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Hello everyone

Hello, Im new here, I posted previously on the low back pain forum but didnt get a response so I thought maybe I would introduce myself properly!
I am 29 years old mother of 2 ACTIVE boys 5 and 2. My diagnoses are L5 herniated, L3 &L4 bulged and annular tear at L3. My treatments have been chiro, pt, 2 spinal injections, massage, disc decompression. The medicAtions I am on are zoloft, vicodin, amitryptiline, I also dabble into vitamins and supplements that are supposed to be helpful.
My main concerns are that I feel so hopeless about my situation. ConstNt pain is so depressing on a daily baSis but when I think About the future it is overwhelming. I cant do the things I want to with my kids without taking the meds but I am also feeling bad about taking them. I do not wAnt to be dependent on drugs to be able to function. I have taken myself off of the vicodin recently so I could get an idea of where my pain levels were cause I have been on it for a year now. It was manageable but I was miserable.
I guess Im just looking to get some clarity, support, and advise. Hopefully I can find a little here. Thanks:)
Beth M


  • Is a spine specialist coordinating your care? When is your next appointment and what did the doctor who ordered the MRI say to you about treatment?
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I have seen 3 neurosurgeons. The first I saw prior to my MRI being done, x ray only. He put me on etodolac which is supposed to be for inflammation I guess and gave me a script for PT. this was in Nov, 2011. The second One I saw and he just reffered me to a Pain Clinic, this was after my MRI results showing the tear and 3 herniated discs. he did say he was concerned about the annular tear but that it was no operation he could do for it anyway. The pain clinic told me they only do the injections and do not prescribe pain meds so I got 2 spinal injections to help with the nerve pain and then they bounced me back to my PC who then referred me to the third NS who says that I need to exhaust all other resources for treatments before he would evaluate for surgery. He is supposedly one of the best in my area but very conservative. It was a year ago the last time I saw him.
    So my PC who is only a couple years older than me, Im almost 30, has been managing my pain. She is not great at finding me other treatment options though. I would like to do more PT but as much of an excuse as it sounds I cant get babysitters often enough.
    What I dont understand is that the NS that I have seen and the recent pain clinic doc that Ive seen are telling me that my report is not that bad! I am shocked at times when they say this and wonder if I am exaggerating the pain! I feel like the treat me like a drug seeker. I think that because I walk in there looking young and healthy or maybe they have seen people worse off.
    So thats where Im at now. I think I want to ask my PC to order me another MRI and get it done somewhere else because all of the care I have been under so far has been through one hospital and we have at least 2 others that accept my insurance in the area. Maybe a different report and different docs would get different results.
    Beth M
  • I'm read so many people's post on this forum similar to yours. People who are in pain, but all the "testing" comes back normal, or mild etc. so there doesn't seem to be a reason for the pain, or that the pain shouldn't be that bad (looking at the images). I can't imagine how frustrating that is. My husband use to tease me by saying, "When the shirt comes off, the pad comes out." meaning anytime I had issues with my back (even just the occasional flare up) once the doctor (didn't matter what kind) saw the scar and had me bend over, they automatically wanted to "throw drugs" at me. People who are in true chronic pain don't just want drugs... they want answers and healing. In fact, because I had this experience so many times I got to where I refused to go see doctors regarding my back because I felt like that was always the "first course of treatment". I realize that in some ways, I'm fortunate because I COULD get medicine if I choose too, but what I couldn't seem to get was "healing". I do suffer from chronic pain, but not nearly to the extent some people on this forum do. I have a career I love (I use to be a classroom science teacher, I did give that up as it became too physical doing labs all the time etc for my back so I now work out of our county office doing a variety of things, training teachers, etc.) I'm able to go out and enjoy my family (I also have two small kids!), and for the most part have a fairly normal life. For so many people on this forum that isn't true... and to the very "unlucky ones" with no "scary" imaging, they do just get bounced around it seems like. So all I am saying is, I ABSOLUTELY believe you suffering... I mean, what person would sign up for a forum like this if they were "faking it"? There are other people with similar issues like yourself (lots of pain, little to no real diagnosis, bounced from doctor to doctor). All I can say is, hang in there and keep searching, keep trying to get better, keep trying to find a doctor that doesn't just look at your images, but one that looks at your quality of life and what can be done to improve it. There are TONS of doctors just like this, but sometimes it just takes a lot of searching for them.

