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Anyone had this happen?? Maybe bodysurfers/gymnasts/divers?

LovesTheOcean1LLovesTheOcean1 Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hello all!

This forum has lots of great information from helpful people. Your stories, experiences, and the way you all help each other are heart-touching. Thank you in advance for reading my first post.

When I was 8 years old, I was in a body-boarding accident that violently hyper-extended my lower back. As my back quickly bent backwards, I heard and felt a loud "pop." My body then became numb for about 2 seconds. I swam back to shore and went along with my day...no persisting painful effects. I lived the rest of my life as an active adolescent and teenager, playing sports, weight lifting, skateboarding, and running. I remember sometimes when I stood in one place for too long, my back would get stiff and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I never had my back examined and never took the incident seriously.

I am now in my 20's, and 3 years ago I had the same exact thing happen to me! The only difference was this time I was body-surfing. I was thrown into the water, and again my back was hyper-extended and popped. I had the same numbness, and swam to shore the same way as the first time. The only difference was that this time I immediately felt stiffness that encompassed my entire lower back. I figured I tore a muscle or had some other less serious injury, and figured it would heal much like my first experience.

Unfortunately it hasn't healed the same. My back is exactly as stiff as it was 3 years ago. 2 years ago I saw my first chiropractor. He didn't take any x-rays, said that I was young and should heal, and began stimulating/manipulating my lower back. The treatments didn't offer relief that lasted longer than the time it took to get home. I stopped going and tried to take some rest away from my active lifestyle. I rested about 6 months. The discomfort went away slightly and I was fine when living a sedentary life, but when I had to do anything physical, my back would flare up worse than before the rest period. I then found another chiropractor, who did the same as the first (no x-ray or MRI, just manipulation/stimulation to my lower back). He said it may be a herniated disc, but there were no further steps taken to get an MRI or x-ray. I went to my general MD and he said "that unless the discomfort is bad enough that you would want surgery, then it is pointless to get an x-ray or MRI." He offered some pain meds, which I declined, and said try acupuncture or physical therapy. I did acupuncture and it did not help at all. I have not yet tried physical therapy.

I went back to my general MD recently, still complaining about the discomfort. He finally recommended me to an orthopedic surgeon. The orthopedic surgeon finally gave me an x-ray, which he said looked completely normal. He gave me an anti-inflammatory medication that he told me to take to see if it would alleviate the stiffness in my back. He said if it doesn't, the next step will be to get an MRI or CT scan.

I am extremely frustrated because I have never had an ailment that has not healed. I am also frustrated because this seems to be a "mystery problem" and no body seems to know the underlying cause. I have done my share of research on this forum and it seems like a possible diagnosis would be spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. However, when the orthopedic surgeon reviewed the x-ray, he said there was no pars defect, so I could not have these conditions. What do you guys know or think about this doctors diagnosis?

I am extremely desperate to find the condition I have. I also want to find more proactive ways that I could strengthen myself and help the healing/coping process. Have any of you had a similar accident or had similar symptoms? If so, what was your condition? What did you, or the doctors do to diagnose it? What were your options for healing/strengthening? How are you now?

Reading through these forums shows me the true misery that back pain can bring to people, and this really scares me. Any advice or tips are greatly appreciated. Thanks!


  • It's rough that you've had pain for so long and no one seems to want to do an MRI. My x-rays looked pretty good also then told my Primary Dr. I think I need an MRI.

    Good start with the Ortho Dr. they usually try an anti-inflammatory first. Also do you have any other symptoms? Did the Ortho do an assessment like stand on your toes and heals etc? Sometimes they can tell by an exam how urgent the problem is by your nerves and reflexes and muscle response. When my back first starting hurting I went to Physio but it didn't really help much. That's when I asked for an MRI because I was having other symptoms also. I could barely walk when I went to work for 3 night shifts and collapsed at home and couldn't get up then got the results of my MRI and that was the last time I went to work.

    It sometimes takes some time to diagnose what is wrong but looks like this OrthoSurgeon is helping you finally. I would let him know if the pain is too bad to bear though and see what he says. I hope you get some answers soon and best not to go to a Chiro until they find out what's going on. My Chiro wouldn't touch me except with a TENs machine and ordered massage therapy. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I had an opposite experience from Charry. My internist sent me for a MRI when he got tired of hearing me complain to him about sciatic-type pain. My MRI didn't show much, but I was still having bad pain, so I went to see an orthopedic spine surgeon. He glanced at the MRI but then immediately sent me across the hall to have a flexion/extension X-ray, which confirmed the spondylolisthesis that he had suspected.

    I wanted to suggest a specialist that I feel might be able to help you...a physiatrist. The official name of their specialty is doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. It is a physician who deals with bones, muscles and nerves and is very good at diagnosing problems, using all conservative types of treatments but does not perform surgery. I think of them as the detectives of the spinal world as they are good at evaluating symptoms and figuring out what is causing them.

    I am sending you a PM with some additional information.

    As you can see from reading the board, sometimes it takes a lot of perseverance to track down an issue with the neck or back. Especially when you are young, you have to work a little harder to get a doctor to take your complaints of back pain seriously.

