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Seeking Advice

RanmaRanmaRRanmaRanma Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Chronic Pain
Hello everyone I'm new to the forums.

I've had lumbar back problems since I was about 12 (I'm 28 now). However, after losing over 100 lbs and spending the last 10 years of my life weight lifting at a gym, I managed to keep the pain under control. I was able to play basketball and do whatever I wanted. Sometimes I had to ice my back afterwords but I was pretty normal.

The last 6 months have not been as kind though. The real pain began about a year before that but I was still going to the gym and living a normal life. However, I had to quit everything 6 months ago. I am now having pain in my thoracic and lumbar regions. I find myself unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes. I'm unable to attend the gym. I can't even go walking. Pain starts to set in and it just builds and builds the longer I do anything. Even sitting can be painful. It all depends on the chair really. Once the pain sets in it can take days to ease up even if I spend all that time in bed, sitting and taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease. Several doctors all told me it was mild and unworthy of surgery. Just today I came home from a specialist who told me that DDD should not be impairing my walking or standing like it is. His one suggestion was to have an MRI on my neck which I have not scheduled yet. I had one on my lower and upper back and the results were mild DDD with bulging. My neck doesn't really hurt though. Rarely it will but nothing to the effect of the rest of my back. I have no insurance and no one will take me with my pre-existing condition (I've tried) so just doing the MRI to see isn't a no-brainer.

So my real question is does anyone here have any idea of what might be my problem and what kind of doctor should I see? Every doctor I go to shoe me out the door saying DDD creates pain so that must be it but surely mild DDD shouldn't be so inhibiting.

I'm sure DDD is what gave me all the back problems I dealt with for years but this new pain is different. My upper back never hurt until now. It's like my back is tired. It just aches and doesn't let up. I can't see myself working like this, not even a desk job. No doctor has really helped me so far and it seems like no one knows what to do. I miss basketball and the gym so bad. I feel like my body is wasting away sitting and lying down all day. What should I do?


  • for these dingalings to figure it out. Get on some medication that will control the pain so you can have somewhat of a life. Your too young to be sitting around in pain all day - thats crazy. Find a doc that specializes in pain management - which is usually a clinic. Take your recent MRI reports, etc., and tell them how you are feeling. Good luck youngster!
  • I'm 49 years old and i've lived with chronic pain since I was in my teens. My back hurt no matter what I did. I have been to so many doctors and surgons and no one ever really gives me an answer. I maybe wrong for doing so, but I've gotten a bad aditude against doctors, they are all xxxx. I go to pain management now every month and my additude is give me my pain meds and let me go to the house and hurt. No one or anything has ever helped so why keep looking?

    Post edited, doctor bashing is not permitted on Spine-Health

    Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Administrator 03/08/11
  • The only thing the doctors see on my MRI is DDD. However, as I said, they label it as mild DDD and say it shouldn't be creating as much pain as I'm in. I'm looking for a cause of the pain.

    The pain doesn't become a problem until standing for a short while, sitting in certain chairs, doing anything athletic or lifting things. Otherwise the pain is more uncomfortable than anything. But don't get me wrong when it hurts, it's bad, and the pain will persist for days once it reaches that point even when I get off my feet.

    What I'm asking here is if anyone has a similar situation or knows what it is that could be the cause of my pain. As I said before, the doctors have said that mild DDD shouldn't be inhibiting my life like it is.

    I realize this isn't a place to get officially diagnosed but if there's anyone that has an idea of what I may be experiencing then please let me know. I'm trying to look outside DDD.

    As I said I had back problems for years and they were a lot like my diagnosis with DDD says but this newer pain is different and far worse.

    Or if you have a suggestion to what kind of doctor I should see then that helps too. I've been to the family doctor, to a surgeon, and to a neuro-specialist at the least.

    Thanks for all replies so far and forthcoming. I don't hate doctors. I'm not upset, I'm just looking for help.
  • I was going to say maybe a neurologist, but I see above that you've been already. Have you tried maybe an ortho who specializes in the spine? you may not need surgery, but that type might be able to tell you what's wrong. The unfortunate thing though, is that the MRI is probably the best way to see what the issue is. I too, have DDD in my lower back, mild to moderate from L4-S1, and the symptoms you describe, are pretty much the same as mine. You also mentioned buldges, maybe something is pressing on a nerve.

    Marion above mentioned pain management above. Unfortunately, there isn't much they can do for DDD, except pm. I get trigger point injections, and it does help, but for me, only a few hours. So if you have to pay for them yourself, it might not be worth it, if you try and it doesn't last long for you either. I also have sciatica and problems with the SI joint, I've also had joint injections done which have helped tremendously.

