Patty Says “Yes” to Gardening and Her Dogs! Interventional Pain

In November 2011, I was having a little tingling in my shoulders and before I knew it, I was having short bursts of paralysis down both of my arms.

I knew it was bad, because I had spinal issues for years and a fusion for lower back pain. I also had several shoulder surgeries, but this pain was different. I went back to the neurosurgeon and he scheduled surgery as soon as he saw the films. The surgery went well, but immediately I noticed my head tilting to the side and I had constant pain on the right side of my head. That began a three year odyssey of therapies and treatments looking for relief.

It started with deep tissue massages to help relax my neck muscles. After four months of deep tissue massages, I didn’t see any results. Then it was on to shots in my spinal facets. While there was some improvement at first, ultimately they provided no long-term relief.

I’d been reading about torticollis causing head tilt and pain, so I went to see a specialist for that, and we tried a different kind of injection. While providing some temporary relief, it was not a long-term solution for the constant pain.

Over the next year, I got a series of scans – MRIs, CT, and X-rays — but they couldn’t find the cause. At one point, the theory was the source of my pain was a damaged occipital nerve resulting from scoliosis causing my spine to curve to the right and my C1 and C2 vertebrae to collapse and damage the nerve, which runs along the side of my head. That led to more pharmacologic pain medications and the side effects of those drugs, more visits with pain management doctors, and even a visit to Johns Hopkins…. but no solution or relief of the pain.

The constant pain was physically and emotionally debilitating. It was affecting my whole life, including my ability to drive. I thought I had tried every solution possible. It was very discouraging to think this was going to be what I had to endure for the rest of my life.

My husband, Gary, is a financial planner who works with SMOC and during a meeting with the company, the work Dr. Victor Tseng had been doing with nerve pain relief came up in the conversation because they knew about my condition. My husband has been a great advocate for me throughout this process and he suggested we talk with Dr. Tseng, SMOC’s Interventional Pain Medicine specialist.

Over several appointments and consultations with Dr. Tseng, I decided to try a minimally invasive pain management procedure that has since changed my life.

After five different treatments, eight different doctors, and a massage therapist, I finally found a doctor who listened to me and had the expertise in pain management needed to solve my particular pain issue.

Dr. Tseng answered all my questions, and I felt like he understood how much my pain was affecting my life. He found what worked for me, and in the past few months, I’ve see a huge decrease in my pain.

I go days without thinking about how much I hurt. Occasionally, when I turn my head left or right, it can still hurt. But the biggest difference is that I used to limit my activities because I was ruled by my pain and now I’m not.

Wow, what a difference! It has helped my life tremendously. We can go out with friends again, I can do things around the house that I wasn’t able to do before. I am able to walk our two Miniature Schnauzers with Gary and I’m even back walking at the gym! I spend time in my garden, and I’m not worried about driving anymore.

I got my life back. While these may seem like simple things, I realized that these are the kinds of joys and tasks of life that people take for granted until they can’t do them anymore.

Here is what I would recommend to other people: Take control of your own healthcare. There are new treatments and technologies being discovered, perfected and available to us every day. Don’t give up, keep looking for an answer. It’s worth it to control your pain, instead of pain controlling you. Who knows, with the help of family and good doctors, you too can get your life back.

~ Patty Shepherd, Dr. Tseng’s Patient

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