any nurses out there with back injuries

  1. Hi there fellow nurses with disabilities!!! Wow, I am SO happy to have our own forum for us to get together and chat about how we are adjusting in our own ways. So thanks Brian for adding this forum for us!!!

    I was wondering if there are any nurses out there with serious back injuries/chronic pain? I have herniations in my lumbar spine at L2-3; L3-4; L4-5; and L5-S1. I have all 4 with annular tears (or however you spell it). My pain is mostly caused by the severe dessication and the chemical irritation constantly by the nucleus bathing those nerves. I feel like there's a knife in my back, and someone's twisting it, and that its on fire. (And that's just the normal feeling). If I stand, it gets worse. If I sit, it gets worse. If I bend, twist, pick up my children (I HAVE to sometimes). It is hard for me to walk (I'm now with a walker most of the time), it is hard for me to do laundry, and other household chores. I also have osteoporosis in my lumbar spine and hips, which causes pain. I am filled with arthritis. So, my dx list also includes: DDD, DJD, OA, OP, SLE, Severe Asthma, Metabolic Syndrome, PCOS, Endometrial Ca (under chemo now),severe migraines, intractable back pain. And other things I don't remember right now. I also have anxiety, depression and PTSD due to some bad things in my past.

    I am unable to work due to the cancer, but before that, I was only working one day a week due to the severe pain. I was just about on my way out of work when I had cancer, and that was the deciding factor. I have two kids, and I am a single mom.

    I don't know if I'll ever be able to be a nurse again, and that saddens me. I've been encouraged to apply for SSDI, but that is a long waiting game, and I am so young I know I will have to fight long and hard. I am just 30. I get no child support, but that's a whole other thread. I get no assistance, I was denied. I have used up what I had in savings and 401k. So I don't know what I'm going to do. I almost wish I could quit chemo and get a job, but who am I kidding? I know I will be a bad employee, because I have such pain when I work and I can barely walk. Who will hire me?? Plus, I take morphine every 6 hours for pain, and that also makes me ineligible to work. I even tried looking for some telephone triage and/or desk jobs, but what little is out there all require a BSN, which I don't have. I am between a rock and a hard place.

    Anyway, I just wanted to reach out to see if there are any other nurses who suffer from serious back injuries and how you cope if you do work. I really need to have benefits, my children have multiple medical needs and my health also is not the greatest. I really feel like a rotten mother for not being able to support them like they deserve.

    I hate that our profession just thinks those of us with disabilities are disposable. My mind is still there, and that decade plus of knowledge is still there. I wish I could find someway to use it so I could support my kiddos. Our economy is HORRIBLE right now. Why does the "healing profession" not help us to "heal"? Are we not worthy once we are injured???

    Anyways, I will stop griping now. It's late and I can't sleep due to the pain. It's been a particularly rough day and my pain is hovering at a 8. No way can I sleep with this. I usually get no more than 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night. I would love to hear from some other nurses who either have back injuries or any other injuries/disabilities that restrict them from working and how you cope. I am at the end of my rope here.
  2. Visit rehab nurse profile page

    About rehab nurse

    Joined: Jul '04; Posts: 595; Likes: 118
    healing from cancer and spinal injury, unable to work :(; from US
    Specialty: rehab; med/surg; l&d; peds/home care


  3. by   TheCommuter
    I am so sorry to hear about your struggle with chronic pain, Rehab Nurse.

    I have an L4/L5 injury and, for 2 agonizing years of my life, suffered from chronic sciatic pain that traveled down the back of my right leg. The pain suddenly started about 2 years ago, and changed my life. I was unable to walk a few feet without the sharp pain interfering. If I walked too long and attempted to ignore the pain, it would simply become more intense, and my right foot would become numb. Back when the pain started, I had no medical insurance.

    The sciatic pain adversely limited the things I was able to do. I finally found relief about 6 months ago when I underwent 2 months of chiropractic treatments. The relief was not immediate, but it did come a few weeks after the treatments ceased.
  4. by   rehab nurse
    Thank you so much for replying, commuter!!! I know there's a lot of nurses who have painful back injuries, but I don't know how many out there are unable to work because of it.

