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Are Pain Meds Making Me Worse?


I am a new user to this forum, reading other members posts has been very useful and somewhat comforting that I am not alone with my chronic pain, I sympathize immensly with all. I have degenerative disc disease, my lower three lumbar discs are affected and I am always in some degree of pain. I have had my symptoms now since January 2012, so just over 2.5 years. During this time I have had nerve block injections, disc block injections, an epidural and have tried loads of pills - codeine (over the counter), valium, tramodol, high strength anti-inflammatories and other forms of sleeping pills to try and "knock" me out at night and get a decent sleep.

My neursurgeon (2 different one's, both concur) and pain specialist have advised that surgery is not an option, there is no evidence it will actually help and could infact make it worse, so that option is off the table. My pain specialist has also now said that continual disc block injections are not an option so I am not able to go back for more.

Strong anti-inflammatories were of some use, however my stomach is no longer coping very well with them. I was recently prescribed another drug which would allow my stomach to handle the anti-inflammatory and they really knocked me for six - stomach problems, panic attacks, anxiety, so I have now given up on them also. I have also tried the suppository anti-inflammatory without success.

I am 40 years old and quite fit, I excercise daily (mostly) unless I am too busy to fit it in. I have found though that recently the concoction of pain meds and sleeping pills are really making my whole wellbeing feel worse. Whilst the pain meds do reduce the pain, it never goes away, the sleeping pills help me sleep, but make getting up in the morning and facing a new day incredibly hard sometimes. I suppose I am definately feeling depressed at the moment to, I don't need a diagnosis for that, as I come to the realisation that this is it, it's will not get better......

So, how to live with this long term is the question. 4 days ago I stopped all the pain meds and sleeping pills completely. I don't know if I will last but I will give it a go for as long as I can. My mind already feels so much better and with that I feel like I can cope a little better with the pain. The most recent drug that I took caused panic attacks and anxiety - I really feel like the back pain was a lot better than that, at least I know what I am dealing with when my mind is healthy, drug induced panic and anxiety is terrifying. I also found that the pain meds were starting to cause depression and bout's of overwhelming hopelessness - given that the back pain was still there whilst on the meds, just slightly relieved then I don't think these cures are really offering any help at all because overall I am feeling much worse on a whole.

My surgeon told me that his scan's actually look worse than mine and yet he is not in any pain. The pain is actually caused by the inflammation so I am going to try anything natural I can to try and reduce the inflammation without the drugs. I have gone to sleep the past two nights with ice on my back, it has helped. I have also found that without the sleeping pills at night I don't need 5 coffee's in the morning to get me going. I was finding that I was sticking to coffee as my go to drink to try and energise and counteract the sleeping pills and completley lacked adequate water during the day, so I am sure that replacing the dehydrating coffee with water will help the discs somewhat.

So I am starting an anti-inflammatory diet this week. I will monitor how the pain levels are and see if life without the meds is actually liveable and better or liveable and worse.

Good luck to all.



  • Just a suggestion, if your doctor approves...I have been taking chelated magnesium supplements for almost a year now due to foraminal stenosis, and resulting inflammation of my nerves. It has made a huge difference in the pain and tingling in my arm. Pretty safe - I get it at the grocery store in the vitamin section, but I've heard the stuff at the vitamin shops is even better. Might be worth a try.
  • Thanks for your replies, it really means a lot. Like most people on here would probably agree it's a lot easier talking to people who have similar issues. I actually bought some Magnesium yesterday, not sure about the chelated part, I havent heard of that but I will check it out, I also bought some Tumeric tablets (curcumin) 3 a day of each for the next month and I will see if there are any changes, been sugar free a couple of day's now also (would love a chocolate bar right now!). So Im into 5 day's without anti-inflammatories, the counter acting pill for the anti-infammatory and sleeping pills - my back is sore, it always will be, but I would say right now at the moment I am probably sitting on a 7, if I had taken the pills my back would be probably around a 4. BUT, my stomach feels so much better, my reflux has definately improved, I don't feel so foggy at work and am able to concentrate better and my outlook already feels much brighter. Here's hoping the pain doesnt get the better of me......So I would say, on a whole I feel better although the back pain is worse.
  • I have taken non-chelated magnesium and it worked fine. Good luck and keep us posted (wonder what chelated means...)
  • Opiates do not get rid of the pain entirely, at least not after being on them for a few weeks or more. The constipation may have made my pain worse by putting pressure on my lower spine, not sure about that, but it is just a hunch. Whatever the deal is, pain and misery are two sides of the same coin, and if you are less miserable without the meds, then that is the way to go.

