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No help from doctors. What can I do?

Hello all,

I hesitated in joining this forum because I'm not the type who likes to complain. However, I've come to the point that I need some advice from those who understand what I'm going through.

Ten years ago I worked for a construction company and screwed up my mid back ( the doc says it's between t9 and t11ish). I was lifting something FAR heavier than I should have been and I felt a pop followed by excruciating pain. I was laid out in bed for a few weeks until I could move around without pain. The doctor I saw insisted that it was merely muscle damage and it would heal. I was able to go back to work, but my back has never been the same. Over the years it has just randomly locked up on me when I'very been doing mundane things like sitting down on a couch or walking. During these times the doctors I saw would just give me some hydrocodone and flexeril, insist it was just muscle inflammation, and send me on my way. During those years I've been married, had five kids, worked my way through my undergraduate studies, and now I'm about to graduate law school. I've always just pushed through the pain and taken lots of NSAID's because I didn't have time to let pain stop me.

Over the past couple of years, however, the problem has become worse. I've become debilitated with pain on a number of occasions recently, and each time I go to a doctor they insist it's merely muscle problems. It has become apparent to me that this simply isn't the case. The pain has always been directly on my spine. On the 4th of July I ended up in the ER with pain in both my back and solar plexus that felt like someone was hacking at my nerves with a dull blade (I can't really describe it, but it was intense and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was bawling like a baby). I'm a "shut up and deal with it" kind of guy, so hearing me screams freaked my wife out and she broke every traffic law imaginable getting me to the hospital. Apparently the doctor thought I was exhibiting drug-seeking behavior because he was really reluctant to give me any pain meds (as if a $2,000 ER bill is the most economical way for a drug addict to get high, right?). He finally relented when my wife got pissed off at him.

So, an MRI and three doctors later...no one can figure out what the problem is. The MRI looks normal, but two doctors have noticed I have a vertebrate that moves freely back and forth. One suspects scar tissue from the original injury was getting inflamed and pinching nerves, thus causing the severe pain I felt the day I went to the ER (which THANKFULLY has not repeated itself), while another suspects ligaments causing my problem. Because the MRI shows normal they all throw their hands up in the air and say there isn't much that can be done.

So, here's the problem: My back hasn't stopped hurting since the 4th of July. At best it's annoying, as if someone is constantly poking me with a sharp stick. At worst I have to dope myself up on hydrocodone or tramadol (I can no longer take NSAID's; too many over the years have caused stomach issues) and lay in bed. Since the doctors feel there is nothing they can do they have basically told me that I have to learn to deal with it. I refuse to live my life on opiates and lay in a bed. I have a family that needs supported, a wife who needs a husband, and five kids who need a dad.

My question is this: What can I do to improve my quality of life? What have any of you found outside the realm of pharmaceuticals that help with the pain and help you get through the day?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time.


  • My first thought was wow! Not a good wow.... I am not a dr, nurse, emt or any other type of medical person BUT yeah I would say it is safe to guess something other then muscle is going on.
    Other then pain - when this is at it's worst what other signs do you have? Does the pain stay in one specific area?

    My second thought was - what type of Drs have you seen?

    I have experienced and/or read many many back injury stories and just from that alone I think the pop & pain you felt many yrs ago was a disk "blowing out". Much like you I felt the same thing the first time I blew out a disk. Rest, some meds and a few weeks later I was pretty much back to normal again. Off & on over the yrs I would get different levels of pain and pretty much go through the same cycle of rest & meds, ice, heat etc.

    and then IT hit the fan!!!!! I fell down & just the way I landed the time bomb that had been ticking inside me quietly except for those flare ups here & there just blew wide open & took a few more disks with them :(

    My daughter had 3 MRI that showed nothing - finally had a CT & that showed quite a mess going on. My point is maybe the right tests for YOU have not been done.

    Figure out what works best for you as far as ice/heat etc. Ice for me is horrible, heat & me are buddies :)

    I also find PT to be horrible for me but swimming laps in a heated pool - wonderful.

    I can understand you not wanting to do the Dr/tests game again but...I would hate to see your "bomb" go off! Find a Dr that is willing to work with until....... a answer is found.

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • and welcome to the forum.

    What kind of doctors have you been to? Have you seen a fellowship trained orthro/neuro surgeon? Ones that only deal with spine issues?

    What other tests have been done other then a MRI. Have you had flez/ext x-rays done. a CT scan, any PT or injections done to try to help out.

    Sometimes it takes a few doctors for them to find out what the real problem might be. Don't give up looking if your told to just live with it. That to me says a doctor isn't going to look any further and its time to look for a new one.

    We will see what other have to say.

    Good luck.
  • reynarreyna Posts: 9
    edited 11/19/2012 - 11:03 AM
    I say if you're still in pain, then find a dr that will do more tests. It took 7 months for a dr to figure out that my cervical herniations were actually that and not just a muscle spasm from poor computer posture. And I wonder if it might have been better if someone would have caught it sooner... I would say get another MRI or maybe a CT myelogram if you're still left without answers. (I also can't believe the dr's that think we really want to spend 10k on an ER visit to get 10 percocet....rolling my eyes.)
  • Peter BPPeter B Posts: 511
    edited 11/19/2012 - 9:52 PM
    Not sure what you mean by 'only muscle problems.'
    Were you hoping for something more serious sounding?
    From my experience you shouldn't underestimate the extreme pain that muscles can cause when they are in trouble. I've had some agonising episodes from them.

    They work really hard letting you move, stay upright, and so on, yet we rarely think of them needing any TLC.

    Typically, general practice doctors are not much help with this sort of problem.

    I'd suggest a visit to a physio for a hands-on spine check up, and then a sports/ remedial massage to see what is wrong with your muscles.
    Works for me.
    Muscle problems don't show on MRIs or X rays. You need a hands-on check.
  • laneygirlllaneygirl Posts: 31
    edited 12/28/2012 - 10:00 AM
    I haven't even read your whole post yet, but can already relate to the sentiment so far. I feel my situation may be similar, and still trying to familiarize myself with how to get the best care for my situation. I will be learning many things as I read more. I was reluctant to join this site, because I don't like complaining either. But getting it out of your system will be really helpful for me. It's a good outlet so far for tracking my thoughts as I learn more. Thank you for your post -- you are not alone : )
  • laneygirlllaneygirl Posts: 31
    edited 12/28/2012 - 10:05 AM
    Finding the right tests, that is what I need to be mindful of as well. I have been to two doctors who haven't been very helpful with getting my issues addressed, and it feels kind of isolating. I am still learning about my particular issues, and will be trying to find opinions on isolating the most efficient way to find out what is going on. Thank you for this post, I have learned alot! Again, you are not alone, and your post has been a great help. Best of luck to you and everyone else as well.
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