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Old 06-25-2011, 02:00 PM
 
Location: SE Michigan
6,198 posts, read 5,899,094 times
Reputation: 9862
Default Back pain - commiserate, suggest what helps, etc...

According to an MRI I had done about 11 years ago, I have two ruptured disks - between L-3 and L-4, and L-4 and L-5.

Mostly not a big deal, just low-level 24/7 pain in my back and left buttock (sciatica.) I don't notice it much any more. About once every 12-18 months it goes nuclear, and I cannot walk eaily; when it goes really bad I can't walk at all and the pain is freaking excruciating especially when I have the sciatic pain going down my leg.

I am quite active and have never been overweight (except that time I quit smoking and gained 25 lbs but we don't talk about that LOL). I paint houses, walk/hike and bike quite a bit with the dogs, etc.

Things that I've tried that help with back pain:

Hard mattress and sleeping with a pillow between my knees.
Exercise! When I was working out regularly at the gym, my core muscles must have compensated somehow because my back didn't bother me at all.
I also notice that times it's gone out have been during times I haven't been that active.
Back exercises - I do them but often forget.
Vicodin, Flexeril, etc....for when it's really painful. Fixes nothing, but does knock me out so I don't care as much.
Ice and hot packs - again fixes nothing but feels good during application.

Things I've tried that didn't help:

Medrol (steroid) packs - did not work.
Prednisone shot to the lower back - didn't do anything for me, hurt like a m*****f***** and was not cheap.
Muscle relaxants and non-narcotic meds like neurontin and indocin, anything OTC.
Chiropractic and osteopathy - made it worse, if anything. I'm aware many people swear by one or the other, but my experience has never been positive, so it's not for me.

Any other ideas or experiences? I am joining a gym and plan to start working out regularly again, and the gym offers yoga classes too.

I am 53 and hope never to need surgery, and I'd like to stay active for a long time!

I was vacuuming this morning and felt my back go "pop" and it's sore as hell right now, crossing fingers that this isn't the start of another "gone nuclear" episode. Sometimes it goes away within a day....but it's been over a year since my last episode and I don't have time for another right now!

What's been your experience? What helps? What doesn't help, or makes it worse?
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Old 06-25-2011, 03:20 PM
 
Location: Mostly in my head
15,908 posts, read 27,569,642 times
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I was advised by a Canadian pro football player to take hot baths with Epsom salts. As hot as you can stand it, about 1/3 carton of salts, and stay in the tub 'til you are cool. Repeat as many times per day as you want. No tub? Wring out a hand towel in hot water and Epsom salts and place it on your sore spot while lying down. It worked fir me. BTWw I have a fusion over L4-5-S1.

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Old 06-25-2011, 03:34 PM
 
5,502 posts, read 3,765,756 times
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Have had these same issues for years....all your noted "therapies" are great....I too use Epsom salts in hot baths, it does seem to help, particularly if you have muscle strain/pain.

As a med professional, the only bad news is as we age we lose the soft cushioning material between discs, the cartilage. That can increase pain so much so that surg might be needed...when the discs are "bone on bone" or without cushioning...but not all of us are that unfortunate, so maybe you will be a lucky one.

When the "go nuclear" thing occurs, not much for me to do....Vicodin, hot bath and bed. Sitting or standing for long periods bothers me so I avoid it when possible. (NO long distance driving without frequent breaks).

I assume the back exercises you mention are from MD...a physical therapist could discuss with you even more in-depth exercises that target your pain areas. Swimming helps for me but we are all different in response to pain and therapy.

Good luck~

Quote:
Originally Posted by chiroptera View Post
According to an MRI I had done about 11 years ago, I have two ruptured disks - between L-3 and L-4, and L-4 and L-5.

Mostly not a big deal, just low-level 24/7 pain in my back and left buttock (sciatica.) I don't notice it much any more. About once every 12-18 months it goes nuclear, and I cannot walk eaily; when it goes really bad I can't walk at all and the pain is freaking excruciating especially when I have the sciatic pain going down my leg.

I am quite active and have never been overweight (except that time I quit smoking and gained 25 lbs but we don't talk about that LOL). I paint houses, walk/hike and bike quite a bit with the dogs, etc.

Things that I've tried that help with back pain:

Hard mattress and sleeping with a pillow between my knees.
Exercise! When I was working out regularly at the gym, my core muscles must have compensated somehow because my back didn't bother me at all.
I also notice that times it's gone out have been during times I haven't been that active.
Back exercises - I do them but often forget.
Vicodin, Flexeril, etc....for when it's really painful. Fixes nothing, but does knock me out so I don't care as much.
Ice and hot packs - again fixes nothing but feels good during application.

