Hello everyone, 42 male here suffering from the rap sheet of chronic pain ailments and issues.
This is a bit of a long read so for those who aren't into mini-novels or as they say tl;dr - Hit by car at 18, didn't get it taken care of properly, neck is jacked up and has now decided to wage war on the rest of my spine and body.
Here is a bit more detail for those who would like to know my tale.
I have been in a decades long struggle to find the proper treatment and knowledge of what is causing my pain and instabilities. Only recently in the last 5 years has enough information started coming through that the doctors who actually listen, are starting to find the specific reasons.
I was rear-ended by a drunk driver at the age of 18. I was in the passenger seat of a small 2-door car and we were stopped at an intersection. The man who hit us had just recently been released from open-stomach surgery and had felt the need to add a bottle of booze to his plethora of pills. Needless to say, his night did not end well and I can't imagine the amount of laws he broke in a manner of seconds.
Unfortunately, my night wasn't over either as the impact from the accident had sent us almost into the center of the intersection. I'll never forget that moment because I was holding a cigarette in my right hand with my arm up as I was about to ash out the window (I was 18, not so bright or respectful then) and then WHAM. Next thing I know, we are near the middle of the intersection, my arm was in the same position but the cigarette was on the floor. Remember those silver ball Newton's cradle toys? That was, essentially, what happened to us. Gotta love dynamics and kinetic energy. Anyways, long story short, I was told I had low-velocity whiplash, I think it was like any impact under 35mph classified as such. I would say he hit us, with no brakes applied, at about 30mph with us, of course, being at a dead stop.
I refused the ambulance ride to the hospital like a fool. I felt fine at the time and had no idea of what was coming. I don't like wasting resources and I didn't feel I had any injury warranting the ambulance. My friend Pete (he was the driver) and I drove back to his place just a mile or so down the road from where the accident was. About 2 hours had passed since the accident and the time we were released from emergency and police. Just about the time he starts to pull into his parking lot I am hit with the most horrendous pain I have ever felt in my life.
It was about the mid to lower portion of my neck and it felt as if someone had just jammed a knife into the bones and was happily twisting away. I screamed and scared the crap out of Pete. He pulled into his parking spot and asked if I was ok and I was freaking out. I couldn't so much as breathe or even bend my head in any direction without multiple stabbing pains shooting through my neck and shoulders.
He took me to the E.R. and that's where the low-velocity whiplash prognosis was given and they began to put me on a fairly aggressive physical therapy routine. I being the ever so wise 18 year old who knew all I should know, stopped going after about 3 visits when I felt a bit better and carried on with my life.
Because of that, I essentially lost the ability to sue for damages and more and ended up with a $160 check from my attorney and the therapy sessions had been covered. I was upset but didn't know what my future held and didn't think to deeply on the matter afterwards.
About a year went by and I was working at a cab company for a short time. They had me doing some ride-alongs with some drivers but after learning I had some mechanic experience they put me in the shop. One day as I was taking a transmission out of one of the older cars, I was lowering the jack holding up the driveshaft end of the transmission and the weight of it was a bit more than I thought. As the narrow end of the transmission came down somewhat rapidly,I had my arms outstretched to help steady it. I looked a bit as if I was doing a backstroke swim move but both arms out at the same time. That's when I felt that same horrible stabbing pain in my neck and I couldn't move.
For about 5 minutes I just laid there trying not to move, hoping that if I just stayed still a bit maybe it would pass. It didn't and I struggled to get out from under the car. I was on a low height creeper (dolly for some) so I was able to wheel myself out, slowly, using my ankles.
I had long hair during this time in my life so it was helpful to be able to grab my hair and pull my head up along side my body as even as I possibly could. Only those of you who have experienced similar pain can probably understand the level of agony that hits. I wouldn't wish that on even my worst of enemies.
Once I was able to get up I asked for some help from the dispatch guy who was sitting just beyond the wall of the shop in his office. He got one of the drivers to take me to the E.R. and once I arrived they game me a shot of Toradol I believe and that helped take some of the severity off the pain. It did nothing for the instability or the piercing pain if I moved my head too swiftly or at most angles. While I was in the hospital I got a call from my boss at the cab company. He had called to tell me I was fired, and don't bother picking up a check as they had sent it to my address. I was still too young and naive and probably could have filed against the company for workers comp but I felt that because this was a pre-existing injury, I wouldn't have much of a case.
