About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

CHRONIC BACK PAIN

Lower back pain, also known as lumbago, affects 7 out of 10 people at some time in their lives. The pain can come on suddenly, slowly or be the direct result of a fall or injury. If back pain lasts for less than 3 months it is called acute. If it develops gradually over time, lasts more than 12 weeks and causes long-term problems, it is known as chronic back pain. It can affect anyone of any age but is more common between the ages of 35 and 55. In the majority of cases, the cause of the pain can be linked to the way the bones, muscles and ligaments in the back work together. The lower part of the back is composed of 5 vertebrae known as L1 to L5. This region bears the entire weight of the upper body and is also under continual pressure especially when bending, twisting, and lifting.The complex structure of the lower back means that quite small amounts of damage to any of the structures of the back can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Pain in the lower back is a symptom of stress or damage to the ligaments, muscles, tendons or discs. In some cases the back pain can spread to the buttocks and thighs. In most cases the back will heal itself and staying active and continuing with your usual activities will normally promote healing. However in severe and persistent cases it is important to seek medical advice so that a correct diagnosis can be reached and appropriate treatment given, as treatment may depend on the underlying cause in some cases. For example, pain caused by some types of arthritis may be treated by specific medicines.

In my case, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine at the age of 29 after I had my first daughter. It was devastating news because up to then I’d been extremely active in sports like softball, tennis, volleyball, and basketball. The doctor told me I’d have to give them up in lieu of swimming, walking, and cycling. Ten years and one more baby later, the pain had become so excruciating that I literally saw red spots whenever I stood up, sat down, or changed position. The doctor had sent me for physiotherapy that actually aggravated my condition to the point that I was sent for a CT scan. That determined that there was a herniated disc and bone spurs within the spinal canal that were pressing on the sciatic nerve. My surgery was in May of 1986 and at that time I was told I also have a slight scoliosis of the spine. It took me about a year to get back to as normal as possible. It reduced my pain but over the years the bone spurs have grown back causing inflammation of the spinal canal and ultimately chronic back pain. Over the years I’ve struggled to keep my weight down by eating properly and walking lots. However, walking for long periods of time or standing in one spot for more than 5 or 10 minutes causes my left leg to go numb and my lower back to scream in pain.

Then I discovered massage therapy. I have the best Registered Massage Therapist who is able to keep my pain to a minimum by keeping my muscles relaxed. She cannot cure my osteoarthritis or my scoliosis, but she is able to keep me mobile so that I can walk a half hour a day and manage my daily life. Last week, I decided to do some gardening. Big mistake. The result? Pain! Today I went for my regular treatment but I need to go back again for another hour tomorrow. Sometimes I get so frustrated not being able to do the simplest things but I have to remember that everybody can’t do everything. I must look on the bright side that I am fortunate enough to be able to hire a gardener to do the heavy work. I can then relax on my chaise with an iced tea and admire the flowers or read all the wonderful books I want to read. But I’d rather be playing tennis. I know lots of you can relate. Mark?

19 comments:

the walking man said...

Leslie my pain started in my left leg, I had some back pain but I just kept doing the bullwork I had always done and ignored the leg pain that would at first not come on until I had been at it for 14 hours (2 jobs) but as time went on (6 years) the leg got to the point where I could not stand or walk on it for more than 10 minutes after I got out of bed continuing on for the rest of the day while doing most of my work standing on one leg or sitting down on a rolling short stool if possible.

In the mean time I had carpal tunnel surgery on both of my hands which I also let go on for too long because when I would use tools like my air hammer my I would drop it and my fingers (first second and third would curl back towards my palm.

15 minutes later I was back to work. This was way after the numbness and tingling started, and I would have continued on that way until one day a foreman pissed me off so I was sent to the clinic for my hands with a diagnosis sheet from the doctor that i went to with my private insurance, which was the same doctor they would have sent me to anyway.

So I spent 3 months off work for the carpal tunnel and found that lieing down was the only relief for my growing leg pain.

Finally I was doing a break job on a 5 ton truck and had to move a hundred pound part from the bench onto the vehicle and it was like a cartoon, I COULD NOT STAND UP STRAIGHT!

That was the first indication of a back problem, went through 18 weeks of PT and they finally said that whatever it was they didn't know and could do no more for me.

