Hi AF Chica,
I live in your neck of the woods. I'm in Stonewall, just 6 miles south of Shreveport.
Sorry to hear that you are experiencing so much pain and evasive answers from doctors. You've gotten some excellent replies from all the regulars here in the forum, and I'm a newbie, for sure.
I felt compelled to reply to your posts, though. I'll leave my personal feelings about surgery out of this because I don't have any firsthand experience. Instead, I'll share with you some small remedies that help with my pain and with my husband's (he has Fibro, Osteo of Spine, and Degenerative Disc Disease).
We have a hot tub that we try to use daily. We don't always succeed at that, but we do try. We do make at least three days out of the week, and I'll tell you: we feel much better when we take a dip for 20 minutes every day. We don't have the temperature set high, during the summer it's at 96 - 98, in winter 98 -100. Our doctors wrote prescriptions for hydrotherapy, and we claimed the purchase as a medical expense on our tax return. You mentioned that heat helps so I didn't know if you had access to a hot tub or jet tub.
I also have used acupuncture on and off for a couple of years. Unfortunately skilled acupuncturists are hard to find in Louisiana. I went to Marshall, TX for the last 6 months of 2009 to a chiropractor there who practices. I received fairly good pain relief. It only lasted as long as I was doing it, though. I've heard recently about a new doctor in town who is a licensed acupuncturist. I'll try to find her name and private message it to you.
My husband & I also get massages when we can afford them and utilize pain management doctors as well. We've been fortunate with our choices of rheumatologists and pain management doctors.
As for the epidural shots: my husband really had a hard time with sciatica last year, and the shots made a huge difference for him and the sciatica pain. Not so much for the low back pain. He had the three-shot series, and he's glad that he had them. His sciatica symptoms are coming back, but he's gotten a little over a year of relief (from the sciatica only). I tried the epidural shot and didn't get the good results. I didn't really have sciatica pain; my heels on both feet were burning and aching & I had low back pain, but the back of the legs & buttocks got skipped. I've heard and read that the shots and surgery are more effective for patients who have sciatica pain, but I believe that everyone is completely different & responds differently.
Sorry to have written a book! I hope that your pain subsides & that you are able to get some pain relief...thank you for your service to our country -- I admire you for the dedication.
Dx: Fibromyalgia, Inflammatory Polyarthritis, DDD (herniated L5-S1), Tachycardia, Interstitial Cystitis, Raynaud's
Rx: Savella, Mirapex, Oxaprozin, Amitriptyline, Tizanidine, Orphenadrine, Atenolol, Enablex, Nitrofurantoin, Hydroxyzine, Percocet 10
Laughter is the BEST Medicine!