First, yes it’s me. Me, the one who blogged all the time. The one who eventually stopped posting and now I realize my last visit here was in February.
That was before I experienced something new, something horrifying and something that has me traumatized for the rest of my life.
Let’s go back…back to when I thought I would lose my mind.
“What is this weird twinge behind my right thigh. It feels like a pinch or a tweak when I bend over. Ah well, I will ignore it. It will go….away…”
“Ok, it didn’t go away. It’s getting worse. I better head to my chiro”
And that is when I started my 3 1/2 months off work and 3 1/2 months of pain equivalent or possible worse, than childbirth.
By Mid-March, I went off work on medical leave and started going to a family Chiropractor. He knew what was causing the problem but he didn’t have the proper equipment to fix it.
By April, I realized that pain was my everyday life. I woke up to it. I went to bed with it. Mornings were the worst. I get up from bed, (lying was the only pain relief, unless it throbbed), I would try to stand and the pain was horrendous. It would radiate from the back of my thigh down my leg, behind my knee, on through to my calf. A spasm like I was being electrocuted, stabbed and ripped apart at the same time. This also occurred anytime I tried to get up from a sitting position or getting out of the car. Getting INTO a car, especially to drive, was impossible. There were times, being that I had to drive myself to therapy, I would get in crying…and not “ow it hurts” crying…I was screaming in pain.
Let me just interject here…if anyone reading this KNEW me…I don’t do things like scream in pain. Yes, I will admit that I have a low tolerance for pain but to actually scream in it….that is not in my nature because that would bring attention to myself and I don’t like having attention being brought to myself.
My life stopped. I could not longer take care of my child. He had to start walking to and from school, alone, because I could no longer drive him. I could no longer drive in my new dream car I had just purchase weeks before this happened. I missed out going to LEGOLAND for his birthday, I couldn’t move let alone drive out there. I showered less (yuck, I know), but that was because just stepping INTO the shower was torture and just getting up from a lying position was torture. Sneezing, was painful. Coughing was painful, and don’t ask me about going to the bathroom…I couldn’t even sit without screaming let alone wipe my own ass!
Then there was my family, my mother and sister….I will just say that after all this…I will never expect sympathy from them…ever. I just know that I would never have told someone in as much OBVIOUS pain as I was to “get over it”. It really taught me a lot about their personalities that I will choose to ignore.
By the end of April, I FINALLY get my doctor to refer me to an MRI.
The MRI shows this:
Herniated Disc at L5 with a slight herniation just above, it’s at the bottom of the picture, the dark disc poking into that white area which is the nerve, causing the Sciatica pain
WebMD describes Sciatica pain:
Sciatica is pain, tingling, or numbness produced by an irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord into the lower back. It goes down through the buttock, then its branches extend down the back of the leg to the ankle and foot.
Emphasis on PAIN. There was never tingling or numbness or maybe I was in to much pain to notice it. But yes, it went down my leg, behind my thigh, behind my knee then down my back calf. I couldn’t move, walk, sit for more than 1 minute or sleep in any position other than on my back, crying.
The doctor prescribed me 800mg Ibuprofen…it did nothing.
The doctor prescribed Codone. It would knock me out but it worked, because I was knocked out. Or sometimes…it wouldn’t even work.
Like I said above, life was not worth living. Every morning I dreaded opening my eyes and deep inside, when I would go to sleep, I wished that God would just take me, so I wouldn’t have to wake up to that pain again.
My doctor referred me to a Neurosurgeon who said, after viewing my MRI that Epidural Injections would be the next step.
Hmm…ok…I did my research and the side effects I read about were atrocious! Numbness, piercing pain and in the worst cases, severe spinal damage! Uh….no thanks! Let alone the fact that Epidural Injections do not fix the herniated disc problem…only throws steroids right onto the nerve it’s pinching to numb it. Then when it wears off, I’m back in again for another round of a big needle getting stuck into my spine. And what..? That gets done for the rest of my life?
Well, no….because then it was surgery.
Screw that…..I’m fucking 38! Back surgery?
I searched and found my answer. There was a chiropractor, just a block from my job and a few miles from my home that did Spinal Decompression and the DRX Table. Now this is not the inversion table where you hang upside down. This table pulls the spine and over time, opens it up so that the disc can be less compressed and be allowed the water and fluids it needs.
I started that on May 22nd. Let’s look at the timeline here.
February – Pain begins behind my thigh
March – this might be more than I think…let’s see the Chiro
April – FINALLY get an MRI after asking my primary physician not once but TWICE for it (the first time, the doctor denied me, outright).
May – pain pain pain and told by Neurosurgeon that Epidural Steroid Injections were the only way…..then surgery.
So I’ve done my research, rejected the Injections because paralization does not appeal to me (being a bit dramatic there but you get my point) and surgery is also not an option.
I start my $2000 session on the DRX table of twenty sessions lasting 30 minutes each and done 3-4 times a week, to start. Lucky for me, this chiro, was a relative by marriage, and I got a discount but I still owe $1500, at the present time. Blegh.
