I have some pretty severe back problems, which causes severe and debilitating pain. Things I have to tried to make this pain better include years of physical therapy, intensive exercise regimen, extreme weight loss, chiropractor visits, biofeedback, lazer therapy, and dozens of excruciating Epidural Steroid Injections. Dozens.
The thing with the ESI’s, as they’re known in the medical field, is they are very expensive. The Doctor makes an absolute fortune on them, and the beauty is you can do them again and again, technically indefinitely. You must have four weeks between shots, but at one point the doctor I was seeing had me doing a series of three every six months. The next issue with these shots is that they are widely known to not actually WORK. I started getting them in 2010, and the Doctor pushed them heavily, but was clear in saying that they work for some but not all, even so, it was made abundantly clear that regardless of results, if I wanted to be seen for pain management and get pain medication, I had to continue getting the shots. Initially I thought I had to keep getting them because eventually it would work, or slowly over time the benefit would grow. I began to realize as I researched that I was getting them because the doctor made a fortune on them.
The shot itself is incredibly painful, at least for me. They do use numbing medication to the area, but it just takes the edge off. You feel an intense rush of pressure, and the pressure lasts the length of the procedure. The medication or needle seems to electrify the nerve at the heart of the pain and you’re jolted with an electrified stab of burning and pain throughout the area, in the place on your body with the loudest and angriest pain you have, and its excruciating. The pain the following week is brutal and constant, I would have to take pain medication every hour hours just to be upright. Forget accomplishing anything, I just wanted to shower and exist, breathe in and out. Eventually my pain increased so exponentially that I could no longer tolerate the shots, and gave up the medication because I couldn’t endure the increased pain the TREATMENT I WAS PAYING FOR caused the injury it was supposed to help.
Since I stopped having the shots, I have been shocked at what occurred. First of all, the FDA condemned these shots, saying they are of NO BENEFIT and are incredibly dangerous and cause long term harm. Several countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and others have actually BANNED THEM ENTIRELY. As I researched I found that these shots were simply a manifestation of the greed of the Physician, and how willing they were to inflict pain for profit. I am disgusted by this. Every “Pain Management” office I have ever seen advertises these shots as being the thing that will free you from your constant companion, debilitating pain, and in reality, it does no such thing. The 20% that have relief from them only get it for a couple months, then they have to repeat it hoping the effects will be the same. And again, its a crap shoot EVERY TIME and the side effects can be intense and long lasting.
This two years have been an exhausting and painful for me. I haven’t any pain management, and its been hard. I took time to decide what kind of intervention I wanted and needed, what lengths I was willing to go to for relief, what I was willing to try and pay. When I made those decisions, I implemented things I could do myself and worked on me for a full year before pursuing help with pain.
When I saw the new pain Doctor, after my initial visits, exam, new MRIs, and xrays, they admitted that my lumbar disc herniation couldn’t benefit from any more injections, but since I’d only had one on my cervical herniation, they wanted to do another. I started shaking so hard during the appointment he asked if I was cold. I had fully expected that they would try to get me to have the shots, even though they KNOW the FDA has condemned them, even though they KNOW countries are banning them, even though they KNOW they don’t help and cause serious pain and harm, all because they make money off of them. So I was prepared, I knew if that I was offered this shot, that it was a hoop I had to jump through and I would have to submit myself for this awful painful procedure and pay to have someone harm me and call it help with a smile. I had told my husband, one shot, I will do one. Any more than that and it will be too risky, the complications are too risky. So I pooled my resolve and reminded the Doctor I’d had many ESI’s and my main concern was pain control afterward. I could handle it with adequate medication, and when the followup appointment came around, I would tell him the inevitable, that the shot didn’t help and we’d move on to discuss other options. The Doctor was very reassuring, he didn’t prescribe me anything that day, but promised adequate medication after the shot, so I thought okay, hes not all greed and no compassion, he’ll hurt me for money sure, but he’ll at least have the decency to medicate me properly to recover. I had the shot, it was awful, and I can’t trigger myself again going into detail about it, but I left with the script for pain medication and its the lowest level of narcotic available, and he gave me FIFTEEN OF THEM. First of all, fifteen? By the way, I’ll be in agony ALL WEEK, that isn’t going to help me. And second, he asked me in detail what kind of medication I had taken, how much, how often, what worked, and he made notes. I was told I’d be given a specific medication, and this wasn’t it, it wasn’t half of it, it wasn’t even CLOSE to it, and the Doctor had written one for every 8 hours which is so inadequate, the pill barely lasts four hours, I am writhing by five. I freaked out. I called, and got a nurse and sort of a “whoops” on the medication, left a message for the Doctor, but I’m two more hours into hell, and I haven’t been called back to re-rx the right medication.
So I’m in agony, and I knew I would be, but I thought I’d have medication to cope with it. And the one thing I’d explained I simply must have was proper medication after procedure. The procedure he insisted I have that is neither helpful or safe and certainly not painless, just to pad his pockets. I can’t imagine he realizes I know about the FDA’s new warnings, I bet he’d feel awkward having just recommended something widely considered to be witch doctoring. I think beyond my pain, and there is a lot of it, its difficult to see past it, I am so hurt on a human level. I feel like the Doctor made me such a victim. I had to undergo a painful, harmful, expensive procedure because it would make him more money than if he just prescribed a pill for pain. That is the height of cruelty. And I have to submit myself to that man for treatment and hope he’ll do the right thing. How can I have faith in him as a physician? Or believe that he even cares about how much pain I am in? He made notes for himself, that I needed a stronger medication, but he couldn’t be bothered to read them? I mean so little. This situation is just untenable. I paid for a Doctor to harm me, and call it help with with a smile.