Damn, my back hurts: a bulging disc, sciatica and more challenges in 2010

back pain My inbox has been deluged with tips on how to make healthy New Year’s resolutions or showing me how to pick three words for 2010. It just makes me want to cry.

Those plans to possibly pursue Couch to 5K (what me run?) or to try out Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010 for the Wii in 2010? Temporarily waylaid by an frickin’ laundry basket

You see, last month I injured my lower back picking up that not-very-heavy laundry basket. According to one of my doctors this is a very common way to hurt yourself. (Laundry is an occupational hazard? Who knew?) The little ping I felt has turned out to be a bulging disc accompanied by extremely painful sciatica down my right leg.

I’ve been through so much that I want to share with you that I’ve turned it into two posts.

Where does it hurt?

I immediately saw my general practitioner. (Well, he was out that day, so I saw his partner instead.) Dr. F. prescribed a mild anti-inflammatory, a mild muscle relaxant and an x-ray. When the pain got worse, I saw my regular doctor, Dr. T., who prescribed stronger meds including a pain killer.

The pain, which felt like someone had plunged this meat tenderizer knife into the side of my thigh, was horrible. It got so bad that I would sit on the edge of the bed rocking back and forth, trying not to cry. My preferred position was lying on my left side in bed, though walking and climbing stairs felt good.

Trying to work was challenging since I couldn’t sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. And forget about wearing anything tight or heavy like jeans – ouch! I immediately stocked up on loose fitting yoga pants.

After a few desperate weekend calls to Dr. T. for stronger pain meds, I was scheduled for an MRI. It’s the first one I’ve had where my whole body was in the machine. Even though I’m not claustrophobic, I found myself panicking. So I closed my eyes and pretended I was Jeffries tube on the Enterprise waiting for Scotty to beam me out. Whatever keeps you from freaking, right?

My doctor prescribed a narcotic with a warning to take them twice a day so I wouldn’t end up like Heath Ledger. (Now, there’s something that should be put on medicine warning labels.) At one point the pain was so awful that I was taking them every four hours. Thank goodness I’m now down to a few pain killers per day.

Fortunately, I do not have fun or get loopy on pain meds. No Betty Ford clinic for me! Instead, I get hyper and can’t sleep. The medication also messes up my digestive system. While Klingons think prune juice is a warrior’s drink, let’s just say too much prune juice is a bad, bad thing. However, I found out that spiking Coke Zero with prune juice is pretty tasty. Try it sometime.

Dr. T. also prescribed oral steroids that made me flush in the face. After the MRI showed a bulging disc, I had a steroid epidural. While high on the ick factor, the epidural didn’t hurt much. In fact, I left the hospital to pick up my kids at school immediately after the procedure.

The epidural did help lessen the pain, but gave me raging hot flashes for weeks. While the rest of my household was freezing, I was tempted to strip down to my skivvies. (I didn’t – my mother-in-law was visiting.) The side affects have almost gone, but now every time I drink red wine, my feet get hot. I think I’ll switch back to Coke Zero – with or without prune juice.

Vacationing with a bad back

The pain was manageable, so one day after the epidural, we left for San Diego. I took advantage of the wheelchair service supplied by the airlines. We also rented a wheelchair at Disneyland. Yes, you do get through some of the lines a little faster. However, you get yelled at if you let your six-year-old sits on your lap as your husband pushes both of you through the park. Uncle Walt does not approve of you creating your own rides.

We pretty much took it easy on our trip, though I realized after walking around Balboa Park and the San Diego Mission Bay waterfront, I felt and slept better. The luxurious pillow top mattress at the Sycuan Resort was a lifesaver, too. Even driving wasn’t too bad.

Seeing family and friends and a few therapeutic trips to In-N-Out Burger and to Mexican fast food joints for rolled tacos with guacamole helped, too. Well, it helped except for gaining a few pounds here and there.

Back pain makes you gain weight

No, not really, but emotional eating does. (Damn, I’m hurting. Maybe this piece of chocolate will help. Nope, maybe two pieces…not!)

Since the injury, I’ve gained weight, mostly due to the lack of exercise and the holiday and vacation eating. I’m looking forward to feeling good enough to start exercising seriously again. Until then, it’s yoga, moderate exercise on the stationary bike and walking.