That was one of the many times my job was put at risk or terminated because of my neck. Throughout the next 20 years or so, I would live and work through my pain and if it went out, which it did about 1 to 3 times a year, I would visit a chiropractor and they would pop my neck and I would have enough relief that I could return to work. It was almost a bit of a game I played with myself. See how long and hard I could work before my jerk of a neck took me down for the count.
Well, as of about 5 year ago. The neck won and decided to start attacking the rest of spine. After avoiding doctors for almost as long as I can remember (not a big fan) I finally conceded and went to one in California where I was living by that time. Immediately upon X-rays he asked me how I was dealing with my Scoliosis and my Degenerative Disk Disease and I told him I had no idea that was what was going on.
He wasn't exactly thrilled with my lack of information on it because his concern, obviously, was how long I had let it go and how far it had gone without having any treatment. I told him that thanks to my lack of having any insurance and low-paying high-labor jobs, I didn't have the option of repeated doctor visits. Chiropractors were about $30 to $40 a visit then so it wasn't as difficult to afford that when my neck required it,
He gave me some Vicodin for the pain and some Naproxen as well and told me I needed to discontinue my line of work or any labor jobs because of the risk of further injury. Even at this point my reversal of lordosis, cervical spondylosis, and some bone spurs throughout the spine were evident and I was experiencing constant pain and aches as well as stiffness in my neck and back.
Jump ahead to today and I finally have a better picture of what is causing my pain and the full extent of what letting my initial injury go unchecked, could do. Seeing the reverse curve of my neck, the slippage of the vertebrae in my lower back, the extent of the bone spurs and their severity, and feeling the constant spasms this all created made me realize it was not only something I should have taken more serious earlier on, but that I had a bit of a rough road ahead of me.
I have no problems with handling and overcoming whatever is thrown at me but the most aggravating part is when doctors look at you because of your age and assume that you must be fine. I had to move to Washington shortly after my visit with the California doctor and starting over was not only a major stress inducer but I wasn't taken seriously by many of the physicians I had seen. Thanks to some of the donation based programs in the state, however, I was finally able to get an MRI of my neck and that's when all the fun words started popping out. Spondilo this, neuroforaminal narrowing of that, facet arthopy here, and osteophytes all over there etc...
About a year after this imaging and some discussions about possible treatment plans, I still hadn't been able to get any physician to look at my lower back as anything serious. It was assumed that since the imagery didn't show much past the lower neck, that it was symptomatic of my neck issues. At this time I was able to qualify for healthcare and I began the process of finding a Primary Care Physician that fit my needs. I won't go into details but I'll say it's a nightmare. Clinics don't want chronic pain patients. They want 'get em in get em out' patients. Because of that I was overlooked by multiple physicians until recently.
Being frustrated with my latest "it's not so bad and we don't see the evidence to support your amount of pain and instability" I decided to return to the doctor in California to get his opinion even though it meant paying for his services and tests out-of-pocket.
Within an hour he had my full range of X-rays, put them on the viewer, had the X-ray tech grab the ones from years ago and showed me just how much degradation had happened in my lower-back. The portion ignored by almost every other doctor I had spoken with. He pointed out what appears to be about a grade 2 Degenerative Spondylolisthesis as well as the massive bone spurs that had formed since the last X-rays he had of me. He told me they would auto-fuse in that region and that my lower back along with my neck (that hadn't shown much degradation but also hadn't improved any since the last images) , would indeed account for not only my pain, but my dizziness, migraines, high blood pressure, fatigue, and weakness as well.
At this point I am now able to seek a specific treatment plan and with a new doctor who heard my entire spiel and still wants to see me, I may have a chance at gaining some quality of life back.
I can't stress enough to anyone I meet. If you have pain that is persistent and pushes you past your tolerance levels, don't just medicate it and move on. Get it checked, get it treated, and save yourself a future of pain. Welcome to Spine-Health
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~ spine-health moderator, savage