Arachnoiditis after epidurals and facet joint injections

by Nancy W
(Seal Beach, Ca)

Had 2 epidurals 4 years ago for low back pain. Had MRI which showed spondylolisthesis, (stage 1) mild scoliosis, spurs, arthritis. Saw Neurosurgeon, said NO surgery. Sent to a different pain Dr. He gave 2 epidurals over an 8 month period. No relief. Had Facet Joint Injection (Dr. said not the problem). Had SI joint injection (Dr. ruled that out). Had 2nd MRI one year after the second Dr. did the first of 2. Pain was getting worse. This time MRI showed Arachnoiditis; did not have it in 2017. Got it as result of 2018 epidural.

Tried Neurontin, made me dizzy. Tried Cymbalta, but didn't titrate properly off Zoloft, interaction nearly sent me to ER. Dr. wants me to try Lyrica. Scared to try it. Taking Aleve, and Norco (Norco not every day). I am 74.
QUESTION: COULD CHIROPRACTOR HELP LESSEN THE PAIN WITH GENTLE MANIPULATION? ACUPUNCTURE? MASSAGE? PHYSICAL THERAPY? I realize there is no cure, but I can't live like this. Afraid of drugs, wondering if the above treatment(s) might offer some relief?
Thank you,

Hello Nancy,
It's hard to comment from afar, not being abreast of all the details and not able to examine you. Plus, you need to be wary of any information received like this from the internet.
Firstly, you make no mention of leg pain; that means you had grade I lower back pain; personally it would seem to me that all that was totally unnecessary.

But you have obviously been totally taken in by the medical model, and only now considering the alternatives. It's late in the day and arachnoiditis is horrible.

You make mention of various drugs and injections, but again there is no mention that you are doing lower back exercises, taking a walk or swim every day.

Thirdly there's no mention of your diet and your physical condition. If you are insulin resistant then every cell of your body will be inflamed.

My thoughts are that the medical model hasn't worked for you, so it's time to consider the alternatives. Just as medicine has made your condition worse, it's not impossible that chiropractic could too - it's called iatrogenic, or doctor caused disease, so I would start with the most conservative treatments that you know will not make you worse.

First up, start doing some gentle lower back exercises every morning before you get out of bed, and several times a day. It's probably best you get some professional help on what to do, but you can find my favourites at Chiropractic Help. They take less than two minutes.

Then start walking and/or swimming every single day; you decide for how long. Sit less and choose your chairs carefully. Avoid the vacuum cleaner and the broom; bending and twisting.

Then find out about the anti-inflammatory diet; it's good to do anyway, even if it doesn't help. It will mean retraining your tongue to dislike all refined starches and to love salads and some fruit, especially if you are prediabetic. Have a HbA1c test done; it should be below 5.5.

Ask your husband to start massaging your back every evening, lying on your side. Perhaps see a sports masseuse.

Then after six weeks, if there is no change, then it's time to start looking for a thorough and conscientious chiropractor in your neck of the woods; talk to friends and family and even your medical doctor for a name. Don't expect miracles and don't be put off if the pain increases initially.

Print this out and give it to five of your friends to read; if they give you the thumbs up, then go for it. I hope this contributes; let me know in six weeks how you are doing.

It's called "I'm tired of pain," "I'm tired of pills" and "I want to get better." So much so that I'm willing to ring in the changes; it's probably not going to be easy, but the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. Kiss bagels and chocolate cake, cheesecake and colas goodbye, for ever. Say hello to gentle daily exercise; it shouldn't hurt.

Dr B

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Nov 06, 2018
re: Dr. B reply
by: Nancy

Sorry if I failed to say that original reason for going to Dr. was low back pain due to pain that radiated down the left leg, from buttock to ankle, worse in buttock and calf. MRI showed disc issues, spurs, spondylolisthesis, and some arthritis. Epidural recommended. Had two in 2013. They did not help. Tried chiropractic, no worse no better. Had 2nd MRI in 2017. Showed same as above, but spinal stenosis was worse. Different pain dr. recommended trying another epidural. Had one in late 2017 and another mid 2018. Pain seemed to be getting worse. Dr. authorized another MRI. .It now shows worsening stenosis, spurs, etc. PLUS arachnoiditis. Surgery not recommended, as it could cause paralysis. No surgeon wants to operate on someone with Arachnoidits. Going to PT today, first visit. Going for massage in a week. Going for acupuncture in two weeks. Desperate to get some relief w/o getting hooked on Norco/Aleve. Have not done exercises, going to learn which are best for me. Have no access to a pool. Can walk, but it's very painful. Tend to be sedentary. Hate it. Love to shop, get out, but pain makes it just not worth the effort most days. I hope this clears up whatever data was missing from first post to you. Can exercise and massage help with arachnoiditis and nerve damage?


Do two little tests for me please:
1. Sitting in a kitchen chair, flex your head onto your chest and then ask hubby to raise your good leg parallel to the ground, then the naughty one. What happens?

2. Very slowly and carefully as this can make it worse, slowly bend forwards, then backwards, and then to each side. Report exactly what you feel in each of these positions. Be precise, write it down as you do it.

As those who want to avoid teeth problems must brush and floss daily, those who want to avoid diabetes and obesity must avoid refined carbs, those who want relief from back pain should be doing gentle lower back exercises every single morning before getting out of bed. As the PT for help; gentle stuff, you're not preparing for a place in the Winter Olympics!

Massage only lying on your side initially.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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