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Need Help With Chronic Service Connected Pain Issues.


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Alright guys, I am new here, and I am hoping that it will be good to talk to and hear helpful tips from fellow veterans on dealing with the VA hospitals lackluster care.

I'll start by introducing myself a bit, I am a USMC Infantry Combat Veteran, OIF era. I seek care in the VA Boston area. I am rated at 70% service connected, and am currently receiving Individual Unemployability because I had to leave my job due to my issues. I am being treated for PTSD, TBI, Chronic Upper Back Pain, Left knee pain (ACL and MCL tear), and GI issues (possible Ulcers, GERD, IBS etc... tests incoming). I also must say how grateful I am for most of the services offered to veterans.

Alright, so here is my main problem. The chronic upper back pain I spoke of earlier is currently under treated, and not diagnosed. I had sought help from a local Doctor, but had to stop going because I simply could not afford those prices any longer. This is the best I can write out everything, I have been trying to take notes and write everything down since my memory isn't all that good.

The pain: The pain is in my upper back, right side, shoulder area. It can get excruciatingly painful and debilitating. Not sure if it is related or not, but I get a strange 'electric shock' feeling on the back of my neck, right side, where the spine connects to the skull. The pain is definitely made worse by physical activity of any sort, even simply standing for more than 30 minutes can cause it to 'flare up' and driving is another time it acts up. Yard work and chores at my house are incredibly hard to get done without being in pain, and the pain leads to me being in a shitty mood. At it's worst it is a deep pain, like it feels like it is under the bones and such, a 8 or 9 on the stupid pain scale is not uncommon. The skin feels sort of subdued, like it's sort of numb feeling above where the pain is. This has been ongoing for YEARS now. At least 7 years. Documented in my med records since bootcamp.

The tests: The VA doctors have done many tests, XRAY's have been done, and they show nothing wrong. MRI's have been done, and also show nothing abnormal (that would cause that pain at least... cyst was located on Thyroid gland) a CT scan has been done on my head while I was having very bad migraines and it didn't show anything that would cause the back pain. I asked if maybe the Gall Bladder was involved as it can cause pain in that area, the GI specialist said it was doubtful, but in one of my upcoming tests (Ultrasound) he should be able to tell for sure.

"So called treatments": I will now list ALL of the things that either the Doctors have done, or I have done to try and curb the pain, and the results of the treatment.

  1. Physical Therapy. Was required of me when I complained of this issue while still active duty. I did I believe 2 months at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. It did NOT help me for this problem. I have done PT for my knee before, and that DID help, so I have a good grasp of how it is supposed to work. Currently, my VA Doc has suggested trying it again, I am NOT open to this idea, as A) no help previously, and B) I cannot drive into Boston 3+ times a week for PT sessions.
  2. Menthol 10% cream. No help whatsoever. Was 'prescribed' by my Primary Care.
  3. Lidocaine Patches. Prescribed by Primary Care doc as well. Oddly enough seems to make me notice the pain MORE when I have one on... otherwise nothing.
  4. Nortriptyline 25mg. Prescribed by my local Neurologist doc when I could afford to see her. Didn't work.
  5. Cyclobenzaprine muscle relaxer. Prescribed by VA doctors. Made me too tired to function, and made me felt weird. Didn't help with the pain either, but did help with getting to sleep.
  6. Naproxen tabs. Both prescription ones and OTC, zero help. Told to discontinue due to possible Ulcers.
  7. Acetominophen 500mg. No help. Told to stop taking them by PC due to possible Ulcers.
  8. Oxycodone 10mg Acetominophen 325mg. Prescribed by local Neurologist. ONLY thing that has helped at all thus far. Was only given 1 bottle (40) before I stopped seeing that Neurologist, she stopped seeing me as a patient because she "doesn't know what's wrong with me, but it doesn't appear to be anything that she can help with" gave me the 1 bottle and said she hopes it helps and for me to go back to my Primary Care. Didn't fully cover pain, definitely took the edge off though and made me able to function.
  9. Ice and Heat. Feels ok while icing/heating but doesn't relieve the pain and the effects don't last.