    I also understand the PT/Baby sitting issue. I've been having evening pains down my left leg... it makes me "miserable" in the evening, but it isn't like a scale 8/9 pain. I have a doctor's appointment on Friday and I almost hesitate to even bring it up. Clearly surgery is out as I do believe there is not more that can be done (and I'm so thankful because I don't think I could go through another one any time soon)... I've thought seriously about requesting more PT for this specific problem. I have had some PT in the past that did nothing, once made it worse, but I've also had experience with PT where I got great results. This would be my "preferred" method of treating my leg issue (I prefer to stay away from meds as much as possible), but just like you... baby sitting is a problem, I don't live near family, and by the time I pay for the PT I certainly can't pay for baby sitting on top of it. My husband (who is truly wonderful about everything I've been through) would figure it out if it meant working extremely late several days a week to come home so I could leave for PT, but I feel guilty about that because he ALREADY does 90% of all house chores now, etc. So I get it.

    Please do just hang in there. Feel free to PM me if you'd like. Don't give up trying to access treatment options. Approach every doctor's visit as positive and up beat as possible. Make sure a friend of family member goes with you, one that knows the pain you suffer and can help reiterate/remind you/speak of how they witness your pain etc. I truly believe doctors/nurses respond well to this. Its ok to smile, etc and still discuss how the chronic pain is affecting your life. In fact, I believe when patients are positive and upbeat it lets the doctor consider ruling out depression, which is related to back pain. (but I do want to add that if your pain is causing depression, you need to be honest about that as well so you are able to get appropriate treatment for depression as well as your back) And try to love on those babies as much as possible! Let them be your joy. Don't focus on what you "can't" do as a mom, it will drive you nuts... focus on what you can (read stories, tickle, decorate their lunch plates, crafts, nature walks when possible, etc.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • U really get it and that was so kind and encouraging! Thank you so much. I have an extremely supportive family so my main issue is finding good treatment options and I will read your post over and over to give me the motivation to do it, thanks again and I will keep the updAtes coming. You sound so positive and aware of your pain, that is where I want to be. I feel the same way, grateful that it is only as bad as it is now. My sister is 12 years older than me and permantly disabled due to almost exact same back problems as I have now! She had a surgery done for her herniation and things got drasticaly worse afterwards. So that is why I am so against the surgery option but its like what is left? If you dont do the surgery you live on pain meds and do the PT merry go round! Gonna give the doc a call tomorrow and see what I can get acomplished, thanks again!
    Beth M
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    Allmetal is a great support.
    Herniations , with time can return to almost normal-- as long as they are not extruded- meaning that a piece of the disc hasn't broken off. What the surgeons you have consulted with may have meant by the findings not being 'that bad' may have simply meant that in the scope of what they see in surgery , your results didn't have worse findings in the scope of what they have seen. Meaning that it doesn't sound like there is nerve damage or compression, or stenosis, causing cord damage, and those things are good news in the scope of all of the things that can and do show up on these scans. Not meaning to demean what you are experiencing, or the pain that you feel they sometimes in their attempts to reassure us, can sound like they aren't taking what we say seriously.
    You might want to look into interventional pain management- that particular branch of pain management is more adept at offering various types of injections, radio frequency ablation, and other procedures to help the patient manage the pain, as well as sending you to physical therapy or referring you to one who can teach you the proper lifting and movement techniques to help minimize any further damage to your back.
  • I do understand that my reports arent that bad, I know people who are worse off and know of conditions much worse than mine. I am grateful for that, but its kind of a catch 22! Not bad enough to do much about it but annoying enough to disrupt my life! I am really looking forward to getting positive support from the forums here and maybe one day I can help someone like me. As I mentioned earlier my sister is in really bad shape with her back and she is depressed and defeated. So unfortunately through some of her mishaps I am seeing what not to do and maybe through the advice and encouragement you guys offer I can better help her.
    I will definitly look into the interventional PM you suggested, I had never heard of it before. Im gonna hear back from my doc tomorrow after telling her that it has been a year with little improvement and I requested another MRI to see if anything is better or worse.
    That is a question for you guys, how often is normal to get MRIs? It seems they are only ordered on an as needed basis but it seems to me that if you have a chronic issue it would be beneficial to perform them annualy or at least more consistently to monitor the issues, any thoughts?
