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Hello - I have done a lot of lurking on here, guess I might as well describe my experiences as well. Mid 40's male, pretty active. A lot of this story is getting very old, details are a bit fuzzy now!
I started having issues over 20 years ago after doing something very stupid. I was holding a massive amount of weight and twisted. There was a ratcheting sensation, then major pain. I did not do anything about it at the time except take aspirin and rested a long afternoon, evening, and night. The next day I was better, but still very sore. Even so, I was active and did some manual labor. I did not see a doctor.
A couple of years later I fell a bit, landed on my butt hard, and had a revisiting of low back pain, more intense this time. I could not stand the rest of that day. More aspirin, next day was much better and again did some manual labor. Was still very sore for weeks afterward, but only if moving a certain way. No doctor this time, either.
Within the following 2 years I had a flare up every now and then. One time I was sitting on the floor and reached out to push the eject button on a VCR (see, it's bee going on a while!) Instant pain, massive amounts of spasm, and I couldn't stand fully upright for about a week. This was by far the most intense episode I've had. I couldn't put any weight on one of my legs without horrible pain. After a couple of days of OTC pain stuff I gave in and went to a GP doctor. He hit it with muscle relaxers and some slightly better than OTC pain med. I did nothing for a couple of days, and gradually got mostly over it. Month or 2 later another equally lame move and it was out again. This repeated a couple of times, each visiting the doc, getting the same drugs, etc.
Somewhere in this time I let someone talk me into going to a chiropractor. They did some X-rays that showed the bottom disc at a pretty good angle to all the others, and that there was very little room between it and the other disc above, and especially below. I went several weeks of adjustments, all which made it feel better for about a day or 2, but nothing lasting. In fact, I had 3 flare-ups in the time I did chiropractic care. Once the tab for them grew to a ridiculous amount I stopped going.
So, the next flare up after that phase I went back to GP. He sent me to physical therapy for several weeks. They made me do various stretches, which actually helped some for sure. I went a few years after that phase with only minor warning stabs of pain on rare occasions.
Over the last 10 years I have had occasional flare-ups, but nothing I couldn't handle with some advil and a night's rest. Yes, it could be extremely painful if moving the wrong way, but after sleeping it was usually good the next day. About a year ago I had the first one that didn't resolve overnight, and after a couple of days I gave in and went to the GP. Muscle relaxers, mild pain prescription, same old plan. X-ray at this time showed some DDD L4-L5 and L5-S1. Over the last year the flare-ups have gotten more frequent, to a minimum of once a week. These have mostly resolved over night until about 6 months ago. Since then it took a new twist where sleeping makes it worse rather than better. I recently gave in, and went to see the GP again. He suggested going to a spinal center, but when I balked at that suggested PT again instead. So, I've done that a few weeks, and can't claim any improvement.
The best way for me to describe the pain to someone is to think about that 80's operation game. There is a small background level of pain and tightness almost always there, but if I bend just the slightest wrong way you bump the nerve, the buzzer goes off and it's breathtaking levels of pain. I am extremely nervous being close to someone for fear of being bumped and causing it.
There has also been a lot of sciatic involvement throughout the whole journey. Some nights my right leg throbs all the way to my ankle. Quite often I have sensations of hot, sometimes wet, sometimes pins and needles. At times it's sore and yet itches on my thigh.
Wow, talk about a lot of complaining! Here's the good side. I've never gotten on any heavy medication and have no interest in doing so. I've still been able to stay very active. Lifting a lot of weight isn't an issue if I'm careful about how I move when I do it.
So far an X-ray here and there is the only imaging that's been done. I would like to get an MRI and finally know what is actually going on in there. But for now I probably have a couple more weeks of PT before that will happen. I'm not really sure where it's going to go - I'm rather sick of the problem, but not sure I want to consider anything invasive as a