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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