I had posted on here a week or so ago and wanted to formally introduce myself to the group. I was using the name Bionic Jill but decided to switch it up to something that made me chuckle. Any laughs are good laughs.
I've been to a number of chronic pain/spine health forums and this one struck me as being one of the more upbeat and supportive ones. Exactly what I'm looking for!
Fortunately my foray into the world of chronic pain is a relatively new one. Since adolescense I've had bad pain in my thoracic spine but I always attributed it to being top heavy. Once I hit 25 it began to be bad enough to keep me up at night and to make it so that I couldn't sit through an entire football game (which is not good when you're a season ticket holder!!!).
In May 2008 I made the mistake of taking an Ambien and sleeping on my back. At the ripe old age of 28 I woke up unable to walk. I could shuffle but the pain was incredibly intense. I immediately found a chiropractor that I was able to see that day. Driving was agonizing, pushing the gas pedal was almost more than I could bear and forget about checking mirrors. He took me in and began cracking and popping away. After 2 weeks I was still unable to move. I went to my friend who is a chiropractor and he took xrays. Turns out that I had spondylolithesis at L5/S1 and he referred me to a surgeon. The first chiropractor happened to have been adjusting me in the direction that my spine was already sliding. No wonder I didn't get any relief!!!
I went to 2 surgeons and decided on the 2nd one to do my surgery. Both of them said the same thing, that they would be willing to let me try physical therapy and more conservative treatments, but that ultimately since I had a pars defect (the actual fracture) that the only real solution would be a fusion. After much thought and debate I decided to go with the second doctor because he had a longer history of doing the surgery and was willing to do an ALIF with a vascular surgeon handling the approach and close up. The first doctor only wanted to do a TLIF because he felt uneasy about doing an ALIF with all of my prior abdominal surgeries. I don't regret my decision at all about anything. I had my ALIF done on 4/20/09.
My recovery has been quite a long process. I'm still incredibly optimistic for 2 reasons... it's in my genetics to be optimistic and because I'm not even a year out yet. I was out of work for 3.5 months and at 3 months I was cleared to begin physical therapy and did that for 3 months. My pain is now not at the fusion site but it has migrated down to my SI joints, with a vengeance!!! My surgeon finally decided that he had done what he could regarding my post-surgical pain and I'm now seeing a PM.
My PM has me scheduled for steroid injections into my SI joints on 3/5/2010. I am willing to give it a try, heck, I'm willing to give anything a try at this point, but I have some concerns too. It seems that people who have a fusion are almost twice as likely to have a second one. Steroids also break down the body to a certain point. It seems that injecting something that could potentially harm the overall health of the joint that is one level below where I was fused may not be the best idea for long term health. An SI fusion has already been mentioned in passing by some other doctors and I want to make sure that I keep my SI joints as healthy as possible. So between now and 3/5 I will arm myself with as much information as possible so that I can make the best decision for my situation.
I'm tired of hurting and am in the process of determining what my new reality is and coming to terms with that new reality. Through this whole process I have always hoped for a best case situation and in the past 4 months have realized that I will never be like I was before May of 2008. As you all know, it's a tough mental adjustment to realize that the pain is a forever thing. I'm still figuring out to what extent my forever-pain will be.
In the meantime, my upper back has been so inflamed and painful from my scoliosis that at times it hurts more than my lower back/ SI joints! As I'm sitting here it feels like I am being stabbed and punched and I've already taken 2 of my Vicodin. One thing that I learned about my lower back is that I have to be agressive with this all.
Operation Happy Spine begain last Tuesday with seeing my PM and next in line is more PT, deep tissue massages, steroid injections, and aggressive chiropractic care/massage therapy for my upper back pain. I plan on talking to my surgeon about it when I see him next (which is in April).
Oh goodness I rambled!!! It felt good to get it out though, especially with people that get it. Since I look healthy (until I walk because then I limp around) people seem to think that my surgery has failed or that I'm completely okay. Either way I feel like I am always having to defend my back surgery and pain medication.
I look forward to getting to know all of you so much better and hopefully being able to put a smile on your face when you need it the most.
Now for my first question! Do any of you have any thoughts on my concerns with the injections? I need to do a lot more research, because they were discarded as an option immediately by my surgeons I haven't absorbed every piece of literature on them yet. Also, if you've had them, specifically in the SI joints, did you get relief and if so, how long? They are using some sort of sedation because I can't eat for 6 hours beforehand. I meant to ask for more details but was so relieved that the pain doctor didn't think that I was a recreational drug user and actually treated me with a lot of respect and care that my mind went into a happy place.
Jill, 30 years old