If you’ve been following along on the blog/Facebook/Twitter, I’ve been experiencing severe head and back pain from the beginning of November 2009 and on.  The running joke is that it all started at youth convention (grin).  The last half of this pain has been much better than the first half, as my physical therapist, Dr. Larry Kopriva, was able to pinpoint the areas where the pain was originating: a couple of vertebrae in my back that kept slipping out of alignment. I’ve been faithfully doing the home PT routine that he gave me for a few months now, and that has, on most days, taken care of the severe headaches.  Some days, I haven’t been as lucky, and I’ve still been experiencing a lot of back discomfort and pain… finding it hard to get comfortable when sitting or lying down.

Well, as of yesterday, my pain management doctor, Christine Cote, DO, found out through an MRI of my back that I have a bulging disc between my T-6 and T-7 vertebrae.  This is when the jelly-like fluid that’s in the discs in between vertebrae is stressed and is pushing out from it’s central location.  In my situation, it has been pushing on the nerves in my spine causing all sorts of head and back pain/irritation.  It makes perfect sense now that when I lay on my back-roll, the jelly is being pushed back into it’s correct location and relieving the nerve related stresses.

The good news is that it’s not herniated or ruptured.  Surgery will not be required.  The bad side of this is that it generally takes around a year for the symptoms of a bulging disc to disappear and for things to return to normal.

Dr. Cote is going to try a few things to help me deal with the pain in the midst of the healing process.

#1) I received 7 shots to my spine yesterday morning (5 lidocaine and 2 steroid shots) to provide what is supposed to be 3 months of area-specific relief. Right now it just feels swollen and painful.  We’ll see in the next few days if it helps.

#2) She wants me to continue my physical therapy routine twice a day (on the floor roll) and she also added a couple of extra stretches to the mix to help strengthen and develop muscles around the area.

#3) I’ve got to be REALLY careful to take it easy on my back.  Lifting and over-arching/bending while this is healing could lead to herniation or a rupture of the disc.  I do not want that to happen!

#4) She has me trying a couple variations of lidocaine patches.  If they help, I will get a prescription for those to use when pain swells up.

#5) Other options to consider if all the above is still not dealing with the root pain… she says she could get me on some nerve pills, if needed, or also try a deeper shot of pain reliever into the epidural layer of the spine.  Yikes!

I’m hopeful that I’ll start to feel better soon.  I’ve gained ~25 pounds since November because of my decreased level of physical activity (as a result of the pain).  That STINKS!  I’m hoping to lose a good chunk of that before summer camp.

Again, I just want to say I’m so thankful for all the prayers and support over the past few months.  It has meant a lot to me.


Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District

  • Danielle Li

    I'm sorry to hear about your back – bulging discs can be super painful. It's great that you don't need to get surgery yet. You'll definitely want to take it easy. Have you looked into any natural healing procedures and techniques? There`s some good info out there that you might find helpful for healing. http://www.howtohealmyback.com/ has some good stuff to look at. Feel better soon!

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