The 'diagnosis': As of now, no diagnosis. Things that the Doctors have mentioned... Muscle Strain, A sprain, Muscle spasm, scoliosis (false)

Things that I have mentioned that they dismiss: Lyme Disease, Gall Bladder Issues, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ruptured Disc, Spinal Stenosis.

Current course of treatment: Pain Clinic said they will give me 'trigger point injections' and I am completely uninterested in that, A) they have no idea whats even wrong so I don't see how injecting something will work, B) I have family members with back issues (ruptured discs) who have had this treatment and they said it was NOT WORTH IT at ALL. But that is about it. They said they will NOT give me medication for it, first thing they said in fact, then said injections or nothing pretty much.

What do I WANT: I'd love to know what the main problem really is, but until that can be established I want PAIN RELIEF. this is INSANE that I have to live like this for no reason. I don't want to seem like a drug seeker, but HOLY HELL it's the only thing that has helped me out at all, and realistically I don't think I would have hatched a plan 7 years ago to constantly complain about the same pain to get drugs?? Is there something special I have to say to them to get treatment? Do they just NOT prescribe pain medication now? I know it is an issue in this country, but it's xxxxxxx insane that I just on my own dealing with this pain thats ruining my life. It's just not fair that I got to see how that 1 month of life went while I had a prescription, adn then that was it, now I'm back to nothing. It's literally driving me crazy. I don't even want a ton pills or anything!!! Just enough so that I can get stuff done around my house, and spend time with my girlfriend and family without being a raging jerk to everyone due to being in pain. I don't want to get addicted to them either, I understand that can happen, which is why I spread out that 1 prescription I did have. Even typing this out, they have me brainwashed to feel like a junkie by wanting medication for my problems.

xxxx.

Anyways, that did feel good to get off my chest... I really look forward to getting some feedback, or help, or ANYTHING. But even just venting was ok... I'm sure my Girlfriend is very tired of hearing me bitch about it all the time... ha ha ha.

Semper Fi.

-Rusty

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  • HadIt.com Elder

For a short time new members have to have their posts approved. You should get ptomoted fairly soon and will be able to post in real time. Had to do this cause it cuts down on spammers and also people who like to harrass Veterans. Sorry for any inconvenience.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Livinginpain

I feel your pain and I mean it. I went about ten years with pain in upper traps and shoulder. It drove me wild. I could not get good DX for it until recently. Doctors now think it is herniated disc and stenosis in my neck that causes referred pain. The treatment is an operation but they cannot promise it will cure the pain. I have good ROM but reflexes in my left arm are pretty dead. If you can find a doctor in or out of the VA who has the same problem you do then you might get some decent pain relief. I still suffer but get fentynal which helps some.

John

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Thank you, I understand that safeguards need to be in place to keep out the riff raff.

Look forward to being a full member.

Can I not modify my profile until then?

LIP,

Your membership has been advanced to provide more posting options.

BTW - when it comes to pain - I don't think we will ever find a solution

that will last all the time, whether it be RX's, therapy, heat/ice, etc . .

Pain needs continuous treatment to keep at bay the best we can.

JMHO

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Yeah, I agree with you about pain being permanent, I don't want a magic cure, though that'd be nice... I just want to take the edge off the bad pain, the pain that I know is lurking, waiting for me to try and be productive. That pain, and the knowledge that it WILL come back when I do physical chores or whatever is what is stopping me from getting that kind of stuff done. I'm not in terrible pain right now, by all rights I should get out in my yard and clean up the hurrican debris that's still there, but that looming threat of terrible pain stops me in my tracks... last time I did do yard work I was rewarded with about 8 hours of laying on my couch not moving trying to get the pain to subside. This is what my Doctors fail to grasp, that when I go to the appointment, obviously my pain scale is low, because I haven't done anything to cause it to flare up, so I am assuming that since they don't see me being in pain, that I must not really be in pain ever. It just sucks. Injuries and Wounds aside, I am still a relatively young man, I am not working, and I feel like my house is my own personal prison. I know I won't ever be able to comfortably do certain things, but I would like to be able to do SOME things. Keeping a clean house and yard would be one...