So about 10 sessions in, the Chiro says I should be experiencing less pain and I’m not. At this point, I’m more panicked than when this all started because if this machine, which was my last resort, didn’t work, I would pretty much be crippled for life. Because that is what I was this whole time…crippled. Couldn’t walk, stand, sit, couldn’t take care of my kid or even myself and never returning to work again. All I knew was pain.
Bless my Chiro’s heart…he came to my rescue. He said that the disc probably wasn’t responding because not only was it herniated, as the MRI showed, but is probably also so dried out from not getting water and oxygen for so long from being compressed. The machine may be opening up my spine but the disc is un-movable.
He offers a solution. I would straddled on the chiro table, like straddling a horse, then he would sit behind me, my back facing him and he would place his thumbs on the disc in my lower back…..and push his thumbs into the disc to move it and loosen the muscles around. He did this while I bent forward and back, forward and back about 10 times. This movement and pushing that disc also pushed the disc right into the nerve.
The first time he did that, the pain was so bad, I almost passed out. My leg…was on fire and getting electrocuted at the same time. I was crying so bad, there, in his office, that I couldn’t breathe. I was doing that cry where you just whimper and whimper and your breathing gets shallow. He gave me some tissue and promised it would be better. The pain took over so much that I didn’t care I was crying, nose running, eyes swollen, in front of a complete stranger, even if he was a doctor and has seen this before. Later on, I realized what I must have looked like and became embarrassed.
We continued those “thumb pushing” sessions over the next 10 times I did the DRX Machine. Each time, was not as bad as the time before, yet still painful.
Then….one day……..the nerve pain, was GONE!
Last week was the last DRX machine session and thumb compressions and I had full movement with no radiating nerve pain, at all.
My sessions on the machine are now over and we are now just working on severely tight butt muscles and hamstring. Apparently, I’m dealing with a bit of a tight piriformis muscle which is the muscle found deep inside the buttocks. It connects the lower spine to the upper thighbone and runs DIRECTLY over the sciatic nerve. However, it really just feels like I have a tight butt muscle….kinda funny really. Also, my lower back will get tight sometimes and I have to step away from my desk to do little stretches. And I still get aching behind my knee and in my calf. But usually a good stretch will work it out.
However, this is NOTHING like what I was feeling back in April and May…..nothing like it at all.
I am getting massages to work out the muscles and I stretch EVERY day. In the morning, I stretch my legs, do spine stretching yoga poses and especially stretch the piriformis muscle in my backside.
In the evening, I do stretches again and I’m back on the treadmill, power walking. I believe that my running and elliptical days…are over. However, this ordeal, cost me 25 lbs of weight gain from my 2 year journey of 70 lbs of weight loss….blegh with a side of blegh and blegh to drink. More on that in a future post.
The chiro did say that I will need to be careful from here on out. Hence my running and elliptical days being over. I am now more probable to get Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae), since the disc, even though it’s better, has been compressed and dried out. It could happen again and it could take the spinal bones with it to Deadville. But that is more likely if I don’t stay in tune with what I’m feeling and I don’t keep up my stretches and keep my weight down.
I was asked many time about how I got a herniated disc…
“Where you in a car accident?”, No
“Did you have a fall?” No
“Do you work in a place where you are constantly bending over or lifting heavy things?” Uh…NO!
So what caused this?
Not a damned thing. Well, not the typical things. Personally, I believe it was all the extra weight I had been carrying all the years in my life. I think being overweight has had so many unhealthy side effects that even after losing so much weight, I couldn’t escape it.
Psychological Consequences of this Journey
All of the above was just the surface of how I was physically. Mentally, is a whole another ball of wax. I will just say that living a life, even if it was just 3 months, of constant pain, almost pushed me over the edge of the Cliffs of Insanity.
I believe somewhere in-between getting told I just need Epidural Shots and worrying about those side affects and doing hands on therapy where the pain was blinding to actually waking up one day with no pain after months of constant pain, I literally wanted to die. The psychological aspects of this is indescribable.
But Consequences can also come in a positive form. I really believed that I had little to no tolerance of physical pain. Yet, I made it to the end of this journey, after the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, even worse than Childbirth, or maybe just a different kind. But I did it. I pushed my way through moment after moment of constant pain. And I am still here.
Also, I found that yelling, which is what I used to do a lot with my kid, was painful during this ordeal. I literally couldn’t do anything that would cause the nerve to spasm and funny enough, yelling did that. I have since mellowed out my mood and personality. However, sneezing and coughing also was painful so I’m traumatized in that every time I feel a sneeze coming on, my body tenses for pain, but it doesn’t come. I’m sure that anxiety will pass with time.
But the deadly combination that had me staring into the darkness of hopelessness was that of the utter physical pain and the LONLINESS of it all. I had not one person to comfort me, rub my back, hold me…nothing. I’m typing this out now, thinking back on how utterly devastating that feeling was and I can feel my soul diving into that lonely place again where I realize, I still have no one.
YET, I still made it through the other side. I made it through the pain. Then the loneliness of the pain, dealing with the pain alone, crying alone. I made it. And that is ok.