Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pain in the Back!

I haven't talked much about the pain I have been dealing with lately. But, we are starting to get some answers and pieces of the puzzle are starting to really come together. It has been a really long slow journey, and it has been wrought with much frustration. 

I have been to an endocrinologist, a rhematologist, and now a neurosurgeon. The endocrinologist didn't find anything, but he could at least see something was wrong. He did all the test that he could, but when that failed he recommended I see an rhematologist. The rhemaologist was great! He actually looked at me and examined me. He couldn't figure anything out, but he was really surprised that no doctor had done x-rays, MRI, or certain blood test on me. He promptly remedied that (as in as soon as I walked out of his office I walked into the lab area and had blood work done and x-rays). The x-rays didn't show anything abnormal, but he wasn't convinced about nothing being wrong, so he sent me for MRIs. He couldn't find anything wrong with my hip (which is where it feels like the unbearable pain is), but they did find something in my back.

I have a major ruptured disk between my L4-L5 and a bulge in my disk between L3-L4 in my spine.  This is a picture I borrowed from: Connell Chiropractic Clinic. It is a good one to show what is going on. A normal disk looks like the top left corner. The bulge is the top right corner and the rupture is the bottom left corner.

This in incredibly painful. Though, now I understand why my hip and my leg hurts so bad. I get frequent boughts where I have shooting prickly pains down my leg (it feels like someone is driving nails into my muscles and nerves). The location of the disk that are ruptured affects where the pain is. In this picture from The University of Maryland Medical Center highlights the areas in red that affected.

Here are examples of what my MRI looked like both taken from The University of Maryland Medical Center:

You can see the bulges/ ruptures in both these pictures pretty clearly. I am not sure that my actual pictures are that clear, so I am using really clear pictures.

The other thing that might be going on, on top of the ruptured disk, is that some of my blood work for the rhematologist came back "off". I know that is a vague term, but the rhematologist didn't want to jump to conclusions as to what might be making those results outside the normal range. He is fairly conservative in his diagnosis, which I appreciate. He said that some of the results could be elevated due to the pain in my back, but also because of my weight. He was really happy that I had lost the 7lbs that I had when I went back last. So, his plan of attack on the blood work is for me to keep trying to lose weight and get the back worked on (and maybe something done about it), and then in a couple of months we are going to be re-testing my blood. If it still comes back outside normal we will address it then.  I don't know officially what he thinks it might be, but I have a couple of ideas (based on which test came back high) - neither option is great (because there is no "cure" but just treatments), but at least that might explain the muscle spams in my upper body and why my hands will "freeze" and ache.

After going back to the neurosurgeon yesterday, it looks like we are going to try a month of physical therapy first. He said that about 85% of people respond really well to therapy to the point that they "completely" recover and that is the end of it. He said I should also feel a huge improvement after 2 sessions. Though, if it doesn't look better after a month we are going to really talk about surgery. I will honestly admit that I am TERRIFIED of having my back cut into, but I don't want this to keep getting worse and worse and interfering with my life and my plans for my life. So, if that is what it takes then we will do it. 

Hopefully, in a month I will be able to post that everything is working great and surgery isn't in the cards! If not, that is a journey I will tackle then.

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