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Should I find a new Dr? sciatic nerve issue

I'm a 26 year old female living in an extremely variant climate (sometimes makes pain worse more often).
I hurt my back when I was 15 years old while showing off for scouts in softball. I slid head first into a base the wrong way and immediately couldn't move and felt like throwing up.. I couldn't turn my head or lift a bat immediately following the incident. My mother suggested waiting to see a doctor in case I had just pulled a muscle so we waited for a few months and finally went to get a doctors opinion. They did no tests and attributed it to "growing pains" which did not make sense as the pain was immediate and did not develop over time.
About a year after the incident, we went to get a second opinion. I had an x-ray and MRI done, which showed I had a slightly bulging disk and several pinched nerves. They prescribed me loratabs which did nothing so I didn't take them (I wanted to be fixed in order to continue sports, not just be given a bandaid) I went to PT, massage therapy, and chiropractor all twice a week for at least a year.. nothing. I became so frustrated that I ended up giving up and just believing that this was my life from now on. There'd be days I couldn't go to school or work because I couldn't even lift myself out of bed. I did occasionally go to the chiropractor or masseuse to get temporary relief throughout the years.
So here I am over ten years later finally thinking about the future and having kids (It makes me cringe to think how my back will feel while I'm pregnant or the birth itself). I also wasn't able to sleep at all. This was not a problem as a kid because I didn't feel I needed sleep but now I lay in bed sometimes for over 13 hours and probably only sleep 4 (yes I did get a new mattress too to see if that helped.. but it did not make a difference) I started the steps to go back to the doctor about 7 months ago, starting with my primary who prescribed me ibuprofen 800mg. Then went to a spine and sports specialist who took an MRI of my lumbar and found the same things slightly worsened than when I was a kid.  Now I also have intense pain in my neck and shoulders but they would not refer me for a MRI for those. My sciatic pain radiates everywhere EXCEPT my left arm. I have no idea why its only that arm but I am right handed. They recommended PT twice a week again. I went to the best guy in my city and he knew my story by just a few physical tests. My sciatic nerve is "shot" --his words-- I am not able to lift my leg with my head bent downward, I cannot touch my feet and never have been able to since the accident, it radiates throughout my entire back and affects my mental state as well as my social life. He is telling me all this and I start to cry because no one has ever believed in my problems, everyone said I was in pain but not as much as I said I was in. He tells me they didn't know as much about nerves back when I got hurt and the PT I was in at the time actually worsened my condition. He has mentioned that there may be something wrong in my upper back/shoulder blades/ neck but he cannot do anything to help without a referral. PT has helped me but I still have some days when I cannot move and am crying without realizing it because of the pain.
Now, my doctors believe I have rheumatoid arthritis, I'm going to be getting blood test results back soon. However they don't see the nerve factor as being a major problem. They refuse to do an MRI on my upper/middle back even though I have intense pain there as well, so therefore I cannot get a referral for PT without the MRI.

I'm curious if I should stick with this track of my current doctors or perhaps switch and go see a neurologist instead? I have become very weary of doctors since the incident first occurred and also with my father who was also misdiagnosed when in reality his spinal cord twisted in between two of his vertebrae and he could not walk because of pain and also had two old hip fracture which he could not feel because of the nerve damage.
Also, I am a waitress. I know that this may not be the best career pick for my condition but I do love it and I could not work at an office as I cannot sit for more than half an hour. I have tried yoga but it is very tough and frustrating for me. I cannot walk straight anymore, I walk most of the time with a limp from my sciatic and often do not leave the house when I'm not working. I do not take any prescribed medication either besides the ibuprofen which does nothing. I feel helpless and don't know what to do anymore. It has controlled my life for longer than I can remember and has limited me in so many things and I'm not even 30 yet so I'm worried for my future. Please any advise is appreciated.
2 Responses
547368 tn?1440541785
Hi Jenny,

Welcome to our Pain Management Forum. I am glad you found us and took the time to post. However I am very sorry to hear about your years of undiagnosed pain. We can relate. My heart goes out to you!

You've given us lots of information - but haven't told us which vertebrae or discs are effected. I assume this is your low lumbar spine. Can you tell us where? What is your actual DX (diagnosis)?