I have heard horror stories of those fentanyl patches, honestly that sounds too intense for me. I don't even like taking pills for anything, but when I know they are helping and can see the results, it eases my mind. That's why it is hard for me to keep up with the anti-depressants, I don't see a result, and I don't feel any better, so to me, I'm putting some weird drug in my body that isn't helping me, but will have weird side effects... with pain relievers, I feel better. I can get some work done, or walk around the zoo/park with my family and not be buckled over in pain, or be in a poor mood because I'm hurting while everyone else is having a fun time.

In any case, neither option has been discussed by my primary care. When I told her that my civvie neurologist had prescribed the 10mg Oxycodone, she replied that that is way too large a dose, and that she wouldn't continue the scrip for me.

To clarify as it might be getting confusing: I wasn't seeing both doctors at once. I had seen the VA a while ago, I didn't have any results for my back problems. I figured a civvie doctor local to me would be better, for one I wouldn't have to worry about driving into Boston for all my appts, and for two, I thought I would receive better care. Anyways, After the civvie neurologist prescribed medicine, then said that she couldn't see me anymore (because the problem was out of her scope of her specialty) and I went back to my civvie Primary Care, I realized I couldn't afford that battle. I took my test results from those doctors and the xrays and MRI's to the VA to resume treatment with them, for free.

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It just sucks. Injuries and Wounds aside, I am still a relatively young man, I am not working, and I feel like my house is my own personal prison. I know I won't ever be able to comfortably do certain things,

but I would like to be able to do SOME things. Keeping a clean house and yard would be one...

Doing some of the above usually results in quick exacerbation of several

of my conditions. So . . . I decided to use some of my 100 percent compensation

and pay someone to take care of those issues.

Very glad I made that choice and now I only risk exacerbating my conditions for

something more valuable to me than cleaning house and yard work.

JMHO

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Man... I feel your pain and frustration.

Im in a similar situation here except VA is my only medical care option at this point and has been since my separation from active duty 6 years ago.

I complained of thoracic/upper back pain for years both on active duty and after I separated. The doctors never even attempted to diagnose any problems with my upper back until the end of last year when I was finally authorized to see a specialist. Prior to that, I was told on numerous occasions that thoracic injuries were rare... I was told it was probably a pulled muscle or that it was possibly gall bladder/GI issues as I have a hiatal hernia/GERD as well. I was also told that it was somatic complaints after I screamed at my dr to do his f#$%ing job which had unintended results to say the least...

After finally seeing the specialist they found mild to moderate damage on every single disk and vertebra in my thoracic spine and a long since healed compression fracture at t-12. Since that time they just refill my oxycodone prescription and send me out the door. I have been taking them as prescribed since my separation in Nov of 06. They are/were the only thing that would touch the pain but with the side effects I am having now I wouldnt suggest them to anyone long term... but honestly when I started taking them it was the first relief I had had in years and I probably would do it again.

The drug list that I have been prescribed sounds similar to yours with the exception of gabapentin (Id have to recheck for the doses) and methocarbomol after I started having allergic reactions to the cyclobenzaprine and they had me on morphine for a while as well too. I have never tried the lidocaine patches.

Im not a doctor so take the rest of this with a grain of salt and discuss it with your primary care doc...

The only thing that helped the pain other than opiates was the gabapentin. It took a while to get through the titration period and become effective but it noticeably numbed the pain... It turned the volume down to background noise if that makes sense. I experienced some fairly significant psychological and cognitive side effects though so I stopped taking it (cold turkey per Dr.s orders which was a huge mistake...) I have talked to a few other chronic pain patients who have taken gabapentin with little or no side effects though and they say that its a life saver.

Do you experience frequent heartburn and or does your pain flare up after you eat greasy food?

My gallbladder functions improperly, it "works" except that it holds bile until I eat something and then releases it all at once. It does not do it all the time but occasionally, after eating, the pain in my back will be literally very close to the intensity of passing a kidney stone. I switched to a more natural nearly 100% organic diet and cut out nearly all artificial sweeteners and preservatives and it doesnt happen anywhere near as often now. If I go out to dinner at a restaurant (applebees is the worst for some reason) it will take me out within 20 minutes after eating.

