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Degenerative Disc Disease, Eroding Quality of Life

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Lower Back Pain
First message here. There are many of you with much, much more serious conditions; let me say that. I am not in debilitating pain and I am able to walk and I am employed. But as a 39-year-old with ever-decreasing mobility and a long string of unsuccessful attempts at controlling my lower back pain, I am quickly running out of confidence that this will get better, or even be controlled.

A super brief summary: back problems run in the family; my dad is basically immobile without serious narcotic pain meds, and he's only 67. Since I was 19 I've had periodic bouts of spasms and disc issues; basically the only thing that has ever helped was days of bed rest/pain pills/muscle relaxants. I used to be extremely, as in morbidly overweight, and am no longer; I have gained some weight, I should probably be 50 pounds lower than I am now overall.

In the past two years I've been unable to go to the gym regularly because no matter what I do, after a few weeks, I end up in bed with spasms and pain. Of late I feel stiffness is the norm; I can barely, to be frank, use the toilet on some days, I'm so inflexible. I've tried physical therapy; after 30 days, I had a back episode virtually the next day.

I've tried a chiropractor, who had me three times a week, then two times, then not at all, then three times a week again, and it usually feels better for a few hours, but has made (to my mind) no real change in the "macro" picture.

I've tried weight lifting and not weight lifting. I've babied it lately to the point where I feel it must be atrophying further; but the opposite approach wasn't working either (exercising hard). Neither was the middle road (modest exercise); I recently tried Back Rx Yoga, and it felt kind of good, and the day after the third brief (pathetically brief, really -- I am not capable of much motion) session, I had mini-spasms and so haven't done a fourth yet. Spent the weekend in bed, and spent yesterday in bed.

I've been to five orthos over the years; they have all basically said variations of "nothing to operate on; very common disc degeneration; stretch and do your exercises; nothing I can do."

Is there anything I've not yet tried?

Do I have to be super skinny? Is that it?

I just got married and I feel like I won't be able to pick up a kid if we have any.

Thanks for listening.



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859

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    Please feel free to contact me at rdilauro@gmail.com or send me a message
    Degenerative Disc Disease is the most misunderstood
    spinal problem. The words Degenerative and Disease sound more drastic than what the condition actually is. Essentially, DDD is just the aging of our spines. Almost everyone will have some degree of DDD by the time they are 28. Some get it sooner or more severe due to:

    - Trauma (accidents)
    - Prior Spinal Surgeries
    - Genetics

    The better news is that almost all cases of DDD can be treated through an approved exercise program and over the counter NSAIDS. Only the severe cases of DDD require surgery.

    Here are some links that Spine-Health provides:

    Degenerative Disc Disease Details

    DDD Video

    Have you been to any Spine specialist besides an Orthopedic doctor. I would see if you can get an appointment to see a Neurosurgeon or Neurologist.

    They may want additional diagnostic tests done to
    verify your condition.

    As hard as it may seem right now, remain as positive as you can, research about this condition,
    make sure you see the right doctors.

    DDD is something that is not going to go away. I first starting showing sings of it progressing rapidly when I was 30. It's still there, and
    together with my 7 spinal surgeries and more disc
    problems, you learn to work through it.

    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
  • Owly,
    I applaud your effort in your weight loss and your attempt to continue with this regime. We are all individuals and that measure of change for DDD is erratic and difficult to qualify. From my experience this inherent structural change will not be eased in the general strategy we use.

    We can only change what we can and have to adapt to new and ever changing situations, it is not easy or simple. For pain no one single approach will be as effective as an amalgam of ides, from mobility to all the things you have been trying, try again with your list before surgery becomes mandatory.

    You are working through your list of options and at time nothing is effective and we have to start again with a differing approach you seem to have a long list of things that do not work and that is good in having tried as we need to be persistent, does anything else make it better.

    On the basis that rest seems to make it better from any activity I would say you are doing too much activity and need to do only sufficient in that it improves mobility without increasing pain it is a fine balancing act and we may never be able to do what we did and I acknowledge the frustration. Most people go into activity too hard and it stops them, they then feel that any activity will have the same effect and need to go at a slower pace and stop before the pain increases. I do understand that sometimes the pain increases without doing anything, so we have to decide when that window of opportunity is realistic and rest before we need too.

    Do you take your medication by the clock, or when the pain has arrived.

    Do keep going you are doing well being motivated to try all this and finding the best one is in what you have already done, it just needs closer attention and minute tweaking to cater to your specific needs and condition.

    I lost my job at 35 with three young children it is hard and I know in the text you have written you can do this, take your time and be kind to yourself and good luck.

    Having an op is only beneficial when it can improve thing and evidence here might suggest that medical intervention for some is not the best outcome that they initially thought it would be and going back is then not possible or more difficult.

    Take care and keep posting.


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