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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

Hi Everybody.

This is my first posting on this board (or any one for that matter!). But I feel as if we are already friends, as I have been reading this board for several days now. I hope that you don't mind, but I just need to vent a little. I know that I have it a lot easier than a lot of you out there, and my prayers go out to all of you who are preparing for surgery and recovering from surgery.

My lower back pain all started when I lifted a juice machine out of my work van. I had lifted several just like it before with no problems. In fact I had lifted things that were a lot heavier before. But I guess that it was just my time.

At the time, I thought that I had just strained a muscle in my back. It gave me a little twinge, then in a few minutes it was okay again (I thought). I continued to work, and the pain began to creep down my leg. After two weeks the pain was so bad that I couldn't stand on my leg anymore. Off I went to see my doctor. He did x-rays, noted an abnormality, and scheduled me for an MRI. I had the MRI done, and met with his partner. I was told that I had a ruptured disk at L4-L5, and I needed to see a neurologist.

Well, having been through this with my neck once (C4-C5 fusion) I requested that I be referred to the neurologist that had done my neck. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the biggest run around that I have ever been involved in.

When I was finally able to get in to see him, he looked at the MRI and sent me to physical therapy. I went for over two weeks, and the pain become so bad that getting off the couch to go to the bathroom was a MAJOR chore. I called his office, and they told me to quit going to PT. He then scheduled me for an epidural. Being deathly afraid of needles, I was not looking forward to this. But, I made it through it (thanks to my loving wife, who has been beside me for every procedure and step I have done). The pain in my leg lessened, but the back pain increased by at least 10 times. He gave me two weeks, then sent me to PT again. This time the pain didn't get worse, but it didn't get better either. They tested me after one month, and determined that I was worse than I was when I first came in.

Here comes the best part of dealing with this doctor: After five months, he walks into the room and says that there is nothing else that he can do to help me. I am just going to have to "Learn to live with it". At the time I was taking between 5 and 8 750mg Vicadin a day. I told him that I didn't think that was a viable option, and I wanted a second opinion. This is where the real fun starts, as two days after I requested a second opinion a letter surfaced that said that he had released me to work two months before. But it was dated for the day I asked for a second opinion. I was curious to find out how I was supposed to work when I couldn't do three loads of laundry without spending the rest of the day on the couch in excrutiating pain. Oh well, on to the next doctor.

The new doctor talked a good game. He had plans for tests to be done and things to check out. So I jumped for the chance to find out what was going on.

The first thing he did was take me off the Vicadin, which I had been on for six months at this point. He put me on Methadone. A little note here: If anybody has the same side effects that I had from Vicadin, which ranged from falling asleep while typing a letter to being wired until 4:00 in the morning, you might want to talk with your doctor about Methadone. It allowed me to function at a more normal level, without the ups and downs of the Vicadin. I started at 10mg a day, but after a month, the dosage was upped to 15mg a day. I was still drugged, but it sure felt better than what I was dealing with before.

Okay, on to what happened next. The first thing that he wanted to do was a diskogram. Remember my fear of needles? This was not a fun procedure to go through, but at least they gave me something to keep me relaxed and forgetful of how painful it was. According to the doctor, the results were "negative, as I had pain at all levels, with my typical back pain caused at L5-S1. This kind of threw a wrench into the thinking that L4-L5 was the pain generator.

The next step was a series of facet blocks. I had three done, over the next month. L3-L4 and L5-S1 gave me about a 10% decrease in pain, with L4-L5 giving me about a 60% decrease. At that point he determined that the problem was in the facet joint, not the ruptured disk.

Have I mentioned the insurance company during all of this? Since this happened on the job, they have been involved in every step of the process. When I changed doctors, they decided they wanted to fight everything that he wanted to do. So these two procedures took almost four months to accomplish. Remember the run around I mentioned earlier? I was right in the middle of it. Luckily for me, my wife is an insurance agent, and she understands all the technical talk they throw at you. I never would have made it as far as I have without her. Well, back to the story.

We are now about 10 months after the injury. I am able to get up and do limited amounts of stuff around the house. But anything major that I tried to do would land me right back on the couch. So there is improvement, but not very much.

