I want to interrupt my regularly scheduled post for today in order to bring you this PSA on back pain.
First, my story.
The year between my graduation from OBU and my acceptance into OT school at OUHSC, I was a physical therapy aide in a hospital in Texas. That is when I first remember hurting my back and beginning my journey with sciatic and back pain. My degree of pain has varied over the years, but it has always been there. Remarkably, it did not worsen with my two pregnancies, which was something I feared. The year before I got pregnant the first time, I did go to a physical therapist who did a great job with me. Unfortunately, I did keep up with my exercises over time. I did continue to exercise in general and try to manage my back pain with ibuprofen and rest.
Over the last few years, and especially the last 6 months, the pain has worsened. But, I ignored it and put it and myself on the back burner. I never really mentioned it to anyone and basically have just lived with it. At this point, I can not remember a time I have not experienced back pain and other related symptoms. At times, it has been very bad. I am a shifter, meaning, I am always moving to manage the pain, whether it be in standing or sitting. I had basically gotten to a point where I had allowed my pain tolerance to get high enough that I continued to ignore it. The numbness, tingling, pain was still there. And lately, I had noticed an ever so slight weakness in my right leg. Again, I just ignored it. I had worked with back patients post-surgery before and just didn't want to know yet if I was a candidate. Ignorance is bliss, right?
About 3 weeks ago, I worked with a patient who was paralyzed from the waist down and had significant weakness from the waist up as a result of his waiting too long to address his back pain and other related symptoms.
I got scared. REALLY.SCARED.
I made an appointment and went last Monday to Spine Team Texas, where I met with one of the physiatrists, who evaluated and talked with me. Later that day, I went for a full spine MRI (Oh my, a whole other story!). This morning, I went in for my follow-up. Before going into full details, she asked me to go down the hall and get some x-rays so she could see some other details better. While getting my x-rays, the technician told me that my doctor specialized in women's back issues.
Second, my results.
I have "bilateral spondylolysis with grade 1 bordering on grade 2 spondylolisthesis of L5 on S1.". Just so you will know the technical stuff, you can read about Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis.
This is a picture of my problem.
If you find the white triangle near the bottom, you can see that at some point, I have fractured my spine and it has shifted, causing pressure on the cushion between my joint space. There is NO cushion between my joints at that point. You can see the football-like cushions still between my other joints. Over time, the joints have rubbed together and are now causing consistent impact on my nerve there.
There are several options and we will start with the least invasive first. I am going to start on Celebrex. I really don't want to, but will do so for at least a short time to see if it does help my inflammation and resulting pain. Nerve damage is my biggest fear, so I do want to minimize inflammation around the nerve as much as possible until surgery is my only option left. I am also going to start physical therapy next Monday for a short time. I will probably go a few times, then continue my exercises (faithfully this time!) until I meet with my doctor in 4 weeks. At that point, I can decide what has worked and if I want to do a round of steroid injections.
At some point, I believe I will have to make the decision to have surgery. I would need to have a spinal fusion at that place in my spine. Nothing is going to fix my issues, but surgery will prevent any further nerve damage which, again, is my biggest fear. The downsides are I will be out of commission of varying degrees for 6 weeks, the fusion will likely mean that my spine above the fusion will need to take on more work which means that over time I could see increased wear and tear in other places, it doesn't mean I won't have pain of some kind. I will always have some pain, but it will likely decrease and the prevention of ongoing nerve damage is the biggest factor.
The other bummer is my exercise choices need to be carefully considered. Absolutely, no running. Cripes! Guess my running career just got nipped! Water exercise, biking, and walking (under 4 miles per hour) are my best options.
What I ask for myself is, of course, prayers. I am not opposed to some sort of miracle :), but will be satisfied with good results from therapy and the potential surgery. Also, I am still considering having another little one. I need to talk more specifically with my doctor about that on my next visit; about the timing of treatments and surgery related to a pregnancy.
What I ask of you is this. If you have had back pain for any length of time, PLEASE, PLEASE don't wait to find out the cause. Go as soon as you can make an appointment with the appropriate professional. AND, please do go to the appropriate professional. If you live in my area, I would HIGHLY recommend Spine Team Texas. If you don't, please look for a center similar to it. I am in the hands of specifically-trained doctors, neurosurgeons, and specifically-trained physical therapists.
SOAP BOX ALERT!!
Please do not believe that your problem will be solved by a chiropractor or other like physician. Obviously, you can tell I am not a fan of chiropractic care for any reason, but specifically here. I NOT saying that they are bad people nor that they do not have good intentions, however, it is truly a quick-fix and temporary solution in most cases. I do understand you may feel differently, but I stand strongly by my educated decision. Please do not put off who can best help you by continuing that route of care.
Thanks for listening!
Please take care of yourself if you are dealing with similar problems!
You may now return to your ongoing life, currently in progress!