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Recurring back pain stealing my life

closetotheedgecclosetotheedge Posts: 1
edited 01/08/2014 - 11:52 AM in Chronic Pain
8 months ago I went hiking with a friend carrying a heavy backpack and ended up having to camp on uneven rocky ground. About a week later while at the start of a trans-european month long trip, I arrived in Italy to see a girl and my back quickly started hurting. I didn't think much of it and so continued to act normally - seeing the sights, having sex, enjoying being abroad etc. - until one of the nights we went out to a club with her friends and my back REALLY started to hurt. I didn't want to be the stick in the mud so i didn't say anything much until a few minutes later after attempting to go to the toilet I collapsed on the dance floor in front of about two or three hundred people in agony due to back spasms that felt like someone twanging a guitar string. I had to be ambulanced to hospital where they took Xrays, said nothing was out of place, gave me anti-inflamatories and told me to go back and rest. I spent the next two weeks lying on the stone floor in the spare bedroom in my friend's apartment unable to move, go outside, barely able to walk to the toilet, take a shower or cook a meal. I stubbonly toyed with the idea of continuing my trip as I had planned so much of it and was supposed to be meeting up with a friend in Serbia but eventually, inevitably had to book a return flight back to the UK.

As soon as I got home I instantly rebooked my flight back out having no idea how serious my injury was or how long it was going to last. During this time I rested, tried not to do too much but also *hated* having to be back in the UK living with my family again (normally I live in France but it seemed logical to go back to the UK for my family to help me get better). I had a few months' summer teaching work lined up which i really wanted the money from so decided not to cancel my contract and go to work still being nowhere near recovered enough. I was meant to teach for two months, I didn't even last three weeks. It was a summer camp post which has the potential to be very sociable for the staff, however I spent nearly every evening after class lying in bed alone feeling sorry for myself unable to do much. I had kinda seen that one of the other staff members might have liked me so really as a way to cheer myself up more than anything, one night after going to the pub with our colleagues, we went back to my cabin and had sex. Big. Mistake.

The next morning I woke up and was meant to be going on a coach trip with the students but had trouble just hobbling out of my room. My back felt so bad I spent the whole coach journey writhing and most of the tour round the destination lying down on a bench having taken some pain killers (there were other staff members looking after the kids so I wasn't missed). When I got back to camp I saw a physio who was nothing short of a genius - he identified the problem as potential inflammation of the intra-vertabral ligaments and gave me stretches which helped immensely. After a week or so I felt a lot better, so continued to have sex with the girl I met but instead of things improving, they very rapidly declined back into serious agony. I tried to continue to teach but was on so many different pain medications that I at one point had to be helped just to make it to the classroom, set the kids some activity and sat down on a chair at the front of the class nodding in and out of conciousness. Eventually I had no choice but to quit.

I went back home and rested again (things not particularly improving) then departed again for the continent to try and make up for the trip I'd had to cancel. Again - horrendous mistake. Long story short, I shouldn't have gone but I couldn't bare being at home another minute so I kind of didn't care if it messed up my back more. On one of the days after hitchiking through rural Serbia, my friend and I eventually stumbled across some random little village and I basically collapsed again and had to spend a few more days in bed doing nothing. In one day I had:

1) a seriously bad back
2) sun stroke
3) found out i had chlamydia
4) a bad eye infection which prevented me from seeing through one eye (turns out it was connected to the chlamydia)
5) a skin virus called Molloscum
6) reaggravated an old ankle injury

I'd never felt so unhealthy in all my life.

I stubbornly trudged on but after arriving in Sarajevo at the wrong coach stop alone on the outskirts of town, no local currency, unable to see, unable to carry my own backpack, I had to throw myself on the help of a random mexican woman who helped me find my hostel. I didn't even go outside to see the city for the next day or so, I just lay in bed and cursed my stupidity, my luck and my health.

Once again I came to the decision that I had to cancel my trip. Back home again where I didn't want to be, more physio, acupuncture, chiropractor, naproxen, valium, solphadeine, ibuprofen, massages, heat packs, ice packs, resting in bed, getting up and doing things...the list simply goes on and on and nothing had much of an effect to improving my back.

I had to go back to work in France but over the course of three months, more doctors, more meds, more money, I got recommended an osteopath who manipulated my back like I've never experienced before.
He said I had several severe blockages in my spine which were causing the muscles around it to spasm and in one session cracked my back with a noise that I've never heard come out of a human body before; it wasn't so much a crack as an explosion in my spine.
Afterwards I had one of the most intense experiences I've ever had: I was lying there on his table and for a few minutes I was unable to speak or move, my whole body had these waves of minor convulsions and I got very very cold and started shivering all over. I had pins and needles in my hands and my feet and my wrists and ankles were so numb I couldn't even feel them. It all subsided and I stood up and felt genuinely better. I thanked him profusely and he said just to rest for several weeks and then I would be able to retake my normal life. He was wrong.

I lay in bed at home unable to walk very far, unable to go outside, clean my house, go shopping - let alone cook a meal. As I didn't have any food and was running seriously low on money after spending it all on so much health care, I pretty much starved for the best part of two weeks watching youtube lying in bed. I couldn't go out and see friends so a few of them came over to see me instead and although I appreciated their visit, I *hated* them seeing me in such a bad place. I'm sure a lot of people will identify with me that after so long, you begin to get so unbelievably sick of people seeing you in pain that you just want to suffer alone. It's that pitying look they give you that means well but ends up making you feel worse because they're having to give it to you.

