20 y/o with Spondylolisthesis- Fusion?

Hi all- this post may be long but I want to start from the beginning so you can get the whole story.

When I was 15 years old I bent over wrong and suffered excruciating back pain and nerve pain down my leg. Since that episode 5 years ago, I've had back pain on and off. However, around April of this year, I experienced a flare up that just wouldn't go away. I'm a college student so I'm constantly sitting in class, sitting to study, sitting to drive, and walking around campus. Typically sitting for prolonged periods of time or exercising brings the pain back. I tried icing it, heating it, and my normal stretches that usually alleviate the pain in my lower back, but it still persisted. I kept pushing through the pain and ended up taking a summer job where half of the days I was on my feet all day attending to kids, and the other half I was sitting at a desk for hours at a time. The pain would be excruciating after a day sitting at the desk.

Finally, in the middle of summer, I went to physical therapy for my pain. They assessed me and said there was no need for an MRI because it was obvious that anterior pelvic tilt was causing my pain. After 3 weeks and no improvement, I was fed up and demanded a MRI. I could barely walk because of the pain in my lower back accompanied by muscle spasms. Sitting and driving was unbearable. I also would get a shooting pain down my left leg to my thigh and weakness in my right thigh upon standing for a while.

The MRI  showed spondylolisthesis with pars defects of S1, a possible herniation between L4/L5, a buldging disc L3/L4, disc degeneration L3-S1, bone growth, and a few cysts. The orthopedic surgeon told me the only option is to do a L4-S1 fusion from the front and back with screws. He gave me a steroid pack and gabapentin 300mg per day. I was also given a velcro back brace and celebrex 200 mg 2x per day.

I started physical therapy a few weeks after my visit and I was seeing a lot of improvement. I was able to walk around the house (with the brace) with minimal pain and the nerve pain in my legs was decreasing. Then one day, I was standing for a few hours while company was over at my house, and that night I was in excruciating pain in my back and both legs felt so weak (like I had the flu x10). I ended up taking percocet because the pain was unbearable. After that flare up, I regressed a bit. I was feeling terrible weakness in my right thigh, even when laying down. A few weeks after that flare up, I had another one almost identical after lifting a box (I didn't even bend). 

Since my initial flare up, the back pain has decreased, but the thigh weakness just won't go away. I cry almost everyday because I just can't shake the pain and I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this. I dropped out of school for the semester and I definitely won't be able to go next semester. I can't drive, I can't sit, even when I'm a passenger in a car I recline the seat all the way back. I spend most of my day laying on my back with my knees bent and walk around for a few minutes every hour. These years should be the best of my life, and instead I feel like I'm wasting away on my bed. I know eventually I will have to have the fusion-- but I really want to try to avoid it as long as possible. I know it's risky and because of the degeneration of L3/4, I may find myself in the same situation years down the line. I guess I just want to know if there is anyone out there who has spondylolisthesis and manages it, or has had the fusion and is living a normal, pain-free life. I really, really don't want to hear about anyone who had a botched fusion and lives in excruciating pain-- I've read a few posts like that and it just makes me feel hopeless and scared. 

Also, I just scheduled an appointment with an acupuncturist (even though I can't lay on my stomach, so that should be interesting), and an pain management specialist. I hate the thought of going to a chiropractor but if I don't see more improvement in the next month I'll have to give in. 

Sorry if this is too long or feels like I'm complaining, I am just desperate for any help/advice I can get. Thank you.


  • gravytrain2005ggravytrain2005 Posts: 1
    edited 12/22/2016 - 3:54 AM
    My first back ache i remember was in elementary school wrestling.. started working concrete, mostly residential wall.. odds n end construction till i joined  my local ironworkers union.. back pain thru all of it.. constantly.. thought every had back pain so suck it up... My dad had broken his back n had 3 vertabre fused in 89... watched him suffer n get hooked on oxys n ruin his marriage n lucky he is alive after that addiction. They went back in and replaced his stainless with titanium somtime between 2008-10. He it seem to help him 100 percent.. He still has pain but off those damn pills..  my ma has had 2 back surgeries. first was mid 90s n 2nd was a 2 or 3 disc fusion in like2012. She was the one that made feel comfortable about my surgery.  Said it was 1000 times better than b4. Atleast after her second.. but i finally went to chiropractor after .. idk 25 years of pain that i got used to but my rt leg was burning n foot was almost numb.. took brake for it and got fired from the bridge deck.. thank the lord.. it was 5 weeks of tying rebar lower than my feet. Idk how guys can do it for 30-40 years... but anyway my numbness was gone by next day so i didnt go to chiropractor till the next job a month later. (Rebar but not a bridge deck atleast) made it 2 weeks n then woke up with more than normal sore back.. 2 hours into the day i couldn't stand up straight anymore n had 2 or 3 visual vertabre sticking out someone said.. i said they been like that since i remember. But chiro took xrays n said go to doc n im goin to need surgery... stage 3 spondylolistheiss.. wtf is that right.. i final went to er that sum for pain n i took them my x rays .. the ER gave me steriods n percs and  said degenerative disk.. spinal stenosis. Herniated disk and spondylolistheiss...   got referred to aspirus spine n neuro sciences.. no appointment though. Called once.. it was week n half later i finally got in they said same thing probaly but haven to wait for insurance to approve MRI.. another week and was feelin lil better and could almost walk upright so helped change a bearing in my cuz's Harley for her.. easy job.. just a Lil one that hold clutch fork up.. idk maybe hour or two of kneeling by the bike and i felt my left leg shoot down with pain.. i kinda started freaking out cause by time  we got on road both feet numb with legs startin... got to er n could barely feel my ass. I got my MRI after They had to give 2 shit of dolotin to get me to lay flat enough for it.after the mri and a week of waiting for appt . .. seen surgeon and he recommended 3 verts maybe 4. I was getting better again n he said i could wait but will need it sooner than later because im still young (33) i would heal better now. I had been talkin wit ma n dad since chiropractor said it so i had thought it over previously n had to do it ASAP i figured because my insurance would run out if i cant work, well i was super scared of losing feelin in a certain area after my ass webt numb previous... had like 8 hour surgery 11-3..they fused 4 vertabre n put two (idk looks like coils) same depth as screws on my bottom verts.... its been almost 7 weeks n cant believe how good i feel .. . After the swelling finally went down around week 5  n could finally ley on it without pain.. they have u up walking day 1 n I've done not alot but sum every day since... no therapy... but i was feelin good enough to shovel 2 inches of snow  day b4 6week xray.. it was a lil much n i need anouther script but only am eating 1 or 2 acetaminophen a day .. im really liking my resaults.. idk the year b4 my other cuz herniated his disk  bending under tree huntin... couldnt walk out... drug himself out n diff docs said he needed a fusion too.. he didnt do it but does regular streches  n bought an inversion table and has very few problems with his back.. not diagnosed spondylolistheiss though.. .. sooo idk didf for everyone.  Diff docs but it seems like its come along ways along from what i remember of my dads in 89 90..  this story almost is as long hope it helps ya..   
    The new x rays r gruesome kinda. How do i post them
    Best of luck to ya
     i got my bill for 173,561.56
    Total paid by paid by plan 88,920.2p
    But it says my total financial responsibility is 0.00 so guess my insurance isnt soo bad after all..  but it is my 2nd biggest medical bill but im am very happy with my surgon and his MD P n nurse... 

    Spine-health rules state....
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

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