I am new to this forum - I've been looking here for a few days and finally registered to hopefully get some help and advice.
For 5 weeks now, I have had a bulging disc at L5/S1 and L4/L5. Began with horrible pain in right glute - a deeper pain than I've ever felt before. It has changed week to week and day to day, but currently, I am awake in the middle of the night (nothing new - nights seem to be the worst - I just toss and turn painfully all night trying to find a comfortable position). Currently, the pain includes: tingling/numbness in foot, toes and calf; sharp pain in glute, pain while laying, standing, walking, etc.; inabilty to stand up straight (I've gotten myself very crooked over the past several weeks as my body tries to shift to reduce pain). I am generally active, and this has changed everything for me (I am a 40 year old female, normal weight, generally jogged (not excessively) and stayed fit. I read on here how people deal with this for months and years, and honestly, I can't fathom being able to do this.
Here's what I've done so far:
1) first week, I went to a chiropractor. This was my first visit ever to a chiro, as I generally didn't buy into them. Anyway, went there three times that week for adjustments and electronic stimulation. No relief. They did x-rays and said I had some degeneration of lowest vertebraes. Wanted to put me on 12 week program of treatment. Thinking back to that week, although in pain, I was much more flexible and movable then, compared to now (I can't even IMAGINE trying to stretch like that now).
2) second week, I went to an orthopaedic/sports medicine doc. He also did x-rays, saw the same degeneration; gave me two shots in lower back (a steroid and ???) and put me on a steroid pack for 6 days. Shot gave me relief for that day only, but the next day, I remember things getting worse. Steroid pack did nothing.
3) next week, was ordered for MRI and back to orthopaedic. Told I have bulging disc at L5-S1 and to a lesser extent at L4-L5. I don't have all details of MRI, but they mentioned "annular tear" - isn't this a herniated disc? (not sure that it matters).
4) week 4 had first of three epidural shots. No problem with the shot itself (other than the intense pain when the medicine was injected for about 30 seconds - doc said that was good to have exagerated pain where I'd been hurting because that meant he'd "got it in the right spot".) Felt better that day and the next, but by the 3rd day, pain was back and is worse than ever (I am now one week out from that first shot). By day 4, I was bent over and crooked, and barely could walk for 2 days with the pain. I am better now (relatively speaking), but still in alot of pain.
5) yesterday, I went to another chiro, thinking I'd try the "spinal decompression" machine. They said I am definately a candidate for this and told me it can "heal" the discs and the tears in the disc. But it is $4200 for 20 treatments (or $250 each to "try it out"). Seriously if I knew it would work, I would pay the money in a heartbeat and start today....but not sure if it works. Thoughts???
As far as pain medicine, ortho prescribed muscle relaxant that first time I saw him and hydrocodone. I've gone through two prescrips of hydrocodone (only taking at night - trying to suck it up during day with ibuprofin) and yesterday asked for a stronger med as the hydrocodone isn't effective. He gave me percocet 5/325's. I took one last night at 6 pm and didn't feel any relief, and one at midnight. I did get a couple hours of fitful sleeping but by 3 am I gave up and got up (laying down seems to be the worse). So obviously, the percocet isn't the answer. I will try 2 at a time today (prescription says I can take 1-2 ever 6 hours), just to see if it makes any difference, but don't suspect that I will stay on these (I really don't like to medicate, so won't take them if no noticable difference).
What I plan to do is as follows (along with questions for you all):
*Bump up my follow up appointment with ortho to Tues/Wed (currently scheduled for Friday). Ask him for recommendation to see neurologist? I just don't know if ortho is who should be my main point of contact for this or a neurologist?
*Ask for different medicine? Seems that people recommend nerve medicine vs. pain medicine on this forum. Makes sense to me, since this nerve pain is unlike other pain I've had in the past and the pain medicine is doing nothing.
*Proceed with my series of epidurals - one next week and one in 3 weeks. Ortho told me I may only get 10-15% relief on shot one, so think I should see this through and hope for better results with shot 2.
*Should I try to start PT now, or wait to finish shots? Should I concurrently try the spinal decompression? I just can't wait week to week to week, slowly trying to fix this.
*Ortho mentioned surgery if nothing else works. He said it wasn't that big of a deal - small incision in lower back, remove part of disc, a few stiches, and outpatient. To me, based on my reading, this sounds like microdiscectomy? Should I do this if shots don't work? (again, I'm ready to fix this, not super scared of surgery; more scared of what this pain is doing to my life and livelihood/kids, etc....). But then of course, i read the forums and the horror stories from people who regretted the surgery...
Thank you all for listening. I look forward to any insight you can provide.