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21 y/o, dx'd with DDD and can't work - what now?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I'm a 21 year old female, in fairly good shape (5'8", 127lbs), and have just been officially diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in L4/L5 and L5/S1 on Monday. The doc said something else about something sticking out a little (although I don't think it gives me pain), but I don't remember exactly what he said as after he told me I had DDD I was very upset and not focussing on that (I was hoping to get into the Air Force).

Anyway, my problem is that it hurts to sit down and it hurts to stand. I hate taking pain meds (anything stronger than advil or tylenol makes me throw up), and nothing else has worked...TENS, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic... I have pain no matter what kind of exercise I perform or what kind of shape I keep myself in. Like I said, it's sitting and standing that hurts.

The issue is that I can't find a job...I've been applying religiously to jobs for months and months, and can't find anything I can do. I've left two jobs in the past two years that I only held for 3 months because it hurt to stand up for as long as I needed to (6 hour shifts, with 15 min breaks - I didn't know at the time I had DDD). I've started applying for office jobs again, but they all require either sitting for long periods, or if they don't, they need me to be able to pick up boxes (I can't do this reliably either). I feel stuck...I'm only 21 and can't do anything. The bills are piling up and not only do I have the economy to struggle with, but the fact that I can't really even do the most basic tasks associated with working.

I'd like to apply for some sort of SSI for the time being, just because it's been so long since I've been able to work and I don't have any income apart from borrowing from my parents, and that's getting REALLY old for both of us. I do hope to work eventually (I'm working on my degree right now), but I'm just having too hard a time finding available jobs that don't require sitting, long-term standing, or picking things up, especially at my skill level (no bachelor's degree yet).

Does anybody have any advice? I've heard you're not eligible for SSI if you don't have an actual work history, but of course I DON'T have a work history since I've had this since I was around 15 and haven't been able to maintain a job. I don't know where to go at this point. It seems like I'm too "disabled" to work, but not disabled enough to receive any help. I feel completely lost. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,856
    completly sure about vs the DDD. Degenerative Disc Disease is probably the most misunderstood spinal problem. DDD is basically the aging of our spines. Almost everyone by the time they reach 30 will show some signs of DDD.
    This can be brought on earlier due to:
    - Trauma (accidents)
    - Prior spinal surgeries
    - Genetic situations
    Most DDD situations do not require surgery and can be managed and controlled via NSAIDS and an approved exercised program.

    Now, what the doctor said about something sticking out. I am thinking it might be one of two situations

    1 - Bone Spur
    2 - Bulging Disc

    The disc situation IF is putting pressure on a nerve root can cause a lot of pain and will generally need to be addressed sooner vs later. Only your doctor would knew for sure.

    In terms of Insurance, STD/LTD SSDI, go over to the Health Insurance Category, you will find a lot more information there.

    Good luck

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I have DDD too in my lumbar area (especially L5 S1 and L1 L2), and am also having pain. I don't have any herniations anymore, and my bone spurs (as of yet) are not causing any interference.

    I asked my pain management doc why, then, am I in so much pain ( I am in the same boat as you are, pain sitting, pain standing, pain with anything). He said it's because these disks have little pain receptors. When the disks are compromised, such as ours, that shoots pain signals through out our backs.

    I have applied for Social Security Disability because I too cannot work.

    You might want to try an epidural. My pain doc really wants me to try it, so I figured "what the heck?".

    Good luck and take care. Just know you are not alone. :)

  • if doc said something sticking out it could be bulge. any pressure down there on spinal nerves would give you that pain. could be a tear in the inside of disk leaking the fluid which is quite toxic and when it hits nerves you feel pain. ask for some detail on the sticking out info..
    what are you studying in school... would it prepare you for job you can do?
  • I didn't know that, but I'll definitely look into it when I follow up - sad that I have to have people in forums give me information that my doctor SHOULD be giving me a heads up on, but I appreciate the advice!

    I'm going for a sociology degree - I plan to either do the legal or educational field (I figure I'll know once it's time for grad school). Honestly I'm just hoping that by the time I enter the work force there's a better solution, since it seems like the only work from home jobs are IT and computing type things - plus I don't actually WANT to work from home.
  • Wow, so yours is basically the EXACT same problem...how long have you had DDD? I take it the epidural you're referring to in your signature was this past Feb and not upcoming Feb - how was it? How long did the relief last? How often do you have to go in for them? That's my next step, but I'm working within the military health care system and it takes FOREVER to get anywhere. How are you coming on your disability case?
  • maybe by the time you get this sticking out thing fixed youll be in good shape to handle your chosen carear...keep hounding the surgeon and if no responce just find another one....best of luck to you...pete
  • for 6 years. It started off having back spasms every 6 monts. I would go to the doc, no x-ray taken or anything, just told I had sciatica, and given vicodin and muscle relaxers. In November 05, I finally got the diagnosis, from my chiropractor I had just started seeing. I was like "Wow! Finally someone can put a name to my pain!". I saw the chiro for 2 years. Towards the end, his treatments were just not helping me, and I got to the point where I was in constant pain. He told me to go to my doc and insist they do an MRI. They did, and I had a 11 milimeter herniation (which is rather large). I was told by the surgeon I was referred to that I needed a microdiskectomy, then a fusion. I am over weight, and the fusion was too risky to do at my weight, but the herniation was causing sooo much damage that I had to have that fixed ASAP, hence the microd. I had about 2 months after the microd that I felt great, then I began to back slide.

    I never had the fusion (long story, insurance changes, etc), and have since moved to a different state, so I am starting all over.

    The epidural I had in Feb 09 did not help me at all. They say, as a rule, that epi's help leg pain, no necessarily back pain. In my case that was true, but the relief from leg pain did not last.

