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Ruptured disc and fractured sanity. Talk to me about back pain please

(24 Posts)
shootfromthehip Tue 12-Feb-13 23:00:29

At the end of Oct I ruptured a disc in my back (not that I knew it at the time). Since then I have had limited mobility, ongoing pain and battles with docs about medication/ treatment. I don't sleep well, I am nearing four months off work and I'm no longer getting paid other than statuary sick pay. I am no nearer getting back to my job than I was at Christmas. An MRI confirmed that I have five bulging discs, including the one that I have torn which is sitting on the nerve. I have had spinal steroid injections to no avail. People have run out of sympathy because I'm still not better. I can function at a low level (basic housekeeping/ shopping etc- drove for the first time in four months yesterday) but can't walk far, sit for long/ stand for long.

I feel trapped in my own body. I am in pain all the time. I am angry and frustrated and miserable. I would appreciate my life back. I know how seriously ill some people are and I'm aware that it could be so much worse but I'm mentally and physically exhausted with trying to be positive all the time. Please tell me it will get better...? Tia.

wizardofearthsea Tue 12-Feb-13 23:22:33

Are you on low dose amitriptyline (at night) to held you sleep/deal with nerve pain? I have suffered for over 2 years with ruptured and bulging discs, normal pain medication was not working - for the last 3 months I have been taking 75mg of amitriptyline at night and 75mg of pregabalin twice daily - although the pain hasn't completely gone it is so much better than it was. After starting the pregabalin, all the sudden shooting pains disappeared as did most of the muscle spasms. I think it is amazing. I hope you get better soon - back pain can be unbearable.

shootfromthehip Wed 13-Feb-13 07:39:36

Thanks Wizard. I stopped taking amitriptyline about 6 weeks ago as I was put onto gabapentine. The sciatic/ shooting pains ahave definitely subsided but not, other than the gabapentine, I am not on any actual pain medication. I was on tramadol but the doctor felt that I had been on it long enough and so I take one at night now and nothing else. I went back on the heavy strength co-codomol but it doesn't really help. I am sore every time that I move, not hideously sore as I was initially, but I have an ongoing, low level misery as it nags in my lower back and right buttock.

Have they talked to you about surgery? I have been told that I should probably have it it straight away but they didn't even give me an MRI until a couple of weeks ago. I am thinking about going to a private consultant (even though I can't afford it- I'm paying a terrific but mega expensive physio as it is) to find out what they can do next... the NHS won't operate.

I just feel like that it is indeed the 21st Century and therefore they must be able to do somthing other than fob me off saying that time is a great healer, forgetting in the interim that my family is suffering, my work/ career is suffering along with my finances and my emotional health. And because no-one can see my problem, I encounter this 'are you still ill?' attitude all the time. What can I do next to get better? I've just started a pilates class (for people with back injuries) and am upping my exercise through gentle walks and I have to start swimming soon too. Any other ideas?

DowntonTrout Wed 13-Feb-13 08:09:47

Hello. Another one here.

I have a prolapsed disc. It happened last summer, and like you, I was unaware what I had done at the time.

I had an MRI in October which confirmed what it was. Physio helps a little although that stopped in December as I was urgently referred to a neurologist who said I need surgery.

For various reasons I have had to put this off and am now struggling again. The pain in my leg is continual and gnawing, like constant cramp in my calf. I also have numbness down the side of my leg and in my foot and aching hips with little nipping pains in my lower back. I take pregabalin but rarely painkillers as I can't cope with the effects.

I have just seen another doctor as I have moved, and he has re- referred me for physio and upped my meds. I am going to have another MRI to see if I am doing more damage by waiting for the op. if not I will struggle on until the summer but if I am doing permanent damage they will operate straight away.

I am exhausted, little sleep as there is no comfortable position, some days I feel as if I have someone else on my back as the pressure is so much. It is awful and debilitating isn't it. Has no one mentioned surgery to you?

DowntonTrout Wed 13-Feb-13 08:13:46

Sorry didn't read your second post.

