I’ll start with what I have been diagnosed with and know for sure is accurate. There are a lot of big words with small definitions and some with more complicated explanations. I’ll try not to put you to sleep.
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Familial Hypophosphatemia (vitamin D resistant Rickets)
- Bilateral Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
I have had problems with my back since my late teens. I never really thought about it. Most of my family has back problems. Mostly on my mom’s side.
My mom went to many, many, doctors. Almost all of them told her if she lost weight her pain would go away. I did not want the same said to me. So I ignored the pain.
In my late twenties I had begun to have back spasms and in my right hip I could hear a clicking when I walked. The spasms sometimes left me stuck in one place for long periods of time. When I was eventually stuck on the bathroom floor for 5 hours I decided it was time to see the Doctor.
There were X-rays taken and tests done. The verdict at the time was I was riddled with Arthritis in my hips, pelvis, and lower back. My Doctor also mentioned that a Hip Replacement wouldn’t be too far off. Hip Replacement? I was only in my late twenties.
There wasn’t much to be done about the Arthritis but deal with it. It wasn’t until my 30’s that things took a turn for the worse. I was working 50-60 hours a week, my mom had just passed away, I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I decided to lift a giant TV from the floor to about a foot above my head. Not one of my best ideas. I knew as soon as it happened. It felt like when you hit your funny bone only not funny.
Like everyone in my family except my mom, I waited to go to the Doctor. When I did she sent me for every test possible and while waiting for the results physical therapy. I managed a few sessions of physical therapy but when my back seized in the parking lot they refused to touch me. One of the therapists asked if my Doctor had talked to me yet. It had been a month. I told her no. She looked frustrated and said she couldn’t touch me until she knew what was going on. I gave her permission to call the place that did the imaging. The look on her face as she listened said it all.
A ruptured disc, 2 bulging above and 2 bulging below plus a lot more other problems that would have to be worked on. Who doesn’t let their patient know immediately that they are walking around with a ruptured disc in their back for over a month? I wasn’t happy.
I finally got answers. Some of it is genetic, some of it is because I have Celiac Disease and my immune system plays a part but it’s been a long road.
Osteoarthritis- cartilage between joints breaks down causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. The bones can over time break down and develop spurs. Towards the end stages cartilage wears away to nothing leaving bone on bone. I was told by one Doctor that once you reach the bone on bone stage the pain lessens. Doesn’t quite sound right but what do I know?
Degenerative Disc Disease- Discs help absorb shock between the bones of the spine and help the back stay flexible. These rubbery discs can shrink and lose flexibility causing pain. If the disc is dried out it can’t repair itself and will deteriorate. This happens mostly in the lower back and the neck.
Osteoporosis- When tissue breaks down faster than it can be replaced in bones. This makes the bones thinner and more likely to break. It also causes loss in height.
Spinal Stenosis- This is a narrowing of the spinal column that can press on the nerves in the spine causing neck and back pain. It also causes numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, or pain going down the leg. To diagnose this they usually do a MRI, CT, and Bone Scans. I also had a liquid dye injected into my spinal column so they could see what was going on more clearly.
Familial Hypophosphatemia- This is a somewhat rare inherited disorder. It has to do with impaired transport of phosphate and altered vitamin D metabolism in the kidneys. Phosphate may not be well absorbed in the kidneys, in others the intestines. It causes softening of the bones, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and hip problems. Other adult symptoms are muscle cramps, bone spurs, dental problems, and hearing issues.(aka vitamin d resistant rickets)
I’ve had 5 Epidurals, a TENS machine, Physical Therapy, and medications I can’t take.
No one will do surgery because of a “domino effect” and that’s ok. I’m more worried about my neck now. I knew the stenosis went to the top of my spinal column but I’m hoping that isn’t what’s causing the pain. First thing in the morning I have to lift my head off my pillow with my hands because my neck is in too much pain.
W’s mom had similar problems with her neck and had to have discs replaced with cadaver bone. It was a long recovery. But she’s great now. I think it’s advanced since then. I would get second and third opinions before surgery and it wouldn’t be in my state.
You have to get second opinions. One Physician’s Assistant kept telling me my back pain was due to my mother’s death. She kept referring me to a Therapist. I know pain and the brain and can go together. I had enough finally and exploded. “My mother’s death didn’t cause a ruptured disc, bulging discs, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, areas of my spine to be bone on bone or for me to go from 5’7″ to 5’6″ in a f*cking year!”. I never went back there for some reason.
Do your research but don’t over do it like I do. Always get a second opinion before surgery specifically with your back or neck. And never let the Doctor tell you what to do. There is no magic fix. Everything I read says Physical Therapy and Medications to ease Inflammation. As a last resort they will recommend surgery but most Doctors would advise against it unless absolutely necessary.