Prior to my last hospital stay April/may this year for ketamine infusions – April/May 2017 ketamine infusions etc, during the appointment at which we were organising it, my Pain specialist also suggested trying some injections again, some of which would be for the third time, through a newer Dr to the practice. I was hesitant, as I hadn’t had a lot of luck so far, but because I am already a patient there, she explained that she would bulk bill them … so I figured … why not, what have I got to lose? (Well except for the what could go wrongs…. but can’t dwell on everything!)
I had already had medical branch blocks back in … maybe 2014 I think … and they were done by someone who wasn’t overly experienced at all I now realise and it resulted in agonising pain for over two weeks as the injections just irritated the nerves so much.
The second time was at my first ketamine infusion hospital stay in 2015. That time I received various medical branch blocks as well as a caudal epidural… which helped me to be able to reduce my nerve pain medication for a few weeks before needing to increase slowly back up to full doses within 4-5 months.
To give it another go or not to…
So even though I was unsure at first … but as I wouldn’t be out of pocket money wise, I thought why not? (And you never know – third time lucky maybe?!) When I was told I would get a chance to actually meet with the Dr who would be performing them before I went in, something that Had not been offered to me previously at all, I felt more at ease. She explained things to me that had never been explained to me before, could pin point each spot after me sharing about my pain history and was just so knowledgeable that I felt hopeful and very confident in her abilities and like I had made the right decision.
This time I received 10 separate injections including a caudal epidural, sacral iliac (SI) joint injections and various medical branch blocks. It took about a week to kick in, with some pain and discomfort initially after the procedure, and so far, in the now 3 months since, I have had about 6-7 separate days where I have suffered with severe nerve pain. So overall, It has been amazing! I was able to reduce my nerve pain medication down to the lowest dose, as well as reduce my antidepressants down a dose as well. The antidepressants were introduced just over one year post op of my second surgery, after 7 months of my pain specialist recommending it mainly for my nerve pain. The whole ‘stigma’ sounding mental illness kept me from starting them sooner. It meant changing my main pain medication for my back but it was the best decision I ever made because in conjunction with my other nerve pain med (technically an epileptic med) it helped improve my quality of life and I got the added bonus of the antidepressants stabilising my moods (which I didn’t realise were so up and down until they weren’t anymore). I am not ashamed that I suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of my chronic pain. I am ashamed that I refused help for as long as I did.
After the initial 3rd time lucky injections …
When I went back for a follow up with her just over a month later we were both really happy but there were two nerves that were still giving me some grief and really hurt when she felt around. So we decided since the other injections were all holding up, she would go back and perform a Radiofrequency Neurotomy, basically an ‘electrical burn’ at 80-90 degrees of the nerve to the small facet joints to the back of the spine. Doing this alters the nerves physiology and stops transmitting pain impulses. I had to still be awake at the beginning of the procedure to ensure she had the two spots right … and boy oh boy Was I glad we were only doing two! I definitely felt the right spots! But it was over in a flash and I was put like a light waking later all done.
There was pain and discomfort later and due to the burning I couldn’t use my heat pack for at least 24 hours but used ice packs instead. And couldn’t have my showers to warm/hot which is not nice in the middle of winter. Hahaha … but otherwise all is going great and I am glad I got them done. Even though they had a hard time finding a vein for the sleepy stuff!
It will be interesting to see how long the injections continue to last for, as well as the nerve burning. The hope is that if the injections last over 6 months then I will get them done twice yearly while they work. Fingers crossed as any amount of less medication is a bonus. Side effects are the worst!
EDIT/UPDATE (2018 & 2019)
I had the same injections performed by the same Dr as an outpatient in October 2017 (approx six months after the first lot mentioned above) as I was due for my gastric bypass in November and we didn’t want them to wear off whilst I was healing from that. These lasted 13 months before getting them re done in January 2019.