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23 yr old running out of options


I am a 23 yr old female who has had low back pain since I was 12 yrs old (I can thank my family's history with back problems and dance career for the young start). I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease and have a slight herniation at L5-S1 and L5-L4. I have done lots of physical therapy (at various locations) which provides some relief but not enough anymore. I have also done nerve ablation on S1-L5, L5-L4 and L4-L3, which provides relief for about five months or so but is very expensive and takes about six weeks to complete the entire process. I would rather not continue to do this as it is not providing as much relief as I was hoping for. Every doctor I have seen has told me that there is nothing else that they can do for me since the pain is not radiating down my leg. No doctor wants to fuse the spine of a 23 yr old. I have also tried acupuncture and did not have a good experience with that.
The chronic pain is beginning to really take a toll on my mental health and it is hard to get through my work days due to the pain and lack of sleep at night. I would rather not have to limit my activities for the rest of my life and am tired of having to always sit out of things. I am looking for anyone who has a similar problem and has had success with some type of treatment! Please help!


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,747
    edited 12/13/2012 - 6:43 AM
    Welcome to Spine-Health. I hope you will find your time here rewarding. Take advantage of the extensive library of medical articles and videos that
    cover almost every known spinal problem. In addition, you can read about the various spinal conditions and treatments, and things you can do day to day to help your situation (exercises, bedding/mattresses) and more The member online forums is a free feature provided by the Spine-Health company.
    Here you will find thousands of other members, many in the same situation you are. You can ask questions, get responses and many times
    the member community can act as a support group.

    I would strongly encourage you to real the Forum Rules and the Forum FAQ. Doing that will make it much easier navigating through Spine-Health.

    You are never too young or too old to experience spinal related problems.
    You are almost never out of options. You need to work with your doctor to come up with a plan to try all the conservative treatments.
    • Physical Thearpy
    • Aqua Therapy
    • Traction
    • Tens Unit
    • Deep Tissue Massage Therapy
    • Spinal Injections (ESI
    • Trigger Point Injections
    • Acupuncture
    Many times, you need to do one or all the above several times before you start to see results. You mention you did not have a good experience with acupuncture. How did that? Was it a doctor or a Licensed Person. It can make a difference. That is something you might want to reconsider.

    Since there is no radiating pain down the leg, I assume your doctors feel that you do not have a nerve impingement. That can be good. Many people have worked out spinal problems through conservative treatments without even thinking of surgery.

    You never mentioned any medications that you are currently taken. Some medications can go a long way in helping with the healing process.

    As far a no doctor wants to fuse a 23 year old. IF the situation warrants a fusion, then doctors would suggest that option regardless of your age
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I too am new to this forum and have been having pain for a long time. I am 29 and have been in multiple accidents which has left me with numerous herniated discs in low back and neck and a cracked c7 which did not heal. That part is now growing spurs. I have leg pain and they would do a fusion but, I choose not to. I have had a discectomy at l5 s1 and have tried tons of things. At your age, I would suggest trying to strengthen your back and neck as much as possible before things get worse and you are not able to. That means strengthening your tummy and also your legs! That can go a very long way. I know that at any age, it is easy to get into a cycle of depression. You think why me, what did I do to deserve this, I will never get better, the list goes on. Positivity goes a long way too. If you think your life is over, it WILL be over.
    I don't know what meds you are taking, but I would strongly advise not to take narcotic unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Anti depressants can go a long way too. Ask your doc about somatization disorder. this can actually cause the REAL pain you are having from actual injuries to be multiplied by 100. IT DOES NOT MEAN IT IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD.
    These are all simply suggestions to explore. Dilauro is right, no nerve impingement is a very good thing! Keep your head up and stay positive. No matter the situation, you can still live an amazing life with tons of fulfillment, you just may need to take it easy some days. I know I rambled on, hope it helps and truly hope you get better!
  • chibipinkbunnycchibipinkbunny Posts: 19
    edited 12/17/2012 - 3:54 AM
    *Hugs* I too was a ballet dancer and have degenerative disc disease in my family. My mother's spine has all but collapsed, and she's needed multiple fusions. The good news is that each surgery has helped her, but the bad is that with each surgery she had, it placed a lot more pressure on adjacent discs, which sped up the degeneration.

