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Weird Case of Lower Back Pain that Simply WILL NOT HEAL - Suggestions Please!

Hello all, my name is Casey Brown and I have been suffering from debilitating back pain since about Jan. 2012, or about 10 months. The nature of the original injury is unknown - could be due to training martial articles where I might have hyper extended the joints of the spine, not quite sure.

Anyway, my case is quite weird because according the MRI, my spine is nearly perfect, except for some "mild facet joint athropathy" - basically, the lower three facet joints on both sides are very irritated and inflamed, giving symptoms similar to arthritis (I'm 24 years old btw). According to the MRI, the irritation was "mild", and everything else seems to be tip-top - the discs are great, no ligament or muscle damage, etc. However, the pain is QUITE SEVERE. I can't sit or stand for more than about an hour without experiencing a huge flare up of pain and inflammation, as well as a reactive muscle spasm.

As I said earlier, the first onset of pain was back in Jan. 2012. From Jan to Feb I kept on with my daily activities, and kept training martial arts.I gave up martial arts and stopped working out altogether for the next four months (probably a very bad idea but I didn't know any better), and began resuming light to moderate exercise in July to present (approx. 3 months ago).

I have done EVERYTHING in my power to fix this, but it just refuses to get any better. I've seen personal trainers, physical therapists, 2 orthopedists, 2 chiropractors, regular doctors, and even tried acupuncture. I am doing all the proper corrective exercises and stretches I know of, and keep good posture throughout the day and when seated, but alas, nothing ever gets any better.

I did a round of facet blocker injections in my back yesterday to see if RFA (radio frequency ablation - a procedure that kills the nerve endings in the fact joints so they can't send pain signals) would be a good option, however, sadly, the injections provided little to no relief, meaning the RFA wouldn't help much. I am stilling considering going through with it, because some of the pain I felt after the injections could of just been skin pain at the injection site, but I dunno - I am pretty depressed because I thought this was the answer.

What should I do? Has anybody else had a "mysterious" case of lower back pain that just simply would NOT go away no matter WHAT they did? I am losing my mind here - I just want to move on with my life so badly. It's so hard, I want to give up sooooo badly. Every single day I am in pain. I can't work, I can't go out to bars, clubs, etc. and be a regular kid - the pain is too severe after about 30-45 minutes, there is always a HUGE flair up of pain. I need to ice/lie down within an hour max of any activity.

I'm at a loss - should I do the RFA? Would that be a waste of time? The ONLY thing that looks wrong is the facet joints, yet they just seemingly WON'T HEAL. This is the only thing that gives me SOME hope that RFA will work, even though the results from the injections didn't seem to help much at all.

Suggests and advice welcome! Thanks.


  • Hi Casey, you have arrived in the right spot. There are so many people on this site that will share their knowledge and experience with you. I can tell you through my own experience that not everything shows on an MRI...your body is the best indicator of pain. I had many things show on my MRI's over the years...but I can tell you that my surgeon was totally floored when he got in...the entire right side was a mess, my discs were mush at 3 levels...none of this showed on any of the MRI's, and I think there were 3 in the previous 18 months. Do your research, find good doctors willing to listen to you and not just read a diagnostic test to you. I am fairly new to this site...I have an ounce of knowledge and/or advice compared to what you will find on here. Stick around, read posts and article, something might click...again, your body and pain is the best indicator of a problem....I wish you the best in finding a solution! Peace, Ellen
    3 level fusion L3-S1 July 23, 2012
  • brvsfan99bbrvsfan99 Posts: 113
    edited 10/05/2012 - 2:01 AM
    I agree with Ellen. Be persistent. Not everything always shows on the MRI as my discogram proved. My MRI said no tears in any discs and my discogram with CT showed that my disc had both anterior and posterior tears and was almost non-existent. Something is causing you pain. I don't think you are making it up. Well maybe you are, I don't know. Just kidding. ;) ;-) :wink:" alt=":wink:" height="20" /> Hopefully I got a smile out of you. Keep doing your research and reach out to people on this site. We are more than willing to share our experiences, both good and bad with you.

    Single level L5/S1 360 fusion with 6 screws and a rod (10/29/12)
    Diagnosis: Grade 1-2 spondylolithesis, Pars Defect, L5/S1 disc tear anterior and posterior, DDD, spinal stenosis
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  • MballardMMballard Posts: 101
    edited 10/05/2012 - 7:31 AM
    My buddy, Ellen, summed it up pretty succinctly. Keep pushing for answers. Don't give up. I'm thinking maybe if those facet joints are inflamed, it could be what's irritating those nerves at those levels. I didn't get much relief from the facet blocks, but I went ahead with the RFA anyway, in the hopes that it would do something. Sadly, it didn't work. But I'm still glad I did it. Maybe a provocative discography would help to pinpoint the exact location and nature of your pain?