    Once we moved to AZ I saw a new surgeon that told me I am not a candidate for surgery. Other than mild nerve compression, and the DDD, there is nothing else "medically wrong", and they don't operate just to relieve pain, alone.

    So then I was off to the pain management doc who wants to do another epidural, which I am having the middle of Sept.

    I appplied for disability on July 10th. I haven't heard anyting as they are still gathering all of my medical records. Like you, there is nooooo way I can sit or stand for any period of time. I cannot grocery shop unassisted, I can't do laundry, clean my home, not without TERRIBLE consequences. I really hope I get approved, so we will see! :)

    I'm sorry you are going through all this, especially at such a young age with your whole life ahead of you. Definitely find out if you have a bulge, herniation, or bone spurs. That might just be the culprit of your pain. Maybe an epidural would help in you case.

    Take care,

  • Wow, it really is the same story...mine started out the same, with spasms every few months and x rays showing nothing. How stupid then that it took 5 or 6 years for them to even ask for an MRI since that seems to be a common complaint with DDDers (in terms of how it starts off).

    Where in Arizona are you? I'm in Phoenix - have you found a good doctor you like yet or still the same "no answer" surgeon?

    How long did it take you to get where you are now? I can walk and grocery shop fine (just no prolonged sitting, standing, or any real lifting), apart from the occasional spasms every few months that make it difficult to even dress myself (going through a good session of that right now unfortunately), but I'm terrified that soon I'll end up not able to even do all that like you...will you PM me and let me know how the second epidural goes, and whether you're approved for DDD? I called a SSI lawyer today and was told I had a great case due to not being able to hold a job, plus the years of medical records I have on file, although I wonder how much of that was just him wanting my business. Have you heard about whether or not its typically difficult? What have you found that relieves pain the best? Thanks to you (and everyone else that has and may respond in the future) for your insights!
  • We totally have the same situation! :) It really is a shame it takes so long. I didn't even have an x-ray until my chiro did it.

    I am in South East Chandler. Too funny that we live so close. :) I would say I have really been unable to do anything on my own for about 2 years. :''( It was June of 07 when things got real bad. I had the MRI that discovered the herniation in November 07, had the microdiskectomy in Jan 08, felt good for about 2 months (still had physical limitation orders per the doc), then went down hill from there.

    I will definitely PM you tomorrow (as long as all goes well and I can sit :) ), and let you know how it goes. As far as disability, I probably won't know until November or December. I have heard that the first time around for applying that 75% of cased get denied. It can take quite some time to finally get approved.

    Regarding the attorney.... don't hire an attorney that wants any money up front. Disability attorneys generally only get paid if they win your case, meaning they only take cases they think they can win cuz they don't want to waste their time. As long as this guy doesn't want any money from you, go for it!

    I take Norco, Mobic and Flexeril on a daily basis. When I was really "spasmed" like you are now, I would lay down on my side and put a pillow between my knees. That really helped to relieve the pain. And of course my meds. :o) I still do that now to relieve pain.

    I will let you know tomorrow or the next day how the epi went. Add me as a buddy as well. :)

    >:D< >:D< >:D<


  • I'm sorry you are in predicament so young and trying to get your degree. I discovered that I have severe DDD as well as disc herniations in my early thirties (see below). I know how painful and difficult this problem is and I still struggle with chronic lower back and nerve pain despite conservative treatments and 2 spinal surgeries.

    If you don't think you're getting 100% from your doctor, then get another opinion. You are young and you have a lot going for you so don't let nobody tell you nothing can be done or dismiss you. Some doctors think young people don't have back pain and only want pain meds unfortunately, and many run into roadblocks because nobody will believe their pain. Don't pay attention to that and get another doctor if they say that to you or also say that the pain is all in your head.

    I hope things work out for you and you get to feeling better. There is a job out there that will accommodate your needs and be flexible with their schedule. It may take looking "out of the box" to find it, but I know that you're very smart and resilient to land one. Right now you need to take good care of yourself and get your pain controlled. Take care
  • Being that you are so young it is VERY unlikley that your pain is being caused by DDD. The protrusion/sticking out thing is 99% likley to be causing your pain. Luckily you live in the phx area. We have the benefit of having the Yeung Dr.s here. They are among the best in the world - let alone the US. Unfortunately spinal medicine is behind the times in the USA. Dr Yeung has an office over on 16th st near Northern. If his office doesnt take your insurance then Dr Steingart (40th st and cactus) has trained under him and takes other insurances. The reason that he is so widely applauded is because he has pioneered the arthroscopic surgery for removal of disc herniations and bone spurs (the sticking out thing your doc mentioned). This allows for faster healing and prevents the severing of certain ligaments that must be permanently cut in a traditional back surgery. Also dr Yeung has other technological advances that allow a gentler, less invassive approach to your spinal pain available to him.
    Most Drs are misinformed or simply ignorant to the details of the spine and frankly it is your responsibility to inform yourself and make desicions on your healthcare (scary, i know). Read on the web. Chirogeek.com has a great beginers guide to spine anatomy and why we have pain when standing or sitting. Read up on your symptoms (besides the usuall webmd.com) and make a decision based on information. You CAN be pain free again. If you want you can email me here and i can offer my opinion on your films, and perhaps offer more suggestions as to what might be causing your pain. A few key questions and some simple suggestions based on my experience (L5-S1 herniated,agonizing sciatica for 1+ years down to foot, endoscopic microdiscectomy at age 31, anullar tear L5-S1, L4-L5. DDD bottom 4 discs w endplate fractures on both lower vertebrae.relativley pain free now after three years of chronic pain) and you could be on the path to recovery. Good luck.
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