Monday, November 3, 2014

What to Do About the Back

About three months back, I wrote a blog praising my Myanmar doctor for his straightforwardness and no-nonsense approach towards the problems of my aching back.  Turned out I had a herniated disc, not the first my doc had seen in his career.  A few days ago, after a half dozen previous visits, including a surgical procedure wherein he gave me an epidural, I went in to ask for advice for whether or not to proceed with the final (and expensive) step of the treatment, off-shore surgery to shave off the part of my spinal cord that has exploded out of my verterbrae. 

I explained about how I had re-aggravated my injury. I told him that there was now a complete numbness in my left leg and feet (the left edge of my left foot has felt like it's been frostbitten since I hurt myself in Sumatra).  He nodded his head and explained that numbness in the extremities was in fact a symptom of worse injury due to ruptured disc than the pain of sciatica.

Kind of weird that the a numbness to pain is worse than pain. Then again, my worst pain has been in my buttocks and thigh when the actually source of it was a little point in my lower back.

So what to do?  My insurance deductible for the surgery is about a month's pay, but after a couple weeks after Indonesia, yeah, I ached, my back hurt, but it wasn't unbearable.  I got through my day and although I was uncomfortable, I've been able to handle it okay.  Then again, at 1 AM, when trying to go to sleep, and the pain in my left leg prevented that, I'd pay anything to get rid of it.

I wanted my doctor to tell me what to do.  I wanted him to hear about my symptoms and tell me what to do next.  Instead, he listened to me, and said I had three options.  Surgery, not having surgery, or, just do another session of drug therapy and see how I feel.

So, once again, I'm getting my cortizone shots.  He's given me new meds. I looked them up online and they're actually weaker than what he's given me before (basically, the weakest NSAIDs and muscle relaxants out there).

Guess what? I'm without pain.  I can walk down the street or sit at my computer and not feel any uncomfortableness. A few weeks back, I was preparing for a trip to Singapore or Bangkok for surgery; now, I think I may not need it.

I think I know what's going on.  The cortisone has shrunk the swelling in my spinal cord. After the cortisone wears off, if I can avoid doing those things that might re-aggravate the ruptured disc, I can get through this without surgery.   Problem is, this whole problem started by stepping off a curb, so forget playing basketball or climbing mountains, what do I do? Stop walking?

This pharmaceutical treatment is essentially just putting off a decision I'm going to have to make.

Still, I think without these mild drugs, I wouldn't have been able to make this video made today.  It's hard to be creative when you're suffering chronic pain.


  1. I wrote a long comment and it disappeared! I will try again!

  2. I know how you must be feeling. Back pain is a real bitch and the doctors don't seem to be able to guarantee relief.
    I only had a bulging disc, not a ruptured one, but I have read that a ruptured disc can heal and your body can eventually reabsorb the gunk that leaked out.

    My only suggestion is to do everything you can to avoid or put off surgery because chances are it won't help 100% and you will still have to do the things you need to do to help your body heal. You know what I am talking about.

    Perhaps you should set a time limit. Give it six months or more and see if you do get better. No more hiking or riding motor scooters for awhile.

    One physical therapist showed me something that gave me a lot of relief. Lie flat on your stomach , on the floor, with your head straight, not cocked to the side. Put a folded towel or something under your forehead so your nose isn't smashed into the floor. Stay that way for awhile. I think it helps relax the muscles or something.

    Repeat every day until you are better.

    Give it a try.

    Love Mom

  3. The pain you feel in your butt and leg is from the Sciatic nerve. It can come and go with a single step.

  4. Please don't think I'm trying to interfere, but NSAIDS ended up causing me health problems after being on them for quite a while. I suffered with sciatica for more than 16 years, after being in a major collision; I had been driving a school bus and was hit by a tractor trailer driver. In the beginning, WCB said NO to chiropractic care. But, after suffering more than 16 years, I finally went to a chiropractor. At that time, I had sciatic pain so badly that I could hardly walk. Plus, I had numbness right up to knee. Chiropractic care helped me with that and other problems. As for the sciatica... it only took a couple of adjustments, and I was no longer in pain. I'll pray for you. Hopefully, you'll see a chiropractor. Blessings, Lynn


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