Hello, and thanks for reading my post. Putting my experiences in words is helpful for me, and I hope it is helpful for other chronic back pain sufferers.
I lived an active lifestyle growing up: tennis team, swim team, avid bike rider and something of an adventure seeker. I enrolled in university and rented a house in biking distance. I was an art major, and rode my bike balancing a heavy tackle box with supplies and large sketch pads to classes. About halfway to earning my degree, I designed and performed a performance art piece. I'd vaguely heard about correct ways to lift, but being young, strong and oblivious, I didn't think about back health. As part the piece I was chained to the leg of an incredibly heavy table, writhing to get free, and I twisted my body and lifted the table off the floor. I felt something indescribable in the lower half of my body, yet it was the end of the piece, I was adrenaline pumped, and I finished it off. After limping off set, the other students & instructor could see something was wrong and they sat me down to rest.
That's when it all began. I felt rested enough and tried to stand, but my legs would not move. I couldn't wiggle my toes. I tried to stand and collapsed to the floor in a heap. I was carried to the infirmary and given rest and medication. After a bit I could hardly move, so my aunt drove me home, where I stayed in bed a few days. I went to a specialist who said my problem was scoliosis. I was stunned. I had a friend with scoliosis and I couldn't understand how I could be in my 20's, never have it diagnosed, and have it brought on by sudden acute pain. Being young and brought up to trust doctors, I didn't seek a second opinion. In a small town, I didn't know where I'd get one anyway. I took hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin) often for 2 years, until I graduated I moved to Houston. After a few months on my job and enduring terrible pain, I went to a top specialist. I did not (and do not) have scoliosis. I had a herniated disc.
The doc performed a lumbar laminectomy in 1992 at L4-L5, and whilst working there, noticed I had spinal stenosis and cleaned out those 2 levels. I was relatively fine for 10 years. Occasionally taking hydrocodone. Then it came back, progressively worsening. I had several epidurals & facet blocks. At first they worked for 6-8 months, then lesser & lesser until a treatment only lasted a week or two. I had radio frequency ablation which made me feel worse. Failure. In 2009, living in Dayton, OH, I had spinal decompression by a doc in Columbus, OH. I turns out I have narrowing of the spinal cord in several places. The pain after the surgery lasted for 3 1/2 months, until I had facet block. another failure. I went to the top neurosurgeon in Dayton who showed me my images: osteophytes (bone spurs), spinal stenosis, my previously herniated disc bulging, enlarged ligaments in the spine putting pressure on the nerves...he declined to operate, stating he felt my acute problem was osteoarthritis of the hips.
Pain docs were turning me away, saying if injections didn't work, they couldn't (wouldn't) help me. No one would operate. My general physician wouldn't prescribe anything stronger than hydrocodone, which was useless. (I'd been prescribed Percocet off & on which helped somewhat) Out of desperation I drove 1.5 hours to a Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati to see a personal friend who is a rheumatologist. He prescribed several meds and referred me to a pain specialist he worked with whom he promised would not abandon me at the first or second procedure failure. That's what I needed to hear (and have). I underwent the practice's review process and was accepted as a patient. I met the doc, told him my story, and he was incredibly compassionate.
He immediately put me on a hefty dose of Percocet, promised not to abandon me - his group specializes in tough cases - and we discussed options. After undergoing a trial with a spinal cord stimulator (SCS), I decided to have it implanted permanently. I talked to people with SCS implants before hand and it seemed like a good fit. I'm glad I had the surgery. It does not replace pain medication, and they were up front about that, although it has decreased the frequency. If anyone wants to discuss SCS, feel free to contact me. It's made a big difference in my life.
So now I take Percocet (10/325) as needed, Tramadol on occasion, Robaxin (muscle relaxant), and I use my SCS. I have good days and bad days, but I can manage it. I walk almost daily and do home strengthening exercises. I used to participate in a water exercise class, and will be doing so again. I'm also in process of losing weight. Guys - that spare tire makes a big difference. When I was thinner, I had much less pain. After gaining, it's gotten worse. I also have a vibrating recliner, which is my happy spot.
So there's my story. I apologize I tend to be wordy. I'm on disability and have free time, so if you want to contact me, feel free. And if you're in pain and not getting adequate treatment, keep looking, keep trying! I had to go to a neighboring state to find the right doc, but it was worth it. This guy's a keeper.