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Fusion Surgery for DDD? Any experience? Any Advice?

Dear DDD fellow sufferers:

I am heading for a second injection for my DDD.  The pain is overwhelming me because 1. my neck is a wreck, 2.  I have an Immune Inflammatory Disease and when I have a flare of inflammation every joint in my body lights up in pain like the 4th of July.   I just stopped an inflammatory attack with 8 mg of Medrol last night.   

No doctor wants me to take larger doses of Medrol, since it is a corticosteroid, and we all know how dangerous the side effects are.

But 8 mg Medrol did stop the inflammatory attack, so now I'm back to my 'regular' level of pain.  Yeah, there's regular pain and super pain, it turns out.

I tried to use meditation and relaxation but I just could not make it work at 1 am.  So I took more Medrol.

MY QUESTION What can you share about fusion surgery for DDD?  

In my past I have had four surgeries on joints that worked because they relieved my pain entirely:  Surgery on my left thumb, Surgery on my right shoulder to remove a bone spur, arthroscopic surgery on my left knee to remove a piece of meniscus jammed in my knee joint, and most recently a laminectomy on my Lumbar spine at L3-4.

So I have had total relief of pain with those surgeries.

I guess that isn't the promise with a fusion for degenerative disc disease?

Any thoughts, experience, please share.

Regards, ElaineD



  • challengercchallenger Posts: 2,306
    edited 07/16/2019 - 1:43 PM


    I am sorry you are going through all of this, I hope you can get this handled with the injections.

    I had fusion surgery in Feb. 2018 C4-C7 after surgery I was pain free for about 6-8 months,  I really don't know if there is such a thing as pain free after spinal surgery.


  • I agree with Challenger. Spinal fusion surgery often doesn't get rid of pain entirely but it can help. I had a fusion on my L5 S1 the end of October 2018. I do have some numbness in my left foot and calf from surgery but it is slowly getting better. The numbness really worried me at first because I didn't know this was a common occurrence after this type of surgery so just be aware of that. I'm told the numbness could go away completely but could take awhile.....awhile can translate to weeks, months or even years fyi. 

    After surgery I have noticed less nerve pain which is great. I still have back pain but it feels more like post surgical pain still at this point. It isn't the same kind of back pain I had before surgery.

    At 3 months post op I'd say my recovery was going well. My bone is fusing well. I was given the green light and my restrictions have been lifted by my surgeon (within reason). 

    3 weeks later I started yoga (surgeon said that should be fine) for beginners and I did the best I could but not push it, my muscles are pretty tight. Well, I think I must have pushed it too far without realizing it because I'm in pain. It started slow, just a small pang in my lower back, nothing major. Now I have a hard time standing long enough to make dinner. Sitting is hard. By the end of the day I'm hurting bad. I'm worried I might have broken a screw or something, I don't really know. I have an appointment tomorrow to see my surgeon. I'm hoping he can shed light on what's going on. I have xrays less then a week old for him to review. I wish I knew what I did. I feel I had been pretty careful.

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  • Good luck at your appmt tomorrow. Please keep us posted.

  • Well, the thing is, I had a laminectomy on my spine, which is spine surgery.  But without hardware, only a small incision and taking the pressure off the nerve at L3-4.   So this was a spine surgery that worked 100%.  No more pain.

    But I understand that the spinal fusion for DDD is 1) much more invasive 2) involves 'hardware', and 3) is unlikely to stop all of the pain.

    I probably have several more injections before my orthopedist even begins to consider surgery.

    I do think I'll ask for another EMG, since the last one, on my arms and hands, was in 2012, I think.

    I just wish there was a simple surgery like my laminectomy on my spine.   Well, while I'm 'wishing' I could throw in World Peace, and millions of dollars for all of us, right?

    To be continued.

    And dear Challenger, I hope all is well.  So scary to think that your surgery could be undermined by Yoga practice.

    Do keep us posted.

    Regards, ElaineD

  • Hi ElineD

    I understand the thoughts and fears you are going through. In 2005 I had part of a disc removed (same spot as the fusion last year). It did help with a lot of pain I was having but I was never pain free but manageable with shots. It was when the shots stopped working and I tried acupuncture, physical therapy numerous times and pills that I finally caved to have the fusion done.

    Now, update on the pain I have been experiencing lately. My doc did not see anything out of the ordinary on my xray. He is thinking it sounds like I have a lot of inflammation (likely brought on by yoga since the timing matches ). He perscribed me an anti-inflammatory. He said if it doesn't seem to help in a couple weeks to let him know and he will order a MRI. Otherwise I will see him in another month. 

