Support Needed from Nurses with Back Injuries

  1. Hi Everyone!

    I'm brand new here, so please excuse me if this has been discussed here before and feel free to point me to an old thread.

    A little introduction...I became an RN in 1997 and left nursing in 2000 for a high risk pregnancy. Last fall I completed an RN Refresher course and have been working on a busy med/surg unit ever since. I am thrilled to be back to work and have realized just how much I missed my patients and career during the time I was a stay at home mom.

    But early last week I took a couple days off for low back pain. No big deal; I've got an old L5/S1 hernia that I baby-I'm always careful to use good body mechanics because of it and the spasm normally resolves on it's own. After a few days the pain calmed down but I had other symptoms that I knew needed follow-up. Sure enough, I've got two more bulging disks and am now waiting to have an MRI and see the neurologist.

    I've been told by my NP that I should expect to be out of work for quite a while. Yikes! I'm a very healthy 30 y/o! I've only been home for a week and I'm going stir crazy. Not only is this financially devastating, it is emotionally wearing on me. I spent half an hour crying on my way home from the store tonight after I drove past my hospital. I miss my work and friends already.

    I do have an interview this week for a school nurse position which I had applied for before this occured. Beyond that, I'm not sure where my career might turn should that plan fall through. I'm so scared-and, even more, SAD-at the prospect that I might be told I can't go back to acute care nursing.

    Any advice and/or empathy would truly be appreciated.
  2. Visit GigiRN profile page

    About GigiRN

    Joined: Oct '06; Posts: 5


  3. by   TazziRN
    Empathy....plenty! I understand how you feel about not being able to work. The only thing I can think of is non-pt care for a while, until you get this taken care of. Are you a candidate for surgery?
  4. by   GigiRN
    I won't know anything until I talk to the neurosurgeon. Part of my anxiety is just waiting for his nurse to review the records my NP sent and call me back with an appointment. I have so many questions about options. I'm not sure how long I should expect these symptoms vs when it's a problem that they haven't resolved on their own. Will steroids/pain management/PT be enough or do I need surgery? If no one incident caused this damage, what are the chances for further damage should I return to work?

    I did ask my hospital for light duty work and there is none available.
  5. by   LEVODEVO
    hEY KID,i'M ON DAY 6 AFTER L2-3 DISCECTOMY...MICRO SURGERY...R leg felt like the hip was bad,knee,and half of foot numb...hip ached all nite and day...neurosurgeon do the work...excellant reputation does them like muffles at a week tomorrow and just coming off the darvon.about 3-5 a day...stayed overnite,,left late 2nd right leg had becoem so weak from the muslces not being used well,that i have to build them up...the numbness of the surgery wore off on day 4,and yup started to feel a twinge of tht hip pain coming back(mri/xray of hip ok)incision on my back is still raised quite a bit,but only one pillow behind me in chair instead of 2...i see the doc in 2 weeks.he told me on my discharge day that when i go back to work is up to me...just gave me strict instructions for these first 2 weeks...i hope i see more improvement...the thigh muscles dont ache like before...not allowed to pick up anythig over 10 lbs...grabbing a half gallon of milk and u swear your spine is going to bow out of your back...if this all sounds confusing it is..i was warned it may not make things better...he'sa good honest doc and not a hopefully when i see him at the 2 week mark he as a plan...12-16 hour shifts with a killer spine and shooting pains down the leg make for a miserable life...i'll be using up all my bennie time on this one...good news,i can stand up from a chair now with out having 3 of the kids pull me up or grab every cushion on the couch to get up..i can just stand...rolling over in bed was awful...bmuch better,getting out of bed was brutal now much better...funny guy, i was not to touch the dsg,don't chgange it,just let if ofll off which it did,i have a terrible plantar faciitis to my left foot...which disappeared after surgery....i almost cried with joy...but again that masking post op numbness subsided and that's back....i'd reallyy be pissed if this was for nothing or there is more to do.............i'm 80lbs overweight,and that is where i now must direct my attention....actually looking at gastric bypass...6'2 300 lbs...was once raw muscle...i can;t hold it up like i used jaw aches at the end lf the day from clenching my teeth in pain....the hospital and nurses were great....intubated,naked face down....thank God I got the propofol replacement disc...found a fragment in the disc space as well....was wounded years ago in the never know...i have 4 weeks pay to cover the whole thing,if i'm out over that i can go to my short term disability..which takes long time to come..I hope things change....good luck.....i'm new at this and wanting too much too fast...
  6. by   wooh
    I had a discectomy a few years ago (L5-S1) and did great. Then all of the sudden, reherniated it again. (And that was being careful with it, wasn't even at work that I did it, did it dancing on a cruise, haha!) Anyway, after a lot of PT, stretching, I'm not 100%, but doing better. My solution, went to pediatrics, the patients are much lighter! I still have to be careful of course, but it's not the constant strain and risk to my back that adult med/surg was.
  7. by   GigiRN
    It's nice to know I'm not alone facing this. Thanks so much for sharing your stories-there is light at the end, that much I know!

