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Need help with figuring this out

Hi all!! I'm frustrated and in need of help. If you can read through what I'm sure is going to be a long post I truly am grateful and if you can offer any wisdom on this then I am eternally indebted to you. 

To start I am a 36 year old female with what I think is a typical lifestyle in regards to my activity level. I work in an office so I do sit at a desk but because my coworkers are constantly in need of help I am up and down repeatedly throughout the day walking from one office to another. When I'm home at night and weekends I am dealing with my kids which one of is a 2 year old boy who keeps me on my toes. I have the normal responsibilities at home like cooking and cleaning and doing yard work and all. I rarely sit for long periods of time because I just am not one who can sit still, I have to be doing something at all times. But with all of that I admittedly do not exercise and I know I should. Overall though I am in good health even though I'm a smoker and have been for about 22 years or so. 

Roughly 7 years ago I was enjoying an afternoon at my brother's house. I had a few beers (although nowhere near even slightly buzzed let alone drunk) and we were racing go-karts on a makeshift dirt track in the back yard. I hit an area of piled up dirt supported by a fence behind it with the left from tire and immediately came to a stop. The impact was enough that the front axle was in an L shape afterwards. I wasnt thrown from it or anything like that but rather just jerked forward. I got up and walked away in no pain or anything that would even make me remotely think I had been hurt. 

The next day I woke up with severe pain in my left lower back. I occasionally get kidney stones and just assumed this was one. After an ER visit complete with a CT scan I was sent home with pain meds and instructions to see an orthopedist as I was kidney stone free but in severe pain. 

I made an appointment with an ortho but the next new patient appointment was several weeks out so i had to wait. During those weeks the pain became so severe that i couldn't stand straight up and was forced to constantly have a stopped posture and even that still hurt. I also developed a terrible burning pain down the outside of my left leg. My leg felt as if there was a river of fire running in it. 

At my appointment he did an x-ray which didnt show anything and ordered an MRI. The results showed a herniated disc at L4-L5 with nerve root abutment. He gave me pain killers and said time would heal the herniated disc and I would be better in roughly 6 weeks or so. 

Well 6 weeks went by and I was no better. I went back and was told to just give it a little more time that since I was a smoker my body took longer to heal. 

Well while waiting my insurance changed and this doctor was no longer covered. I wanted another opinion anyway. So I went to a new ortho who looked at the MRI results. He said it should heal on it's own and that in the mean time I should see a pain management doctor. Mind you I am still constantly in a somewhat stooped posture. 

I went to pain management who threw more pain meds at me and offered to do a steroid injection. I had the injection which was a total of 3 done over 6 weeks. They were the most painful thing I have ever experienced with the first being the most painful and the second and third feeling slightly less painful. But the injections felt like my back was being ratcheted open and then hot lava being poured in there. I sobbed through each injection. 

6 months went by and I had no relief so they said I needed yet another injection. So I had a 4th and finally got relief!! I could stand up straight and my leg pain was gone!! I couldn't believe it but I finally was completely pain free. 

Fast forward 5 or so years and my pain has somewhat come back. I'm not in constant pain like I was before and my leg doesnt hurt at all but left lower back pain comes and goes. Some activities I know will cause me pain such as bending over to blow dry my hair or bending to clean the toilet or even mop the floors which only requires a slight bend. When I do bend over for example every morning when I blow dry my hair I have severe difficulty straightening back up. It feels as though my lower back simply cannot do it. I have to ease my way in to standing up straight by raising up slightly and then waiting and then raising up slightly more and then waiting and so on until I am completely upright and the whole process is painful. But once i am upright the pain is gone. When vacuuming or mopping I will start to feel pain and must stop and stand up straight for a few minutes before continuing. I have also found that sitting for more than 10 min or so will cause pain that is only relieved by either standing or placing my hands on the seat of the chair and using my arms to support my weight. I have found that standing for more than 10 min or so sill cause pain that is eased but not relieved with shifting my weight from one foot to another and totally relieved with sitting or lying down. I have also noticed that when I get in the bed at night and first lie down on my back it hurts and feels as though my back is settling (this is the best I can des rive the feeling). The pain always subsides after a few minutes which I can then roll over to my side or stomach without causing pain. 

The pain has been back for almost 9 months to a year with it having gradually become more severe over time. I preemptively went to another pain management clinic for another injection (this time I found one that will put you to sleep for the injection) thinking I would get years of relief again. Well so far I have had 2 injections and have had zero relief. The pain management doc did an MRI which still showed the herniated disc at L4-L5 with the nerve root abutment and he also mentioned scoliosis in the lumbar spine along with spinal stenosis and something about the disc not being in alignment with the others anymore. 

