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7 YEARS AND COUNTING could use advise
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undiagnosed_vet posted:
Good afternoon,

My story starts in Heidelberg, Germany when I was serving in the United States Army. I was an idiot and didn't life a gas container correctly and it injured my back. I ended up pulling it three more times that week and it felt as though lighting had struck me.

Ever since then, I have chronic back spasms that changes depending on a multitude of things, (sleeping, not sleeping, sitting, standing, working out, and many more). I also don't sleep very well (tend to need a good amount of over the counter sleeping meds each night to sleep, I switch it up to differents ones to prevent liver damage)

I tried Physical Therapy for three years however never had much results. My 1st doctor stated that the muscles in my back had become traumatized so that any type of stress or preassure would cause them to swell blocking blood to other muscles hence the spasms. I have had many X-Rays (which have never shown anything) and on basic MRA (only checked my muscles to see if they were damaged; this was in Korea).

I left the Army about three years ago (not medically, I was determined to finish my contract) with 20% disability (which I was glad since I never deployed to Iraq or Afghanastan and it's next to impossible to get disability if you haven't deployed [stigma that only deployed soldiers can get injured>) however they never really diagnosed it.

For several years they tried different medications along with physical therapy until they finally gave me tramadol (I tried several muscle relaxers and always hated them; not for me) which completely removed my pain to the point where I was celebrating (for the first time in three years I had no pain in my back and it felt so amazing)

At first I was told that I could take my medication for the rest of my life if need be since it was relatively safe compared to other medications. I played the game as a soldier trying to ignore the pain and not being labeled as a pill popper or anything like that however the spasms are incredible sharp and would prevent me from standing, I could also feel it in my chest to the point where breathing and focusing could become difficult. So medication to get a normal life back was a fair trade.

Outside the Army my new VA Doctor whom I've only met and spoken with once in the last 15 months has regularly messed with my perscription requests (I tend to take it for three months and than without for a month unless I have a sudden spasm attack). She has even denied my request despite the pain because she does not think perscriptions should be used to control pain (political stuff that people who are not in constant pain get the luxery of saying)

I've thought about my symptoms and was looking at Tramadol and the fact that people were abusing it which is why it's difficult for actual cases to get prescribed and saw that it treated this condition, I'm wondering if my symptoms in this story are legit enough that I should bring it to the attention of a new doctor I will be seeing next week. (he's a civilian one that I heard actually tries to help patients). I honestly don't feel that my Military Doctors have really looked into the cause/what is really going on and have simply bypassed it over the years.

I don't believe it's in my head because Doctors/ My Wife can feel the muscles in my back tighten, pulse, bulge out at various times throughout the day. Please let me know if you think I should bring this up to my new doctor and request that he looks into it or if my symptoms sound like something else besides the common strained back. I really want to know what's going on so I can find other ways besides medicine to possibly control it. (I've tried exercise, meditation, heat, hot baths, and many things however none of it works).

Added Note: My X-Rays don't show anything except very miled schelosis (less than 10%, several doctors agreed that this wouldn't cause the issues I have, 1 however disagreed), My MRA also didn't show anything but it didn't check my nerves, thank you.
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missist responded:
Hi Undiagnosed vet-- absolutely tell this story to your new doctor-- I'd even print it out and read it to them. you have told it very well--except you have some spelling issues. I think you are saying you have mild scoliosis? I have that too-- it doesn't cause severe pain--but I'm sure it is a factor.

If you have a medication that works that well and it is relatively safe it should be allowed. There are other remedies though and you should get better care. If you can afford it-- if you have insurance coverage-- get a new round of tests and see what can be done. There are some folks in this group that can give you great advice--We all have different solutions for our problems so no one answer fits all.

Exercise is good--but it needs to be the right kind for you.

One thing I would like to say is don't use over the counter sleeping aids--there are better things that that--and less dangerous. Especially if you need them every night. A decent doctor should be able to help you with that.

I'm sure there will be more folks posting here with more advice so stay tuned.

God bless and I'll pray you get decent care!
Mary
 
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bette_kaffitz responded:
Dear Vet,

Being undiagnosed is the pits. You know there is something wrong. But every time there is another test that comes back negative, you get a little less sympathy from your doctor. And, of course, this isn't the first doctor. Most of us have seen many both before and after diagnosis.

Even with a diagnosis, you are still regarded as someone who is "faking it." After all, you don't look sick.

You have done a great job of describing where you are and how you got there. Follow Mary's advice, and bring a copy with you to your next doctor's appointment. Sometimes, it is the little things that sink in. (I told how I had to get out of the car and stretch twice on my way to work and at least twice on the way home. THAT created a picture of what my life was truly life. It made a difference in how I was treated from then on.)

If you haven't read Dr. Devin Starlanyl's books yet, do so. Her latest (2013) Healing through Trigger Point Therapy can help you--and any medical practicioners you visit--find ways to UNtighten those stiff places that never seem to go away. It is a revelation. (Get any of her books from the library first--even if they have to do an inter-library loan. Then you'll know whether you want to spend the money to own that book.)

It is not easy being in constant pain. Dealing with others' lack of knowledge and empathy can make things much worse. Be as pleasant as you can dealing with your medical team. You need them on your side. Once they are in your corner, you will get the best care they can give. If that care is medicines, so be it. But it would be great if at least some of your pain could be irradicated, too.

Towards better days,

Bette
 
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Anon_10089 responded:
Hello-

Different doctors have different views on Tramadol. Some people can get very addicted to it and have bad addictive behaviors (seeking more and more, buying off the streets, etc.). However, many people take it with no such issues, as it seems like you have. A decent doctor should be able to discern that history.

Also, it is very good to communicate you are willing to do other things to ease your pain--as you mentioned. I've had success with doctors by going with organized notes broken down into my symptoms, how much they affect my life (what they keep me from doing, etc,), what I have tried in the past with what amount of success, and what my goal for treatment is. For example, if my pain is keeping me from doing everyday chores, my goal would not be to have zero pain because that is unrealistic, but my goal would be to have enough pain control to be able to grocery shop once per week, or something like that.

I have had insomnia most of my life. I have taken something to help me sleep every night for the past 7 years or so. My doctor says I probably never had the correct chemical process going on to sleep so I'll probably take something forever. I usually take benedryl, but I also have good success with melatonin. However, I take 10 mg of melatonin, which I think is more than most people. There are also some good mixes of herbal supplements that are actually pretty potent. They're not to be taken lightly but can be effective for sleep. I actually have never taken prescription sleep aids because they can be habit forming and many of them lose effectiveness quickly!

I hate being a chronic pain patient right now in this country. It's a terrible category to be in. I have had good success with my doctor in a large HMO. I think she was a good one to begin with, but I think I presented myself as someone very much in charge of my own health and body. My best advice is to prepare, prepare, prepare for your appointment. Take notes in. Psych yourself up beforehand. Be candid but try to not show a lot of emotion during the appointment. If you're in pain, let it show, but don't make a show of it, if that makes sense. I hope it goes well!

--JR


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