    I did try chiropractic very early in my back pain (I've had this pain for nearly 9 years), and it did help somewhat. I mean, I wasn't even able to bend over the little bit to wash my face in the morning. I would be stuck in the position, with severe pain and I just cried. I had to stop going to chiro when I found out I have osteoporosis in my spine in my lumbar area. My doctor is way too afraid of me getting tiny fractures or further injuring my back.

    I have also used deep tissue massage, and even though it hurts, it always helped the day after, but it doesn't last long. Though I haven't had any of those in over a year due to the cancer and being broke.

    I would love to try acupuncture as well, but with no money, I am really limited. So for now, I take my morphine, and use my walker and hobble around like an old lady.

    Thank you so much for replying, and I am so glad you found relief for your pain. All the doctors I have seen for my problem have said there is nothing that will help me, and i am resigned to popping pills for life. Not such good news, but oh well. That's life.
  5. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from rehab nurse
    All the doctors I have seen for my problem have said there is nothing that will help me, and i am resigned to popping pills for life. Not such good news, but oh well. That's life.
    Regardless of the discouraging prognosis lashed out by these doctors, I still wouldn't give up the hope so quickly. When an individual grapples with chronic pain, he or she just wants to turn back the clock a few years to a time when pain was not even a factor. I wanted to turn the clock back a few years to do some of the activities I took for granted. I sometimes thought the pain would be with me for life.

    Hopefully I'm not speaking too soon. :stone
  6. by   woody62
    I herniated L4-5, on the right side, in January of 1988. I had a percutaneous discectomy in May and underwent an open laminectomy on November 29,1988. I had some problems with spasms but I never returned to work. I was hit by a big rig, on January 30,1989 and that ended my working life. On October 12, 1996 my car was T boned by another care at Tillary and Flatbush. I was shot across three lanes and spun around several times. As a result, I herniated C4-5,5-6,6-7. I had an open lami, with bone grafts and plates on all three levels. I suffer from spasms in my neck radiating down my right arm.

    Given all of your problems, I seriously doubt you will be turned down when you have your hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You will get turned down twice initially. The time you have to wait varies from 18 to 36 months. I hate to tell you this but you likely never be able to return to gainful employment. I have been out since November 28, 1988.

  7. by   TracyB,RN
    RehabRN... so sorry you're going through all this...
    If you remember me, I had some issues s/p an MVA...

    Anywhooo, my back pain was awful. Days when I just didn't want to exist anymore, but I ended up biting the bullet, got a fusion.... It's like I'm a new person.
    Still a bit limited, but back to work, full-duty... Don't get me wrong... I still have pain, but it's NOTHING like it used to be & not as life altering, not as often, not as intense... and I'm not living on pain pills anymore. I've pretty much gotten most of my life back....

    Sorry, not trying to be all perky & stuff... just a little bit of proof that sometimes, relief can happen. I'm sending you loads of prayers & hope that you do consider applying for all the assistance you can get... even if you have to fight for it.
    I've heard many people say that it takes 2 or 3 tries to get disability... so please, for your kids, fight for it. they need it as much as their mom does.
  8. by   annys
    Having been through the dark tunnel of persistent back pain and now being able to function normally post insertion of rods, I felt very relieved to read a article about a Canadian hospital providing a mobility scooter when needed for their RN's. They were employed for their brains not their physical abilities.
    I wish you all the assistance you can get and days without pain.
  9. by   Hoozdo
    I am newly back injured with a herniated c4/c5 c6/c7 c7/t1. I fell at work when this happened. Workman's Comp is a pain in the ass to deal with. To top it off, in my state, the max workman's comp disability payout is ONLY $375 a week! My pain is severe including pain around the scapula, down the L arm and partial numbness in the hand.

    I am so afraid this may be a career ending injury for me. Work does not have a light duty job they will place me in. I go to see a pain management Doc next week and hope to start the process of epidural steroids. Workers Comp won't let me see a neurosurgeon until I have gone the epidural route.

