Long time reader, first time caller, so to speak. I’ve had a few really bad years, and have read parts of this site in my efforts to climb back to some semblance of a normal life. I finally feel that I’ve reached a point where I can type about what happened to me rationally, thought I can’t promise that it will read that way.
I am a 37 year old woman. In spring 2008, when I was 35, a man tackled me, for lack of a better word. He was drunk, out of control, and acting like a fool. He slammed me down on my head and then landed on top of me, crushing my back. I thought the pain in my shoulder that commenced shortly after was bursitis. It hurt so badly that I couldn’t move. I was taking Advil by the fist-full to manage the pain.
Shortly after that, I started wondering why it was taking so long for a pulled glut muscle to heal and what I was doing that seemed to make it get worse, with pain traveling down my leg.
I went to see an orthopedic surgeon regarding my glut in August 2008. After x-rays, a steroid pack that had no effect and an MRI, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at L5/S1. At first, the verdict was no surgery. I took SOMA muscle relaxer at night, Daypro anti-inflammatory to get through the day, Vicodin when the pain got just too crazy, and had three spinal epidural/steroid shots. By February 2009, I realized that I was starting to feel a bit better, so I tried to take myself off the Daypro and make do with Advil since all of the drugs I was on had begun to affect my work performance.
Almost immediately, my arm began to feel like it was going to fall off. The radiating pain was excruciating. My hand started with maddening prickles before I lost feeling in my fingers altogether. I called my doctor, I was sent for another MRI, and sure enough – two severely herniated discs in my neck, which had been masked by all of the drugs I was taking for my back.
So, this man who decked me popped out three discs in my spine – two in my neck and one in my lumbar. I have never had spine issues in the past, no signs of disc degenerative disease. All of this because a man was a fool.
The orthopedic surgeon that I had been seeing referred me to a specialist in spine surgery. He told me, gravely, that surgery on my cervical spine was not elective. My disc at 6-7 was impinging on my spinal cord so severely that if I fell or was hit or had an accident, I could die. Several of the slices of my MRI were completely black where there should have been some image of white reflecting my spinal cord. The decision was made to fuse 5-6 as well, as that disc was also severely herniated and would get worse once 6-7 was locked into place. Surgery was scheduled early as possible in March 2009.
It went well, as has the recovery. A little more than a year out, and I’m pleased with the results. Every now and then, I’ll turn my neck in a way that it just doesn’t turn any more, and sparks of pain will shoot. But the overall pain relief is amazing and I’m grateful to my surgeon for doing such a great job.
The hardest part of the neck surgery itself may have been the days before. My surgeon required that I go off all NSAIDs for 10 days prior to my surgery date. That was 10 days of not only my arm feeling like it was going to fall off, but my lumbar and leg being in agony as well. In fact, my lumbar and leg probably hurt more than my arm as I went in for surgery on my cervical spine.
The same surgeon looked at my MRIs for my lumbar and sent me for new ones. He reached a different conclusion than the first orthopedic surgeon that I saw. He said that my L5/S1 wasn’t herniated – it was completely blown out. A flat tire, and the only way that I was going to find relief for it without taking heavy drugs daily was surgery. I sought another opinion, which confirmed my spine surgeon’s flat tire diagnosis. At this point, my work situation was getting crazy and I was getting a lot of push back about my work performance and schedule, missed time, etc. The decision was made to have the lumbar surgery as soon as possible so that I could just label 2009 as my really bad year work-wise and try to move forward. My surgeon also advised that the pain would just get worse as time passed, as well as the risk of residual nerve pain post-op.
So, in October 2009, seven months after my cervical spine surgery, I went in for fusion surgery on my L5/S1. He went in through my back, used plastic cages and titanium instrumentation. Recovery from this surgery has been considerably slower. I’m seven months out. Some days I feel absolutely great. Others, I am scared out of my mind because something hurts or doesn’t feel right. In fact, as I type this, I am praying that the pain I feel in my butt is a pulled glut from physical therapy/cardio and not something that’s caused swelling to increase around the surgical zone, or god forbid, another disc issue. My doctor’s advice has been that things will hurt as I start to get active again, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with the surgical site or another disc. If the pain goes away after a little while, it’s nothing to worry about. If it persists, he’ll send me for another MRI to see what’s going on.
After all of the x-rays and MRIs (four so far) that I’ve had, I’m amazed that I don’t glow in the dark.
I’m hoping that as I continue to get back into shape and lose the weight that I’ve put on from basically being inactive after the guy decked me in April 2008, and really out of commission for 6 months of last year recovering from theses surgeries, that the bad days will stop, or at least, I’ll be less paranoid about them. My biggest fear is that with fusions in both my neck and my lumbar, the reduced flexibility of my spine and the way in which it absorbs pressure (or doesn’t) will result in another disc herniation/blow out, and another surgery. That said, all in all, both surgeries were worth it. No regrets on that front. Trying to stay positive, not get too angry, and keep moving forward – which again, is something for which I have good and bad days.
So that’s my story. I guess I felt like I should share it since I’ve read so many of yours while dealing with my issues over the last several years. Thanks.