Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Revenge of The Herniated Disc. (Or how one bad disc corrupted the vertebral neighborhood.)

During the past decade or so I have battled with bouts of "sore backs" that have kept me inactive for weeks at a time, but never pain like this. This time, I’m in pain with a capital “P”. And no, it’s not emotional or spiritual or even creative in nature. (Although I could do with a little of the latter I guess – strife being good for the creative juices and all…) This is a throbbing, pulsating waterfall of pain emanating from my lumbar region [L4-L5 to be precise]; down my left leg ensconcing itself in my left foot. This is the pain, I surmise, that they must have been imagining when they coined the idiomatic expression: “Hitting a raw nerve.”

Thirteen years ago; (and no (even now) I do not suffer from “triskaidekaphobia” actually it’s a lucky number in an Italian’s book.), I was diagnosed with a herniated disk [L2-L3] and had a diskectomy to rectify the situation. My experience in hospital at the Montreal Neurological Institute had impressed on me how much the quality of one life may vary from another. Watching patients in glass-walled cubicles as they were constantly monitored by staff for any aberrant behavior lent a surreal, almost Orwellian tinge to the experience. The patient that affected me the most was a woman who in preparation for her surgery (I logically assumed: for a brain tumor) had had her head shaved and her scalp mapped out into quadrants (for obvious surgical purposes) much like something from a Clive Barker movie. The upshot being that Alighieri had it wrong: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory can all concomitantly exist – sometimes even in the same room.

Note: Thanks to those that e-mailed me to inquire as to why I had not been posting as often as “usual” whatever that is. I’m glad you noticed. Mille grazie.


Peter said...

Sorry to hear about your back. Have you tried an oral steroid burst, or an epidural steroid injection? They can be really helpful (in my limited experience).

Scott Glassman said...

I've had two transforaminal steroid injections and 1 epidural--none helped. it is so frustrating. makes you hate living

Scott Glassman said...

a good blog title might be: They Shoot Poets with bad backs-- don't they? If not, they should.

Nick said...


I'm on anti-inflammatory medication and pain-killers. Heard about the epidural of course but not the "oral steroid burst". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume that these are both just temporary reprieves. Anyway thanks for the concern.

Nick said...


It doesn't make me hate living as much as it makes me really appreciate the stretches of healthy back days that I experience. Some days I actually forget that I've had back surgery. The worst part of it is that quite often people who have never experienced real back pain are apathetic to your condition as most have experienced a tired and/or sore back and somehow cannot differentiate between the two.

Re: They Shoot Poets with bad backs-- don't they?

LOL! Not ready for the glue factory yet but I get your point.

Peter said...

Nick: Hard to say if it would be temporary relief for you, or not. Everybody's case is so unique. I have had good luck with avoiding surgery, and getting some long term relief for people, using oral steroids (ie Prednisone, 60 mg per day for 5-10 days). Ask your doctor about it?
Here's a link to a national Guideline with a little info about it: http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?ss=15&doc_id=2803&nbr=2029

Patry Francis said...

No suggestions, but lots of commiseration here. Hope you feel better soon.

Brian Campbell said...

Sorry to hear that too. Due to my scoliosis, I'm told I'm this far []from major back pain, which I've never experienced. So I send you some compassion-in-advance (if you know what I mean), and thank you for making me appreciate once more my present good health.

Heaven, hell,and purgatory can exist not just in the same room, but in the same body...

Take care (truly).

Nick said...


Thanks for the info on the Prednisone. I'll definitely ask my M.D. about it.


Thanks for commiserating. Every bit of support helps.


Sorry to hear about your scoliosis. Thanks for your well-wishes. Yes, even in the same body. Thanks for that too.