Things didn't improve and I was still in a lot of pain every single day so I eventually came to the conclusion that as I was physically unable to even look after or take care of myself (I live alone) I had to come home to the UK AGAIN. I've now been back since the beginning of December and off work since November. I finally had an MRI scan of my lower back which actually revealed absolutely nothing - the consultant said I had no disc problems or spinal abnormalities and that it was just simply muscular spasms that was causing my pain.

It sounds stupid to say this, but in a way I was actually kind of annoyed at this. I *wanted* to see something more obvious on the scan that would show me what has been causing me so much pain - I *wanted* to see a bit poking out or sticking here or pinching me there or a bit missing or broken or out of shape, but there was nothing. He said just rest (by this point I'm sick to death of hearing that) and that more physiotherapy will sort it out.

In conclusion:

I'm 23 years old and I've never come across anyone else my age who is so debilitated by a back problem that they cannot even pick up a bag of sugar and has had to stop work and give up their life to try and get better for so long.
This injury has cost me about 5000 pounds (cancelled travel plans, lost wages, medical bills etc.) and 8 months of what are supposed to be the best years of my life. It's getting to the point where I'm so broke that I can't even really afford continuing to pay for doctors to fix me. I've missed so many life opportunities: girls, parties, nights out, work, social interaction, two attempts at travelling.

I just don't know what to do anymore. I came home a month ago and didn't do anything for four weeks during which I had basically no pain. On Wednesday I did half a day's volunteering at a local charity shop and I've been back in pain for four days solid. Every single time I've felt better during this ordeal, the pain has come straight back no matter what. No matter if I rest in bed all day, I go out for walks, juggle, go to the pub, try and go swimming, walk to the shops, do back stretches, not lift anything EVERY SINGLE TIME it comes back.


I've never been very good at dealing with stress and have had depression in the past which has come back now due to being so unwell. It's the frustration of being constantly knocked back after every small improvement, a long period of deterioration ensues. It's this boomerang effect that the pain keeps coming back and back and back every single time that I find so hard to deal with - it stops you ever wanting to feel hopeful or like you're going to get past it because every time you start feeling ok, it all turns around and you're back to square one.

I don't even know really what I'm posting this for, maybe someone should tell me to shut the hell up and stop being such a whiny EDIT and be thankful that I don't have scoliosis or a slipped disc or something worse than 'back spasms' (which just sounds like nothing, it's pathetic) but either way it's something that's stop me from being able to live my normal life. What else is hard to deal with is simply the not knowing when you're going to get better. With other injuries like broken bones, you at least have a time frame. For me every time I think to myself 'I'll be ok in another month and then i'll be able to go back to work' it ends up being two months after that and I still have chronic pain every day.

I simply just want to give up :(

Post edited by Spine Health Moderator Sandi

You agree not to use foul language in the forums.



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • FIRST LET ME SAY AN EXCELLENT AND IN PART ENTERTAINING POST ! no one on here will ever judge you as a pain in the ar5e ! so don't worry about that ..I have been a member on here and its previous version for many years and in pain for a lot longer 17 years ..I found what you had to say very interesting and if you are still in the uk I would get another opinion ,even two or three there is obviously something wrong with your back ..you also need to see a sympathetic doctor for decent pain relief .I know only too well what you mean when you say that you are struggling dealing with the continuous pain and you hate the way your life has been taken over by it ....you need to get a firm diagnosis ..MRI.CT are open to interpretation and what one consultant will miss one will see ..I have seen this myself one guy missed a major problem with my back and it was JUNIOR DOCTOR THAT FOUND IT !! .so if I was you try to get another opinion because until you know what you are dealing with you can't treat it ..spines are notoriously hard to keep pain free ..I know you said that you wished that they had found something and again I know what you said that ..but I hope that they don't find anything wrong with you and you do have a chance of recovering from whatever is causing your problems .you don't want a life of intractable pain ..my life is spent on a recliner chasing pain relief .I have no social life no sex life can't work can't even wear normal clothes due to permanent nerve pain in legs.i hope you get things sorted out .if you are having no luck with an orthopaedic consultant and you mechanical structure is sound then I would go to see a neurological consultant have some nerve conduction studies and blood work done .don't give up ..I hope that you don't require spinal surgery I can tell you after three lots of it and the last one being a fusion ..its no fun and I will be in pain for the rest of my life and I am only 47 I was 30 when it all started .try to get a firm diagnosis ..if you are in the Manchester./liverpool area of the uk I can recommend =a superb consultant .
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Hi closetotheedge. Our stories and symptoms are very similar. I am also a male in my early twenties. I have private messaged you, but realised that you might check the forumn posts without logging on, so I am posting this to get your attention.

    Please check your private messages!
  • I agree with the suggestion of getting another opinion. It doesn't sound like you got a very satisfactory explanation of why you are having muscle spasms. Also, since you've only had an MRI on your lower back, keep in mind that problems in one area of the back can cause symptoms in another. Most of my pain is in the lumbar region, but the cause, which is a Schmorl's Node, is in the thoracic area (upper back). If your doctor doesn't listen or doesn't seem to want to do a thorough investigation, get a new one. There are good doctors out there.

    I'm another 23 year old guy, so I definitely feel your pain on being so disabled in the "prime of life". If you ever need to talk feel free to PM me. Hang in there, buddy.
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