New Here - Back/Sciatica Pain Q's ***UPDATE***

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Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/29/2011 8:18 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Everyone! New poster here!
Dealing with pain in my lower Right back and pain/numbness/tingling down my right leg.
A little history of my situation - have had chronic back pain for about 2 years now. I am 35 years old, female, school teacher. At first I thought it was from working out, lifting heavy things improperly, or sleeping in a weird position.  Around last November, the pain got worse. My Primary Care Physician sent me for an x-ray and ultrasound on my kidneys, thinking it was possibly a kidney infection. Neither showed anything so he referred me to an orthopedic dr. This dr. diagnosed me with a lipoma, which he explained was basically a fatty tumor sitting on the nerve. Gave me 2 cortisone shots spaced 1 month apart, and I got HUGE relief from that!
Fast forward to July 2011, pain returned, this time much worse than before. I ended up in the ER at 6 am on a Sunday morning because I could not stand or walk, I was in that much pain. In the ER, they sent me for a CAT scan, which didn't really show much. Gave me Valium as a muscle relaxer and Percocet for the pain via IV. I do not do well with Percocet (found out the hard way last summer when I had a tonsillectomy - vomiting after a tonsillectomy is not fun) and I became nauseous. They gave me something for the nausea, then gave me Dilaudid, which worked wonders. ER doctor sent me home with a script for Tylenol with codeine and Valium.
I went back to orthopedic dr. that week, he gave me another cortisone shot and prescribed Tramadol (which I found out here I should NOT have been prescribed, as I am on Lexapro) and PT sessions.
I went to 10 PT sessions, and returned to ortho. Because the pain was still present, he ordered an MRI on my back/spine and right leg because of the sciatica symptoms.
Because I am a school teacher, I cannot take "heavy duty" pain meds on a regular basis. Also, I have a very sensitive stomach, and can only tolerate certain meds - Advil is OK, Aleve is not.
On the Tramadol issue - I just happened to find this forum, and I just happened to read a thread that mentioned "seratonin syndrome" in conjunction with Tramadol and anti-depressants. I googled it and was horrified that neither the ortho dr. nor the pharmacist picked up on the combination of meds! I discontinued the Tramadol immediately and am hoping there are no lasting side effects or damage...
OK, so for my questions - I am interested in alternative healing methods, i.e. accupuncture, chiropractor, etc. I started a yoga class, and explained to the instructor my back issues (I had taken a "boot camp" class in May and the instructor placed a kettle bell on my back while I was in the "plank" position without asking! so now I made sure to tell the yoga intructor so that she could modify the poses for me if necessary).
What are the pros and cons of these as alternative healing methods, and are they safe for someone with my condition?
I go back to the ortho dr. next week, and I plan to tell him what I found out about the Tramadol/SSRI interaction risk.
Also, not sure if this is relevant, but I did have a very bad case of shingles last spring (spring of 2010) that had me bedridden for 2 weeks. I know that is a virus, and is probably not related to the pain I am experiencing now, but the back pain did get significantly worse after the shingles.
Any insight, information, suggestions, etc. are greatly appreciated!

Post Edited (Circe) : 9/7/2011 3:05:23 PM (GMT-6)

White Beard
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Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 3702
   Posted 8/29/2011 9:13 PM (GMT -6)   

Welcome to Healing Well Chronic Pain Forum. You mentioned that you go back to your Ortho Doc next week, it that to get the results of the MRI that you had? I would wait before starting any alternative healing methods till after getting the results of your MRI. Depending on the type of alternative healing you do, it could possibly cause you more harm than good till you find what is actually going on with your lower back. Talk with your Ortho Doc, fully explain your situation maybe there is something else that can be done to help relieve your pain.

I definitely think you have come to the right place, we sure can't heal you but we can listen and give you advice based on our own personal experiences, and lots of support. If nothing else it often helps just to know that you are not alone with your pain. When your here on this forum you are in good company, I personly think this forum has some of the most compassionate and caring people that you will find anywhere on the internet!
Again I Welcome you to our family!