Gerd flare ups or heartburn also cause me significant upper back pain as well but I am able to keep it somewhat under control with ranitidine and omeaprezol (both prescribed by the VA) Nexium works significantly better but it is expensive and the VA will not prescribe it to me so at this time I take what I can get. It seems that it takes an act of God to get anything that is not offered in a generic... If you do have heartburn, buy some over the counter nexium and see if it helps with the back pain. Take it as directed not as needed because it has to build up in your system for a bit to take full effect.

Also low impact aerobic exercise helps get the endorphins flowing and masks it for a bit as well it will improve your mood as well.

It might not be a bad idea to try and keep a journal of activities and foods to see what might be triggers for the pain...

Hope this helps you out some

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Interesting that they at least found something wrong with you, that seems way out of the norm for a VA doctor...

For me, the Gabapentin was mentioned briefly, but they said that I was drinking too much at that time for them to prescribe me. Because I admitted to drinking 3 days a week (fri/sat/sun sometimes) To me it's like, find a goddamn veteran out there, especially one that's been deployed in a forward AO that doesn't drink... Hell, find a single MARINE deployed or not who doesn't drink, good luck. So I guess from now on lying to them about what I do in my free time seems like the best option, then I can use my own due dilligence to ensure no interactions between medicines occur.

I do experience heartburn and indigestion, and constant abdominal turmoil of one kind or another (upset stomach, gas, constipation, diarhhea etc) but I can't really tie it to any specific food group or set of conditions that 'set it off'... I am prescribed the Omeprazole as a 'lets see if this works' medicine.

The thing that doesn't make sense to me though, is that the pain is noticeably worse when I do anything physical... so doesn't that kind of rule out anything (in terms of the back pain) that is GI related??

[uPDATE]

I don't think I mentioned this, but I have strange and undiagnosed Neck issues as well... Does anybody know if this can tie in, or is it again, a completely independent issue? I am noticing that I have heartburn real bad right now (the dummy I am I ate some pizza) and am noticing that my neck is feeling very strange..

  • Right quadrant, back of neck, where spine connects to skull
  • Pain is I guess sharp... hard to describe. Doesn't hurt as bad as my back, maybe a 6
  • Strange sensations. 'Electric Shock' sensation periodically, as well as a slight numbness

The neck issues I have brought up to the Doctors, they did the CT Scan in that area, and located a cyst on my Thyroid gland that they said isn't dangerous.

Lastly, my scheduled tests (biopsies of stomach and throat) aren't until JULY... Pain clinic re-scheduled for early December at least, I hope they will finally do something besides needling me with stuff...

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  • HadIt.com Elder

I use cymbalta and that helps some. It takes my mind of the pain. You can get your shrink to prescribe it. 60mg of cymbalta does help but it is no cure. If you do things that aggravate your pain then you will suffer. Hire someone to clean house or do the yard. Massage helped my neck pain for a short while.

John

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The point I am making is that I shouldn't have to hire people to clean my house and do my yard work... I am capable, I just need a reliable means of reducing the pain once I do said work... It's also kind of a pride thing, I have always been one to want my dwelling and belongings to be neat, the Marine Corps further ingrained that in my head. Not to mention, but with the being unemployable, and then not being able to do the upkeep on my property, its like, what CAN I do, I get frustrated and feel useless. It's unacceptable to just 'avoid doing things that aggrevate the problem' because that is almost everything besides laying on my couch. It's not like I am complaining because I can't go out and BMX bike, or mountain climb, or play football without being in misery, it's just basic things that I want to do without fearing the pain, things like my household chores, or a walk with my girlfriend and the puppy, or spending a day at the zoo with family or something. I'm not asking for a lot. I'm not asking for an instant cure, or magic pill that will eliminate my symptoms, that's unrealistic, I just want what I know works.

