If this bores you, at least read the fourth paragraph up from the bottom. It's important. So wind up back to 2010 when my back problems started. Excruciating pain. I pushed on until I could barely walk across a room so camping/traveling was a problem. Now, I'm not good at going back in time to exact dates, but I'll try my best.
I decided in 2012 to go to a doctor. I loved the group. They offered me Hydrocodone, but I told them pain meds didn't work so there was no sense in prescribing them. They were surprised, but they seemed happy about it. They did physical exams--I could bend and put my hands flat on the floor. It didn't affect the pain one way or another. Adding to the confusion was the absence of leg pain. I went to physical therapy in and out of water, and three courses of steroid shots. I did exercises. They did an MRI and a Myelogram and could see ruptured discs and several fractures. They decided the only course of action, as things were getting worse, was surgery.
After the surgery and six days in the hospital asleep until the last day, I think, they were very good about weaning me off within a year's time--but it was like a lost year in time. I remember very little. That was for the surgical pain. The original (same) pain as before surgery remained. My wonderful surgeon even did another MRI hoping he had missed something that he could fix. But there was no magic bullet. He said, at that time, that my back is full of arthritis. The pain was so bad I really didn't think it was arthritis, but then I'm not a doctor. He felt the best course of action was to go to a pain clinic. I tried to camp with the group of women that I had always camped with, but getting from my campsite to theirs was difficult. Walking Jack was impossible.
A very nice young woman doctor asked me to explain my pain. I did, and she said, "That sounds like a text book description of S.I. joint pain. Would you mind if I changed the prescription as far as the location of the steroid shots?"
I said, "No. I don't care if you unscrew my head and put it back on if it helps the pain." It was really a diagnostic shot and for a day or so I had no pain (what a relief)--that confirmed that it was, indeed, my SI joint. I could sit or lay down and relieve the pain. The moment I stood up or walked a few steps, however, the pain would become unbearable. So she decided that an ablation to burn the nerves might help. I think I had two or three to no avail. She prescribed Tramadol to help with the arthritis. There was a doctor in the hospital that my daughter knew and she told him about my problem and he said to tell me to let him take a stab at it. He was a partner in the same pain clinic as the young woman doctor. I continued with Tramadol more for the arthritis pain, than for the S.I. joint pain because it was not addictive and it did help the arthritis. I was given a prescription for 50 mg 4x per day which is not a heavy prescription, but I didn't want to be a vegetable with pain so I never took the full dose.
I call him "Magic Hands" to this day. The ablation worked and I felt as though I was reborn, again. I had sold my trailer, thinking, I'd never be able to use it, again. Now, though I had a new life, I wanted to be cautious. So I enrolled in an aqua aerobics class and I don't think I've ever been in better shape in my life. NO PAIN. I continued taking two tramadol per day for the arthritic pain. I wanted another trailer so bad, but I made myself wait six months before even looking.
Fast forward six months. I decided to buy another trailer. I was in hog's heaven. I hope I have the chronology right, here. I was doing very well, then the pain returned.
By this time, the pain clinic was closed and I lost my "Magic Hands". Pain clinics cater mostly to medicare patients and you know the percentage of the charges that medicare pays--they just couldn't keep it going, financially. (He, by the way is nearing retirement). We talked a lot about traveling the country in an RV when I was seeing him and I was happy to hear that he recently bought an RV and is enjoying the summer out west with his lovely wife. He's a wonderful man and a wonderful photographer. I wrote him an email the other day encouraging him to do a blog, but I'm not sure whether he will or not. I saw some of his photographs on the walls of the pain clinic and they were spectacular. I would say they were probably the most beautiful photographs I've ever seen.
Moving on. What to do. The young doctor who discovered the SI joint problem had moved to another pain clinic. I went back to her. She did two or three more ablations to no avail. She tried to keep me comfortable with medication. Tramadol, the safe drug. I had a fall, breaking some ribs when a dog on a long lead saw a squirrel and ran--the lead flipped me upside down and I landed on my side. I managed to hitch up and make the 6 hour trip home from the campground--Now I had two places that hurt a lot for several months. Slowly, my ribs healed, but my back was no better. I had to sell my new trailer that had only been out a few times. Then, the truck. Watched my dreams go with them.
The Tramadol had some minor side effects, but nothing I couldn't live with until a while ago, and the best part was that it wasn't addictive. I generally took two out of the four doses per day until after the fall when I increased it to three. Then I was able to go back to two until I got the dogs so I went up to three, again, (because I wasn't lying in bed until noon) so I never took a full dose because I could get comfortable with a muscle relaxer, ice, and a heating pad and a bed or a couch.
A while ago my body just said "NO" to the Tramadol. The side effects suddenly became unbearable. I decided I would stop taking it and rely on Aleve or Advil and the muscle relaxer. After all this I'm at the topic of my post. I was like the "Woman with the Golden Arm". I can't describe how bad the withdrawal was. I couldn't look on the computer because my hands shook so bad and I had electric shocks to my brain (still have small ones) and the room would turn on it's side for a split second. There were too many other issues to bore you with; two were/are that I will often lose time for a minute or so, memory issues, etc., and I have a feeling of detachment.
Anyway, I started to do research. You can do your own and you will see what they have discovered about Tramadol and draw your own conclusions. Unlike Opioids, there's little they can do to counter the effects of withdrawal or "step" you down from it. The fact that it is addictive is recent information to the medical field.
I think what happened was when the Opioid issue became so dire in this country, the drug companies didn't miss a beat at selling doctors on this "non-addictive" drug. I hesitated writing about this, but if it makes one person ask his or her doctor about the drug before taking it, I think it's worth the embarrassment and vulnerability.
I will be going back to the doctor soon and plan to rejoin the pool even if it's just to tread water. The tough problem is getting from the car to the pool, but I'm changing from the place I was going to, to a church nearby that has aquatic facilities if the walk from the car is easier.
I have no conclusion to this post. Just, "That's all folks!"