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New member saying hello and asking a few questions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hello there and I am a new member here. It is so amazing to find a place where I can perhaps get some feedback and see I am not alone with what I feel. I am unsure of what to post here as I am full of questions and worries on what has been happening to me over the past nine months and pretty much at the end of my emotional tether on how much more pain and discomfort I can take. Apart from my GP referring to my symptoms as sciatica and the research I have done on the subject I am waiting to see an orthopaedic team next Friday where I will request to have an MRI scan to 'see' what is going on in my back.

Perhaps a brief history would be helpful here. I am 42 years old, not particularly over weight, as active as I can be and am a working single mum of two teenagers so live a very busy life. About three years ago (summer '06) I was pulling weeds up in the garden when I felt a very small popping/tearing sensation but without pain in my lower back. For the duration of the following week I had a dreadful burning/heat from within along with a heavy ache but this subsided steadily over a month and eventually disappeared completely. Perhaps someone here could help give me an idea of whether this has played a part in what I have now? All was well until new year '09 when I played on our Nintendo Wii and played the baseball game that involved a twisting movement. I felt fine that evening but woke the following morning with the most dreadful pain in my left hip, into the thigh, down into the calf where the pain was more of a pinching sensation and into the top of the foot. These pains are what I have experienced on varying degrees ever since. It seems to follow a pattern of every three months or so it goes from a constant discomfort to a full blown, can barely walk pain. The early hours and mornings are always my worst times for the pain but during the more intense times the pain can be there all day. Each time I get a flare up it comes back with more pain than the one before with me going to the GP and getting increasingly stronger painkillers. I have also tried massage with varying degrees of relief but if the pain is bad it makes little difference.

At new year my GP prescribed co-codamol and diclamax SR which helped take the edge off the pain and over the course of a few months it eased away. At Easter it flared up again he prescribed Tramadol and Diazepam 5mg three times a day. Again over a few months it eased away. My most recent flare up happened at the beginning of August after a visit to a physio from a referral from my GP. He gave me a couple of exercises to do several times a day. I did the exercises on returning home and it immediately started the pain off but this time worse than ever before. Again I went to my GP in such pain he prescribed Oramorph liquid 10mg along with Tramadol with diazepam if needed. After a few days I felt so groggy I had to go back to him and he gave me Temgesic 0.4mg to replace the Oramorph. On the third day of taking these my body reacted badly with me going into a state I can only describe as comatose - like walking through water, limbs feeling like lead and unable to speak coherently, shaking, sweating and feeling dreadfully dizzy and sick. My daughter was so concerned she called the out of hours doctor who said I was not tolerant to morphine and to stop taking it. Thankfully my condition gradually subsided over the next 48 hours and I have been only taking co-codamol since. Ironically the morphine based medicines did not take the pain away, they simply made me not care about it!

I find myself asking if I am being too focused on the MRI scan? Will it show the cause of my pain regardless of whether I feel pain at the time it is being done? If it does, what will be the likely options open to me?

If nothing shows or they say they do not think I need to have an MRI where do I go from here knowing I can never take this pain away – how do I truly learn how to accept living with it? Do I have to?

Thank you for this space to write and voice what is on my mind. Any feedback will be so nice to have whether from anyone medically minded or anyone experiencing the same x



  • I can't begin to imagine how many people have ended up with a bulging or herniated disc from a seemingly innocent twisting movement. My mom ruptured a lower lumbar disc removing a snow boot when I was in elementary school and I still remember it vividly. But, I digress.

    I have no idea if you have a bulging or herniated/prolapsed disc, but from your description of symptoms, I'd say it is a possibility. If it is a smallish bulge, the pain can come and go. This type of injury should show up on a MRI. And, no, you do not have to be in pain to have the MRI register what your back looks like.

    From your description of the pain, it sounds like a spinal nerve is being compressed. The spinal nerves exit the spine but there is referred nerve pain that is felt along particular pathways all the way from the hip area, down the leg and sometimes into the foot.