Sciatic nerve pain can be debilitating. I have it - but not from a spinal issue. A "shot sciatic" nerve means what? An impingement? Where? The most common cause of sciatica is caused by a bulging or ruptured disc in the lower spine pressing against the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. But sciatica also can be a symptom of other conditions that affect the spine - such as Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunctions.

You state, " My sciatic pain radiates everywhere EXCEPT my left arm." Let me first give you a little Anatomy.  The sciatic nerve branches off nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord, its two branches run from the lower back through the each side of the pelvis, buttocks, back of leg to the foot. The Sciatic Nerve is the longest nerve in the body and its diameter is the diameter of a finger. The pain is barely bilateral. It normally effects one side of the lower body. My friend the pain you are experiencing above your lower spine/back is most likely due to other issues - it's not sciatica. It may be due to a structural issues elsewhere in your spine - just as you suspect. It may be due to something else - but sciatic cannot effect your arms. I hope that helps.

It's normal not to be able to tolerate sitting, or standing with sciatica. Walking is actually less painful that either activities as long as you don't "overdo."  When it become severe no position or activity is "good." I know, I have it! I'm very sorry that you also know the pain of sciatica!

Your question is should you consult other physicians - the answer is most assuredly yes. I'm not even certain you have a comprehensive DX. Ignoring the pain that is not associated with your sciatica at best seems foolish to me - at worse seems incompetent.

What type of physician should you consult? Good question. I saw them all over a period of ten years searching for a DX. I saw some specialties twice, a few three times just different practitioners. Not a one of them could find a reason for my pain. I was labeled and quit searching. One day I had to select a new PCP as mine left the clinic. A very astute Internal Medicine D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) became my new PCP.  It was she that finally DX me. (It's long and I won't bore you.) Obviously I have a lot of faith in DOs. Not just any DO - one that does Osteopathic Manipulations and is fairly fresh from Med School. DOs become surgeons, neurologists or where ever they prefer to specialize/practice. They take a different approach to medicine and health. A good one examines your spine, joints, etc and can usually tell you if it's "right." Obviously they are not medical machines like r CTs and MRIs. However based on their diagnostic medical evaluation they order the correct testing to prove or disprove their suspicion(s). If I were you - and there is a DO in your area - that's where I'd begin.

If there are no DOs within driving distance I'd consult a neurologist. Today we are able to view other patients evaluation and ratings of physicians.  All you have to do is type in a name into your Search Engine and press Search!  Sometimes I add Reviews after the physician's name. I do this before I consult any physician. If their reviews are crummy - chances are they are crummy too. Just like MDs there are good and not so good DOs. So research before you make any appt with any practitioner.  

The other important thing we must all do is educate ourselves on our DX. When a physician says you have sciatica, a bulging disc - or any condition research that condition until you know it very well. Be confident in discussing the causes, treatment options and prognosis of your condition. Insist on being part of the plan in treatment. Be assertive. No one cares more about your health than you do. Don't leave it all to a physician - make sure you're involved and making educated decisions.

I hope what I've offered has been of help. If you need more explanation - if I wasn't clear - or if I missed a questions - please feel free to ask more questions. We're here to help and support you as you journey through this animal called chronic pain. You are not alone.  

Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing. I'll look forward to hearing more from you. Best of Luck!

Take Care,
~Tuck
547368 tn?1440541785
I forgot to add that you should not have to struggle with poorly severe chronic pain. There are medications that may help you.

Sciatic pain or any nerve pain is often difficult to treat - however there are medications that can help nerve pain. Some ppl find relief with a medication called Gabepentin. If that's not effective than a similar medication called Lyrica may be better suited for you. It's more costly but often more effective. It's what I take and it does reduce my nerve pain.

If you'd like more information on these meds please feel free to ask. You can also research them. They are not an opiate and most physicians will prescribe them without balking.

I didn't address your possible RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis).  If you are DX with that than my all means consult a Rheumatologist. We can discuss RA in more detail if that is your DX. However if you have questions in that area before you obtain the test results - feel free to ask.

Again - please be active in our community and keep in touch.

Take Care my Friend in Pain,
~Tuck
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