so?  Again, my pain does not stop me from living my life. Since he told me the bone is fractured & the disc is detererating, should I do the surgery now to preempt further damage?  He said the sooner the surgery the easier the surgery.  If my condition worsens won’t I experience warning pain & then consider surgery? I am an otherwise healthy 27 year old male.   I have never had surgery of any kind.  Any help you can give me is appreciated.

3/20/12 10:02pm

Let me get this straight. You are not in constant 24/7/365 pain. You are able to live your life despite some occassional discomfort. And you are considering a major spine surgery that has the potential to make you worse??!!??


You should give it a year of conservative treatment. Physical therapy must be done with an AAOMPT fellow for at least 4 months to make a difference. Given extensive education about self-management techniques like home exercise, tractioning techniques, body mechanics, zero gravity chairs, might be able to live with the spondylolisthesis.


Did your surgeon tell you that the back naturally fuses over time? Or that disc degenerate naturally with or without a spondy? Probably not because he has dollar signs in his eyes.


The pressure sales technique, "Do it now or else", is not impressive. Find a second opinion.


Your good health will serve you well and will help you avoid surgery.


Dr. Christina Lasich, MD


Rocky, Community Member
3/21/12 1:52am
Thank you so much for your quick response. I was very happy to hear everything you said. It gives me hope to hear you say there are many other things that I can do to avoid surgery at this time. I will explore all the suggestions that you have made. I have scheduled a second opinion for next week and I also begin physical therapy next week. As of now my script for physical therapy is only for 4 to 6 weeks 2 to 3 times a week. If that goes well I will try and extend it. Thank you so much for you're advice. I will keep you posted. Reply
Jessicasusan, Community Member
4/ 2/12 8:09pm

Hello Dr. Lasich,


Does the back "naturally fuse over time" with an isthmic spondy? grade three? The dr says mine has been there since I was about 10 years ago. So I'm thinking...if it was going to naturally fuse...wouldnt it have done it already? Looking forward to your thoughts. Thank you!



4/ 2/12 9:51pm

As the spine ages, the discs get smaller and the bones (vertebral bodies) get closer and closer together. The facet joints become arthritic and develop a bone on bone situation which makes them stiff and somewhat fused together. All of these changes happen naturally overtime as the spine ages. In essence, the spine becomes more and more stable, although stiff over time, as it gradually "fuses" together.


The unstable conditions like a grade three spondy tend to improve; although, your activity level also declines over time too. So there is less stress on the unstable segment.


But you have to wait a while because this is process does not fully develop until age 60-80 years of age. That's why those 70 and 80 year olds are so stiff. All joints tend to stiffen with age. And that is why young kids are so limber.


Dr. Christina Lasich, MD 

taylor8773, Community Member
5/22/12 4:44pm

I am 18 years old with multiple tears in one of my discs due to an automobile accident almost 3 years ago which has now come to surgery. I have constant 24/7/365 pain. Again, I am 18 years old and have had many procedures, injections, pain management, and countless amout of prescriptions... so what you are saying is I should live in pain and let the pain affect my daily life and more so my career for atleast 40 more years and let my spine fuse itself? I don't quite understand your reasoning. Pain causes lots of stress... Stress can kill you.

Ellisjm, Community Member
7/27/12 1:05am
Dr Christina Lasich, MD My name is Josh I'm 23 years old and was working in the oilfield when I was injured. I was crushed by a 28,000-30,000 lb object and pinned for a coupled seconds Til it swung away from me.. Stupidly, but doing how my dad taught me, I continued to work and finished my job and have been in horrible pain since.. Spondylolithesis and i think another spondy..something but I have 2 bulged disks at L4/L5 and L5/S1 and then a pars defect and chronic myofacial pain syndrome! The L5/S1 is crushing sciatic nerve and nerve roots I have pain in both legs all the way to my toes and of course my lower back and occasionally my upper back and shoulders/neck. I am terrified that the surgery will make it worse and won't fix any of my leg problems because it's been 2 years since I was injured and would like ur input on what u think I should do!.. Please! My family is telling me no an so is my wife I just don't want to get done with surgery and have worse pain than before or even nothing change Reply
Tom D, Community Member
8/17/12 4:52pm
I was injured on the job and did the same as you and "manned up" and worked though the pain until I could no longer stand long enough to finish a shower which was 2 years later. I had my L4/L5 and S1 fused. I was only in the hospital for two days (in on Monday, out oN Wednesday) and off of pain pills on Thursday. I have been pain free now for going on 3 years, I'm able to live my life the way I used to and regret not getting surgery sooner as I missed out on many things in the two years along with not being the most nicest person to be around. I would not hesitate to have this done agian. Most important thing is to check out the surgeon to make sure he is qualified, also ask many questions as this is your body and you have to live with it so make sure you are in the rite frame of mind as recovery is up to you and how you deal with it. As you said you worked though the pain as that was how you were raised so recovery should not be issue. Reply
Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 6:02pm

I had the navicular bone in my left foot de-cored and filled w/artificial bone. I smoked right up to surgery and right after.  It had no adverse effects on me. Doctors are so quick to say everything is smoking.  Don't be quick to believe it!

mmd, Community Member
9/29/12 6:26pm

I had and s1 surgery and i am in more pain now then before the surgery.  Now i regret i had it done but i suffered for 6 years with pain and took a chance this would work.  my advice don't do it.



luvmyhuby, Community Member
10/ 5/08 4:20am

I just had an l5-s1 fusion Sept 8th. The pain I was experiencing in my left side was immediately gone after surgery ( I had stenosis because of a high grade 2 sponylolisthsis)- I did and still am experiencing new pain on my right side. Drugs do relieve the pain as long as they come every 4 hours. The good news is that I can walk again! I had trouble walking for any longer than 10 or 15 minutes prior to surgery. The Dr. believes the new pain is temporary. Fusion is no walk in the park. It is very painful-and the outcome isn't always guaranteed. They way I look at it is whay not give it a shot? If you are in constant pain now and fusion will work-you have your life back- if it doesn't work then you at least tried and are in the same boat as before. Hope this helped. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you may have about the surgery. KindRegards!

Lyz, Community Member
5/28/09 9:01am

Hi, all.  I just had l5-s1 posterior fusion 9 days out.  I have to say I am surprised at my outcome.  I'd contemplated it for months, gone to second and third opinions and had gotten even more confused because I was getting sugestions of having the fusion done anteriorally as opposed to posteriorally.  I'd never even heard of a fusion being done anteriorally (frontal).  I finally decided to go with my gut and follow the advice of my doctor and have him do it posteriorally.  I was up walking (not too much) the evening of the surgery and was moved over to the rehab floor on day two.  I came home on day 8 and I am sore no doubt, but I take robaxin for the muscle spasms and loratab for the pain every six hours.  I have 14 steps in my home and I can go up and down very guardedly.  My doctor is amazing.  He has a stellar bedside manner and made me confident in his skill every step of the way.  I go back for followup in two weeks and I have home care coming to my home every other day.  I am glad I had the fusion.  I can use the restroom as taught in rehab and I have assistance with home care things, but body wise, I am pleased.  Any questions, please email.  Would love to help.Cool

Cat, Community Member
9/21/09 12:01pm

Hi, I was just wondering a few things regarding your case. Do you smoke? May I ask your age, and who is your Doctor?

I have already had two surgeries on my L5/S1 next in line is the fusion. I am having a very hard time when I lean over just to pick something up off the coffee table. The worst time for me is at night. It is like my back freezes while I am sleeping and then when I try to move, it is a lot of pain. Funny thing though is that once I get out of bed an walk around for a little bit, the pain goes away. Is this a sign that I am getting to that point?  Last winter I spent five and a half months in a recliner for a very bad cause of siaticia, I am afraid that it will soon reappear due to the damp and cold. Can you tell me what your symtoms were before your surgery? I need info to make my decision. Help Please.

mari3932, Community Member
1/17/10 2:20pm

I am desperately trying to find someone who has the same problems as me. Had microdiscectomy at L5-S1 in 2005 (age 40), reason: low back pain but mostly pain down leg, sciatica, got so bad i could not walk, drive, sit, or sleep. I DID get relief immediately and was the happiest girl in the world.

Fast forward to Jan 2010: have for the past 6 months started having more low back pain, but the worst new thing is SPASMS that come on out of the blue! I think my screams wake up the neighborbood...I take hydrcodone like skittles now, and zanaflex as well...i also take xanax. After i lay down, which takes me forever as i am so "on guard" to get into bed in fear of a spasm (think leg cramp, charlie horse in low back) back seems to freeze up. I cant roll over, i feel like a cripple. I am growing depressed by the day, and almost am sad when i wake up and know that i have to fight, and take pills to get thru the day. I am married, no kids.  Getting up is excruciating...these spasms render me like a broken ragdoll..and they leave me with a sensation of the tendons on my hips making it difficult to take a step...after i warm up, it gets better..So, because i have no disc space left, and i am not a candidate for disc replacement, fusion is all they can offer me...I am petrified as i have been told this is "the tragedy surgery". Does this sound even remotely familiar to anyone? Can anyone refer me to somewhere who has the newest technology? In the latest there someone who uses "flexible screws" vs rigid metal....someone, please hear me...i have a life, a business, and i risk losing it all...truthfully.."I cannot BELIEVE this is my life, I just can't".

mary, Community Member
3/24/10 5:11pm

I am currently in the same situation as you. The pain is unbearable not to mention you can't sleep, clean, work or do any daily normal routines of life. I am currently going to a Dr. McCance in New York, NY. He comes highly recommended. I have been to a couple of doctors and i have chosen to go with him after researching. I have a tentative date of 4/28/10 for my surgery l5,s1

BARBARA JAMES, Community Member
5/ 3/10 10:34am

Curious if you had the surgery on March 28? I did mine - fusion at L5-S1 on March 26. It has been very very tough thus far, and am desperately hoping this will improve. Doctor says is was quite the mess. Bone growing out of the disc, the disc was badly herniated (previously had lamenectomy 18 months ago) Lots of scar tissue, and the sciatica was being severely compressed, it was actually purple in color. Bone spurs also. The Surgeon said it was like everything collapsed around the nerve back there. I had a 4 inch incision, now it is about 8 inches. Very tired all the time but can only lay down for an hour at a time and the pain is too unbearable to say there. Hope yours went well if you had it and good luck to you!!