I'm tired of jumping through the VA hoops, and trying all these ridiculous 'maybe treatments,' it's been far too long, and I am just plain sick of it. It's easy for a doc to say 'try this, and follow up in 3 months' because they aren't living in pain for those 3 months. It's like my entire life is a waiting game, waiting for the next appointment, or follow up, or specialist to try and get some answers... I don't have to tell you all this, you all know how it works... I'm just venting at this point. For my GI issues, which they said probably are NOT contributing to my back issues, I have to wait till MID SUMMER for the appointment!!! That's MADNESS. So in the meantime, I have no diagnosis on it, nothing. Esophagus biopsy and stomach lining biopsy as well as a scope, which will provide answers on that matter are in JULY!!!!

I might sound stubborn, but I just want to find out what the underlying issue is, and until then, I want a means to reduce the symptoms. I don't want to even take meds for it everyday because I have heard horror stories (referring to my back again now) about drug reliance or possible addiction (though studies suggest that those who really NEED the pain medications are far less likely to become addicted) but knowing that nothing that I tried on my own helped, none of what the doctors suggested have helped, and that their are meds out there that did help me, and knowing that it's such a battle to get those same medicines again is what bothers me. Isn't this the entire reason this class of meds exists?

I haven't heard of the Cymbalta thing before, but when I looked it up, it is similar to Venlafaxine, which i had been prescribed but for one reason or another, it was stopped. I can't recall if it was bad side effects, or if it didn't yield positive results.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Alright here's a quick update.

Went to a follow up Pain Management appointment... Well what I thought was a follow up anyways. I get there and they tell me that I am scheduled for the trigger point injections, I immediately tell them that that is not what I wanted at all, and I still do not want them, and see if I can change this appt over to just a follow up, they are confused but agree.

I speak to the first Doctor, a younger lady, she has me start from square one and go over my entire back history... OK... I happened to bring in a bunch of medical documents form when I was being seen by a local civvie doctor, including a CD full of imaging results. She asks what I've done so far for pain management and I tell her, she then asks if the only thing that has helped me out was the Percocet... I feel it's a trick question, but I reply in the affirmative and tell her that even that doesn't get me down to a 0 on the pain scale when it's bad, it just dulls it enough to make life manageable when my back is acting up. After a while she goes to get the 'real' doctor. She comes in and immediately says

"Well, I think that the best approach for you is going to be a hollistic approach... have you tried PT?"

Me: "Yes, I did while still active duty, and it didn't help, plus I live 90+ minutes away each way, so there is no way I will be able to do structured PT here."

Dr: "Oh I see... well, you're going to need to go to at least 1 appointment so they can give you a *Tens* (not sure if thats how it's spelled) unit, that will be good to try, but besides that, just do stretches at home, and try a deep tissue massage or yoga, there is no magical cure, and I'm no Harry Potter with a magic wand to heal you, so it's going to take a long time and be a slow process, but do not let the pain get the best of you. And we will also now try you on Gabapentin, but I won't prescribe it, you need to have your Primary Care Physician prescribe it."

Me: "umm, why can't you prescribe it? And I guess I can try that stuff, but if the VA isn't offering the massage and yoga, then I can't do it, as I don't have the money for it, and I'm not sold on those ideas anyways"

Dr: "Well, I'd just rather have your primary care prescribe it."

And that's that... No idea when I even get this gabapentin crap, no idea if it will work, and told to try Yoga.... I asked if there is ANYTHING they can do or prescribe me for the pain when it gets bad, so I can have something for those bad days so I can still get some stuff done if I need to. They said that there is nothing they can do. Basically just deal with it.

xxxxxxx YOGA? Really?

I'm literally about to lose my mother xxxxxxx mind. So instead of letting me get the meds that I already know work, and am comfortable with the side effects, they give me a medicine for neuropathic pain??? They are literally doing everything in their power to not prescribe me any form of pain medication, not even Tramadol.

I have no idea what to expect from the Gabapentin, she didn't even go over what it is, or how it works or side effects. If it works then fantastic, but nerve damage wasn't determined or really discussed, so I dunno how this medicine will help me.

I am seriously contemplating finding a shady online pharmacy so I can get some kind of relief... So goddamn fed up.

