When thinking of a medical experience I’ve had, the first thing that comes to mind is my back –because I’m still dealing with constant radiating pain every day.
When I was a senior in high school, I started to develop lower back pain. My family and I ended up assuming that it had to do with the fact that I was a softball pitcher since I was in the third grade and my senior year was extremely hard on my body because I pitched both games of every double header of almost every game for the entire season. The pain was never excruciating, so I mostly ignored it. I’m lucky that my step dad is a physical therapist, so he gave me some exercises to do in the meantime.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college, I was a server and worked long hours on my feet. The pain started to get a lot worse and it was something that I couldn’t really describe because I’ve never dealt with it before. But, it was like a constant ache in my lower back, and occasionally I would get tingling pain that radiated down my right leg. When I would close at the restaurant, I would have to lay in one of the booths and do my stretches, otherwise the pain worsened.
It got even worse my sophomore year. I bent over to put a bag in my backseat and got an extremely sharp pain in my back, both of my legs were tingling down to my toes and then they basically went numb and my knees buckled. That’s when I realized things were much worse than I thought. I scheduled an appointment to see a Doctor of Osteopathy because I had the feeling if I saw a Medical Doctor that they would try to shove medicine down my throat to “fix” the problem. Since I was a new patient, I had to wait over a month to actually see her. Numerous times in that month, all I had to do was bend or twist the wrong way and I would get that shooting pain again with both of my legs tingling.
My doctor had the feeling I had a herniated disc and that I would need an MRI – but for insurance purposes, she said I would have to get an x-ray first and go to a physical therapist for a month. The frustrating thing was that my physical therapist couldn’t treat me for a herniated disc, because she didn’t know if I had one since an x-ray wouldn’t show that. So after the month of pointless physical therapy was done, I finally had approval to get an MRI. The MRI did, in fact, show that I had a herniated disc at L5-S1.
When my doctor’s office called to tell me that, they immediately recommended that I get steroid injections, which I was disappointed about. I protested and asked for another referral to physical therapy so my therapist could actually treat me for a herniated disc. It helped a little bit, but I still had the radiating pain. My therapist ended up referring me to Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), which is only performed by D.O.’s and is similar to chiropractic treatment.
At this point, about two years later, I am still dealing with the pain and get OMM approximately every 6-8 weeks. Some days are really bad, especially if I’m driving long distances, and some days are much more bearable. They say a herniated disc will fix itself, with the right treatment. I am really trying to avoid steroid injections, which is basically the last step before getting back surgery. However, I think I have enough faith in modern medicine that I will trust that it’s what is necessary if the pain continues like it is now. Overall, the most frustrating things were having to wait, “for insurance purposes,” to get the test that I needed and also that they were so quick to refer me to get steroid injections rather than attempting to fix the problem first.