So I was sent to a surgeon (neuro)who had an MRI done right off, the second visit three months later (I started workman's compensation in 11/99)he told me that he could fix the problem but i would never work again so I had to choose between pain I could no longer control with my minds tolerance or get cut and fused at L4/L5.

At the time I was bringing home btwn $850 and $1200 a week and that was the only reason i kept on. Bills child support and a kid in private school plus a good life of booze every night before bed.

18 hours after the surgery I was walking pain free for the first time in 6 or 7 years. I walked almost 11 miles one day but called for a ride back. A month after the surgery I took the engine out of my wifes Toyota and rebuilt it. But the doc kept saying no more bull work ergo no more work he would not release me back to work because he said within three years another fusion would be necessary.

So they sent me to school instead full free ride but I also won two scholarships (02) which is when the accident happened that put me permanently disabled, broke my neck in two verts and had to fuse four.

The excruciating leg pain and the not being able to stand up right was because the disc had bulged beyond the vert and was pressing the sciatic nerve, that and diabetic neuropathy has given me central nervous system damage throughout all of my extremities and caused me to become impotent at age 49.

Now i can not walk more than a city block without severe pain in the fusion/pelvis area. Took me 8 hours to walk 3 miles in June.

For me there is drug therapy most of which i have so far refused because I am not wanting to become a narcotic junkie just yet, Vicadin and Oxycontin are like candy and they don't work. Demerol and opiate derivatives like Morphine and Duragesic work but I have to start off at the highest doses for complete relief.

so I use a cocktail my doc and I coked up of less potent drugs to keep the edge off and now am waiting for my her to come back from maternity leave to advise me whether to get three month shots directly to my spinal cord, I've had 6 of these and there is a grevious down side to them, they are also addictive and some have extremely bad side affects like softening the bone.

I have tried trigger release therapy which is deep tissue massage but the bones in my neck are healed mis aligned and with the new accident, even the fused portion of the neck is again is painful so I am not sure what is going on other than I can't sleep more than four hours a night and a couple two hour naps during the day before neck or low back pain wakes me up.

The advice of continuing regular activity is good advice because in 4 out of 10 cases the disc will move back into place,albeit weaker, but you have to reduce the amount of regular activity for a bit.

in my case for the neck it has been 4 + months and now I either need a surgeon who will fuse another cervical vert making c3,4,5,6,7, fused and two thoracic vert fused T2/T3 or the shots or bump up to narcotics. Those are my options.

What I would suggest for you is a slow star on yoga to regain movement lost and stretch muscles not normally used. I am happy the massage therapy works for you but it relaxes not stretches muscles so try yoga to improve flexibility,

in my case it is to late for that.

Peace

mark

the walking man said...

PS all i ever wanted to do was work and get paid until i was 67 and then retire normally so now i write, using three fingers and one thumb. Good enough but I'd prefer my freedom back to this life of trying to figure ways to make time live without rotting my brain with TV

Peace

mark

leslie said...

Well, Mark, you're in worse shape than I am but I do feel your pain (both physical and emotional). I had a bulging disc removed along with the bone spurs during my operation and the doctor (neuro) said he had to literally yank the sciatic nerve out of the way because of the spurs and inflammation. He did not fuse me, though, saying that it would be better not to. In the meantime, I do water aerobics occasionally and walk as much as possible to keep the muscles strong. Also, the price of gas these days forces me to walk as much as possible and I do stretching exercises at home. But my problem is when I get so frustrated from minimum ability to do things (like walking for more than 30 minutes at a time when I feel like I can do more) that I do too much. The massage therapy helps immensely as it keeps the muscles not only relaxed but also stretched. I don't know what I'd do with my therapist. What she does to me is usually quite painful, but in the long run it helps. When I mention I have "massage therapy" to anyone, they automatically think I'm going for a relaxing spa-type massage. Little do they know the pain I endure to keep on my feet. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Ruth D~ said...

What is it about the massage? The circulation increase, the strtching of muscles, the relaxation . . .? I get massages, but so infrequently. I feel good afterward, that's for sure.

leslie said...

Hi Ruth Ann, I believe the massage stretches the muscles, putting them back in proper alignment along with releasing the knots. Boy you should feel it when a knot releases! Yikes! Also, it helps to release the toxins in your body. I usually have an epsom salt bath the evening I have massage and sometimes I hurt for a day or two (like being run over by a truck, depending on how much pain I had) but it is the only thing that seems to help me.

leslie said...