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The point I am making is that I shouldn't have to hire people to clean my house and do my yard work... I am capable, I just need a reliable means of reducing the pain once I do said work... It's also kind of a pride thing, I have always been one to want my dwelling and belongings to be neat, the Marine Corps further ingrained that in my head. Not to mention, but with the being unemployable, and then not being able to do the upkeep on my property, its like, what CAN I do, I get frustrated and feel useless. It's unacceptable to just 'avoid doing things that aggrevate the problem' because that is almost everything besides laying on my couch. It's not like I am complaining because I can't go out and BMX bike, or mountain climb, or play football without being in misery, it's just basic things that I want to do without fearing the pain, things like my household chores, or a walk with my girlfriend and the puppy, or spending a day at the zoo with family or something. I'm not asking for a lot. I'm not asking for an instant cure, or magic pill that will eliminate my symptoms, that's unrealistic, I just want what I know works.

Most members here feel the same - but after decades of pain, learn to accept

that this is just another reason the compensation is provided.

To pay for regular things that we can no longer - do ourselves.

JMHO

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  • HadIt.com Elder

These young Doctors usually interns that come and go every six months are not much help at all and usually not at all willing to listen to their patients. Getting mad and quitting is not good for you. Best to learn a few lessons from Hadit and you don't have to take No from VA you can start using their own bureaucracy to get what you want. After all as a patient you are part of anything that is done to you.

If the Doc is young trust me she works for someone at VA and you should ask if you can speak to her boss. Just that often times gives them a reason to reconsider your request. You also have available Patient Advocates sometimes they can help and many have their own Doc who works for them to help patients. You can also appeal your Doc's decision and request a hearing.

Like earlier said many here have had to deal with these issues many times.

Good Luck

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  • HadIt.com Elder

I got my pain meds about a week late this month. The VA does not even print the dates on my scripts any more because they don't want to leave proof of their failure. I deal with this chronic problem in the only way I can. If some store told me I would have to pick up my own television I would find another store. I know what happens when I over do it. I don't do yardwork. I don't paint. I don't get on my hands and knees and scrub the tiles. I hire someone. I use the scooter with the basket when I go to the store because of my feet. People look at me. I look at them. I carry my cane and my wife helps me. If someone asks me why I am in a scooter I would love to tell tell them in detail.

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Yeah, I do get your point that it is part of the disability rating for some, but for me it isn't, my back is listed at either 0 or 10% I do not recall, and it was because there is no diagnosis so for whatever reason the Comp and Pen Dr. listed it as minor scoliosis... which it isn't. It might be factored in for my Individual Unemployability however. My main complaint is that in my case, I know that certain medications would help in so far as giving me a better quality of life and would help me get stuff done, so it's like I'm being purposefully held down. Again, not asking or desiring to be completely pain free forever, I know that won't happen, just something to cut the 8 or 9s down to 4s or 5s on the bad days. My main ratings are for other issues.

I believe the Dr that I first spoke to was an intern or whatever, and I believe she said off handedly that the 'main doctor' in that office, the other one that spoke with me, was leaving soon, and then I would have a more permanent provider in that clinic. But overall this department/clinic was almost useless. A nurse there was even offering her comentary on how lousy the care can be, and how unfair it is that people have to wait so long for appointments, and that it's BULL shit that this is the only pain clinic around for the VA so some other unfortunate souls have to drive there from MAINE... WOW.

Now apparently they are going to be mailing me the Gabapentin stuff. I am interested to see how this works, but from what I have read online it kind of seems to be a 'cure all' that Doctors are now over-prescribing because it has low incidence of negative side-effects, but questionable amounts of positive effects. I am hesitant about taking a medicine every day, I just don't like the idea of it. Again, I'd prefer something that we already know works, and just take them sparingly versus having to take pills every single day that may either not work, or could still cause negative side effects.

Does anybody have any personal accounts of how Gabapentin (Neurontin) works?

