I just registered and am posting here because, like many people apparently, I have some lower back pain for which I have no answer. So, I'm looking for any and all suggestions.
I'm a 38-year old male, 5'11, about 200 lbs. I've been physically active my entire life, playing sports like ice hockey and soccer. When I was younger (since perhaps college), I've had sporadic lower back soreness. It was enough for me to visit a chiropractor on occasion back then, but nothing debilitating. I'd have general lower back soreness when I woke up in the morning, stuff like that.
About 8 years ago, I "threw my back out," and spent a few days recuperating. It happened again sporadically over the next 5 years. I was still physically active, and started seeing a chiropractor occasionally. I got smarter about lifting things, bending at the knees, and so forth but about 3 years ago, the problem increased in frequency, and I had a span where I threw my back out probably 6 times in 6 months. At this point, chiropractic treatment itself became painful, and the chiropractor I was seeing at the time finally suggested that I get an MRI. I did, and followed up with an orthopedic specialist. The MRI was inconclusive, but there was some suggestion that I had a tear in one disc, and the orthopedic doctor suggested physical therapy.
I did physical therapy for several months, and managed not to injure it again for some time, perhaps even a year or two, but it never really felt "strong." Last May, I finally threw it out again, worse than ever before. I had to go to the emergency room, where I had to be lifted out of the car by the nurse. They gave me drugs (steroids, muscle relaxants, pain killers), but did no further diagnostic tests. Eventually, after 5 or 6 days, I was semi-functional. I went to physical therapy for several months afterwards, but really didn't see any improvement and wasn't at all convinced they knew what they were doing. Since that time, I have no longer been able to play sports, or at least I'm afraid to do so.
Just a few weeks ago, on Christmas Eve, we had an ice storm, and I slipped on the ice and threw it out again, nearly as badly as in May. They sent me for another MRI - the first since 3 years ago. I have an appointment on Tuesday to discuss the results with my regular doctor, but from what I understand, it's "inconclusive" again. I suspect they will recommend physical therapy again.
I suppose I should give a little more detail about what I mean by "throw out." When I've hurt my back, it's typically been due to a bent-over, upward-jerking motion, but it's been pretty varied. Some of the specific ways I've thrown it out include:
- Picking up a sock (without bending at the knees)
- Throwing my hands in the air after scoring a goal in hockey
- Faking a shot in a basketball game
- Turning over in my sleep
There's a pretty standard progression of symptoms once I've thrown it out. When it first happens, the pain is considerable, and I can't straighten up, almost like I'm frozen in mid-straighten. For the first day or three, I can scarcely stand up, and pretty much have to lie down all day. Driving is absolutely out of the question. None of the drugs I mentioned appear to have any noticeable effect on the pain or my range of motion. I typically use ice when I have first injured it. As it calms down, and I become mobile again, the most obvious symptom is difficulty in transition from sitting to standing and vice versa. For example, even now, 10 days after the last injury, it still takes me 30-60 seconds to straighten up after sitting at my computer for about 20 minutes, with some pain. Across the board, these symptoms all "kicked up a notch" as of my injury last May. The last two times have been more painful, and have lasted longer than previous times.
The symptomns are most obvious with driving. For the first few days, even sitting upright in a car seat is impossible, so I cannot drive, and even being driven somewhere is difficult. (I often have to make the car seat horizontal.) When it has improved enough to allow me to sit in the seat, I literally have to lift my own legs into the car with my hands when getting in, because it's too painful to lift my legs in using the usual muscles. Two weeks or more after the onset, I still need to use my car door to lever myself out of the car and into a standing position when I get out of my car, especially if I've been driving for more than a few minutes.
Occasionally I do get some sciatica down my legs, most typically when I am in a sitting position like driving. I have never experienced any numbness or tingling in my extremities.
The only other physical issue I can think of that some people have felt is relevant is that I have extraordinarily tight quadriceps muscles, to the extent where if I lie on my stomach and try to raise my right foot towards my buttocks, it can only come up to about a 45-degree angle off the floor. The left foot, with help, can reach my butt. Some physical therapists have felt that this is actually the source of the problem, but I'm not convinced (yet).
So, *whew*, that was a lot of stuff. Obviously, I'm incredibly frustrated about this, as it has obviously begun to really hamper my quality of life, and I certainly hope to have 30+ more years of active life! I really don't want it to be like this for the next 40 years. I can't do the physical things I like to do anymore. I've tried physical therapy, chiropractic, and even acupuncture. I've tried stretching regularly, but can perhaps be accused of not sticking with it regularly enough. Admittedly, I find it bewildering, because every one of the eight million people I've seen about this recommends a different routine, and more times than not, says "Oh God, how could (previous person) tell you to do X? That's the WORST possible thing for you!"
At this point, I'm open to any suggestions anyone might have for people to see, tests to try, exercises to perform, sympathy and pats on the back, etc.
Thanks very much!