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DDD, 3 bulging discs and annular tear

I'm looking for some advice from those of you who have "been there, done that". I had an MRI done in Feb. that showed Degeneration at L3, L4 and L5 - all three are also bulging. At L4 there is thickening of the ligament that is causing compression on the thecal sac. And at L5 there is a small annular tear and also compression of the thecal sac. My pain levels are bearable most of the time - just a dull, achy, tired feeling. However, if I'm in any position for any length of time my pain levels increase greatly. Standing still for any longer than 5 minutes causes excruciating pain. I'm also having a hard time sleeping, after 3 to 4 hours my back starts into spasms and I have to get up and stretch or walk and can then go back to bed, which is hard once your sleep's been interrupted. I had an appt. with a neurosurgeon Monday, however, when I was actually seen by one of his PAs. I am so disappointed in the appointment. I'm fine seeing PAs for follow up and work ins, however, as a 1st time patient who requested this particular physician I was not happy. The PA spent less than 5 minutes in the room with me. He tested my leg strength, even though I told him several times I rarely had any issues with my legs or strength. Yes, my right leg will get tingly and go slightly numb if I'm sitting or laying for any length of time, but I was more concerned with my lower back pain. The PA never even looked at my back or tested my range of motion. He did not review the MRI results with me and he didn't ask me any questions about what was going on, how long, etc. After he tested my leg strength he stated the MRI results do not show me as ready for surgery so he was referring me to Pain Management for epidural steroid injections. As he was walking out I asked if he could at least refill my Tramadol prescription, as my GP only wrote enough to carry me to this appt. it has helped my pain levels and made it possible for me to continue working. He said that isn't the normal office policy, but since I couldn't get in to see the Pain Management Dr.s for a couple weeks he would give me a months worth. I honestly don't feel like the office wanted anything to do with me since I'm not a surgical candidate and that it was a wasted trip to the doctor. I wanted answers and explanations, not to be rushed out the door. I am now considering making an appt. with an orthopedic spinal specialist in the area who has an emphasis on DDD. What type of physician do most of you see for your DDD?

I am going to keep the consultation appt. with pain management, however, I have to admit the thought of an epidural injection terrifies me. I've read that only about 50% of patients receive any relief from the epidural steroids and that the relief is often short lived. I took a prednisone dose pack in early March - it made a huge difference for about a week. I've also been told by a friend who is an OB MD, that repeated epidural injections can actually cause back problems and that many of her patients who have had several babies, and therefore several epidurals have a lot more back problems that Mom's with only 1 baby or who refused the epidural. I'm also concerned that since steroids are known to cause bone loss the effect of injecting steroids into an already degenerating spinal area would speed up the process. What are your thoughts/experiences with epidural steroid injections?

Thank you!
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