Why are you paying for physio? The NHS will do that. I only went to the new doctors where I've moved to on Tuesday and they referred me urgently for physio, they rang me yesterday with th appointment.

Also the NHS sent me to a consultant in a private hospital, because it is specialised, but they are paying, if you are not getting these things from your doctor ask to see someone else or to be referred.

PureQuintessence Wed 13-Feb-13 08:21:35

Have you been to see a chiropractor?

I ruptured a disk back in July. Saw the Chiropractor, had to get the inflammation down, he started treatment, first twice a week the first month. Then I went to Norway to family and continued with a chiropractor there. He advised no bending forward at all, but walks in uneven terrain as that would help settle the area. By end of August I was able to climb a 1200 m mountain from sea level. If you have not seen an osteopath or a chiropractor, I urge you to do this now.

TepidCoffee Wed 13-Feb-13 08:30:08

Purely a complementary suggestion (I am a big believer in getting the right drugs), but can I recommend checking out a book called Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn? It's a method for helping people live with long-term pain and stress he developed based on mindfulness, and it's had excellent results in clinical studies.

shootfromthehip Wed 13-Feb-13 08:58:56

Thanks all, so good to know that there are others out there too. I am paying for physio as our local one is beyond useless. I saw him four times and he never even put his hands on me and suggested that I was in so much pain because of giving up smoking! He lectured me constantly on the neuropsychology of pain, which is useful and interesting the first time but then grates when you are paying to get there and he's not doing anything except telling you about it. I went with a local private physio instead as the doctor warned me that an osteopath or chiropractor would be too harsh for the condition of my back (the disc causing the problems is actually torn and the fluid has caused the most hideous burning sensation. It has calmed down now but the tear is just healing- I can't have anything to aggressive as a result).

I have another appointment with the GP and then with a consultant at the end of the month. I have decided that I will have to be much more assertive as I'm not getting better.

On a practical note, are you all/ have you all been able to work? I teach and am in different classes for each lesson- practically getting around the school with heavy books etc seems nigh on impossible to me. I can't bear the idea of having to sit for prolonged periods, or stand for prolonged periods. I could if I was doped up but would then be incoherent: not really the point! I need to go back as I'm only temporary and I need the money. What can I do to get me through the day without making myself totally exhausted? What can I do to sleep as I can't stay in one position for too long?

Thanks for the book recommendation too- I know that i will continue to be in pain for quite a long time so it should be helpful!

DowntonTrout Wed 13-Feb-13 09:39:59

Most discs that prolapse go back on their own. Some don't. If you have been having physio and this has gone on for months then it's unlikely it will.

I understand about the not sitting/not standing for long periods. Neither is comfortable. I can't sit on my sofa anymore it's too soft. I have found that a hard dining chair with a cushion on the seat is best for me.

I'm not working, thank goodness. It would be impossible as some days I can't stand upright. I do try to walk as much as possible, driving is ok for a short distance but I have lost confidence as I don't feel I have enough strength in my legs, so I rarely drive. Being a passenger in a car is also not good. Sometimes if I am in position too long I can't move and I have sat and cried as it has taken me 10 minutes to get out of the car.

I would be wary of chiropractors. The treatment can be too harsh and whoever you are going to needs to have access to your scan to see what the problem is, and where it is.

You should not be carrying anything about, certainly not heavy books. Can you ask for help with that?

My physio says you have to tickle the nerve rather than stretch it. I know it feels as if you want to stretch it out. Your movements/excercises should only be to the point of pain, not pushing through it. Nerves like to be slid through their sheath gently, not twanged or stretched, this helps with the inflammation. So be careful with your Pilates, only small movements and only to the point whereit starts to hurt.

Another good thing to do is put a cushion or pillow, there is also a foam block you can get, under your bottom so the edge is just where the disc is, and lay flat on your back on the floor. This opens up your back and takes the pressure off. I do this when I have walked too far. I'm sorry i can't give more advice as that is all I have found to help me.

