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What do you do when nothing is working? *vent*

FarmgrrlFFarmgrrl Posts: 146
So I re-herniated at L4-L5 in September, I'm waiting for ESI #2 next week. I'm off NSAID's until then...my pain doc started me on Elavil this week, I've only taken two doses due to the side effects & my line of work. The first ESI seemed to have helped but my sciatica kicked back in Monday night. Saw the pain doc on Tuesday and she did some trigger points with accupuncture needles on my back, the side of my left thigh and the front of my left calf. It felt good for a couple of hours but the sciatica cranked back up and only got worse since then. I worked a whole 12 hour shift Wednesday night; Thursday night I had to leave early due to the pain. At work I can only take Tylenol for pain (it doesn't do anything) and I try to lie down in the break room a few times during the night when I can. I feel like a wimp and a failure right now. When I went through this last time (2 years ago), I managed to grit my teeth and deal with it until I had surgery. I already dealt with major liver surgery this summer. I'm sitting here trying to go to sleep because I have to work tonight and Sunday night but this leg pain is driving me nuts. I've taken Zanaflex (my doc has given me the liberty to take a max of 32mg/day) and Vicodin. They really just take the edge off if anything. I've done my palm presses all night, taken a hot epsom salt bath, laid on the heating pad. (I know my wonderful and patient boyfriend is tired of listening to me whine.) None of my tricks are working.

So, what do you do when nothing else works?

Thanks for reading,


  • TRY TO just lie down for a couple days to let things calm down if nothing else is working
  • Based upon your post, 12 hour shifts?!?

    I commend you on your bravery and dealing with it but you are not doing your body good IMHO. I do believe we need to stay active and do light PT with a gradual build up but it sounds like to me given what I read in your signature that this seems like working 12 hour shifts is a bit much.

    I would suggest you talk to your boss to allow you to take it a bit easier if you can afford it maybe a cut back in hours for a time and if the boss will also allow you to take 10 minutes breaks every two hours to do some gentle PT and unload the spine.

    The ESI are suppose to help with the inflammation and speed up the recovery process but if you do not give it a chance you will be in a circle of ups and downs where you will end up worse in the long term. IMHO your body is worth more than the cost of loosing some work.

    This is just my opinion but you should talk to your doc more about this and get his advice. your body needs your patience during this healing process. On the other hand you may want to speak with your doc that I can not loose work and would prefer to consider surgery sooner. I would not go that route but you may have no choice.

    Unfortunately there are no quick fixes or a pill that will make this go away quickly but if you do not give it the time and attention, it can get much worse.

  • Ice! I made it through some real tough times at work by having some gel-packs in the freezer and taking a break and lying down with some ice. Heat only seemed to exacerbate the problem!

  • sorry you are in so much pain... :( and nothing seems to help.. my favorite remedy, take your meds, a hot shower or bath, get into your softest pj's and turn on the radio.. just let the music take you over and for alittle while atleast you may find yourself away from the pain!! :D a cup of hot herb tea is good too!! =D> good luck! spiney hugssss, Jenny :)
  • I'm in the same boat as you so I totally sympathise. I don't have any better suggestions though. I'm taking Tramadol which makes the pain bearable, but then I'm not working. I resorted to chocolate and then nearly brained my hubby when he told me I mustn't eat chocolate as I'm trying to lose weight!!

    Wishing you strength. We will get through this
  • :D I second the option to use ICE! I had severe sciatica left leg back of thigh shooting into foot and also in hip and buttocks -- iced my buttocks 15 min on and off - really was better than heating pad and try to rest when you can.

    Good luck,

  • try ice instead of heat. I had 2 herniated disc and not once in the past 9 months has my NS had me do heat. She even sent a script over for physical therapy to do ice only. I guess if you think about it, it something is swollen you wouldn't put heat on it. What does your doctor recommend. I always got some relief laying a tanning bed, the heat from the bulbs felt good until I did the ice and it made a ton of better for a longer period of time. I ice 15-20 minutes in a hour when I need to.

    Good luck and I hope you do find something that does work for you!~
  • with C. When all else fails for me ice 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off does wonders. Especially when it comes to inflammation. I would definitely give up the heat and try the ice. Good luck and I hope that you feel better soon.
  • I'm going to chime in here with ice as well! I Love love love heat on my back... but I realized that putting heat on top of heat was probably not a good idea... ice really does take some of the leg pain away, helps with the back pain and, at work (where I can't take anything serious) makes it possible for me to concentrate on what I need to...

    I've got these really great ice packs (in flannel) that are thick/smushy, not hard like ice cubes, so they mold to my back better.

    I hope you get some relief soon! But, definitely if you can stand it, try some ice :)
  • I use my TENS unit on my thigh for 30 minutes-works wonders!
  • I managed to sneak a peek at your responses quickly while at work last night.

    I tried the ice idea and it worked pretty well. I am a nurse so we have handy disposable ice packs...I tucked one in the back of my pants and it felt good. I do have an ice pack (one of those thermal ones that you can freeze or throw in the microwave) but I left it at my mom's house after my first epidural a few weeks ago. I'm planning on picking it up this week after my epidural on Wednesday.

    Re: work...its kind of tricky in a way. My facility only offers 12 hour shifts. My schedule is (3) 12 hour night shifts a week. I could ask to cut down to 8 hour shifts but I worry (A) about the loss of income...I pretty much depleted my paid time off after my liver surgery this summer and (B) my boss...she's kind of a manipulative person when she wants to be. I would much rather work 4 nights a week for 8 hours at a time but its not always feasible. I could see her trying to force me to work 8 hours on the day shift which is much more physically & mentally draining. Sometimes they try to strong-arm us into working like that.

