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  • Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

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    Old 06-12-2009, 11:44 AM   #1
    MamaToThree
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    Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    I know unless I get some sort of Xray or MRI this is a question that nobody can really answer, HOWEVER, I am hoping that some of my symptoms might sound familiar to somebody who can give me a little insight.

    Since I was 23 (I'm now 42) I have had the same type of back problem. One day I just bent over and it felt like a nerve in my back was pinched so everytime I moved I saw stars! It took me hours to get out of my house (with my roomie's help), into the car, and to the hospital. They did x-rays, but I don't ever remember them telling me anything specific about what was going on in my back. I think they gave me muscle relaxers and sent me home. About 4 or 5 times a year, I would get this pinching feeling, couldn't walk, take some advil and rest and it would stop pinching enough to where I could function again.

    Fast forward 20 years and this still happens, but now even more frequently. The other day something new happened. I thought I was sitting on something in bed and kept looking for one of my kids' toys or the remote control or something. I practically tore the bed apart to find absolutely NOTHING! It literally felt like something was poking right smack in the middle of my butt cheek. Sometimes I'm simply walking through the house and practically fall to my knees because something pinches in my back. It constantly aches when it doesn't feel pinched, but not an ache that could be massaged away. It's like the nerve is just laying low for me to move the wrong way to send me to my knees again.

    I've talked to so many doctors about this and they never say, "Hey, lets do an x-ray or MRI". It's always, "Take 800 mg of ibuprofen 3 times a day". I've been nursing the same 30 pills of vicodin from a previous surgery (unrelated to my back issues) for 5 years. I finally just outright asked my GP doc for a refill and he gave me 20 more just for those horrible flare ups. I just want a diagnosis so I know what this problem is. Sometimes my back hurts/pinches so bad that I can't take it and I feel like THAT is when I need an MRI or x-ray, but by the time I can get an appointment with the doc it doesn't hurt as bad. He just told me that you can't really have a standing order for an MRI. I guess that is something that has to be planned weeks or months in advance?

    I always thought it was sciatica, but I don't really have shooting pains down my leg. It can make my legs and knees (even ankles) ache, but the pain feels more centralized to the right side of my lower back just over my butt cheek.

    Any ideas???

     
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    Old 06-13-2009, 05:23 AM   #2
    jomurray
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Hi
    how often do the episodes/flareups occur? how long do they last for? it might be an idea to document them and also the pain rating 1-10. I have nerve/sciatic pain in my leg for 4 years and it is a burning pain, like my leg is on fire so it doesnt appear this is the same as you so you can rule out sciatic pain I think.
    Regarding an MRI, ask your doctor for a referral letter to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon and get their opinion about your pain and if they think you need one they will order one.
    Re insurance for MRI, if a general practitioner orders the scan your insurance may not cover it. I made this mistake 4 years ago and was landed with a 500euro bill as the insurance said the referall for a scan must come from a consulatant/specialist for it to be covered so that is also something to bear in mind.
    I think GP's are very quick to dismiss back pain due to general wear and tear that comes with age, but what alot of GP's dont realize is that it can cause debilitating pain for a small portion of us. I have not experienced pinching pain, sorry i cannot shed like on the possible source of you pain, My pain in burning and numbness and tingling in my leg and foot due to degenerative discs.
    If you are finding the episodes very frequent and interrupting your daily life or work etc. then ask your doctor for a referal to a specialist. If only for piece of mind i think it is worth the money.
    let me know how you get on
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    Old 06-13-2009, 04:05 PM   #3
    MamaToThree
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Thanks Jo for the reply! Ok, I can probably rule out sciatica. It's definitely not a burning sensation. Just a second ago, in fact, I simply stood up from a chair and *PINCH* there went something in my back which made my knees buckle and I had to catch myself on the table. ::::sigh:::: This has to be some sort of disc or nerve issue. I do think I'm going to ask my GP to refer me to a specialist. The pain isn't exactly debilitating, but it hurts like heck and I live like this constantly. I'm a stay at home mom, so it's not like I have to load and unload forktrucks for a living. But still...I just wish I knew once and for all what the problem was. It's like a pinched nerve that never goes away and is just waiting to strike when I move the wrong way. Even laying in bed in the wrong position will cause the pinching.


     
    Old 06-13-2009, 04:21 PM   #4
    jomurray
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Hey,
    yeah i think it is something that should be investigated since its been going on for such a long time it would be good to get to the bottom of it and find out and maybe there is some kind of physical therapy or stretches you could be doing to prevent, it may not be something sinister warranting surgery. let me know how you get on with the doctor and if you decide to go for a referal
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    Old 06-14-2009, 07:34 AM   #5
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Hi,

    I'm so sorry you've had to deal with that for so many years. Of course I am not a doctor either, but...it sounds to me like it could be nerve pain by the way you describe it. I get all sorts of nerve pains, including sciatic nerve pain on and off, though I've been taking Lyrica for about a year and 1/2 now and it helps somewhat. Usually sciatica can be felt from the buttock down through the leg and even into the foot, however, it is not always the case that one feels the pain along the entire path. You might even have different symptoms along that nerve path such as numbness, weakness, burning, stabbing pain, and pins & needles. It can also be erratic. You might feel one or more symptoms down the whole nerve path one day, none the next, or in just one or two areas another day. I've had times where the nerve pain was terrible just on the outside of my ankle area, where it felt as if someone was drilling large nails into it all day long. Other times it would be so painful down my entire leg or I might just twitching or pins & needles on a part of my leg, etc. I do know that sudden severe nerve pain can bring someone to their knees! I don't just get sciatica, though...I get nerve pains all over the place (though I do not know why). Sometimes I get a sudden shock on the back of a leg that literally makes my leg jut forward. It's just like an automatic reaction, I guess, the leg trying to get away from the pain, maybe. It feels like being stuck with a hot poker or something.