    Perhaps a disc has herniated. This can put pressure on a nerve and cause the symptoms you are feeling. Inflammation can also do this. You might have some spinal arthritis that is pressing on the nerve. There really are many things that MIGHT be wrong...and only a doctor will be able to diagnose you. We just like to make educated guesses around here! @)

    Regardless of the problem, spinal specialists will always suggest surgery as a last resort. Conservative measures will be tried first, because the majority of people with initial back problems respond to that type of treatment.

    You will find lots of good information on this forum and on the website, where there are many articles, etc. written by specialists, videos of procedures, etc.

    Here's a link to some basic information to get you started: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/herniated-disc/whats-a-herniated-disc-pinched-nerve-bulging-disc

    The more you can educate yourself about spinal anatomy and various procedures, the better you will be able to talk with your doctor and participate in any decisions that need to be made.

  • Welcome :D Gwennie gave you some good information and all I can add is that I've had sciatica for almost a year now. My MRI just shows a small bulge at L4/L5 -- Doesn't matter how big or small -- you can get some mighty big pain from it (as you are well aware).

    I had 3 epidurals with limited success, saw a chiropracter, massage therapist, bought things off the internet that were supposed to help, and have the biggest arsenal of roll on/rub on/pain ointments you can imagine (LOL!) I gone through several heating pads but have had the most success with icing.

    I bought an inversion table a few months back at the suggestion of a second ortho I went to. I like it a lot for spinal decompression. He also gave me a back support which is wonderful at pushing all my stomach fat to the top and bottom of the piece so it gives you a beautiful "Muffin Top" (LOL!). ;)

    Look forward to hearing from you again and finding out what your MRI reveals.

    Take care and sorry for your pain,

  • Hi there, I feel for you really I do and ev1 in this site can too I am sure. Before I had my back operation I felt the same thing you describe. I will not beat around the bush, I will just come out and say it. After yout MRI even if it shows something most doctors will send you for therapy, spinal injections (set of 3) before you see any action scheduling surgery if you need it. The doctors have insurance guidelines to follow and 70 percent of people with pain in there back do improve with therapy and injections. (you really want to do this first) My advice to you is to find a place that has a therapy pool and do any therapies in that first. Your pain will vanish in the water because all the fluid in your body floats in the water. Ask your doctor about anti imflammatories. If you can take them? If surgery does get scheduled it will be after all the therapies are over so you may as well get the inflammation down and see how you feel if your doctor says it's ok. You have just joined the long road to wanting the pain to stop forum. Ev1 here is in some kind of pain every day. My doctor says he can't fix me but he can make it better. So far he is right! Let us know what the MRI shows. Hang in there :)
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. so glad you finally stopped by. good luck with your pain relief! :D Jenny :)
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but I'm under the impression you are not from the USA so your insurance guidelines may differ from ours. The usual process here, as stated in the above posts, is x-rays, a MRI, and a course of anti-inflammatory medication and conservative therapy before surgery is an option.

    Yes, many of us here have experienced your pain. There is a lot of great information on back pain here. And, a lot of wonderfully supportive people.

    Best wishes to you,

    Marianne :)
  • Welcome to Spine Health. In response to your question about focusing on the MRI, I have to say that in these types of situations, we have to be careful not to have high expectations. As Gwennie explained, it is quite possible that something will show, and it's quite possible that you'll get a report of "normal for adult of this age", which is always a kick in the knees.

    Use tact if/when asking a doc to run specific diagnostic test (like and MRI or CT), because some of them will not respond well to patients asking for them. Make a good concise list of your symptoms and pain levels and a synopsis of what you wrote here, and take that with you. This will give the doc a better guideline to go from.

    A good doc can listen to a patient, do some simple hands on diagnostic tests, and easily determine if there's a bigger issue present that requires further diagnostic investigation.

    Keep us posted on how this goes for you.

  • Thank you all very much for your warm welcome and helpful comments and suggestions x I will certainly keep you updated on how things turn out and can see this forum as being a little haven of understanding and support. I am sure as time goes on and I learn to cope with my own pain better I can in turn support others. I do not feel alone any more!