    I am so thankfully nothing seems broken. Soooo sososo thankful. I'm praying these meds will do the trick and I will be back on the road to recovery

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  • Jerome001Jerome001 Cocoa Beach, FloridaPosts: 337

    I've had several fusion surgeries and the results were mixed. One helped for a few months but pain returned and the fusion was redone. Others had no effect on my pain while the last few surgeries have helped immensely. IMMHO, the skill and knowledge of your surgeon and how you deal with recovery may have a lot to do with my results but I have no proof of that other than my recollections. It sounds like you are well into your "due diligence" analysis of the surgery. Best of luck! Jerome

  • I don't know about ADR.  I will look into it and thanks kpsnap.

    Regards, ElaineD

  • It’s my understanding in the United States only the cervical spine qualifies for an ADR. I’m familiar with lumbar ADR but only in European countries. I could be wrong.

  • Joel1QJoel1Q Posts: 389
    edited 03/24/2019 - 10:12 PM

    L4-L5 if my surgeon removed my disc materials at L3-S1, inserted cages with artificial disc and bone material to fuse me, isn’t that ADR? I’m in San Diego. I also had the hardware installed on my backside a couple weeks later to correct screaming pain, which didn’t.  BUT My core pain, the reason I had surgery (DDD stenosis and 4 nerve impingements, radiculopathy and unmoveable lower back) do seem much better finally a year later.  The neuropathy nerve like symptoms numb toes lack of balance and stupidity due to medication like Neurontin and a year of opiates  is fading, but it is a solid back as I fell badly on cement and tumbled with zero problems to my low back. !

  • I agree with Challenger here, my personal opinion is that for the vast majority of people fusing a portion of the C-spine is bound to put some extra pressure on the remaining free elements to cause at least a little bit of arthritis pain, etc.  That has certainly been my experience.  Posture and exercise help, and perhaps with time and less motion at those levels due to arthritis and normal disc stiffening it will get better.  If you decide to think about fusion, I would really press your surgeon on how he feels it will impact the overall health of your neck, which levels he's considering including and why, etc.  If you have a lot of degeneration already, you may not be a candidate for ADR but it could still be worth asking about.  

  • Thank for the replies.  My surgeon still wants to try injections again and a sort of deep tissue electronic stimulation therapy which is new, as I understand it.  My pain is unremitting, but is primarily caused by the almost constant of inflammation in my body, due to my Immune Disorder.  My cervical spine IS a mess, but not to the point that would absolutely indicate surgery.

    Thanks again, ElaineD

  • You can see my recent post in the Neck Pain section... having an ADR which failed due to facet pain followed by an ACDF has not been great for me.  The pain is less than before surgery but I can't help but feel I would have been better off waiting as I had "only" had the pain for about 6 months and while the C5-6 disc was badly degenerated, the height was still ok so there was still the potential for the disc to collapse to a more stable configuration.  

  • Kpspnap, thanks for answering my dumb ADRa question.  

    ElaineD, my doctors attributed a lot of the post surgical pain I had to inflammation.  Now anytime I discuss my never ending neuropathy like pain in my legs and feet, the word inflammation is tossed around over and over.  I wished my docs were more sure of themselves :)   

     I started taking a natural anti inflammatory supplement called cytoquel which my acupuncturist recommended I try around the same time I started a twice weekly acupuncture regimen. I ran out of it for a week and really noticed an uptick in my pain until I started again. May be placebo, and of course only try what your doctor approves. I have a bottle of turmeric at some point I’ll try in place of the other since it’s a little hard to find. Good luck with the non surgical battle!

  • I had four levels of lumbar fusion done 3.5 years ago. I am fully fused and structurally sound now. BUT..... I have been diagnosed with FBSS. I am in worse pain now than I was prior to the surgery. Different pain though. I feel like I fell on my tailbone really hard, and 24 hours seven days a week I feel like I am going to break in half. Can not sit fo more than 20 minutes at a time, or stand for ten or so minutes. I can never get comfortable unless I lie in the fetal position on my bed with a thick pillow between my legs. I had an SCS implanted, but it does not help this new pain much. If at all. I had to do the surgery because my surgeon said if I didn't that I would be in a wheelchair in the next year or so. If you can avoid fusion surgery you should. Just my opinion based on my personal experience. Hope whatever you choose to do works out the best for you. 


  • I had a fusion just about a year ago, it fixed the disc from not moving when I moved making it difficult to walk or stand for long. I continue to have arthritic pain daily but due to the fusion I have the ability to keep moving. I don't do alot of walking but go swimming every other week and find that beneficial . I had lost alot of muscle tone and hope to get that back . Just thankful I can still walk and stand for longer then 10 minutes. 

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