I have decided against the shady online pharmacy for now because of the shadiness... It'd be miraculous if I could just get something online that would help me, but it's also just too weird sounding, and I don't want it to be a legal gray area, nor do I want to get tainted meds.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Neurontin will probably knock you on your ass for a few days, but I am told you will get used to it rapidly. It is for nerve pain and it does some people a world of good. Some people don't get any benefit, my psychologist for instance. He has DDD and it did not help him. I run new drugs by him since I have been seeing him for about 40 years and he knows a lot. We are growing old together and he used to have a group with lots of Vietnam vets. There are other drugs in the same family: Lyrica, topomax and even clonazepam. They are anti-seizure meds but side effect is relief from nerve pain for some.

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John999 thanks for the intel.

I was kind of sketched out when I found out that it is an anticonvulsant... but like you said, I guess it works on nerve pain or neuropathy... I just did some more reading about it and I read that it has something like a 30% success rate for people that do have nerve pain.

My concern though, is that there is NO diagnosis on my back pain... It seems odd to me to prescribe various medicines that do not strictly have a general analgesic quality. I'm just throwing more potentially harmful substances in my body with every treatment they decide to try out... They tried me on Nortriptylin as well, to no avail, not sure what species of medicine that one is.

Same reason I got frustrated when they wanted to do the trigger point injections, that we don't know what is causing the problem, so randomly injecting something into my back seems like a last resort, same with PT, especially because I have tried that while I was still active duty, again to no avail. I personally don't think PT will ever help, based solely on the duration this problem has lasted without getting better.

I guess it's just a matter of ruling stuff out huh? Try all kinds of meds, see what doesn't work and it can rule out some conditions maybe??

It's frustrating still though, being no closer to answers than when I started this process, still reading way too much stuff online trying to figure it out myself since I feel like the Doctors kind of don't have much of a priority to get me fixed.

If anyone wants to play along detective with me, heres the basic info again, ideas are great, if nothing else just to toss ideas around...

How and when pain started:

First noticed it in bootcamp, no idea what really lead to it coming around, I cannot remember. That was in 2004. Got thru Bootcamp after a few sick calls, and no treatments. Problem persisted when I got in the fleet, still continued forward with motrin and such and didn't want to seem like a xxxxx so I just dealt with it to the best of my ability. Went to BAS and Naval Hospital a few more times, nothing really done at all, tried PT like I said and it didn't help. Deployed and got blown up by an IED, but no noticable physical damage to me. Got back stateside after the deployment. Went to a civvie Hospital while on Christmas Leave one year because it got very bad, they gave me some form of Vicodin, I don't recall what. Back to Lejeune and a few more random Naval Hospital visits, still nothing. I've had various imaging tests done, nothing found. Problem has persisted since when it originally started with pretty much no break in the pain, some days its very bad, some days it's not. Infantry life was brutal dealing with this pain, which kind of lead to me wanting to get out, humps were ridiculously painful and so was most morning PT, but I still was in good shape and had a 1st class PFT. So I was in good shape, and could do the training and PT and stuff, but the pain was excruciating, it's not like I was a weakling that couldn't hack it. I never fell out of PT or Humps or anything. So here I am now, a civvie, not doing a whole lot of anything for fear of the pain. My physical activity level has went down tremendously since the Corps, and it still hurts when I do try to do stuff. So I went from very active, very fit, strong guy in lots of pain, to a not physically demanding lifestyle, less standing around, less work, lots more rest, still in lots of pain.

Area Involved:

Upper back, right quadrant, seems to kind of move around the area, or maybe it radiates differently based on something I do. I remember it used to be predominately directly to the right side of the spine vertebrae, but now it seems to be about halfway between the spine and my side, so I guess shoulder blade area. It is I guess a burning sensation when it gets bad, and is very painful. I get the feeling that I need to stretch the area out, but it doesn't help. The pain feels 'deep' not superficial. I'd say it gets to an 8 or 9 at its worst, and most definitely is debilitating.

Latest Update:

Awaiting results of an abdominal ultrasound that was done at my request. I DO have heartburn and acid reflux but nothing is officially diagnosed, however I was put on Omeprazole for it. The ultrasound was done I guess to look around for Ulcers, or gall stones, or to see if anything in there was inflamed. Have an esophagus and stomach biopsy and scope scheduled to look for scarring and acid damage, or ulcers. Gabapentin prescribed and awaiting delivery.