    I know what it is like to have half a dozen MRI's that all say things like "mild degeneration", and to hear that everyone's back has that (and...they don't feel pain). It is simply not helpful. If you can find ways to cope without pain meds, or sleep meds, then I'm very happy for you! It is hard not to want a way out when things get rough, so you have to really be a fighter.

    The worst thing about meds is that what goes up, must come down. So if you wind up taking a large dose, then coming off the meds will not only bring your pain back to full strength, but will add a whole host of other problems that you don't need to deal with. We all have to do what we have to do to cope, and I wish you the best of luck in finding your own way of coping.
  • For me it's always been a balancing act. Antiinflamatory diet & supplements help but not as much as prescription meds so I don't take the pills when I can get away with it. I've tried very high doses of narcotics & I've tried none. The 'sweet spot' for me is somewhere in the middle. For the last few years I've changed medication rather than increasing dose & that seems to be working for me. I remember being told "You're too young for narcotic therapy. Your doses will keep increasing & in the end there will be nowhere to go!". That hasn't been true for me. I'm actually taking less than I was 4 years ago.

    The one thing I've learnt about medications (for me) is its not about finding the right one. It's about finding the right blend & regularly tweaking it. Muscle relaxant doesn't seem to be working so well anymore..change it! Maybe a different narcotic will work better with this muscle relaxant...try it! I'm not frustrated (as much) anymore when things need to change. I've realized that for me frequent change is necessary.

    I change diet, suppliments, exercise, meds, procedures. My spine is constantly changing so it's logical that the way I deal with it should. As they say 'it's a pain journey not a destination'.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • maverbeemmaverbee Posts: 1
    edited 09/01/2014 - 4:24 AM
    The information is very interesting. You make me understand. You helped me so much. Thanks for sharing this.
  • Ok, 10 days in........ it's been ten days since I have touched an anti-inflammatory (tablet form) or any form of pain medication. Of course the pain is still there, but I feel so much better. My energy levels at the moment are terrible due to giving up coffee and sugar at the same time (7 days ago) but on a whole I am feeling better, I know my diet will take some getting use to, particularly the coffee, I was a 4 / 5 cups a day person - usually before 2pm. I have increased the amount of water I am drinking to at least 2 litres a day - when I feel like a coffee I have a drink of water, I have also had decaf's. Sleeping at night has not been too bad because I have felt exhausted with the change of diet, so that's a plus. I have been using an icepack at night, and I have rubbed in an over the counter anti-inflammatory cream into my lower back before I go to sleep, the combination of these two are definitely helping with no side effects, the anti-inflammatory cream is Voltaren, and as it is rubbed directly into the location and not taken through the digestive tract it's a much safer option. The burning feeling I've been walking around with in my stomach has almost completely subsided as has the constant burping I had a week ago which is a great result, I think, for only 10 days. I have been taking Magnesium, Fish Oil and Turmeric (Curcumin) 3 times a day, it will be extremely hard to attribute any positive changes to any one of the changes I have made as I am doing everything all at once, but I so strongly feel that all the pain meds I was taking would have depleted the use of anything good I was putting into my body which could have worsened the inflammation and therefor the pain. I definitely feel 10 days in that pain meds are not the answer, they definitely work - I wouldn't argue with that, but chronic pain is ongoing and long term and the use of the pain meds ongoing long term will not end well.

    I know it's different for everyone, my position is that I have a condition that cannot be healed and cannot be surgically improved, so knowing I have to live with it for the foreseeable future, it is now my main focus to limit my illness to one area instead of knowingly recruiting other body parts into the mix through side effects.

    will check in again soon. Good Luck All :)
  • No surgery for me either and quite possibly a lifetime of pain ahead, when I'm only a little older than you.

    In my opinion it's good to take control of what meds you take, but would also suggest you consider discussing this with your specialist - I worked out which ones turned me into a 'zombie' & was able to cut them out, but still have the edge taken off the pain.

    Coping with the loss of my physically demanding hobbies was harder. After trying myself up in knots for a while I took stock of what I had left and used that to work out how I could live with that. Not easy and it took a while but it helped me to accept, to sone extent, that I can be happy with a path that I hadn't chosen, but in which I could find peace. Is there anything, not too demanding, that you enjoy or would like to learn? That may be a starting point for you.

    Best wishes to you.
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