Thursday, September 4, 2014

No Pain, All Gain

I have had constant back pain going on 2 1/2 years now.  Actually, I've had low back pain since I was in my 30s with occasional flare-ups that I handled with ibuprofen and muscle relaxers.  But I've had consistent pain for the last couple of years. I first mentioned it on this blog sometime in 2012.  I can't find the blog but I specifically remember the pain had started before our 20th anniversary trip to St. Martin and I was hoping that the rest I generally take during vacation would help it.  It did not.

When we got back from St. Martin, we invested in a new mattress for our bed, thinking that maybe ours was so old something was not supporting me enough and hoping that would help.  It did not.

Additionally in summer of 2012 I decided to work with a kinesiologist because my foot was hurting along with my back.  He in turn sent me to a chiropractor who took an x-ray and did some treatments hoping it would help.  It did not.  In fact, as far as my foot went, I had been misdiagnosed and actually had 2 fractures and a torn plantar tendon.  Sigh.

Then in January of 2013 at my annual physical, I complained spoke to the doctor again about the pain. Her decision at that time was to take an x-ray then send me for physical therapy as she thought I had done something to my back by altering my stride when I had fractured my foot and kept running in 2012.  At that same time, I had such a bad case of bronchitis she put me on a course of prednisone and interestingly enough, my back pain went away. I did $500 worth of PT all to no avail - the pain lingered on.

In January of 2014 I told my doctor I was still experiencing the pain.  Her response was that it had to be "a touch of arthritis" and she prescribed an antiinflammatory.  It did not work.  Well, I guess it worked a little because the pain felt duller but still wasn't gone.  But I don't like taking pills when they are not working, you know?

Basically since then, I've just been putting up with it.  Each night I go to sleep and wake up 4-5 hours later with such an ache in the right side about an inch below my lower back.  Then I toss and turn until the alarm goes off and I  get up, have coffee, try to stretch it out then go out and run.  And yes, I do feel a bit perpetually exhausted tired.

Finally in the spring of 2014 I put it out on Facebook that I was looking for some help because I couldn't find anyone locally to help me.  The physical therapist who has treated me for various running issues over the years (not the one who did my back in 2013) private messaged me and gave me a recommendation for an orthopedic group about an hour away from where I live.  I had to wait until July to call because I needed some medical benefits to kick in but I figured what was a couple more months.

I checked them out/checked out my insurance and found a doctor there who specializes in non-surgical intervention.  I had an appointment with him the last week of August.  As I patiently explained all the things I've tried and where the pain was, he sat there nodding his head.  Then he had me lay back and he put me through a bunch of rotations/manipulations.  Then he said, "I think I know what the problem might be, let's get an x-ray."  Oh for goodness sake!  Well, at least the x-ray was done right there and didn't require another appointment.

When I got back to the exam room and he came back in, I was again pleasantly surprised by modern technology as he began to show me my x-rays on an iPad!

As he explained it, I have "layers of pain."  The throbbing that is waking me up every single night for the last 2 years is being caused by my Sacroilliac Joint, which has developed severe inflammation.  That could be being caused by arthritis, or it could be caused by hyper mobility.

Then he showed me the next x-ray which shows I have Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease, i.e. between L4-L5 I have no disc.  He was pretty dismayed that I'd had x-rays done for the last two years and no one mentioned this as it is not something that happens overnight, unless there is severe trauma like from a car accident.

He suggested we treat the layers of pain, starting with the easiest first:  getting a steroid shot in my SI Joint. If that removes most of my pain we'll leave it be.  If it doesn't then I will need to go back and have an epidural procedure for the disc.

I really liked this doctor, appreciated his knowledge and bedside manner, and most of all his conservative approach.  He told me by all means I should keep exercising and just to modify anything that felt like it was making my back hurt.

I am getting the first treatment today and you can bet I have spent the last week during my tossing and turning hours dreaming of tonight, when I hope for the first time in 2 1/2 years, I'll sleep through the night with no pain.

15 comments:

  1. SENDING YOU ALL MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.

    xoxoxox

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  2. I'm so sorry that you have been living with such significant pain, Helen. You have been so brave as you have dealt with it and the medical community. I'm glad you're finally getting to the bottom of it, and may healing taking place very soon.

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    1. I have to admit I was a little disappointed when they told me it could take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks for the injection to kick in. I'm hoping for the shorter amount of time, of course. Believe me, I am just glad to have a proper diagnosis!

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  3. Wishing you nothing but the best. If this doesn't work (I'm sure it will though, since he's competent enough to give you an actual diagnosis), you might consider a 'functional medicine' doctor. They have their MD's, but specialize in more 'new age' types of treatment...looking for causes instead of drug cures. Just a thought if this persists longer... :)

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    1. Kinesiologists actually are functional MD's. That's exactly what he did - try to figure out the cause - which he never did. After 2 1/2 years of this, I've had enough and was ready for some out and out drugs and medical intervention!

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  4. Helen - I am so, so glad you have someone finally listening to you about your back pain! How exciting to have some answers and a plan!

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    1. Thank you Lori! I know you've had some back issues yourself and anyone who has, understands what a relief it is just to get an answer!

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  5. I wish nothing more for you than a good night sleep! Living with pain and not knowing what it is every day is exhausting. I'm so happy for you you found a doctor who found the problem and can help you now. You've been in pain long enough.

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    1. You are right, chronic pain is exhausting! I think once I have a few nights good sleep under my belt, I realize just how much so!

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  6. Yep, fellow back pain person here. Its just tiring to deal with it all the time.

    It sure seems like the steroid will work, since the lower dose you had before worked.

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    1. I'm not going to "deal" with it any longer. I am going to be as assertive medically as I was with everything else I tried. I'm done and want to feel better!

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  7. I hope I hope you got a good nights sleep! Nothing worse than waking up in pain. I've been waking up to shoulder pain in the morning, but it doesn't wake me up, just takes a while to get the kinks out after I get up. Happy Friday!

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  8. Yay to actually finding a doctor that has a diagnosis and solution! I can't wait to hear how it went!!!

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  9. So hopeful that you get the relief you deserve!!!!!! Keep us posted!

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