You do know that with choose and book you should be given choices of where you want to be treated, so if you were not happy with your first physio ask your doctor for another referral. My physio didnt do a lot of manipulation, just gentle exercises, hot and cold pads, tens machine- which really helped, and acupuncture- not sure about that.

shootfromthehip Wed 13-Feb-13 10:52:18

Thanks again Downton, we are rural so we have the option of one physio or nothing. That said, now that I am driving again, I could possible get to another through my work (they offered initially!).

I just feel worn out. I feel that I have to fight for even the smallest things and added to the stress of life in general and the money worries this is giving me, I just want to put my head on the table and weep. I have definitely noticed a deterioration in mood since I can off my heavy duty pain relief- almost like the clarity has made me realise how serious this is! Just want fixed, as it were, and to go back to normal. We have snow today and I'm trapped as I'm too scared to go out in case I hurt myself. I also have two bored kids that want to go sledging and there isn't a chance of me taking them! Sorry- am poor me ing but very, very down at the moment.

Thanks for the practical advice- I too feel like a chiropractor may do more harm than good!

PureQuintessence Wed 13-Feb-13 12:16:35

Well, seeing as physio has not really worked for you, you might give a chiropractor or osteopath a try. It worked for me, it has worked for my sister, and it also worked for my cousin who had wasted months going for physiotherapy that was not working. Better to try one more thing before going down the route of surgery. But it is your back, and up to you of course.

FoxyRevenger Wed 13-Feb-13 14:34:26

I just showed DH this thread and he says he could have written half of your posts himself. sad

About 5 years ago the muscles on the left of his back went into spasm, giving him lots of pain around his hip and leg; at the time he was off work for about 6 weeks, on valium etc.

The pain has never gone away since, but is very bad at the moment; he was off work all last week, went back Monday and Tuesday but is in agony again today.

X-ray showed nothing but he is waiting for an MRI. The pain has spread around his chest, stomach and down his legs.

I know it's a slightly different problem to those of you who have problems with discs, as apparently his problem is muscular, but he wanted me to ask:

- do any of you know of any websites that would advise on safe physio exercises? He was given some to do years ago but they don't really help and he finds them very painful to do.
- do any of you find yoga helps? I wondered if strengthening his core muscles would help.

Thanks. I feel for all of you; seeing how miserable it makes my DH every day I feel I have a wee idea of what you're going through.

shootfromthehip Wed 13-Feb-13 18:11:16

Pure I may indeed need to try something else. Will get some advice from the doc first though!

Foxy I am so sorry to hear about your hubby, it's really no fun at all. I hope this is of some use to you as my first physio gave it to me. And with regards to the yoga, I think pilates may help more as it's a lot of floor work and core stuff. HTH. Thanks again for all the input thanks

DowntonTrout Wed 13-Feb-13 18:16:46

I completely understand every word you are saying shootfromthehip

I am putting off the operation through my own choice. That's true. But some days I think I just can't go on like this. If it wasn't three weeks recovery after I would have it tomorrow but there is no one here to look after DD which is why I'm trying to wait until summer when we'll all be together again.

I am also afraid of slipping or falling. It saps the confidence doesn't it? I feel like an old woman.

DowntonTrout Wed 13-Feb-13 18:23:24

Also, I paid for some private physio before I had the MRI. I just thought it was muscular then.

He was much more strenuous and physical and did a couple of sessions where he cracked my back.

When the MRI showed the disc was prolapsed I got the urgent referral of NHS physio. She was horrified that I had had my back cracked and said it could have done more harm than good.

Reenypip Wed 13-Feb-13 22:11:52

shootfromthehip Thu 14-Feb-13 07:42:04

Thanks Reeny. Can't get bits of that site to work but will keep trying. thanks

DowntonTrout Thu 14-Feb-13 09:55:39

Foxyrevenger I'm not an expert or a doctor but I do know that strengthening the core muscles will help. However it sounds like your DH is in too much pain at the moment and really they need to get to the root of the problem. It's all about posture and how you are holding yourself. After an injury or the spasms your husband first experienced you hold yourself differently to protect the painful area. This leads to referred pain and other areas become painful as you are using them differently. Alternating heat and cold, hot water bottle, frozen peas, for 10 mins each can help. I think cold is good for the inflammation.