    The TENS unit is a good idea...my insurance rejected it 2 years ago but I wonder if it was related to the provider rather than the equipment itself. It provided a nice distraction for the few weeks I got to use it before I had to return it.

    I do have a DDS belt (it decompresses the disc space) that my doc prescribed two years ago. I tried it out last night at work and it provided me with some relief as well.

    Right now, I'm just gonna try to drift off to sleep and hope for the best. My second night in a row is always tough so I need to rest up!

    It's good to hear (even though I know) that I'm not alone in this. It's hard for other people to understand unless they've been through it themselves. One of my younger co-workers asked me last night "what's wrong with your leg if its your back that hurts?" as she saw me limping around a bit. How do you explain sciatica to someone who's never felt it before?

    Anyways, I'm off to bed...Thank you so much guys!

  • I got my TENS unit from my chiropractor as my insurance also refused to pay and it was only like 50.00 ( his cost ) Maybe see if you can order 1 yourself.

    Hope you get good sleep :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • I would think working as a nurse that your boss would be to first to understand your situation being in healthcare and try to make life a bit more bearable during this time. Just reading your post about your boss pisses me off a bit. I am a boss and someone else in my office has back issues and I understood she needed time to recover...

    I agree it is impossible for others to understand as until you have had it, no one understands nerve pain. This kind of goes back to your boss. Mainly because there is no easily visible signs like a swollen back or a cast they really can not get the visual signal. Cause probably on all other fronts you look much healthier than most.

    It is very difficult for them to really understand...

  • I work 12 hr shifts as well. I have found that I must do a lot of self care, in the days before and after my workdays in order to be ready and able to handle the concentrated work load. It is not easy!

    Keep working on finding things that allow you to get a few minutes of rest and reduction in the pain. It is a wonder, how a short break can re-charge my battery while I am at work.

    Consider that your body is a research lab, and you are now looking at how to operate it. For me - it has demanded that much attention.

    Cheers - C45
  • Farmgrrl said:

    It's good to hear (even though I know) that I'm not alone in this. It's hard for other people to understand unless they've been through it themselves. One of my younger co-workers asked me last night "what's wrong with your leg if its your back that hurts?" as she saw me limping around a bit. How do you explain sciatica to someone who's never felt it before?

    Hi Christine,

    My boss isn't too sympathetic either to my spiney happenings! I get really sad in a lot of the posts here because it seems to be all too common! As to your co-work's comment. Here's one for ya. My boss pulled his back out a while ago. I was outside having a smoke and he comes out. Shortly after he came out, he squats down and gets this grimace on his face and looks at me for sympathy. I looked at him and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, is your back hurting?" He nods his head. I just looked at him with disgust and said "Good, WELCOME to my world" and walked away! I know in the abstract, that was cold, but he was (and really still is) nothing but rude and uncaring to me being in constant pain. It actually felt good as I walked away! Nope, his short little "stiff/sore back" won no sympathy from me!

    I hope all gets better for you soon.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • but my boss had a fusion about 20 years ago! She knows exactly how it feels actually. She was sympathetic to me two years ago when we had a closer working relationship. When I came back from my micro-d, I quickly realized the stress from that position wasn't helping me recover very well, so I resigned and went back to regular staffing. Basically, I'm back to being treated like everyone else. Which is pretty much like crap. She very much has the corporate mentality plus we're dealing with the H1N1 flu right now so she's a bit preoccupied. She did actually ask me how I was feeling yesterday morning. It was pretty apparent to the other leadership that actually saw me on Monday morning; they both commented that I visibly looked like I was in pain and helped me finish my work so I could get home sooner. :) It was nice to get some help and have someone acknowledge that I didn't look well. It helped to validate my feelings in a way.

    Nonetheless, I paid dearly when I did finally make it home. I immediately took 2 tylenol & a Zanaflex as I usually do when I walk in the door. I made a mistake by trying to lay on the floor on my tummy with a pillow folded under my torso (sort of a modified/passive palm press). I accidentally rolled on my left side and it set off some horrible spasms in my back, butt and hip with the sciatic ache down my leg. The only thing that worked was to take a Vicodin (more Tylenol I didn't want in my body) and another Zanaflex after trying ice. I was literally in tears. It was the worst I've felt in the last 4 weeks. Woke up feeling pretty good so I guess it was the right move.

    All I can think right now is that this next injection on Wednesday couldn't come any sooner. I pretty much want to see how it goes and then I'll ask for reduced hours...I'm thinking I may also ask about seeing my neurosurgeon if it doesn't work just to see what he thinks. Feeling like I'm in limbo these days!
  • I really hope the ESI helps and I do believe a reduction in hours may give you some relief.

  • got a glimmer of hope from my pain doc that does my injections...I wish she was my primary pain doc; she seems awesome.

    Anyway, when she read the MRI report she said it DOES say I have both scar tissue and my recurrent herniation. I was quite disappointed to hear it but she feels I would be a great candidate for the RACZ procedure. Its very similar to an ESI but the insert a catheter in caudally, break up the scar tisse and then do the steroid injection. She basically explained to me that the steroids will follow the path of least resistance and that the scar tissue is preventing the steroids reaching the furthest areas of irritation. I'm got to ask that they reduce me to 8 hour shifts for at least the week after the next injection to at least let it take effect as much as possible; this would put me at 24 hrs/week; working only 3 days.

    I'm still looking around on the boards here to find anybody that's had it and what their results were. I'm thinking this is my last chance for real success before calling my neurosurgeon...I'm afraid to let this go too long and suffer more permanent nerve damage. Still have residual foot weakness from two years ago...I trip and stumble too much as it is.

    Also, she recommended I just cut my 25mg Elavil tabs in half to just take 12.5mg doses for a while and see how it works. Happy to be able to take my Aleve again!
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