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Bad Epidural Injection and Surgical Consult!

edited 07/31/2015 - 5:46 AM in Lower Back Pain
Good morning! I have had recurring episodes of Low Back Pain since I was a teenager (past 10 years). I can't stand for too long without feeling a "CRUSHING" pain as if my low back couldn't take the pressure and could crumble. I occasionally have "ATTACKS" of intense pain that shoots me up off my chair if I'm sitting (in something unsupportive) or bending forward.

A few years ago I felt I needed to quit my job as a gymnastics coach since it hurt to stand on the spring floors/spot the girls/drag heavy mats. I babysat for awhile then took a job as a graphic artist which involved sitting for extended periods of time, hunched over a drafting table and carrying some heavy things up/down stairs. (This job didn't actually seem to flare my low back pain any more than "usual," but it definitely caused some painful knots in my upper back and neck.)

10 months ago my pain also presented with consistent "BURNING" or a cold/numb sensation in my Left buttock and left leg weakness (it shakes like crazy down the stairs!), so I finally decided to see a doctor about it all. He put me on a small dose of gabapentin for my muscle pain and ordered a lumbar MRI.

The MRI showed protruding discs at L5-S1 and L4-L5, but not large enough to physically compress the nerve root, so he suspects the leg symptoms to be "chemical irritation" of my sciatic nerve.
I did months of core strengthening physical therapy, a round of steroid pills, an anti-inflammatory diet, shoe inserts, soft support brace, car seat cushion, and eventually an epidural steroid injection that went horribly!

The days leading up to the injection my whole left leg had been burning, so I felt confident I was doing the right thing for my body. But when the injection went in, I felt the worst pain of my life. It provoked all of my CRUSHING/ ATTACK/ BURNING symptoms to their highest degree, plus frequent electric SHOCKS all the way down to my foot. His explanation was that I didn't have a lot of epidural space since I'm small, so the added fluid put pressure on the nerves and it would dissipate throughout the week.

Well, since then my symptoms only got worse and I've had strange sensations like a cat brushing up against my calve or cold water trickling down my leg.

The physical therapist stopped seeing me because he's convinced I need surgery with the progressive weakness, and the doctor doesn't want to try another ESI so he referred me to an orthopedic spine surgeon.

The surgeon noted significant disc degeneration and annular tearing on my MRI, so he ordered a discogram to see if I'd be a candidate for a fusion.

The discogram definitely provoked the CRUSHING and ATTACK pain severely at L5-S1, and moderately at L4-L5. (It was a little confusing because they ask 'is this YOUR pain?!' but since it did not provoke my burning or shocking leg pain, I just kept saying 'yes this is a large component of my pain!') The doctor performing the discogram concluded that I might need both discs removed, but hopefully just one.

SO, I was surprised when the orthopedic spine surgeon said he didn't want to operate at all. He initially seemed open to the idea since my discogram and CT tested positive for discogenic pain, but changed his mind after he asked my opinion, and I said "It's a really tough decision because I know a fusion surgery is a big risk, but at this point the pain is significantly affecting my quality of life, career decisions, and flares up so severely that I feel nauseous or short of breath. He said "I have patients come in here paralyzed, and they don't describe their pain as nauseating! I'm worried you couldn't handle a surgery being overly sensitive and dramatic!" (I found out later he has SCATHING reviews for being arrogant, unsympathetic and outright rude.) So I left there very upset at his unprofessional commentary about the "type of person" he thinks I am and dismissing me after a very brief conversation.

Thankfully I was able to see my regular physician the next day and he kindly and compassionately explained that my moderately severe pain in the second disc adds some "grey area" to the source of my pain, and a multi-level fusion is not advisable at 25 years old since it often leads to needing fusions all the way up the spine throughout life. MAKES SENSE. Thank you for actually taking the time to explain and caring about your patient.
So he put me on a stronger dose of gabapentin and referred me to aquatic physical therapy 3 times/week with core AND glute strengthening. I was able to move my office downstairs and my husband and I are getting a first floor apartment next month, so I'm hoping that helps me finally start moving in the right direction.

What a horrible year! I've more recently noticed increasing incidents of muscle twitching that I attribute to the stress of everything, but wonder if it could be a problem with my nervous system?

I guess I just wanted to vent my story and see if anyone has similar experiences or advice! Take care!!

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