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Accepting the Unknown

I've never posted in a forum before - now I am spending all day on the floor trying to understand how I got here - trying not to isolate into this new experience. So I guess now is the right time to start!

I've managed back pain in varying degrees for over 30 years after a car accident at 15. The usual, physio, osteos, pain relief....the kids grew up, I had less pressure and physical demands and had a fairly manageable decade till recently.

Long story short I've been on the floor for the last 10 days with most likely a L5S1 herniated disc - I have a specialist apt new week for MRI and assessment. today I'm seeing a case manager to apply for loss of earnings cover - I have struggled to accept that I may not work for a while - I hate not knowing how long this will take - does anyone ever get any predictions from specialists about this? I read how important it is to stay mobile and start exercising back to recovery - BUT I CAN"T MOVE WITHOUT PAIN! Asking how long this acute pain lasts seem to be like asking 'how long is a piece of string'?!!

I live in New Zealand and am an independent, self employed midwife - we have a good health system here which covers your income to 80% of your earnings if you have an 'accidental injury'. I had already been approved for ACC (Accident compensation Cover) last year after a bend and twist that was causing me pain (covers visits to physio, osteo, acupunture). Until a couple of weeks ago, it just seemed more persistent than previous lumbar compression. I was doing lots of yoga, acupuncture and massage to move past it like I always do.....THEN the radicular pain started....this was new. And excrutiating.

I'm normally active, healthy and by nature an optimist. I've committed to yoga and meditation for many years for my health and wellbeing on all levels, and I've tailored my work to minimise stress and get the most out of life Throughout the last few weeks my GP has been wonderful - together we've tweaked pain medication to as good as it will get. Slow release morphine 20mg and fast acting 10mg, anti- inflamm, muscle relaxant, anti nausea ...etc.. I've got great support from family and friends but feel so dependent which I'm not so cool with. I thought that this initial acute phase would be passing (is about 10 days) by now so I try letting the pain meds ease off and the pain is back just as bad as before. All the usual - unable to sit, walk, drive...hurts when i sneeze, laugh or cough, I spend most of the day lying on the ground.

People keep telling me happy stories about their friend who was 'back to normal' in 3 weeks, asking me if the pain is better......I feel really pressured and want to tell them something good but its not panning out that way. My colleagues are desperate for me to be back working and I have no indicator of how this progresses. All I know is I just am doing one day at a time, trying to negotiate through the system and the pain to get what I need.....I just don't feel like my old self - its certainly given me an insight into what it means to be in constant pain and dependent on others for pretty much everything.

I hope to know more after seeing a specialist and having an MRI....I hear people say they were back at work and functioning in a few weeks - to a few months - to years.....do you ever know? I guess this varies dependent on the degree of injury and nerve entrapment/whether ruptured, sequestered or bulging....I'm overdosed on information. Being a health professional I'm reading research papers, medical texts etc.....I think I'm just making myself crazy. My guess is - I don't know and I cant do anything about it today or until I can't move around without being in agony....

Sorry such a long post - its a relief to write - I'm tired of unloading to my friends and family. They want to hear i'm doing better - but so far....nothing to report. I just have to accept the unknown:)

Lee Turner


  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 05/07/2013 - 3:42 PM
    Hello Lilith,
    Welcome to Spine Health. I'm sure that all of this information is alarming, confusing, and complicated. I'm sorry that you are experiencing sciatica at the moment. I've had it myself, many times over many years after a motorcycle accident, so I empathize with you immensely.
    As for how long it may last, no one really knows. I know based on my own experiences that I have had it last for a few days, to months on end, no matter what I did. Time was the only thing that really helped, along with using some of the topical pain relievers available in the pharmacies. A few times, I was given pain medications for a short time and while they helped some, other times it wasn't helpful at all.
    I hope that the MRI doesn't show a herniation or extrusion of the disc, or contact with a nerve root. But if it does , surgery is not always necessary. It really depends on where the disc is herniated, how large of one it is, and if it is in contact with either the thecal sac, or an exiting nerve root.
    Surgery may or may not be recommended, but if it is, try to get at least two other opinions from different surgeons before going ahead with the surgery. Surgery is not necessarily done to relieve pain but it is done to stop or prevent further damage to one of the nerves. Generally, depending on what the findings are on the MRI, the doctors want you to go with the lesser invasive routes- try a series of steroid injections to see if those will help ease the pain and inflammation , physical therapy to strengthen the core muscles, stretching and of course meds as needed to help ease the pain and inflammation before jumping to surgery.
    Anyway, if I can be of any help, just PM me and I just wanted to welcome you and see if I could address some of your concerns.
  • Kiki48KKiki48 Posts: 196
    edited 05/10/2013 - 4:13 PM
    Oh Lilith, I can relate to feeling the pressure to feel better from others. I don't know which is harder, feeling the pressure from ourselves or feeling the pressure from others. Either way it adds up to "oh crap". I'm glad New Zealand has a decent health care system but I know this must be tough for you. I don't have as much to offer as I'm new to learning about the spine part. I can, however let you know your not alone in feeling the pressure from others to feel better. Keep us updated :).
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