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muscular or disc problem?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hi all,
I am new here and hope someone can give an opinion.

I have had problems with my back since I was 16 (now 48). Aged 16 and 19, it was quite bad and I had extensive physiotherapy. It has flared up over the years, but nothing too major and I have always just got on with it and considered it something I had to live with. There was no MRI then and it was diagnosed as disc L4/5. Think i must have had x-rays though...can't really remember now.

Two months ago, I hurt my back lifting a load of wine cases and a day or so later, began to have lower back pain that progressed to left side buttock pain which radiated into the back of my left thigh to the knee, with occasional cramping in the calf. It has always been a dull dragging aching pain, with no sharp stabbing. I get the impression that most ppl with disc problems seem to have the sharp kind on here. I have never had that.

My doctor eventually examined me three weeks after I first saw him, which is a month after all this started and tested my reflexes at the knee only. He also did leg raises etc, which did not reproduce the pain. He stated it wasnt my disc as my reflexes were normal and could be the SI joint.

I had been seeing a physio privately for a couple of weeks before the dr exam, who said it was definitely a disc problem as he could feel it (??? didnt think this was possible) and that GP's drove him nuts with the attitude that if your reflexes are not affected, it isnt the discs.

I returned to work after five weeks off sick and was referred to our occ.health dept. Saw a physio, who when i described the pain, said it wasnt the disc, but was muscular and that it was from the muscles in spasm squashing the nerve. He said he disagreed with my physio and suggested he was in business and more or less suggested he was just ensuring continued custom. I was a bit p*ssed off with that attitude really, but it has got me wondering.

I have low hopes of getting an MRI on the NHS for some considerable time and I am considering paying for one privately.

My pain is constant, but fairly low grade now I suppose. My sacral region is tight and the area over the lumbar vertebrae sore and painful if I press in over the spine area with my fingers.

The work physio had me lying prone and he pressed down with the flat of his hand over my sacral and lumbar region, then pressed each side of the individual lumbar vertebrae. It was painful and in a couple of places, almost unbearably so. He also gave me accupuncture and one of the needles really hurt adjacent to about L4 on the left side.
Since that, it has all hurt more and I am a bit fed up. He doesnt want to see me for two weeks, when he states he will see how it is going, refer me to 'back classes' and get me back to normal with no further problems. I would like to believe him, but something doesnt feel right about what he said. I almost dont think he listened too much about my history.

Apologies for the long post. I hope someone can offer some advice.

Thanks in anticipation


  • :) Hi and welcome to the forum! your introduction might be in "Newcomers" in order to receive a good welcome but i will do my best! we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. you really might need that MRI in order to pinpoint exactly what is hurting you! there seems to be alot of different ideas! please take good care of yourself and keep us posted as you progress! good luck! Jenny :)
  • Maybe you should start with an xray work up neutral, flexion, extension- the xray will show the bone and any fractures you might have. It will also show how close the vertabrae are and is considerably cheaper. Then is the xray looks bad ask for an MRI (have inusrance pay for the MRI).

    In my case the MRI's showed some disc herniations but the xrays showed the real problem. My Low back is very painful to touch.

    Good luck,

  • Thanks for the answers to my post.
    I am going to go to my GP and see if I can get an x-ray done. I would need to see him anyway if I wanted to have the MRI done privately, otherwise it would cost more (would need an initial consultation from an MRI company's dr)
  • that you ask for the flexion/extension views. I have had many standing xrays that never showed anything major. Also make sure a qualified tech reads the xrays.

    Good luck,

  • Hi, I have a question for you that may sound rather stupid, but I don't know the answer, so I'm just going to ask (lol)......I've noticed several times you have suggested.....

    someone might start with an "xray work up neutral, flexion, extension".....

    What exactly is this and how exactly is this done? I see that you said you've had stand-ups that do not show much of anything and my doctors have told me the same thing, so how exactly is this done? Is it lying down on the side or just exactly how is it done? I may have had it done and just didn't know it, but that term is unfamiliar to me. I don't think I've ever heard this description before?

    But, it sounds like it really might indicate a lot more of the problems first. My lower back is very sore to touch also, I sure know what you mean.

    So many people are wanting me to have acupuncture, and I've thought of it, but I just had a MRI done on June 20th and it's been several years since I had one done, so I'm anxious to see what the results will be. I see the doctor on Wednesday and will find out then and go from there.

    The last few years my MRI's have indicated I have some posterior bulging at L3-4/L4-5, my discogram indicated concordant pain at 3-4 and 5-1. I have spinal stenosis in L5-S1, DDD, nerve damage in my legs, L3-4/L5-S1 mild left facet arthropathy, Grade III annular tears in L3-4 /L5-S1 and osteopenia.

    My left hip is a killer! And, the pain goes down my left buttock and leg, I really have trouble walking, but was fitted with a back brace a few weeks ago so I can get around a little better around the house.

    But, still can't walk or go too far. And, when I do have to go out, end up paying for it dearly. I use a cold pac and a warm shower helps, other than that, my medications really only help take the edge off. When we have that wet, rainy weather and when that system comes thru and hangs on, well .... that just keeps me in bed.

    I'm in the process of finding new doctors since my PM doctor has relocated and not pescribing medications anymore and my Neurologist, both of whom I have had for over 7 years, is retiriing. So, I dread starting over, and it will be hard replacing these two doctors.

    Plus, it's about that time for some kind of breakthru medicine, I need help because my medicine just isn't lasting as long as it should, I'm having a difficult time getting thru until the next dosage, and I wouldn't have any trouble talking to my PM doctor about it, but starting over with new doctors, there is such a fine line, one has to be so careful as to not get started off on the wrong foot and have them think you are an addict of some kind And, I am by no means addicted, I hate taking medicine, they just don't help my pain like I wish they would.

    I'm hoping I can get my Neurologist to prescibe something else or something in addition to before he retires in September because he has referred me to another doctor and has told him to leave my medications alone (lol), so at least I know I should have no problems there, at least to begin with. I will probably start with him and see if I like him, but at least I know I will be able to get my medications. He is a doctor that my present Neurologist taught, so he should be a good doctor and hopefully knowing I am being referred by one of his Professors, know I'm an alright person, but I need to find a good NS too.

    How are you doing, Julie?

    Thanks for listening to my rambling, I have been awake since 2:00 a.m. and have been reading and then got my laptop and was reading some posts on the board, it is 4:00 a.m. now. Maybe some milk and I can get back to sleep! I doubt that, but I am taking some medicine!!


  • These xrays are lying on your side on a table. First you are straight (neutral) then you flex (curve in) and then you extend (curve back).

    My low back is painful in distinct spots so I know it is not muscle related. I can push a cm to one side of the vertabrae and it does not hurt the same as pushing directly on the vertabrae.

    Hope that helps.

    I am hanging on. I am so tired of being handicap. I want to start the healing process. My NS and insurance company MD are going to have a phone meeting- hopefully tomorrow. If they change their minds I will get a new surgery date. Otherwise the insurance company wants either a second opinion or a pos nerve conduction test (which I don't need)....

    Have a great day.

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