    Perhaps I should have posted that I am in the UK as one poster was wondering. Your comments have very much helped to answer my initial questions and I do indeed take onboard that I will have to keep myself in check not to pressure the doctor/s for the MRI. I know I regard it as the only way to literally 'see' what the problem is so I need to turn my way of thinking around where that is concerned. I am also very scared that it will show nothing - as haclandc has said, it could just be something that is naturally occurring and I know I will have to dig deep to accept that diagnosis.

    I will do some reading on here regarding the injections. I am at present unaware of how effective they are – you can understand how cautious I am considering I have yet to find anything that actually works! I am not fearful of needles but am nervous of such an invasive procedure.

    I feel almost obsessed with the need to be pain free. Perhaps I need to also learn to accept the pain, especially if it could be some time before a treatment is given that is really effective.

    Printing off what I posted here would be a very good idea and as it reflects exactly what has happened so far so thank you very much for that suggestion.

    I will head away now but with a warm smile to all that have taken the time to read my post and to those who have replied.


  • Dealing with pain can become an all-consuming activity if you let it. It really can take over your life -- and it can snowball as a result. The more you obsess about it, the more tense you become, the more tense the muscles become, which leads to more pain, etc.

    If you look on one of the online book sellers you will see that there are some very good books on chronic pain that have good suggestions on how to deal with pain. I also like some of the CDs that deal with this topic -- some are relaxation type tapes and some are for self healing -- they include breath work, meditation, guided imagery, etc. --techniques that are supposed to help. I think it is pretty well accepted that there is a mind-body connection...and I figure these CDs are just one more item available to us to try to help deal with chronic pain.

    Take good care,

  • Lollypop,

    I'm not a doctor but I would wager large amounts of money that your MRI will come up with an L5-S1 disc rupture or herniation. I too, am 42 and had the same symptoms 18 months ago. I can't actually say how mine happened but I woke up one morning with severe hip pain, hamstring pain, and calf pain down my left leg. I had been playing soccer in the backyard with my son and some neighbor boys the day before but don't remember feeling anything happen. I was in very good shape for a 41 year old. I had no back pain whatsoever so I did not even think of that as a possibility. I went to the doctor and they told me that I probably pulled my gluteous minimus muscle as that would cause pain through the whole hip and refer pain down through the hamstring and calf. They sent me to physical therapy. After a couple weeks of this the pain was getting worse and worse every day, and then I woke up with my entire foot numb also! I went back and told them that there was something very wrong and I wanted an MRI ASAP. The MRI showed a huge L5-S1 disc rupture. They referred me for epidural steriod shots that day. The shots reduced the pain quite a bit. Then a couple more shots a few weeks later reduced the pain more. Mine did not end up healing though as the rupture was just too large, and I ended up having an L5-S1 microdiscectomy to cut off the ruptured part of the disc. Had some scar tissue issues a few months later but overall I am very happy about the surgery. Currently walking 3 miles a day and doing some eliptical and light jogging. Have some permanent nerve damage so I still have pain of about a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, but I can and will live with that amount of pain without much of a lifestyle change.

    Your pain level does not seem to be the 9 out of 10 that mine was, so hopefully your rupture is smaller than mine. If so, there is a really good chance that a shot or two could fix yours without surgery. When I say "fix" I do not mean forever as a damaged disc rarely will heal to "good as new". But, there is a good chance that you can go a few, or many, more years without problems, or debilitating pain. You DO NOT want to be on heavy pain meds for too long. Some will eat your stomach lining and many others are addictive. You should probably also teach yourself to NOT completely bend over at the waist, for any reason, even to tie your shoes. Good luck and let us know what's going on. There are so many people on this board that you will likely find a bunch of people with similar symptoms as you.
  • Again thank you for your postings to my original post and I am finding this site such a valuable resource and have found the information within really useful. To L5-S1 in particular, I agree your experience is very similar to mine with the initial 'injury' occurring almost unnoticed. It sounds as though you are coping really well now although you have had some invasive procedures to reach that point. I hope that you continue to recover well.
    I also agree that my levels of pain come and go with the 'pain free' times on a scale of 3/10 to which I class as good days and savour as a real blessing. With pain killers I can get it down to near zero past mid morning onwards. During the times when it comes back though....oowww, unbearable 10/10 and can last for several weeks at a time regardless of what I take. You speak of the addiction issue with the stronger painkillers and I agree it is a problem with it being spoken of in the news recently that as little as a few days on co-codamol can induce a dependency. I feel sure that after taking it so regularly since New Year I am in that addicted category but will face and deal with that issue when the time comes. The health implications to the stomach though are perhaps more of a concern but also induces an anger within me that my GP, medical profession/NHS as a whole seem to only want to treat the symptoms in sciatica and in no hurry to treat or even diagnose the cause. For something that induces such pain this puzzles me.
    It was after I made several requests for something to be done that I am now waiting to see the Orthopaedic team, not on my doctors say so.