Oh yes...and circulation.

patterns of ink said...

We've been learning about this lately. My wife was having unbearable pain in her shoulder and left arm. We found out last week that she has a ruptured disc in her neck. PT has been questionable, but maybe this sort of therapy would be of help.
I see Mark, the Walking Man, has commented above. It was actually him who helped us know to get an MRI. He has more experience than he would like in this area.

Josie said...

Leslie, wow, what a great post. I had no idea your osteoarthritis was so acute. You have very good posture, so that must help somewhat as well. Do you take any bone building medications like Fosamax or Boniva? Or would that help osteoarthritis?

Loved the cartoon... :-)

Cheers,
Josie

leslie said...

Josie, I take Meloxicam - an anti-inflammatory/pain killer once a day. It helps. My posture is forced on me because if I slouch, I hurt!

Janice Thomson said...

I can relate so well to this Leslie though acute osteo happened to me because of an early menopause. Also as far as I know there are no spurs in the back but my knees have them on both sides which make walking very difficult.
A couple weeks ago I fell on my knees and broke one spur off - now that is very painful and I'm still recovering. Because I have an eating disorder as well(something about the esophagus not contracting properly so food and pills stay at top and cause this god-awful heartburn-who knew!)most pills are out of the question. Tai Chi has helped immensely and I do walk for a half hour everyday rain or shine, pain or no.

I always thought I was pretty healthy but the past 2 years the osteo is so bad that a great many bones have been broken. Coupled with kidney disease and high blood pressure this body has finally begun to break down. Like Walking Man I'm told it is because I worked so hard when a bit younger. I guess holding up 20' walls sheeted both sides was NOT a cool thing to do. Most things are under control except for the kidney disease which I'm working hard at to prevent further loss at such a rapid rate. Living with the daily possibility it could be the last one has certainly changed my perspective on life.
Gosh reading over this I immediately want to delete it as it seems like way too much info but maybe it will serve as a lesson to others...

My thoughts are with you Leslie and here's hoping there will be some relief for you as well Mark.

leslie said...

AAAHHH...back from an hour of massage pain...er...therapy and I feel SO much better. You think you're okay, until you get under the fingers of a specialist. I could just fall asleep now, but I better stay awake or else I won't sleep tonight.

Janice, I'm so sorry for all the things you suffer from. I used to have GERD, but I think having lost some weight has helped that. I don't suffer from it anymore. I cannot imagine the pain you felt when you fell on that knee. There's some OA in my knees, too, but not to that extent - yet - touch wood. It's amazing to me that when one opens up to and admits to suffering, either physical or emotional, people just come out of the woodwork to empathize. From your poetry, Janice, I would never have guessed you had such problems. People always think I'm an optimistic person and I thought of you that way, too, but maybe it's because we don't give in to it that keeps us on our toes and moving forward. I will not succumb to the pain and I will never give up trying to do as much as I can with my life. Kudos to you!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I had back pain, on and off, for about six months. I tried not to complain about it, but my wife noticed how stooped over I'd became. "You have kidney stones," she announced. "No I don't," I claimed. After seeing a chiropractor, who jarred those little buggers loose, I ended up in the hospital emergency room trying them. Never in a million years would I have said, "Thank God they're only kidney stones," until I read your post. I hope the massage therapy continues to work for you.

JR's Thumbprints said...

trying ... to pass ... them.

See, I don't even like to think or write about it.

Susan said...

Sorry you are suffering Leslie,
I also posted about pain today.
I enjoyed your post yesterday, I love the suspension bridge. When we were kids, it wasn't so busy. It was always a prime outing whenever we had visitors from England. We used to hold on and jump up and down on it till the whole bridge was undulating. I dont think they would let you get away with that these days.

HeiressChild said...

we never know what people go thru behind closed doors, do we? i was diagnosed several years ago with osteoarthritis in my knees, which is partly why i don't work.

because of it, i have had 2 knee sprains, which put me on crutches and a leg brace for a few weeks each time. i had to buy a back pack for my school books so i could manage the crutches hands-free. i made it thru last year and this year crutch-free. yeaaaa! for a moment there, i was averaging crutches every other year.

i don't have to do the pain meds anymore (thank God), but i do have to be very careful about what i do, and how i do it. my left knee has been buckling lately. i'm working more on my weight now also. this was a very helpful post leslie. thanx.

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