Milo had a fabulous birthday and things weren't too terrible with my back as time progressed for the first two months or so. It was more like a nuisance than anything else. However, as I pushed through things like working out, doing daily activities, and still holding my sweet boy things got worse.
Up until this point my life every ailment or injury i've had has resolved itself without really needing that much medical attention, with the exception of the emergency C-section I had with the birth of my son which is another story altogether.
I stuck it out until the pain got unbearable and I realized something was really wrong. It was time to go to the doctor. I didn't even have a primary care physician because I never had to go there. I chose a doctor that was closest to us, although I wasn't sure what his bedside manner was like or anything like that.
My first visit to the doctor was very underwhelming. They weighed me, I was overweight (which they casually mentioned), but SURPRISE, I knew that because I have been most of my life and I have never had any issues. I am also quite tall and have a large frame. The year before having my son I started working out, I lost some weight, I was in shape, and I was eating relatively healthy.
I got to sit in a room for a while as they took my blood pressure and my temperature which were both okay. The doctor finally came in and he hardly looked at me mechanically or did any tests. He basically prescribed me a muscle relaxer, a painkiller, and told me to take some ibuprofen. He also recommended I look up videos on YouTube on some exercises. At that, I was sent off to pay my co-pay and go do what he had prescribed for me.
So I went home and I started the regimen. The muscle relaxers made me extremely tired so I could not function on them, I had to stop those quite early in the game because they did not really help my muscle tightness or pain at all. The pain I was feeling was sciatica - sort of like major cramps and charlie horses in my right buttock as well as down my leg to my calf. I did not have tingling or numbness at this point.
After a couple weeks of that with no improvement (there are 5000 exercises on YouTube, how the heck was I suppose to know if what I was doing was right?) I decided it was time to try something else out. My family recommended a chiropractor to me that my family had used for many many years. The first time I went there he adjusted me which relieved a little bit of the pain but not much at all. They also tried electric stimulation on me, a percussion massager, and a device that sent infrared light into the area to reduce inflammation. I was going two times a week and doing the exercises they prescribed me to do at home, but it was only increasing pain instead of decreasing it, which I was afraid of.
I quit the chiro, went back to the physician I had seen the first time, and told him what I had been doing. I asked that he recheck me. Again, very underwhelming.
I suggested that it might be piriformis syndrome as I had done research online that pointed to that, and he pretty much just agreed with me. I had to ASK him for an X-ray (even though I wanted an MRI) and to refer me to a physical therapist, which he did. I was basically just paying him to do nothing. He offered me no other expert advice. The X-ray showed mild disc degeneration. Yay.
By the time I started physical therapy it was the beginning of November. I had gone to the chiropractor for about a month and a half prior. The physical therapy place I started at initially gave me a primary therapist that examined me thoroughly and asked me extensive questions. At least I felt more taken care of in that place. She came to the conclusion that I had an upslipped hip after measuring my legs and examining my stature, hips, and back. She thought that is what was causing the pain since my pelvis was rotated a little on one side and one leg was longer than the other. I also explained to her about my emergency C-section and all the complications with that. As an aside, if you have a C-section they cut through the muscles in your abdomen which makes your back compensate for all of the things that your muscles in front should be taking care of. So if you have a C-section DO rehab or PT afterwards. I wasn't able to because it took my wound 4 months to heal, but if I could do it again (or if I do) I most certainly will.
Anyway after the first month or month and a half physical therapy with the regimen geared towards what she had diagnosed me with, things weren't really improving very much. I would have some good days and some bad days, but most of them were bad days. My pain would hover around a seven out of 10 or so. If you are curious, therapy included a manual segment where they would massage the area as well as use an ultrasound machine to help reduce inflammation. The middle part of the time would be spent doing core strengthening exercises in the gym as well as flexibility and stretching exercises. The last bit included doing electric stimulation, which I had done in Chiro, as well as putting a cold pack on the area for 12 minutes. All in all, I did this about three times a week and each time it took me about an hour and a half to two hours. Thank God my hours at work are flexible.
After little improvement, I was passed around from physical therapist to physical therapist there, and everybody was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I tried different variations of the same exercises but they weren't that drastically different. I did do the traction machine once that felt like heaven, decompressing my spine, but the relief wasn't lasting. I was finally assigned to the main physical therapist that owned the entire place and he started to work with me. I was about 3 to 4 months into my therapy at this point. Each day I would take two ibuprofen in the morning, two Tylenol, and one tramadol. I would do this two to three times a day depending on my pain level.
Since I was doing so much therapy and had so little improvement, I decided I needed a new primary care physician and I needed a new plan of action. At that point, besides the medicine helping, the only other thing that was useful was being able to roll onto two tennis balls in a sock or use a foam roller to roll over the muscles and release the tension that was accumulating there that was giving me cramps. I had also visited a back woods chiropractor to help a little bit during my physical therapy, but he was a far drive. He did suggest an anti-inflammatory diet, which i started using that helped a little. I also one time used a guy who did active release therapy (he was also massage therapist) but for each of these men I couldn't afford them because they didn't accept insurance and it didn't make much improvement without having it done every day.
So, by this time I was quite exasperated and I was tired. I was tired of spending so much time, I was tired of spending so much money, I was tired of missing out on playing with my son and taking care of my husband.
I found another primary care physician. He immediately treated me much better than the first one, he immediately ordered me an MRI, he immediately referred me to a neurosurgeon, and he immediately gave me a steroid shot in my bum that didn't really do anything, but at least he was trying to help. My blood pressure was high at this visit because I was in SO much pain.
