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New member-Unexplained lower back pain going on 2 years

I am new to the forum, and am just trying to get some possible feedback before I go to my doctor for further diagnosis. I am a 41 year old male, relatively good shape. I try to regularly work out doing some cardio (jogging & walking on treadmill, stairclimber, etc) and some light weight training. I'm 5'-11" 210 lbs, a little overweight, but I don't think too major (wear size 38 pants) and I haven't gained much weight in recent years. I was maybe 5 to 10 lbs lighter 2+ years ago, so I don't think weight is the underlying issue.

Anyway, it seems my back pain stems from an incident about 2 years ago. I was doing some work on my car. I was replacing the audio system, so I had to confine myself to some tight quarters while doing the work. I did a lot of bending over, squatting in the rear seat compartment, and squeezing myself sideways in the trunk. After doing this 2 to 3 hour job, my lower back hasn't been the same since. It started out as just some tightness in the lower back whenever I would sleep at night or sit for a time. In a pretty short time, it progressed to the point where I was experiencing sharp and agonizing pain in my lower back at night whenever I laid flat or rolled over (I started sleeping with a pillow under my legs to help alleviate the discomfort). And when I got out of bed in the morning, my lower back was extremely tight and painful. It hurt to try and stand up straight right out of bed.

After a few months of this, I went to my doctor and he prescribed me to visit a physical therapist. I went to the physical therapist early last year. She showed me some good lower back stretches and core strengthening stretches. I did these as prescribed, and they initially helped. But it seemed not to "cure" the lower back pain, just help alleviate the discomfort temporarily. As time passed, I still occasionally did some of the stretches if I'd go to the gym before going on a treadmill or stairclimber which seemed to help a little before the cardio exercises.

Within the last several months, it seems the pain has become more isolated to my lower back right side of my spine, a few inches above the buttocks around the waistline. With the warmer weather, I recently went outside for a light jog, and the pain intensified as I ran on the pavement. I have become increasingly less confident in my lower back and my movements. There have been times when I have had to bend over to pick up my 2 year old son or pick something up, and I get a piercing, sharp pain resonate through my lower back, and it literally freezes me where I can't rise. I've been pretty obstinate about following through with having it looked at again, but it's getting to the point of frustration and it's beginning to limit some of my motions or confidence in motions. A few of the specific symptoms I've noticed lately are: (1) Some mornings the tightness and pain in my back are bad; and other mornings, I have none of the tightness or pain, and I can't put my finger on why it varies. (2) Working out, like jogging, seems to exacerbate the pain in my back. (3) When getting out of my car, I have to make sure both feet are planted on the ground before rising out of the car seat. There's been times when I've quickly tried to exit my car with one foot on the ground, and I receive the piercing sharp pain in my lower back. (4) Sometimes after a big meal, I'll feel pressure and sensitivity in my lower back. (5) And some bowel movements have caused a sharp discomfort in my lower back, almost like a severe cramp.

I've seen some posts here about herniated discs, sciatica, and piriformis syndrome, so has anyone else here experienced similar symptoms. And if I go back to my doctor, what should I ask him? Request an mri, or back to the physical therapist? I'm to the point where I just want the chronic discomfort and uneasy feeling of confidence in my motion to go away. Thanks for reading my long post and any input! I appreciate it.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I'd be wanting some diagnostic tests. Even if you return to physical therapy they can do a better job of training you what to do & importantly, what to avoid, if they know exactly what they're dealing with. Running on the streets could be very bad for certain conditions. It's great that you're keeping active but I think at least an MRI would be a good idea at this point. You don't want to be doing more harm than good.

    My husband suffers from piriformis muscle weakness. It presents very similar to sciatica. It's a diagnosis largely based on exclusion so an MRI will help a specialist even if it doesn't show spine damage. large meals & bowl movements make his pain worse but without diagnostic tests I'm just shooting in the dark.

    Good luck ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • If it was me I would like to get more information about what is going on and why I still have the problem and why is it getting worse. Probably the best way is to get a MRI. A MRI will allow the doctor to see if there something like a herniated disc or stenosis going on. Because of your age your MRI may show some Degenerative disc disease (DDD) which is basically the same thing as arthritis. You do not mention if you are taking any medications While I am not a doctor taking some motrin or another anti-inflammatory may help your back pain to settle it down. While you should continue some exercises you should stop running and weight lifting until your doctors knows what is going. The one thing you might want to do is get your cardio by pool running. this will allow you for a great workout since you will not pounding your back and will not only workout your legs but also your upper body. The best way of doing this is to get into the water deep enough so your feet do not hit the bottom of the pool and then start running as you would normally except cup your hands. If you start sinking and cannot keep your head above water you can buy a water running vest that will help keep your body from sinking. You can usually find them a most sporting good stores. Good luck!
  • EnglishGirl, can piriformis muscle weakness be isolated to one side or another? The pain I'm experiencing seems to be isolated to my lower right side. If I sleep on my right side for an extended period of time, I'll wake up with what feels like a sharp cramping along my lower right hip and back. Also, when getting dressed, I have much more difficulty raising my opposite left leg. Raising my left leg (to say put pants on) can trigger a sharp pain in my right lower back muscle and it can literally freeze me for a second or two. Regardless, for the next few weeks, I'm going to religiously do the stretches my physical therapist showed me last year. And I'm going to try and drop 10 lbs. I'll see if this helps any before I go to my next doctor visit in 2 months.
  • Please remember I said I'm shooting in the dark. That was just a guess..without diagnostic tests no one knows.

    Yes. My husband only has it one side. He sleeps with a pillow between his legs when it's bad with the damaged muscle up. Ice helps with a flare. The exercises & stretches he has from physical therapy are very similar to my sciatica ones so I think it's a good idea. He used to be very physical & run marathons. He has been told 'No running on roads!' it's so bad for your body. I have spine damage & running is a big NO! for me too. His GP gives him a steroid shot when it's bad & prescribes a muscle relaxant at bed time & antiinflamatories (which he hates taking & often doesn't) the exercises & avoiding things that make it worse has always been best for him.

    If this is persisting you really need an MRI at least but you already know that ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
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