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Question DetailsAsked on 2/15/2012

i am "fused" from the top of my neck to the bottom of my spine. I am in excruciating pain daily and almost bedbound. Any help for me?

I had 5 back surgeries over 10 years. Each doctor took out the old metal and replaced with new. Now all my c's, t's and l's are fused. On 11/13/11, I went to a local ER because of a popping sound in my low left back. The er doctor and radiology techs all agreed I had a broken rod. Two months ago my Dallas neurosurgeon told me I was fine and sent me home. He disagreed with the "broken rod" theory. I have had two more of those sounds. Can no longer use the brand new law degree I obtained 6 days before I fell on a wet floor. I am age 70. A friend told me one of his friends had the same pain until a surgeon removed all of the metal in his spine. Apparently, he has no more pain. Is that possible? I was a healthy and vibrant woman until the first procedure. I can no longer work. I am a burden to myself.

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1 Answer


Dear Angela,

First, I am NOT a doctor. However, I too have had numerous spinal surgeries, and have suffered for decades.

This is some of what I have learned. Please bear in mind that these comments are only my own experience and opinion.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to hire a physician that you trust, like, and that listens to and respects you.

Competence, (e.g., board certifications and such), go without saying. Trust your own inner knowing - about your body, your physician, etc. If something is wrong, you know it, and must stand up for yourself.

I think it is very good that you have had neurosurgeons (as did I), as all advice was NOT to go with an orthopedic surgeon - their work can be crude, and is often perhaps not the best choice where the spine is concerned. [No offence to all you great ortho docs - if you are honest, you know what I am referring to]. With so many delicate nerves to consider, a differently skilled practioner might be more effective. However, it sounds to me like your surgeon is not listening to you, that something is wrong.

When I had rods and screws, they hurt me all the time. It has been worlds better since they were removed, but...

The last surgery I had nearly killed me, and it has taken long and long to get back some semblance of health. The surgeries have been extensive and dificult, and apparently my system was not as strong as it could or should have been, for many reasons - word to the wise. Please do all you can to support yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Be kind to yourself.

The other major comment I have is one sure to arouse ire.

Make sure that your pain is properly controlled.

I cannot overstate this.

When I broke my back, no doctor saw anything wrong with me, so I resumed my life professionally and athletically. I was world class in a sport that required the ability to deal effectively with pain on a daily basis. Since I was given a clean bill, so to speak, I never took anything for the pain. Two years later I was in an unimaginable state of agony, and finally had to get some relief.

I was fortunate to be directed to a great physician who believed me. As conservative as I was about surgery, we tried EVERYTHING else first. I was terrified. When I finally first went under the knife, a procedure that was scheduled for an hour and a half stretched to nearly seven hours. I had a real mess, bone fragments sticking everywhere...bone tissue grown up over and around my spinal column...Thank God for my great physician/neurosurgeon!

However, since I had not dealt with my pain level in a timely manner, now I was in real trouble.

Chronic pain is no joke, and unbelievably debilitating. It took many years of almost daily therapy, and finally giving in after so many years of resistance on my part, to taking the pain meds prescribed to me to begin to break the iron grip of and the cycle of pain. It would be a further number of years before my loved ones demand that I give in and take the medication AS PRESCRIBED. Once I began the every eight hour regimen, it was another couple of years before my system finally completely stabilized, although I began to feel results within two to three months.

Finally I could have more of a life than I had had in years.

Truly, I was ready to put a bullet in my head if I had not been able to get some relief.

Of course these days, the only thing we hear about pain medication is how it is always abused, and will kill you.The media sensationalizes the abuse of pain meds by celebrities, thereby stigmatizing anyone who actually needs them as addicts. Physicians have been {slow, reluctant, nonexistent}, to dispute this trend. Federal and state boards are often draconinan in their enforcement of the regulation of opiates. It is a remarkably depressing situation.

As to your comment about being a burden to yourself. (See above comments about proper pain management).

Sometimes we just have to stop for a time.

If we do not listen to what our souls, or life is telling us, then it has been my experience that life has a way of forcing us to understand. These kinds of issues are not openly discussed in our society, but that does not make it any less true. Likely it will not be a permanent full stop. Perhaps there is a need to look within as well as without for guidance.

To be still in our be busy, busy, busy day to day.

Just stop.

Be still.


Be aware.

Pay attention.

Only then to act appropriately.

To be aware of what you are doing, thinking, and believing. Where do these things come from? Sometimes we need to be introspective. Perhaps we are headed in a direction that will take us away from our true calling, or in a direction that would be impossible to turn around. Perhaps we are about to make an irrevocable mistake. Something, some force in our lives stops us cold if do not pay attention.

Whatever the issues, resistance to the message (whatever it is), will not make it go away - if you are lucky. As the Chinese proverb says (loosely paraphrased), within every danger is opportunity. If you can begin to accept that for right now this is where you are, and try to understand the reason for it, it might make your journey easier to endure, and open a space for unimagined possibilities.

The moment we try to be conscious about what we are doing, what is happening and why, something changes. Somehow the experience shifts. It is not easy work.

Of course, common sense dictates that we take care of the things that have to be taken care of, like if you need to get the hardware out of your back, or feed the dog, or eat, or pay the bills.

Lastly, please give yourself time.

After every one of my surgeries recovery took longer. The body can only do what it can do. Anesthesia, {thank all the gods we have it !!}, seems to be very hard on the poor body, not to mention all the slicing and dicing, and invasive foreign objects implanted therein.

Eat as well as you can, be kind to yourself, be patient. Manage your pain. Exercise as you can. An animal companion is a blessing. Get fresh air. Meditate. Pray. Ask for help. Be still. Listen.

Lean on good friends. Many people want to help, to be of service, do not deny them that opportunity. I have been spectacularly told off about this more than once - having such an independent streak. Not having been very kind or patient with myself I think I can say how necessary learning these things is.

Finally, by far the most difficult thing for me to has been to accept my limitations. Not that I do not strive to move the goal posts, but ... Learning to really listen to the wisdom of the body and accept that I am where I am has been excruciating on every level. My life has been inalterably changed. Not what I planned or had in mind!

I understand your frustrations.

Hard, hard, hard lessons all. Compassion and empathy for the poor body and the self.

Hard. Yet simple even so.

I hope for the best outcome for you Angela.

With every good wish.


Answered 8 years ago by WB

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