Back Pain - Multiple Bulging Discs - Surgery

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I’ve been in the VA Health System less than a year. About 4 weeks ago, I went to my pvt doctor complaining of back pain (I still have pvt insurance). He sent me for X-rays and an MRI and gave me a muscle relaxer and some pain meds. The MRI results say I have multiple bulging discs in the lower spin. Pvt doc wants to refer me to a neurosurgeon. I have my deductible met but my 20% would still be about $3000. I’m not sure I want surgery in any event. I’m feeling a lot better than I was 4 weeks ago. I know that if I do nothing, I’ll end up in pain and flat on my back again. And, I probably won’t be able to afford the pvt insurance next year.

Should I take my X-rays and MRI results to the VA clinic and try for a referral to neurology or orthopedics? I didn’t go there first because I was in pain and not moving around very well. I figured a referral would probably take a few weeks at a minimum.

Any advice would be appreciated



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Old Dave, is this a service connected injury? The reason why I ask is this past Feb. I went to see my Primary Care doc, before she left for good, and asked her to put in a consult to go to a different VA to see the neurosurgeon for my back. Same deal, leg pain and numbness, all service connected though. At that time she told me that she couldn't even refer me since the nearest VA was backlogged with patients just waiting for an appointment for an evaluation. I was approved for fee basis outside the VA. One of my happiest dealigns with the VA, since I didn't want them to operate on me, for the simple reason that the Richmond, Virginia, VA is a training hospital, and from month to month you'll never see the same doc when it comes to backs.

Is this something that just came on you, or have you battled it for years? I've battled mine for years, and finally found an alternative type of surgery, something the VA wouldn't have offered, that gives me more hope. I've been on painkillers for the last 7 years, Vicodin no less, and will have liver issues soon enough I'm sure.

Bottom line is, if it's at a point that you can't stand it, do something about it, but you said it was subsiding so not as bad. In the end it's about quality of life. Mine has been so bad for the last year, that I can't put it off anymore, even at the age of 40. Good luck.

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10thFO, thanks for your response.

I'm not service connected for my back. I'm at 80% though, so the VA should cover the treatment. My first visit to my VA PCP was last Feb. and it just so happened I was having back trouble at the time. He prescribed muscle relaxers and pain pills and I recovered nicely in a week or two. That was the first time in recent years that I've had trouble. I'm 64 so all in all I guess I shouldn't complain. If the worse it gets is two episodes within 8 months I can deal with that. The problem is, if I should have the surgery, the private option probably won't be there next year. Although, after October 2010, I'll be eligble for Medicare. But, between January and October, the VA will probably be my primary care provider.

Have you had the surgery already or are you working on it? I hope it gives you relief and good results. Good Luck.

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Dave, if you will be eligible for Medicare that soon, then I say wait. Use the VA for it's drugs or whatever for now. You should be good until then. I'm having surgery this friday, and it's acutally a surgery that the VA or Medicare will only pay for, more progressive. Private insurance companies won't pay for this yet as it costs more than other more risky to you alternatives. Good luck brother.

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When I was at the VAMC neurological ward for diagnosic workup, a veteran in the bed next to me was in for neck surgery.

After the surgery they told him they would have to put him under again & finish the operation on the other side because they ran out of time on the operating table. They are only alowed so much time for the students to work on you I guess.

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10thFO, keep us posted on the surgery. Hope it goes well for you.

Allan, did that surprise you? You were only in for evaluation. If you were in for a procedure, would you have gotten a little worried? My dad used to say the best hospitals were teaching hospitals. Fresh inquesative minds with experienced teacher supervisors. Of course, dad was never in a VA hospital.

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