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20 Years Old and Watching My Life Fall Apart

I have chronic pain in my lower back (l4/5 and l5/s1 area) and sciatica on my right side. I am loosing sensation in my foot. I work as a Nurse's Assistant, and my pain began September of last year after a few weeks of improper lifting of my patients. The pain started as a bad back ache, it got progressively worse until I saw my GP about it in January. Since then, my pain has exploded. At this time last year, I was working 50 to 100 hours a week - and LOVING it! I had moved into my own place and was building a life for myself. Since first seeing my GP, I have had 2 MRI's, 2 EMG's, and 4 Facet Joint Injections, all of which have been inconclusive. I've lost 80lbs since December with no lifestyle changes except for more inactivity. My B/P went from a healthy 90/60 to around 170/130 and I have an elevated pulse rate of around 130, resting. I went to PT 3 times/week for five months before they discharged me because I wasn't making progress. I've seen three neurologists, had a consult with two Pain Management Doctors, both of whom only preform injection therapy. I've started seeing an Internalist also. I had to move back into my parent's, The pain became so intense that I can only work 5 hours a week, and that's a struggle. I spend days in bed, in 8/10 pain and unable to sleep for 2 or 3 days at a time because of it. It's gotten so bad that I've needed help just to go to the bathroom myself; I get so light headed and my vision shakes and I get dizzy when my pain really flares. I know I will have to stop driving soon, as I'm able to feel my foot less and less; between that and the spasms I get it isn't safe. My GP has been prescribing oxycodone 5mg four times a day, which helped back pain (but had no affect on my sciatica) for about a month and a half before it stopped being effective. I am on Cymbalta, which helps somewhat with the sciatica, I think. I tried Lyrica for a week, but my GP took me off of it after a week; I have no idea why and I don't think a week is long enough to judge the effectiveness of that medicine.

I feel like I'm disregarded, either thought to be exaggerating, weak and/or seeking meds because of my age. I am pursuing every angle I know of to try to get this figured out, but no one is offering solutions, no one is willing to give me more medicine, and I don't know where to turn. My life has fallen apart right before my eyes, and I try to cope and accept my situation the best I can, but having to leave my jobs and ask my Mom to help me take a shower is NOT what I wanted to be dealing with at 20. Even when I go to the E.R. they give me 0.5ml of Morphine and when I tell them it isn't working, they tell me to go home and take Ibuprofen and take a hot shower.

Has anyone out there been through this at my age? Does anyone have any ideas of other tests or treatments I should ask for? I'm trying so desperately to stay positive, but the last few days have been very hard. Giving up driving has really put me over the edge of feeling helpless and useless.


  • TiffanyBlue805TTiffanyBlue805 Posts: 4
    edited 09/12/2014 - 7:08 AM
    I'm sorry you're going through this at such a young age. I'm 33, and I feel I'm too young, too!
    I don't have the same thing you have, but I DO have unexplainable pain, fatigue, and memory loss as well as nerve and pain issues caused by bulging discs and other spinal problems. I've had the funny looks from doctors who send me back home with no answers and no relief, I've done the test injections and radiofrequency abolition to try and kill the nerve, but none of that was very successful. So it looks like I'm going to be stuck with all of this. And, like you, it's progressing. I take Lyrica for the nerve pain and it helps a lot for the shooting and burning pain, and I take Norco for the pain but it doesn't help much anymore. Maybe you can see if you can try Lyrica for a bit longer? It took me a week to feel any relief with it, and it worked even better after a few weeks and a higher dose. (So now I take 100mg twice per day.) Other than that, I think we both just have to keep being strong and have a positive outlook until they can figure out how to fix us. I wish you all the best!!
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 09/12/2014 - 11:23 AM
    What diagnosis have you been given from the MRI's? Have you consulted with a spine surgeon? Not a chiropractor or a pain management doctor but a board certified spine surgeon? In fact, consulting with two or three might be your best option.
    First, you need a proper diagnosis, and then a treatment plan to get you back on your feet.
    Laying in bed is the worst thing that you can be doing, for many reasons, but not limited to the inactivity will only make the muscles weaker, your stamina less, and your endurance levels fall rapidly. It will make the pain worse , the longer you give into it.
    I know that it is not what you want to hear, but it is the truth. The worst thing is inactivity when it comes to any spine issues. Walking is the best, and adding time , distance, and frequency is the way to rebuild those weakened muscles, endurance and stamina. Core strengthening excercises also help to strengthen the muscles that surround your spine, and help reduce pain.
    EMG's can show nerve damage, however, unless the damage has been present for at least three months, they may show a false negative.
    Lyrica, needs to be titrated up to an effective dose, and the side effects commonly occurring with it's use diminish over time, usually within a week or so after an increase or dose adjustment. Unless the side effects were so severe, I am not sure why your doctor didn't slowly increase the dosage to see if it would be effective for you.
    The link below my post may be helpful in seeing the steps that need to be taken for a proper diagnosis and then a treatment plan.
  • I've had 3 MRI's and the only thing they show is a slight curvature at L3 - I've been assured this would not cause my pain. (Although doctors seem to say this about many things.) I recently had an MRI of my brain as well because I've been having balance issues and my vision shakes constantly now. I've had to stop driving completely. The MRI was negative for MS. I've been referred to a "Spine Doctor." Is this a surgeon? What can I expect from him? My doctor is telling me I have two months before he starts weening me from the oxycodone and ativan. He wants me to see a Pain Specialist (which I understand - this is out of the relm of practice for GPs.) But the only pain specialists in my area aren't accepting patients and I can't very well drive 2 or 3 hours to my dr. when I can't drive at all.