White Beard
Moderator Chronic Pain
After spending nearly 22 1/2 years in the USAF, I retired in Sept, 1991. I then went back to school and became a licensed RN in 1994, and I worked on Oncology and then a Med Surg Unit, I became disabled in late 1999 and was approved SSD in early 2002!-- DDD, With herniated Disk at T-12 and L4-5. C5-C6 ACDF in Sep 2009, C6-C7 ACDF in Mar 1985, Osteoarthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Complex Sleep Apnea, and host of other things to spice up my life!(NOT!) Medications:Oxycontin, Percocet, Baclofen, Sulfasalazine, Metoprolol, Folic Acid, Supplemental O2 at 3lpm with VPAP Adapt SV I am White Beard with a White Beard!

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/29/2011 9:23 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you so much White Beard!

Yes, it is to get the results of the MRI. I will definitely express my concerns to him and ask about the alternatives. My concern is that dr's sometimes don't want to recommend or endorse alternative methods. I haven't discussed it with him yet so I don't know for sure. He did prescribe the PT sessions, so hopefully he will give me an honest assessment of alternatives to medication in light of my specific diagnosis.

Thank you again and I look forward to reading and posting more here! :)

Screaming Eagle
Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 8/30/2011 4:56 AM (GMT -6)   
Good morning Circe!

Well!….I happened across this thread while suffering the same old sleeping problems, and wanted to pop in and Welcome you to the forum!

Were sorry that you're struggling with this back issue, and I agree with White Beard, in that you need to see what the MRI indicates first, before trying anything else at this point.

Hopefully it is not too serious, but if it is and the pain persist, and you have finished the PT sessions…then maybe an Epidural may be suggested. It might be worth a try at this point.

One thing I would encourage you to do,... and of course at the direction of your Dr….is to follow up with the PT exercises at home if you can. The back muscles need to be strengthened and are an important part of keeping the spine healthy.

I'm not a big fan of chiropractor's and especially not,... until you find out what your dealing with regarding the spinal problems. (IMHO) However, it might be worth asking your Dr and see if he thinks it would be ok.

Please keep us updated on the Dr's findings, and feel free to visit us often for support.

Take care, and again!…Welcome to the forum!

Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 1276
   Posted 8/30/2011 8:33 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Circe, and welcome to HW :)

CRPS since 1999, diagnosed in 2005 and since spread to full body, spasms, dystonia & contractures, gastroparesis, orthostatic hypotension,bradycardia/tachycardia, bone spurs, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome.

On Oxycontin/Endone, Topamax, Mobic, Magnesium, Florinef, Midodrine, Somac, Cipramil. Have a spinal cord stimulator, intrathecal pump with baclofen & bupivacaine and doing physio.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2010
Total Posts : 877
   Posted 8/30/2011 11:48 AM (GMT -6)   
Seratonin syndrome is very rare. Many people with auto immune disorders and chronic pain take tramadol and meds for depression /anxiety and do not suffer this syndrome. My daughter is one of them. Ask your doctor, maybe some other combination will work better, but don't do without. Tramadol is a good pain med and many do well on it.
Rheumatoid arthritis with secondary Sjogrens, Fibromyalgia, meniscus tears in left knee, Cancer survivor

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/30/2011 6:55 PM (GMT -6)   
requiem_aeternam said...
Low back pain can be caused by many issues: low back pain with tingling and numbness down the leg only a few.
Frequently disc prolapse (herniation) is associated with these symptoms, but depending on how far down the numbness/pain goes, there may be different structures involved.
Frequently used alternative methods for disc decompression include inversion tables, light to moderate relaxation massage, acupuncture. I agree on waiting on the MRI findings.....
Red flags are loss of bowel or bladder control, severe weakness (not pain) that prevents walking at all...
Thank you for the info requiem_aeternam! He did mention something about one of the discs. The pain goes down my right side, through my buttocks past my knee, only on the back side of my leg. I have not had a problem with bladder/bowel, or weakness. The only time I had pain so bad I could not walk was that one time. It literally was so painful to stand or walk that I had to crawl to the phone to call my mom to take me to the hospital, then crawl to the back door to let my dogs outside so they could do their business, but that is the only time it has been that bad.