Is he on a waiting list for physio? I would get him to go back and ask for that as unless he is referred as an urgent case it could be up to 6 months before he gets an appointment. This can be done alongside him waiting for the MRI which may not show anything unless there's more going on. Then he would be waiting again for physio. Men are spectacularly bad at expressing themselves with Drs, or at least my husband is. Doctors also see a lot of people with back pain and some do tend to brush you off unless you are absolutely clear about how bad it is, though it sounds as if they are taking him seriously if they are doing an MRI.

I had a frozen shoulder about 4 years ago and got to the point where I could barely move one side and would cry with pain putting my coat on or getting dressed. I paid for physio as the wait list was so long and after 3 sessions I was moving again. It really is about finding a good physio that you can work with. Maybe a chiropractor could help in his case as it may well be affecting his spine if he is holding himself in a strange way. With muscles, exercise is painful but good, as long as you are doing the right thing, which you need an expert to tell you what that is. It is the not moving that causes the problems. If it has taken 5 years for him to get to this stage there may be a a number of things he needs to relearn about how to use his body and that will take time, so stick with it. It can get worse before it gets better.

I have pain in my legs, but there is nothing wrong with my legs, it is just the pressure on the nerve in my back but it's hard to get my head around as that isn't where I feel the pain IYSWIM. I have pain in my pelvis but that's because I am pushing it back (anyone recognise the term walking like a duck?) my ribs are sore where they meet my spine, too sore for the physio to touch - referred pain because I'm protecting my lower back. But the problem is the disc, that doesn't hurt much apart from the occasional nip. The restricted movement causes other issues and while surgery may stop the disc pressing on my nerve it won't fix my back but it will enable me to get moving again.

Like I said, I'm no expert, that is just from my experience, if there are any experts who read this and I have said anything wrong please correct me.

HansieMom Thu 14-Feb-13 20:05:07

Eight steps to a pain free back by Esther Gokhale and Susan Adams. It is on Amazon.

Boweninlothian Fri 22-Feb-13 14:44:39

I have worked with people with severe back pain and prolapsed discs. People often respond to the Bowen Technique when nothing else helps smile

chocolatelime Fri 22-Feb-13 22:35:14

My DH suffered with a herniated disc L5/S1 for over 2 years. We tried everything, epidurals, nerve block injections, physio, osteopath, pilates etc. Last week he had a microdiscectomy. He was pain free when he came round from the op and was able to go home the next day. The recovery period is critical, absolutely no lifting, no driving, gentle exercise only. He is hoping to be back at work after 4 weeks recovery time.

After such a long time of being in constant severe pain, surgery has been the right solution for him. However, we had exhausted every other option first and after such a long time, it was clear that the problem was not going to resolve without intervention. He was in such severe pain that it was keeping him awake at night.

DH found a TENS machine to be very helpful, which we purchased from Ebay for about £30. He also used Deep Heat max strength cream which provided some relief. He spent a lot of time lying on the floor rather than sitting down.

Drug-wise he took lots of painkillers to enable him to get through every day. He found Diclofenac suppositories helpful at night to reduce the pain and enable him to get a better night's sleep.

Keeping as positive as possible is essential, but not easy if you are sleep deprived and in constant pain.

PenisColada Fri 22-Feb-13 22:39:47

My dh also had a microdiscectomy after 6 months of hell. It worked and he is fine now.

Showtime Fri 22-Feb-13 23:27:37

Pain Clinics are worth the wait as they do understand about trying to cope. My (incurable) chronic pain is now made bearable by anti-depressants, after years of complementary therapies, including osteopath and chiropractor which I could not recommend.

chocolatelime Sat 23-Feb-13 15:36:39

The Pain Clinic is definitely worth waiting for. It was only after exhausting all the options that the Pain Clinic had to offer that DH was then referred on to a Neurosurgeon. The majority of slipped discs will resolve by themselves in time.

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