DK, Community Member
1/27/11 10:44pm

How did the surgery go? Hope everything is well for you. I am in the same sityation and wondering about your expereinces.



Pjneg14, Community Member
5/29/12 10:12am

I am thinking of dr mccance too. How did it go? [email redacted]

Pjneg14, Community Member
5/29/12 10:14am
I am contemplati dr mccance too. How did it go? Reply
snogirl, Community Member
5/18/10 10:14pm

I just had a spinal fusion (L5-S1) done a week ago.  I'm a 35 year old non-smoker with chronic leukemia (though that should not effect my healing).  This is my third surgery at L5-S1 - the first two were discectomy/laminectomies (April 2006 and Feb 2009).  I re-injured in Mar 2010 after a physical exam for my disability company to determine if I was able to return to work.  I was in such horrible pain that I could only take pain pills and lay in bed for the past two months.  Instantly when I woke up, the spasms, pain, and leg issues were just gone.  I am quite sore where the incision is and pretty stiff, especially if I lay down too long, but I can still move better than before the surgery.  I walked the night of the surgery and at least an hour each day since - walking actually feels quite good now.  I was terrified of the fusion because I had heard horror stories before I made my decision, but I have no residual radiating pain in my hips or my legs and I'm hopeful with a careful recovery that this will be a great success.  After the surgery, my surgeon said that there were loose pieces of disc in the disc space that would have caused another injury had we not done the fusion, so I think we made the right decision.

kelroy77, Community Member
7/ 5/10 3:27pm

I know how you feel! I had A Discectomy(L5-S1) Sept. 2009 and still had pain in my leg and back. I had steroid injections no relief an MRI and Mylogram. In April 2010 I had another surgery to decompress the nerve root again. Still the pain persists I am also very guarded as any unexpected movement could send a shooting pain that just makes me yell out like some fool. It is taking its toll on me emotionally and I do understand what you mean by saying "depressed". Now after another MRI this time with contrast my surgeon notes an abnormality. I see him 7-7-2010 and am hoping it doesn't come down to another surgery, although it seems enevitable. This is the first I have looked at any online postings on this subject and at least I know we are far from alone in this.

Serena, Community Member
10/ 1/10 9:06pm

Dear Mari,

                     Hi my name is Serena King. I live in Spokane Washington. When I read your letter I felt like I was reading about myself. I am also 40 years old. I have had bad back pain for nearly five years. I too have been on high doses of pain medication and fear addiction. I finally had my first surgery( A Microdiscectomy July 30th 2009 on L5 S1 and I also found out that I had diabetes on the same day of surgery. I have also got on ssd and ssi just recently and I started the proccess three years ago. They only found me disabled as of July 30th 2009. I first went into my Dr.s office for this horriable pain in my left side and hip about three years ago. I had no insurance and no Job. But had massive pain in my back. My Dr. at the time did nothing but give me pain pills because I had no insurance. So for nearly a year and a half I was on pain medication and Soma. A muscle relaxant. I know exactly what your talking about when you say that getting up is excruciating. One day I couldn't get up no one was around so I had to call my mom and she had to help me get up. The spasim was so bad I could hardley breath. I then started physical thearpy in January 2010. My numbness in my toes was almost gone and I felt like I was on an upward climb. But on March 2nd 2010 I started to feel that familure nagging pain in my low back and the numbness started again but this time my whole foot top and bottom and all of my toes and the right side of my right leg all the way up to my knee are totally numb. Once I noticed that pain again I stopped physical thearpy and went down that all to familure road of going to the emergency room and trying to find another Dr. to help me with my pain management and having Dr.s treat me like I was some sort of Drug addict and refusing to help my pain and refusing me an MRI. I then went back to my nurosurgan and begged her to listen to me about my numbness and back pain and she said there was nothing she could do for me. At this point I had Molina basic Health and I had them trying to find me a Dr. and them telling me to go to the Er and get a MRI but Dr.s still refusing to give me one cause my nurosurgan told them not too that I didnt need it. That I had what was called scar tissue pain from the surgery. You talk about depression I know what thats like. Sometimes I felt like I didnt want to be around anymore cause I couldnt handle all the pain and Dr's Bs of not beleiving me that my disc had ruptured again and it was pinching on a nerve. Hell what ever happen to Dr.'s listening to the patients. One day I took too many pills and slept in a chair for nearly 17 hours. My wonderfull family just left me there and kept watch after me. My 20 year old son finally said this is enough and called the parametics. If I was left in that chair for much longer I would of been dead. Got to the hospital and they said my kidneys were shutting down and they didnt know if I was going to make it. Anyways I recovered from that but still couldnt get anyone to give me another MRI. They stopped giving me pain pills and I couldn't take ibuprophen cause of my kidneys so I procceded to buy pain meds from people. I know its bad but the system or the Dr.s have let me down and I cant stand the pain anymore. So to make a long story short. I will never go back to my nurosurgan again and I did finally find another Dr. to take care of me and give me an MRI and pain meds. And guess what I was right L5 S1 are buldging again and pressing on the nerve. Just like I told the Dr.s. So I have been going through pure hell again since March 2nd because people wouldn't beleive me. They just thought that I was a drug addict and all I wanted was pain meds. And to top it all off the Dr.s are the ones that got me started on them. I just recently was referred to an orthopedic surgan and my apt. is Nov 4th. I also have a tilted pelvis. It is tilted or off about 4degrees. So I am thinking that I need to see an orthopedic surgan so that maybe he can do a fusion or a new disc replacement. Wouldn't it make since that if I went back to a nurosurgan that all they would do is shave off the disc somemore so it stops nerve impengment and likely with my tilted pelvis and my weight it would happen again and they would have to give me a new disc and another surgery? I am sorry to hear about your pain. I know how bad it is and how depressing it is. I too am married and I have two children that are 18 and 20. This pain and back issues has totally consumed my life. It has been so bad that I have had to have my husband wipe my butt for me. Not only that I feel sometimes that I am a terriable wife and mother cause I cant go up and down the stairs to do laundry I dont really cook anymore or really go anywhere anymore. I have missed out on being able to play volleyball with my daughter in the back yard or be able to walk around the mall. Or always having to ride one of those motorized carts in the grocery store. I am sure you know what I mean. So have you been told that you need another surgery? Did they take your disc completly out? Just so you know heat and ice work best for the spasims and muscle relaxants. I take flexerall for spasims and I use my hottub too. In your letter you said that people referred the fusion surgery as (The Tragedy surgery) What did you mean by that? I wish I too new who had the newest tecnology. I need to make a list of questions to ask my Dr when I go to see him on November 4th. You can do a search on google to find out if they have screws" Vs rigid metal. Have you made an appoitment to go and talk to the Dr.? What do you think about us being a support system for one another? I sure could use a friend and someone that can relate to me as you do? Where do you live? I am in Spokane Washington. We can email or call one another if you want too. I have free long distance. I would be willing to talk with you. I am sure that there is a way out of all of this pain and depression. I have been on antidepressants for a few years now. Anyways I need to go for now. It is such a releif to know that there is someone else out there that feels the same as I do. I thank you for your letter. I found the website on google. I hope you are feeling better. Hang in there and keep your chin up. Tc


Serena KingSmile

Kathleen, Community Member
1/27/13 7:51pm

Serena, that was 2009, how are you today? Please respond, my email , thanks!


wilson, Community Member
11/17/10 8:12pm

Your situation sounds identical to mine.  In 05 had a discetomy on my l5, s1 it worked for 5 years and then the walls caved on me.  Siatica got so bad that I just went to the ground and could not get up.  I had 2 unsuccess full disectomys on the l5,s1 and then had fusion on the disks.  Wow, what an operation.  Get ready for hell.  Yes, they do have a new system called the peak system and it is just as as strong as what they usually use.  My advise is to go to a rehad after the hospital stay.  I was in hospital for 4 days and in rehab for over 20 days.  It was a great transition before coming home.  It's been four months after my surgery and I feel like its been a roller coaster ride.  Good days, bad days, car is impossible, I haven't been to work and have neck pain now....I had no choice I could not walk.  This surgery is rough but I am doing better.  The worst part is the nerve damage and not knowing the unknown.  I started PT and do it in the pool.  It makes a big difference. 