Things I've tried that didn't help:

Medrol (steroid) packs - did not work.
Prednisone shot to the lower back - didn't do anything for me, hurt like a m*****f***** and was not cheap.
Muscle relaxants and non-narcotic meds like neurontin and indocin, anything OTC.
Chiropractic and osteopathy - made it worse, if anything. I'm aware many people swear by one or the other, but my experience has never been positive, so it's not for me.

Any other ideas or experiences? I am joining a gym and plan to start working out regularly again, and the gym offers yoga classes too.

I am 53 and hope never to need surgery, and I'd like to stay active for a long time!

I was vacuuming this morning and felt my back go "pop" and it's sore as hell right now, crossing fingers that this isn't the start of another "gone nuclear" episode. Sometimes it goes away within a day....but it's been over a year since my last episode and I don't have time for another right now!

What's been your experience? What helps? What doesn't help, or makes it worse?
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Old 06-25-2011, 04:14 PM
 
Location: SE Michigan
6,198 posts, read 5,899,094 times
Reputation: 9862
Yannow I have never tried Epsom salts....I will! I do have a bath tub and hot baths are wonderful - so is a hot tub; I have friends with one and get to use it sometimes.

gbh....I know, nothing much works except "tincture of time" and taking reasonable measures during a full-blown episode. Yes, the back exercises are from a doctor (I have a print-out) and there's also a book by a Bonnie...Pruden? that is very good for describing exercises. They are similar to gentle yoga positions, mostly.

I have a good friend my age who had a "bad back nuclear" episode last year; I suspect he thought I was malingering until he went through it himself. He could not dress himself or go to the bathroom; I was like, I TOLD you so.

Not at all fun! And I think I am fairly stoic and believe in "working through" pain; but as anyone eho has experienced an acute episode of bck pain will tell you, sometimes you simply can't work through it. I've looked at my back in the mirror when it's spasming and twitching, OMG that is weird and extremely unpleasant.

I can walk and am fine all day on my feet (painting houses, I'm on my feet and on the move all day) but I don't think I could tolerate a job where I had to stand in one place for hours at a time.

I took Flexeril about an hour ago so I am feeling pretty good, LOL. I have to go to the grocery store; I'll pick up some Epsom salts on the way.
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Old 06-25-2011, 04:19 PM
 
Location: Frederick, MD
287 posts, read 535,642 times
Reputation: 415
Quote:
Originally Posted by chiroptera View Post
According to an MRI I had done about 11 years ago, I have two ruptured disks - between L-3 and L-4, and L-4 and L-5.

Mostly not a big deal, just low-level 24/7 pain in my back and left buttock (sciatica.) I don't notice it much any more. About once every 12-18 months it goes nuclear, and I cannot walk eaily; when it goes really bad I can't walk at all and the pain is freaking excruciating especially when I have the sciatic pain going down my leg.

I am quite active and have never been overweight (except that time I quit smoking and gained 25 lbs but we don't talk about that LOL). I paint houses, walk/hike and bike quite a bit with the dogs, etc.

Things that I've tried that help with back pain:

Hard mattress and sleeping with a pillow between my knees.
Exercise! When I was working out regularly at the gym, my core muscles must have compensated somehow because my back didn't bother me at all.
I also notice that times it's gone out have been during times I haven't been that active.
Back exercises - I do them but often forget.
Vicodin, Flexeril, etc....for when it's really painful. Fixes nothing, but does knock me out so I don't care as much.
Ice and hot packs - again fixes nothing but feels good during application.

Things I've tried that didn't help:

Medrol (steroid) packs - did not work.
Prednisone shot to the lower back - didn't do anything for me, hurt like a m*****f***** and was not cheap.
Muscle relaxants and non-narcotic meds like neurontin and indocin, anything OTC.
Chiropractic and osteopathy - made it worse, if anything. I'm aware many people swear by one or the other, but my experience has never been positive, so it's not for me.

Any other ideas or experiences? I am joining a gym and plan to start working out regularly again, and the gym offers yoga classes too.

I am 53 and hope never to need surgery, and I'd like to stay active for a long time!

I was vacuuming this morning and felt my back go "pop" and it's sore as hell right now, crossing fingers that this isn't the start of another "gone nuclear" episode. Sometimes it goes away within a day....but it's been over a year since my last episode and I don't have time for another right now!

