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New to the forum, definitely not new to the reason for joining

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



  • Welcome to the forum MG,

    I am new here too. Your story sounds much like mine in terms of length if time from onset, to area of the spine and progression. I too did PT (4 times in 9 years) and used exercise instead of meds for pain relief. 

    My PT and doctors all said not to have surgery until I had no other alternative. Even the neurosurgeon who saw me in the hospital when I broke 4 thoracic vertebrae 5 years ago said to wait. The broken back was not the cause of my lumbar issues.

    I've been able to deal with the pain as I have a very high tolerance. My left leg and foot has been numb for many years, but my right leg compensated for it. Then last  spring I had a slight slip while hiking and twisted a bit when I fell. That's when sciatica and numbness started in my right leg. This started affecting my balance and the new pain really started limiting my activities, including having to reduce my exercise routine. 

    I visited my PCP and my PT and both recommended trying a steroid shot. Unfortuately it didn't work, but it does for many so that may be your next option. If so, I hope it works for you!

    I am 9 weeks post plif of L4L5 L5 and lots of decompression at L2L3. The sciatica in my right leg has been almost non-existent since week 3 and a few days ago the neuropathy in my left leg almost completely disappeared! I am walking 2-6 miles per day and doing backstroke kicking and walking in the pool. Still have a long way to go for full recovery, but I am now wishing I'd had this fusion years ago!

    All the best to you!
  • Olderthandirt, 
    You are by no means a baby! The nerve impingement affects everybody differently. Mine fortunately was more numbness than pain.
    I agree with you that MG shoukd get an MRI and possibly other tests to determine the cause and severity!
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  • I saw your story just after posting mine Kayaker!  I cannot believe you managed to break a back that was already in distress!  I'm glad the surgery has turned out well; it seems there are a lot less people posting on good results than bad.

    I guess one of the reasons I haven't pushed for anything more is that I watched both my grandfather and dad deal with back problems when I was younger.  My grandfather spent time in the hospital from low back pain, though they never really did much to help him there.  I guess I just figured it was something you might as well deal with on your own from watching them...

    Thanks all!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,385
    hello mg 284306 !

    please click on links for helpful information!
    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Ok, it's about a month and a half later and some progress has been made.  I completed a month of PT, though it seemed to be intensifying the low back pain rather than alleviating it, and it was not an overly strenuous or aggressive version.  So, that got the referral to the spine center of a large, local university hospital.

    The initial meeting there was with an orthopedic doctor that specializes in nonsurgical methods.  At the first meeting he was pushing weight loss, exercise, etc, but agreed that it was time to get an MRI and see exactly what we were dealing with.  They took a couple of x-rays which he said showed some DDD and he also pointed out that there was lumbarization of S1 and referred to it as L6.  He mentioned that this stuff could always be fixed by conservative approaches, and that surgery was really for those that cannot walk, have paralysis, or the cauda equina issues.  At the follow-up to go over the MRI he was like a completely different doctor...

    He started off asking if I had pain in my butt, radiating down my right thigh and to my right calf.  I said yes - that was my highest level complaint when I first came to you.  So he went on to show me the MRI images (which I'd already seen since I requested a copy when I had the scan).  He showed that there was a complete loss of space on the right side of L4-5 and said this was the main problem that was causing the sciatica.  He also handed me the official reading of the MRI, but I did not get a chance to read it until after I left the appointment.  Here are the main points from it:

    L4-5 Circumferential disc bulge with a right paracentral disc protrusion impinging the descending right L5 nerve root, with a superimposed annular fissure at this location.  Mild right foraminal stenosis.  No central spinal canal stenosis.

    L5-S1 Circumferential disc bulge and bilateral facet arthropathy ligamentum flavum thickening.  Mild bilateral foraminal stenosis.  No central spinal canal stenosis.

    Intervertebral disc space narrowing at L4-5 and L5-S1.  Schorl's node in the inferior endplate of L4.

    Impression: Spondylosis of the L4-S1 disc levels with impingement of the descending right L5 nerve root due to disc protrusion and with superimposed annular fissure.

    After showing me the images he then said you have 4 options: PT, NSAIDS, epidural injection, and surgery.  He said we've already eliminated the first 2, and then the nonsurgical guy said that the epidural was a waste of time in this case and suggested a discectomy.  So, I went in confident that he was going to stick to the conservative options and was rather stunned to end up with the least conservative as the suggestion.  I told him I needed to consider things, and would get back with him after a day or 2.

    So, after the appointment I had a chance to read the report and was surprised to see the mild rating on the stenosis since he was obviously thinking the discectomy was the way to go, and he did not convey that it was only a mild stenosis.  He also did not mention the L6 thing again, and the MRI did not either.

    I have called back and said I'd like to get the surgeon's take on it, but that appointment has not been made yet.  I'm really concerned about starting down the surgery road, but I'm really sick of dealing with this as well.  Time to do some more research!

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