Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back Saga

I am currently on leave from work with a bad back. It sucks having a bad back and it sucks being on leave from work. I don't mind not working if I'm on vacation, but right now I'm kind of in limbo until I find out the next steps. I meet with a surgeon next Tuesday, Dr. Thomas Saul of the Mayfield Clinic. I'm looking forward to meeting him. But until then I'm stuck here burning up the sick days I've accrued.

My back problems started in late April of last year. Actually, they started long before then, but this particular instance started then and I'll spare you the details leading up to that. I was already seeing a chiropractor when things flared up. This had happened several times in the past, so I was relatively certain the problem would go away more or less on its own.

When it didn't I started bumping up the frequency of my visits to the chiropractor to try to get relief. When that didn't help, I looked for and found a different chiropractor who I had gone to years ago and who had been very helpful to me. I started seeing her 2-3 times a week, but still with no real results. I'd be OK one day and bad the next two.

Finally I made a call to my family doc (my high school buddy Mark Schrand) who had me go in for an MRI. I've had one MRI in the past and I absolutely hated doing it, but the pain was enough that I was willing to do it again. It showed a bulging disc and Mark suggested I do a series of up to three epidural steroid injections to try to bring down the swelling. We ended updoing all three injections over a period that stretched from September to November. The shots had to be spaced 6 weeks apart. During that time, I didn't get any worse, but I didn't get significantly better either.

When the last shot didn't improve things, Mark had me try physical therapy. It too helped a little for a while. Actually, at first I thought we were finally on the right track. But then after a few weeks, things started getting worse again and I lost the progress I had made early on.

Things really took a turn for the worse the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Until then I was in pain but I was still able to get around. I would wake up kind of bent to the left, but as the day progressed I would get better and be able to straighten myself up. Then over a few days' time that all stopped. By the end of the week, I could no longer straighten up at all and the pain had gone through the roof. Even walking a few dozen feet became unmanageable.

I was able to get in to see my family doc on New Year's Eve. He upped my pain medication from Vicodin to Percocet and referred me to a physiatrist (Dr. Wunder) who specializes in lower back pain. Originally, Dr. Wunder wasn't going to be able to see me until early March, but Mark called his nurse and was able to get me in to see him last Thursday (January 10th). By then I was already unable to work. I wasn't able to make it in the weekend prior at all. I did make it in for a couple of meetings in the week leading up to the appointment with Dr. Wunder, but that's been it.

When Dr. Wunder saw me, he didn't spend much time with me before he said something to the effect of, "You need help. You've done everything we would expect of you from a therapy standpoint. Nothing has worked, and you're getting worse." So he referred me to Dr. Saul.

So that pretty much takes us to today and now you pretty much know the story of my back saga. I'm sure there will be more to come in the days ahead, but right now I'm just trying to stay off my feet as much as possible until I see Dr. Saul.

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