I thought I joined this forum some time ago, but perhaps there was a member wipe or change of forum provider which caused my profile and posts to go away. I'm not really concerned, as signing up again was not really a problem.
My name is Matt. I am 33 years old with degenerative disk disease and herniated disks in T4 to T8. I suspect tomorrows MRI (Tuesday, Aug 8, 2009) will show the problem has worsened, if the pain spreading lower on my back is any indication.
I was in a car accident on July 9, 2003. I remember the clock on my car dash said it was 6:57 in the morning and I was on my way to physical training. We were probably going to run six miles, but instead I got to go to the hospital strapped to a board in a c-spine. They released me and I was later diagnosed from a Navy Doc with an upper thoracic sprain.
Over the next couple of years, the pain got steadily worse, but the treatment stayed the same. I was honorably discharged from the USMC in mid 2005 and still had back pain. A civilian doctor (as opposed to VA docs now) was the one noticing a lack of curvature in my upper spine. She also sent me for my first MRI for my back.
The MRI reading showed DDD in the T4 to T8 region with multiple "mild" disk herniation through the same area. At that point, referrals were made, and each one told me the same thing. Treat the pain, because I'll have it for the rest of my life. Surgery is not an option because the risks far outweighed the benefits (I recognized this, though the docs said it would not be good. They would have to crack my sternum, deflate a lung, move the lung, my heart and a major artery over just to see the spot to work on it). The area for an injection (I don't know what kind) was so reduced in my back, the specialists I went to said it would be risky as well. A misplaced needle could do anything from cause scar tissue to paralysis.
After a second opinion, I was placed on percocet and morphine with muscle relaxers to help control the spasms. I was on the morphine for almost three years straight, taking 4 to 5 percocets a day for break through, while usually taking 90mg of morphine a day (3 tabs @ 30mg). I say usually because sometimes I squeezed in an extra tab on really bad pain days.
When I recently lost my insurance, I went back to the VA to take care of my back pain. This started a big deal, because apparently the VA doesn't like vets to be on such doses of morphine, especially ones as young as me. They took me off the percocet cold turkey. A three week taper off the Morphine was all they would provide. I was put on Gabapentin in a gradually increasing dose until the dose I am taking now, 2 a day. I am not sure the mg right now.
I am three days off the morphine. I have been true to the wishes of the VA and have followed the taper program without cheating. My body is alive with pain, as all my other problems the pain meds were covering up are now very active. I feel like I have electric wires attached to some of my joints as I twitch involuntarily. My back sings like never before. I am on Prozac for the "clinical depression". I guess when I told the docs I found no joy in anything I do, some flags went up somewhere. I take Advil to the maximum the bottle will allow. I occasionally take acetimetaphin on top of it to try to help with the pain. They don't even take the edge off.
My friends whom are paramedics and EMT's are worried about me, justifiably so I guess. It is funny, my friends seem to care more than my family, as my brother told me yesterday to "get over it and just grow up". He says he's been through withdrawal symptoms "cold turkey" and he had a shoulder issue which gave him "chronic pain" for a few years. I wanted to slug him. I didn't, sad to say.
Anyway. That's my story. I guess its a work in progress. The only goal I have is the cessation of pain in my life. Perhaps the reduction of pain so I can function would be nice too. I'd prefer without the narcotics, as I like to be clear headed, but right now I would trade lucidity for relief. I am not going to take any narcotics now I am off my three week taper (today is the third day).
Well, I'm here, hurting, and very depressed about it all. I really don't know what to do, so I'm just doing what the VA tells me I should be doing.
See you in the forums,