Good luck and keep me posted.

angel, Community Member
1/28/11 11:21am

I had a an L5/S1 emergency discetomy on June 11th 2009. I had had terrible sciatica for 4-5 months that had somewhat dissapated when I woke up one morning with right foot drop and gradual loss of sensation below the waist. By the time I was addmitted to the emergency room, I had no feeling between my legs, could barely walk, and hadn't urinated in three days. I had full-blown Cauda Equina Syndrome. Post surgery, I regained (slowly) almost all nerve function; however, my pain level gradually increased. It was EXACTLY how you described. thousands of muscle spasms a day mostly triggered by getting up and down. It sometimes took hours to get out of bed in the morning. Essentially, my vertebrae had collapsed on one another and grinding between the two bones occurred almost continuously triggering the spasms. Sneezing felt as if someone was electrocuting me the spasms were so vicious. Like you, I had too much scar tissue to be considered for a disc replacement. After speaking with my neurosurgeon, I considered the ALIF l5/s1 he had recommended. Fusions had become much more sophisticated than they used to be and seemed to be my only option. On Sep 27, 2010, I had it done. I occasionally have sharp pains, however, I've not had a single spasm since the surgery. I have taken yoga classes and bending over not only doesn't hurt but feels good. Like I hadn't been able to do it for two years and I finally got to stretch those muscles out. I do have aches sometimes and currently my back does have occasional twinges of pain. I, however, do not regret my choice!

backbone, Community Member
5/16/11 8:54pm

Hi, I'm 46 & have had 2 lower back surgeries & 1 neck fusion. 1st lower back surgery was for ruptured disc at age 27 @ L5 S1. I was 43 when I had the 2nd surgery on L4/5. Before the surgery I had lost most of the use of my left leg & foot due to nerve damage. Injury happened on a long holiday weekend & then took 2 more weeks before all testing was complete & surgery done. 


The reason I write is that I suffered horribly with the spasms & cramping in my left leg. I really dreaded going to bed. I understand the screams of pain from the cramping. I went to a pain clinic under distress. I have heard horrible stories of clinics shoving meds at you for the insurance money. Okay, the doctor prescribed Trileptal (oxcarbazepine is the generic)  I take the generic & is only $5 a month with my insurance. Started on a lower dose & worked up. 3 days after starting the med. I was almost cramp free. I slept all night & didn't have the muscle pain the next day. I was prescribed 2 300mg tabs each morning & 2 more each night. It made me a little drunk feeling in the morning eventhough the doc said my body would adjust & this would pass. I decided to try 3 300mg. tabs each night & not take it in the morning. Worked great! I've been using it for 3 years. I still have muscle twitching & some very minor uncontrolled foot movement when at rest BUT no cramping. Also, Trileptal has acted as a great sleep med for me. I take it after I am in bed about 30 minutes before I'm ready to go to sleep. I can not find any residual affects the following day other than I finally got a great night sleep.


I would KILL someone if they took my Trileptal. They can have my pain med but not my trileptal! 

Cody SC, Community Member
8/24/11 7:11pm

Hi - 


I just ran across your posting. You just explained my current situation down to an exact detail. I have already had one disectomy surgery back in 2004 on the L5 and now am experiencing these crazy localized spasams in the area of the L5. My doc just told me I need to have anterior fusion with a bank bone graft and a plate.  I know it has been some time since you posted this but can you offer some advice?


I wish you the best and hope you are out of pain now.


Warm Regards

L5S1help, Community Member
1/ 3/12 12:43pm

I hear you LOUD-N-CLEAR........I'm in the same similar situation at age 44 !!  NEVER had any health issues and now 3 discetomies (within the last year) later, I'm searching for the best doctor for a fusion for the L5/ S1 area.


If I see/ hear of any posts thoughout the web that can help you, I will copy/ paste to you.


Don't give-up yet!!


C in Nashville

thom, Community Member
2/19/12 2:06am

I live in Nashville. Who do you think is the best NS?

I need segury.


Carol, Community Member
1/18/12 11:49am

Your situation is like mine, I could just copy and paste your story here.  I had L5-S1 laminectomy with microdiscectomy with great success in 2003.  Since last summer I have been experiencing spasms daily, and it is absolutely horrible.   I have an appointment to see a neurosurgeon about L5-S1 fusion because I just can't live like this anymore.  I'm only 39 and am very active with 2 kids (5 and 8).  I work a lot, like to cycle and lift weights... I have tried PT since October, and at first I thought it was getting better but now I realize that while I am stronger, the spasms are certainly not getting better or going away at all.  I wish I could see the surgeon sooner...

Henryn26, Community Member
5/ 6/12 3:36am
Your bulging disk is pressing on your nerve. I had same problems So I got a disktomy and he cut half the disc. No more shooting Pains. But very sore lower back. After 2 MRI I'm getting My l5s1 fusion. My neurosurgeon is the best in the state Im just lucky he is in my area and this is workmans comp And Ive done months of research on this and I have mine in 7days 95% full recovery if you follow orders. Like lots lots lots Of walking. Reply
babysvt, Community Member
9/15/10 3:33pm

I am in the same boat as you.  I have problems bending over and picking things up and trouble sleeping.  I can't stand in one place for very long or the pain gets pretty bad.  Walking seems to help and so does stretching.  I don't like to take drugs but will take a Tramadol to take the edge off when I need too.  I do have generic percocet for the time it is really bad.  I still try and work out and do feel better when I do.  My conflict is in the fact that I have been told that I need a fusion but I can't do anymore damage to the area than has already been done.  I am 41 years old, don't smoke, am not overweight and other than my back pitching fits all the time excellent health. 


When I am reading the forums it is hard for me to determine what kind of health people are in and when some people are living day to day on pain killers and not able to do everyday things I start to wonder if this is really a necessary surgery for me.  I know that everyone's pain threshold is different but I start to think maybe I am not in that much pain after all if I can still do my normal activites even with the pain.


This will be my first back surgery.  I have had multiple injections and have received no relief for them.  I am not a good candidate for disc replacement because there is no way for them to get the height they need to get the disc in.  I am hoping that I will find the information I need.  My surgery is scheduled for December 14, 2010 so if anyone has some advice please email me.  I am really on the fence right now.


Thanks!!  TracyLaughing

Chohcho, Community Member
1/ 4/11 2:22am

Please try to avoid surgery if you can. Because this is your first surgery you don't want to go down that road because you might screw up the integrity of your back. You should maybe look into has to go Esther Gokhale's book and her workshop in Palo Alto which can help you and might be something you want to try before doing the surgery. I have had some success with her work but I've had previous surgery so you may be able to completely heal your back with her method. Good luck. 

DK, Community Member
1/20/11 11:32pm

How are you? Did the surgery go well? Hope everything is fine

breadgirl, Community Member
8/28/10 11:13am

I am seeing an othopedic sept 13 for consult on l4-l5 disc herniation and annular tear. I am super scared for surgery, but as my pain management dr said that I will probably need it sooner or later. My friend had surgery in upper neck(fusion) left the hospital next day. Little confused why you stayed longer than she did. Is that normal? I thought I would be out next day after surgery. I have tried epidurals in lower back, physical therapy and that did nothing. Therapy was VERY PAINFUL.  I am on pain meds,antinflammatorys and muscle relaxor which I do not take relaxor much, have to work so can't really take during the day. Right now my low back always ache even while on meds, somedays legs get weak and ache and little numb when I sleep. I don't know just in fear of doing it and it dosen't help. My pain dr. wanted me to do a nerve block and said that I could have pain due to joint problems, so does that mean the tear in disc not causing me pain. All this too confusing. Any info you have would be great appreciated.

Ryan, Community Member
10/ 3/10 9:28pm

9 weeks ago, I had an L5/S1 fusion and so far I have been very happy with it.  I saw 4 doctors looking for someone that would say I didn't need surgery, but they all said I did.  I was a little surprised that every doctor looked at the same MRI/XRays and all had a different recommended procedure.  I went with the least invasive and am happy I did.  I went back to work after 6 weeks and worked my way completely off pain meds by 8 weeks.  I was walking over 3 miles a day a week and a half after surgery.  The 4 days in the hospital were tough, but soooooo worth it.  Now I just need to ensure I don't push it and the bones actually fuse properly.  This is tough when we all have busy schedules.  If you have any questions, please let me know.  Good luck!


low QoL, Community Member
3/ 8/11 4:53pm

I am seeking the least iinvasive way to have L4/5 fusion with decompression. What was the method you mention as being the most minimally invasive for your fusion?

Rocky, Community Member
3/19/12 8:32pm

What type of surgery did you have:  Did you have anterior or posterior or a combination of both ? Could you give me the name of the Doctor you used? I am in moderate pain one week on 2 weeks off for 4+years. I am 27, and the doctor I saw today is sending me for an MRI but from the xray alone he recommends L1/S5 Fusion going through the front and back as opposed to just back.  He is going to put in screws.  Two scars in the back and two scars in the front. He also said 1 out of 10,000 men may have sexual side effects using this procedure although this procedure he says promotes the bone healing better.  Some guys opt for the surgery going through the back only to lower the rish of this possible complication.  Going through the back has significantly less risk of any sexual complications.   I will get the MRI and begin physical therapy immediately but do you think from your own experience that I have the time to wait and see if my pain increases or lessens.  Again, my pain does not stop me from living my life.  or since the bone is fractured and the disc is detererating I should do the surgery now to preempt further damage?