    Sorry I couldn't be much help. Good luck, and I hope you find relief soon.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Thanks for the support.

    It's funny you mention injections because the family doctor and surgeon mentioned that but when I asked the neurologist about it he said it wasn't necessary. They also mentioned physical therapy when he said it wouldn't help either. I figure since I spent 10 years training my back that PT wouldn't help anyway but I hadn't mentioned that to him. However, he was the one who said my condition shouldn't be causing so much pain to stand and yet you say you have the same issue. I dunno who to trust.

    It's all confusing. The hardest part is figuring out what to do about it. I never did the injections. I was worried about the side effects of steroids and also the cost. I suppose I should try it right? It's probably a far cry for me to expect to ever be able to go back to the gym or do anything athletic even if I manage to control the pain. Is that safe to assume? I'm having trouble coming to grips with it to be honest.
  • Don't give up hope!! There actually are a couple of other members here who are back to the gym, and even weight lifting!

    Is that the only neuro you've seen? Maybe getting another opinion might be a good idea, if that's possible for you.

    The unfortunate thing about all of this, is that it's all trial and error to find what works for you to find relief. It also might take a few different things that you have to do or need to get relief as well. The site Admin here, Ron, has what he calls "The Blend". It's all different types of things you can do from meds, to relaxation techniques, to help dealing with pain. Sadly, there's no one magic pill or thing that we can do, it sometimes takes a blend of several things. You can find The Blend under the FAQ section, if you're interested.

    Another thought, while talking about that, have you ever tried aqua therapy? It's pool work, a good workout if you want it to be, and still strengthens muscle but is low impact, so much better on the body.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Yes that's the only neuro I've seen and I've never had aqua therapy. I really don't think muscle strength is the issue though considering I've been strength training my back for 10 years. Unless you mean to do it for exercise. I'm doing some floor exercises for my back now but it's very minimal.

    I'll look into the blend. Thanks for all the help.
  • No problem at all, that's what we're here for! And yes, just meant it for exercise, just to keep loose and limber. It's so much worse if you don't get some sort of exercise in, I'm admittedly probably a prime example of that. But having the good strength already, helps you more! Good luck, and keep us posted on how things go! Take care;
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • In 2001 MRI showed I had a prolapse of L5/S1 disc and bulge of L4/L5. Long story short MRI 6 years later showed only minor bulges in lower three levels with normal disc height and no nerve compression.

    I still experienced moderate to severe bouts of lumbar pain with sciatic pain to my knee and tingling in my foot. At its worst I was only able to go out for 30 - 40 minutes at a time and would then come home and lie down for 2 -3 hours to recover. Setbacks would take 4 - 5 months to recover to the point where I could go out for 1 1/2 hours before having to rest. Excersise involved 30 min walking morning and 20 min at night. Sitting was always very painful. I could sit maximum about 30 minutes on a good day.

    Physios advised not to bend forward so I didn't. Result was after 10 years a severley stiff back and pain with sitting or standing.

    New MRI in 2011 again shows minor disc bulges in the lower three levels so I went back to a different physio and showed him the results. He assessed me and picked up the stiffness and shortness of my back muscles from not using my back normally. Finally after 10 years of agony we figured out that the continuing pain on sitting and standing and setbacks once or twice a year was due to muscle shortness and stiffness.

    With a gentle stretching regime (based on the McKenzie Method) four times a day (involving flexions lying down and hamstring stretch and buttocks stretch but always followed by an extension stretch to protect the discs) I have been able to resolve my pain by 70/80 % after only 2 months. I can sit with no pain for an hour. I can go out for 2 - 3 hours with no pain and am resting very little. I have hope for the first time in 10 years. I can feel my back muscles lengthening, stretching and can feel the blood rushing to my lower back each time I do this regime, like my back is coming back to life!!

    Note: I had tried these stretches previously but was too aggressive with them which caused setbacks. Learning to listen to my body was key.

    Sorry for the long version but I am enthused. Hope this helps in some way. :)))
  • I first started with a disc herniation and then it healed and I have mild DDD throughout my lumbar spine. I went for Physiotherapy and aquatherapy with a Physiotherapist. Even a Physiatrist(sports medicine Dr. who may or may not do injections but shows your exercises you could do) I've also seen a Pain Management for injections that help for a short time.

    Go to a University hospital to get free medical care since you have no insurance call around. Are you on any social Government benefits to get you some healthcare insurance? I hope you get some relief and find a Dr. who will help with your pain soon. 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
  • That's a great story sjs and I'm very happy for you. It's inspiring. I do some floor exercises along with some stretching beforehand. When my back feels good I try to do it once per day. Sometimes I get those "setbacks" you mention where I'm in bed for like a week so it's hard for me to do it then. I hear DDD can actually get better so maybe it will for me but I'd rather be surprised than let down so I'm trying to accept it as a lifetime issue that could potentially get worse.

