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Scared - Could Use Some Support

343v3433343v343 Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in New Member Introductions
33/M. Fit, otherwise healthy. Previously very active and athletic. No MVA's or trauma to spine - Have been fighting back issues for about 6 months now, with symptoms getting progressively worse. Very scared and depressed at what the future holds, especially when reading some of the awful and chilling posts on this site. My heart breaks horribly for so many of you, and I fear I may be joining you before too long.

My issues:
Started with hand nerve issues both sides, did a cervical MRI which came back normal. Did EMG/NCV which was also relatively normal so issue is/was thought to be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Has since progressed to mid back and lower (SI) joint pain. Now it hurts (2 out of 10 scale) to stand for more than 15 minutes or sit in a chair for extended lengths. I get sciatica from time to time and I also have really bad TMJ issues because of back neck issues. Basically I'm messed up top to bottom.

Have seen 3 Neuros. 2 Chiros. Tried PT for 3 months, with little improvement long term. Some days better, some days worse.

Right now the pain is somewhat tolerable, it's more of a nuisance. But 6 mos. ago I was completely symptom free. And I am aware many people even on this site would give anything to be where I am. So I am grateful where I am, today. But I am frightful for tomorrow. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do my occupation (desk work) and I don't have any disability being that I am self employed. I am newly married and I am fearful my marriage would not last through me being in disabling chronic pain. I know I am not there yet, but I am not prepared emotionally or physically and the trend of my symptoms is disturbing. They're getting progressively worse and spreading by the day.

I am set to see an Ortho. this coming Wednesday where they will start with a lumbar x-ray my lower back I assume. Guessing it won't show much of anything - as I have read many do not.

Thoughts are that most of my issues are tissue, muscles, posture, or severe inflammation related but I can't be sure. How can I know? Even if they were mechanical, I am not sure how I would honestly deal with them. And it doesn't make the pain any different. I don't want to consider back surgery unless I am completely out of options - and without any clear target I am not sure that would even be an option for me.

Feeling very scared and depressed because I read of so many people who relegated to opiates and chronic pain for the rest of their days. I fear that I am headed there as I can't see any improvement in my symptoms. Wondering if there is anything I can do to stave that off. I still try to remain active and mobile as I know it helps to keep the joints moving in the back.

Just so down because I can almost touch the days prior where I was a "normal" symptom free person. I am not even married a year and my poor wife has had to face the possibility of me not being able to work or a medical condition which has yet to be fully identified.

Could use some encouraging stories of people who have managed to get better or find a way to cope with the nagging discomfort. Hard when the majority of people here have signatures with multiple surgeries, drugs taken, etc. Scary to think I could ever be in that group but I know it's an indiscriminate ailment and nobody deserves this sort of agony.

Anyone else have major back pain WITHOUT herniations or DDD? Is it possible muscles can cause this chronically? Is there any hope?



  • I don't want to belittle what you feel but I'd kill for a 2 out of 10. Have you tried any physical therapy? That's where most treatment begins. Staying active is smart. I to work a desk job and have a timer on my desk that I set for every 30 minutes to remind me to get up and move around.

    It takes a long time to figure out some spinal problems. The fact that the MRI and EMG shows nothing is a plus on your side. Could your problem be stress related? Just trying to throws some stuff at the wall.

  • @dave --

    Fair point and I am terribly sorry if my fear seems insensitive or callous. I realize a vast majority of people on this blog have it far, far worse. I guess I am just befuddled at what my options are. So far the doctors simply want to discard me to a pain management clinic and I am really nervous of going down the pathway of treating the symptom and not the problem. I guess I am just looking for something positive. It seems most people on here have had no success with injections or conservative measures. Is it just that only the worst case scenario winds up on this site, or that this complex issue really has no hope.

    I guess I am just scared at what my outcome may be and if I've just touched the tip of the iceberg with all of this. Scared too of not being able to work with worsening symptoms.

    Pain is bad enough, (and again, I am not in any way trying to compare - because there's no point), but I am just worried about the progressive nature of the symptoms. If they'd level off I think I could rest a little easier. It sounds like you are able to keep your job which I hope I am too.