Rocky, Community Member
3/19/12 8:33pm

What type of surgery did you have:  Did you have anterior or posterior or a combination of both ? Could you give me the name of the Doctor you used? I am in moderate pain one week on 2 weeks off for 4+years. I am 27, and the doctor I saw today is sending me for an MRI but from the xray alone he recommends L1/S5 Fusion going through the front and back as opposed to just back.  He is going to put in screws.  Two scars in the back and two scars in the front. He also said 1 out of 10,000 men may have sexual side effects using this procedure although this procedure he says promotes the bone healing better.  Some guys opt for the surgery going through the back only to lower the rish of this possible complication.  Going through the back has significantly less risk of any sexual complications.   I will get the MRI and begin physical therapy immediately but do you think from your own experience that I have the time to wait and see if my pain increases or lessens.  Again, my pain does not stop me from living my life.  or since the bone is fractured and the disc is detererating I should do the surgery now to preempt further damage?


roxana27, Community Member
11/ 4/12 11:04pm

Hi , im actually considering it my self  but not sure because i also have that problem but im to  scared to go thru the whole procedure since im only 27 and got 4 kids and have a buisy schedule everyday and im tired of taking so many diffirent medication and they dont help at all and its a very excruciating pain every day .

karen, Community Member
9/15/10 3:18pm


I had a microdisectomy on July 22, 2010. The surgeon did find that a piece of bone had broken off and was pushing on the nerve. Since the bone fragment is gone and the protruding disk was I guess shaved back I am better but not great. I use to have excruciating pain and weakness in my left leg that is gone but I am still having a great deal of pain in the lower back and some pain still in the left leg. I am not able to sit for more than one hour at time. I am trying to decide whether or not a fusion of he L5-S1 would be of help.  I am scared that my pain might get worse not better.

Serena, Community Member
10/ 1/10 7:30pm

Dear Liz,

                  Hi my name is Serena King. I had a microdisectomy July 30th 2009. I have lost 60 pounds in a year. I was on the road to recovery and started physical thearpy in January 2010. Befor the surgery I had my right three little toes that were numb and massive muscle spasims in my right leg and foot. March 2nd 2010 I had water thearpy and again I felt the familure pain in my low back and leg. I new that I had reinjured my back. But this time my whole foot and toes and the top of my foot and right leg went totally numb. Since March I have been going to the emergency room and even tried to go back to my nurosurgen to let her now that I had reinjured my back. She told me there was nothing she could do for me and suggested I go to a orthopedic surgan. She referred me to an orthopedic surgen and he said no he wouldnt see me that he agreed with the nurosurgan. About three years ago I went to my Dr. and he gave me pain meds. Very high doeses of morphine,oxicodone,Soma's ect. After awhile I got to the point that I had a very high tolerance and no insurance to see any Dr. Also a year or so ago I weigh 320 pounds. The day July 30th 2009 that I had back surgery they also said I have diabetes. To make a long story short I finally got basic health and was able to get a new Dr. and a new MRI. I was right that L5 S1 were bulding again and was finally able to get an apt. with a orthopedic surgan. I know have an apt. Nov 4th 2010. I have gone through so much pain and nonsence to last a life time. I also have a tilted pelvis spondeo something or another and spurs on my left side of my pelvis. I feel the pain in my left hip low back and my right leg and foot. Do you think that if I had a spine fusion like you that it would help with supporting L4 L5 and straighten out my pelvis tilt. I am afraid if I have another Microdiscectomy that my disc will continue to bulding and press on my siatic nerve and cause me permanant numbness. When they do a Microdiscectomy all they do is shave off some of the disc so it doesnt buldge on the nerve. I know that your not a Dr. but what do you think about this situation. What would you do? What kind of questions should I ask the orthopedic surgan? What exactly do they do to your back when they do a spinal fusion? I know that I need to lose more weight and that will help me. But it is so hard to walk and do any kind of excercise without being in major pain and with the numbness in my foot and leg I cant always get my footing and I fall down a lot. I really need to get off of these pain medications and try to get my life back. I just recently was awarded ssd and ssi. They want to do a reveiw of my case in 18 months to see if I am better. I hope to be. But I just want to make sure that I get the right kind of surgery that will help me. Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. Any help will do. I hope you are feeling better. Gl and be carefull. Tc



Serena King

Spokane Washington


Ineedsurgery, Community Member
10/ 7/10 6:44pm

Hello I was just told today that I have L5-S1 with L5 bone fragment which means it is broken. I cant stay off work. This past year I have had a arthroscopy of the knee along with a total Hysto. and recovered well. I am one of those that wants a speedy recovery, if that i will try to walk the same day or at least try to sit up in a chair!! I need to have surgery I dont know what kind yet, but anyway is that the kinda damage you had?


Bobo, Community Member
1/11/11 11:05pm

I had a posterior fusion on Dec. 12, 2010. I was taken to the ortho floor right after surgery. They did get me up the very next day and had me walking with a walker. I came home on Thursday, with the walker and haven't used it since. I felt good, at times very uncomfortable. I too have 13 stairs in my house and have not hesitated using them. When I drop things, I either pick them up with my feet and pass them to my back to retrieve, or I squat to my knees and do what I have to do. I had hoped my week 4 I'd be feeling better, but I seem to be getting weaker and a little depressed. Did your dr. tell you at least 4 - 6 months of recovery. I used to run and he said he had to have me running again. I worry about doing sit ups and exercising. At this point I'm almost afraid to be touched, I feel as though I have a 2x4 in my back. I take 1/2 of a pain pill during the day with a muscle relaxer, but a whole pain pill at night with a muscle relaxer. When I asked about therapy, I was told there would be none. I asked if I could request it and she said yes. Were you sent home with any type of back brace? I spoke with  therapist from work and he said that most people are fitted wtih a turtoise shell before the surgery to wear for at least 2 months after the surgery. I had nothing to support me and no therapy. Should I be concerned? And what is you recovery time? Thanks for your help

Jim, Community Member
2/25/11 12:27am

i am schedualed for l5s1 fusion march 9th...i am scared...never been this nervous about something.can you please give me any advice.I have to try to make as fast as a recovery as I can to return to you have any suggestions for me???thank you.

tonya, Community Member
4/11/11 11:16pm

Hi, I am going next week for a l5 s1 disc fusion. I am glad you are doing well and was wondering if there is any advice you can give me to get through this. I have already had a microdiscetomy for the herniation but I went from having sciatica in one side to both sides. I have tried medication, shots, physical therapy and nothing seems to help. I actually feel like I am getting worse.

Thanks for anything you can tell me.

JCSF, Community Member
9/11/11 3:13pm


How are you doing now? Are you glad you got the fusion? Was it done with scopes (small incisions)?




Cathy, Community Member
1/25/12 11:47am

Hi Liz,

        Thanks so much for your offer of help and advice.

        I have just scheduled surgery for an l5-S1 fusion on March 12.  I how long has it now been since your surgery and how is it going?

        I am 52 and very physically fit but am still quite nervous.  I am a teacher and will be out of work for the remainder of the year after the surgery but am wondering about walking etc...   Some one mentioned that pain med may actually cause you to overdue rehab, what are your ideas?

       I am just rambling with nerves but any thoughts on your recovery would be really helpful.


hillary, Community Member
2/29/12 9:48pm

I am also having a single level fusion at L5-S1 March 12 2012, im terrifed , most of these posts are very helpful but can anyone explain the first 4 days after the surgery? thanks

troy, Community Member
4/22/12 8:33pm

How did your surgery go?  I hope you are recovering well.  I'm scheduled for surgery to fuse L5-S1 on Tuesday 5/1/12.  I appreciate your input.

troy, Community Member
4/22/12 8:38pm

How is your recovery progressing?  I hope you are doing well.  I'm scheduled for an L5-S1 fusion the 1st of May.

Jen, Community Member
2/ 4/10 8:59pm

I had the L5 Fusion on April of 2008 and the spondylosis as well. I have gone thru the injections, nerve burnings, physical therapy, tens machines, medications, you name it I have tried it. I have been going to a pain management center and they are trying to convince me to get this instrument implanted called a spinal cord stimulator made by medtronics. I met with a specialist and his assistant with the doctor today. It sounds really good. There are some cons with it but what surgery doesn't. I just thought maybe to pass this information along, it may be helpful to you or worth looking into.

If I can answer any questions or give you any more information just drop me a line....Best wishes to you

Denny, Community Member
7/ 2/10 10:44am

I've had a fusion on L4 L5 in 2005.  I was up and walking the same day.  I had the dorsal stimulator implanted back in 2008 and I hated it.  It felt you were sitting on a dryer.  The humming and buzzing was to much for me so,  I had them take it out.  It was a trail procedure.  Goodluck with your decision

rainiermec, Community Member
3/ 8/11 10:39pm

They only work for a couple of years at best until your brain differentiates the stimulation from the pain.  I know three people who have had them, all were more than disappointed and had them removed.  You cannot get and MRI with one.

Brigitte, Community Member
11/21/10 3:31am


I am curretnly researching the topic of L5-S1 fusion surgery and ran across your post. You had your surgery about a year ago now and I was wondering how you would rate your pain level now. Do you still believe a fusion surgery was a good decision or do you have any regrets?


Can you give some details as to your situation prior to surgery? Did you have degenerative disc disease or herniation?


I really would appreciate your answer.


Thank you,

Brigitte Turner

Vik, Community Member
10/29/08 1:32am

I have scoliosis and the only remaining "unfused" discs were L5-S1.  I finished the fusion for this area 6 months ago.  Although the surgery was painful, it did make the pain go away.  I lost the rest of my mobility, no longer able to bend at the waist, but it was worth it.

sheila, Community Member
4/24/10 2:57pm


 I also have scoliosis and had spinal fusion and herrington rod placement about 25 yrs ago.  I am considering having L4-S1 fusion.  You stated it really helped your pain?  I am also wondering about what limitations you have, such as can you tie your shoes. Are you able to bend some with your hip joints and hamstrings. Any info would be helpful. Sheila

aebarbaree, Community Member
6/10/10 3:49pm

I am in the same boat as you are. I had scoliosis surgery 17 years ago (when I was 12) and L5/S1 are my only unfused discs.  For the past three years, I have been in a good bit of pain because that area has become herniated.  I'm afraid that I'm at the point where I will probably need surgery.  I had six facet injections last month and it relieved the pain a good bit, but I know it will be back soon. 

