My Story - a life with back pain
I just wanted to join in the discussions and after reading some of the posts on here I figured the best way to start was to post 'my story' which I'm sure a lot of people will be able to relate to. Whilst I am no expert - I am a Registered Nurse and have been for 26 years. I have a lot of knowledege that often the general public don't have; but that can be a disavantage too - as per the old adage 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!!'
I would just like to tell you a bit about my history with my back. So please have a look and hopefully I won't bore you to death!!
I have had the odd problem with my back for many years, but things took a turn for the worst after I went on an adventure - driving alone from Cairns (N Queensland) and in Northern Australia to a place in Victoria in far south Australia called Warnaambool. As you will guess I live in Australia. The round trip was about 7000Km. I took 4 days/3 nights to drive each way and I stopped for a holiday when I reached my friends in Victoria. However starting out on the 2nd day into the drive and stopping for petrol - I slipped on an oil patch but thought nothing of it at the time. Only on my way back - just reaching (hardly bending at all) for some milk in the hotel fridge, 3 hours from home - I felt a little click - shortly followed by agony. The 3 hour drive was certainly a trip to remember. This was the start of my back problems for the next 11 years.
Firstly I was diagnosed with two broken bones that help to stop your vertebra slipping forward - and I had recurring slips of L5 over S1 medically called a 'Spondylolisthesis' for about 3 years. Medication of Panadeine Forte, Brufen and Diazepam really helped and I took it only when I had a 'slip' - roughly every 2-3 months.
Then - in 2002 I had a tummy bug - not a nice part - but vomiting for the 3rd time - I heard a 'click' and thought - Oh great another 'slip'. Oh how I wish that had been the case. For about 4 hours - no real pain. I accompanied my friend to the dentist as I had had a shot for the nausea earlier. Once she had gone inside I made my way to the car and half way - incredible, awful, shocking, terrible, distressing, unrelenting pain. I literally crawled back inside and when my friend came out she obviously wondered why I was prostrate on the floor. She drove me home (about 25Km) with me sqealing at every little bump. I spent 2 weeks on the couch as I couldn't walk as far as my bedroom. My friend and flatmate had to vare for me with every need. I should have gone to hospital - but I expect you have heard that nurses are not good patients and tend to expect people to "do as I say - not as I do". I won't go into more details except to say that I am very greatful that my boss sent a commode, wheelchair and wheelie walker to my home for me. At this time I was put on Oxycontin 20mg twice a day, Brufen, Diazepam and Endone.
When I was able to get a CT then MRI - I had ruptured my L4 disc. I had to take 3 weeks off work and returned very carefully. As I was in management it meant that I didn't have the usual heavy lifting, walking of a nurse on the floor. I sought specialist advice and was told that usually the disc will shrivel as time goes on. Well - not for me of course. I have suffered constant pain since then and though I fought against it am now up to 50mg Oxycontin morning and night, Diazepam 5mg up to 3 times daily, Brufen 400mg twice daily and Endone 10mg for breakthrough pain. I learnt to accept that the narcotics were a necessary evil that allowed me to get up in the morning and function to varying degrees depending what sort of pain I had - a good day is 4-5 / 10 a bad one 9/10.
I have constant pain in my lumbar region, have had numbness in my left foot since my ruptured disc, can't feel four of my toes and get severe muscle spasms in my back, calf and sometimes hamstring. I tried having a lumbar epidural - but after 45 minutes the anaesthetist couldn't get the needle in. I suspect that I have some pretty dense scar tissue. I've probably missed a lot out but I want to explain but keep it reasonably brief too.
In September 2008 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which makes my back worse and gives me just a bit more pain to deal with (tongue in cheek) in most every joint in my body. So I am now on a heap of meds for that too. So my life revolves around where my pain is worse and how bad. Most days I accept it - but others ...... well I guess you all know the answer there. I have not been able to work since March 2009 and I doubt things will improve that much in that area in the forseeable future.
I do know that surgery up to now - meaning fusion - is not a good option for disc degeneration. My friend who now also has back issues after a car accident had a nerve block - and was in agony for days with no subsequent improvement. Her Dr wanted to keep doing it until he got the right spot!!!! It goes without saying - she didn't go down this path. Another friend had her ankle fused for bone degeneration and she said that she wishes she never did as she had multiple issues and still does. My neurosurgeon said that fusing lumbar vertebra just shifts the stress to the next level and I've read enough stories both here and elsewhere that support that. However I saw an orthopaedic surgeon who wanted to operate and fuse my back at three levels - that did not happen.
I hope to be able to join this group and give and receive support - because I don't believe people can understand unless they have experienced this level of pain and disablity. I look forward to hearing from you all