    About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with bulging discs in my neck and I had neuralgia radiating into my arm. I was 26 at the time and am 28 now. Ugh, it felt like electricity going down my arm. There's no other way to describe it. Then about 2 months ago my lower back went out on me. I've also been dealing with horrible hip issues. Tore my right hip labrum with ballet, had to quit. Had surgery on the right side. A year later, just as I was pain free on the right hip, I tore my left hip. Took about 1.5 years to diagnose, and I just had surgery. My back and neck pain got horrible post op because I was super non mobile. I'm working on getting another cortisone shot in my neck. I also just recovered from a four year bout of Achille's tendonitis, which was caused by ballet. The only reason I recovered is because of my hip injury. I had to stay at home and do nothing. I was couchbound, so that allowed my Achille's tendon to heal. I actually think I have a form of hypermobility syndrome, which makes my connective tissue weaker than normal.

    I actually see nothing wrong with narcotic pain medication. I'm a pharmacist so I know the risks involved, and that they can potentially be addicting. Yes, that is true, but if they help you live a somewhat normal life instead of being couchbound, I think they're a blessing. I've met with a lot of resistance getting adequate pain relief because I'm so young, and they don't want to put a young person on narcotics for chronic pain. Well that's easy for the doctors to say. I've been in so much pain that I stopped eating and couldn't sleep. I lost 25 pounds, and now have an anorexic BMI. I was always thin, but now I'm really thin. I have to force myself to eat. I can't eat when I'm in severe pain, I just can't. It feels like forcing food down my throat. And hunger is just another pain, and it's much less severe than my hips and back.

    At this point you've been suffering for about 12 years, so I think you've suffered enough :( At a certain point the damage to your nerves can become almost irreversible, so you don't want to wait that long. It's definitely harder because you're so young. Perhaps a fusion now will speed up the degeneration, but at a certain point you'll have your whole back fused so it won't matter. How many spinal surgeons have you seen? I would keep seeing them until you find one willing to work with you. Remind them that you've been suffering for 12 years with debilitating back pain, and conservative therapy has not helped significantly. Oh I forgot to ask if you'd had a cortisone shot. They helped take away the pain and neuralgia in my neck by like 70% It was pretty amazing! It lasted for over a year too.

    Being young makes it extra tough :( And you're even younger than me. . . I just barely graduated pharmacy school last year. I was in college for 9 years, graduated, and could not work because of my hip pain. I have $140,000 in student loans too. So I have no savings to help with my medical bills. I'm married to a nice guy, but he's had a lot of trouble understanding these issues. And I also want to have a baby, but with chronic pain, no money, and pain medicine that makes it very difficult!
  • nhitz said:
    The chronic pain is beginning to really take a toll on my mental health and it is hard to get through my work days due to the pain and lack of sleep at night. I would rather not have to limit my activities for the rest of my life and am tired of having to always sit out of things. I am looking for anyone who has a similar problem and has had success with some type of treatment! Please help!
    I totally relate. Pain can be devastating to one's mental well being. So can lack of sleep because of being awakened frequently by pain. I have a spinal cord stimulator which provides moderate relief, and I am on pain medication around the clock. (I'm done with surgery at this point) It's hard to come to a realization that your physical life is limited, especially at your young age. If the pain is constant, never-ending, just varies in intensity, you may want to enquire about extended release pain meds. I used to take morphine ER, and have now switched to Exalgo. (with Percocet as needed) The drawback is whether or not your employer gives random drug screens and finds this to be a liability. (if you drive on the job or use dangerous machinery) Since you are so young, I would think it's better to get the surgery...having had 5 back surgeries between age 24 & 44 I can tell you it's harder to heal the older you get. If you're not satisfied with the results of your pain consultations, seek another opinion or two.
    º lumbar spinal fusion
    º spinal cord stimulator
    º multiple decompressions
    º lumbar laminectomy
    º osteoarthritis
    º I am not a doctor nor am I giving medical advice
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