Hi there - I've been relieved to find this forum and read others too-familiar stories. It's easy to feel alone in my pain, but knowing that other people are in the same boat (or worse!) helps immensely. Here's my story:
I've been suffering pain in my lower back since July 2014, the result of an injury while working as a stone countertop installer. I didn't feel a sharp pain that day, but the next few days I was in excruciating pain - felt like my lumbar spine was spasming into an extreme curve. Standing and walking was rough, but sitting caused some burning pain. At first the pain was located at the Sacrum-L5 joint, radiating up to mid-back, dull achy pain combined with electrical-shock type feeling. Also radiating numbness down left leg. Sharp/shooting pains with movement.
The pain quickly localised around the left side of the sacrum, radiating into mid back, away from spine. Still tingling down left leg - occasionally inside, front above knee, mostly tingling in the arch of my left foot. When it gets really bad, I feel it in my shoulders and left side of my neck. The pain varies depending on activity level - lifting doesn't seem to cause problems, but bending or twisting do, as well as sitting: sitting in a hard chair causes pain to develop in 20-30 minutes, and upholstered seat gives me 2-3 hours. Either way it dissipates over the next 48 hrs.
Doctors and treatments:
- X ray 2 weeks in
- MRI 8-9 months in
- Primary: osteopathic GP - 12-15 visits since injury
- Chiropractor - Aug-Oct 2014, 1-2 per week
- Massage - pre-chiro (that was a winning combination!) and continuing, results vary with different therapists.
- Tried a orthopedic sole insert, to level pelvis - caused complications in knees, shoulder and neck.
- Physiatrist - May 2015
- Physical Therapy to correct posture, on psychiatrist's orders - June 2015
The initial visit resulted in advice that I take it easy - lift no more than 20 lbs, that I'd recover quickly on my own. The first week, pain subsided considerably, but spiked right away after that following heavy day of activities and a 3hr plane flight - about this time I recognised the relationship between sitting and my pain levels.
A standing pelvic X ray revealed a slight difference in leg length, right side shorter (the right side of my pelvis sits 5mm lower than the left), and my sacrum tilts 7mm left over right. Also identified a slight scoliosis to the right in my lumbar spine.
After trying a combination of massage and Chiro for 8 weeks with mixed results, I tried wearing an orthopedic shoe lift on the right (4mm) from Sept-Nov. This seemed to help at first, but had associated adjustment pains - which became worse and worse over time, with asymmetric pains in my knees and right shoulder.
I think my issue likely has to do with the SI joint / Sacrum-L5 connections and/or ligament tears in those areas. It feels like my pelvis is tweaked, l rotated forward. When i do sit on a hard chair (or my bike seat - which doesn't seem to cause pain! :thumbs up:) I can feel the left sit bone touch down, but not the right, unless I lean way over to the right.
The Physiatrist I saw recently told me that at this point the pain is from posture/alignment issues, didn't recommend surgery or an injection (good news) - he says the joints and disks look good in the imaging tests (even more good news!). I start working with a PT this week to address alignment and posture correction. I'm hopeful.
Before the injury, I was really active recreationally and at work. Backpacking, cycling, rock-climbing, paddling filled my weekends. I've worked in the building trades and making things for over a decade, always been pretty fit, but the last few years working with stone have been really fulfilling, both in terms of learning a trade, and in the sense that my body responded well to heavy lifting - I feel like the year before the injury was one of the best in terms of my physical health and personal confidence.
I worked through the pain after the injury. Not really noticing a correlation between lifting and my pain, I started lifting heavier little by little within a month or two. It took me some time to figure out that the pain wasn't random, that sitting, crouching, and sacral pressure are triggers. Even though my pain levels have come down some the duration of this injury has really worn on me, and in Feb I decided to quit working with stone and try to let my back recover. Haven't seen quite the recovery I was hoping for, so I'm trying to come to terms with the idea that pain might be an ongoing part of my life, and accept limits on my activities and type of work.
Thanks for reading this - I appreciate the chance to share.