This afternoon I had an appointment with my Spine Clinic doctor near my old house, about 40 minutes away. Coming back right afterwards would be a nightmare due to it being during traffic high-commute time, so I arranged for dinner and a walk with a good friend. He lives a little over a mile from a lovely downtown area replete with shops and restaurants, so we settled on Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup). It’s one of my favorite supportive meals – water based soups are always safe and usually I can find it with chicken or veggies. I estimate about 400 calories for a small (which is usually very large and filling) order of chicken or beef pho. The 20-30 minutes walking before and after burned a good deal of that.
At the Spine Clinic today I had good news and bad news. Bad news first: Once this kind of pain has gone on this long, there is really no permanent solution. I’m stuck with this for the rest of my life, and we are just managing the pain now. I asked about myofascial release, and he said if I felt like trying it to go ahead but that it was unlikely to bring any more permanent relief for my situation than regular massage or the acupuncture (which we know works).
And then the good news: He did some more examination of the area and twisting and turning me this way and that and determined that there was a good chance I was suffering from an inflammation of the right L4-5, L5-S1 lumbar facet joints. The facets are joints on the side of the spine that connect the vertebrae and help guide the spine during movement. He thinks there is a 60-70% chance that I could benefit, and gain some relief from, having a lumbar facet corticosteroid injection. It’s not a permanent solution – if it works it has the potential to give me anything from weeks, months or even up to a year of pain relief. However, in most people once the pain returns it usually returns at a lower level. This all sounds to me like a chance worth taking, so I scheduled the procedure for Feb. 28th, apparently it involves inserting cameras and needles into my back with some level of anesthetic, so it has to be done at an outpatient procedure center, not in the office.
Coming on the heels of the news about living with and managing pain for the rest of my life, it’s at least a ray of hope to know there are things that can be done to give me windows of pain relief that may even permanently reduce the amount of pain I feel on a regular basis. I know you can’t have multiple cortisone injections without damaging a joint, so if it doesn’t work we’ll have to find something else to try, and if it does work I’ll have to hope it works for a really long time because I’m not interested in doing it much more than once. But…It’s nice to have something to try.