Meds they've prescribed me and results:

Nortriptylin- Prescribed by civvie neurologist, told to try it for 2 weeks and see if I noticed any positive effects... I did not, discontinued.

Cyclobenzaprine- Prescribed by VA, as it is a muscle relaxer one would think that if the pain is being caused by spasms, that this should have helped... it did not, and made me feel tired and 'out of it'

Lidocaine 5% patches- Prescribed by VA pain clinic after first visit. Doesn't reduce pain and in fact it seems to make me more aware of the pain somehow.

Naproxen- Prescribed when I tore my knee ligaments, didn't help with back pain however, also have tried the OTC version since then, with no results.

Oxycodone- Prescribed by civvie neurologist after the Nortriptylin, Was a lowish dosage, with the acetaminophen mixed in. Only pain relief that has helped, didn't get it to a 1 or 0, but maybe a 3 or 4.

Gabapentin- Prescribed by VA pain clinic after second visit. Waiting for it to arrive.

PT- Done at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune for about 6-8 weeks. No help whatsoever. Also instructed stretches to do at home, again, didn't notice any help.

Bengay- Prescribed by VA Primary Care, told to 'get somebody to massage it into your back' which I did, but it didn't help at all, felt good while the massage was ongoing, but not afterwards.

Capsasin Cream- Suggested by my old VA PCP, bought some cheap one from Big Lots, and it didn't help either.

So based on those results, what could it be in your opinion (anybody who is reading) I'd say nerves ARE involved because of the strange sensations associated with the actual pain (being the electric shock sensation in my neck, and a numbness around my back pain) but I'm not sure it's an entirely nerve problem... Again, nothing really helps with the pain when it gets bad, usually it flares up when I do physical activity, or am standing/walking for a length of time. Sometimes it gets semi painful just from sitting for a while, not quite as bad as when I am doing work, but worse than the base line.

I want to get a copy of my military med records so I can see exactly how many times throughout my short career that I sought medical help for this problem, and compile my VA records and see how many times I've been there, so I can legitimately lose my mind at how much I am trying to get help and not getting any.

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Update:

Had an appointment with an endocrinologist today for the first time, they want to check out a cyst on my thyroid gland that they discovered on an MRI of my neck...

Well, the Doc had called me early this morning while I was driving my girlfriend to work (damn car trouble) and asked if I was going to be able to make it today, I told him yes, but I would be cutting it close due to the fact I was giving my GF that ride to work. He said ok, but to call if I was going to not make it.

I tried calling to reschedule because I knew I was running late and was put on hold for 5 minutes, so I hung up because I was thinking I'd still make it in time.

I pulled into the VA parking lot, and parked at 10:35, which is when my appointment was scheduled, after making the march up to the building (because we all know VA parking lots are always jam packed and you end up parking a mile away) and locating the correct office, I was now 7 minutes late. I checked in and the nurse informed me that the Doctor had left already because he had other things to do. He left a few tests behind that I needed to get done (various bloodwork) and a number to call to set up another appt formore imaging scans.

I finish the labs and go to get my travel pay... they informed me that the Doctor had cancelled my appointment and that I couldn't get my travel pay. I go back to the office and tell them that that is absurd, and see if they could un-cancel it, since I did show up and had the labs done, they said nope. So I lost out on my $22 worth of travel pay.

Ughhhg. Just getting more and more fed up as the days go by. I realize being late was my own fault, but they should have called me before the Doctor decided to vanish from the hospital... I mean, they are the first ones to bitch me out if I miss an appointment and don't call, when it's really no skin off their back, but when I drive 55 miles to get to my appt and it's cancelled without so much as a courtesy call it's not their fault.

Carlie:

Do you mean with my request for detective work on the problem?? I know the Doctors know best in most instances, I just like to get some extra knowledge on possible issues so I can bring other stuff to their attention, that's how I got all the GI stuff done, was because I had researched and found out that there is a possibility that back pain can be caused by the gall bladder and stuff, and since I have issues with acid reflux that it might be worth investigating further, the Doctor actually agreed with me and ordered the tests.

Edited by LivingInPain0341 (see edit history)
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