Herniated Discs Suck! An Honest Reflection, Part 1: Pain and Pills

Herniated discs SUCK! I know that is pretty much a “victim”  sounding,  “whiny”  type comment I profess to hate, but its the truth.  Herniated discs do suck! I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at L4/L5 and S1 last May 2011.  Initially I thought this would be only be a temporary problem, lasting 2 or 3 weeks at best.  I heard my doctor when he told me I was looking at 3 months minimum of not working out and having a “back issue”, but I didn’t take him seriously.  Being a sometimes overly self confident patient  for many years (an overconfidence not always in complete touch with reality), I  chose not to believe  my doctor and his  predictions. Even though I had to be driven to this doctors appointment by my boyfriend, due to my pain being so bad, with such major spasms, I could barely manage a hobble… I was still in denial. Further more, I convinced myself I would be back to working out in the gym in no less than 3 weeks. Boy was I wrong.

4 months later…. September 2011:

Having been on pain pills for the past 4 month I have been beginning to feel like  my brain had been temporarily hijacked. These pain pills are yucky   Since my 2nd round of cortisone injections 2 weeks ago, I was fine for about 10 days and then suddenly, I was once again in tremendous pain.  Pain so bad, that it was still there even with the pain pills.  I hate to sound flippant, but I was starting to feel like I  was having to pop pain pills like one would pop “Tick Tacs”, which is never a good thing. The pills were making me nauseated, vomiting, constipated, tired , and spaced out.  I couldn’t drive, and have  felt like I was in a trance.  I have NO idea how anyone develops an addiction to these pills which in my case every time I take them,  I feel  like I have dropped  40 IQ points and have turned into a vomiting  little zombie .  But I’ve seen Dr Drew’s “Celebrity Rehab” … and apparently this addiction is not uncommon.

My doctor had prescribed for me codeine and a nerve pain called Gabapentin  which I believe was a correct decision.  I was in tremendous pain presenting day 1 in May 2011.   The codeine and the Gabapentin have really helped pacify all the  horrendous nerve and back pan I was having through out this experience.  I had been on both of these pain pills during and following my whole cancer and subsequent stem cell transplant incident without any problems.  Now,  here in September 2011, 4 months later following my 2nd round of of spinal injections, my pain was back with a vengeance, and my emotions are wearing thin.  I do/did not want to be on pain medications any longer but I have in pain and becoming really depressed about feeling dependent on pills for relief.   Additionally my doctor had prescribed physical therapy twice a week, but due to my denial, I only just started that last week.

Yesterday I was so bummed.   I was at my favorite breakfast spot, eating my  “Super Veggie Egg White Scramble”, while looking over my “to do”  list.  There I had  20 backed up recipes with photos, ready to be uploaded.  All I had to do was  a little bit of writing  with each one of them,.  Yet I felt at a complete loss for words.  Sadly these pain pills rob you of your creativity, rendering you into a pretty sad state of having a totally boring “flat affect” with little to no creative writing  skills or personality whatsoever.  As I sat there, blankly staring at my lap top, wondering when my writing skills were ever going to come back,  I thought of my of  my nurse friend Jody who developed  a double level herniated disc at the same time as me.  She never sounded spaced out on the phone.  At least not “spaced out” on pain pills like I felt I had been sounding lately.   Jody told me she had only using only a little bit of pain medicine and lots of “ice”.

Initially when Jody told me about using ice for the pain, a couple months ago,  I thought  to myself ( sorry Jody) “Sure, right, that won’t do jack shit for me”.  My pain was major, deep down inside, and I thought no “ice” was ever going touch it.  But now here I was thinking about her advice and willing to try anything other than what I had been doing.  I called Jody for some advice, and she suggested I cut my pain pills in half and to try putting some really cold ice packs directly on the herniated disc area  for 15 minutes or more.  I went to the pharmacy and picked up a specialized ice pack for backs (see photo) and some bags of frozen peas.

I came home last night, popped my ice pack “belt” into the freezer, turned on the TV, laid down and placed the bag of frozen peas directly on my back.  It was about time for me to take another pain pill but I thought I would put it off a little bit so I  could check out how the ice was working.  About 10 minutes into the iced bag peas on my back,  I thought “Hey this ice thing works pretty good”.  Jody had told me I only needed to leave it on 15 minutes or so, but I left it on more like 25 minutes it was working so well.  I cut my pain pills dosage in half and was feeling GREAT.  An hour later I put another bag of frozen peas directly to my back for another 20 minutes,  then again 30 minutes later and then again one hour later.  I was humbled.  This ice thing was working really well.   I realized I should have tried using ice for my disc pain months ago when it was suggested.

