How Lumbar Epidural Injections Saved Me

I know I shouldn’t praise a drug or the fact that it is injected into my spine…but I cant help it. I am pain free and it feels good.MRI collage

In 2011, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my L4-L5 (this is in the lower back). There are only a few causes for herniated discs: age – wear and tear – improper lifting – weight – sitting for long periods of time – sedentary lifestyle – and of course injury. I am 37 so my orthopedic surgeon was surprised I had a herniated disc because I was so young and because I don’t do anything drastic in my lifestyle.  I did however have a one year old that I would pick up quite often. And because I just recently had my son, I was about 20 pounds over what my body can handle. I wasn’t fat but my spine apparently can only hold so much weight. So I am not allowed to be over 160 because my body just can’t handle it. It also probably didn’t help that I work at a desk and I sit on my butt for 9-10 hours a day.

So I did physical therapy…and it didn’t work. It was light exercise but the pain was still there and it was still hindering me living my life.  It just wasn’t enough. I tried the NSAID’s and they weren’t helping. Even though I would take pill I would still feel the pain. It was too much. I got to a point were I was at a 10 on the pain scale almost every day.  And on a good day I would wake up at a 5 on the pain scale and I was able to accomplish a lot on that day…until I bent over or moved a chair or sat the wrong way…and BAM – a 10 on the pain scale. And I am not a fan of surgery so my next non-surgical option was injections. I looked it up. I researched it. I knew the pros and the cons. And from my stand point of the pain scale….I took the leap and said GIVE ME THE INJECTIONS. And I am happy that I did.

I got the injections and within one day I was great. I was walking, bending, chasing my son, working out at the gym, losing the weight. Getting myself where I needed to be. And it was great. I lost the baby weight and I was myself again. Not my 20 year old – no care in the world self – but I was not in pain.  And that is what mattered most.

Well about 6 months ago, the pain came back. It started slowly easing its way back into my life. At the time, I was 7 months pregnant so the weight probably triggered it. And again it didn’t help that my son (who was now 2 years old) would want me to pick him up or play with him. A couple month later I had the baby and the pain was still there. But it was a dull chronic pain. Not so much a 10 on the pain scale but it was a steady 5 – all day, every day.  Another 2 months go by and I get my approval to go the gym and work out. Being at a 5 on the pain scale, I was a little limited in what I could do but I was definitely pushing myself to do it. I needed to lose this baby weight if my life depended on it. In my mind…..I have these big scars on my tummy now – so I at least need to be fit – that way I don’t have 2 things running against me in the looks department. Vain I know…but I cant help myself.

And 3 weeks into my work out regimen – the pain comes back full force. I was now at a 10 on the pain scale….every day. I would limp when I walked. I would bend over and not be able to stand up again. I would struggle to pick up my baby. I just couldn’t do it. So I went back to my orthopedic surgeon and told him what was going on. He said that because I am breastfeeding and the physical therapy isn’t enough – then my only other option was the injections. I was ok with that because they worked for me last time so I jumped at the idea. He told me I needed to get another MRI to make sure nothing else is wrong with my back and then we will schedule the injections.

A couple weeks later I go to get my repeat MRI and then set my appointment for the ortho doc to go over the results. And being the impatient person that I am, I get the images and the MRI report before the ortho appt.  I read them and they say NOW I have an annular fissure on the L3-L4, a slightly bigger herniated disc on the L4-L5, and an even bigger herniated disc on the L5-S1. IM FALLING APART!!!!!  So I go into the ortho appointment knowing all of this. I was half expecting them to say I will need surgery. And then a doc that is not my normal ortho comes in and says he is working with my doc and starts asking all kinds of questions. This starts to make me a little nervous. Then another doc comes in and then finally my doc comes in.  So I am sitting there with 3 docs in the room and they are asking me where I am feeling pain.

Me: My pain is still in my left butt cheek.

Them: No where else? Not down the leg?  Not on the right side?

Me: Nope. Why should it be?

Them: Well the bigger herniation is on the L5-S1 on the right side. But since you are only feeling pain on the left side then that is good. We will stick with the injection since they worked out so well last time. We will only give you the injections on your left side. And we will go from there. Hopefully this works again and hopefully you never feel the right side pain. If you do come back in.

Me: Ok Sounds good.

Me: Hey doc…….I looked at my images and my report and my back is tore up. It looks like a 60 year olds spine. What does this mean for me?? Can I still snowboard?? Can I still do Zumba?

Them: Don’t stop living your life. Don’t ever let something like this slow you down. You live your life to the fullest. If that means you are doing Zumba and you feel a little pain – then stop. You can ice it and try again another day. But don’t stop trying. Have fun. Snow board. Zumba. Be young while you are.

So yesterday I was finally able to get my injections. And I know that I am only on day 2 but I am feeling no pain. The injection doc said that I would know within a week if it works and I am on day 2 and no pain. I am ecstatic. I slept the best I have slept since before I was pregnant (the second time). Granted last night I had a TERRIBLE migraine and the steroid hot flash. But once that went away…..GLORIOUS!

Today I was able to walk around. I picked the baby up with no hesitation. I even wrestled with my boy. Ok. Ok. Ok. I have to admit. When I was done wrestling with him, my back started hurting a little. It was a dull pain but still pain. I iced my back for about 20 minutes and the pain went away. So right now…I am feeling great. I did my light work out. I did my physical therapy workout for my back and abs. I did some squats. I did some arms. I was able to work out without wanting to ice my whole body and cry.

So today…..today was a good day. I am a happy pain free mom and wifey.

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