    LEVODEVO-I understand about picking up the milk-it felt so strange to have to ask the woman at the farm stand to carry my pumpkins for me the other day. Sorry to hear about you plantar fascitis. The weight loss should help that. Hey, you can do it! I just cut way back on my alcohol intake a few weeks ago (family hx of alcoholism and I could see it insidiously creeping up on me). I keep joking to myself I gave it up just in time to be able to take pain medication (though I'm only needing some ultram here and there). You can lose the weight once you make the decision to do it. Why is it that it's easier to commit to do something for others but not ourselves?

    Wooh-Funny that you mention dancing. That's one thing I'm worried about. I've always planned on taking some serious dancing lessons when the kids get a little older and now I'm not so sure it would be wise. But I have to remember not to put the cart before the horse and worry.

    Thanks guys! I've come to the right place!
  8. by   wooh
    Gigi, I'm taking dance lessons. It's the only exercise I regularly get. (It's the only thing I don't have to force on myself. My other workouts are hit or miss because I will come up with an excuse to avoid them.) If you have a good teacher, you'll learn to use your core, which is great for your back!
  9. by   JaneyW

    For what it's worth, here is my spine saga! I was a stay at home mom for 11 years (three LARGE boys I toted around!) and then went to nursing school at 33. I am average weight (size 8), have never smoked or drank to excess and exercised--both cardio and weights--regularly since I was a teenager. After nursing school, I went to work full time in L&D. I had spasms in my neck and lower back since childhood really. At 35 after practicing for only a few months, I ended up with a fusion and discectomy at C6-7. The nerve injury was so bad that I didn't even feel the needles or the shock go in for the EMG. Great surgeon--ortho, but cuts only the spine and quite regularly. I had a complete recovery. I have no permanent weakness or pain, but some hot/cold deficits. I have a couple other herniations in my neck that I baby a bit and have some symptoms when the weather changes or it gets real damp. Since I live in Southern CA that doesn't happen all that much!

    Anyway, last year after having been back at work part time and per diem for almost three years, I started having that hip pain the other poster was talking about. I also had the sciatica and numbness described--all down the left side. Went back for MRI and EMG. Got started in PT right away--even before test results or surgical consult. Back on my valium and naproxen. 1cm L5-S1 bulge to left with spinal cord compression. Scared the crap out of me!! I didn't stop working because I only work per diem and was waiting for the surgical consult. With three and a half weeks of PT while waiting for the consult, my pain had pretty much resolved. The numbness and tingling were still strong, though, and I was concerned about caudal equina because of the severity of the bulge. I went back to my original surgeon and he reviewed the MRI and my symptoms and told me that the surgery was riskier than the chance of caudal equina or foot drop (my biggest fears!). I continued with PT for another month or so. The numbness and tingling have gone away over time.

    Are you in PT?? You should be. It's really amazing what stretching and core-strengthening can do for you. I am a believer. I still take a valium here and there--maybe 2-3 a month for the spasms. I had a spell when the weather went damp/cold quickly last month where I took it around the clock for a few days.

    My biggest advice would be to keep moving. I had more than one MD tell me that staying home from work is more a personal choice as you can blow out a disc by coughing really hard on your couch at home (maybe you need a flu shot?). I work about 6-8 12 hour shifts a month and I walk 3-4 miles at a time 3-4 times a week and keep busy. I also went back to school for an MSN to teach at nursing school because I know my body isn't going to make it on the floor for 20 more years! It is hard not to panic, and it really changes your outlook on life to be disabled in a way. I have tried to not let it control my life, but I have been pretty lucky in not having chronic pain issues.

    I know this was long--I hope it helped. Good luck and PM me if you want.
  10. by   rnsrgr8t
    I have degenerative disc disease in L5 and S1 that was diagnosed about 3-4 years ago. I have several tears in both discs (noone can tell me how I got them) and when they leaked disc fluid it would aggravate my sciatic nerve and cause horrible pain. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and it would put me on the floor it hurt so bad. I worked in a pediatric office, was on my feet a lot with a lot of bending (I am tall) and lifting of kids. I had PT for many months which was very helpful and made a conscious effort to sit as much as I could and not lift. I think what saved me was my decision to go to school to become an NP. That year off from work while I was in school full time did wonders. In the job I have now, I sit while I talk with parents and examine kids and that is enough to protect my back. Find a good doctor that you trust that is not cut happy (mine told me that surgery would not really do anything for me), do your PT religiously and try to get moving whenever you can tolerate it (the longer you are immobile, the worse it can be although it is tempting to want to stay in bed). I TOTALLY empathize with you. Back pain is the worst. I had a lot of coworkers who did not believe the severity b/c I tried to grin an bear it. <HUGS> hope you feel better soon!
  11. by   meownsmile
    I had L4-5 radioculopathy in 97 and also have a spondilothesis from an old fractured vertebrae. I had surgery in 97. I was off work a month prior to surgery and it took me about 4 months to fully recover. My work wouldnt let me go back on light duty(told me they didnt have any), however ever since it seems everyone is on light duty for some reason or another. Anyway,, it was the best thing i ever did. I havent had a minutes problem from the surgery itself but occasionally if im excessively tired or have taken a medication that relaxes muscles to much the spondilothesis slips and i have to take it easy a day or so. But remembering that back pain, id rather have 15 babies than go through that again. I wouldnt hesitate a minute to have that surgery again if i had to.
  12. by   teeituptom
    Copper and Magnets worked for me

    working and on the golf course

    Let the Democrats regain control, please Lord