  • A very small percentage of people land on Spine Health with chronic issues. Don't take everything you read here as the gospel. Most people get better and move on and are never to be heard from again. You should try the conservative measure to see if they can help.

  • First off, Welcome to Spine Health! I won't address the pain levels as I don't feel it is the important issue here, but the increasing symptoms. Has anyone checked you for Fibromyalgia? It is a nerve dysfunction that can give body wide issues as well.

    A former co-worker (I'm retired now) had it, and her EMG/NVC's too showed pretty normal, but physical exams and other tests (not sure what all they did as I don't have it), they determined she had it. They put her on Lyrica (nerve pain medication) and she is pretty good most days now. Just a thought.

    One other thing, continue being your own advocate. If you don't find answers, keep looking, believe me, YOU know your body better than anyone else will ever!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I understand where you are at as my condition is similar and was also brought on through sports and other physical activities.

    While each individual on this site is somewhat uniquely different in his/her pain categorisation, you've stated that your concern is that your pain may become, or is getting, progressively worse.

    I reached a point where my pain was unbearable and a series of MRIs and flexion X Rays highlighted some degeneration ( by "some" I mean numerous herniated and two sequestrated disks)from C4 to C7 and also from L3 to S1. While it seems that I have permanently lost most feeling in my right index finger and adjoining thumb and middle finger, the cervical region is less painful than the lumbar. Your pain with standing too long, sitting in one position, etc, seems "painfully normal" and something that I've learnt to cope with. However, I have managed to break my pain cycle by having a facet injection two months ago and getting myself into a daily routine of light, cardiovascular-type exercises, which includes cycling and pilates but excludes any impact activity such as running and/or torsional activities such as golf, tennis, etc. While my pain level has increased since the injection, it has not returned to the same level experienced prior to the injection.

    Unfortunately, the injection does not necessarily work on everyone. Your pain specialist should be able to provide further insights.

    Hang in there.
  • I understand how scary and depressing this can be. But do not worry too much about the worst that can happen. As someone else wrote, most people heal and get better. It can take a while, but it will likely happen for you.

    Years ago my back pain got worse and worse. Then it would get a little better, to be followed by another bout of severe pain. At its worse, I was on the floor for a few days taking opiates because I could not get up.

    But I followed my doctor's and physical therapist's advice. To the routine I was given I added a few exercises, stretches, and relaxation techniques of my own, which turned out to make a huge difference. And I tried to be patience while my body healed.

    I still get some back pain every now and then, but it is nothing like what I experienced before. And it does not last nearly as long.

    So there is hope, a great deal of it. I wish you good luck, and I pray for God's grace to help you through this.
  • Hi 343,

    Although I have several health issues including and not limited to my back/neck I have done pretty well considering, for over 20 years. I was able to function, work, and enjoy my life to a fair degree. I really believe that all one can do is not worry too much, and take care of things as they come up. Anyone of us could have a life changing moment to deal with but there is most often nothing; aside from good common sense, to apply to situations in general. I now have to admit to not doing so great these past several months but I guess you just have to take the good days with the bad, no matter how much that sucks sometimes. I live for the most part at a 4-6 pain level which is bearable and sometimes it can get much worse.

    You need to try any and all that might just work for you prior to any surgery. You'll know if and when that time comes. No one likes to be reliant on drugs but sometimes one has no choice. First off, have you tried any natural or alternative things? They do help some people. To at least break the pain cycle is a momentous thing for some. Do you have alot of stress? Try a massage, maybe acupuncture, research up on turmeric, slant boards, joint friendly exercise, good music, or just some R&R. If you try hard enough to feel good, maybe you will see some improvement with some of these things. Epidurals helped me for several years although they no longer help. Do what you can to get yourself in a "good shape." And most importantly, find a good doctor who will work with you. I was able to go through the past several years without many pain meds by utilising some of these things. Maybe seeing a good internist or rheumatologist could help identify or diagnose your problems better. You just have to try different modalities to see what might relieve your pain. Also, just a note that emotions can make one hurt, too. Good luck on feeling better!
  • Welcome to Spine Health. From your posts it seems like you are a troubleshooter and in some ways a mechanic or someone who thinks like one. Sort of like instead of just changing the oil in your car on a regular schedule, change it with a synthetic oil and top of the line filter and set up the appointment for your next oil change before you even leave the garage from the current one. Its a great way to keep your car as healthy as possible for a long and fruitful life (or whatever a car has).