    When I went to the ER at work, the doc advised me after my MRI to see a neurosurgeon immediately. I fear I am wasting my time with the pain management Dr - but I will see next week.

    I feel like a patient in SICKO, I am insured up the butt, but am having a problem with access.

    I have a question - I would like to return to work, but I think I could only do it on narcotic pain relievers. Any of you in this position.

    Thanks for all input. I am very worried right now.
  10. by   redhotzzz
    I am followed monthly by a Pain Management doc and he has been my only advocate in helping me remain in a job and able to work safely. I suggest you follow up with the one you have an appt with. If I didn't have mine, I'd have given up 4 yrs ago. I found him by accident, too.....or by God's hand.
  11. by   mchaff00rn
    I have only been a nurse since June of 06 in that short period of time I have "bulge" at L4-5 that started in March 07. Then on 8-1-07 after working 4 12 hour shifts in a row I awoke with horrible pain radiating down my right leg. I went to the ER 12 hours later and the ER doc did an ajustment without any diagnostic testing. I then lost sensation and developed foot drop in that right foot. I did then have an MRI which showed large herniation, compresing the nerve root at L5-S1. I seen a neurosurgeon on 8-15 and had a diskectomy on the 17th. I really only have seen slight improvement so far. I am sippose to return to work on a busy unit the 24th of this month but I don't see how i will be able to keep up. I am still on percocet which I will not be able to work on. My employer when I reported this as a work injury (HR people) what how did it happen, what time, etc... I wish they could come out to a busy unit for just one day and see what it is that we do. I have yet to hear from the workmans comp except for my initial statement..... My situation is far from yours and I wish you the best........
  12. by   DonnainGA
    Hi everyone! Im so glad that I found y'all. Im 46 yrs old. Have been a RN for 25 yrs with 24 yrs of it mainly in Labor and Delivery. I initially hurt my back when I was 22 yrs old while lifting a nursing home patient back into bed at the hospital. The first hospital I worked at, was a small country hospital that only did 50 deliveries a month so we often got "floated" to another department to help out. I was diagnosed with bulging discs at that time at L2/L3, L3,L4 and L4 L5. I also injured C2, C3 C3,C4, C5.
    Anyway, right now Im on LTD with failed back surgery syndrome. I had back surgery dec '05, which only made my pain in my right leg and hip worse than it was. I also have bulging discs and degenerative discs at L3/L4, L4/L5.L5/L6. Compounded by the flare up of my Cervical discs. I have pain from my neck down to my toes!! My pain is so severe at times, even on pain medicine, that I feel like Im going to die. Ive been with a pain management physician since Feb "07. Ive had 3 unsuccessful epidural injections, a unsuccessful nerve block and finally had a discogram that showed the amount of degeneration in my lumbar discs. He is now wanting to do a nerve conduction study related to the pain from the cervical discs which is causing me to have pain down both arms, numbness and me dropping things all the time Some days are worse than others, but the majority of the time, I stay in the house watching TV and surfing the net when I can. Since I cant sit long or use my hands for long.
    Im also divorced and paying cobra to keep my health insurance. What im going to do when the LTD runs out, I have no clue except to apply for SSI which I hear takes a long time. It just saddens me that after all the years I have put in as a nurse, I have nothing to show for it now. At this point in time I dont know what is going to happen to me. I just thing there should be something available to seasoned nurses that have experienced injuries such as ours. A home based type of work that we can utilize our knowlege in some way. I live an hour from Atlanta, so there are'nt any big insurance companies or research type jobs in this area. Anyway, I am so glad I found this so that I can at least vent and get ideas or just have friendships with people that truely do understand what we are going through.
  13. by   Hoozdo
    Welcome to the back pain thread Donna!

    I suggest you file for SSD now. If they award it - then they just deduct what you get from LTD from your benefits. The sooner you get SSD the better because you would then be able to get Medicare Part A and Part B and eliminate those huge Cobra payments. I believe there is a 6 month waiting period to get Medicare once you are approved for SSD. I could be wrong and it is longer though.
  14. by   UM Review RN
    I started a poll on back injuries awhile back. Here's the link.