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Did massage/physio make me worse?

milliemmillie Posts: 13
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Lower Back Pain
this is going to be long...

L5-S1 microdiscectomy January 2010, failed, laminectomy at L5-A1 August 2010. Recovery after second op moving along until September 29 – had a one hour massage, mostly lying on stomach. Felt sore in lower back when I turned over. Had to take a Naproxen when I got home.

October 1 – mid-back muscles stiff and sore, pins and needles in left shin, “clenching” spasms when I move. Pain is worse first thing in the morning, movement seems to help. Went to tai chi, had acupuncture appointment for 1 hour, mostly lying on my stomach. Had a really hard time getting off the table due to back spasming. Now taking Naproxen, Advil and cyclobenzaprine again.

October 7 – went to massage again to see if she could fix the spasms – she couldn’t and basically “fired” me – she doesn’t know what to do with me anymore.

October 8 – first physio appointment. We’re starting with heat to relax the back muscles, then she has me do some basic pelvic tilt exercises, very gentle. Hurt like hell afterwards, was barely able to make it to the car afterwards due to back spasms.

October 11 – Back spasms getting progressively worse since physio; can’t move, sit, stand, walk...you name it. Ended up in a sobbing heap on the floor – husband called the ambulance and we went to Emerg. They gave me 2 shots of morphine and a fresh prescription for Naproxen.

October 13 – dragged my sorry butt to physio – she put heat on me again, pelvic tilt exercises, some “light traction” – afterwards I noticed numb spot on outside of left thigh.

October 15 – back is somewhat better, “clenching” spasms coming less often. Left leg is still numb, starting to get a burning sensation. Pain in back has moved to the left side/left hip. Physio started a new exercise for me – she doesn’t seem too concerned about the numbness in the leg, but I sure am! Felt really horrible after treatment, took 15 minutes to walk from the treatment area to my car.

Currently I'm really limiting my movement because I'm afraid to do anything to aggravate the burning/numbness in the left let.

I've got another physio consult next week and I hope he'll tell me I have nothing to worry about - but I'm worried anyway! If anyone can offer some perspective on this I'd love to hear it...


  • Hi. I just turned 40 myself..and have same issues as you. Had a laminectomy 5 years ago, a micro disectomy end of 08 and now getting a fusion..fun!

    I believe you because I swear I ended up with the first surgery due to chiropractic sessions. Last week I got a massage and felt worse for two days. I think you need to find a massage therapist who specializes in backs..you need to roll under your feet to take pressure off back. With the PT, I would talk to your doc. Maybe you need different PT or maybe the micro didn't get everything..sorry to say.

    Hang in there..as you said patience!

    Best :)

  • I'm similar to Angela. I'm sure that my chiropractic sessions caused my sciatica 5 years ago - the result of which was 2 discectomies within one month of each other ('cos the first one failed).

    I've had many physio sessions over the years. At first I used to think "no pain, no gain", because afterwards I would be out of action for 2-3 days, laying down to relieve back pain etc.

    Then a different consultant told me that with spines, if it hurts to do the exercises, then STOP! You shouldn't be doing anything that actually makes your pain worse as a direct result of physio (in my opinion, but of course I'm not an expert!).

    Lastly, are you able to have hydrotherapy sessions in your area instead? I have had 2 sessions so far. After the first session (where I was told to twist gently in the water) I was experiencing more intense pain in my back for 2 days afterwards, and I also had an awful nights sleep (worse than normal). When I went for my second session last week and mentioned this, I was told not to do 2 of the exercises. They explained that my back should NOT hurt after hydrotherapy. The exercises are gentle now and the water helps to support me, but at the same time, really work the core muscles. I find doing 'inverted' pelvic tilts really painful if I'm just lying down. By 'inverted' I mean that I'm supposed to PUSH down my pelvis/spine and NOT arch it in any way!

    I agree with Angela, that any therapist you use should have proven experience with working with spine conditions.

    You sometimes have to be your own advocate and, if anything your therapist has asked you to do causes you more pain, you must tell them!

    Perhaps you'll let us all know how your next sessions goes?

    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • For what it's worth. After a 15 month stint of 7 lumbar surgeries through the same posterior muscles, I couldn't find relief from spasms not matter what the PT folks tried. I was too afraid to try massage therapy, since even light massage of the area caused too much pain. My doc did a series of Botox injections every 3 months for just over a year and it calmed the spasms and allowed the muscles to heal.

  • PTs are like doctors. There are good, bad, and mediocre. Many different mindsets as well!

    Maybe call your doctor and ask what he thinks? My most recent PT didn't put in a pelvic tilt until we had done passive strengthening and worked on the spasms for quite a while. So that's one way in which PTs can really vary.

    There is another type of PT called "The Mackenzie type" where everybody has to do extensions. That has never worked well for me!

    So if you feel like this PT just went to fast for you, maybe try another one? Talk to your doctor :)
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