My main fear is losing my mobility and not being able to bend at the waist.  I'm only 29 and I just got married a couple months ago...I still want to have kids and do all the things that normal adults do.

How bad are you limited with your mobility?  Are you even able to lean forward, bend over to pick things up, etc.?

Please send me an email to if you're able to.  I would love to speak with someone who has already been through what I'm about to go through.

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide to me.


Mari Lynn, Community Member
3/30/09 3:45pm


I am scheduled to have a lumbar fusion April 27th, '09-and this fusion will be L2-S1, which seems like a "major" fusion!!  I too, have a mess of problems in my lumbar area-and spondylosthesis Grade1-2 along with DDD, etc. etc.  What I am wondering is-first of all, has anybody out there had a fusion of THIS magnitutde?  I have talked to and worked with people that have had fusions of 1-2 disc levels, but I feel like I am gonna be walking maybe farther than now-but walking stiff as a board!!  I guess too, I am wondering about the longer-range functional outcomes that could be reasonably expected.  I do know, that this surgury (I've had 2 others prior to this one) will be way more "involved" than previously experienced, and this will be no walk in the park....and I am scared but I am already losing major bladder function due to spinal stenosis, so its really become more immediate than an "elective" surgery.  Any comments would be helpful.

~Mari Lynn 

CoCowboy692000, Community Member
7/ 6/09 12:51am

I just saw this post. I hope you did alright with your fusion. Even so, this is for anyone considering a fusion.


I have had 2 back surgeries and considering a 3rd now, June 09.


I had been in much pain for 3.5 years following an accident in late '88. I tried chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, steroids, epidural blocks, special techniques etc from wiz's who all said they could make the pain go away. Worthless - All of them.


I finally got the surgery. I had a Diskectomy, Foratomi and Lamenectomy at the L4 & L5-S1 back in '92 (dunno about those spellings). I never lived without a lot of pain after that, even after the surgery. For a brief time, it was more manageable. Meaning in my point of view, a pain level of about a 4 being the highest (post surgery) on a 10 scale. Prior to the surgery my pain levels were unbareable, almost always above 7 - all day, every day. So, did I get benefit? Yes - for 8 years. It wasn't perfect, it was better.


After my 1st surgery, by the last half of 2001 I couldn't walk again. Not even with my cane due to pain and by the end of the year I was in a wheelchair. So I had the Fusion done in Jan '02 of the L3, L4, L5-S1. They took bone from my hip too, so I was split open on both sides.


I was instantly amazed at the results, even as I came out of the anesthesic stupor I was in! I was already aware of what happened - RELIEF. The morning after my surgery, I insisted on attempting 2 small therapudic stairs in the ward. I did it! I couldn't believe it! I was so excited! I had not been able to do stairs well, for about 2 years and not at all during the last 9 months of that time, so I was truly blown away. So, again, I gained appreciable benefit by having done the surgery.


That was 7 years ago. Now here it is, 2009 and I am having problems again but managing the issues.


They say the average back patient receives about 10 years of benefit. I have known several back patients. Some got a solid 12-13 years of better life quality from surgeries. Others like me, came up a little bit shy of that but still better. And I have known 1 or 2 who received no benefit.


My opinion: Here are a couple of real questions you should be asking yourself (from one patients' point of view):


Is your pain so severe that you cannot manage it anymore?


Have you altered your lifestyle to the extent that you don't do anything because of life "modifications" made to avoid or reduce the pain?


Does pain management mean "pharmacy refills" for you?


Do you have guilt or depression stemming from your disability?


If you don't have the surgery, will you be chained to a cane or confined to a wheelchair in agony anyway?


Is it worth it to you to have pain free living or "manageable pain" for as little as 5-10 years or as much as 11-15 years, for a procedure?


Can you regain some quality of life from a fusion surgery if the result is pain free living or genuine "manageable pain"?


Can friends and relatives also gain some quality of life back if you have a successful surgery?


In my case, the fusion was definitely worth the risks! I wish my first doctor had done it in my first surgery. Epidural blocks, Chiropractic treatments etc. were completely ineffective for me (among other things). All I had was my pills and a clear option for potential improvement by means of a fusion.


What else are you going to do to manage your pain? Walk around with a fistful of pain killers? Why do that? Quality life is a real possibility with a fusion, even if for a while.


Educate yourself, find a great doctor with referrals. Ask for an assessment and get the surgery if the doctor thinks they can help.

sheila, Community Member
4/24/10 3:12pm

Hello,  Your information was interesting and similar to my story. I am planning of having an L4-S1 fusion due to severe Disc disease and chronic pain.  My pain is daily but I am still able to exercise some and work fiarly comfortably(taking ultam daily.  I am considering surgery b/c the pain is getting worse and i worry that as I age(I am 43) that it will get worse.  My questions is that you said you are haivng problems again after 7 years. What kind of problems? My surgeon said that since this is the last level, there should not be more pain afterwards.  Also I wondered how much it affected your activities of daily life.  What cant you do now that you have lost flexibility?  Any info will be appreciated. thanks, Sheila

pain, Community Member
10/31/09 12:34pm

I had l-5 fusion on August 12th 2009 so I am almost 3 months post op.I am still having pain but it is different pain from befor surgery.A fusion takes along time to recover from. First month was very difficult.I am doing better all the time. I am hopefully going back to work January 4th. I think it was a good decision to make its just a very long recovery but I knew that going into it. I could not barely even move befor the surgery and had to go on STD because of it.I had the best spinal surgeon around so that makes a huge different. Good luck to you and hopefully will become pain free once again.

mari3932, Community Member
1/17/10 3:11pm

Hi there..How are you doing,4 months later? Did u have spasms before fusion? Were u a candidate for disc replacement? Who was ur surgeon..and was he a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon? I sure do wish u well and hope u are progressing well..please write back!

Judy, Community Member
1/ 9/10 9:28pm

I had fusion surgery of L4, L5 and S1 in mid November.  I lived with chronic and progressive back pain for the better part of 10 years.  I have been overweight most of my adult life, and had Gastric Bypass surgery in 08, hoping the loss of weight would help my back.  I lost 100 pounds, but my back problem actually got worse instead of better.  My neurosurgeon explained the procedure in detail, along with all the risks and stressed to me that my result could be stellar, or I could see no benefit, or even get worse.  I almost cancelled the surgery 3 times, I was so frightened.  But, after consulting with my husband, and weighing the quality of my life without surgery, and the prospect of growing older and only getting worse, I went thru with the surgery.  I am now 2 1/2 months into my recovery.  The initial recovery is period of 4-6 weeks is painful, but nothing compared to the chronic pain I was suffering prior to the surgery.  There are muscle spasms to contend with after surgery, and although all my pre-surgery pain has been almost immediately resolved, I am now coping with post surgery nerve pain.  My surgeon tells me this is normal, and should resolve over the next year.  Right now, I'm seeking pain management of this nerve pain, but I am optimistic that this pain management is short term rather than lasting for the rest of my life.  All in all, I am very happy that I made the decision to have the surgery.  I had an excellent surgeon with a stellar reputation, and I'm learning to be patient with the length of the recovery period required.  Although I "feel" so much better, this is quite misleading.  I've learned that even though I feel like I can walk, bend, push myself, it's not wise.  For anyone experiencing life altering pain, and your surgeon has been honest and forthright regarding the procedure, my advise is to go forward with the surgery and follow all the rehab instructions you are given.  I hope this helps...

mbarnett, Community Member
1/25/10 1:48pm

just had surgery on jan 7,2010 of L5 s1 fusion surgery took about 4 hrs was in hospital for a total of 5 days i had a microdysectomy of the L5 s1 in 1998 have been living with

chronic back pain for 11 years on and off . i came out of the hospital with o pain in my

leg and back i have not taken any pain meds since leaving the hospital i believe my surgery was succesful as of the point i start physical therapy in a month hope this helps i also had all the nerve blocks and injections which where a temp fix good luck

VLN, Community Member
2/19/10 10:42pm

Laughing I am so glad to hear you are doing well.  I am looking at an L5S1 fusion having a selected nerve block next week for pain relief and to be used diagnostically.


Can I ask how old you are, and how active? I am 45 and just had a year of exercising (40 minutes elipical/ and weights every other day) under my belt loosing 20lbs.


Was your surgeon an othopedist or neurosurgeon?


Wishing you well.



ROBERT GRIFFIN, Community Member
3/ 9/10 7:34pm

I am 57 and drove an 18 wheeler, I had S1 & L5 fusion, and wished I hadn't, because before the surgery I could bend over and tie my shoes and now I can't bend over I have pain in my left hip stinging pain in my legs and toes I feel worst now than what I did before .............

calvinsmom4@Hotmail., Community Member
5/21/10 9:50am

I am 31 and had spinal fusion surgery on my L5 S1 and it has changed my life. I was in constant horrible pain, and having 2 children my days don't really slow down.  I had steriod injections, as well as lumbar epidurals and physical therapy the only thing that worked was my surgery.  i am almost 6 weeks out and have had no pain since my surgery.  i had regular healing pain, but not the pain i was having at all.  i went from my low back to my toes on my right side it was awful! and now i can sleep, i can walk, i can sit with no pain!!!! i have had some nerve numbness on my right side, but with nerve manipulation to get to my disc it is totally normal and gets better every single day.  if you do the right things to recover you will have success.  where people have problems is where they dont care for themselves properly after the surgery.  hope i could help.

