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Lower back problem - what are the chances of recovery?

(20 Posts)
frenchfancy Thu 02-Feb-17 19:13:15

I'm suffering from lower back pain and have been for about 6 weeks. I had hoped it would heal by itself but after a couple of weeks I went to see a chiropractor. 2 sessions later and I was no better so I went to the GP. He ordered an xray which has come back showing I have no gap between my L5 and S1 vertebrae. I'm now waiting for an MRI .

I'm so scared that this is permanent damage. I'm normally very active - I ride 3-4 times a week. Walk the dog. Have an active life. I can't do anything at the moment. I can walk but it is slow and uncomfortable.

Can anyone give me any hope of recovery? I'm only 45. Not ready for the knackers yard yet.

Count2three Thu 02-Feb-17 19:40:17

I wish I could offer you some advice OP, but can only offer my sympathy and my experience. About a year ago I noticed similar. Like you I was v active, in fact it started when I was doing functional exercises. An MRI showed I had Spondylolisthesis which is a defect in the back and a bulge in the disc in the same place you describe. I have sciatica and some lower back pain. I waited a year for an assessment and then due to re-locating, I am now at the back of the queue again in my new town. It's frustrating and also quite scary. I never know how active I can safely be but the pain is manageable with otc medication. I'm told I also have disc degeneration which is annoying, given I'm only 40.

I hope someone else can give you some reassurance.

Blingygolightly Thu 02-Feb-17 19:56:06

Hi OP. This happened to me very recently. After 6/7 weeks nothing had improved so I ended up having surgery. I am a few weeks post op. My timeliness were fast tracked as I am under private care. Immediately after the operation the sciatica had gone and the pain is rapidly diminishing. I expect to make a fairly good recovery within 6 weeks, although it will be a few months before I am fully recovered. So I guess that I just wanted to say that if it remains the same, it's fixable with surgery. My neurosurgeon said that within 6/7 weeks of getting a herniated disc (if that's what you have) then 90% should recover as the disc naturally moves away from the sciatic spine. A further 5% might recover within a further 6 weeks. The remainder are the ones that are candidates for surgery.

I hope you recover quickly. I am younger than you and definitely not ready for the knackers yard either!!. My surgeon pointed me towards some really good websites including

frenchfancy Thu 02-Feb-17 20:47:04

Whilst the idea of surgery scares me I think that knowing it might be possible is better than thinking this may be permanent. I'm getting quite down about it. I keep crying.

frenchfancy Fri 03-Feb-17 08:36:12

Thanks for both your replies by the way. I was feeling particularly down yesterday evening. I have woken up in a more positive mood this morning. Whatever happens I don't want it to grind me down.

I hope you both get better soon.

Blingygolightly Fri 03-Feb-17 18:25:00

That's good to hear. Really hope this doesn't go on for you. I should also add that the good thing about the surgery option is that you know it's out there but the downside is that recovery period is quite up and down. I say that because I am achey today but nothing like before the surgery.

frenchfancy Sat 11-Feb-17 17:41:26

Had a CT scan today. The pain is being caused by arthritis in my lower back. I am in shock. It feels like a life sentence.

Blingygolightly Sat 11-Feb-17 18:04:23

Oh no Frenchfancy. So

What did they say? Did they talk about pain management techniques?

Obsidian77 Sat 11-Feb-17 18:07:45

Chin up frenchfancy, now you know what it is, you can start to deal with it.
Chronic pain is horrible, it's important to focus on your mental health too.
Keep reaching out for support.

user1486613612 Sat 11-Feb-17 18:08:37

Can you have an operation? I know of someone who did and is now more active than ever before.

frenchfancy Sat 11-Feb-17 18:09:22

I've got some physiotherapy sessions planned which apparently can help. Pain management technique is another prescription for co-codamol.

I have another appointment in 6 weeks with a specialist who may inject some steroids into my back during an MRI scan. Not a permanent fix but could alleviate the pain.

