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College student seeking advice ASAP


I have posted in a different forum section and am posting my story here in hopes it gets seen by those with chronic pain. I also received advice from the moderator to help tell my story more effectively, so I'm giving it another try.

I am a 19 year old female, 5'5 130 pounds. I am having severe, stabbing/extremely achy type of pain in my lower back (in the center of my back where my spine is), with burning/needle stick type pain running down the back of my left leg and the inside of my right thigh. At any given time, my pain is around an 8 on a 1-10 scale. When I move around, it becomes a 7 and a half or, on a good day, a 7. To say my pain is a 10 would make me feel a small bit dramatic, as I do not feel like I am actually dying, but I can say it is by far the worst pain I've had in my life and has become a constant part of my life for the past month. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but this is something I am really struggling with. My pain started at the beginning of September of 2015, right before my 19th birthday. To my knowledge, I have not had any kind of accident. Before September, I would have the occasional day where my back would hurt but the pain was not severe at all (around a 3), did not run into my legs, was treatable with a little rest, ibuprofen, or heat/ice. Like I said, I noticed the pain became more frequent around September. The pain would last 2-3 days at a time, was quite bothersome (5, sometimes a 6) but not severe and was a little more difficult to treat. However, I was still able to get rid of it for the most part and wasn't significantly worried. Around a month ago, the pain became significantly worse. This is when I noticed that the pain was running into my legs. It became nearly impossible to sit in class (I am a full time college student) because of the feeling in my legs and back as well as the hard classroom chairs, and lying down (especially to sleep) became extremely difficult as well, as it would make my back pain significantly worse. As far as positioning goes, the only time I get mild relief is when I am moving around. If I stand still, the pain is horrendous as well. I tried my absolute best to push through my pain until the end of the semester, but began missing classes because of the pain and/or lack of sleep and my GPA has suffered because of it. I am a nursing student and attending every class in this major is absolutely vital to success , so I want to stress how important it was that I was missing class because of my condition.

As far as my family history goes, my mom has sciatica, arthritis, DDD, and four protruding discs in her lower back. My grandfather had severe arthritis and DDD, and my grandmother has two protruding discs in her lower back, sciatica, spinal stenosis, DDD, arthritis and muscle spasms in her back and legs. My grandmother has also had two back surgeries, and my mother is facing the possibility of surgery as well. My father passed when I was young and I am not close with his side of the family, so I am unaware of any outlying problems on his side of the family. I cheered competitively for 12 years (I stopped about a year ago), and worked as a CNA from June of 2015 to October 2015. I have not sustained any injury to my back to my knowledge from cheering or working.

Prior to going to the doctor, I had treated my pain with alternating OTC medicines (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Naproxen), heat/cold, and began incorporating stretching and mild back exercises into my workout regime around mid-October. Before my pain became severe I worked out 2-3 days a week for an hour and a half to two hours at my university's gym. I have heard constant rest can debilitate the condition of the back, so I have tried my hardest to stay active since my pain has gotten severe but at this point, I am unable to do much more than my stretches and back exercises. To attempt to make up for this, and because movement does seem to relieve my pain a small amount, I have started walking on campus more rather than using transit or my car.

Once I finally caved in and decided to see my family physician, I learned he was out on vacation for the week. Instead, I saw an NP at the same office who was very nice and seemed to genuinely care about helping me. She prescribed me a 6 day prescription of prednisone 10 mg, flexeril 5 mg, and a few hydrocodone 5/325 mg. She requested a urine sample that came back clear and also requested an X-ray, which I did the following day. Unfortunately, the prednisone has not helped at all and I have completed the entire prescription. The flexeril has not helped my pain level at all. It has helped me be able to sleep 3-4 hours at a time at night without waking up, but I have heard of the negative effects of flexeril and don't want to continue using it for sleep alone, especially if it is not helping my pain. The hydrocodone has brought my pain level down to about a 6, which may not sound like much but has seemed to take an edge off of the pain, and for that I am very thankful.

At the start of the week, I am going to schedule an appointment with my family doctor, as he is the person I originally wanted to see, and my pain is not going away. What advice can you guys give me so that, when I go to my appointment, I am as effective as I can at helping him understand what's wrong? Other than my appointment with the NP, I have never been to the doctor for something like this and my family, who would be considered my best resource, didn't offer me much help. I did not have to explain much to the NP, but I know my family doctor will want me to be as detailed as I can. I also have not gotten my results from my X-ray, but I was told they would be faxed over to my doctor's office that afternoon. Are there tools I can use, or certain tips for doctor's visits that can help my doctor understand me better? I want there to be as little confusion as possible.

Also, what does it sound like my problem could potentially be, and are there any other types of therapy/pain relief that have been useful to you that I haven't listed above? I truly have tried everything I can think of to keep from seeing a doctor about this (I don't have insurance at the moment), but I'm afraid I won't be able to conquer this on my own.

Thanks so much!


  • Savanna1996, my main suggestion is a list to give the doctor.

    One column of the type or location of the pain. Keep it as brief and simple as possible. Another column with your pain rating 1-10 for each problem. Another column for the duration of each listed item. Sometimes you could have 5 different types of pain per area, like lower back, stabbing, cramping etc.

    Below this, list the medication or treatments used. Just remember to be as brief and concise as possible.

    You don't want to exacerbate anything but I have found slow stretching helps, but as I have been told, if it hurts, don't do it. Just know that X-rays don't show anything but bones, they may want an MRI to see more. Be sure to answer the doctors question honestly and concisely.

    Good luck.
  • When you go see your family doctor he will probably follow a course of action that is talked about on this site. For example chances he will order a MRI which will see what is going on inside of your spine, nerves and discs. Depending on the outcome he may choose for you to go to PT and try some different medication. What has help my muscle spasm when none of the pills have helped before is lidocaine ointment. The key for you right now is getting the MRI done. Also on this sight there is post talking about "the blend" with gives ideas that you can use on your own for your pain. Some may work, but you never know unless you try. Also if it is OK with your doctor if there is a pool where you can go to that may be very helpful. You do not need to swim laps but just doing things like walking in the water can help your muscles move without the stress. My guess is that while you did not hurt yourself cheerleading the jumping up and down and the lifts has cause some over use issues with your spine. I know my 10 years of running marathon's did not help my spine even though I never had any pain in my back while running back then.
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