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The cycle of recovery/remission

Hi all,

New to the forum and looking to share and support where able.

41 years old, married with no kids, previously very fit and active. I have had episodes of acute lower back pain all my adult life that have come and gone without issue - the usual stuff precipitated by overdoing it in the garden, or a sudden twisting movement etc, but it's all been very different since last October. I slowly started to get more and more uncomfortable after a day at work (I sit most of the day). I'd regularly get up and stretch, but was finding by the end of the day I was unable to get out the chair without pulling myself using other furniture. I started taking regular over the counter analgesia and started seeing an osteopath, but after 2 months of no improvement went to my GP for advice on what was seeming to be a chronic rather than acute condition.

He took bloods and X-rays - ruled out ankylosing spondylits (I'm VERY stiff, particularly in the morning), and started by on 500mg Naproxen BD, and 15-60mg codeine phosphate prn. Referred for physio. By the end of January I could no longer manage a full day at work, so was signed off sick. I saw a physio regularly, and while resting at home pain was very well controlled. I tried to return to work after 6 weeks off, but the pain returned faster than previously, and was more intense, so was signed off sick again, with Tramadol added to my breakthrough pain medication.

I had further physio, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, TENS, and after a few weeks of mobilising around the house with sticks, pain was again well managed (2-3/10) on minimal activity. I again tried to return to work mid June. Within 2 hours of sitting at my desk (6 x 20 minute stints in an ergonomic chair) my pain was up to 7/10, so took 60mg codeine and 50mg Tramadol and headed home. I needed to use both sticks - which I hadn't used in some time - to get back into the house from the car. I couldn't lower myself onto my bed. Trying to bed the knees even slightly to lower myself down was like a knife to the spine - pain 10/10. I couldn't move on the bed for 4 hours, but by the evening could move around the house slowly with my sticks. The following morning pain was back to 2-3/10 and it was if the previous day had never happened. I tried work one more time, but it was en exact repeat of the previous day.

I've now had an MRI that shows posterior bulging at L4/5 and L5/S1, but apparently it does not warrant a surgical intervention - I've just been advised to rest and treat conservatively, which is what I feel like I've been doing for months! I've been seen by our local pain clinic who will try spinal injections that I'm now on a waiting list for. Both the MRI and Pain Clinic appointment were done early in the morning when I'd been sat no longer than 30 minutes before being seen, so they never saw me at my worst - nor has my GP.

Fortunately I am not signed off work sick at present - I can work from home on my laptop, which I do flat on my back with it propped on my knees, and pain is very well managed. My work have said that if this needs to be a long term solution they can accommodate this as long as I can keep in touch with short visits on site as required.

Yesterday I broke my house arrest for the first time in three weeks for an emergency trip to the vets. I felt confident that I would be fine as pain has been below 3-10 for three weeks too, but after being up and about for a couple of hours pain was up to 8-10 by the time I got home.

I just feel so frustrated that every time I feel like I'm getting better, my body kicks back and tells me I'm not. Work are supportive - I'm just really worried that as far as they/Occupational Health and my GP are concerned, as long as I'm able to meet my contractual obligations and relatively pain free at home I'm fine, but what I might actually be facing is a life of lying on my back tapping away at a keyboard. I don't get to go to the cinema, eat out, travel, see family and friends. My wife thinks I'm getting depression and she's probably right.

Sorry for the wall of text! It felt cathartic to write it all down even if nobody does read it. If you have and can relate, or have been through something similar and can talk of light at the end of the tunnel - I'd love to hear from you.



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