    I do not have any insurance and have not found any that will help me. I can't say I'm the best or smartest when it comes to these things though so maybe I'm missing something. If you know a program that could help an unemployed, pre-existing condition, student then hit me up.

    I appreciate the support from everyone here. It has certainly been helpful and up-lifting.
  • Hi Ranma! I started by reading Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie. You can buy it from Amazon for $10. Read it carefully and follow it to the letter. Great starting point and also great for working out what might be the problem with your back.

    There is also a Treat Your Own Neck book - I have a dodgy neck too!

    I think that you need to stretch more than once a day if you are very stiff.

    Good luck! Stay positive :)))
  • It is hard for any of us to give you an answer that will help you specifically. I have DDD and my father has it, mine is not yet severe but my dad has to take pills like they werer candy just to function, he was unable to work past the age of 34. I am 49 and will work until I can't move cause once you stop....
    You state that your back is strong from weight lifting, but if your muscles are out of balance it may be part of the problem. DDD and out of balance muscles could equal pain. Physical Therapy does teach you core strengthening, it has helped me in the past, but now am in constant pain.
    I hope you can find someone to assist you, don't give up on trying therapy or even nerve blocks, they do work for some people.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • I dont really get a stiff back. My lower back will get stiff but not that often. Some over the counter stuff like Bufferin helps with that. It's mostly my middle back that just hurts when I stand. It feels like it's tired. And it gets worse and worse by the minute. Once it reaches that point no medication or amount of lying on my back relieve it. It can take a week to come down with bufferin and the like.

    I really can't imagine how it could be weak muscles when I spent 10 years weight lifting and most of that time without any pain. My muscles are stronger now than they were then for sure. That's what makes this so complicated. I know I have DDD but the symptoms don't really seem to add up, or maybe they do and I don't know it.

    Thanks for the book suggestion, I'll look into it and I know you guys don't just have an answer for what the deal is. It's just good to talk to people with similar experiences and get some support and help. Thanks.
  • It sounds a lot like mine was before I started the stretches. The pain and spasming was mostly my middle back. No one could figure it out but then when the physio tested my flexibility in my hamstrings and back it became obvious that the muscles had shortened.

    If I overstretch my back suddenly now I still get a spasm in the middle back but just let it settle down on its own and then go back to the stretching.

    I realised that I needed to accept that there was a simple answer to my chronic pain even after 10 years.

    It's possible that your back is strong from the gym but also inflexible.
  • It may be but I I also did treadmill, basketball, sit-ups and crunches nightly at home and other things. I was quit active. I'm doing stretches now along with some floor exercises to strengthen my back. Haven't noticed any improvements so far (been doing this about 3-4 months or so) but I don't plan to quit. I don't want my back to get weaker, that could lead to more pain.
  • Hi Ranma, I am a 'young' 73 yr.old woman,diagnosed w/spinal stenosis in 2000,though having back pain through the years it has grown to excrutiating pain in the thoracic & lumbar area plus sciatica. After 6 ortho & neuro surgeons + pain management doctors, steroid injections that did NO good,and also diagnosed recently with SEL which is a fat deposit on or around my spine in the lumbar region,I too am doing the 'dance' with all the above doctors.I am scheduled now next Tues. for Facet Injections,into the joints of my spine,(knocking me out thank goodness)for relief of pain and diagnostic to see if my pain is coming from the Facet Joints. I have OsteoArthritis, no Osteoporosis as many women have,but arthritis seems to be the culprit with all of my problems.I've had cervical discectomy w/fusion,and now more DDD around the metal cage that was 'installed' in the cervical spine. I laid in bed again this a.m. thinking "okay, I will do some exercises that Dr.Oz recommended"since I cannot get down on the floor to do exercises,it made my pain worse.I take care of my great-grandson 1 day a wk.and will push him around the block several times each week,though the next 3 days I suffer for it.I am covered by Medicare/and Secondary Ins. (so far) though Medicare is tightening their restrictions on surgery,I can tell.I had 28 treatments w/a chiropractor that has helped many people but not me..
    after paying out-of-pocket $6,000.If you have a chiropractor that has a DRX-9000 decompression facility,it has helped many people,maybe would help you too since you are younger than I am.It also straightens your spine which is often the cause of much pain,being out-of-balance.I am in Texas,I know all Chiropractors do not have this type 'decompression' but check on it.They have pay programs that might help so you don't have to pay all up front. Good luck! BonnieB :?
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