What's been your experience? What helps? What doesn't help, or makes it worse?
I don't even know where to start. I just had disk surgery 6 weeks ago along with a spinal fusion. I was walking in the hospital the next day, after a month I was able to walk 4 miles a day without pain.

Nothing will help you except an operation. I'm not sure where you got the idea that operations are unnecessary and that the disk issues willl simply go away by any other method. You could have been feeling good for the past 11 years by having an operation yet you have convinced yourself that you can cure yourself.

I was in the hospital for a herniated disk some time ago and as I was getting into my hospital room another man about my age came into the room, as at that time there were shared rooms. I guess they still have them but I haven't been in a shared room for a long time. Anyway, he was in the hospital to have back surgery the next day. He was telling me that he had herniated disks for the past three years... started drinking to dull the pain, then became a drug addict, lost his job and then his family.

He had the operation, left the hospital three days later. I was still there as I had other issues, and my roommate was feeling great. As he was leaving he had a smile on his face and wished me good luck. All I could think of is.... WHAT AN IDIOT.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:05 PM
 
Location: SE Michigan
6,198 posts, read 5,899,094 times
Reputation: 9862
I know - I know two people who have had massive relief from back pain after fusion surgery..
I also know two...no, three, people who have had multiple back surgeries and are still disabled and in constant pain. Surgery is not a magic bullet! I know a lot of people who have had or currently have "Generous Motors" (GM) insurance and bennies; so their doctors are very happy to throw every option on the table and suggest surgery right off the bat.


So....I do realise it can be a wonderful option for some people, but does not work for everyone, universally. I am glad it worked for you, though! It's just something I would rather reserve as a final option.

I'm not disabled, not hardly. Two doctors have told me so far that I should not consider back surgery at this point. I do very physical work and am stronger and fitter than most 53-year-olds I know, I exercise, I am completely functional (albeit with a little low-grade pain) except for once a year or so when I get a bad flare-up. I can walk out of my door and walk four miles this very minute, no biggie....I regularly walk for an hour or more per day (or bike) with my dogs.

Not to mention, I am self-employed with minimal bare-bones health insurance. I would rather not use up a giant chunk of my savings going through a surgery and recuperation that may or may not work. I am neither a drug addict nor in danger of losing my work and my home, either.

I never said operations were "unecessary" - you said that, not I. Nor did I say anywhere that I was looking for something to make blown disks go away...they won't and I know that. However, lifestyle changes can and do make a big difference and I'd like to explore other options first.

Since you provided anecdotal "proof" - one of the three people I know with back pain was that way because of an auto accident (she hit a deer at freeway speeds) that broke her back. Multiple surgeries, and she was still disabled and in significant pain. She started doing yoga and working out, and has been back to work and almost completely pain-free for about eight years.

So...surgery is an option for sure. But not the only one. I'd like to reserve having a team of people slice my back open as a final option, and rely on less-invasive options first.



Quote:
Originally Posted by seethelight View Post
I don't even know where to start. I just had disk surgery 6 weeks ago along with a spinal fusion. I was walking in the hospital the next day, after a month I was able to walk 4 miles a day without pain.

Nothing will help you except an operation. I'm not sure where you got the idea that operations are unnecessary and that the disk issues willl simply go away by any other method. You could have been feeling good for the past 11 years by having an operation yet you have convinced yourself that you can cure yourself.

I was in the hospital for a herniated disk some time ago and as I was getting into my hospital room another man about my age came into the room, as at that time there were shared rooms. I guess they still have them but I haven't been in a shared room for a long time. Anyway, he was in the hospital to have back surgery the next day. He was telling me that he had herniated disks for the past three years... started drinking to dull the pain, then became a drug addict, lost his job and then his family.

He had the operation, left the hospital three days later. I was still there as I had other issues, and my roommate was feeling great. As he was leaving he had a smile on his face and wished me good luck. All I could think of is.... WHAT AN IDIOT.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:28 PM
 
Location: If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space
12,345 posts, read 4,813,635 times
Reputation: 53748
I also have experience with lumbar back pain and sciatica. When it was at it's worst after first onset (~10 years ago), I was referred to a surgeon who had given up on doing back surgery. Like you, I wanted that to be a last resort - not the first option. It took almost a full year to recover but, since then, although I will have episodes of pain, it's never been excruciating or debilitating again.