    So I should try to start Lyrica and get consults from spine surgeons - any other courses of action you can recommend?
  • Balance issues and visual disturbances can be caused by many things. Have you had your eyes checked to see if there is some reason that your vision is shaky? These symptoms may or may not be related to your spine or some other thing going on in your body that has nothing to do with your spine.
    A spine "doctor" as most of us view it is a surgeon. He can be either an orthopedic or a neurosurgeon but they specialize in the spine. This does not mean you need surgery but they are best equipped to both diagnose and form a treatment plan if it is indeed your spine that these issues are stemming from.
    Most people who consult with a spine surgeon do not in fact, need surgery, but when it comes to dealing with the spine, seeing the right doctor for a proper diagnosis is in your best interest.
    If the vision issues are not related to your vision ( see an opthalmologist, not an optometrist), then I would suggest either a rheumotologist or a neurologist who specializes in the brain to ensure that there isn't something else going on in the brain causing the balance and vision issues.
  • Hi everyone,
    is hard to read so many stories of people struggling with pain,life must be easier.Illness limits our lives and makes us feel useless,specially when we used to be active.Doctors normally try to help us but,not all the time it works,not how we would like.We must try the best to feel better,see a doctor,take a treatment,whatever it takes to make our lives normal.Is good to find help when your are going through a chronic pain situation,sometimes doctors dont want to prescribe what could be helpfull and we should understand,maybe it is for our own sake.i hope that i could be helpfull for those who might be in need of help.
  • MissKaylaKay. If you need your medications but your GP is referencing the 'guidelines' saying you should be referred to pain management for long term narcotic prescriptions after 3 months... I live in Texas & know that our guidelines would consider you "Geographically Isolated". That means a GP or PM, who ever is closest can prescribe for you if you can't drive or live a long way from a PM. It could be worth checking your state guidelines.
    If your GP just isn't willing to prescribe anymore he might know of a GP very close to your home who will take over prescriptions if he feels you need them.

    I hope this makes sense. I'm having one of 'those' days! Eyesight + pain = can't drive, need assistance = geographically isolated = GP can prescribe ongoing within the guidelines.

    I know the guidelines aren't law but a lot of GPs don't like to prescribe anymore because of them. My neighbor & other pain patients I know can't drive so our local community GP prescribes their narcotic meds. Someone drives them to a PM for procedures etc. on occasion. The community gets them to the GP once a month.

    I know different states have different guidelines. I hope this helps & I hope you can get to the cause of your problems soon ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    I just need to ask.. Right now there seems to be a number of potential things that could be going on with you. Have any of these problems been validated and are the cause for your pain?

    You are not on an excessive amount of pain medications, but there are substantial. So, it would seem clear that one of your doctors understands your problem, otherwise they would not be prescribing the narcotics.