CD, Community Member
8/25/10 7:10pm

Hi! Thank you for the encouragement. I am 24 years old, I was your typical young person until this unbearable lower back pain hit out of nowhere. I was an avid dancer for 20 years before this took its toll in December 09. I have spondololysis and pinched nerves at L5 S1, and I am so beyond sick and tired of my everyday struggle with pain. I hate being 24 and swallowing down the vicodin like candy just for a hint of relief. I have had two rounds of facet joint injections and a denervation (stupidest idea ever). The denervation left me in excruciating pain and I have unwanted spasms in my feet now. A laminectomy was suggested to me, but I have chosen to proceed with a fusion in 2 weeks because both doctors I saw for this said I would ultimately end up with a fusion anyway, and I would rather just have the one surgery. So much of what I read online is people discussing their failed fusions, and I am so happy to read that you are doing well. Any words in regards to healing time, or what your doctor told you to do or not do post-op would be much appreciated. Thank you!

tonya, Community Member
4/11/11 11:34pm

Hi I just read you response and am glad to hear you are doing well. I am 33 years old with 2 boys so I understand you. I am going next week for my fusion. I have already had a microdiscectomy in November and really had no relief. I have had injections and take neurontin and other pain meds also tried physical therapy, nothing helped. I am a school bus driver and have not been able to work since November 1st. Prior to that I was coming home in tears everyday from the pain. I am hioing this works for me because I can't take the pain. Any advice I would greatly appreciate. Thanks Tonya

roxie, Community Member
6/ 3/10 6:05pm

For those who have been through a fusion-

I am 45 years old; horse rider, water skier, very active:  I went to get a massage for upper back spasms, and could not get off the table.  Found that I have a ruptured L5 and grade 2 spondolythesis.  Neurosurgeon plans on surgery on 6/16 which he said should bring back all my activities other than squats and over head lifting.  I cannot lay on my front and get stabbing pains in my glutes off and on- and have a lot of pain when rolling over and bending low.  Is this pain worth surgery?  My insurance ends on June 30th?  It is either now, or possibly never.

Renee Dhungana, Community Member
6/12/10 11:15pm

i had the L5 S1 fusion on october 19th 2009 it has destroyed my marriage and i am still in alot of pain at times the numbness is alot better the surgery went well but like the surgeon said might happen the back pain got worse at times, i have returned to work with heavy restrictions and am constantly on meds and still wake up early every morning to have to take my meds. I would not do it again for nothing in the world but i hope  and prey the pain will get better with time and me getting back on track with my exercising routine and once the stress of disolving my marriage is over. Please dont do it if you are married and want to keep your marriage. 

maemae, Community Member
6/15/10 10:11am i have read many stories already around the web, hope everyone is doing well now!!  I fell on ice crushing my disc L5 and damaging my L4, tho told me we can wait on the L4 fusion yet. I dealt with the pain for about 2 years before i finally decided it was unbareable and the 'getting stuck' not being able to get up or move was getting worse and worse, and so was the tingling so unfortunately i had to make the choice of surgery. I am 26, excellent health and had a fusion of my L5 S1 on Oct 26, 2009. 2 rods, 4 screws and an awesome 8" scar haha.  Surgery went well, and like everyone else the tingling and numbness went away from my legs, and the 'old' pain is now gone. Here I am 7 months post-op and just got out of the 'turtle shell' brace and got the ok to drive again.  Here's my question i guess for anyone out there, I still get these crazy sharp pains right around where the surgery was at my L5, i have just started PT but no one seems to have the answer to why my pain is still there, Is anyone else having this problem? I thought being so young that I would heal quickly....unfortunately that apparently hasn't been the case since i have just started PT and just got an ok to go back to work.  I guess i am also looking for anyone else in the same boat as me, with pain still radiating at random times.  

Andyg, Community Member
8/ 5/10 12:45pm

Wow, I'm 50 yrs old and had the same exact surgery, however, I'm still having numbness in my right foot and shooting pains from the top of my buttocks down my leg, and the pressure and pain on my lower back is aweful.  I'm still wearing a brace and haven't returned to work and don't think that I will.  I can't sleep at nite and I can't stand for more then and hour at a time and I can't sit for any length of time either.   I've not been cleared for PT and I'm sure I want it.  My pain is still there.  The shooting pains I get are wild, straight down my leg to my foot.  Wish I had an answer for you.  But at least I'm not going crazy like I thought I was.Cry

Tbone, Community Member
7/27/10 1:09pm

I have had 2 laminectomys, one in 95 on the left side and one in January on the right side. I also have a grade 2 spondylolisthesis @ l4-5. both the laminectomys were for pinched nerves due to degeneration but the right side was more severe and it left me with no motor control of my foot and constant nerve pain.  A l5-S1 fusion is on the horizon if it becomes unstable but I needed relief now!  I tried a trial of the spinal cord stimulator and it was wonderful!!! I got 85 to 90% relief.  I still have the motor control issue but at least my pain is mostly gone.  I reccomend at least the trial with this therapy, what do you have to lose?  They just pull the leads out when the trial is over, 3-7 days and you will know if it works for you.  Good luck!

Steve B, Community Member
8/ 8/10 8:02am

Hello to all the the people contemplating back surgery... I am 46 yrs old and I suffered with an L5 S1 spondy for quite some time. Tha pain was just crazy. At times I couldn't Stand up for more than a few minutes. This was hard for me to take because I have always been very fit and competed in long distance triathlons up until the end of 2009. The decision for me to have an L5 S1 fusion was easy. I was in pain anyway and didn't want to continue with that sort of quality of life.. I had an anterior (through the stomach) fusion on the 5th May and so far it is the best thing I have ever done. I was in hospital 4 days and yes i was sore but knew that there would finally be light at the end of the tunnel. After 3 weeks I was back in the pool swimming 2 or 3k at about 60% effort. The bone is still fusing so you must take it easy. It has been nearly 5 weeks now and I have been walking 60k per week for the last 2 weeks. I Have had bad days where I thought I was going backwards but also good days where i have felt I could run a marathon..  You will still have days with pain especially if you get BMP but for me I am cloud nine. I am no longer on pain killers and wish everyone a better quality life. oh and be patient with the rehab and don't under or over do it. :)

Narbmom, Community Member
2/ 4/11 10:03pm

Wow, this is so hopeful for me!! I had a microdiscetomy in 2000 for L5 S1 and have been an avid walker (4-5 miles 3 times/week) since. I am 45 and have really had success with my lower back.  I had a fusion on my cervical spine C4-6 in 2003 and have only had to have 1 cortisone shot for pain since then for my neck. Since May of 2010, I have had 1 cortisone shot in my hip for tendonitis, pt for same, then pt for lower back, round of oral steroids and 2 rounds of cortisone for L5-S1 right and left sides with horrible side effects.  I am fearful my surgeon will suggest surgery for whatever is sitting on my nerve root and my other option is the neuro stimulator...any suggestions for either?  PS I work full time as a teacher in a school so I walk most of my day and sit very little (b/c of recent pain) and have 2 older children and a super supportive husband and family.  Thanks for any advice. So glad to hear things are well for  you.

myfogin, Community Member
5/31/11 2:53pm

Thanks for posting a 'positive' message. Laughing I've been dealing with DDD for about a year and have tried the meds, PT, spinal injections, etc. all to no avail and have fusion of L5-S1 scheduled for 06/09/2011. I've been terrified of having to have a major surgery and reading of many posts does not help that one bit. I'm so happy to see it's getting better for you and can't wait to be on my way down recovery lane and most of all stop taking the meds that seem to make you feel worse than the pain itself somedays Cry

bowdeen, Community Member
9/27/10 8:08pm

no do not i have had 4 back surgeries in last 16 yrs. last one march 09 axia-lif procedure didnt work.I am now stuck with 3 screws in my low back and have stensosis and on top of that midback disk problem was suppose to have disk replacement but blue cross want pay so i am trying prolotherapy injections which is suppose to have a 90 percent success rate.Good luck.

Pepper, Community Member
10/15/10 12:52pm

Yes.  It has been 3 years since my surgery.  It has helped alot because before the surgery I was in a wheelchair.  I still have lower back and leg pain when I stand up for 10 minutes or longer, but is managed by pain medicines.  I hope this will help you.

Pepper, Community Member
10/15/10 12:52pm

Yes.  It has been 3 years since my surgery.  It has helped alot because before the surgery I was in a wheelchair.  I still have lower back and leg pain when I stand up for 10 minutes or longer, but is managed by pain medicines.  I hope this will help you.

CHIP RICH, Community Member
11/28/10 1:00pm

I had l5S1 fusion on October 12th. I was immediately relieved of leg pain...After a month my back pain began to subside and at 6 weeks I rarely feel any discomfort @ all......Great success so far......


CDELMT, Community Member
12/ 7/10 3:32pm

Curious...did they use rods to stabilize youf fusion?

Oma, Community Member
6/ 1/11 11:09pm

Five screws and a rod on either side.

tornapart, Community Member
1/ 3/11 3:17pm

Wow where do I begin?? I have had everything you had plus a spinal fusion at L5 S1 the only shitty part of the operation is I went in thinking L4L5S1 were being fused then to find out after pain started creeping up on me that L4 was never part of the fusion and that disc is still herniated, FML right??? Its easy for people to say get a lawyer when all I want is my life back work play happy....No insted I am left feeling horrible and everything pending no solid evidence of bone growing around the cage screws and rods and a disc herniation thats always been there. So now i am moving on to a neuro surgeon Out of state and seeking lawyers...If I do what is expected of me...Clean Shower work out volunteer at my kids school drive walk cook play ...Normal day right? Nope there is hell to pay all in the name of pain...depression weight gain not mother of the year award...!!! My advice do not do the surgery if you expect to do any of these things i listed above above...your good days will be good but those bad days are more and worse.