Part two: I went shopping for my back pain and here’s what I got

Here are some interesting articles from Shine that might help you with your New Year’s resolutions:

16 thoughts on “Damn, my back hurts: a bulging disc, sciatica and more challenges in 2010

  1. Michele

    I just found out that I have a herniated disc at L5/S1.. It’s quite painful. I too found that walking helped a lot. I am on my feet all day, thankfully, or I don’t know what I would do! I start physical therapy on Monday (2/27/12) and I am looking forward to it. My entire leg is numb and it feels like I am walking on little pins..HOpe you feel better too!

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  5. Beth Michaloski

    Thank you for your site Ann Marie!!!! I have been in pain for weeks with my back ,went to ER , been to GP, I requested for my GP to send me for MRI, I knew something was terribly wrong.This had started around 7-08-10,went to ER on 7-11-10, can’t work , 7-23-10 I received a call from my GP saying I have stenosis(narrowing of canal around my spine)He still also thinks I have arthritis in my back(I disagree).I also have chronic changes in my spine,and a bulging disc(he did not indicate right or left side),I have had pain in my sides.He has had me on hydrocodone(which makes me very sleepy) and Mobic. Can you believe he wanted to send me for PT without an MRI ? I am questioning everything now. He wants me to go to see an anesthesiologist, for pain management and injections in my spine.Oh he also says I don’t need surgery(a sigh of relief).
    Please Help email me . I also havetiny cysts on my live,and small gallstone in my gallbladder,he says should not be causing my pain or should not be causing me a problem.Please Help email me . Thank You so much for all your info in your site.

  6. Anne-Marie

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    Nativeland, sorry to hear that you’re
    doing so poorly. Maybe it’s time to meet with a pain specialist MD and work
    with a physical therapist? Good luck!

  7. nativeland@comcast.net

    I have inversion table and it only helps my bulgin discs somewhat..mine has been going on for3 years now and just recently i think i really made it worse…dont know what to do. Pain meds (pretty strong)) are not even touching it. What to do…… so scared. Cannot imagine thought of surgery. Ive heard 9 out of 10 fail or dont help at all, and some get worse.

  8. Anne-Marie

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    Shellbug, glad to hear that inversion
    table worked for you. What I’ve found with back pain is that you have to try
    everything. What works for your neighbor, may not work for you.

  9. Shellbug

    Hello I was surfin the net and stumbled across this and I too have had MAJOR back pain mine has gone on for over 10 yrs I was bent over cleaning a toilet lol and couldnt stand back up every since then it has gotten worse I have gained almost 70lbs becuz of i cant be very active . I have 2 herniated disc and spinal degeration I research loads of stuff becuz no my insurance went out just before I was able to get the shots you are talking about and in my research I found inversion table I baught one off ebay for $130 I have only had it 2 days and WOW my pain lvl has dropped dramticly and it is suppost to get better and I beleive it I too had stabbin pain in lower back and hips down my right leg and numbness things are looking good I HIGHLy recommend ANYONE with back pain to get one it really works after over 10yrs my pain is manageble without pain meds now maybe I can start being active again and loss those pounds good luck

  10. NJ

    Hi Ann Marie- Great food blog you have here. I am sorry to hear that you are suffering with lower back pain. Have you tried any type of traction for your lower back? There are some great treatments such as non surgical spinal decompression that help specifically with a disc bulge and sciatica. This is a great alternative to medications and pain shots. Best of luck to you. – NJ

  11. Anne-Marie

    HSaboMilner – thank you for your kind words.

    Tara – going to see my massage therapist next week. She was the one to call me (after she saw my Twitter update on Facebook about my back) and help me figure out what I needed to ask the doctors.

  12. Tara Anderson

    Anne-Marie, I’m so sorry to hear about your back troubles. Have you thought about massage therapy? It can be awesome when combined with the yoga & moderate exercise. My husband used to suffer from sciatica and massage therapy (along with running) helped him to recover.

  13. HSaboMilner

    I am also a back pain sufferer – 3 herniated disks and sciatica down the left leg…I feel your pain. You have a great attitude – it will help you in the long run.


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