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30yr old male, small l5 S1 "protrusion"

Hello - I've been reading a lot of your stories and decided to post, I'm really scared about my future with this injury.

My story: I've had a few episode of low back tightness and pain from as far back as the age of 14, but this is a whole other level.  On March 29 I played hockey and felt a little off afterwards, back was tight and sore.  I took the next game off but went to the gym a few days later, still with a tight lower back.  I work with a great personal trainer who watches my form etc.  Decided to do some deadlifts (135lbs), and the pain felt more acute, very low bottom left of my back but not severe.  The pain never went away...I didn't know what was wrong, so I took 2 weeks off working out.  Ice, heat, ALEVE, didn't really help.  I decided to try light works outs with nothing back/bending over related but the pain just got worse.  I went to a physio, and chiro and then to my family doctor.  Physio's said L5 S1 issue, Chiro didn't want to make a diagnosis, and my doctor sent me for an Xray.


Constant soreness/muscle tension across low back, hips and lower abdomen.
Occasional pain down into the legs, mostly left, sometimes right leg
Acute pain in my lower back when I bent or try to lift anything significant.


Ice helps a bit, but only while the ice is on my back
Massage felt good
If I lay on the floor with a heating pad on my butt, I can forget about the pain for a while (FINALLY, this was different last week).

Xray was normal, good sign I suppose, but I haven't gotten an MRI (Canada) to show disc issues.  I likely wouldn't be serious, as my pain is at about a 5 and I still walk fine etc so unless I pay $750 bucks, I'll have to wait on a list for many months.  I went back to the physio and he said, buy an inversion table, lift NOTHING, bend as little as you can and do the mackenzie exercises as much as possible.  I have been using the table and doing my stretches for about 2 weeks now, with little improvement.

I know it's probably a function of who actually posts here, and that once people are healed they don't return...but am I going to have to live with this pain forever? I can't walk for more than 20 minutes without the pain going down my left leg (feels like a pulled muscle type feeling), can't drive my manual car without pain, I work at a desk and my back is so sore by the end of the day, and with summer around the corner, all the activities I love to do are out the window.  This is so depressing, all because I was trying to be healthy and work out!  I'm a normal sized guy (6'1, 183lbs) and I was using good form.

I will never do a deadlift again, I just want to return to an active life...are there any success stories!?  My back is so tight and sore I can't imagine this going away anytime soon.


Anxious and Sad :(


  • hello, wrcftw!

    just curious--when you got your x-rays, did they take flexion/extension (with you bending forward, then back) films?  i only ask because this type of x-ray can reveal issues (specifically, pars defects!) that typically don't appear if you are standing straight.  a ct scan can help diagnose this problem, too.  a pars defect is when one (or both) of the bones that hold the vertebra up and back break, causing the vertebra to slip onto the disc/nerves.  you can use the search feature in the upper right hand corner to locate articles/older posts about this condition.

    your symptoms sounded similar to mine, and my bilateral pars defect wasn't discovered until i was on the operating table for what was supposed to be a single-level fusion.  i never had the flexion/extension x-rays or a ct scan prior to my surgery.  my defect was at l5-s1, so the surgeon went ahead and fused that section, too.

    i'd like to welcome you to the forums!  please click on the following link for some helpful information to get you started!

    welcome to spine health
    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • The x-rays I had were laying down, in 3 different positions I believe.  It's been about a month and shortly after writing this post...I had a major nervous breakdown.  Unfortunately this lasted about 2 weeks where my whole body was extremely tense and stressed.  I started getting ringing in my ears, lost about 8lbs and my lower back pain is now quite a bit worse.  My whole midsection feels pretty locked up and tight.  I've continued with physio, but he's kind of scratching his head at whats wrong with me...my symptoms don't really get reproduced with any of the normals tests.

    I've restarted taking my anti-anxiety medication and am feeling a bit better mentally, but my back is still pretty bad.  I'm scheduled for an MRI next week and am really nervous about it.  I get really anxious about health stuff and the thought of back surgery is utterly terrifying...I don't think I could handle the recovery, especially if it didn't even help.

    My fingers are crossed that once I calm down the pain will start to decrease and slowly get better...i've had some crazy physical symptoms of anxiety in the past that have gone away with some time...so I'm really hoping this is the case as well.
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  • wajihwwajih torontoPosts: 27
    Hi wrcftw
    There is only one liner for the whole thing. Please have an MRI done even if you have to pay. Then you go from there until then avoid bending , lifting and any posture which aggravates your pain,
    Good luck

  • catapamcatapam AustriaPosts: 157
    edited 06/17/2017 - 8:26 PM
    Good for you that will have that MRI
    I am from Europe but I am working in Pakistan where an MRI is $75.
    They even ask me to choose between open and closed MRI.
    If you are claustrophobic open MRI is better choice 
    Going back to your problem, I know the feeling.
    I moved myself at 24 from healthy person to disable person after working in the gym, weight training 
    MRI is a clear decision point about what to do.
    Sometimes surgery is the only option
    After surgery I've had 15 years of good life
    Now I am back in pain but surgery worth it for me
  • "I know it's probably a function of who actually posts here, and that once people are healed they don't return...but am I going to have to live with this pain forever?" Yes it probably is. I had a couple of episodes of nasty lower back pain which vanished maybe about a year ago and I never come back here or post here but just decided to have a nosey. So yes it will most likely seem worst because the people who keep posting are probably the small percent who have not healed. 
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  • wrcftwwwrcftw Posts: 37
    edited 06/22/2017 - 3:38 PM
    Hello - Well I got my MRI results...Doctor said that they aren't too concerning but they seem concerning to me.  He mentioned that most people have issues come up with MRI and these may or may not be causing my symptoms, and that he recommends that I keep trying conservative treatments, possible a steroid injection down the road.  He seemed to think this should improve and i'll be fine but I obviously worried by all of the findings.