Carisa, Community Member
2/19/11 6:06am

Hi everyone.  Reading these replies has helped me.  I am a 36 year old white female who is having surgery on March 4, 2011.  I was diagnosised with spinal stenosis in 2004 and since then I have had two laminetomoy's on L4-5, a fusion on L4-5, a laminetomy on L2-3, and a Fusion on L2-3 between 2005 and 2008 and yes if you're counting that is 5 surgeries to my lower spine in 3 years.  Now my pain in my right leg is so bad I can barely walk. My Neurosurgoen and Orthopdic surgoens are the best in Pittsburgh though.  Now my L2-3 and L5-S1 are bad so I am having a total fusion of L2-S1 and I am terrified.  My husband and I married late in 2004 so I have never had the opportunity to have children and I unfortunately never will.  It is a lonely feeling.  Thank God I married the best man in the universe.  I just want anyone out there to know that you are not alone.  I know that I will need pain management for the rest of my life, but I'm trying everytime for a better lease on my life so hang in there.  Take Care!

norm colis, Community Member
6/19/11 9:03pm

Hi there my name is norm collis and i had the same problums as you back in 1968 and decided to have the spinal fusion of L4 L5 S1 i done every thing right to aid the recovery.After 1 year i went back to my normal job of laying concrete and bulding car ports and awnings,Always aware of the surgery that i had had done and took the time to build the mussels in the back up, i have played golf every sunday for the last 20 years with no trouble from the operation.I am now 68 and have a slight problum with spinal stenosis and will have the lamenectomy to correct this

This operation gave me my life back,My advice is to have it and get on with the deck you were delt or lay around wondering if only,

Chris S, Community Member
8/ 9/11 5:13pm

I have the same problem as you . I had mine done 5 yrs ago , now i have pain that won't quit . It hurts across the L5 - S1 area that goes across my back down my right leg . It feels like someone is sticking pins and hot pockers down my leg . But the real fun is when my legs feel like wet noodles and I feel like i'm going to fall down cause my legs feel like there not there .


My doctor and pain doc says there is nothing they can do about it .just to live with it ! I told them there has to be something wrong , but they don't listen .


 I understand your pain and frustration that your going through . I hope the best for you , and hope that you can find someone to listen to your problem  . I hope you feel better soon ! 

bullet720, Community Member
9/12/11 4:22am

i had this surgery in april 2011 the doctors went in through my first i had a ruff time. they told me that i would be out until oct.  but i was back playing golf by july. i can tell you it was the best thing for me. sometimes i still have a little pain but not like before. the nunbness is also gone from my legs and feet.

MadSquirrel, Community Member
10/ 3/11 3:44pm

Thought I'd throw in a post for those contemplating a lumbar fusion. 


I'm currently 48 years old.  I had/have a spondy at L5-S1 which was diagnosed in 2004.  After the usual physical therapy and steroid injections I ended up having a laminectomy.   I should have mentioned that I have been involved in triathlon for the past 12 years.  After the surgery, I was able to quickly return to triathlon and be competitive, doing another 50+ races including ironman and many half ironman distances.  In 2009 the leg pain returned.  Running and walking was so painful that I had to quit triathlon.  Again, I went through the usual physical therapy and steroid injections but again they didn't work for me.  Like many of you, I was terrified at the prospects and horror stories from lumbar fusion surgery.  I went back and forth, trying to find a place where I could enjoy a semi-pain-free life.  At Christmas 2009 I was supposed to take my wife on a vacation to New York City.  I had booked a fantastic hotel, tickets to shows, etc.  Two days before the trip I rolled over in bed and told her we had to cancel the trip.  There was no way I could walk around NYC with the leg pain.  At that moment I knew that I had reached the quality of life tipping point.  I got up and made an appointment with my back surgeon, when asked to describe the reason for my visit I told them "To Schedule an L5/S1 fusion".


I ended up having a 360 degree fusion with fixation at the front, and 2 rods in the back.  When I woke up from surgery, I started rehab immediately. For the next 6 weeks I did daily walks starting with 10 minutes and getting up to 2 hours.  I was VERY careful at all times to keep torque off of my spine.  At 6 weeks I started indoor cycling and swimming.  At 3 months I started running again...starting with running 1 minute and then walking 4.  Each week I shifted the ratio by 30 seconds until I was back to running full time.  By the end of 2010 I was back to full speed and competed in a couple short triathlons, and doing okay.


At this point I am virtually pain free.  My back occasionally aches a little, but I have no leg pain.  I did 8 races this year and finished high in every one of them .  My point is NOT that I'm a good triathlete (because I'm not!), it's that it is very possible to have a fusion and come back as good (or better) than before. 


I really believe a few simple principles served me well: (1) The time to do surgery is at the quality of life tipping point (2) Get a surgeon you connect with (and obviously is qualified).  Mine is a mountain bike racer, so he understood what I meant by a "good" outcome. (3) Be in the best shape you can going into surgery - for several weeks I told myself that I was training for surgery.  (4) Take it easy on your back after surgery - the #1 thing to do IMO - let the fusion set!  (5) Number 4 doesn't mean being a couch potato.  Work hard at rehab. 


Hopefully my good outcome will continue in the future.  And Hopefully with luck and hard work yours will too!

wanna ride again, Community Member
12/29/11 3:01pm

Had my ALIF L5-S1 3 months ago on 9/21/2011. DDD from a 20 year old weight training injury. First two weeks were very tough due to the ab incision and surgical pain. Started feeling pretty good after that and gradually worked up to walking 4 miles per day at 6 weeks post op. Started PT at 9 weeks and that's when the wheels started to come off. Not sure what's going back pain is moderate but leg pain is unbearable. Sharp pains in upper flank and hips. Groin pain, pelvic pain and both knees are killing me. Never had knee trouble prior to surgery. Lots of "electrical " pain up and down my legs. Calves feel like something is crawling around inside, feet hurt all the time.  I was an avid cyclist..riding 80-100miles per week now I can barely walk 100 feet without hobbling. Stairs are all but impossible. I was a very young fit 52 prior to surgery now I feel 25 years older. Last talk with my doc was 3 weeks ago he said a lot of this was probably from my hips and pelvis readjusting after surgery and also the nerves waking up..sure hope so. Had blood work done to rule out any autoimmune issues and last x-ray showed the cages looked good. Not sure if I'm fused yet. Pain level prior to surgery would vary from 6-9 depending on activity. Now it's a steady 8-9 and spikes to 10. I'm very afraid of narcotics and such so I only do aleive for pain. Going back to see the doc next week. Hopefully will leave there with a plan and renewed optimisim cause right now I'm really down. Wondering if I made a big mistake with this surgery. Was told I was the perfect candidate. 1 level, all other discs in great shape,  discogram validated DDD location at L5-S1, very fit 6ft 180 prior to surgery, good work ethic to do the rehab. My life really sucks right now, hopefully better times ahead. Best of luck t all of you going through a simalar issue.

troy, Community Member
4/22/12 8:46pm

Thanks for your story.  It's very encouraging.  I'm scheduled for L5-S1 fusion the 1st of May 2012.  

mx239mx, Community Member
3/18/12 2:24am

I just had spinal fusion surgery from l4 to s1 on 3/12/12 and today is my first day home. Im only 28 and have had both hips replaced, one in Feb 09 and the other in Mar 11 and back fusion hurt a lot worse then the hips by far. I felt my L5 fracture in oct 2011 and after that it went down hill very fast. The best advice I can give anyone is to get your body as strong as you can get it before surgery and fight the pain. I manage a apartment complex so my job is very physical and there was many times I wanted to throw in the towel and give up but I knew the out come wouldnt be good. Yes I know I am young but I have already went through 6 surgerys  and keeping your body strong and active as possible will help. I know Im only 6 days out of surgery and I have no clue when it will stop hurting but giving up will make it hurt longer. And everyone is different, some recover quickly and some dont but everyone has to understand that its going to take time and to keep positive. The dr told me that the fusion would only relieve 60% of the pain, I would be happy if it only did 30% Listen to your body and it will tell you when you are ready to do things and when you are not ready.  Be prepaired that you may have to give up certain activitys in your life, or you just have to be a little creative on how you can do them. Just dont give up, I already have one hip replacment failing after 2 years and giving up, what good is that going to do? It sure is not going to help at all. So the best adivice I can give anyone for any surgery is to keep health and to keep your body as strong as possible.

sunshine, Community Member
4/ 9/12 7:52am

hello i had surgery 3 13 12 been 4 weeks this tuesday still having a rough time...sleeping really sucks....

Mrs. bswaggin, Community Member
4/20/12 5:56pm

My husband had an l5-si fusion and it failed. He was very young then...32 I think. We were devasted.  He now lives in God awful pain because the discs above the fusion are now slowly getting destroyed.  I personally just got diagnosed w/l5-si complete bone on bone (disc collapsed). Been to 4 docs. the opinions are all over the place. Here is what I suggest, go to a major hospital and request only the HEAD NEURO-SURGEON.  Ask what his percentages for you are.  I have been doing injections for over 10 years and had a spinal cord stimulator put in, broke that last summer and had 2 emergency surgeris on those (both failed). Is your disc trying to fuse itself at all.....? words on the radiology report like disc vacuum phenominon?  If so, you have a good chance of your disc fixing itself.  I am in the exact boat but no lameectomy, only had bi-lateral ablations, every injection under the sun, etc. How did you do with the lamenectomy???