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/30/2011 6:58 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you Screaming Eagle!

I have never been to a chiropractor, but know people who swear by them. I agree that I will wait until I have my appt. to review the MRI results and go from there. At this point, I am just looking for any option that is not pain medication.

I have been trying to follow up with the PT exercises. I am hoping to lose 10-15 lbs. also.

Thank you again! :)

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/30/2011 6:59 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi CRPSpatient and thank you for the welcome! :)

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 8/30/2011 7:10 PM (GMT -6)   
mscrowbar said...
Seratonin syndrome is very rare. Many people with auto immune disorders and chronic pain take tramadol and meds for depression /anxiety and do not suffer this syndrome. My daughter is one of them. Ask your doctor, maybe some other combination will work better, but don't do without. Tramadol is a good pain med and many do well on it.
Thank you mscrowbar! I almost fell over when I read about the Tramadol/seratonin syndrome issue. I actually worked myself up into quite a tizzy googling it and reading that it can be fatal! Is this something not widely known? Neither the dr. nor the pharmacist flagged the potential interaction. I think I will stick with Advil for now, and ask about an alternative.

Retired Mom
Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 1753
   Posted 8/31/2011 6:32 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Circe,

I take the ultracet (tramadol/tylonol) along with several other meds (incuding xanax xr and ambien). I also take Oxy IR plus a ton of other meds.

I have personally had seratonin syndrome, but not in relation to the ultracet.....just in relation to an anti-depressant. It was horrible, but I obviously lived through it. It probably did not flag because the doses they are recommending are so low and are not at the level to cause SS.

For me, SSRI's are horrible and cause all kinds of problems. For so many others here, they work great.

Please don't base you medical decisions on something you read on a chronic pain board (even one as great a HW) because these are personal opinions only. Also, like anywhere else on the internet and in life, not everybody is always 100% honest. For the most part, HW has very few problems with issues like that, but it does happen.

I'm sure your physician is much better prepared to discuss your medications than anyone else. I was SCARED of Ultracet for years and the finally gave in as pain started to take over my body. It gave me pretty good relief on its on for several years before my medical conditions became so out of control. I remember clearly the Dr telling me that I had no choice but to take something for pain because it was effecting so many other areas of my life. He was right! I think I was 19-20 then (about 23 years ago) and I stayed on just ultracet for occasional bouts of pain until serious problems developed about 3 years ago. Now the meds are MUCH stronger and I can honestly say I could not function without having something to dim the pain so that I can have some quality of life.

I wish you all the best!
TLIF L5-S1/failed, Pituatary disorder w/HGH deficiency, Fibro, Failed Bladder Surgery & Nissen, GERD, OCPD, GAD, MDD, CFS, TMJ, Migraines, Pre-glaucomic, HBP, Idiopatic Reactive Hypoglycemia w/Diabetic reaction to HGH, Bi-lateral CTS (surgery related trigger finger), Edema, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, Peripheral Neuropathy, Plantar Fascitis, Tibular Tendionitis, Adult Onset Flat Feet & much more.....

Nurse R
New Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 9/1/2011 3:33 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Circe,
You said you had shingles. Its not well known, but shingles can be internal & can run down a nerve root. My Mom had this kind of shingles. Same symptoms. We finally came across an older doctor, excellent diagnotictian, that we found this out. Sent her to a neurologist. It took several month to treat, but she finally got well. Hope you do also!

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 9/7/2011 4:04 PM (GMT -6)   
Well, had my appointment today to review my MRI.

Good/bad news. Good news is - there is a reason for my pain.
Bad news - I have a significant herniated disc.

Since I am new to all of this, and don't understand all the medical terminology, I'll just quote parts of the report:

"There is a disc dessication at the L5-S1 level. At the L5-S-1 level there is a large disc herniation which is inferiorly extruded and filling the right lateral recess behind the S1 vertebral body. This is undoubtedly compressing the right S1 nerve root. On sagittal T2 weighted images, there appears to be bone marrow edema within the S1 and S2 bodies."

