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My Pain That Never Ends
Lumbar Facet Syndrome
I have been sick off and on since I was a newborn baby. My mom never understood my fussiness and I didn't understand until I was an adult that everyone didn't experience the same pain I did on a day to day basis.
I was formally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was about 35. I didn't know what that knowledge would bring, but I was ready to face it head on.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease that can affect any part of your body, not just your joints. It is an immune system disorder that creates inflammation in every one of my joints, my mucous membranes, my organs, my skin, my muscle - it simply affects my whole body. It also brings a host of other issues like Diabetes, Sjogren's Syndrome, heart problems, kidney disease and more.
One of the complications includes Lumbar Facet Syndrome. Basically, this means your spinal discs are rubbing against one another and the nerves within are sending pain signals to my brain. It causes significant pain for me and limits my ability to turn my torso, to bend over and to move in general.
My new pain clinic presented a set of procedures I could try to help relieve my pain temporarily. It sounded scary, but it also sounded like it might help restore some of my mobility and give me some sort of relief.
Lumbar Facet Syndrome Explanation
- Lumbar Facet Syndrome
The Virginia Spine institute is an internationally known center devoted to excellence in non-operative and operative treatment of spinal disorders.
My mom went with me to the ambulatory surgery center for my first procedure on October 28, 2013. I was frightened. I had experienced spinal injections at the hands of questionable clinicians and I must admit that those experiences left some mental scars.
The procedure went well. I'm not going to lie. It hurt, but not so much that I could not handle it. I got home safely after leaving the trustworthy team of my doctor and his team. What came next brought me to tears.
- Facet joint disease treatment
Center for the Study and Treatment of Pain at NYULMC
My doctor started the procedure only on the left side of my spine. I had three injections of anti-inflammatory medication and steroids between my lumbar facet joints.
My pain level was at an 8 when I arrived at the facility. I experienced nausea once I arrived home, but it was tolerable. I was instructed to stand every hour and bend to the left and back to test my pain levels. This was my homework.
My pain level was a 0 in recovery at the hospital. My pain level was at a 1 for the first two hours, 2 at the third hour, increasing to a 7 at the 6th hour and an 8 a bedtime. The relief was meant to only last the day, so this was understandable and acceptable.
What I discovered was that the next procedure in which my nerves will be burned to stop the pain signals to my brain might be an effective treatment. This could leave me with less pain for 6 months or more!
I also discovered something I've not felt in years: HOPE. Such HOPE.
I cry every time I talk about it. I was able to turn my torso to the left without the excruciating pain along with the burning pain down my left leg. It was such an incredible RELIEF!
This is not the answer to all of my pain. There is no answer to all of my pain, but I would go through this again just for the 4 hours of relief I received.
I forgot what it was like to have a part of my body NOT hurting. I don't know when I forgot, but I did.
This special day helped me to believe that there is always hope.
It also affirmed to me that I'm not just lazy, I'm not just depressed and the answer given to me by many well-meaning loved ones of "moving around more" are not accurate. I have received a lot of advice and much of it has created doubt in my heart. Am I just depressed? Am I lazy? Have I simply been eating too much? Have I caused this? Did I do something to deserve it?
This procedure, the support of this pain clinic, the support of good doctors and other providers, the love of my family, has finally shown me that my pain is real, that I am one of millions going through something similar, that I'm not alone and that there is HOPE for some relief.
The following surgery will not be easy. When we finish with the left side, we have to move to the right side. I don't care. It is worth every single second that I am not thinking about my pain.
I can think about my daughter, my mom, my friends, my hobbies, books. I can think about anything I want other than how much my back is hurting. I'm still going to hurt, I am going to have bad days, and I will still have to take more pills than I can count on both hands each day.
But you know what? This surgery might just give me what I need to move a bit more and become stronger. As my body becomes stronger, my mind will do the same. It is a chance at a new beginning with just a bit less pain.
I hope I will always remember those 4 hours without pain on my left side. Even if the following surgeries are not effective, I was shown hope, I was shown grace, I was shown that I cannot ever give up, never give in, keep fighting and continue to search for answers.
My hope is for many more tomorrows. My hope is to watch my daughter grow, to share in her victories, to support her in defeat, to love her until the end of time. My hope is to spend as much time as possible with my daughter, my mom, my ex-husband, my dad, and all of the people I love.
My hope is to be able to look beyond my body, look beyond this shell that is failing me and to see that my future remains bright regardless of the challenges I face every day. If I can do this; if I can face each day knowing I am not going to feel good, that there will always be pain and always be limitations until I shuffle off this mortal coil - YOU CAN TOO! Never give up! Never lose hope! Keep looking for answers - you might just FIND THEM!