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13 year old athlete with low back pain - not responding to treatment :(

Started by Sk8Mom on 06/23/2011 9:11pm

I am beyond frustrated with trying to help my daughter treat her back pain for the past five months!

Here is a brief summary:

*2008 - diagnosed with a pars defect L5 - stopped activity and did PT for 2 months. Pain stopped immediately when stopping activity and never returned for three years. Pars defect was healed.

*2011 end of January - lower back pain returns

Daughter is a competitive figure skater - which requires back flexibility - pain occurs when she bends backwards and on forceful landings when training jumps (double rotations in the air - more force).

Visit with sports med doc familiar with figure skaters and their injuries. Bone scan ordered - normal results - no fractures found.

6 weeks of PT - some improvement but pain is still evident.

MRI ordered - normal - continue PT - little to no improvement.

CT scan ordered - normal results. Doc advised stop PT if we want since it doesn't appear to be helping. This was not very helpful advice.

Took daughter to facility that treat lumbar back with MedX machines and McKenzie exercises. Six weeks later, back strength has improved 85%, but pain is still evident. No improvement on pain. She was just discharged from PT yesterday.

She's also seen two different chiropractors, and has had neuromuscular therapy, and her trainer gives her deep tissue massage weekly.

She has gone months with very limited activity, starts to feel better, starts a small amount of activity and pain flares up again. She cannot arch backwards without pain and points to the left SI joint as to where the pain is occuring.

I made an appointment with a spine specialist orthopedic surgeon, but their first available is July 28th!!!

She does her PT stretches twice a day as instructed. But now what do we do? I can't accept the fact that my 13 year old can't recover from this bothersome pain. When she is not physically active her pain level is zero. Her worst pain was an 8 after some over-strenuous activity (when she had started feeling better). On a normal day her pain level with activity is 4.

We have been following all the advice of our doctors and therapists ~ and have not overdone anything they didn't approve. I am so frustrated! Does anyone have any advice...and thanks for letting me vent!

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4 Responses


Hi, there is very little options here. Get all the office notes from this Dr. and start looking for another one that is Board Certified and can help her with her problems. You might also look for a pain Dr. as well.


Sorry to hear about your daughter's problems. I was wondering if there were any other conditions such as spondylolisthesis. Also, since her MRI was normal, I don't see many other options besides PT and rest. I had a TLIF w/ instrumentation from L4-S1 because of spondylolisthesis which caused a reoccuring herniated disk and I'm only 17. I played many sports, lacrosse and soccer, which had "set off" the herniated disk, but the pain never subsided to a zero with rest. As far as the pars defect goes, it usually doesn't cause a lot of symptoms, but it's usually resulting from "stress fractures" between the lamina and the vertebrae (which is the start of slippage of the vertebrae (spondylolisthesis) which can cause herniated disks and many other problems) probably because of the stress on the lumbar spine from the figure skating. Does she have any pain radiating into her leg (sciatica)? I go to an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the spine and there are many options that they can try, but please don't rush into surgery it's extremely painful and the recovery is long and difficult and some of the time it doesn't even work. If the ortho-surgeon you go to wants to rush into surgery, make sure he gives you ALL of your options and you trust him. Hope everything gets better!


I learned from experience an MRI may not show everything. I too have herniated discs at L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1 I also have a small fracture at SI joint. This had not been discovered until I had an MRI using contrast Gadilinium to find injured nerves.

I'd like to not scare you but warn you away from allowing the doctors to perform either or both of the following procedures.

1. Epidural Steroid Injections, they may also call them trigger point injections or facet joint injections. Thee injections are NOT designed for use around the spine or nerve roots and can cause a debilitating disease / injury called Arachnoiditis. I have Arachnoiditis caused by ESIs trust me the pain from my injuries is minor compared to this.

2. OPEN Back Surgery. There are many procedures that are far less invasive, have better results, and lessen the likelyhood of recurrence. I had an Open back laminectomy , discectomy, among other procedures. My diagnosis FAILED BACK SURGERY SYNDROME, the doctors laugh it off as if oh well, your surgery didn't help.

Your daughter is young, be sure you ask lots of questions before allowing them to perform any procedures.

If they insist on surgery ask for another opinion,
ask about the risks and rewards of surgery particular to your daughter and her condition.
Take atleast 2 weeks or longer to consider.
A good doctor isn't going to rush you right to surgery unless you have a condition thats called . Caudual Equina it involves bladder and bowel control.

If they insist on ESIs refuse, VISITwww.burtonreport.com FIRST

One they are only TEMPORARY Pain Relief and the pain usually returns in 4 - 5 months even if you don't have other negative side effects.

Be wary of any NSAIDS including Percocets, Oxycontin, Neurontin / Gabapentin these are highly addictive. Neurontin and it's generic Gabapentin have SEVERE Neuroloigical and psychological side effects.

It bothers me to hear that anyone has back or spine injury but particularly if the person is young and active but, again please trust what I'm telling you. The time you spend now educating yourself today is going to save your daughter much pain and problems in her future.

Good Luck Pete 33


Thank you all, so much, for your insight! We were able to get into the spine surgeon earlier with a cancellation.

I was quite relieved that he didn't recommend steroid injections or any type of surgery for her. I was very impressed with him and the time he spent with us. He viewed all the test images with us, pointing out things he saw or didn't see.

He did say that she may have overdone it on the amount of PT and that had we come to him earlier, he would have only recommended 4 - 6 weeks of PT ~ so maybe our sports injury doc wasn't so far off telling us to stop "if we wanted".

So now we are still taking it easy on activity and giving it more time. We are extremely disappointed that she's missing out this competitive season, but fortunately she's still young and determined to come back stronger.

Oh, and to answer above questions ~ no spondy is evident and the pain has never radiated into her buttocks or legs!!