    I may have missed something in the previous posts, but I have not found a clear cut explanation of what your problem is.
    Without that, and considering you are near the end of your medications, this could spell difficult times.

    I would think the your balance situation would be the first to address.

    I need to be honest here, the various medications that you are taken and as you indicate have not help could create a problem for you with future doctor visits. You are young, and right or wrong (and I believe its wrong) that doctors automatically assume a drug seeker. But as you do see other doctors and there is not clear cut diagnosis of your problem, no doctor is going to continue to prescribe narcotic medications or other controlled substances.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • They don't want you dependent on pain meds for the rest of your life. That's why there is a 3 month limit to refills from GP's in most states now I think. What happened after you saw your GP that caused your pain to "explode"? Did the pain get worse right after he started you on the Percs? It is possible for some pain meds on some people to cause more pain, a so called paradoxical effect. It is also possible if you run out of pain meds early to go into crisis (you may be wholly dependent already and not know it) and have your pain/discomfort/anxiety skyrocket. I know this sounds like the worst thing imaginable, but if I were you I'd start halving the dose each week to avoid going off cold turkey. You should expect the pain to get worse each time you drop the dose, even if it's only temporary. If you stop taking the pain meds altogether then your body might compensate and right itself, allowing you to tolerate the pain, or better. At your age, and without a visible injury I can't imagine anyone will give you more pain meds, at least not without you going a while without any in your system to get a baseline.

    Sadly slipped discs are common (and MRI readings usually meaningless), and can take several months to subside. The best possible outcome is that you not be dependent on pain meds though, even if that means the pain drives you mad short-term. I hope it isn't something more serious than a slipped disc, but regardless, you have to be careful of how you bend/lift from now on.
  • Thank you to everyone who posted. It feels very validating just to have people knowledgeable and understanding to talk to. Trying to explain this to my family and friends is like standing on the moon trying to talk to the fish.

    I've had many diagnostic tests done with no clear reason for my pain. I was lifting the full weight of a patient when the pain first began - that's 200lbs and I had not yet been educated on proper body mechanics.

    I've been on the oxycodone for about 5 months now. I started on a low dose of vicodin but the APAP was very tough on my stomach so he changed me to the oxy. I'm a CNA and I've seen the horror of withdraws so I'm very conservative with my medicine and NEVER run out. Withdraws scare me as much as my pain does.

    Its very helpful to know that I could be considered "geographically isolated." I don't know why but I seem to develop a tolerance/resistance to medication very quickly. They added another muscle relaxer to my regime - Robaxin 500mg 3 times daily after another trip to the ER. They told me several times there and at the pharmacy that this medicine would make me very drowsy and it doesn't even seem to help with the spasms, let alone make me sleepy (that would be a dream!) 2mg of Ativan was effective for about a month for my spasms. I've heard of tests that show how you matabalize certain medicines, does anyone know what these are called?

    Again, thank you all so much. The acknowledgment, even from strangers, is so comforting. I am looking into modifications for my vehicle tomorrow so I can drive again (albeit with my hands!)
  • EnglishGirlEEnglishGirl Posts: 1,825
    edited 09/18/2014 - 4:44 PM
    A lot of people have mentioned on these forums, myself included, that they seem to develop tolerance to the Oxycodone meds & need more frequent adjustments than with other narcotics. I found this with OxyContin ER. It seemed to work ok for a couple of months then I could feel it become less effective. My doc would increase my dose & the same thing would happen. I had to take it 3x a day & not twice a day too.
    If you search the medication metabolism test the main companies that do them come up near the top of the results. If you search here on Spine-Health you'll find some recent interesting conversations we've had on it. Sandi posted some links. I'm interested in having it done too. It not only shows which meds will be most effective but also how well your body clears the meds. Important info for our long-term health. I know other things can have an effect on how well we process meds but it's very useful info to have in my opinion.

    I've taken the sleeping pill Zolpidem for ages. I could always take it & stay awake watching TV for an hour before I got sleepy enough to go to bed. I recently had my gallbladder removed & it hits me like a ton of bricks!! I pass out on the sofa if I take it before I'm ready for bed. Now I understand why the instructions say to take it in bed or close to it! Our bodies can be so strange with how we process meds. We really are all so different. I know people who won't drink coffee after a certain time because it will keep them awake. It never had any effect on me.
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
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