I am a 29-year-old female who has been dealing with back issues for almost 13 years. To make a very long story (somewhat) short - I started having low back pain in high school which went undiagnosed despite exhaustive testing. Over the years I have grown very used to that pain and it is now just a part of my everyday life - I really do not notice it on a daily basis unless I do something to additionally aggravate it.
However two and a half years ago I started having pain down my left leg brought on by sitting for long periods. At the start I couldn't sit for more than a couple hours, now I am down to less than five minutes. I had an MRI which showed degenerative disc disease (which had also shown on my MRI from 10 years prior) and a protruding disc at L5-S1 that was impinging a nerve, and I believe another slight protrusion but I don't recall where.
Since then I have done three rounds of physical therapy, which helped with strength as well as techniques to help delay the onset of pain, but never helped with long-term pain relief. I also had two epidurals at L5-S1, one was 100% successful for almost three months, the other did not help at all. I have been on gabapentin for over two years, started at a low dose and have worked up to 3600mg/day. (In the last month I have been reducing it and am now down to 1800mg.) I am not sure whether or not the gabapentin ever helped, but as I have started coming down off of it my pain has increased, although my activity level has also increased, so I am still not sure about its effects. I may start increasing it again and see if it makes a difference.
10 weeks ago I had an L5-S1 bilateral laminectomy. The procedure went well and the surgeon said he could see how inflamed and angry the nerves were (so at least I am not crazy!) and we had high hopes that this would help. Since then I have been taking it REALLY easy, I do none of the activities I used to do (volleyball, swimming, long walks) and only do my physical therapy and some light walking - less than 30 minutes.
Since I have returned to work (4 weeks ago) I have started having pain again. I have to sit for 8 hrs/day (I use a kneeling chair, I would not be able to tolerate a regular chair) and then when I get home I am in enough pain that I lie on the couch or in bed all night. One bonus - I have not had any right leg pain (which started about 6 months ago, but was always FAR less than my left leg) since the surgery. I also feel that my pain is different. It is the worst in different spots than it used to be, so I feel like the surgery may have taken care of part of the issue, but there is certainly still something going on. When I had my six week post-op appointment with my surgeon's PA-C she seemed disappointed that I hadn't noticed any improvement (other than right leg which I did not even think about till the other day) but had said it may just take time for the nerve to heal and that she would hope to see at least some improvement by my next appointment. I see my surgeon next week but if anything I feel worse. I assume he will schedule another MRI so we can see what is going on post-surgery and then go from there.
I want to be active and healthy but my body is fighting me and that is pretty frustrating, considering I am still relatively young (especially when this started three years ago). I can take steps to deal with it on a daily basis, like the kneeling chairs and I just ordered a "Varidesk" so I can stand at my desk at work. But I would like to be able to play volleyball again and go for super long walks with my dog and sit in a movie theater or at dinner without having to lay down both before and after just to accommodate my pain. I go back and forth between feeling bad for myself and feeling stupid for feeling bad for myself - I log onto forums like these and see people that seem to be in so much more pain than I ever have been and then I feel like I am just being whiney. But then I have a particularly painful day and I feel like I am justified in being whiney. Sigh!
The main reason I joined is that I am interested in exploring alternative treatments that may help me deal with pain since it looks like it may be a longer term problem than I was hoping. I am curious to learn about other peoples experiences with similar problems, but also learn how people deal with their pain in general and share my own experiences!
DDD, facet arthropathy, mild bulge at L3-4, bulge at L5-S1 resulting in spinal stenosis (more pronounced on the left)
12/3/2014 - bilateral L5-S1 laminectomy