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No knives or needles in my back, er, I hope not anyway...

kkubalakkkubala Posts: 41
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Pain Management
I know many of you are suffering far worse and for much longer than I. I’m truly sorry for your pain. If you spend half as much time on your back as I do, with a laptop on your belly, searching for a cure or magic pill, then you understand where I'm coming from.

09/09 - Minor butt and leg pain started
11/09 - Pain was worsening and a chiropractor diagnosed me with DDD. I tried chiro adjustments, decompression therapy, heat, ice, massage, resting, Po Sum On. The only things that brought ANY relief were ice and rest.
12/09 - Pain was excruciating. I think chiropractor adjustments made my condition worse. Although I never missed a day of work or a wink of sleep, I was in constant pain (burning pain in my buttock, hamstring) unless I was lying down. I made an appointment with Physiatrist.
01/10 - MRI confirmed herniated/fragmented L5/S1 disc compressing right S1 nerve root. Scrip for 6-day oral steroid pack and Gabapentin. Doc ordered ESI and reco that I talk with surgical team, claiming that I could risk permanent nerve damage if I waited. WTH! Yes, I have burning, excruciating nerve pain, but I can walk on my heels and toes with strength, muscles are working fine, and I have no numbness. I immediately started doing PT exercises and kept up my ice and rest routine. Mid-January started with a holistic practitioner/chiropractor.

Gabapentin is really helping with the burning nerve pain and I’m on a low dose. However, I’m feeling some other kind of pain in my back that Gabapentin is not helping with. When I take 800Mg of ibuprofen it really helps and I can almost function like a regular person!

At this point, I’m refusing to even consider surgery, and although I have an ESI scheduled (that I keep putting off), I want to go the distance and let my body heal naturally. Or at least give it one heck of a shot. I have the patience and grit! Research shows long-term outcomes with and without surgery are the practically the same. After writing this, I’m PO that my doc even suggested surgery. Why have surgery or ESI when such low doses of meds help? I’ve read some of your stories - one back surgery after another, tons of narcotics just to get you through the day!

Since, obviously, I’m not a good patient from a revenue standpoint, because I don’t want ESI or surgery. Should I even talk to my Physiatrist about pain management or just go it on my own with my bag of tricks? I mean seriously, is my doc going to laugh when I say, “Ibuprofen is helping me, should I get a Rx for something else?” My main concern is if I need to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen long term, should I then consider taking some other medicine?

I'm going with the "no question is a dumb question" rule here. :) Any advice would be appreciated.

Ms. Kubala
Herniated/fragmented L5/S1 disc compressing right S1 nerve root
Meds/supplements I take religiously: multivitamin, 2000 IU Vitamin D, fish oil, calcium, glucosamine/MSM, ginger root, bromelain, an occasional B6 vitamin, Gabapentin 300Mg 3x/day. I drink gelatin three times per week. Gag!


  • At this point, it doesn't sound like the physiatrist can help you that much more. If you are happy with the pain relief, than continue doing what you are doing. No one can tell from a MRI how much pain is being generated. Sometimes the biggest, ugliest herniated disc doesn't cause the patient pain, where a tiny little bulge can cause immense pain....Your physiatrist can only go by what you tell him.

    It sounds like, so far, you do not have nerve damage. And you can go on as long as you like...The one thing that would change things is if you would develop bowel or bladder involvement. This might be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, and this would be considered a medical emergency and you would want to go to the ER or see your doctor immediately. This is one condition where you cannot afford to wait as permanent nerve damage can develop very quickly. Otherwise, unless you have foot drop or unmanageable pain, you do not need surgery.

    Spinal surgery is almost always considered an elective surgery.

    One thing to be aware of is with a fragmented disc, there is a possibility that the fragment with dislodge and it can sever a nerve or cause lesser problems. This is not a common problem by any means, but just something you should be aware of. The pain in your back might be from the fragmented disc.

    Good luck and let us know how you are doing!

  • Hi and Welcome to Spine Health,

    I read your post, and found it most interesting. By no means am I a medical expert. I only know what I have read, and experienced. I recently read an article by Good Housekeeping that about if one should or shoudn't have back surgery. If you look for my past post you will find that I posted it here. It goes into what one should do, know, or try before considering back surgery. You may find that helpful.

    I personally have had bi-level lumbar spinal fusion, and it was 6 yrs after I was diagnost with my first herniated disk,bulge disk, DDD, stenosis, spondylosis, and stress fratures. I had an older Orthopedic surgeon, who said basically wait it's not bad yet, when it gets worse will do surgery. For now ESI! I had 2 in 2 months, and they did help. The first 1 took away some pain, but the second took away the rest. He was right. In 4 months, I was back to just about normal. I could get by on 30 vicoden a year for flair ups. Got to admit he was right, and I hated to do that.

    After 6 years the bulge disk went. It took me 2 months, before I decided to go see him. This time with more tests, it was decided by him, and 2 neurosurgeons that it was time for surgery. I was in terrible pain. I could barely get around, let alone work, and on more meds for pain then I thought humanly possible. I knew it was time.

    My neurosurgeon sent me to a class, so I learn what to expect after surgery, excersises, and thing that I would need. This class was run for several different surgeons, but we all were having fusion of some kind. That class opened my eyes pretty wide. I learned quit afew things, and some of them weren't taught by the nurse. I won't say exactly what, but I will tell you this. I was very happy that I had that older Ortho Dr 6 years before, and that he wasn't surgery happy. That he was out to help his patients, even though at the time I wanted to shoot him. LOL! He wasn't out to make money.

    So in my personal opinion, if your happy with what your doing, your life style, your health, and your not in terrible pain. I'd say contintue what your doing, but be careful. Watch for changes, other symptoms, or if it starts taking over your life. Then it would be time to see your dr, or go to the ER if it comes on suddenly. I would recommend seeing your physiatrist on a regular basis, and I would discuss with your physiatrist how you feel about surgury. If he/she is like mine at all, he will listen, and respect your wishes. If he's still insistent about surgery, and you didn't tell us this, why does he want you to have it so bad. I would then, and always, get a second opinion.

    I hope I was of some help,
    Bobbi Jo
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  • Thank you, Gwennie and Bobbie Jo, for reading and responding. I appreciate your comments and advice.

    I will see my Physiatrist regularly and talk to him. I haven't even gone in since my diagnosis. Even though my pain is not severe all of the time, this has consumed my life. I try to pretend that it will go away (literally) and I can fight it, but I know that might not get me where I need to be. I posted coming off a great day. Today, another story. My ESI is set for February 16....I can only imagine what it would be like to have a week, a month, a year, or 6 years of relief!


    Ms. K
    Herniated/fragmented L5/S1 disc compressing S1 nerve root
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