Write a Little Bit About Yourself
I’m a 34 y/o male from New Zeeland who up to now has been considered healthy and active, maybe a bit on the plus size side of thing. I have a sedentary desk job as a seller/broker but played sports around 3-4 times a week.
I had a squatting injury around a decade ago, I’ve had maybe 1 back spasm every couple of years, until this year, where I got two spasms each worse than the other, requiring around 2-3 days in bed with valium before I could leave the house again. I’d then get some myotheraphy and would be right as rain.
What Kind of Problem Did You Suffer from and When Did it Start
I was suffering from an agonizing bout of sciatica brought about by two herniated discs (L4 to S1), waiting weeks and weeks between specialist appointments who were all giving me conflicting advice.
Do You Know What Caused it?
I had a squatting injury around 8 years ago, suffered from maybe 1 back spasm every couple of years then it got to a point where I got two spasms – each worse than the other, requiring around 2-3 days in bed with valium before I could leave the house again. I’d then get some myotheraphy and that helped a bit.
In What Way Did This Problem Effect Your Life?
I could not walk for more than a few steps without having to lay down flat on my back or lean on something. At that point, I missed two months of work because I couldn’t sit in the car let alone drive, and the only thing i could do that were relatively pain-free for me were kneeling over the bed, or laying down with pillows under my knees.
Getting a good nights sleep was also hard to come by as every movement to shift position was excruciating, and simple things like walking to the kitchen or trying to sit on the toilet were also quite a challenge.
I tried to spend time in a jacuzzi which was relieving but since I needed to drive in order to have access to one, this option wasn’t viable.
What Motivated You to Get the Help You Needed to Deal with Your Problem?
I lost almost all contact with my sporting buddies, the last summer of back pain was the most depressing time of my life since I just slipped further and further away from what I wanted from life. I resorted to food as an escape from reality and I was starting to gain a lot of weight. I was 34 years old and i relied on my mother to help me with bringing food and my economy just kept tumbling down.
I missed being involved in the dating life and I hadn’t had sex (and couldn’t even if I got the chance) in well over a year and I craved physical contact.
When I was forced to turn down the offer of being the best man at my brother’s wedding because of a 3-hour flight – that’s when I knew that I had to start taking this thing really by the horns and not just hoping that i would get better after time.
Trial and Error, What did not Work for You and What was the Final Thing That Helped You?
After one particular spasm, that was the most serious yet, I said enough is enough and went to the GP which started a bit of a cascade of specialists and chronic pain unlike anything I have experienced which I will outline below:
Local GP #1 – First time I saw him, as I needed to see someone quick on the weekend. He gave me referrals for MRI and XRay and an RX for Mobic.
Osteopath – Never saw one. Didn’t want to go to a Chiropractor. Still only a spasm at this point. Did two sessions of very light counterweight activities, both of which didn’t do anything. Tried to exercise to lose some weight.
Myotherapist – Starting to get pain to the left of the knee. Thought it was a sore muscle from the spasm. Started to eat a lot of vitamins to strengthen my body. Also tried to cut down on junk food.
Physio – Pain in left knee worse – Did some taping and light massage.
Local GP #2 – Starting to get numbness on top of foot and side of leg and now in a lot of pain. Could only walk for a few minutes at a time before needing to lean on something and shake the leg out. Took scans to different GP – again, just needed to see someone close to me, as I live around an hour from my GP who I have seen for the past decade, which i needed help from my mother or step-father in order to get to.
MRI Report – L4/5: Desiccated disc. Posterior annular tear with focal left paracentral disc extrusion with inferior subligamentous spread measuring 18mm compressing the descending left L5 nerve root and posteriorly displacing the S1 nerve root.
L5/S1 – Mildly narrowed desiccated disc with broad-based disc protrusion and posterior annular fissure. Mild canal stenosis with posterior displacement of descending left S1 nerve root.
GP Prescribed Prednisolone and Lyrica, and I also asked for a referral for CT Guided ESI which MRI Report also suggested.
Called my long-term GP who instructed me to stay away from Prednisone and Lyrica (contradicting the other GP) because of the potential psychiatric side-effects, which to be honest I don’t think I could deal with right now. And the more hard-core opiates just knock me out cold, and make me feel really uncomfortable and not “in control”. Everything else like NSAIDS just didn’t work, so he advised getting the ESI, which I did, but no result after fourteen days. The pain seemed to have traveled down the leg. Numbness moved from the top of the foot to bottom of the foot.
Back to the physiotherapist. Now in acute pain and attempted dry acupuncture – Referred to specialist in spinal physiotherapy that said I should do everything I can to avoid surgery because even a microdiscectomy and laminectomy might leave you with more pain or start a cascading series of surgeries down the line, and with the spinal fusions, they are finding that the discs above degenerate after around 10 years.
Back to my first GP which referred me to a Neurosurgeon.
Went to the specialist spinal physiotherapist. I told her I was in too much pain to do any form of rehabilitation or wait to see what neurosurgeon said, but she insisted that i had to keep active in order for my blood-flow to work properly.
I Went to see a highly-regarded neurosurgeon referred to me from my GP this week who spent around twenty minutes with me and then said I needed double spinal fusion – which pretty much put me in mild shock, as that’s the last thing wanted to be done at that point. I thought maybe a microdiscectomy and laminectomy, but not something that would require taking my windpipe out and being in the hospital for the week.
He then went on to say that I should lay flat on my back for up to a month and think about it, that it could get better, and that if all Physiotherapists went out of business overnight the world would be a better place for back pain. I was instructed to not stand straight at all, because it will compress the discs further and never let anyone else look at it, as he then rushed off to another appointment.
I went back to my specialist spinal physiotherapist and asked for another referral to a neurosurgeon referral who I waited to get a second opinion from for well over two weeks. This neurosurgeon, on the other hand, told me to NOT get a double spinal fusion.
I told them about my experience with the neurosurgeon and they told me that I should be moving more and taking Prednisone. The opposite of what my GP and the previous Neurosurgeon said.
I got a back massager cushion (The type that you could put on your couch as a Christmas present and i just laughed, i tried it briefly but the first second just hurt too much.
I started to eat more and more vegetarian food as well as tried to do some rowing on a rower, which actually wasn’t that difficult as long as I tried to keep my back steady. I also tried one of those foam rollers who gradually started to make sense.
In January this year (2018) I actually started to lose a lot of weight and, while I still couldn’t sit in the car or in the couch the rower became sort of an addiction for me. I still had a lot of trouble sleeping but the painkillers helped me with that.
I went back to my specialist spinal physiotherapist who told me to do whatever worked for me and gave me a couple of exercises, but I could only do a couple of them because of the pain.
I started to use the back massager which made sitting down much easier since my back always “moving”. I put a pillow so that it was a lot softer. I actually bought another one that I could use in the car and at work, so I gradually started to return to work and the time people started telling me how good it was that i could move better again made me gradually aware of my own progress.
How is Your Life Now?
While I still cannot lay off the painkillers or sleep very well, I have regained the form I had before the pain started and I can enjoy stuff a lot more. I have an appointment with my specialist spinal physiotherapist in a month, and im planning to drive there all by myself (The car ride to work is only 20 minutes, so it’s more manageable)
I’d Like to Give a Special Thanks to:
My mom, Margret who has helped me more than what i thought was possible
Sophie, who helped me with a lot of things and going out of her way to get me really good referrals.
My boss that has had patient in me and helped me adapt my work to my condition.
Mister Back who let me write my story so that maybe I can help someone who is suffering or have suffered from the same diagnosis that I did.