    Unfortunately the appointment with the orthopaedic consultant has been put back another week until Friday 2nd October so a bit more of a wait to come but not too long.

    With my best wishes to all

  • lollypop

    I do know that there are people who abuse prescription pain killers, but I also learned when working at Hospice that the body will utilize as much of the pain med given without causing addiction.

    This, of course is not medical advice, merely a knowledge base that I refer to.

    It is the people who take more than they need, or for longer than prescibed, who end up with problems of real addiction.
    There is the issue of physiological dependence, which is altogether different. It consists of the body's becoming used to a substance (pain med in this case), via the receptors that it binds with, and causing a certain set of (mostly) less severe symptoms when the drug is removed.

    It's the physical or phychological addiction that is so much worse, and which causes so much hardship for those of us who can really benefit from opioid based pain meds.

    I really get very angry when I am treated like a drug seeker when I have NEVER exhibited any such behaviors. It is due to those who choose to abuse these drugs that make it so. The few cause trouble for the many. Not an unusual occurance, sadly.

    If your pain is legit-which it certainly sounds like it is-than don't worry over much about addiction. These drugs help us to live a better quality of life, after all else has failed, and I, myself, am not afraid to use them as such.

    Just MHO.

    Hope things start to gel for you and you can find some answers.
  • Dear Anniesgirl,

    What you have posted on addiction was very thought provoking and touches on not just the physical side to it but the psychological which I think is not often focused on – myself included.

    It was a reassurance to read your comment on how the body utilizes what it needs from the medication – something that had not occurred to me before. I always make sure the quantities taken are within the prescribed amount and never stray off to the pharmacy and add to what I take – I hope that alarm bells would ring for me if that was to happen.

    Lets hope that when the time comes to stop what has been such a regular regime it is an easy transition to make.

  • I had my first visit to the osteopath today and I ended up coming out feeling a real mixture of emotions. After having a good talk through all my symptoms and telling him of the way it comes and goes his conclusion is that it is muscle spasms in the lower back/pelvic region and not a herniated disc. He did agree to put me through for an MRI scan though, with no prompting from me. He tested my movement and made notes of where the pains are and seemed very pleasant and thorough.

    I must admit I was not expecting him to say it was muscle spasms and he could tell I was struggling to accept it – only because he was vague on my questions regarding the pinching sensations in my calf and foot and pain in the hip when it is bad. He did say that if it was a herniated disc the pain would be there 24/7 with no let up at all and I do not experience numbness or pins and needles anywhere. I have only experienced pins and needles for a few days back in New Year and then that disappeared while everything else continued.

    So there we are. I have about a month to wait for the scan and a week after that before I will see him again for the results and see quite where this is heading. In the meantime I feel I should help get my head around this and find out what I can do to help prevent them – if that is possible. I am very nervous at exercises targeting that area in case I kick it off again but realise that doing nothing is equally not going to help.

    my best wishes


  • Who am I to disagree with your doctor...but, I do!! I do not believe one can make an absolute statement that you would be in pain 24/7 with a herniated disc. I know too many people for whom that was not the case...including my husband, whose disc ruptured after a period of at least six months of intermittent pain.

    Also I don't see how a muscle spasm alone could cause the pain radiating down your leg.

    But, you will know soon enough. I am glad he ordered a MRI and hope that it will reveal the cause of your discomfort.

    Take good care,
  • Pins and needles and numbness are only signs of how badly a nerve is compressed. If it is compressed slightly, there is pain. If it is more badly compressed, there will be the pins and needles sensation, which will develop into a feeling of numbness as the compression worsens. The last stop on this journey would be to develop foot drop or other total muscle weakness (depending on which spinal nerve is being compressed, of course.)

