I have had back pain since I was 14 years old. At first it wasn’t so bad, just an ache from time to time.
When I was about 16, the pain became more frequent. My mom took me to the doctor and I don’t think she even touched my back. The doctor just asked me questions, prescribed me naproxen, and referred me to a chiropractor.
Also around this time I started a job as a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home. I had taken classes after school and gotten certified. I enjoyed the work and was good at it. I never thought that it would make my back pain worse. We had learned about proper body mechanic techniques and I always used them. Plus we had mechanical lifts for patients that couldn’t transfer themselves.
For the next few years I still had the pain but it didn’t bother me too much until I was 20 years old. That’s when my legs started hurting. I went to a new doctor and they prescribed muscle relaxers. The muscle relaxers did nothing but make me extremely drowsy all day long.
I went to a third doctor, who prescribed Vicodin and physical therapy. The Vicodin helped some, but the physical therapy made things worse. And I still had no answers as to why my back and legs hurt.
It went on like this for some time, having to see a different doctor each time I went in because I was a new patient without a primary physician. They prescribed anti-inflammatories, opioids, physical therapy, muscle relaxers, and chiropractic care — but they never did any imaging. No x-rays, no MRI’s, and no insights as to why I was in pain and why it was getting worse.
At 22, I got pregnant. I started seeing a regular doctor because of the prenatal appointments and he became my primary. After I gave birth to my son the pain was much worse. I went in to see my primary about it and he felt around my lower back and said he was pretty sure I had a bulged disc. He got me an appointment for an MRI right away. I had 3 bulged discs and my sciatic nerve was being pressed on, thus the back and leg pain.
I had my answer, but what is the solution? My doctor referred me to a pain specialist. The pain specialist did steroid injections. They didn’t help. After seeing him for a few months, he moved to a different practice.
My primary doctor gave me pain medication but that was about all he could do. For the next few years my pain was barely managed by the medication I was taking. It was a cycle of trying to stay on top of the pain, without much success.
Two years ago I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was in pain 24/7, the meds were barely touching it and I was frustrated. I also found out I had fibromyalgia on top of all of the back and leg pain. Some days my body hurt from head to toe.
My doctor told me that there was a new specialist that visited once a month from a practice in another town. He specialized in back injuries. I got an appointment with this doctor. At first he did the steroid injections and physical therapy. I told him that I already tried them and they didn’t work, but he said that insurance makes them try all of the cheaper therapies first before they can try anything else. So I did them both again, with no results, again.
The specialist told me that he really didn’t want to do any kind of back surgery on me at my age because it would most likely cause problems for me down the road. A fusion can put pressure on the discs and is more likely to damage them in a younger, more active person.
He then offered me the option of a spinal cord stimulator. I decided to try it. It did help some with my leg pain, so I got the permanent unit put in.
Today, I am 29 and still in pain most of the time. The spinal cord stimulator offers me some relief, but it’s not total. I still have a lot of pain in my back. I still take pain medications. I can’t do a lot of the things that I used to love, like working out or taking long walks.
I am still working but I know there is going to come a day when I can’t, and I feel that day is coming sooner rather than later.
I wish that one of the doctors that I had seen earlier would have done some kind of imaging. I would have known that I had this injury and I could have done things to prevent it from getting worse. I would have changed jobs and I wouldn’t have volunteered to help friends move or help with farm work.
If I could do it over again, I would have fought to get in to see the same doctor each time or gone to a pain management clinic.
Kaylee Foley lives in Richland Center, Wisconsin. She suffers from constant back and leg pain due to herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. Kaylee also has fibromyalgia and migraines.
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The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.