So after four low-back surgeries since 2008, including two fusions and a revision operation, my pain is worse than ever and it seems like everyone's just giving up on me.
My surgeon said the x-rays for my latest surgery, a revision one year ago of an L3-L4 XLIF that resulted in non-union, showed solid fusion and no CT scan was necessary. He said any attempt to surgically correct new pathology (such as adjacent segment disease seen on MRI in April) would simply result in more pain because I'm basically now hyper-sensitive to any pain stimuli in my lower back due to the many surgeries. I also have nerve damage from my third surgery.
The surgeon said I should "keep fit" and stay active and stop taking opiates. Then in six months I would be as good as I'm ever going to get.
Last week, my pain management doctor reviewed my surgeon's notes and basically agreed. Exercise, he said in an hour-long lecture-type session, was the answer. No more surgeries. No more injections (for now), he said. Hit the gym! Be a jock!
Then this week my wife chimed in again with her reprise that my pain had become "the other woman" in our marriage and that I might as well be having an affair as my pain had taken over my life. She has complained bitterly for years now about how my pain has made her life miserable and that our children would be scarred for life because their father cannot take them camping or go to Disneyland etc.
I actually did "hit the gym" on Saturday, despite severe pain, and had a pretty good time although the pain quickly returned. (I had been going to the gym every day during two pain-free periods of three months each following my two most recent surgeries, so I am no stranger to fitness). I know, of course, that it will take months and probably years of physical fitness to get a body that is more resilient and less pain-ridden.
So what do I do now? As I write this I have severe pain, almost a 7 on the 1-10 scale, with pain radiating from around L2-L3 to my upper thighs on both sides. I've taken about 20 mg of hydromorphone today and that's it for now, plus about 1,200 mg of Neurontin. No relief from the meds.
I feel like going to the emergency room -- that's how bad the pain is. But I know they will just repeat what my doctors have said: there's no easy solution.
It should be noted that I had an epidural steroid injection in July at L2-L3, including the facet joints, and got one day of relief. But I should think that's diagnostic -- at least we know the pain generator is at L2-L3.
So what would you recommend? I should note that both my surgeon and my pain management doctor are very conservative about surgery. I myself don't ever want to go through another surgery. I really feel I need another MRI (my last one was in April, so fairly recently) because I'm desperate to see what's going on in my spine. Or am I just crazy to be worrying about my spine? Should I just ignore what's going on in my spine, as my doctors recommend, or should I keep pushing to get answers?