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Chronic lower back pain L4/L5 disc degeneration - getting MRI on Saturday

Hi everyone, I've just joined this site.

I am having one hell of a time. I have had back pain on and off for about 15 years now, but it usually spasms, I see a massage therapist, some acupuncture and I'm good to go. This time the pain has lasted 4 months.

It is primarily on my lower left side but it moves around. I cannot sit at all and have made a stand up desk at work.

Doctor has given me flexirol, naproxen, does nothing. I had cortisone shots, nothing. I've been seeing a:

Massage therapist (two)
Physiotherapist (two)

I was sent for an xray about a month or so ago, showed moderate disc degeneration L4/L5 but no obvious signs of herniation.

The spasms continue to be bad. I have major set backs and am on the ground crying and cannot do ANYTHING :(

I have a 4.5 year old son and life has been really hard the past 4 months. I'm paying for a private MRI on Saturday morning and I'm sooooooooo hoping it will show something useful.

I've had to cancel two vacations so far from this. It is just very frustrating and no one seems to understand.

Basically just joining in on this forum and hope to get some support/similar stories. Thanks everyone,
thanks, E


  • 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
  • Hi Erin,

    Sorry to hear about your difficulties. Just wanted to say that I saw your message and sending you a lot of virtual support. Best wishes to you and please update the community here on how things go on Saturday and after it.

    Best regards
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,865
    Diagnosing the root of spinal problems can be a very difficult task.
    Besides the normal diagnostic tests (ie MRI, X-Ray, CT-Scab,EMG, Discogram,etc) many doctors use some of the conservative treatments to help identify the root of the problem.

    Its easy when anyone of those tests come back and state it BOLD and to the POINT that the problem is HERE and this is what NEEDS to be done. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Not knowing what the problem is at times is harder to deal with than the actual problem.

    When all the tests come back showing negative or nothing really to amount to the pain, it becomes more of a detective game. I know no one wants to be included in a game of "Clue" to see of Colonel Mustard did ir or Professor Plum.
    But at times it does come down to that.

    When all tests come back negative, yet the patient still has pain, the doctor has two choices:

    • 1. Continue to diagnose the problem
      2. Chalk it off as it being in the patient's head
    No one wants to hear about #2. So what else can be done? Speaking about my own situation, we were not sure if I had another Lumbar problem or was it my Hip. So, the plan was to for an ESI in my upper back (L2/L3) to see if I got some pain relief from that. Then it was steroid injections into my hip to determine if it was the Hip. Well the ESI to my spine did not buy me any pain relief, but the steroids to my hip did help, the diagnosis came down to the problem being my hip. Now tat was after a number of MRI and X-Rays both to my Mid Spine and Hop. The hip won, so I had that one (right) totally replaced with implants last year.

    Same goes with medications. If the problem was more muscular in nature, than you should respond better to muscle relaxers, the same holding true if the problem was nerve and you responded to nerve medications.

    I am just going to gloss over DDD, only because that is such a common alignment and most people have some degree of that. But muscular and nerve problems can be very difficult to correct. A muscle tear, or a pinched nerve can go on for a long period of time without any treatments helping that. I know you are excited (maybe not a great choice of words) about your upcoming MRI. I say that only because I understand that you want to know what is wrong.. Cause once that is done, then corrective plans can be put into place.

    Erin, we are glad to have you on this site, not so glad that you came here because you are having problems, but glad that perhaps we can help you in one way or another.
    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
  • Hi Erin. I've got 2 young kids, my daughter is the same age as your son. I've been suffering from chronic pain for 8 years now. It's so incredibly hard isn't it? I wish I could think of a more poetic way of putting it. Words that would make everyone understand what we go through but unless you've hobbled a mile in our slippers I don't think anyone truly can.
    My son just had his 8th birthday. I went through incredible stress realizing that this year I couldn't possibly organize the usual big party. I felt like a failure as a Mum. We waited until we were older to have kids, thats becoming a decision that I deeply regret. I wanted to be super-mum, oh the plans I had! ...now we rarely make it to the park.
    My husband took the kids to a friends cabin on the lake. It was a one-off opportunity that I didn't want them to miss out on. I sat at home crying. My FIRST ever night alone, we don't have a support system so I never have a break. It was just me, my pain & my tears.

    Fortunately I pulled myself out of that pity party before it became serious. Some people find the cause of their spine pain, go through the treatments, maybe have surgery, then get on with their lives with little pain until they're very old & gray. That's not my future but it could be yours! If not you'll deal with it & your son will love you just the same. I'm recovering from surgery & suffering a huge flare & even more stress. It's not always like this!
    Last year we went on vacation to California. Traveling was a nightmare, I won't lie to you. I was contemplating cancelling until the last minute & I'm so glad I didn't! We stayed with a friends family. I met her online & we bonded through our shared chronic spine stories. She's the best friend I've ever had & would never of met...

    I'm giving you the worse case scenario just to show, it's not so bad! It's my life & as I said 'Its bloody hard!' but I love it. There are REALLY bad times but there are FANTASTIC times too. Chronic pain sucks but it sucks even more if you let it rule your life. I've done that. I prefer the alternative.

    It's a journey & you & your son are at the start. I wish you the best but just incase your MRI doesn't lead to a solution, I'm here if you need to talk ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I had the MRI on Saturday and waiting for the results. Thank you for all of your support.

    I'll be sure to post what the MRI finds (if anything).

    Sigh, it's just getting super tiring waking up in pain every morning and then working through it. But at least we can all support each other.

    thanks, E
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