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Epidural injection for sciatica

After six weeks of increasingly unbearable leg pain, I had my first epidural injection four days ago. The pain was somewhat muted by the injection but I'm still having radiculopathy in my left leg. The pain radiates down my butt, my hamstring and into my foot. I've also had numbness and tingling in that leg, as well. The doctor said it could take up to seven days for the medicine to take full effect, so I have been hopeful that I would continue to improve, at least to the point where I could walk. Today, I woke up with severe numbness in the left leg and pain that seems to radiate from the middle of my left glute. I can't stand or walk or sit for more than 30 seconds without being overwhelmed by discomfort. I'm mostly ok if I lie on my stomach.

If things remain unchanged, I will likely call the doctor tomorrow. I don't know how I can go to work like this. My concern is that the herniations have worsened, or I've developed piriformis syndrome. I herniated two discs in June, L4-L5 and L5-S1. The herniations compress the thecal sac on the left side. I didn't have radiculopathy until late September, after I did some rock climbing. Yes, it was a stupid thing to do with herniated discs but I didn't have any pain before I did it. I wonder about piriformis syndrome because I had herniations with no radiculopathy for months. Then, after straining my back during rock climbing, the leg pain started. I remember a single moment when I extended my left leg to the side and at a 45 degree angle. Then I put my weight on it while climbing up the rock face. As soon as I did it, I thought "that didn't feel right." And it's been downhill ever since then.

I don't know why I'm posting this; I don't really have any questions. I've been a lurker on this site since June and have taken comfort in some of the posts I've read as I've navigated this strange journey. I'm just feeling so hopeless today. Yesterday, I was ready to tackle this thing, do acupuncture if the injection didn't work, start swimming if I can't walk, etc. Today, I'm wondering if there will ever be a way out of this horrible back/leg pain and uncertainty. I feel like I'm regressing. I haven't been able to stand upright all day. I think I could cope if the ibuprofen or Tramadol actually addressed the pain but they don't. I load up on ibuprofen just so I can move around.

The pain doctor prescribed Gabepentin but I've been too afraid to start it. I'm worried about the side effects, especially the risk of depression. I'm also worried that, if I start it, I will become dependent on it and have rebound pain if I stop it. Does that make sense?

The main issue is that I've been so miserable for the past few weeks. I've been unable to walk without a limp, let alone exercise in any way. The only thing I can do comfortably is lie on my stomach and occasionally my back.

I feel like I'm reaching my wit's end. I know it's selfish to think this, but I'm only 45. I feel like I'm too young for this. Well, thanks for letting me vent. I know some of you can probably relate to what I've written here.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    So much of treatment for our spinal health can be trial and try again.
    Finding a med or treatment that brings relief is worth it, for me.

    My primary tried to work with my chronic pain for two years before referring me to pain management.
    That was best thing for me. He did other testing on me and able to have plan for my care.
    And having a specialist see me regularly keeps me out of the ER!

    You are not being selfish! Sounds like you are trying to take care of yourself!
    Please keep us posted!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Well, I'm feeling a bit better. The pain was so unbearable when I first wrote this post that I broke down and took the Gabepentin. It helped soothe the pain. However, my left leg is numb, from my glute down to the sole of my foot. I never experienced this level of numbness before the epidural injection. I called the pain Doctor. He said he's not worried about the numbness so long as the pain is better. I go for my follow up next week. I'm really concerned about the numbness. I've read a few other posts on the forums where people reported a similar issue. From my research, it seems it's possible for the injected medication to crowd the already-compressed nerve. I'm hoping this goes away as my body continues to absorb the steroid. I'm on the verge of going back to the neurosurgeon and proceeding with the laminectomy/discectomy.
  • Hello Sophie, I did type an essay but it lost it, doom! Currently led flat on the floor, cushion under one side of me, being at a tilt helps! I had numbness for 2 months and then it went within a week, I know how worried you are I was the same, I haven't had injections they say thats a possibility but surgeon wants to operate, I've opted for 3 months wait and then get him to review me again, after last two days I feel like yelling YES OPERATE! But self employed, working from home, I need to work, graphic designer and caring for my 88 year old Mum and own two large dogs, a cat, chickens, guinea pigs, all that take a good bit of looking after and worried how the operation will affect me. Anyway numbness does seem different in different people, I was completely numb to the knee apart from my big toe and front of calf, then one day I felt my toe and thought I think I've got feeling and slowly it spread and its now gone, if I sit wrong I get pins and needles comes back and the numbness starts creeping back. Its all exhausting but you find ways to adapt but like you I'm only 48 and I want my life back! Feeling sympathy for you!
    Know pain, no gain
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