Review for Lower Back Pain

  • Age 55+
  • Female
  • 119 lbs
  • 5' 4"
  • Injury Status In Pain
  • Physical activity per week 4-8 hours
  • Chronicity 18+ Months
  • Number of Surgeries 2
  • Additional Diagnosis/Symptoms Sciatica (pinched nerve, radiculopathy), Degenerative Disc Disease, Herniated disc (bulging disc, disc protrusion), Facet Syndrome/Sprain, Scoliosis, Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Treatment Ratings

    Almost Cured
    NSAIDs - Anti Inflammatory drugs, Stretching, Strengthening Exercises, Supplements, Ultrasound Therapy, Meditation, Inversion Table, Mattress Change, McKenzie Method, Traction, Heat, Oral corticosteroids, Physical Therapy, Surgery, Massage, Acupuncture, Rest, Brace, Chiropractor
    Not Improved
    Yoga, TENS/Electrical Stimulation, Swimming

At age 51 a new neurosurgeon asked me what planet I was born in due to the number of spinal defects. I look straight and fit, but he diagnosed my tethered cord by symptoms, then confirmed by an existing MRI I had on me in CD form. During untethering, scar tissue from a metrizamide myelogram in Dec 1985 was detected wrapped around the filum terminal. Waking from the cut down of the tethered cord and scar tissue (arachnoiditis) was such an immediate relief that I thought I was cured.

I still needed an ACDF at C6/7 due to nesting so severe headaches continued. I was to have it done one month post op, but since I have congenital scoliosis caused by a hemi vertebrae at L-1, the cord release changed the holding patterns and tensegrity of my back. A problematic right shoulder became a near-frozen left shoulder. My surgeon referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, but I knew it was a myofascial issue so sought massage therapists trained in MFR. I believe that anyone who is cut on needs MFR. (myofascial release)

I used to have several areas that would be an 8-10 pain daily. Now the pain is more localized (unless I flare) Unfortunately, arachnoiditis grows back. Perhaps the nerves are still angry where the filum terminal was cut down from the Cauda Equina, but I have a spot at L2/3 that burns and the longer I stand the more compressed it feels. My analogy is a chair leg on the top of a foot that a sumo wrestler is gradually sitting onto. Once the pain gets that bad it affects more nerves and I have pain and mechanical difficulty walking (plus more neuropathies). When I flare, my mind senses my dura and meninges are crisp, grilled fish skin. The burn can go peripheral. I resort to Medrol 6 day taper at this time.

I may have had a better outcome, but my dura was open for twice the time expected, and I was sat up and released from the hospital less than 20 hours post-op. (I've read supine for 24 hours minimum). I developed a spinal headache that lasted three weeks.

I would still recommend untethering. My arachnoiditis wasn't detected despite numerous contrast MRIs and CTs because it was wound around the thick filum. The tethered cord went undetected probably because my conus was at L-2 where it belonged, but I have two extra vertebrae with ribs plus the hemi. If those were accounted for, then my conus would be low as seen in tethered cords. I had many of the symptoms.

Since I had a problem that needed surgical correction, the modalities mentioned above were temporary. However, I've had PT, acupuncture, Bowen work, massage, chiropractic, applied kinesiology, and Graston (aka Gua Sha) that brought my pain or dysfunction to a manageable level-especially to get through military transfers. I've also had the same modalities which did nothing or made me worse. I sought my people with the golden hands and used a combination of modalities including low dose Oxycodone and Diazapam.

I'm doing better lately compared to the past year due to 1) Med massager (see .com). From a Costco roadshow. The foot one has calmed the leg neuropathy, and the hand held one I use on muscles or following myofascial paths as detailed in the book "Anatomy Trains". 2) I'm reading "The Brain that Changes Itself" The case studies are intriguing and I'm trying to create new neural pathways through thought, and by visualizing a calm, relaxed body 3) cut out wheat and dairy. It looks like green tea also causes a burn.

what's needed is an app where patients can input images onto a computer body to help describe their pain. That app can help a doctor diagnose a problem or the type of test required. WHY is the disc bulging? If that's not solved, pain will continue after surgery. Tight muscles or fascia, mal-aligned vertebrae can cause bulging discs. Trigger points can cause severe pain. I've had dry needling done by a PT when raising my arm would cause a cervicogenic headache. It was caused by trigger points in the shoulder, neck and upper back. TrPs don't respond to drugs, so many would increase their drugs or give up. Alas, many states only allow acupuncturists to apply dry needling, and I've yet to meet a surgeon who believed in chiropractic, but I'm here today because of both.

If myofascial release massage and trigger point management was prescribed before and after surgeries, I believe surgical needs would go down, and stats on "failed back surgery " would as well.

Finally, there seems to be a hesitancy to diagnose arachnoiditis or fibrosis caused by injections into the spine. Anytime the dura has been invaded and the symptoms are there, this should be considered. I was dismissed over and over. After my surgery following decades of research and specialists the surgeon was underwhelmed (all in a day's work). I, however, wanted it posted on Time's Square with a "To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street" type parade.

I'm still trying to figure out my limits AND have my new doctor pay attention to the low lumbar tertiary curve that is developing.

Note, since I have overlapping issues a treatment that helps one bothers another. TENS helps with pain while on, but nerve pain after plus constricted muscles/fascia is brutal; the inversion table really eases disc pressure, but the scarred spinal cord can't take the stretch. I highly recommend trying these if your problem is understood.

Having a health challenge keeps me grateful for the small things and doing what I can to be healthy. It only hurts more to Mourn the loss of special activities or events. It really sucks, but low mood means increased pain.

This became lengthy, but I hope this helps even one person. Smiles

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