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Greetings from Saskatchewan, Canada. I am a 51 year old male with chronic back pain. I was about 35 when a surgeon told me that I had broken L4 when I was a teenager. That led to spondolytheses and disk degeneration and eventually, in 2004, a fusion of L4-S1. This seemed to work for a couple of years and then more problems. First I found I could not sit is a car chair or other chair with higher sides. It put pressure on my hips and caused hip pain and pain in the fusion area. I had the exact same pain in my hips from lying on a very flat hospital bed after surgery. Then I developed a numb spot over my left knee that feels tingly when I touch it. Then the pain in the L5-S1/SI joint region would start whenever I was sitting, standing and sometimes lying down. Sleep became a problem because the pain in the fusion are would keep me awake. Walking was the only thing I could do to relieve the pain. I have been unable to work now for almost three years. I saw my Doctor and physiotherapist many times and have been on a stretching and exercise program. I was also using the inversion table once a day but that has become painful as well.
I started seeing a rheumatologist several years ago. He felt I had SI joint inflammation but several treatments of steroid injections failed to help the situation. My physiotherapists found that one or both of my SI joints were locked up every time I visited.
The muscles around my hips and lower back are always tight. If I sit for a few minutes it becomes painful to try and stand up again. One of the physiotherapists, one of the best in Canada, told me that I had the tightest muscles he had ever seen. Now I have an inflamed right hip socket. The muscles in my lower back are always tight and at times get so tight they begin to spasm and I have had periods of severe scoliosis.
An MRI has shown slight disk degeneration on the two joints above the fusion (L2-L4) and no problems with the fusion. The doctor says that many people with disks like mine feel no pain at all but he has offered to do another fusion. He says that the problem is all mechanical and there is a 60% chance that another fusion will provide some relief (15 points on the 50 point pain scale). To me that means that 3 out of 5 people with similar symptoms have pain caused by a disk. The other two never had disk problems in the first place.
I have been on baclofen, a muscle relaxant, for several years. That has helped lessen the muscle cramping but it is getting worse again. I have also been on every kind of anti-inflammatory drug I can think of but nothing helped. Now I am on a narcotic called hydromorph. It seemed to help the pain for a few weeks but now seems useless.
The problem is that I don't know what is causing the pain, muscle stiffness and the numb spot over my knee. I have so much muscle and joint pain in the area I don't know what is primary and what is secondary. Doctors seem to have ruled out the SI joint so all they can think of now is the disk degeneration. They don't know what the cause is so they tell me to try physiotherapy and if that doesn't work they will try surgery.
I hope this forum will help me find some other possible causes or maybe confirm the disk degeneration theory. Maybe the pain is coming from the original fusion or the iliac crest where they scraped bone from? Or maybe it is all in my head.