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Sciatica, Cortisone and Horrific Muscle cramps

Mumrenee59MMumrenee59 Posts: 4
Hi. I am a 55 year old female in fairly good health. High BP well controlled by metropolol. 3 1/2 years ago I woke up with classic sciatica symptoms in my left leg. Sharp, shooting pain in buttock, down back of thigh and extending into outer calf and foot. My doctor ordered an MRI of lumbar spine that showed some Degenerative changes present in the lumbar facet joints, most pronounced at L4 -L5 and L5-S1. Diffuse bulging causing mild foraminal narrowing at L4-L5. Bottom line was they didn't think disc issues were causing the problem and it was thought it was piriformis syndrome. I learned some stretches and had flare ups over the next 3 years until last fall it flared and stayed there. Sent to Physical Therapy where I did Postural Restoration and had no results.

I went back to doctor who sent me to a Physiatrist. He ordered more PT where they did deep tissue massage and I got much worse to the point I could barely walk. I was now also having bursitis symptoms in my left hip and severe IT band pain. Couldn't sleep, couldn't get comfortable, just miserable. The PT was sure it was spinal issues, physiatrist said it was muscular and wanted to do a cortisone injection in my hip. I was taking percocet for the pain as NSAIDS did nothing.

Physiatrist does cortisone in hip and for after about 4 days I felt a big improvement. A week out I was almost pain free.

Travel to Hawaii and have 3 great days then as I am standing in 3 feet of water chatting with my hubby, the mother of all muscle cramps begin. Started in the shin of my left leg then as I'm rubbing it out my other leg cramped. Every muscle in leg just locked up. I was hyper ventilating, my hubby was freaking, it took me 30 minutes to get out of the water. Started taking flexeril every 8 hours and cramps continued for the next 2 days. I could barely walk on my formerly ' good' right leg so on the 3rd day we went to the ER. They checked for blood clots which was negative and electrolytes were great, they had no clue what had happened. The scary part was my blood work showing a CPK of 3400! Normally seen in severe muscle injury or a muscle wasting disease. Normal is <250! I was sent home with 5 5mg Valium pills and flexeril. I continued to cramp for 6 more days, not as severe but everyday, especially if I walked more than a few minutes. I tried every cramp remedy known to man, hydrated like crazy, no luck, still cramps.

Returned home and went to see physiatrist and primary doc. Both had no idea what was happening. New blood work returned to normal, CPK of 115 and they suspect I cramped so severe it tore the muscle, causing the spike in CPK. Cramps continue.

The specialist now suspects maybe a spinal issue and orders MRI. Due to the severe cramps I can't lie still on a hard table for 45 minutes. Flexeril was not stopping the cramps so he tried Skelaxin. It did nothing. Physiatrist gave me 10 5 mg Valium and said get the MRI done. I decided I was not going to let this happen to me and I tried to act like a normal person and go do some grocery shopping. Gone about 2 hours, leg hurting and low back pain the whole time but I came home and applied some heat, made dinner. Stood up from dinner table and both legs cramped severely. Nothing was stopping it, even the Valium. Up all night applying heat and trying to walk them off, massage them out. Finally went to the ER. The doc said he was going to sedate me and get the MRI. He did and he came in saying it showed DDD, not severe enough to require surgery but thought it was irritating the nerves and causing the cramps. Gave me IV steroid, and sent me home with prednisone, gabapentin and amitriptyline . Went home still cramping but woke up the next morning cramp free for the first time in 30 days!

It only lasted 2 days and the cramps returned. Went to see the physiatrist and he said ER doc was wrong. He said the MRI showed only minimal DDD like any 55 year old would have. No impingement, just some fluid and inflammation at S2 which he said would not cause the cramps. He said I have him stumped and he's referring me to a teaching hospital to their Neuro/Muscular clinic. He said he would consider an auto immune disease but I have no clinical weakness, no numbness or tingling. Just sciatic type pain, low back pain, burning pain on top of left thigh and the cramps. He wants to do a nerve study and EMG.

These cramps are like nothing I've ever experienced. My shins, arch of feet, toes, calves. hamstrings.

I have tried every cramp treatment known to man. My kidney function appears to be fine based on the latest blood work of last week. I am hydrating enough to float a boat, taking calcium and magnesium, trying to stretch, tried tonic water, tried soap in my bed ( don't laugh, I was desperate and people swear by it!), drank pickle juice (ewwww), powerade, take an aspirin, every folk cure, and thing I could find.

I was so sure it was the cortisone shot that brought it on because there are zillions of reports of that but now a month later the good effect of the cortisone seems to be gone yet the cramping continues. The recent steroids pumped into me at the ER have me terrified it's only going to get worse.

Any input would be much appreciated. Are MRI's always definitive? Do they 'miss' things? I had an X-ray also of my back and hip and it said I have disc space narrowing at L4-L5. Have you had cramping? I am going out of my mind with stress. I can't even stand for 5-10 minutes to unload the dishwasher without tightening up and cramps starting. Heat helps and I use a lot and I allow myself 2 Valium a day along with the new meds and an occasional flexeril. I can't believe this is my life! Thanks for listening.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 04/27/2015 - 7:50 PM
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    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • DanielCDanielC Posts: 155
    edited 04/28/2015 - 5:47 AM
    I have had an episode like yours when I was in water but that was just after swimming so I put that on effort from swimming.
    It is very strange and never heard a story like that. There has to be something wrong with your nerves. Doctors just need to pin point what's causing this issues.
    On another note I can completely relate to the folk treatments you tried. No one blames you.
    My mother in law even called a priest to our home to bless me and chase away any evil spirits that were making me feel all that pain.
    I laugh so hard even now after more than 8 months since hhaha.
  • I've had the most excruciating cramps for two years. Almost daily. I've tried just about everything you mentioned except the pickle juice. My spine surgeon said that leg cramps were common with disc issues and I've got a pretty bad l5/s1 herniation. I really hope that steroids don't make them worse. I just started a medrol pack!
  • He says in his 39 years of practice he's never had anyone present with cramps from spinal issues. I have found dozens of people struggling with it on this forum. Yesterday I decided to try and not take the Valium and just see how I did. By mid morning my legs were tightening up like someone was winding them up with a reel and then started to cramp. I used heat , tried to stretch. And finally gave in and took a 1/2 of a 5 mg valium. I ended up taking 2 more 1/2 pills by evening. A total of 7.5 mg for the day. But even with them, I tried to make dinner and my bad leg, the sciatica one, was so tight and stiff I couldn't bend my leg, I was walking like a pirate with a peg leg. See my primary tomorrow and hopefully she'll have some insight or a referral to someone. I can't live like this. Unable to walk more than 5-10 minutes and not able to leave the house.
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