My back history is long and sordid, and many of you have probably been through the same thing, so I'm hoping that someone has some encouraging words for me.
I'm a nurse, and a little more than 2 years ago, I destroyed my back lifting a really heavy patient. I'd already been diagnosed with DDD in my early twenties, and often had flare-ups and knew how to deal with them. If they were too bad, I'd go for epidural steroid injections, which usually seemed to help a lot. On this particular day, I knew I had done a good job of messing up my back, but I was due to be off work for several days, so I planned to just go to bed, do my back routine, and hopefully would be back on my feet in a few days. Except that never happened. Instead, the "flare-up" continued to get much worse over the following days and weeks. Both legs had pain, weakness, and numbness, but I also had a new symptom...I had begun having urinary incontinence, which I'd never had before. My neurosurgeon sent me for MRI and he told me that I'd "really done it this time." I had herniated the disk bilaterally and he said it was one of the worst herniations he'd seen and it was time for surgery.
I had the bilateral laminectomy at L5-S1 in August 2008. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of my problems as I had complication after complication and then ultimately wound up with a deep spinal infection. I had to get a PICC line and have IV antibiotics for 4 mths the first go round and then another 3 months a year later when the infection returned. I finished that last round of antibiotics in May of last year. In the process of all that, my spine became more and more unstable, so my neurosurgeon told me that I'd have to have a fusion, but that I had to be "clean" (meaning no infection) for at least 6 mths.
I finally had my fusion in November. After about 5-6 weeks, I really felt like my pain was better. I actually went out Christmas shopping with my boyfriend (my first outing since surgery) and did ok. I mean I was walking pretty slow and I wasn't able to shop long, but I was feeling really optimistic. Two days before Christmas, I went back for my post-op visit with my neurosurgeon. I told him that I was feeling really good and he was SO happy to hear that. He's a doctor who's very passionate about what he does and he just doesn't usually have complications with his patients. So I always felt like he saw me as his own personal failure because I did so bad after the first surgery and had so many problems. When I told him how good I was doing in December, I could tell he was absolutely thrilled!
At that appt, I asked him to take me off the Mscontin 30 mg, that I was taking twice a day. (also taking Norco 4x daily and Soma 3x daily) He was hesitant to take me off of it, but I insisted. After all....I felt great...no need to be taking morphine any longer than necessary. He suggested that we just cut the dose in half instead and if I didn't need it, I could just not take it. So I started taking the Mscontin 15mg but only once per day and my pain was bad again. But I refused to go back to the higher dose because I really thought I was on the mend and didn't need it anymore.
Well I went back to work this week. I no longer take care of patients because I just can't be on my feet for 12 hours a day and do all the physical activity that's required of hospital nurses. So I have a desk job now and figured it would be no problem going back to work.
My pain has been SO bad this week! The muscle spasms I'm having are brutal and take my breath away when they hit. Today was so bad that I literally couldn't get any work done because I kept having to get up and walk about every 15 minutes when the spasms would hit. I was ready to try and start weaning myself off the pain meds by now. I'm 3 mths post-op....I SHOULD be able to do that right? I realize now that the reason I felt so good at my first post-op visit is BECAUSE I was on the higher dose of Mscontin. I had my 2nd post-op visit last week and I told my doc about the increase in my SI joint pain, so he sent me to an ortho doc, who injected both of them this past Friday. I am seeing a small improvement now, but honestly, this pain, and these spasms I'm having while trying to work all day, are awful.
Now I'm beginning to panic a bit wondering if I'll ever be pain free. Will I ever be able to stop taking all these meds and have my life back? I know I'll need to wean off of them since I've been taking the norco for 2 years now...since my first surgery. And about every other week, I'll take a day where I can go without my pain meds so that I can gauge where my pain is. And so far, I'm not ready to come off of them. There's no way. If I stopped taking everything, I'd basically have to lay in bed all day and not move. That's no way to live.
For all you veterans out there....does the pain ever go completely away? Or is your back always screwed up once it's screwed up?
(sorry for such a long post)