Injection City – Report from the Front

injection_needleMy physical therapist is a really wonderful person. I’m incredibly lucky to have found her. Both my OB/Gyn and the local pain clinic sent me to her over a year and a half ago, and she’s made my life a lot better. But once my recovery started to plateau, she referred me to a pelvic pain specialist in San Francisco who essentially finally diagnosed my problem as pudendal nerve neuralgia (aka neuropathy, stretched nerves, entrapped nerves). His recommendation: a series of massive injections.

Yesterday, after a month of planning and preparation to make sure I would have help with my daughter, food in the house, and access to all of the pain management supplies I could possibly need, I trekked up to SF with my husband to get the shots. My PT had told me what to expect, thankfully, so I knew it would be excruciating. Thinking about it now still turns my stomach. It was like being stabbed 7 times in my pelvis. He injected me three times, with a six inch needle, and moved the needle around internally to hit the right spots near the problem areas – vaginal muscles, coccyx, and pelvic floor. It took less time than giving birth, but in many ways, the pain was sharper.

Now I’m done and I have four bandages on my ass from where the shots went in, quite close to my sitz bones, so I don’t expect to be sitting much in the next week. They expect I’ll bruise on the external sites since I’m a redhead, and my flare-up (expected) has already begun – the pain from that could last anywhere from two days to three weeks.

At this point, you may be asking: how is this going to help anything? Good question. Essentially we’re looking at the long-term. The idea here is that the injections “bathe” the nerve in anesthetics and steroids so they can calm down and eventually start healing faster, since the physical therapy and anti-inflammatories haven’t done the job on their own.  The goal is to break the pain cycle and reduce the overall pain a few notches, over the course of a series of these injections, so that hopefully the less invasive treatments like PT, accupuncture, maybe some Neurontin or other anti-inflammatories can take it the rest of the way.

I look at it this way: I’ve been in pain about 80% of the time – on average – since my daughter was born. At its worst, I was in pain about 99% of the time after she was born, for the first 5 months or so. At its best, I was in pain about 60% of the time and I was starting to do things like walk, swim and occasionally even skate. But that’s still not good enough for a mom with a preschooler. She needs someone who can participate more actively with her, especially since her dad isn’t around much to do that – he has to pull extra weight running errands after work and such since I can’t do it, and he has a demanding tech job in order to pay our mortgage-from-hell.

We’ve had nannies, babysitters, and friends help out there, but it’s just not the same as having parents and close family members there to teach her things like how to catch a ball and ride a bike. As it is, she’s already behind the other kids her age. That’s not my biggest worry, though. My biggest concern since day one was just that I would be able to be there for her and spend time with her during these important formative years. By being stuck in bed much of the time, I’ve already missed a lot of that.

When I first learned about these injections as an option, I thought: “no way am I letting someone stick a needle IN THERE” but as it became obvious my quality of life was not really improving at a decent rate, I began to feel that it might be worth a try. It’s not like I was sitting (figuratively speaking, of course) on my laurels just hoping the fairy of pain-relief would come. I tried a different treatment every month or two. I had all kinds of tests. I did tons of research. But I also couldn’t spend all of my time on pain management and recovery or I would feel like a sick person constantly, so I turned to my writing, consulting, and occasionally speaking so I could get out of the house and feeling useful through connecting with people in person.

I’ve done a lot for someone in my condition, so they say, but I come from a family that doesn’t know how to give up when it comes to this kind of thing. So I will continue to exhaust every option available to me to make this pain subside or at least get to a level that I can live my life without seeing everything through pain-colored glasses. I’d like to taste a little more sweet in my life, not just the bittersweet.

And if I can get to my goal of being in pain only 10-20% of the time, well, all of this extra effort will be worth it.

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