    Beth M
  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 06/11/2013 - 11:14 AM
    I only have had 2. One was in 1989 when I was first "diagnosed", they were worried I could have a brain or spine tumor... It was at a children's hospital (I was 9) and I overheard the tech explaining to my parents that our insurance covered "1 try" and if I moved, then it would have to stop and restart (not sure if they are still this way or not, this was a long time ago... I'm old...lol) and it would cost the $1k each "Restart".... Even at age 9 I knew that was a lot of money. They let my parents sit in the room with the machine in plastic lawn chairs but the machine was so loud I couldn't hear anything they said. I didn't move! lol, I remember that. Then I had another one in 2012, but due to the amount of stainless steal in my back, we couldn't get anything off the image. We were hoping that they would be able to see the bottom of my spine at least, but no luck... however since then they've chopped a lot of that stainless steal out, but they have never mentioned another MRI. I know they are still expensive and insurance approval can be an issue. I think they "usually" only order them if a condition has worsened. If you feel like you really need one, you can always discuss it with the doctor. And I'm sorry to hear about your sister, I hope you are able to help her and avoid her same issues (or at least the severity). I think Sandi's suggestion of the interventional pain management sounds like a great idea.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Thanks 4 ur feedback allmetal, 1k sure was a lot back then now those things cost 5-8k! Medical care is soo expensive. I often tell my sis its a fulltime job being disabled!
    The lawn chairs??? Theres one for the books! You must have been so scared though at 9 years old in that machine, and with the technology they had back then it prob seemed like u were in a spaceship!
    Beth M
  • The Christmas before we got a Nintendo (you know, the original....lol) and the machine made such strange noises I just pretended in my head I was playing Mario. The one I had in 2012 was one of those where you could lay your arms out... TOTALLY different experience....lol. And yes, health care is expensive....
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I have had far too many, along with far too many CT scans . Before my first surgery, I had three MRI's , two CT scans and one myelgram. It really depends on the situation and what exactly they believe the problem to be. I would do as Allmetal suggested and talk to your doctor. If the condition is not improving and there wasn't anything significant enough found on the first MRI, it might very well be worthwhile to see what if anything has changed and what the status of what was found is doing. It might help rule in or out some things.
  • My doc had mentioned a CT scan if insurance company wont approve the second MRI. What does a CT show that MRI wont? What is the mylogram for? Also I noticed a lot of posts with the size of the herniations, example 5mm, how do you get that info cause mine just say partial or complete.
    Beth M
  • A CT and a MRI are very different machines that can be placed on different settings for gathering images. I'm pretty sure you can "search" this site and it will explain both. You could google it but that would take forever to read all the info etc.
    As far as measurements go, sometimes the radiologist puts those in the report and sometimes not... if you give your doc the digital image they have an ungraded software that allows them to measure all kinds of things.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Mcbeth, Welcome to the forums.

    I have been told by doctors that it really takes very little compression or impingement on nerves to set off a very painful cascade of inflammation. So I am guessing that your doctor's pronouncement that your condition is "not that bad" should be interpreted in a surgical context. Or perhaps he was trying to reassure you. But a herniated disc is quite sufficient to cause real pain. When I talk to a surgeon, I try to keep in mind that they are highly skilled technicians trained to deal primarily with mechanical aspects of the patient's condition. What they do is quite amazing. But their focus and objectivity sometimes comes across as indifference. This has been my experience at least.

    You might seek out a pain management doctor who does both medications and interventional procedures. There may be a balance between the two that is optimum for you.

    At any rate, thanks for sharing and please keep us updated.


  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 06/17/2013 - 5:38 AM
    An MRI shows the soft tissues of the body-in the spine- nerve rootlets, ligaments, tendons, intervertebral discs, and vertebre, where a CT scan shows more detail in the boney structures of the spine.....some doctors choose to do both, since it gives a better overall picture of the spine, and the surrounding structures.
    A Myelogram is a test done where dye is injected into the spinal cord, and it shows if there is compression of either the cord itself or the nerve roots. It is similar to an epidural, but instead of injecting a numbing agent, they remove a bit of fluid and inject the dye in it's place.
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