While I was in the middle of the facet block session, the insurance company decided that they want to send me to get an Independent Medical Examination. I had to travel five hours one way to get there. The amount of pain that sitting caused me was unbelievable. Thank goodness for pain pills. When I went to see the doctor for the IME, I was having a pretty good spell. So it was no surprise when he said that it was all in my head and I only wanted the narcotics. Well, that is what they get paid to say. But it still didn't make me very happy.

After that report hit their desk, the insurance company wanted to get me to another doctor for another IME right away. They had a local slot open, so they called asking me to waive my two week notice. My doctor was out of town during this time, so he hadn't even responded to the first one yet. It was at this time that I decided that it was time to get a lawyer. It had gone beyond my wife's expertise at this point. The lawyer told me to go ahead and go to the second IME, as they could force me to go later. And they could send me a long way for it. So I took the local appointment. When I went to see this doctor, I was having a very bad spell. So he was able to see what I was dealing with on a normal day. His report said that there was evidence of a physical problem, but his tone suggested that I was milking this. That was the least of my intentions; I just wanted to get better.

The insurance company and their doctor's were blaming my pain on degenerative disk disease (I think that is what you call it). Oh, did I forget to mention that the doctor informed me that I have a bone deformation that will cause weakness in my back? He was amazed that I had been able to do much of the stuff that I had done in my life. Apparently I have a transitional vertabrae (sp). I guess that is where your L-5 vertabrae (sp) resemble S-1 more than L-4. My problem is that it is only that way on the right side. The left side is normal. So now you have to throw that into the mix. We are almost up to today, so bear with me; it does get better (well, sort of!).

Almost two months ago, I was turning to get my towel after getting out of the shower, and my back popped. At the time it bothered me some. But as time went by, I realized that my back was feeling better. After three weeks, my back was feeling good enough to try cutting down on the Methadone. I had tried to cut down after the first IME, with miserable results. This time I was able to cut my dosage in half immediately. As of right now, I am taking a quarter pill in the morning, and a quarter pill in the evening. Since it is a narcotic, I have been weaning myself off of it. I don't really want to deal with withdrawals. A couple of the reductions were hairy for a few days, but so far so good.

Now the real fun starts! My doctor had sent a letter to the insurance company questioning whether I would ever be able to return to gainful employment again. The insurance company was putting some pressure on me to accept a settlement. Then they heard about this miraculous (sp) improvement in my back, and they pulled the offer off the table. I went in to see my doctor, and he just did the neurological exam (hold your toes up, don't let me push them down, etc.). He didn't check range of motion or anything else to do with my back.

This is where things get really wierd. At that point, he told me that I was okay and it was time to return to work. He wrote me a release that said that I am "released to return to work at my own pace". I asked him what that meant, and he said that I just needed to get out and see what my back would handle. I took a copy of the letter to my attorney, and he immediately fired a letter off to the insurance company asking them to send me in for a vocational assessment, so that we could tell what limitations I would be working with. So far, they have refused. Apparently everybody is just standing around waiting for me to go out and get a job and either be okay or blow my back out again. The doctor told me verbally that I would never be able to do a job that required hard physical labor again; but he won't put it into writing. He also told me that I needed to get into an exercise and weightlifting program; again all verbally, not in writing. So we have nothing to approach the insurance company with in hopes of getting some vocational training.

My back is better than it was, but there are little things that make it and my leg still hurt. Things like getting the Christmas lights out of the attic and standing on a ladder to put up the outside lights. I have been carrying around 25 lb. bags of cat food to see how my back would handle it. I seem to do okay with that, but 40 lbs. bothers me quite a bit. Even sitting here to type this is causing the pain to creep down my thigh. But yet they want me to go to work.

I am currently working with Vocational Rehabilitation, The Job Council, and the Employment Division to see if I can qualify for retraining at some level. Things will work out for me, as I know that there is a plan for my life. Whatever is meant to be will be. I am trying to remain positive, but it can be hard at times.

I am sorry for the length of this post, but I had a year of venting to do. I wish that I would have found this board back when this first happened. I know that my problems seem minor compared to what some of you are going through, but I could still use some suggestions and encouragement. And my prayers go out to all of you who are suffering.

Thanks for listening,


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