From Injury to A Diagnosis
Chronic back pain has plagued me for the past three years and I finally got the doctors to listen to me at the end of last year. I pushed for answers since I had met all my insurance deductibles and co-insurance. Thankfully, my doctors listened to my needs. I was finally able to get answers and found out exactly where my pain is coming from.
My initial injury occurred in 1998, I was rear ended on my way to a doctors appointment for my daughter. I went to the emergency room a few hours later, I wanted to play it safe and be checked out. They said everything was fine and sent me on my way with muscle relaxers and pain pills. Then days later the pain kicked in.
I then sought treatment at the chiropractors office. This made me very sore. This overall helped me some but it didn’t take away all my pain.
So I saw an orthopedic dr, who ordered an MRI. I never did see the MRI images myself, wish I did now. But the MRI didn’t show any damage to my discs. He gave a few cortisone injections and it seemed to help some. However, I still had a huge lump on my right side, which I am assuming is muscle damage or scar tissue, still not sure to this day but it is still there.
I was released from the doctors shortly after the birth of my son in 2000. He actually seemed to help me by relaxing the muscles in my back. However, I should have pushed the doctor then to explore my injury further. The car accident wasn’t my fault and I did reach a settlement but now stuck with all cost associated with my chronic back pain.
I still had some pain that was considered minor compared to the pain I have today. If I over did things I would have a flare up, and usually rest and relaxation relieved most of the pain.
Then in the summer of 2009, I had a major flare up that resulted in me having chronic back pain. I sought the help of my primary care physician because I was in a lot of pain. Plus I decided that it had been over 10 years since my initial injury and felt that I should check things out. My doctor recommended weight loss; however, its kinda of hard to exercise when you’re in a lot of pain. And the depression doesn’t help with weight loss efforts either. They prescribed me Lodine and ordered X-rays. The X-rays didn’t show much damaged to my lower back and it showed arthritis in my upper back.
I then started seeing a orthopedic doctor who then ordered an MRI. The MRI showed some degernative disc disease in my lower back and a small bulge at L5-S1. He also ordered some muscle relaxers to help stop the muscle spasms.
I started attending physical therapy because they felt I needed to work on strengthening my muscles in my abs and back. The exercises seemed to help a little bit. Then my physical therapist decided to try spinal decompression on my back. She laid me on a table, and it didn’t hurt. Then a few days later all hell broke loose. I was in a ton of pain and had to be put on more muscle relaxers and pain pills.
Then I was referred to a pain management doctor, who said that my MRI didn’t show significant damage and that it wasn’t that bad. He decided to deadened my nerves in my back. This was down in late 2009. I had each side done about two weeks apart. It was painful; however, it seemed to help once the muscle spasms where under control.
Once I got back into exercising and working on losing weight at the beginning of 2010, I begun to notice that my back pain was slowly creeping back up. However, this time the pain was more localized and different than I have felt before. I kept telling my doctor that I felt that there was something wrong with my disc. However, he seemed to shrug it off. Then he wanted to attempt cortisone shots. I received my first shot, and was also put on amitriptyline to help with the chronic pain. This stuff has some weird side effects, including cottonmouth. I didn’t take it for very long due to the side effects.
Then I was supposed to get my second cortisone shot; however, the doctors office made a mistake and I ended up not getting my shot because he didn’t have the staff there. I ended up finding another orthopedic doctor because I could no longer see the pain management dr and I felt that the other orthopedic doctor wasn’t listening either. So I switched to a new orthopedic doctor, a friend of the family was seeing a good back doctor, so I decided to give him a shot to figure out what was wrong with my back. He too didn’t see anything that shouted from the roof tops; however, he took the time to show me my MRI and showed me what he saw.
So I went to visit with him, and he felt that I should give the cortisone shots a chance and start on some anti-depressants, since the chronic pain was beginning to affect my overall well being. He referred me to the pain management doctor that he works closely with. I had scheduled a cortisone injection and lo and behold, I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t sure how my back would withhold during my pregnancy. Thankfully, I got through my pregnancy with very little discomfort. In fact, the hormones helped some. I just took things easy and didn’t overdo it, so that I wouldn’t be in a world of hurt since I couldn’t take a bunch of prescription pain pills or muscle relaxers. I delivered my baby boy on May 26th, 2011. I had a c-section, so I took the necessary time to heal. Then I decided that I needed to pursue my back issues so that I could find out what was causing my pain before my insurance deductibles reset Jan 2012.
The doctor sent me for a new MRI, just in case something changed. The MRI didn’t show much changes, but still showed the bulging disc two years later. He wanted me to try getting a few cortisone shots to see if that would help my pain. I had two shots that were two weeks apart, these didn’t help much, maybe 10% but not enough to make a difference. I also had a CT Scan on my back and then a CT Scan of my abdomen using the contrast. My doctor did this just to ensure that there wasn’t anything else in my abdominal cavity causing my pain. I finally convinced the doctors to perform a discogram. They agreed to do it. I am thankful that I had this procedure done.
Finally a Diagnosis
A discogram is a diagnostic procedure that is used to determine if there is something wrong with your disc. It is performed using a mild sedative, you are relaxed and awake enough to tell the dr what you are feeling. Then the doctor injects a contrast dye into your disc. If it hurts when he is doing this and mimics your pain, then this is the source of your pain. So he injected the dye into my L5-S1 disc, it hurt like you know what. It was my exact pain only inhanced a little bit. He decided to go ahead and check the disc above, to see if it felt the same. I could only feel pressure in this disc. After he was finished performing the test, I was then sent to get another CT scan of my back. The dye shows up on the CT scan in the discs. The CT scan showed a tear in my L5-S1 and that it was leaking fluid into my spinal column.
I expected to be in a lot of pain after my discogram, but I was able to move around without any limitations or problems. I was a little sore, but not much more than my day to day chronic pain.
I am thankful that I was able to get the discogram done while it was covered at 100%. The test was around $10,000 dollars, which is almost the same cost as my C-Section, which required a hospital stay.
The doctor did confirm my worst fear, I will have to undergo a back surgery in the near future. I can’t have it done right away, because I don’t have any time off from work. I can’t afford to be out of work for more than a few weeks. I should have invested in disability insurance; however, I have a pre-exisiting condition so it probably wouldn’t be covered anyhow. And the disabilities program run by the government is a joke. My dr said it takes most people two years to get help and you are often denied.
So if you suffer from chronic back pain, pressure your doctors for answers and don’t shrug it off like I did. My first doctor said I was YOUNG and that I would heal. And here I am 10 years later, facing a back surgery in the near future.