Hi, I am new here. I have a history of back problems. I had a hemilaminectomy in 1999 at L4/5. In fall 2009 back pain began again and I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at L5/S1. Since that time, the pain has subsided, but one symptom has remained - numbness in my lower right leg. It is on the outside of the leg, crossing over to the top of my foot just above my ankle then spreading across the top of my foot into my big toe and the toe next to my big toe. I've had these symptoms for nearly two years now. I tried conservative treatments - PT, injections, and have been referred to two different surgeons during that time. The first surgeon about a year ago said I was not a candidate for surgery. The second surgeon, I began seeing a few months ago believes I am. He ordered an MRI and it shows I have a large bulging disc at L3/4 and a slight bulge at L5/S1. He wants to perform a laminectomy on both at the same time.
This would be my second back surgery, and I am 31. I am hesitant to proceed without first understanding the cause of my injuries, conditions and symptoms and how I can prevent future pain/injury. I've seen several doctors: my PCP, two surgeons, a physiatrist and two physical therapists. I hear different terms from all of them. I am told that I have
"advanced degeneration", "degenerative discs", "degenerative disc disease", "arthritic discs", "facet joint syndrome", "facet syndrome", "spinal stenosis", "stenosis", "thin discs".
I realize that some of these terms may be synonomous, however, I dont know for certain, as none of the several medical professionals I have seen in the past year and a half have taken the time to explain them to me. One doctor told me that "arthritic discs" and "degenerative disc disease" are synonomous, and by another doctor I was told they are not.
Complicating this is my family history. My sister, who is 28, has had two back surgeries and has suspected Reynaud's Syndrome and is currently undergoing tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis. My dad has always had back problems, but no specific dianosis and no surgeries. My mother has Mutliple Sclerosis, and her family has a strong history of autoimmune disease. Her eldest sister died of crohn's disease and also had paget's disease, and her younger sister has fibromyalgia. Out of their 12 cousins, 8 have or have had an autoimmune disease including RA, MS and Lupus.
I asked my surgeon's PA if it is possible there is a connection between my symptoms and my family history and was told "you need to worry about the problem you do have, and stop trying to create problems you dont have". I kinda feel like no one is listening to me. I am not saying there is a connection, but my sister's doctors had it wrong - at least it looks that way - two times before they realized that maybe its something else. I dont want to go down that path if I dont have to as I know recovery from back surgery is downright miserable.
Any suggestions? Am I seeing the wrong types of doctors? Am I asking the right questions? I noted some people on here recommend seeing a rheumatologist. I have called several after hearing some of my doctors refer to my discs as being arthritic and none of the rheumatologists will see me. All have told me that they "dont do back stuff" or some variant of that excuse. Does anyone understand why?
Any feedback is much appreciated. Thanks!