Last week I had an epidural injection into my lower back to make one last attempt at dealing with my chronic back pain. I’ve held off writing this for a while. I wanted to see what I would feel like a few days after the procedure.
For this injection, I was able to go to Medford instead of Wausau. It is a much shorter drive, but I still needed a ride, so I had a friend of mine take me. She was running a little late, but so was the doctor, so it worked out ok.
The nurse in the preop area reviewed all my meds and my history and I had to take yet another urine pregnancy test (negative). The doctor came in and marked the area for the injection and then I got a wheelchair ride to the procedure room.
Once in the room, I got onto the surgical table on my stomach and they prepped my lower back and buttocks. Because this was a caudal epidural, the injection site was different than the usual lumbar area. This time she inserted the needle into the very bottom of my tailbone and threaded a wire up the length of my spinal column (through the epidural space) to the L5 area where the disc is bulging out of the torn annulus.
She numbed my tailbone with lidocaine prior to inserting the needle. She used Xray guidance to ensure that the needle and wire were in the appropriate places before she injected the meds. Once she started with the meds, I could feel a little bit of pressure .on my abdomen—but it felt like it was coming from inside my body. It was an odd sensations. There wasn’t any pain from the injection, only some discomfort and pressure.
The procedure didn’t take long. She did say that the medicine seemed to want to go to the left side and she had to adjust the wire to make sure the medication went to the right area.
After the medication was injected, she pulled the wire and the needle out while injecting a little more numbing medication. Then the nurse cleaned me up and I sat up and looked over the Xrays with the doctor. I was able to see exactly where the needle and the wire were and where the medication was injected. I love that stuff!
Everyone started asking me how I was feeling and if I had any weakness or tingling in my legs or feet. My legs felt fine, but my butt felt like I had been sitting on a block of ice for an hour. It was completely numb. I got off the table and got a wheelchair ride back to the recovery area. They made me sit for a bit and gave me some water to drink. Once they were sure that my legs were stable and that I wasn’t going to fall over, they took me out to the waiting area and I went home. I was back in my house by 10:30.
It took a couple hours for the numbness to completely wear off by my tailbone. But once it did, I realized that it hurt! And my tailbone continued to hurt for a couple days after the procedure. I used ice packs and ibuprofen to deal with the discomfort. I had to be conscious of how I was sitting because any extra pressure on my tailbone caused more pain. The pain eventually subsided after a few days.
As for the back pain…well, initially I was pretty pleased. I felt less pain when I was bending or twisting or just going about my daily activities. But, I probably did too much in the first couple days after the injection. The very next day I ran/walked a 5K with my son and the day after that was Tim’s first marathon and I biked all over Madison cheering him on (race recaps are coming). So, on Monday I was a little sore. And I was still sore for the first few days of the week. I was getting pretty discouraged thinking that the injection didn’t work. But then, I would have several hours or half a day when I felt pretty good and I would think that maybe it did help.
It may seem weird, but my barometer for how bad my pain is involves using the bathroom. One of the most painful activities for me is bending to lift the toilet seat lid when I go to the bathroom. It hurts so badly. Especially first thing in the morning. So, if I can go to the bathroom and lift the lid without pain, then I am doing pretty well. If that hurts, then I know I am having a rough day. If I’m having a rough time with that, I usually don’t even try to empty the dishwasher or the dryer because I know it will just hurt too much. In case you were wondering, and I know that you were, today is a good day so far.
My follow up appointment is on Tuesday. I don’t know what to expect as far as duration of pain relief. This is only a temporary fix. Most people will experience relief for weeks-months. It is highly individualized. I’m hoping to feel better for a while because I don’t know how frequently this procedure can be repeated.
As for my running, the doctor gave me clearance to continue to slowly increase my mileage. I’m at two miles a day, most days of the week. I am allowed to increase that to 2.5 miles next week. Still no high intensity work. I keep walking and I swim once a week. I just have to stay active to try and keep my attitude from slipping.
I’ll be back next week with an update after the follow up appointment. Hope everyone is doing well.