I woke up this morning, 24 hours after halving my pain pill dosage, feeling GREAT.  My pain was “there” but manageable.  But even better, my brain felt clear.  I felt like someone had lifted the fog and I could see more clearly than I had in quite some time.  Finally I could put together words and thoughts!  I felt so happy I came to my computer and decided I would journal this to my blog while I knew my brain was clear.  Finally some hope.  I’ve been reading, surfing the net and writing, sitting at my desk  for the past 8 straight hours,  wearing my new “Cryo Max Cold Pack” (see photo above) with only 1 codeine and 2 Advil in my system.   I feel pain free right now.   It was not possible before for me to sit even a couple of straight hours comfortably with just the pain pills.

I go to my 2nd physical therapy appointment this afternoon for therapy and treatment.   I will ask my therapist for more information about what is a good “icing schedule” for my particular situation.  I’ll continue to write more about my herniated disc problem as that I know now its quite common.

Fingers crossed for my physical therapy session.  Fingers crossed I can keep this pain pill need down to a minimum so my brain feels clear.  We shall see, but I am finally hopeful.



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  1. Jody Elliott says:

    Peggy! I am so thrilled the ice is helping. It feels good to have a clear mind again I am sure!! So happy for you. xo Jody

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much Jody! I was so happy yesterday, you have no idea! Thanks for your help and your suggestion. What a big difference ice makes huh? I can’t believe I waited so long to try this. I am going to be writing more about herniated discs, injections and so forth, as that they seem to be quite common and I have gotten a bunch of emails just from this one blog post. Who would have thought you and I would become herniated disc “experts”? I thought I was immune to this kind of thing. Jokes on me. :)

      Love you!


  2. Kelly Bichelmeyer says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this!! My brother and I both have herniated disks and other back issues. My brother has actually had to have surgery for his and is still in pain. I have to take TONS and TONS of lortab, Neurotin, and Aleve for mine. Every single day. As you said, IT SUCKS!! I feel spacey, and I am starting to get addicted to them just from having to take so many of them each day. I keep telling my Dr. that I need to be on something stronger, but since I have NO INSURANCE, they are reluctant to give me anything else for pain until I get into p.t. but I can’t afford it. This Cryo Max Cold pack sounds GREAT!! I have asked and begged for other solutions to this for the last 3 months, and the doctor just says that what I’m taking should be helping enough. A friend of mine told me I would be surprised by how well Ice works, but like you, I didn’t believe her!! LOL. But now I’m REALLY excited to try these! Thank you again! And please keep us updated. I really hope you continue to get better too.
    Kelly :)

    • admin says:

      Hi Kelly!
      I posted this entry for exactly the reason you wrote: I wanted to draw attention this this and help others who were having unsuccessful results with pain meds and their herniated disc. I really hope the icing works, but also try the frozen peas. When I worked for a plastic surgeon, we would recommend frozen peas because it’s cheap and personally I think it works the best. The peas “form ” to the shape of your body your applying them to, and so you get really good body surface contact. I use the Cryo Max Cold Pack (or any brand will work fine I’m sure) for when I am walking around or doing stuff in the house. I use the peas when I want to lie flat on my back and really get some good direct “icing” contact to my back. Check with your doctor to see what icing schedule he prefers that you do, and please let me know how your doing. Feel free to post directly on my Facebook page if you want a reply right away.

      I can appreciate your being concerned about becoming addicted to them, because that was another concern I had too. Although I was not showing any signs of high tolerance or dependence, as a nurse I know these drugs ca be very addictive and no one in their right mind wants an opiate addiction! It can ruin your life.

      Don’t forget to keep me updated,


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  4. You have showed great perseverance behind the blog. It’s been enriched since the beginning. I love to share to with my friends. Carry on.

  5. You have showed great perseverance behind the blog. It’s been enriched since the beginning. I love to share to with my friends. Carry on.

    • says:

      WOW! Thanks… as that this is nothing more than a labor of true love with no advertising revenue or financial incentives, simple reader appreciation is greatest compliment I could ever get. Again, thank you.

  6. lisa says:

    .i’ve been having the same problem except i have high tolerance to pain… And dont resort to pain med unless i cant do simple tasks…and that happens when i’ve overdone with my disc prob which is also bad…..i’ve,been doing physical therapy and pool therapy and i’ve seen lots of improvements since day 1 of my problem. Yet i still have the sciatic pain …my pain specialist and pt thinks epidural shot will get over hump and allow me to do more physical therapy exercises that i cant perform. I just got 1 today and i cant wait to feel better. Pain specialist thinks it will b atleas 6 _12 months and regulart pt exercises before i can start resuming normal wrk and activities. What is your progress so far ? Id like to getfeedback on how other patients like me r healing .

    Thanks abt the icing thing…which i have to be better at

  7. Lynn says:

    I have awful back pain too..fibromyalgia..brain fog comes with it. I found heat is my best friend…a warm Epsom salts bath ( good for many things) and a heated mattress pad…allow me to wake up without horrendous stiffness…juicing has also helped…but the heat is amazing..just found your blog..love it. Thanks.

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