    I should note, I have pretty severe anxiety, and it usually manifests in physical symptoms.

    Findings: There is a reduction of the natural lumbar lordosis, potentially as a result of muscle spams.  Vertebral height and alignment is otherwise preserved.  There are chronic bilateral L5 pars defects, with no bone marrow edema or spondylolisthesis.  There is some bone marrow fatty change adjacent to the defects bilaterally.  THere are minor degenerative changes at l2-3 with tiny vertebral corner osteophytes.  The cord and cauda equina have normal appearances. 

    L1-2 - Normal
    L2-3 Minimal disc desiccation with adjacent end plate Schmorl's nodes. There is a minimal broad-based posterior disc bulge with no significant canal or foraminal stenosis
    L3-4 Normal
    L4-5 - Mild disc desiccation and minor end plate degenerative changes.  There is a minimal broad based posterior bulge, with no significant canal or neural foraminal stenosis.  There are mild bilateral facet joint degenerative  changes

    l5-S1 - There is moderate disc desiccation and a small posterior annular tear.  There is a focal small left paracentral disc protrusion.  This cause mild left lateral recess stenosis, and the disc contacts and displaces the descending left S1 nerve root, but does not cause overt impingement.  There is mild narrowing of the left neural foramen, and the exiting left l5 root is also contacted by the disc but not overtly impinged.  The right neural foramen is patent. No central canal stenosis.  THere are mild to moderate bilateral facet joint degenerative changes.

    Other - The paraspinal musculature is unremarkable. No significant extraspinal abnormality is identified.


    1. Small left paracentral disc protrusion at L5-S1, which contacts displaces and potentially irritates the descending left S1 nerve root and the exiting L5 nerve root.  The nerve root is not overly compressed however.
    2. Minor DDD at L2-3 and L4-5, with no significant disc bulge or nerve root impingement.
    3. Chronic bilateral L5 pars defects
    4. Mild to Moderate bilateral L4-5 and L5-S1 facet joint degenerative changes.

  • I'm so scared of having chronic pain, even the thought of it is debilitating me right now with anxiety :(

    I know I need a positive attitude in order to have any chance at getting back to full strength but I'm so scared.  Things I keep reading suggest that a pars defect, especially bilaterally often ends up becoming spondylolisthesis.  I don't honestly think I would survive a fusion surgery, my anxiety and depression would get the better of me.  Ugh, I am panicking!!
  • Dude, I am right there with you, I am 30 as well--about 3 years ago I had a major anxiety attack that lasted 6 months--did some crazy stuff--thought I had MS, ALS, Parkinson's and a variety of other serious neurological conditions--I was convinced I had a life changing disease. It took a lot of time to calm down from this along with a lot of meditations and prayer. Even to his day I still have things that come up and I can feel the anxiety coming back-----this, this took me back 3 years. I have no idea what is wrong with me, but I look up stuff online and self diagnose myself with the worst possible scenario--honestly may be the worst thing to do, and I definitely need to stop doing it. I may just have to take a break from all this until I get my MRI back. 

    Good luck!


  • Thanks for the reply. Anxiety is a real bitch.  My back pain is probably half as bad as a lot of the people on here, but it's causing such bad anxiety.  My wife and I are (were) really active together and I fear that I'll never get back to being the husband that she deserves, and the partner she wants (doing hikes, ski trips etc).  I'm going to try my hardest to hit Physio hard and practice good posture etc, and hopefully I will be a success story soon.
  • Thought I would update in case anyone is reading my thread.  I've been doing a lot of planks, bird dog, and have been swimming a few times.  My anxiety medication has kicked in and the anxiety over this is lessening.  The pain seems to have subsided a little bit, but still getting tingling/buzzing on the tops of feet (today), and some calf tightness.  The discomfort in legs moves around alot depending on the day/time of day, position.  Is this normal?

    My back is tired and a bit sore after sitting all day at work, but I'm trying to get up more and more, drink more water, and go for short walks.

    It's definitely not unbearable pain, maybe 2-3/10, and i'm able to relax alot more and feel no pain sometimes if i'm laying down or sitting on a comfy chair. So i'm hoping that as I continue to strengthen my back and more time passes, whatever is slightly aggravating the nerves.

    I'm going to continue to update this thread, as I know that lots of people get better and then never come back.  Hope is what I was looking for and I'll try and give others hope if I get back to normal soon.  It's been about 3 months since my injury, i'm hoping that in another 3 months i'll be pain free!
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