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What is causing my pain? Sacroiliac Joint Issues? Bulging Discs? Or both?

terri1990tterri1990 Posts: 16
edited 08/08/2013 - 1:31 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi everyone,
I'm new here. I'm 23 and just have a few questions/comments/frustrations to express.

I'm 23. Before I injured my back, I was working as a Licensed Vet Tech. As basically an all around nurse for animals, I did just about everything: from lifting 75lb dogs to stooping down to clean cages to wrestling aggressive dogs and cats. I love my job, but for the second time in two years I am unable to work again.

When I was 21, an emergency came in: a collapsed German Shepherd who could hardly lift her head. Due to pure adrenaline and my care for making animals better, without a second thought, I lifted the dog out of the owners car and into our clinic. Being the only tech on duty that day, I had no choice but to lift the animal on my own as my vet had back issues as well. I carried the dog to the treatment area, to the x-ray room, into a cage almost level with the floor, out of the cage, back to x-ray, and so on and so forth. In total, I probably lifted the dog (roughly 60-70lbs) about 10-15 times around the hospital. While my back ached at the end of my shift, I didn't really think much of it due to all of the heavy lifting I had done. Later that night was a different story.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and literally COULD NOT move. My back was in such a spasm that it caused me pain to move any appendage. Slowly, and not without terrible pain, I managed to move every limb until I could sit up, stand up, and finally walk around. I went to the doctor later that week and was told that I just sprained my lumbar spine. Thinking nothing of it, I continued to work.

The pain is all over my lower back. It sits in the center of lower spine as well as on either side of the spine. The pain radiates down both buttocks and hips and down my legs into my ankles. The pain in the legs and butt was primarily on my right side for the first year, but now has my left side hurting as well due to walking with a limp for two years.

Although it hurt me to bend, stoop, lift, sit, stand, and walk, I continued to do my job until I just couldn't do it anymore. At that point, I went and saw a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. He was convinced that I had herniated a disc in my spine and sent me for an MRI and PT. The MRI came up negative for any issues and the PT did nothing to relieve my pain. I was out of work from July 2011 until Nov. 2011. Due to issues with worker's comp, I had no choice but to go back to work. Although my doctor had set weight limitations for me, I was unable to abide by them due to employees who didn't seem to notice that I was in terrible pain. I worked through the pain until September 2012, when my primary doctor placed me on Vicodin, Naproxen, and Metaxalone. I saw a pain specialist who ordered another lumbar MRI (also negative) and just increased my pain meds and changed my muscle relaxer to valium. This May, I went back to my original doctor, the physical medicine and rehabilitation. He ordered a stand-up MRI which revealed two bulging discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1) and curving of the lumbar spine, possibly due to muscle spasms. He also repeated an EMG, which showed extensive nerve damage in both legs, but worse in the right.

The IME report from the worker's comp states that the SI joints are very tender to the touch. I have had a positive straight leg test, and I know that I have the two bulging discs. It has been a very frustrating journey. I have been out of work again for another 3 months and counting. I can no longer take my college classes on campus because I can't sit for even 15 min without changing my position or standing, and I can hardly walk a block without having terrible pain. Of course, any of the treatments that the doctor's have wanted to try (epidural steroid injections, etc) have all been denied by worker's comp, so I don't even have the chance to see if anything can relieve my pain or where the main pain source even is. I've been walking with a cane because my right legs sometimes gives out on me and I need it for support when the back pain gets really bad. I pretty much cannot do anything by myself, assistance is needed for most things, like cooking, cleaning, picking up things, etc.

Thanks for letting me vent. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


**Forgot to add: I also have a small posterior labral tear in my right hip**


  • Beth94BBeth94 Posts: 21
    edited 08/07/2013 - 3:26 PM
    Hey Terri! I completely understand how frustrating this whole journey can be. I was 14 when I injured my back but it wasn't until I was 17 when a Dr. finally diagnosed me with a large central herniation with bone spurs, and congenital spinal stenosis. I had several MRI's in the first few years that appeared to show up negative. I tried PT, injections, chiropractor, massage and more. None of it worked for me and most people I know haven't had much success with conservative treatment. The bad thing is most Dr.'s won't try anything else unless you do all of the conservative treatments. I had a microdiscectomy June 13 on my L5-S1. Even though some of my leg pain has returned I am not as bad as I was before the surgery. I think my quality of life will be much better than it was before as long as the leg pain doesn't get any worse. I hope you get something figured out because it's no fun to be in the type of pain you're in.
  • Thank you so much for your support! I've tried everything that you have as well, forgot to add that in lol. The leg pain is absolutely terrible. Thank you for all of your support :)
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