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Chronic Lower Back Pain & Clean MRI's, Help!

88NVogel888NVogel Posts: 1
edited 02/10/2015 - 11:27 PM in Lower Back Pain
I'm active duty US Army, I've had constant chronic lower back pain since late April of 2014 when I was doing a 12 mile ruck march in full battle rattle while carrying a M4, I was in Basic Training at the time and waited to go to the doctor for it until June while I was in AIT, to prevent being chaptered out or delaying my graduation from BCT, by the time I had gone to the doctor, the pain radiated down both legs and caused numbness and tingling. I've had numerous xrays and MRI's that show nothing other than early signs of arthritis in my spine, I have been on every medication I'm allowed to take per TriCare's standards. The pain is so severe I compare it to labor pains with my son (4 day labor). All they keep telling me about my lower back is that my muscles are tight (obviously because I'm unable to do anything whatsoever) and that my nerves are pinched.
So far to date I have done back classes to strengthen my back with physical therapy for 2 months, then they took me out of the back class because I was unable to walk for hours afterwards from the pain and placed me in a more one on one physical therapy doing different exercises and stretches along with hot packs to ease pain, the pain only subsided temporarily from the hot packs for about 30 minutes after then would become tear-jerking again, that lasted for 3.5 months. Once my PCP decided that it wasn't helping whatsoever, I was referred to pain management where I was issued a tens unit to use for 2 hours then off 1 hour, repeatedly all day while I'm awake, this relief only lasted while the tens unit was on, since it blocks the pain signals my nerves send out, I go back to pain management at the end of this month for a follow up and to talk epidural injections. My physical therapist has also assigned me to pool therapy for the next 4 weeks. All the while doped up on muscle relaxers and pain killers.
The pain is so severe I can't pick up my son (3 years old) and I can't stand for more than 10 minutes or sit more than 15 without having radiating pain throughout my entire lower body. Sleeping is a joke since I can't get comfortable enough to actually fall asleep or stay asleep more than 30 minutes at a time. I'm not able to lift anything that is over 5lbs without bringing myself to tears, I can't do any of the PT exercises, including all of the PRT stretches we do before and after PT. Riding in a HMMWV is ridiculous for me, I can't handle the bumps. I also can't drive more than 20 minutes or riding as a passenger more than 30 without having to stop and try to rest.
I do everything the doctors suggest, including all the stretches suggested to do at home, 3-5 times per day.

I've just noticed on my appointment sheet they have me going to talk to someone about the Med Board Process in early March. I have a family to take care of and absolutely do NOT want to be med boarded from the military, I love it and want the chance to deploy and defend my country.

I've switched my PCP 3 times trying to get different opinions and approaches and it seems they aren't actively trying to figure out my pain and how to help me since the tests aren't showing anything. HELP!


  • 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
  • itsautonomicitsautonomic LouisianaPosts: 1,800
    edited 02/11/2015 - 5:39 AM
    Sorry to hear what you are going thru, is there a way to get outside the services and see a specialist ? Just because a scan is clear does not mean there are not issues, things such as annular tears can be missed and cause serious pain, but not usually pain down legs. Obviously you are tough if you are in armed forces so that sounds awfully painful for tight muscles, but the ESI certainly might help break the inflammation. Seeing a specialist seems in order if possible.
    Do your due dilegence, trust you know your body and question everything if it does not fit. Advocate for yourself and you will be suprised what will be revealed trusting your body and instinct.
  • I'm not a doctor so I can only think of people I've known who have experienced similar pains that were not the result of the usual herniated discs pressing on nerves. Have you ever had your SI joint looked at? Lumbar MRI's don't usually cover it. The diagnostic test is pretty simple. They inject a numbing agent in & see if it changes your pain. Piriformis muscles can cause sciatica symptoms..something worth investigating too. They can do shots for that too...

    Just don't give-up. Doesn't sound like you're going to anytime soon anyway!! Be your own advocate. 'Something' is causing this. Keep pushing until you get answers.

    If it is 'just' muscles ask about getting trigger point shots (just search at the top of the page for an explanation) I've had both types lidocaine (with steroids) & Botox (again with steroids). They numb those muscles. Knowing how well you respond to them could be helpful in getting closer to a diagnosis.

    Best of luck!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
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