I have started to come across a lot of women who have had epidurals during labour. It’s not surprising, I believe I read that one in three labouring women will have an epidural. With 30-50% of labours ending in Caesarian sections, I’m sure that it’s probably more than one in three. The disturbing thing is how this is creeping into the cohort of people that I see for back pain. Suddenly there’s a number of women who have sever and bizzare back pain (stomach pain, body pain etc too) and a whole raft of symptoms that aren’t associated with simple dysfunction of the spinal joints. These women typically present with a history of no previous problems before they had a epidural. Generally the epidural was ineffective or the doctor had trouble inserting the needle and catheter. After their birth they are rocked with symptoms.
One women describes a severe neurological reaction which apparently has a 1 in 10,000 chance of occurring. This, for her, included convulsions and vomiting. She now experiences the feeling of crippling spinal pain from her neck to her low back, constant headaches, excruciating pain when bending forward – yet she is able to perform normal spinal range of motion. She’s been through endless tests by doctors and they’ve all put it down to stress or called her crazy (in their round-about way).
Another woman describes waking at night locked into her body which is raging with pain. She is able to wiggle enough to break out of the locked in feeling, and once she gets moving, is able to dissipate the pain. This has been going on since her first birth, where they had difficulty inserting an epidural needle and no pain relief was achieved. It’s hard not to think that it didn’t quite go in the right spot. She is still able to work and mother but is concerned by this distressing pain.
Other women, say my hairdresser, complains of a funny pain in her back ever since the epidural she had for her 3rd child. Nothing severe enough to prevent her from hairdressing, but enough to constantly bother her directly at the site of the injection, and more than 12 months post partum.
There are several things that can go wrong with an epidural and side effects which you can find on the following website: http://www.kimjames.net/maternal%20risk%20chart.htm
Other websites of interest include the ASAM society and an article on medical risks on epidual anaesthesia in childbirth but there are a lot of studies out there saying that the risk of back pain a year after childbirth is the same for women who had epidurals and those who didn’t – what I wonder about is whether they are rally talking about just normal mechanical back pain or this strange spinal pain.
All you have to do is type in “severe back pain after epidural” into google and you’ll find yourself surrounded by women with similar experiences trying to get some answers. Can chiropractic help? In cases where the pain is mainly coming from the joints and cord tension, maybe some scar tissue – well that’s what we do. If there are epidural haematomas (blood clots) or major scarring or true nerve damage or death – an MRI and surgical consult are the way to go. For those who have already been through everything and the surgeons have given up and chiropractic is their last hope – it may not be a fast solution but in my experience increasing the health and movement of the spine and spinal cord through chiropractic is fortunately showing some results.