Join Date: Mar 2010
chronic pain, pending discogram and possible disc replacement?
I'm new to the boards here. A brief history: I am a 33 year old woman, in otherwise pretty good health, with a 2 yr old son. About 15 years ago, I lifted a giant box above my head and felt something 'pop,' but since I was so young and naive, ignored it, and I slowly healed. However, I always had a weakness in a spot to the right of my spine, at the L4/5 area. About 10 years ago, I was moving into a new house, and wouldn't you believe - the rise/run on the basement stairs were backwards (I had no idea), making for steep steps and shortened space for your foot. I fell and bounced down the staircase, landing on the concrete floor. At that point, I needed to go to Emergency, unable to move or breathe from the pain.
Ever since then, I've had chronic back pain. I've had dozens of injections from the pain clinic and orthopaedist, PT, chiropractors, acupuncture, had the nerves burned back at one point.... nothing has helped. In fact, every time they have gone in there to inject me with something, I usually flare up more.
MRI/CT/x-ray shows bulging disc to the left at L4/L5 with bony spurring, narrowing at L5/S1, and moderate degeneration L3-S1. The MRI showed no change over the past six years. I live with constant, steady "5" pain. I guess. Who knows what these pain numbers mean? My 5, might be your 3, and his 8. I guess it's a 5. I still go on with my life. But it slows me down with my son, and keeps me from doing too much (sports, activities, travel, anything that might make the problem worse). I am very stiff in the morning and can't stand up straight, I can't lift my 30 lb. son without a lot of effort and considerable pain, and by the end of the day, I'm icing my back, and somedays, almost in tears from the pain. I have several 'flare-ups' per year, which pretty much incapacitates me. I've had sciatica in the past, but not currently. The acupuncture had been the most helpful. It was done by a neurologist -- a guy that really seemed to know his stuff. It completely relieved my pain for a day or two, and then it would all come slamming back. It was more depressing, seeing a glimpse of what life could be, than just living with the steady, predictable pain.
Furthermore, I am losing my insurance (COBRA coverage) in July. My husband is self-employed, and I left my full-time teaching job a year ago, to take care of our son. I teach part-time now, but it's not enough hours to get me group coverage. My husband and son are able to buy into a private plan, but I keep getting rejected, because of this on-going back history. I don't know what I'm going to do with that. Besides, we pay about 20% of our income in insurance premiums, so this will be a 'cost savings' to us.
I did have a consult with an orthopaedist last week, and he suggested a discogram and then let's talk about artificial disc replacement. If I qualify, it might even be done for free, as part of an FDA trial.
I have been avoiding a discogram for a good 5 years, because I have heard of the pain, and I always said I would *never* get surgery. But now, I'm also getting tired. My back is constantly tired. I am getting worn down, and depressed by the way my back makes me live, and the way it makes me feel. I'm just looking for something that will make me feel and function better.
Is artificial disc replacement something to seriously consider, for someone that's a constant, steady-"5" on the pain scale? Or is it only for the excruciatingly incapacitated? Am I risking worse outcomes, or even the same outcomes, as my current reality?
I don't know if this is for me. I don't even know if the discogram is for me -- I've been having nightmares about it. I have a consult with the doc that's doing it on Friday, and he wants to do it in two weeks.
I just don't want to enter into a painful test for nothing. I also don't want to consider, or heaven forbid, go through major surgery and recovery, for something that might not improve the way I feel. On the other hand, I also don't want to go through this constant pain the rest of my life.
Is there something I'm missing? Something else I should be doing? Are there any testimonials out there, to help me gather information and make a better decision? I just don't know what to do with myself anymore.