    With our bodies, we grow up learning to prevent illness and injury by eating right, exercising and getting plenty of rest. If we do those things then we should live a long and fruitful life. Somewhere along the line our spine tries to throw a curve or a detour. It's a frightening experience especially since we can't just put a band-aid on it or get some rest and make it all go away. Then throw in the stigma of someone being a slacker who claims they have a bad back only to use it as an excuse for their own laziness or lack of motivation. Combine all of that and it makes us want to find a permanent fix as fast as we can. Unfortunately as you have already seen on here and have begun to experience for yourself, it just doesn't happen that fast or as fast as we'd like.

    I too worried what my spine issues would do to my marriage, because I started having spine related issues treated during the first year we were married. I kept telling my husband that he got a lemon or a defective model and I half expected one day that he would throw me back or ask for a refund. Instead I have found him to be a tremendous source of strength whether he knows it or not, to get me through everything. He also pointed out to me that it is his choice how he deals with my spine issues and not mine. So I am not to make any assumptions or "put words in his mouth" in that regard.

    My husband and I have learned that to be successful in managing life with chronic pain and spine issues, we have to take life one day at a time. Not to sound cliche or like and advertisement for a rehab center, but seriously it's a moment by moment, day by day attitude that we have adopted to deal with it. Otherwise it is just too overwhelming.

    Hang in there and see what the ortho guy has to say. Try not to project what tests and imaging may or may not show. You can't live your life today fretting about an unknown outcome tomorrow or next week or next month. Live in the day and make it the best day you can.

    Best wishes,

  • Hi 343. Spine can be very complicated and very hard to find where and what is causing the pain sometimes.

    I was around your age when my back problem started just around the time i got married. The stress from back pain and going from dr to dr because they cant find whats causing it caused me a divorse among other issues of course not medical related.

    I was also self employed, in the construction business and these medical issues dont help not knowing what the future holds. There are so many medical conditions out there i never knew about that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and so on.

    Sometimes its not just 1 thing causing these issues and multiple symptoms can cause a lot of confusion in the medical field.

    All you can hope for is that its nothing very serious if mri and exrays dont show anything. But your symptoms are giving you the red flag to try and manage a more healthy activity to get beter with pt and home exercises to get muscles back in balance and hope it resolves itself.

    Many think surgery is the answer and thats not always the case. Many get beter on there own and never need surgery. Many get worse after surgery especialy of its not a spine stability issue that shows up on exray usualy or mri.

    There are sure also many people who were good candidates for surgery and they got beter with surgery. But dr,s know surgery has high risk of causing many other spine issues so them sending you to pain clinic is not writing you off they just trying to do the right thing.

    Injections can help reduce inflammation and with pt and further exercises many heal and never have to have surgery and end up here.

    Good luck
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Husband got a lemon? Lol. Good 1. He could not return you cause he got no warranty. Lol.

    I had an extended warranty so i was able to return my ex wife after 2 years lol

    I probably did her a favor actualy not having to deal with this.
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Thank you all for the kind words. I know I am not alone and I don't mean to sound insensitive to those who are worse off. I guess I am just very scared and concerned about keeping a somewhat tolerable mid level pain from becoming debilitating. Thus far, the trend is not pointing at all in the right direction.

    Surgery would be an absolute last resort for me, unless there was substantial evidence I would be a high probability for success. I also don't want to go down the injection road if the relief is only a couple of weeks. Seems like more emotional torture for a short lived result, only to wind up back at square one.

    I am literally petrified of being in chronic pain, unable to be an active mobile person anymore. Just in denial I guess, I know there is little I can do to help something that is mechanical or genetic. But trying to believe my life isn't over and trying to believe I can still have some sort of normal existence.
  • You are allowed to worry, even if others are worse off than you. Just keep your condition in perspective, focus on the positives in your life, and never give up.
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