So I get the MRI done and a few days later I got called back -- it's a bulging disc (So the radiologist says) and now it's time to set up an appt to go to the neurosurgeon to discuss my results. It took about a week and a half to get into the neurosurgeon because they're always so packed.
Once I get to my appointment, I have my meeting with the neurosurgeon's assistant nurse. She weighs me and then takes me back to a room to look at my MRI results. She does a few tests to see the weakness in my legs and to see how I walk and all of those sorts of things. She asks me questions about my pain and asks me about all the different types of conventional things I've already tried.
She then explains to me while showing my MRI to me what is going on and I feel horrified. I just want to break down crying at that point. My disc herniation is between the vertabres L4 and L5 and is 8 mm which is considered a large herniation. That, my friends, is the reason why I have been in so much pain for so long. The disc that is herniated is also highly degenerative, It looked almost withered compared to all the other healthy disks in my back... Except one. I also have a bulging disc around my bra line but it's not causing any issues at the moment so we don't have to worry about it yet.
So the floodgates open - I break down sobbing in front of her. The images just looked so much worse than the ones I had googled online to see what disc herniations looked like. I asked her if I would ever be able to carry a child again, If i would ever feel normal again, and so many other things on my mind have been worried about.
Her bedside manner wasn't that great. She answered things vaguely. You could tell she wasn't having a good day. She told me that I would need to lose weight. I told her I knew that and I was trying and already lost 5 pounds, but it was really hard when I couldn't exercise due to the pain. She said she would refer me to pain management so I could get a epidural steroid shot, and if that didn't work that I needed to come back to her in a month to consider getting microdiscectomy surgery at the very least.
She immediately referred me to the pain management doctor, and he was in the same office so they were able to squeeze me in between other people's appointments. He explained to me how the procedure was done and asked me if if I wanted to go through with it. I said yes and he also prescribed me some more tramadol to help me get through the pain.
Getting the epidural steroid shot was a quick procedure.They basically numb the area on your back, insert a hollow needle into your epidural space, and then they inject the steroid medicine. For me it wasn't very painful but the injection of the fluid felt very uncomfortable as they were doing it. You have to wait about 30 minutes before you can leave ... To make sure that there are no complications. They usually want someone to come with you but I was alone so I just waited. After it was done I felt my little numbness in my back from the local anesthetic that they used, but other than that there was little change in my pain.
So for about a week I didn't feel any difference at all. I was still having pain and I couldn't get out of bed without taking medicine first. Then all of a sudden after about eight days I felt the pain lessening and I was able to get out of bed without taking the medicine first. I would say that having the steroid injection along with the PT was starting to decrease my pain by about 50%. The people at physical therapy now knew from the MRI what exercises I should be doing to lessen the pain which also helped.
I felt so happy, because I thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel... But after about a month the steroid medicine wore off and my back felt like it went out again on top of the sciatic pain. I scheduled another appointment with the pain management doctor. I was going to get another steroid injection into my spine to see if that would help reduce inflammation just long enough for me to be able to do enough physical therapy to heal it. I waited about a week after the second injection... But there was no more relief. Unfortunately the second injection didn't help at all. I called the pain management doctor to see what I should do, and the nurse called me back and told me that he couldn't do anything else for me and that they were going to set up another appointment with the neurosurgeon.
I knew what that appointment meant.. I knew that this was the appointment where they were gonna tell me that my only other option was surgery. The only other Surgery i had ever had was a C-section and it was an emergency, so I never had time to worry about what was going happen to me... Because I never knew that it was gonna happen until the day of -- about 30 minutes before it did.
For this appointment I saw the neurosurgeon assistant nurse again. However this time I had my mother with me and she was much nicer than last time. She said I qualified for the surgery and that she would talk to a neurosurgeon and get one more appointment set up with him to discuss it before we decided on the date.
The appointment came and I finally got to meet with the neurosurgeon. By this time I was starting to get tingling down my leg and into my foot. Upon meeting him, I immediately liked him - he reminded me of a younger version of my grandfather that had passed away in 2005. He said upon seeing me "you're too young to have to go through this!" Even though he admitted to me that the day before he performed surgery on someone that was merely 16 years old.
I said "I know but I'm ready. I can't live the rest of my life in this pain. I can't live the rest my life without being able to hold my son or being able to have another child. I Can't live the rest of my life without being able to give to my husband like he does to me every day by working, doing the things that need to be done, and showing me that he loves me. I know it's probably because of my weight... But I have tried so hard and lost a lot of it with no improvement in pain." He immediately revealed to me that he worked on as many people that were heavy as he did that were skinny and everyone in between. He said that I didn't even have a protruding belly that would put me at higher risk anyway. He told me that some people were just born with discs that weren't able to withstand the actions of our bodies, and some people were.
In our talks together I found out that he was a Christian. That seemed to ease my soul little bit and it made me feel more calm with everything that was going to happen. I told him everything I had tried; the chiropractor, physical therapy, the epidural steroids, pain meds, I had even lost 30 pounds at that point. From the few physical tests he did on me, and questions he asked, he said that I had a really good chance of feeling better after the surgery based on the results. He described to me the procedure in detail which made me feel better about it, and he answered any and all questions that I could think of.
That very day I scheduled my surgery for less than a week after my appointment, May 2nd, 2013.