What didn't help but made it worse was bed rest, sitting for too long, and stress. It was worse around my period also but I'm guessing that isn't an issue for you at 53. Also, I hated the meds and got off of them as fast as possible. Flexeril knocked me off my ass for a full 24 hours the first time I took it

What helped:
+ Standing/walking - my sciatica was so bad when seated that I got used to standing at my dresser to use the laptop and standing at the kitchen bar for dinner - often still do
+ Strengthening my core
+ Staying well hydrated
+ Staying 'regular' - healthy diet with more fiber and less sugar/'inflammatory' foods
+ Being slightly underweight - like you, I've never been heavy either but found that being slightly underweight helps stave off episodes of back pain
+ Proper bending and lifting! The opposite is what got me into trouble in the first place
+ Limiting how much weight I lift/carry/push/pull
+ My surgeon referred me to a chiropractor and that's what tilted the scales for my full recovery - before that I considered all chiros quacks (now i just consider all chiros but that one quacks) I had sessions with him for a couple months and then never needed to again.

Different for everyone but that was my experience. If I think of anything else I'll try to stop back.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:31 PM
 
Location: Wallis and Futuna
11,170 posts, read 14,072,803 times
Reputation: 16192
I feel your pain. Almost. A little lower. L5-S1, and not ruptured - just disintegrating. I've had degenerative disk disease for around 15 years, and I also have osteopenia in my hip and lower spine. Problem with degenerative disorders, is nothing will make it better. Surgery will help - temporarily. And then the next batch will start to fall apart. So there's really no point in getting surgery at all.

I live with it. It was exacerbated by a car accident a few decades ago. The ortho surgeon who put my arm and leg back together, told me I'd probably be in a wheelchair by the time I'm 40.

I'm 50 now, and still walking. I can't run, my hip gets stiff if I stand without walking for any length of time, and my back still aches. The pain is rarely unbearable, thankfully. But it does make it difficult to get around as easily as I used to.

I recommend riding a bike, and NOT using a treadmill as a primary cardio method (it's fine for 10-20 minutes but more than that can be jarring to your spine). Seated cardio and stomach exercises will give you stamina and strength that your back can no longer provide.
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Old 06-25-2011, 06:11 PM
 
Location: SE Michigan
6,198 posts, read 5,899,094 times
Reputation: 9862
Thanks toosie - I don't know if I ill ever be underweight (hahahahahaha!) but I am fairly skinny, always have been.
I really don't like Flexeril, Vicodin, et al. I take one or two once every six months, maybe.
I'm the other way around....my discs are blown anteriorally (towards the front) so standing and arching my back backwards aches but sitting or walking or any activity where I can flex and lean forward a bit....I'm all good.
I do remember it hurting more before my period, but I am past that now, yay.

Anon - ouch, I feel your pain sorta, so glad you're not in a wheelchair!. Since there was no discrete injury I can point to, maybe I am simply degenerating. Yuck. LOL.

Never used a stationary bike or treadmill...the dogs keep me busy several miles per day unless I don't have time because of work. The gym I used to belong to had several miles of trails around it....as long as it wasn't too hot, I'd walk/run the dogs on the trail, then go in for a strenuous 30-45 minute workout.

That trail always cracked me up...it was so pretty and serene and wooded. Yet right through the windows into the gym, there were regimented rows of people earnestly pedaling away in cute little outyfits, with their little water bottles on hand, gawking at TV screens or plugged into ear buds. I thought that was the stupidest thing ever, when they could have simply run on the trail, which was wooded and pretty and in the early mornings there would be all sorts of wildlife...it was nice. But I digress.

Looking back to the couple of years I seriously worked out (free weights mostly) my back barely bothered me one bit
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Old 06-25-2011, 08:39 PM
 
Location: Wallis and Futuna
11,170 posts, read 14,072,803 times
Reputation: 16192
I ride a real actual bike outside in the real actual fresh air too

I also walk, either on the treadmill or just out in the neighborhood or to the supermarket if I only need enough to fill a backpack. I would recommend -not- running though, if you have a ruptured disk.

Think of the disks as casings for gas-shocks. Now think of the cushioning between the disks as the gas. Now consider a leak in the gas, and the shocks have nothing to ride on. And then - think of you, running, as continuously going over potholes, with shocks that have no gas to ride on. Pretty soon, the muffler's gonna come loose. Then the CV joint. Some bolts are gonna fall off the engine mount, and eventually, you'll end up with just a bunch of parts, but nothing works.

You can get a prosthetic arm, leg, hand, they can even give hearing back to deaf people through surgery now. But you only have one spine, and it can't be replaced. Do whatever is necessary to support it, without wearing it down further.
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