MELISSA Milner, Community Member
5/ 1/12 8:46pm


JEANNETTE, Community Member
5/11/12 11:46am

Yes I had l-5 s-1 its is wonderful  but now i have to have l-4 fused not really wanten to but the only way to get out of the pain .I had the first fusion in 1997 and did really well with it. Haven't had any problems with it.

Jeremy, Community Member
6/19/12 1:46am
I had l5 s1 fusion with cadaver bone spacers and poly screws and titanium rods at the age of 27. It was a super slow and painful recover of almost a year before full mobility. The leg pain went away and was a huge relief . But now after 10 years I am having intermittent leg pain and extreme back pain. I am now taking pain pills again and fear that stenosis is the culprit. Did I mention that any change in weather makes it hurt like crazy? Wow Jm Reply
scott, Community Member
6/26/12 3:32pm

hi my L5 waS slipped forward ,grade 2 , heightning of disck n other stuff is pritty bad , legs were starting to give way from under me whilest i was walking , could hardly move back had to keep it straight all the time , so thought i might have the opo want make much difference ,   I had to have a L5/S1 DECOMPRESSION + FUSION OPERATION .


 5 weeks ago i had operation  the spine feels stronger (don't feel like it's about to snap ) but am still in quite allot of pain , was in hospital for 6 days , first 3 weeks after i was in so much pain , now 5 weeks still very sore but the pain meds seem to work now , 20 mls oxyconten 3 x a day , 4 x  a day - 5 ml endone , still mainly on the bed , ,

  Ok they took out some nerves , this a list prosterior midline approach to lumbar spine  from l4-s1,,, l5 laminectomy,,, neurolysis l5 nerve roots bilat ,,, l5/s1 pedicle screws ,,, bilat l5/s1, l5/s1 TLIF ,,, k2m kage ,,, local graft & infuse ,,, rods inserted & locked ,,, slip on  l5 reduced by one grade  ,,, tension on nerve roots satisfactory ,,, checked under 1/1 - good position ,, drain x 2 ,,, .


 This what the report said on X-ray  repor t after 5 weeks after opo ,

 there is PSIF of L5/S1 with disck spacer at L5/S1. note is made of laminectomy at the L5 level withpars defects. there is grade 1 spondylolisthesis of L5 on S1 .


 There thats everything wish i understood it , but walking about 50 meters before hurts to much , still allot of pain but manageing with pain releaf, doing fisio, think i will be on painkillers for good , but getting around better allready than before so glad i did it , legs are great full feeling no pain at all there , except getting bad nerve spasms down back right leg with bad aceing down to back of knee ,

 hope this all helps someone with there decicion sorry about any spelling mistakes !,   n bloody glad i had it lil more freedom ,


Gaucho, Community Member
10/13/12 12:41pm

I am scheduled for L5-S1 fusion in 6 weeks. I'm 42, 6' 7" 230 lbs and have always been athletic and healthy. I had a microdiscectomy in '06 which made my pain worse. I've endured NUMEROUS injections, nerve blocks, rhyzotomies, one discogram (worst pain I have ever experienced, had nightmares about it for 2-3 months). I've done therapy, meds (went cold turkey on my norco 4 yrs ago which about killed me). My left thigh is numb, my right leg aches (sciatica) constantly, and my lumbar hurts from right to left 24/7. I currently take 8-10 10-325 norcos per day. I have taken lyrica, tramadol, motrin, neurontin, celebrex, and so on. Opiates are the only thing that I can take which can provide relief. I smoke a pack a day, and have for 20 years.I am SCARED TO DEATH that this surgery will not help me. I almost lost my home after the discectomy due to my insurance (Anthem) deciding to reject my claim AFTER THE SURGERY on the grounds of it being pre-existing. I had no choice but to go back on the norco, the tramadol was not working any longer and giving me headaches on a daily basis. I feel like a number, and I'm tired of being passed around and charged $$$ with no results. Each surgeon I have seen comes "highly recommended" of course. I am a father, a husband, and have a great job. I want to be able to enjoy my family without the pain dragging me down. My kids have grown up dealing with "Daddy's back hurts" and "is you back good enough to____ Daddy?". If this surgery does not work, I'll be 'back' to square one...and out even more money.


TK, Community Member
1/31/13 2:31pm

I am seven weeks post-L5/S1 fusion surgery.  This is my first week back to work.  I have to say the surgery was a complete success.  I have had zero back pain from the first day post-op.  I have had some discomfort due to the incision, where the surgeon went in from my lower belly.  But, that is subsiding daily.  I'm now down to no more than two pain pills in any 24 hour period.

Please be aware that sitting for prolonged periods is not a good idea.  I have to get up and move around every 20 minutes or so to keep my upper back and rearend from getting stiff and sore.  But, again, that is improving daily.

After seeing so many reports of negative results about this procedure, I was reluctant to have it done.  However, I am very glad I did.  I could not continue enduring the bone on bone pain that I was experiencing.

But, I also think it has something to do with the two premium surgeons who took care of me.


rescue4life, Community Member
11/13/13 6:21pm

Hi all.  I have a very long back hx story I won't bore you with. Instead I'll touch on the important parts.  I guess more than anything I just need some support from people with the same type of ailment.  In Sept. 2011 I injured my back at work and was seen at a Spinal Center/Ocupational Health Clinic.  my pain concisted of left lower back w/ radaiting pain down left buttox to foot.  After an MRI, It was found that I had a pretuding disc on my S1 nerve. After close to 6 months of PT and Multiple painful spinal injections, I saw a neuro surgeon and soon after had a Hemilaminectomy and it seemed to work pretty well untill 1 year later when the painstarted again.  I went through a few spinal injections then again had my second Hemilaminectomy on the same spot.  Now 8 months later, you guessed it! Pain again w/ MRI showing yet again disc protrusion and degeneration.  I remeber my surgeon saying before my second surgery that he was trying to keep me away from fusion, but I have a bad feeling this time.  I see him tomorrow and am really concerned.  I have a very physcical job and have been out alot due to my back.  With my present condition, i can't do much already.  Any thoughts? Thanks.

Marcia Anderson, Community Member
2/10/14 5:26pm

Hullo, all. I am currently awaiting the papers from my insurance provider, to proceed with an L5/S1 Anterior Fusion. I have had increasingly debilitating lower back pain with sciatica for around 10 years, and ended up with adult-onset scoliosis because of it. I tried epidural injections of corticosteroid (worked for about 10 days, then my back 'went out' worse than it ever has in the past, and facet injections which worked lovely for about a month, after which I had radio-frequency ablation done which also has lasted about a month. After a discogram (not at all fun, but the drugs they give you afterward upon request, will erase the worst parts of it from your memory) about 2 weeks ago, we determined that the L5/S1 was the most reactive. My spinal neurosurgeon recommended fusion at that point.


I am almost as excited to be getting this surgery as I was for my hysterectomy in 2012! Provided I follow all my physician's instructions, I expect to achieve an acceptable outcome; I am an exceptionally good "healer" from injuries and surgeries. This is by far, not my first rodeo. I've been under the scalpel more than 5 times in the past 4 years, so surgery doesn't scare me in the slightest. All I really want, is to be able to walk further than about 50 yards - which I have been unable to do for over 5 years - without crippling pain and being so stiff the following day that I am nearly bed-ridden. I already have prepared for it by acquiring a walker and several canes, and I will add in a special back-brace as well closer to the surgery date which is as yet to be set.


My advice to those who have been told they should have this surgery, is try not to let negative posts influence your decision. Remember, those who have had excellent outcomes rarely post their status on forums! People generally come to relate bad experiences/look for support. I fully expect to be up and about right away after surgery, while being careful not to undo all the good work my doctor will perform. Good luck and stay positive, to everyone who has a surgery date set! Please come back and let us know how it went. I will do my best to do the same.

sarah, Community Member
5/21/14 7:45pm

Hello. I see that you wrote this post back in '08. Wondering if you ever went through with the fusion for your low back? How did it go? How are you doing to this day or if you didn't what have you been doing for it? 


Two years ago I was in an auto accident which injured my low back L5-S1. Went through meds, physical therapy, chiropractic, dry needling, steroid injections and so on. Nothing relieved the pain. Actually the pain got worse over the year. Sitting, standing, walking, or lying on one side for 10+ minutes would feel more pain. Sciatic pain down my legs all the time. The pain was affecting my everyday life. I had a discogram done this week and the doc said it showed leaking of the dye which means I will need to do both the anterior and posterior fusion. 


Well.....I'm scared and all of the risks are running through my mind. I've heard other people say that "surgery made it worse" or "it was good for 2 years then the pain came back but much worse". I don't think I can handle more pain. I'm already going through stress, anxiety, sometimes depression. 


sarah, Community Member
6/12/14 9:31am

Hi. Did you ever go through with the L5-S1 fusion surgery? 2 years ago I was in a car accident where I T-boned another driver who failed to yield. My lower back has been in constant pain since. I have done physical therapy, chiropractic, accupuncture, and epdural injections but nothing has helped. My sciatica has worsened with time. I went to see a back surgeon and he offered "L5-S1 Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (Alif)". I have heard of good and bad reviews from people who has had back surgery similar to this one. I'm already freaking out about putting SCREWS in my back. I know there are a alot of risks and even risk of more and/or worse pain. 


Can you share your experience if you went through with it? Thanks!

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By res-q-u, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/12/14, First Published: 09/18/08