I posted this over in the chronic pain forum, but now realize it's better suited in this one, so I'll repost it:
Hello everyone, I've just found this site, and hope it's okay to comment on what has worked for me and introduce myself at the same time. It's amazing to read so many stories that sound so similar to my own.
I am from the UK originally, but have lived in Taiwan most of my life. I'm male and am now in my mid-40s. I first injured my back during Chinese opera and martial arts training back in the late 80s, but my first really serious injury occurred in 1991, when I herniated my disk at L4-L5. I was put through all kinds of treatment for the next three years, including traction and heat therapy, and was prescribed just about everything - NSAIDs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, etc. - except opioids (they won't prescribe anything opium-related where I live unless you have cancer). Nothing helped much, but muscle relaxants gave me some relief (diazepam, especially).
After three years of increasing pain and feeling I was getting nowhere, I returned to the UK and saw a neurosurgeon in Oxford who ran some tests (MRI, etc.) and said I had extensive damage to my lumbar region, including nerve damage. He performed a laminectomy (in 1995), and while technically it seemed to go according to plan, I found myself in even more pain after recovering from the operation. I was told I should look at my future in terms of pain management rather than finding a cure, and was sent to a pain clinic. I was prescribed a variety of medications including dihydrocodeine, tramadol, pethidine, buprenorphine and various muscle relaxants, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
My pain worsened drastically a couple of years ago, and last year I went to see a neurologist who did another MRI. This showed severe spinal stenosis and lumbosacral spondylosis, bone spurs, and several herniated and bulging disks with nerve compression. He also said there is degeneration taking place in the vertebrae. Neurological tests (nerve conduction, EMG, etc.) confirmed 'polyneuropathy', 'peripheral neuropathy' and 'lumber radiculopathy' at L3-4-5. I didn't understand all of it but they said I had extensive nerve damage and was suffering from both musculoskeletal pain and neuropathic pain, and that it's likely to get worse.
I was referred to the pain clinic immediately and they tried a variety of medicines (forgoing NSAIDs, which have never worked for me), finally settling on Temgesic, tramadol and diazepam three times daily, with clonazepam at night. They also give me sleeping pills (usually zolpidem) if I ask for them, but I only take them occasionally. I find the combination of medicine they are prescribing helps to relieve some of the pain, but only to a degree. They will not prescribe full agonists such as morphine or even codeine over here, unless you have cancer.
I can do very little without being in considerable pain, but I can still get around a bit, for short periods. The doctors have suggested another laminectomy, but I'm not enthusiastic about that, to say the least, considering the lack of success I had with the first one. I feel as though I'm in limbo right now, frankly.
I'm going in for an MRI on my cervical area soon, as I have a lot of pain there and I'm not sure whether it is radiating up from my lower back, or whether I also have problems higher up in my spine that I've been unaware of. The doctor has been trying to persuade me to have caudal blocks, but I'm undecided at the moment.
Anyway, sorry for the long, rambling post. I'm glad to have found these forums and look forward to getting to know you guys better!