I am making an appointment tomorrow with another ortho for reevaluation of my symptoms but I am worried they are going to just send me to pain management again. I have tried finding information online about what could be causing this pain. Everything points back to the herniated disc but it all also says there should be sciatica along with the back pain which I do not have this go around. I only have pain in my left lower back that when it comes on is severe to the point that it drastically limits my ability to move my back. 

I am frustrated with the pain and nervous about what could be causing it and what will need to be done to eliminate it. Has anyone experienced this or anything similar to this? What were you told was the cause and what did you do to fix it? Please let me learn from your experience!!



  • sarahtindall82

    welcome to spine-health

    learn how to use spine-health - take the system tutorial 

    You are on the right track by going to a spine specialist, you may need further diagnostic testing, a MRI is a very good test, but does not always show everything, the nerve impingment needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, the longer it is compressed, the longer the healing time, you are correct that leg pain usually goes along with all this, but is not always the case.
    One word of caution, Dr. Google can cause you a lot of stress, I agree with educating yourself about your condition, but if you look online long enough, you will convince yourself that you have all kinds of problems that you really don't have.
    My best advice to you is, write all of your symptoms down, when the pain happens, what makes it worse, what makes it better, take the notes with you to your appointment, that way you will not forget anything.
    I have posted a link below that may be helpful.

    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Sarah, Chip is spot on with his advice. As well, this seems that it’s gone from being a simple injury type pain to becoming Chronic. There are a multitude of further testing which can and should be done to hopefully relieving this pain for good. You might want to talk to your MD about a mylogram, MRI with contrast, . These are just 2 of the many test they can request to find the root of the problem versus a temporary fix. Good luck and keep us posted....David


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

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  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 6,397

    David and Chip gave you some very good advice. It is time to find the root of the problem and not just treat the symptoms.
    I always make a list of my questions and concerns before I go to any doctor. It gives them a better picture of what is going on and you can get better answers.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
  • L4_L5LL4_L5 Posts: 1,452
    edited 04/29/2019 - 2:08 PM

    You’ve seen several pain management doctors and orthopedic doctors but didn’t mention a neurosurgeon. I’d book an appmt with a neurosurgeon.

    In my experience surgeons won’t operate unless the pain is worse in your lower extremities than it is in your low back.

    However, based on how long the nerve has been compressed they might make an exception.

  • sarahtindall82ssarahtindall82 Posts: 5
    edited 04/29/2019 - 3:01 PM

    That y'all so much for your comments!! Yesterday I made the mistake of vacuuming and mopping the floors and even though I was constantly aware of my posture and made sure not to stoop I am in agony today. I can feel both sides of my back in constant spasm that radiates down to the top of my butt on both sides. I cannot stand up all the way straight and any and every position except lying flat hurts. So I called  today and made an appointment with a spine surgeon which luckily had a cancellation this Wednesday afternoon so I am going then. I just got the MRI report from the pain management clinic and thought I would share the findings. Number 1 says "Retrolisthesis, shallow disc displacement biforaminal predominance, posterior annular tears at the L4-5 level and mild to moderate facet hypertrophy contrbute to abutment of the exiting left L4 nerve and abutment of bilateral descending L5 nerves." Number 2 says "Mild C-shaped curvature of the lumbar spine with the main convexity to the left side" I understand some of that but not all so I guess I'll find out Wednesday. I'll post again after I see the doctor!!

    Edited by Sandra to remove name of medical facility.

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  • Sarah

    You made a very good decision by making that appointment.


    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • How did you get doctors to approve an MRI? What did you say? Every doctor I see is reluctant to give an MRI unless absolutely necessary. Your lucky you got pain meds. My pain management doc didn't end mention meds

  • My most recent MRI was ordered by the pain management doctor. I'm only guessing but probably to confirm the pain I'm having and validate his decision to prescribe pain meds. When I saw him the first time I simply described my pain and what i noticed that seemed to bring the pain on. I also explained my history with this pain and the original injury and diagnosis. 

  • Sarah, it sounds like your MD is ordering your MRI to find what the problem is. Not to validate your pain. I’m glad he did because now your heading in the right direction to find and fix your problem. If I’m correct, after the MRI is completed, he will refer you to a appropriate  specialist where they can further treat this problem. Please keep us posted...David 


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

  • It was actually the pain management doctor who ordered the last MRI that was done in December of 2018. With those results and failed injections I am headed to a spine specialist today for an appointment. Thankfully my health insurance doesnt require a referral for a specialist so I was able to bypass having to see my primary care doc and make my own appointment with the spine doc. I'll post what happens at the appointment later this evening.

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