Thursday, March 8, 2012

We have an answer: Herniated disc

I had another MRI on Tuesday - this time of my lumbar spine - and got the results surprisingly quickly. It showed that I have a "broad based herniation at L4/L5" and an "annular tear" to the disc. Bottom line: the disc is bulging out and pressing on the sac that surrounds my spinal cord. This pressure is in turn firing off a nerve, which is where the pain in my hip & leg are coming from. Good times!

Actually, I have to admit, this week has been a bit better. My rheumatologist gave me some pain medication last week, which helped me get some rest and overall seemed to calm things down. So now it's manageable, albeit rather uncomfortable. I'll be starting physical therapy on Monday to see if we can further reduce the pain & swelling. If not, then I'll be headed to a pain management doctor to see about having a cortisone epidural. I'm kind of wigged out at the thought of a shot in my spine, so I'm really hoping to avoid that one!

If any of you have dealt with a herniated disc before, I'd love to hear from you. Is the pain something that comes and goes? Did you try PT & did it work? Any other thoughts/tips?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New struggles, new questions

I know it's been a while. But since my husband and I moved to California, I've pretty much let go of the idea of having children. We are loving our new life here and I'm no longer feeling the pull to be a mother. I'm also back on methotrexate, so that precludes any immediate pregnancy.

Because of that, and the fact that I've been doing pretty good since last spring/summer, I haven't had much to say. But good ol' RA, she never lets you go that long without reminding you of her presence, does she?

This winter, I developed pain in my hips - mostly on the outer sides of my legs. It was uncomfortable when exercising and I couldn't sleep on my side, so I mentioned it to my rheumatologist. He said RA predisposes me to inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), so he shot both hips with cortisone (holy hell that hurts for a few days!). That seemed to clear things up. I was back to exercising 5-6 days a week and feeling good.

But then this insidious pain started in my upper hip/buttock. I thought for sure it was a return of the bursitis. Back the rheumatologist I went. He said it wasn't bursitis. He thought maybe a labral tear. (The labrum being the soft tissue that holds the hip in it's socket.) So, I had an MR arthrogram last week. That's where they inject a contrast agent into your hip joint, then do an MRI of the hip to check for damage. (Again - that seriously hurt for a couple of days afterward. Why does no one warn us of these things???)

Monday morning I got word that the hip was fine. So, why can't I exercise for more than 10-20 minutes without pain in my upper hip and buttock? Why, when I stroll the mall for an hour, does the pain start to wrap around down my leg and into my knee, making every step nearly unbearable? Why, when I finally lay down at night for some peace, do I toss and turn trying to find a spot to ease the pain?

On the search for an answer, the rheumatologist is consulting with the radiologist to see if they checked the iliopsoas bursa/tendon. The iliopsoas bursa is in the back of the hip. It's a rare to have bursitis there, but it's possible. From what I've read, my pain sounds most similar to this. So, if they do find that it's inflammed on the MRI - we might try a cortisone shot there and physical therapy. It could take a few months to see improvement, but at least there's hope.

The alternative, my rheumatologist fears, is that it might be referred pain from my spine. Which could mean physical therapy or surgery or simply having to live with the pain. No one can say for sure.

My real fear is that they will find nothing. That some may think this pain is all in my head. I've always been so unsure of myself when it comes to medical things. Even when my fingers swelled as my RA first developed, I wondered if I was making a mountain out of a mole hill. (Obviously, it turned out to be a true mountain - which some days feels as challenging as Mt. Everest.)

So I sit and I wait. Wait for answers to questions that I fear may be unanswerable.