About a year ago, I began having excruciating low back pain whenever I was on my feet (standing, walking, whatever) for more than 5-10 minutes. I had to leave my job because I couldn't perform my duties. I waited a few months and then saw my GP. She guessed it was from me being so heavy (300 lbs on a 5'4 frame) and sent me to physical therapy.
Being out of work, I could only afford to go to 2 or 3 sessions before I had no gas left in my tank and no money to buy any more. I continued to do the exercises they had given me, and also looked online for other exercises. No effect.
About a month later, I got my student loan refund check and filled up my gas tank--I visited the chiropractor. He took an x-ray and told me I have something called a transitional segment on my L5 vertebra and sacrum. If I understand correctly, this basically means that the bones are fused together at the end, when they should not be. It is a congenital thing. He did electro-ice therapy (where patches were put on my lower back and low levels of electricity went through them while I sat against an ice pack) and then he did the manipulation on me. I went three times and it did not help, then I was unable to go anymore, again because of no gas in my car and no money to buy it.
I went back to my GP and told her that, at my mom's request, I was going to go see a spine surgeon. She ordered an MRI of my back, so I took the MRI and the X-Ray with me. He told me that I had a bulging disc, but nothing that warranted surgery so he was 'not sure why I was there'. He told me, pretty much verbatim, that I need to ignore the pain as best I can and learn to live with it. He said I need to lose weight. I was so shocked that I was literally stunned into silence and unable to tell him, but I can't even stand--it's very hard to exercise when you can't stand.
My GP then sent me to a pain management doctor. He looked at my MRI and said, yep, you've got a transitional segment and a bulging disc. He told me will develop arthritis in my back within the next 20 years. He said that any walking on a hard surface will irritate the nerves. Then he said, I see that you've already tried therapy and the chiropractor, so we're going to give you steroid injections, and if those don't work, it'll be surgery.
Well, the injections did work. The first session, he gave me 3. The second session, two weeks later, he gave me 6, because I told him I was experiencing very intense sciatica after the first round (which I was). The back pain is much better, but now I get bouts of intense hip/back/and leg pain, even if I'm just lying on the couch.
He guessed that the injections will work anywhere from 6mos-1 year. But I'm afraid to go out and get another job, because if I wake up one day and the shots aren't effective any more, I'll have to leave the job or get more shots. I don't want to get constant steroids, I've heard that getting a lot of those is very bad for you.
Frankly, I want to tell him that I want to go ahead and get the surgery. I'm 23, relatively healthy besides being heavy--I feel like I will recover from it, and have less risk of complications, now when I'm 23 instead of waiting till I'm 40 or something. Also, like I said, I'm afraid to get a job because the shots could stop at any moment. He said that any walking on a hard surface (and what isn't hard?) will hurt my back more--how can a person function? I'm terrified that it'll become herniated merely from doing activities or daily living. I feel that surgery, even with all its risks, is the best way to go.
Can I just get some others' experiences? Even if they're not exactly the same, just hearing I'm doing the right thing would be great. Or even hearing I'm doing the wrong thing, because that would help me analyze the situation in another light. Thanks all.