    Good luck.
  • Hi,

    I'm also a young spiney (early 20's), and my back pain all started with a hyperextension spine injury. I hear your frustration, and hopefully I can be of some help. First, hyperextension injuries are *much* less common than flexion injuries, so there is not much research out there on traumatic hyperextension. I believe that is why it can be incredibly frustrating to try to come by a diagnosis.

    X-rays are not great at diagnosing spondylolysis. The defects can be very subtle, and unless the radiologist is specifically looking for it, or the lesion is huge they will often miss it. Did you have obliques X-rays taken? My guess is no. Obliques are somewhat better at seeing pars defects, but still, they can miss them. So, just because your X-rays are normal, do not assume that you do not have spondylolysis. I think you can cross spondylolisthesis off the list because they would see that, but a pars defect could still be there.

    As far as imaging for spondylolysis, I would ask the orthopedic surgeon if a SPECT bone scan is appropriate. Your lesion is old, so it may not show up, but if it is still symptomatic I think there is a good chance there is some instability there and it could show up. The surgeon would be the best to tell you this. I had a bone scan that diagnosed a sacral fracture that was missed on both X-rays and an MRI. An MRI is good to check soft-tissue (the discs, ligaments, etc) and may show spondylolysis, while a CT is best for imaging bone and would definitely show spondylolysis if it is there. Your surgeon will have to guide you as far as which test is most appropriate. I think an MRI is probably a *must* though because you need to have the discs evaluated. I would definitely be skeptical of a surgeon telling you there can be no pars defect because it doesn't show on an X-ray- that's simply not true. I'm guessing this is a general orthopod, rather than a spinal orthopedist? I would recommend getting in with a good spinal orthopedist because they will be much better able to help you.

    Another possible diagnostic thing to ask about is flexion/extension X-rays. It sounds like there could be some instability with extension, so that could be something to look at?

    I think once you get some more imaging done it will help guide you through the various differentials. Without more info from an MRI and possibly a bone scan or CT scan it's really just a guessing game because there are so many things it can be. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
  • I thank you all for your comments and advice. It's hard to find good knowledge from people who are dealing with similar issues. Thanks for the Doctor/specialist recommendations and bone scan/MRI recommendations Lala...I will definitely look into that. It sounds like you were once in the same boat that I'm in now, maybe worse. I can imagine your accident was horrible.

    If you don't mind, I would like to ask you a couple questions...basically just to compare my situation to yours. Were you able to walk normally immediately following the accident, or did you go straight to the hospital assisted? After all of the treatments that you have had, does your back feel strong and healthy again? Are you expected to make a full recovery since you are still young? I am afraid that even if I find the problem with my back, it will never be able to be recuperated, even with surgery or other treatments.

    At this point, I am just very curious to what my diagnosis could be. I am still able to do my daily routines and exercise, but my back always makes it uncomfortable. Currently, I notice when I do core strengthening workouts, my back feels much better for a longer period of time. ie I can stand for a longer time without that annoying feeling on my lower back like it needs to pop. But after a while, it always gets to the point where it needs to be popped. Also it always feels like my muscles are tight and sore...even though I always stretch my back and it has no reason to be sore. I don't know what it could be?

    Oh and the x-rays I took were not flexion/extension ones. However, I did stand up and he took them from the side. I bent a little backward and forward, but they were not full flexion/extension.

    And Charry, the ortho did do an initial assessment, making me stand on my toes, heels, pushing/pulling with my leg, and testing my reflexes. I can do all that. My symptoms only felt like a pinched nerve one time after I went for a long run. I don't think my nerve is pinched every day. My symptoms are mostly restricted to tightness, soreness, popping, and a constant discomfort. My back only pops when I pop it...usually after I've been standing for a while. My muscles on my lower back, to the sides of my spine, are always sore and it feels really good after I get them massaged. That is about all my symptoms.

  • I sent you a private message with the answers to your questions :)

  • Before I mentioned the details today, I have a history of lower back spine compression. This happened when I was around 20 (now 25). I had an MRI and they confirmed that my disc was compressed and was hitting my sciatic nerve (and trust me, you know it when it hits the sciatic nerve its quite painful). It was so painful sometimes that I couldnt get out of bed until my roommates give me pain killers. I went through physical therapy for about 5 months, and that helped a lot. The general message for me back then is that the damage is permanent, but if I live an active lifestyle, making sure the lower back muscles are strong, it won't hurt. Fast forward about 5 years - sure the pain would sometimes come up but it was nothing like pre-physical therapy. I have lived an active lifestyle (biking, gym, and swimming regularly - and swimming helps a lot).

    Now to the present. I went surfing recently and had the same thing, I caught the wave at a bad time and hyper-extended me although no pops. It was quite painful and I had rest for a bit. Im closely monitoring it, and when i sit down i can feel a bit of pain. However, I think just as my doctors have told me, I have chronic lower back, but I can live normally (and have been living normally since I have stayed active). My guess is that as long as my lower back muscles are strong enough, it will heal eventually and pain will go away. I will update soon if anything happens. Its only been 2 days since incident.

    Best of luck to you.
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