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This is my history and my present. I have managed to keep an optimistic attitude, although, sometimes it is very hard.

I am 37 and 6ft 1. I live alone. There is only myself to take care of me. Only my income to support me. I work in an area of health related customer service, in which the daily throughput of individuals is high. The work is mostly fast paced. My job involves me moving and handling heavy mechanical and human loads throughout the day including standing in one enclosed position on a concrete floor in a cold environment from a minimum of 20 minutes upward to sometimes 5 hours.

Back pain symptoms began early 2007 managed with acupuncture, hot/cold therapy, codeine, diclofenac.
Later that year MRI scan revealed L4/L5, L5/S1 disc degeneration. Prescribed additionally further acupuncture, gabopentin, diazepam, TENS and the recommendation of one to one pilates instruction. I came off Gabopentin because I was unable to work whilst taking it.

The pilates and core strengthening helped me terrifically and all was well until early 2010 when I developed bilateral sciatica and excruciating lumbar stiffness affecting my basic functionality.
May 2010: taken to A&E with waist down numbness. GP referred me to orthopedic specialist. 3 unsuccessful for pain relief but diagnostic nerve root blocks and steroid injections over 5 mths. Told I have an incredibly high pain threshold by specialist who can't believe I'm forcing myself into work.
October 2010: bilateral sciatica and lumbar pain to point of nausea and had developed a Parkinson's similar walking shuffle, sometimes having to drag my feet. I finally give in and go off sick.
January 2011: Rhyzolysis procedure carried out with partial success. Prescribed Naproxen which really helped to alleviate remaining symptoms. Gentle pilates twice daily. Returned to work May. Specialist advised spinal fusion. I had to decline as was basically told I would be sacked if I had any more time off sick.

With twice daily back stretches and Naproxen I have been 'good' for me. The sciatica is brought on by extreme cold, damp cold and damp heat. I've been managing my symptoms up until all the prolonged rain we've had in the NE. Serious pain and bilateral whole limb sciatica and whiplash spasms since February.

Been on ineffective Amitryptilline 60mg at night, codeine and naproxen.

I'm scared to have surgery because the 50% better or 50% worse prognosis is not good enough for me. I stiffen up after 10mins standing still for my job. TENS helps but only if on constantly, as does constant heat (not always practical at work). Convinced my working postures aggravate this I have been keenly studying spinal and sacral iliac anatomy, convinced I may find a way to stretch out the pain (a physio told me I need to work on my hamstrings and hip flexors). Deep tissue massage helps a lot (but too expensive to have as regularly as weekly).

The specialist said to avoid chiropractic assistance and I'm wondering whether to look into osteopathy and or Alexander Technique.

I hope to provide support to other back pain sufferers and find viable solutions to increasing my daily basic functionality without surgery. I'm seeing a podiatrist next month to see if my work footwear (rubber clogs) is aggravating my work stiffness.


  • Just to clarify, I was mostly symptom free from Feb 2011 right through to Feb 2013. This week has advanced me to shuffling in order to walk. Sorry such a long initial intro... I tried to keep it neat, but using a pad whilst walking round my home as can't sit at computer.
  • First of all, welcome to Spine Health! This website is AWESOME! It has helped me through 2 lumbar fusions and all the crap going on now! I do want to commend you for still working, I know you have got to be in A LOT of pain! (My doctor was beside herself when I was still working before my last surgery) . Have you tried using ice to help with the pain? Do you have a lot of inflammation from this as well? Do you have any bulging or herniated discs? What is your diagnosis? I wouldn't recommend spinal fusion UNLESS that is your only chance of living. My first surgery was pretty much a success (gave me close to 3yrs of minimal pain ... the second back surgery was HORRENDOUS!!!!! And I may be looking at a 3rd!! When you are working, can you sit? Does it help at all? What if anything makes it better or worse? I hope you can find a break in the pain WITHOUT surgery!!!! What kinds of tests have the doctors run? You can PM me if you have any questions. And again, good luck and welcome!!!
    2 more bulging discs; spinal stenosis; osteoarthritis; reverse lordosis at L3; degenerative disc disease; inflammatory joint disease; nerve root cysts at T1-T3; 2 level PLIF 4/9/09 and 3 level PLIF 9/6/12 with hardware both times
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  • Nice to meet you!

    So many questions and I hate talking about myself! You get used to not talking about the spinal pain because you don't want to sound like a broken record....every back healthy person hasn't got a clue until it's happened to them.... I was the same, but my experiences have made me a better health care professional for sure.

    Application of cold makes me worse. Occupational Health at work provided me with a perching saddle stool 3 years ago.... When I'm going through a really bad period, I cannot sit for more than 10 mins, or stand still more than 20 without locking or spasming. I am an OR scrub nurse. So, per case, I'm sit, stand, sit, stand etc for as long as the case lasts.

