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Mysterious Symtoms Not Matching Up With MRI Results? Living Without a Diagnosis

MasterFlexMMasterFlex Columbus, OHPosts: 1
edited 02/12/2017 - 4:53 PM in Chronic Pain
Hello, I am 26 years old, and have been suffering from debilitating back and leg symptoms since March 2016. I have acutely injured myself probably close to a dozen times in the 3-4 years prior to the onset of this chronic situation. I was always told by doctors that I had muscle strains and the pain always resolved within a couple of weeks. Well, in March, I felt twinges of back pain coming on, and then in early April I injured myself big time at the gym on a squat machine. I was bent over 90 degrees for 4-5 days with severe muscle spasms. On the 3rd day I had a chiropractor give me an adjustment, and then suddenly the pain spread to my legs the next day - sometimes in one leg, sometimes in the other. The pain felt like a straining feeling along the sides of my legs that got worse the longer I sat.

Well, symptoms have gradually changed. I still have serious back pain, except now I will be struck by intermittent feels of abdominal instability. It's a very unusual sensation, but it feels like there is a pressure in my abdomen that makes it somewhat hard to breath. My leg pain has changed too...my legs are intermittently tender to the touch and ache in certain spots, notably in the front of my right thigh and on both outer sides above the knee. I feel my legs and buttocks burning when I sit for too long or after some physical strain. I have tried PT for several weeks, but physical activity seems to inflame something, and I am ALWAYS worse the next day after any sort of physical activity. Most recently, I have "thrown my back out" in January and now again in February. There was no obvious injury that caused it. In both instances, I felt really bad the night before and woke up in a state of acute pain and muscle spasm. I noticed that when this happens, I seem to develop a sort of temporary scoliosis - My body curves to the left quite noticeably, and walking causes terrible pain in the right leg and back.

I have seen an orthopedic surgeon, a sports medicine doctor, a pain management doctor, and TWO neurosurgeons. I have had two MRIs (one in June and one in September)...all agree that the clinical results of the MRIs should not be causing my widespread and intermittent symptoms. I have small herniations, but I've been told that they are consistent with normal findings for a 26 years old active adult. The L2-L3 has "no significant stenosis or impingement." The same for the L3-L4 and L5-SI. The first MRI for the L4-L5 says, "Right central caudal disc extrusion. Mild stenosis of the central canal, bilateral lateral recesses and bilateral neural foramina." The second MRI, taken a few months later, says "There is a focal central disc extrusion with some disc material migrating inferiorly. Mild central canal narrowing. Nerve root foramina remain patent." The second MRI also covered my thoracic spine and found another mild herniation at T8-T9, and it reads, "There is a focal central disc herniation and some extruded disc material measuring about 4 mm...no posterior cord compression. Nerve root foramina remain patent."

Anyway, all the doctors doubt that these small herniations are the cause of my widespread symptoms, but I am not sure. I keep "throwing my back out," and I am worried that things are getting worse. I feel the days slipping by, and I feel like I am missing life. The pains have kept me from living life and working in the way I want and need to, and it is making life truly miserable.

The last neurosurgeon suggested getting a "diagnostic epidural shot" at the L4-L5 level. He says that if I have noticeable improvement with this shot, the evidence more strongly supports the L4-L5 disc as the culprit of my symptoms. I am scheduled to see my pain management doc next week, and hopefully she'll give me the shot. However, I am not hopeful. I have read so much about epidural shots not having any effect. I feel like if this shot doesn't help, then I will be left with no clinical explanation of my symptoms, and thus no path towards recovery. Yet, my symptoms DO seem neurological...tenderness, pain, burning...

Has anyone else had unexplained, or atypical symptoms? Did you eventually get diagnosed? Did you eventually find treatment? Not knowing is the worst.

P.S. - I have also been tested for rheumatoid disease and lupus, both of which are negative. I had a lumbar spine bend x-ray, which came back normal. Results on that state, "here is no evidence for spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. The vertebral body height and discs spaces are well maintained. The alignment is grossly normal." My doctor actually called and told me that the x-ray looked "beautiful." Didn't make me feel much better.
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