    I am surprised, though, that your doc hasn't yet sent you for an MRI after so many years. Usually, if one has pain for 2 weeks or more...or if it comes and goes like yours constantly, one would be sent for an MRI. If I were you, I would demand one after all this time..It's your body and you are the one living with the pain, you deserve to have it thoroughly checked out. MRI's, though, don't always necessarily catch everything either. Maybe you have a disk that has been herniating just enough to touch a local nerve. It's possible that herniatons can resolve themselves over time without treatment...so perhaps yours herniates, then resolves, then herniates, etc.. Also, if it's just in your buttocks, there is another condition called Piriformis syndrome. This is a large muscle in your buttocks which can sometimes aggravate nearby nerves. Of course, like you said, you need to have some imaging done to at least have it checked..there might even be something else wrong. Also, if it's getting worse at you get older, you might even be developing stenosis.

    You might want to see a different doctor, if possible. Or get a refferal to a spine specialist. That is usually what takes so long....getting in to see the doctor. At least for me, after I get a script for an MRI, I can usually get it done within a few days.

     
    Old 06-19-2009, 11:35 AM   #6
    Lulubel
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Hello-

    I wouldn't rule out siatica nerve pain yet. I'm just now coming out of a 2 month flare up that was unbelievable. I was just about bedridden for 7 weeks and have just started being able to walk, sit and stand for more than a few minutes at a time, and start doing the things that life requires us to do. I couldn't even sit on the potty without causing extra pain.

    I have DDD all through my spine, adult onset scoliosis, and a ruptured disc at the L5 S1 which is probably compressing my siatic nerve, and spina bifida (though I am not disabled, my spinal cord is not exposed), and bone spurs everywhere. My sciatic pain is the absolute worse pain and the weirdest pain I have ever experienced. I am one of the many millions of uninsured Americans, so I have only been able to get Xrays. But this is the probable DX per my Internist from what can be seen on Xrays and my symptoms.

    I get the gripping butt cheek pain too, but I also have about 7 areas down my right hip, leg, ankle and foot that the intense pain concentrates at. Personally, I believe siatica pain is different for everyone. Other people that I know who have siatic pain describe their pain differently.

    My pain changes almost minute to minute and the pain level stayed at a 15 and never let up. One minute it was gripping, or burning, or cramping, or a combo of each. I felt like I had bugs under the skin of my ankle and the bottom of my foot. Or it felt like someone was pounding knives in the tips of my toes. Sometimes my leg just felt "raw." I still have an area on the bottom of my foot that feels like a stone bruise. And I have bruises up and down the outside of my right leg from 2 months of rubbing it trying to get some relief. I literally was stupid with the pain.

    My ex had the same problem at the L5 S1 and he would have intense cramping pain for a several weeks then one morning it would be completely gone. I'm not so lucky, I get another couple weeks of soreness before the flareup is over.

    If you have insurance, there is a Lidoderm (lidocaine) patch, that I found helps. And it's non narcotic. But it only helps in the exact areas you put the patch on but you can only use up to 3 patches at a time with it being 12 hours on and 12 hours off. The box of patches is like $160 for 30 patches. I also added 4 Advils each time I took my pain meds and musle relaxers.

    I would definatly ask your doctor for orders for Xrays to start and an MRI. Being uninsured, I just went to the local Solantic (walk in clinic) and for $90 got 3 lumbar xrays and a radiologist reading within 24 hours. It gave me the answers I needed and they also gave me a copy of the DX and a disc with my Xrays. So it was worth the $90. I have found locally here in Florida that I can get a MRI for $675 with a radiologist reading. So that is next on my list of To-Do's now that I can start driving again.

    Anyway, hope this helps or gives you a bit more info. Good Luck!

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    Old 06-29-2009, 04:38 PM   #7
    MamaToThree
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Thank you everybody for the responses! I have another weird symptom that happens a lot that i forgot to mention. When i get the jabbing pinch in my back just above my right buttcheek it helps to actually put weight down on my right leg to stop the pinching feeling. I wish i knew what this was. I think i am just going to have to ask for that MRI. I do have good insurance.

     
    Old 06-30-2009, 06:33 AM   #8
    Lulubel
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    Re: Bulging disc? Sciatica? What *IS* this?

    Hi Again...

    You are so lucky to have good insurance. Because of my age (49), single with no children at home anymore, and to buy an insurance policy with 1 year clause on pre-existing conditions at almost $500 a month, even the policy offered via the state of Florida is that much, I have fallen thru the cracks. It's a shame that it's going to take a major emergency to get me into the ER. My doc will treat the symptoms but I can't afford at this time to get into the diagnostics on what is exactly wrong with my back nor get it fixed. I still can't work yet as I can't sit for very long or do I think I can make it 6-8 hours at a WallyWorld job.

    I get that pinching, gripping pain in my butt cheek, the back of my thigh and my calf too. It was my first symptom at the beginning of the year. And it has never let up. My doc said it was the siatic nerve. The only way I have found to get it to loosen up is to walk or sometimes to stretch out my entire right side. I have been trying to walk more each day, by walking my dogs and slowly, but surely the pain has finally subsided to a constant 7'ish, with spikes during the day. I also have burning and gripping in my lower right back, from my spine over that wakes me up every morning at 4am. It sucks as I figure this is the way it will be until something gives or goes really wrong.

    Anyway, good luck and get that MRI and get yourself some relief.

    Lulubel
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