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I am a 27-year-old male from Switzerland and I’ve been suffering from chronic sciatica 24/7 for more than 1 year. This continuos pain is driving me crazy and the more time passes, the more I start to feel hopeless, impotent and depressed about it. Everyday activities like driving, having a romantic dinner, watching TV and even reading a book are getting difficult to enjoy because of the pain kicking and radiating in my leg. Moreover most of my friends and family do not seem to realize how bad I feel. I think they just don’t understand how debilitating and psychologically overwhelming chronic pain is. I honestly feel like sciatica is ruining my life and I have a hard time keeping a positive attitude toward my future.
Since no doctor has been able to give me a proper diagnosis so far, I would like to share my story with you as I really hope that by doing so, some of you who experienced a similar situation, may give me some useful advice. I am sorry about the length of my post, but I wanted to include as much information as possible, knowing that even a small detail can be useful to identify the source of the problem.
Everything started with a car accident I had back in 2010. I was hit by a car and I reported a small right pelvic fracture plus some intense back pain. The lumbar X-Rays showed a light spondylolisthesis of first grade at L5/S1 level, that never caused any pain until then (all doctors agreed that it was congenital). Since this accident, I started having some light lower back pain but nothing too serious and I continued to go on with my life like I always did.
Some years later, in July 2014, I was wakeboarding and after a jump I fell badly on the water and I hurt my back. It was quite painful and I thought that I may probably have had a herniated a disk. As a result, I did an MRI and a CAT that turned out completely normal. The doctor advised to do some regular morning exercise and slowly the pain improved over the next 3-4 months.
At the beginning of November 2014, while I still had some back pain from the fall, I met with a new Neurosurgeon. He told me that he might try an amazing procedure on me, the pulsed radiofrequency ablation (PRFA), which may eliminate my pain for up to one year. He said there were no relevant side effects and that there would be a 50-70% success rate. I was obviously very interested about it and I agreed to try this procedure! He first did some cortisone infiltrations on my L5/S1 facets to see if my back pain would improve. I didn’t notice a relevant improvement but I still felt like the PRFA may be worth a try, since the doctor said that the only side effect would be that it wouldn’t make any difference. I spoke about that with him (telling him also that I didn't notice any relevant improvements with the infiltration) and on November 22, 2014 I let him do the PRFA. Well, everyday since that day, I regret my decision to undergo the PRFA! On the first 3 facets I just felt a normal pressure, while he was putting the electric current in the nail. But on the forth facet I felt a strong and intense pain radiating down the sciatic nerve of my left leg. I was screaming in pain, telling him that my leg was hurting a lot, and after few seconds he stopped the current.
He said that everything was perfectly fine and that it can happen that some pain in the legs is felt during the procedure. The back pain didn’t improve much, but few days after the PRFA I started, to notice some strange pain in my left leg. It slowly became more intense and since then it never went away! I never experienced sciatica before in my life but it soon became by worst nightmare. From the moment I wake up, until the moment I go to sleep, I can feel a continuous pain in my left leg (I would describe it as a strong compression/ pressure type of pain). From a scale of 1-10, the pain is a 3. Most of the time it is not an acute pain, but it is bad enough to interfere with the enjoyment of most everyday activities. The pain starts in the middle of my thigh and goes down until slightly below my knee. Most pain is focused between the knee and the middle of my thigh. Luckily I don’t feel any pain in my buttock, nor in my feet. I feel the most pain when seated and also when lying down. It becomes less noticeable when standing or walking, because the body movement seems to hide it. The pain is also alternating: some days it is stronger and some days it is less painful. It is less strong in the morning, after I wake up.
I tried many things including chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture, 150 grams a day of Lyrica, but until now nothing has worked. I recently did another lumbar MRI, an EMG and even a sciatic nerve MRI and everything turned out normal (no herniated disk, etc.). It looks like everything in my body is perfectly fine, but the pain is always there. I had talks with 2 different neurosurgeons and a neurologist and none of them managed to give me a diagnosis! They do agree that the PRFA is almost certainly the cause of my pain but they don’t understand how, since it is usually used to remove pain and not create it. A neurologist told me 8 months ago that the pain should slowly go away as the nerves (which may have been damaged during the PRFA) regenerate. Unfortunately I didn’t improve over time and I steel feel like in November 2014.
Two weeks ago my current neurosurgeon tried to make an infiltration of cortisone on the root of my L5/S1 level, but unfortunately I felt no reduction of the pain at all! It didn't have any effect. Honestly I don’t know what I should try next… I feel like I tried everything and the more time passes and the more I feel depressed by this continuous pain and I am giving up hope to get back my life!
Thank you in advance for reading my story. I really hope that you will be able to give me any piece of advice. It would be much appreciated!