I am still not sure what all of this means, but he did show me on a model what was happening.

So...orthopedic dr. has referred me for a "lumbar epidural steroid injection". I have to go to another doctor, who is a pain management specialist to have this done.

I am very nervous, because he said that it is more "invasive" than the previous cortisone injections, and that I may need up to 3 of these to alleviate the pain. He did say that there is a good chance that this will work, and nothing further will be needed.

I need to go back to the orthopedic dr. 2 weeks after I have the first epidural injection.

Anyone have experience with this?

Thanks again!

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 9/8/2011 11:14 AM (GMT -6)   
I have an appointment this afternoon for a consult with the pain specialist/anesthesiologist. Based on that consult I will more than likely schedule the appointment to have the epidural.

deb in indiana
Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2005
Total Posts : 387
   Posted 9/8/2011 1:51 PM (GMT -6)   
glad to meet u i have the same thing the injections have done wonders for me i hope they help you let us know and dont be nervous that only makes the pain worse the doctor told me take care hope to hear from you soon Deb

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16802
   Posted 9/8/2011 2:54 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Circe and welcome aboard. I am a little late getting to say hello. So, your ortho is having you set up epidural injections. It is one of those things that people react to differently, some have success and some have none,. There is really no way of knowing unless you try them.Personally speaking, if I had no relief what so ever with the first two, I would not bother having the third one. Even if you have some good relief with the eppies, please keep in mind this is not a fix, its just temporary.

After seeing the results of your MRI, you do have a very real problem with your back. I imagine much of the pain you are experiencing is from the pinched nerve or compressed nerve. When the nerves get involved like that it does cause terrible pain for most and the pain going down your leg, thats the nerve causing that. Please go to SpineUniverse,com and read about your condition. The better educated you are about this the better off you will be. If this were my back, no way would I go to a chiropractor for care, especially with what you have showing up on the MRI. You could possibly cause further damage, its been know to happen before.

Since these injections will have steroids in them, there is a decent chance they will help with the inflammation process going on with the pinched nerve. Many times steroids are effective that way. Nerves are a very tricky part of the body and can cause so many different problems.Some drs will give an prescription for a Medrol Dosepack, that is a steroid packet and sometimes it will be effective in reducing the pain as a result of a nerve being involved.

You really need to careful when doing any lifting in the future since the bottom disc is herniated and the nerve is pinched. Disc dessication is loss of fluid in the disc and this happens as we age.

Some people have had to have surgery as a last resort to get the pressure off of the nerve. If you will go to and look up the finding on your MRI it will help you understand things a lot better.

Keep us posted on how you are doing. Take care.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 9/8/2011 6:58 PM (GMT -6)   
Well, I had my appt with the pain management dr./anesthesiologist. After a very in-depth explanation of what is going on and him actually showing me the herniated disc on the MRI, I can see how this really is my only choice. So...the epidural steroid injection is scheduled for next Thursday the 15th.

The herniated disc is pretty large - it is oozing all the way over the side of the spine and pressing on the nerve. He said that he was surprised I was not in more pain, and that I didn't have pain in my foot/toes. He also said that usually, if the first injection doesn't work - if the pain comes back - subsequent injections won't work and the only option would be surgery at that point, which I DO NOT want! Ideally, the injection will shrink the herniated disc so that it is not pressing on the nerve. One thing I did not understand - maybe someone can explain it better - he said that something could be "reabsorbed" by the body - I don't know if he meant the disc, or the steroid.

But he really took time with me to explain the procedure and what will happen. I will be under sedation but not totally knocked out so that I can let him know if I am experiencing any pain. He will use dye to check that the injection went where it was supposed to. I follow-up with him on the 29th.

So...I am still nervous, but hopeful that this will be a long term solution.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2024
   Posted 9/8/2011 7:31 PM (GMT -6)   
Oh Circe, I sure hope the injections help you and that your pain decreases. I am glad he is going to give you some sedation

prior to the injection. I never knew that the injection would shrink the disc. i guess that's what the steriod does.

Well good luck to you and hope you will keep us updated as to how you are doing.

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