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The Opioid Crisis Is About Real People. Real People in Pain.

Twelve years ago, I began having leg pain. It began small and increased over time. There was no injury I could point to as being the cause. My healthcare professionals were baffled.

The pain increased. Now it was constant, 24 hours a day.

At first, it seemed as if it were a hamstring pull. That seemed unlikely, but I dutifully had three rounds of physical therapy. Then there was a pain management doctor who ordered tests, gave me a TENS unit, then tried injections. The pain increased. Now it was constant, 24 hours a day.

Although my MRI showed three bulging discs in my lumbar region, my back wasn’t the problem. My leg was. Since I didn’t respond to physical therapy or injections, I was given a tennis ball and told to go home.

At no time during any of this process did anyone offer opioids.

My husband was expected to push at my piriformis muscle with the tennis ball. Basically, he was to push against my left butt muscle as hard as he could. This would hopefully cause an immune response that would attract white blood cells. It might help with the pain.

I have no idea if it would have done something. When the doctor showed my husband the technique, it was very painful. I limped out to the car and we drove home.

My husband turned off the car in our garage and said; “There was no way in hell I am going to hurt you like that. The whole idea is crazy.”

I have zero problems with my husband not wanting to cause me pain. I don’t think I could do it for him.

I gave up trying to get better. I tried to sit in ways that didn’t make the pain worse and spent a couple of days a week laying on the couch trying to get my muscles to stop spasming.

At no time during any of this process did anyone offer opioids. I took massive doses of Advil, which played hell with my ulcer. Sometimes I had a drink.

It was a matter of deciding which pain was worse. Almost always I chose the burning in my gut over the aching in my leg. It wasn’t until one of the discs ruptured that I got some help. The help was Vicodin. It was magical.

After a couple of days taking the opioid, I looked at my husband and said “Right at this moment I don’t hurt. It is the first time in three years.”

Surgery reduced my pain by about 80%.

I had a double lumbar fusion and tapered off the Vicodin. There was damage to the nerve running down my leg. It may have been injured during the surgery, but I tend to think it was caused by the three years the nerve was compressed.

Surgery reduced my pain by about 80%. As far as I am concerned, it was the best decision I ever made. And I’ve made some good decisions. Remember that husband who refuses to intentionally cause me pain? I rest my case.

I have taken Tramadol as needed ever since. Sometimes I need it three or four times a day. Sometimes I can skip it. Most of the time, in order to have a life filled with exotic activities like grocery shopping, I don’t skip it.


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