    I know it can be incredibly frustrating not having answers. And when doctors imply that you are faking it because they are too inept or too lazy to keep digging, well, it just sucks. If you need to go to another doctor to get somebody to take you seriously, do it. Be your own advocate. You know something is off, so don't give up until you find out what it is!

    Best of luck to you, dear!
    L5-S1 Fusion, Discectomy on 7/10/12
    Herniated Discs at L3-L4-L5-S1, Spondylosis, Spondylolethesis at L5, DDD, Partial CES, Lumbar Facet Arthropathy
    Chronic back pain since 12/2010 (slip and fall on ice)
  • I already love this forum because here I can find some of the few people in this world who truly understand. Thanks for the support.

    I opted to go through with the RFA which I will have in about 5 days (I'll keep a journal of my experience for other members) anyway on the simple premise that things can't really get any worse. I hear that the nerves feel "sunburnt" and really hurt for about a month but that won't be anything out of the ordinary. I'm going in with low expectations so like I said, if it doesn't work, no biggie.

    Should I opt to have a CT scan as well? And a discography? Already had an MRI and x-ray.... I'll ask them about it. Although my pain management guy is kind of a prick (short, non-sympathetic, attitude, etc.) but my orthopedist seems a little more understanding, so we'll see what happens... Wish I knew what the problem was!
  • DaveFusionDDaveFusion Posts: 476
    edited 10/05/2012 - 7:39 PM
    Similar to what's been said, my mri's did not show all that the surgeon found during surgery. MRI also require very skilled radiologists to interpret them properly. I once had a very skilled surgeon seek a second opinion from a trusted radiologist colleague because he said that they can sometimes be difficult to read and wanted confirmation.

    Additionally, one should be able to trust and work cooperatively with ones Drs. If one can't then it might be time to move on to find a better one. Your PM doesn't sound ..... Hmmm, cooperative.

    So keep researching the subject, so you can interact effectively and keep seeking Drs that are willing to keep working with you until the solution is found.

    All the best,
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  • Just be prepared if you do go through with this test or it is ordered, it is going to hurt. Between that test and the CT that was done after, a more complete picture was produced of exactly what is going on inside my back. I hated it but I know that having it done has and will assist my surgeon.

    I didn't mention in my other post that I also had RFA. For me it worked for about a month. After that the pain came rushing back, more extreme than before :( But everyone is different and I hope it works for you. Keep us updated.

    Single level L5/S1 360 fusion with 6 screws and a rod (10/29/12)
    Diagnosis: Grade 1-2 spondylolithesis, Pars Defect, L5/S1 disc tear anterior and posterior, DDD, spinal stenosis
  • I backed out of the surgery (RFA) to give a little more time to heal naturally and also try an alternative treatment, prolotherapy. Lot's of people on this board have probably heard of it, but in case you haven't, prolotherapy is procedure where they inject some kind of "irritant" that triggers the bodies natural inflammatory and healing processes, geared towards repairing soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, cartilage, etc. that under normal circumstances, take FOREVER to heal due to lack of good blood supply. It's efficacy is controversial, but it is very low risk (the only thing it can hurt is your wallet). I am currently in the process of trying to get insurance to pay for it. We'll see what happens and I will update this thread with new developments as they occur! Thanks for the support guys and gals :)
  • Be interesting to see how this goes with you.
  • I definitely want to hear how this works out for you! Keep us posted and good luck!
    L5-S1 Fusion, Discectomy on 7/10/12
    Herniated Discs at L3-L4-L5-S1, Spondylosis, Spondylolethesis at L5, DDD, Partial CES, Lumbar Facet Arthropathy
    Chronic back pain since 12/2010 (slip and fall on ice)
  • Hi Michelle ! Hee hee ! lol I don't mean to follow you around but you're everywhere! :)

    Finding the proper care is very important. If you aren't getting good vibes from someone , try to move on. There are many good therapists out there but some not so good.
    Your back problem sounds unique where nothing is showing up on the tests so far, but don't give up !
    If you want to talk about pain, this is definitley the place! It does help to tell your story and hear others......Good luck to you!

    Different degrees of back pain since 1994
    Cortisone shots Jan/09
    Discectomy and lamenectomy April/09
    L5 - S1 spinal fusion July.13th/12
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