    My diagnosis is DDD at S1 with L5 herniation pinching the sciatic nerve. I discharged myself from my orthopaedic specialist because he said fusion was my only option. Because of 4mths off sick from work 2.5 yes ago, I've been 'marked' as having chronic back pain and have been 'warned' that if I am off sick because of it again, I cold lose my job. As I said initially, there is only me to look after myself and I have to work to live. My doctor says most of his patients with my level of pain would be in a wheel chair by now. He wants me to go off sick to rest, but because of lack of support at work, I'm scared to get a sick note. I have a strong spirit. I have ways of 'coping' with the pain, sometimes it seems harder to hide the 'disability' from colleagues. In 2 yrs I have been to 6 job interviews to try and get out into an easier environment (I am 'better' if I can keep moving rather than be stationary), but because of being labelled with a chronic condition, I am convinced I am on some list....

    A colleague, had a successful discectomy under a neuro surgeon. I am thinking of getting my doctor to refer me to a neurologist. My friend/colleague says she is 1000% better since the op, whereas I know a few people who have been worse off following a fusion.

    I'm trying to find more options than surgery.... Stretching, heat cushions and deep tissue massage help me best. I'm trying to walk more too again.

    Thanks for greeting me.... You've GOT to try and stay strong and believe there are solutions. Never give in to it!

    Kind Regards,
  • Hey there,

    I am also new to the site and I am concerned about your employer saying that they will basically let you go if you take more time off ? I am an HR Executive and I can tell you that legally you could sue them if you have a dr's note giving you notice that you should be resting or have limitations.

    Do you have a disability policy ? If you don't know you should find out asap. Also legally there is something called FMLA leave and legally your employer must give you 3 months off work (without pay) and give you back the same job if you have a family or personal matter.

    Just make sure you know your rights and don't let your employer push you around !

  • Emma_LCEEmma_LC Posts: 11
    edited 04/17/2013 - 8:48 AM
    Thank you for the advice A, I appreciate it and will look into those. It was the head of HR who made the threats actually! The first time I was off work for the rhyzolysis, I had been ready to go back to work a month before I actually did, because my boss told me I wouldn't be returning to my department and said she didn't know how to get me back to work, I wasn't her problem....the only support I got was from Occupational Health to return to work because I referred myself to them, not my employer. It took me instigating legal and union action before my HR department took my case to return to work seriously, and then I had to fight being put on a redeployment list ( under other disability policy). Bring put on a redeployment list, I was told by the head HR individual, meant that I wouldn't be going back to my workplace and would have to interview for available suitable jobs....AND if I didn't find a job in the 'allotted' 3 mth period, then my employment would be discontinued. I fought, knowing the various work policies inside out and managed to get back into my former position. My manager was disciplined for mismanaging me (nearly 3 years later my manager is only just getting anywhere normal with me because I keep my head down and work harder than most because I have to continually prove myself and hide my disability).

    Kind regards, Emma.
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  • Hi A,

    I've just looked up FMLA leave, it is a US statute..... I live and work in the UK. Kind Regards, Emma.
  • Sorry it has taken me so long to get back with you! I hope you have found some relief! I haven't, but I do refuse to give into it. I am to stubborn for my own good sometimes. I seem to be going down hill lately. Like the last couple of days I can barely walk. Which sucks considering I am only 35! I am over weight, but not HUGE! When my husband and I go to stores I force myself to use a cart and walk around the store. I REFUSE to use one of the scooters or wheelchairs with carts they have. One of the reasons may sound vain, but I don't want to get any bigger then what I am and at least the stores we go to there seems to be REALLY big people that ride those. Hopefully that doesn't come across as being inconsiderate or rude, because I am not intending either. I was supposed to see a new surgeon last Wednesday and we had to drive almost 2 hours to the appointment just to be called as we were about to enter the parking lot to be told my appointment was canceled and we had to reschedule! The surgeon had to perform an emergency brain surgery! So we rescheduled it for NEXT Wednesday and have to drive an hour and a half the other direction to see the same dr. (He sees patients in 2 different towns) My husband took off work to be there with me and had been up for well over 24 hours! (He works nights and used his LAST vacation day to go for the YEAR!) Was SOOO not happy with this surgeon and I haven't met him yet!
    Today is one of the days I can barely walk and I seem to be taking my percocet 10/325's like they are candy which scares me! I just took 3 at one time to try and catch up with this pain! Have you tried using a heating pad to help you? I know you said ice makes it worse for you. Is your employer being any easier on you? My last job was at a mental hospital working with the violent sexual predators ... so there was never a dull day! Or night in my case since I worked 3rd shift.
    I have applied for disability, my dr is hoping it is just temporary and that I will be able to return to work someday. Which would be AMAZING, but he still doesn't have a clue what all is wrong with me! Good times! Sorry to he talking about myself so much. I hope you are finding some relief and peace. Keep is posted on how you are doing.
    2 more bulging discs; spinal stenosis; osteoarthritis; reverse lordosis at L3; degenerative disc disease; inflammatory joint disease; nerve root cysts at T1-T3; 2 level PLIF 4/9/09 and 3 level PLIF 9/6/12 with hardware both times
  • Bless your heart! I hope you took out long term disability insurance thru your employer. If not I would do it right away! You definitely need to see a Neurosurgeon bc fusion is not the only surgical option you have! Do you have any children or family that could help you for a while if you needed someone? I have issues from my neck to my tail bone but I won't get into all that. I can't believe you work In the medical field and the dr doesn't understand or sympathize with your condition! That is awful! I sure hope you get some help with all your difficulties! God bless you n I'll b praying about your situation!
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