Patsy99 Sat 11-Feb-17 18:16:34

I've got a friend who's an anaesthetist and he thinks the steroid injections under mri can be really effective, so hopefully that will be an option.

I have (less dramatic) lower back pain and it gets me down sometimes. I saw on the BBC website though that MRI scans can be counterproductive - apparently the vast majority of patients over 40 will see some degeneration in the spine and it can demoralise people.

OhTheRoses Sat 11-Feb-17 18:16:50

Okay French. I've got osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Two longstanding degenerated disks L3/4. 13 months ago I fell and wedge fractured (severely) L1 (hellish two weeks).

I have kept going and rarely have pain (bit of stiffness in my back and my spine round L1 sometimes feels tired).

I had a physio who also does specialist Pilates and I do 5/10 simple Pilates exercises every day. I also have,orthotics for my shoes to keep everything in line.

I have to pace myself more but can easily do a 6/7 mile walk albeit more slowly than in the past. I have a kneeler for the garden and lift very carefully.

Am 56 and seem to have recovered very well. I work full time.

Much of it is management: good bed, good shoes, pacing, keeping muscles strong and supportive. I also have annual infusions of zolendronate for my bones.

Good luck.

Patsy99 Sat 11-Feb-17 18:18:22

And Pilates has significantly reduced my back pain, but I don't know if that's relevant to your type of pain.

Kiwi32 Sat 11-Feb-17 18:20:14

Hi there, I'm a chiropractor, just to hopefully reassure you- there isn't a great correlation between how bad things look on x-ray and MRI and your actual symptoms so please don't worry too much about your prognosis on the basis of what scans show. Arthritis in the low back is incredibly common and I imagine what you're currently experiencing is a flare up of symptoms. If you're committed to making some lifestyle changes and doing necessary exercises there's every chance this will improve and become an occasional annoyance rather than activity limiting daily pain.

One thing I would say is that any manual therapy, be it chiropractic/osteopathy/physiotherapy, will take more than 2 visits to have an effect. A good practitioner will also explain there's lots you can do to help yourself.

I hope you are feeling better very soon.

yeOldeTrout Sat 11-Feb-17 18:25:22

How old are you, Frenchfancy? What rotten luck. Don't despair, you can find ways to work around this.

frenchfancy Sat 11-Feb-17 20:37:54

I'm still taking it in. I've never had health problems before. You take it all for granted when you are healthy.

I'm definitely ready to do whatever it takes to keep mobile, active and as pain free as possible. At the moment the mobility scares me more than the pain. I'm a very active 45 year old. I'm sure there are changes I can make, but my lifestyle is already good, healthy diet, lots of exercise.

It is such an old persons disease. (is it even classed as a disease? I know so little about it).

yeOldeTrout Sat 11-Feb-17 21:16:35

I wonder if physio will help, I'd look at youtube videos about exercises for people with arthritis. And then check with a physio if those are good exercises for people with back pain smile.

DontAskIDontKnow Sat 11-Feb-17 21:58:55

Katy Bowman is about to release a book called dynamic aging. It's about some work she's done with a 70+ year old women that had varying issues. They are now stronger and fitter than they've ever been. I have it on pre-order with Amazon.

Patsy99 Sun 12-Feb-17 06:21:43

There was a Steve Carrel film last year where his 45 year old character goes to the doctor with knee pain and the dr says "you've got arthritis" and Steve Carrel's character says, in utter disbelief, "arthritis, arthritis?" And the doctor replied "well I usually only name it once but yes. Take some paracetamol if you need it".

Arthritis isn't a disease (unless it's rheumatoid which is completely different). It just means degeneration of the joints which most people have some of by the time we're in our 40's. I have arthritis in my knee as well and was really shocked when I was told.

The key thing is how you feel not being panicked by the label. I think this is what the BBC article meant about MRIs for lower back pain, many people will show some degeneration in the spine and this can worry people unduly.

In fact the NICE guidelines for lower back pain don't recommend MRIs anymore unless specific conditions are suspected- they just recommend manual therapy like Kiwi mentions and painkillers/anti- inflammatories.

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