He also didn't explain the nerve medication to me at all and just gave it to me because I was there complaining about pain, so I'm not even sure I feel comfortable with taking it. My husband had a similar medication and he said that it made him periodically very confused and disoriented.
I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon and I'm probably going to hold off any any nerve pain medications until I meet with him and discuss risks/benefits and whether it's even a good option for me.
When I had my MRI on Monday night and I had to lay on my back for the scan, I thought to myself "This is the worst pain I have ever felt". Prior to that, I thought the worst pain I had ever felt was straining an intercostal muscle between my ribs during pregnancy.
I decided on Friday that I need to stop using superlatives to describe pain because sometimes "This is the worst pain ever" can't describe some experiences.
On Friday afternoon, I had my first epidural steroid injection (ESI) in the lumbar area of my back. (Originally it wasn't scheduled until the 13th, but the radiologist decided to move my appointment up.) I read about the procedure on WebMD before I went and they said many patients ask "Was that it?" at the end of the ESI experience, so I felt like the biggest challenge would be not thinking about the needles going into my spine.
Before the procedure, the very personable doctor came into the pre-op area to talk to me about everything. I wasted my time trying to get answers from the orthopedic surgeon that morning because I should have just waited to talk to Dr. Camden. He was able to explain the whole procedure and he was also very familiar with my MRI images and he told me details about my injury.
1. I have what is called "transitional anatomy" at my S1/L5 junction. That "dried up degenerated disc" the PA told me about is actually a vestigial fusion.
Basically, my spinal anatomy is differs from the standard because two of the vertebrae are fused together. This means there is no disc to absorb impact between those two fused vertebrae and that can put more strain on the disc above, and that's the disc that I ruptured.
2. My disc isn't just herniated, it's also torn. I don't know what that means in terms of recovery, but the torn disc releases chemicals into the body that cause a pain reaction, which could account for some of my severe pain.
3. The ESI, if it works, won't kick in from anywhere to 3-7 days after the procedure. If after 10 days I feel no difference, then we can say the shot didn't work. Then I would need to schedule a second shot and he would try approach the problem differently to see if he can provide relief.
4. If the ESI is successful, the results last 3-6 months and in some cases, up to a year. Also, I can only get 3 shots in a physical year. A year is 12 months and if the shot only lasts for 3 months, you can see a potential problem there.
I took a Valium so I'd be nice and relaxed for the procedure, but even with the drugs I felt pretty nervous about the whole thing. It started with them wheeling me to a special room equipped with X-ray equipment so the doctor can see what he's doing with a fluoroscope. I had to lay face down on a X-ray table, which unfortunately was a painful position for me. They inject something to numb the skin so you don't feel the needle(s) during the procedure, but you can still feel a little pressure and if you look up, you can see your spine on the big screen with the needle poking around (public service note: don't look up.)
Finding the nerve in question and injecting contrast wasn't too bad, but when it came time to inject the steroids, that's when shit got really intense and I went from nervously chatting with the nurse to crying like a little bitch and begging them to please stop.
They told me my whole right leg would be numb after the procedure because the doctor would be injecting anesthesia into my spine, so I was under the misconception that a numb leg would equal no pain for the rest of the day. No, it just meant I needed help getting up and down the stairs but my leg still hurt. Having my whole leg numbed really drove home the point to me of how little of my leg I can actually feel. The only thing I really noticed was that my knee was numb, and the rest felt pretty close to my new "normal".
As a bonus, now my back is really sore from the procedure and I'm even more incapacitated than I was before the ESI. The best part will be going through all of these again soon if this first shot doesn't work. The doctor told me "it's usually less painful the second time" but I'm pretty sure that's a lie they tell people so they'll come back. I guess it's foolish to hope for a pain-free remedy for pain.
One thing I learned from that ESI procedure is that the quality of your care can really make a difference. While the ESI was way more painful than my MRI, I will remember it more fondly because of how hard the doctor, nurses, and staff tried to make me more comfortable and how compassionate they were to me, even when the pain made it impossible for me to do anything beyond pant like a panicked Chihuahua and stare at the wall.
I did end up filing a compliant about the MRI tech from Monday night and the Director of Imaging from the hospital personally apologized to me on the phone and in person, and I feel comfortable that it was an anomaly in otherwise fantastic care. Hopefully, I can stop racking up personal experiences at the local hospital. I'd like to just be a normal non-broken person again.
This week is a waiting game to see if the shot worked. If by next Monday I feel the same then I'll have to schedule a second epidural injection procedure. For now, I'm actually in more pain than I was before I had the shot done. I used to have most of my referred pain in the side of my hip and quad and now I have acute pain on the side of my calf which is both new and fun. It's hard to compare, but I also think my numbness and sensation loss is worse. At least everyday this week I can hope "Today is the day the pain will get better and maybe I'll even get sensation back!" even if I'm not feeling too optimistic about it at the moment.
If you had to bet, would you put money on this shot working? Remember, the odds are 50%. Flip a coin! Amuse me by guessing.
Do you have any anatomical abnormalities? In addition to my fused S1/L5 vertebrae, apparently my bottom ribs are also shorter than they should be. I guess that accounts for my delicate and feminine waist line.