    The fact that symptoms change is not that meaningful or significant. My radiculopathy has even moved from leg to leg without a change in what was causing my pain. For example, with a herniated disc, the pain can increase or decrease simply based on the amount of swelling that is present.

    Sometimes a patient will rest, use ice and a NSAID to knock down the swelling, and will start to feel better. Feeling better, the patient will attempt to resume "normal" activities, and may quickly find him/herself right back where they were. Pain returns . This can happen in a cycle of a couple days, or it can also happen in longer periods -- like six months or even longer.

    Sometimes people have a herniated disc and are not even aware of it because it is not causing pain. I guess my point is that a "herniated disc" is not just one experience. It can cause a variety of symptoms. The symptoms can come and go. There is not just one description of symptoms that describes a herniated disc.
  • Dear Gwennie,

    Thank you very much in what you have put here Gwennie x I have to say I am in agreement with you on this and how it just does not quite tie in with the pinching and pains in the hip and leg. I stopped short of saying so but my goodness he could tell my exasperation by that time and was very pleasant and very understanding. He really did come across with the attitude that the scan would be no trouble to organise. I have a feeling he did not wish to commit himself to a disc diagnosis without seeing what a scan will reveal. He did say though that the scans are not always accurate and around 25% come back with nothing showing, even those with a herniated or bulging disc and this I do take on-board and accept.

    I felt rather low last night I have to say but will keep it in perspective and as of this morning an open mind. I am happy that something is being done now and it is a step forwards.

  • Yes, it is a very real problem that the MRI is only one piece in the diagnostic puzzle. Sometimes a disc will look very herniated on the imaging and yet the patient will feel no pain from it, and, conversely, a disc will look normal, but will turn out to be the source of pain.

    A good doctor will use the MRI as one piece of information, also relying on a patient's history, patient's reporting of pain, physical exam, and perhaps, other testing.
  • I share your frustration lolly. I have similar symptoms and even after an MRI and EMG test still don't really know what the source of my flareups are although apparently these types of pain patterns suggest an l5/s1 issue. Doctors seem pretty clueless about these back issues to my own shock and dismay, especially if the tests don't clearly point to a problem. I actually only recently found a doctor that even thought it necessary for me to have an MRI after being told by many that MRIs often show problems that arent' even really a problem. 2 1/2 years later after aggressively trying to stop these flareups from happening every 6 months to a year I have found that walking alot and trying to stay active to varying degrees ultimately pulls me out and back to feeling normal again. I am in the midst of one of these flareups right now and just trying to stay optimistic that sometime soon I will be back to normal again. I am finally figuring out that carrying heavy items arms out and at an awkward angle is a sure way to set me up for a 4-8 weeks of sciatic and back pain. Anyway I am kind of rambling, I hope you feel better and get some answers!
  • It has been a while since I have posted but I have been patiently waiting for the MRI scan (which I had about three weeks ago) and my consultant phoned me with the results a few days ago. He said the scan showed I have a bulge in one of the discs and it is probably due to natural wear and tear. He is happy to refer me onto the pain management clinic to see how they can help me further. The discomfort continues day in and day out but has been at a much more manageable level this past week I am pleased to say. The last time I was pain free was the begining of August. Staying on co-codamol however is not a situation I wish to continue and my consultant feels confident that the clinic will be able to assist me better if and when it is needed. I now have a six week wait!

    This morning I received a copy of the letter he has sent off to the pain management clinic and I have to say I am baffled with the terminology and would be really grateful if anyone can translate into terms I can relate to and what it means! It is as follows:

    Following her initial assessment I requested an MRI scan of her lumber spine which showed abutment and mild displacement of descending roots bilaterally at L4/L5 and L5/S1 but no evidence of impingement of the descending roots.

    No mention of the bulge he spoke to me about on the phone - or is it?! I cannot help but feel that the words 'mild' and 'no evidence of' do not do the pain I feel justice!! *smiles*

    I was tempted to post this on a new thread but felt it should stay with my original post so it shows a more complete picture.

    with my best wishes

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