My S.s. Experience, Condition And A Few Questions

Hi there, I'm 31 y/o and have had back pain since I was 19.  I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease summer of 2009.  Although I've dealt with back pain for 12+ years, I've always been able to bounce back.  In May 2009, however, the irritating nerve pain down my left leg just would not go away; hence, the diagnosis (CT scan).  Walking was laborious after only a few minutes but about 3 months later, I finally started getting relief.  During this time, I also went to a pain management specialist.  She suggested that even though I felt better, I should get a steroid injection so that I would be well enough to do a physical therapy program.  Since I didn't feel 100%, I agreed, started the physical therapy and felt great until about the end of Nov 2009. 

This time my right leg was the problem.  Things started to improve Jan 2010 after hubby and I started going to the gym.  Then, on Jan 20, my back started aching (can't think of anything that caused the aggravation).  I just figured it was the typical back pain but by the time I got home from work, checked my email and tried to get up from my chair, I couldn't do it.  For the rest of the evening, I rolled around the house in my office chair.  The next day, I somehow managed to muster up the strength (maybe the lying down helped when I went to bed) to go to work but that evening when I got home, the same thing happened.  The nerve pain in my back right side (sciatica perhaps) was unbearable.

By the third day, I still managed to get to work but standing up after sitting was so painful!!  Walking was painful!!  I could do it but the pain was just making me miserable!  I was walking like an old lady!  Some things happened in between with my family doctor which has persuaded me to get a new family doctor but I won't get into that.  I did end up getting an MRI during this time which showed degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.  The severity or extent of my problem?  I don't even know (hence, I'm getting another family doctor).

By the 4th day, I ended up going to the ER, got a shot of dilaudid, was GREAT for a couple of hours and the pain came back with a vengeance.  I was literally bedridden and wheelchair-bound for the first couple of weeks and have been using a walker and cane to get around since then.  I've also had two steroid injections (the first one was useless but the second one seemed to help) since this all happened.

Currently, I'm going through physical therapy and trying to lose weight.  I feel that physical therapy is helping my body get stronger but my back is still shot.  Actual nerve pain has subsided but I still get numbness and backaches.  Everyone tells me losing the weight will help me.  Surgery is my last resort so I'm trying everything!  My fear is that the nerve pain will come back and that everything I'm doing is really just pointless.  I haven't worked since the end of January but returning in two weeks.  If this happens again, I don't know if I'll be able to keep my job!  It's not like I can take 2.5 months off every time this happens!

I have a few of questions:

1.  Your own experience, do you get "episodes" of excruciating nerve pain or is it constant?  And, if you are a physician (or someone who is experienced in this field), would you give these two types of patient the same advice?

2.  Has anybody had a success story with weight loss and physical therapy/exercise?  Like I said, my body is stronger but my back isn't.  I'm just happy the nerve pain has subsided but I'm starting to wonder if that isn't more b'c of the steroid injection and once the injection wears off, I'm scared to death of the pain coming back.

3.  In my research, I've learned that with nerve pain, if you wait too long to do surgery, the nerve damage could be permanent and even surgery will provide little help.  Where is that dividing line?  How long should I try non-surgical methods before I should just give in to surgery?

As for how I'm doing right now, I can get around the house with my cane; make it to Target/Walmart with the cane but MUST use a cart to get around the store.  Sometimes, I use the electric wheelchair if I ran several errands that day.  I can't walk for more than a few minutes before my back just wants to give out on me and my leg (sometimes both legs) starts to feel really heavy and numb.  I gauge my progress on how long I can last at Target/Walmart before my symptoms really start to bother me and although I'm improving, it's still only minutes. 

I'm 31 and my life should begin but I feel that it's ending!  Hubby and I tried to get pregnant during all this and although I'm thankful that it didn't hapen, I'm worried how this disease will affect a pregnancy (which is a whole other issue).  I just feel so lost, especially when it seems like the people that should have my care in their interest (i.e. the physicians) doesn't care at all.  :(

splar splar
31-35, F
2 Responses Feb 28, 2010

Hello, thanks for sharing your story. I'm Henry, 27, I started experiencing pain 6 months ago. I'm in physical rehabilitation at the moment. I've been feeling so fraught, so hopeless. Although I've been told there is no cure for Spinal stenosis, one of the best therapies for me has been, psycological therapy. When I was given the diagnose, I couldn't get off my mind 'There is no cure, there is no cure, there is no cure, even surgery is not a panacea' But right now I've forgotten that and I say to myself everyday, every minute. 'This disease doesn't control me, I control it' I hope this helps to some extent.

I feel for you, it is hard to be young with this disease. Weight loss does help. I lost 20 lbs and it meant the difference between being in bigtime immediate pain and being able to walk longer before the pain kicks in. I bet if I lost more than that I would be able to walk longer. It's worth trying. I am going to get a pool membership to walk in the water since I can't walk on land since I have gained the 20 lbs back I lost. I can't work as a nurse because I cannot lift anymore and I know that all the years I have lifted heavy patients have helped bigtime to contribute to these back problems and I am not <br />
going to invite even more severe pain. Don't know what work you are doing, hope it's something easy. Best wishes to you and to all who suffer this disease.