Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
Things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright
~Sign of the Times~Harry Styles
It has been more than 10 weeks since I herniated a disc. In many ways, it feels as if I have been dealing with this injury for a much longer period of time. My memory of those early days is already growing fuzzy around the edges, and yet I am glad that I haven’t experienced that same pain intensity for several weeks now. The pain during those first few weeks was on a level that I have rarely experienced. As resistant to the idea as I was at the time, taking a medical leave of absence from work was a wise decision as it has allowed me time and space to heal. The pain intensity changed once I was no longer going to work, and I gradually began to see some progress in my mobility. But I still had constant numbness in my left leg and nerve pain in both legs every single time I laid down. Despite physiotherapy, rehab exercises, and three prescription drugs, I would still feel that leg pain when lying down, and my sleep suffered because of it. My mood, while mostly positive, would still plummet quickly from sleep deprivation, endless pain, and the frustration of feeling stuck with no end in sight. Then last Friday happened.
I had a physio appointment. There is nothing out of the ordinary about that…I’ve had quite a few physio appointments since herniating a disc. I was put through the usual barrage of physical tests and performed them all better than I had at my previous visit two weeks prior. My physiotherapist said that the disc is healing very well based on how I am moving my body. This was good news for me to hear, as I had been feeling improvements in my ability to move and use my body. It was also a relief to know that the disc actually is well on its way to healing, because the pain in my legs often makes me feel as if healing is such a long ways off.
The disc is doing well, so what’s up with the nerve pain in the legs? My physiotherapist said that it looks as if the nerve is stuck on sending pain signals and needs to be re-trained on how to function normally. Okay. I am not a sciencey, medically knowledgeable person, but the explanation made sense to me. My physiotherapist’s course of action was to continue with the IMS treatment on my back, but then he would leave one needle in my back and place one in the back of my left leg and attach electricity to both. At the same time. Do you know how that feels? It is uncomfortable bordering on intensely painful, depending on the frequency of the electrical current. The muscles with the needles in them twitch to the frequency of the current, and you have absolutely no control over that. With my leg and back muscles twitching at the same time, I literally felt like a fish flopping on the ground. At one point, my physiotherapist asked how I was doing. My “okay” must not have been too convincing, because he then asked if I was sure that I was okay. I don’t know that my “yes” was any more convincing, as I lay there flopping and silently gasping, but I survived the process. After all of that, I was once again asked to perform the same physical tests, and my performance was even better than it had been at the start of my appointment. This was good news and means that I will be similarly tortured again, but the good news doesn’t end there.
I left my appointment Friday morning feeling slightly stiff and sore in the areas where the IMS had been done which is quite normal. During the course of any day, I have periods of activity and periods of laying down. As the day wore on, I noticed that there was a difference in the leg pain when I would recline in the living room. The pain wasn’t completely gone, but there was a definitive difference in a mostly positive way! The left leg, which has always been the worst, felt significantly less pain and the pain I did feel was changing from the norm. I went to bed that night and slept better than I have for a while. I do not know why, but my right hip now hurts more intensely.
It’s now been several days since that physio treatment, but I feel excited and hopeful. A week ago, I couldn’t see an end to this struggle and, while it might be a stretch to say I can see an end now, the truth is that at least now an end actually feels possible. The pain in my legs isn’t gone. I am laying down as I am typing this blog post, and there is pain in my legs; however, it is less than it used to be! The pain that I am feeling is changing in its very nature. My physiotherapist once said that pain concentrating to one area is good, spreading pain is not good. It no longer feels like my pain is spreading. Is it concentrating? Sometimes it feels that way, but even when it doesn’t there is still that sense of the pain being different, in a good way. When I go to bed at night, leg pain isn’t waking me up several times through the night. Leg pain isn’t keeping me awake for hours before falling asleep. Unfortunately, I am still having trouble falling or staying asleep for the first few hours, but I’m just relieved that the leg pain isn’t the cause anymore.
The pain isn’t gone, but I feel hopeful. I am almost excited about my next physio appointment…until I remember the awkward flopping and pain!