Original posting, 2004-10-24:
I had a personal trainer and we used to go out walking early in the morning along the Thames in West London. I had built up a good pace for me as I previously was very unfit and in a lot of pain with diabetic neuropathy in my feet. One morning we were out walking where we usually go and we are walking on this road where cars come through to get to a private health club. He yelled at me to move out the way and also to walk faster to keep up with him, I couldn't keep up with him that day. I actually never heard him. He ran up to me and yanked my pony tail and pulled me out the way of the oncoming traffic, it felt really rough and I pushed him away from me and I landed in an adjacent ditch.
Two days later I was working and sitting in a chair doing a seminar with my endocrinologist as it happens. I got up from the chair and could hardly walk. I was in agony. He could see something was wrong and I told him about earlier in the week. He gave me a prescription to take to pharmacy to get some tramadol to get me home. It was a Friday lunchtime and I was terrified as I hobbled upstairs.
I couldn't get hold of my GP. I had private health insurance so I rang the nearest private hospital which had a spinal unit and asked if there was anyone I could see that afternoon. I found an orthopaedic surgeon who was operating until 5 pm but his PA said she would leave him a message saying it was urgent but I had to get a referral letter faxed through. I said fine, I went and sat in a café for a long lunch….. I contacted my GP, who faxed through a quick note but he was not happy!
I saw the surgeon who was ok, he told me I had "wear and tear" on my discs and looked at the x-rays he ordered and arranged for a CT scan on the Monday. I was in excruciating pain and couldn't even sit down. I asked for admission for pain relief but he said, sorry he was flying that night to Vienna for a conference. I went home in a taxi in tears. I was home for 1 night then noticed my leg swelling up, I had cellulites, the pain was getting worse and I was terrified. I went to A&E got admitted for pain relief and kept in until I had the CT scan. That showed nothing new. I kept getting told Disc degeneration and to stop whingeing but the pain was horrendous and in the meanwhile my leg was getting more and more swollen.
Another admission into hospital after I developed leg ulcers due to lack of mobility and no circulation and I was on four opioids by then but no progress re my musculo-skeletal pain.
I was discharged. Went home to develop further ulceration, back in hospital and stayed for lengthy admission. Had antibiotics, felt better. Came out and saw pain specialist in NHS clinic. Another nightmare. I go to this clinic when I am supposed to be starting an NHS Management Leadership programme at the Kings Fund. Kept waiting three hours for a 9 a.m. appointment. Consultant never came into clinic until 10.15 a.m. so why was I asked to come at 9 a.m.? See registrar, takes history, he by the way has no orthopaedic training. Prods my lower back and I jump a mile after sitting on uncomfortable seating for 3 hours. No apology for hurting me. I go out again to wait to see Consultant. Go in to see consultant who is not very communicative but gets excited when hears I have health insurance. All of a sudden there are possibilities. Never mind I can't sit properly, pee without excruciating pain everytime I sit on the loo, and flip if I need to sit for longer than 30 seconds in that position!
I am to have my facet joints injected and no discussion of having the morphine I was shoved on reduced. I am feeling very spaced out, all this medication, every bone hurts. I am screaming inside, I have mental health problems too. No one asks me how this is affecting me.
18 months down the line how am I? I am a lot better. I do my research. I find and Dr Richard Walker. A Consultant in Pain Management who is also trained in medical osteopathy, musculo-skeletal medicine, acupuncture and in anaesthetics (Consultant level) to and holds an NHS post. [Note from Jon Miles - Dr Walker has now retired.]
I contact him and he gives me some very good advice from the very first email I received from him, and when I went to see him, not far from London either, he showed me brilliant effective exercises that helped me so much that are available on his website that I had trouble doing on my own. He helped me with treatment, manipulation and some injections in his clinic that worked well, and the stretches I do that I took from his brilliant list off his website was excellent. However it was a two way thing, I have to keep on helping myself and he will continue to help me. He is also helping me to withdraw off the opioid medication including morphine and is overall very positive and supportive. I can see a future eventually without pain however it will take hard work and the right specialist! By the way, he was the first specialist to examine my lower back properly. I also don't have disc degeneration, that is an awful thing to say to people as good recovery is possible.
I am now on a third less morphine and tramadol than I was on when I originally wrote about my experiences. I still am struggling to reduce final bit of morphine, on 15 mg twice a day and tramadol 150 mg a day and pregabalin 100 mg a day. Now and again top up with tylex. I also subsequently had a caudal epidural which has helped the coccyx pain immensely.
This site is full of amazing people and I wish everyone better times, as I can now sit for half an hour, then have to walk around and stretch and feel ok for another half hour. The pain is still there and not nice, but I am much more comfortable.
I am settling into the pilates class with Allison Swan - chair of pilates foundation - in her back rehab class, and feel more able to be mobile now.
I see Dr Walker on the NHS now, and there is no difference in good care, but longer waits for treatment, but he happily emails me if I need advice and/or support on a weekly basis or daily if a flare up happens.