Bad Back Pain Day.

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Yesterday was a Bad Back Pain Day and that means I didn’t write the post planned about how red wine can help back pain.

As R helped me into the shower while I yelped loudly as my back muscles spasmed, pretty much carried out of the shower I thought going to work was a good idea. I had deadlines to meet and my colleagues would be pissed at me if I didn’t go in.

I had to fire Summer Girl as my dressing assistant when she got distracted by a lego toy on the floor, while I was standing with one leg half in the trousers she was meant to be helping me into. R suggested that if I couldn’t get my trousers past my hips and down again, then going to the toilet would be interesting at work. But still I ploughed on through the crippling pain.

I hired 5 year old Winter Boy to pick up the hairdryer from the floordrobe, turn it on at the plug and help dry my hair standing on chair while my back muscle spasmed and my back locked up was causing me to yelp from time to time. Turning around was robotically done to avoid inducing further spasms. But, work would be fine once my medication kicked wouldn’t it?

After threatening to hide my car keys, R finally succumbed to my stubbornness, drove me to work (no way was I able to drive the car), on the condition I got my reports done then came straight home, and I slowly, slowly, pigeon stepped my way to my desk, breathing sharply every time I opened a door, or when the lift jolted.

By 1:15pm, after cancelling all my appointments, having coffee made by colleagues, being helped to the toilet by colleagues (they didn’t help me with my trousers and it took all my effort not to yell as I pulled my too tight trousers up again), my boss was walked with me out of the building as me legs lost their strength and my back pain was so immense I could barely walk. But not before giving me a stern me off for persevering in such pain and immobility.

By the time Ross picked me up and drove me home, I was in tears; my back pain and back lock was so severe I couldn’t lift my feet up a single stair to get to bed, screamed in agony as I tried to get onto the sofa and screamed in sheer pain when anyone touched me. R considered calling an ambulance as I Could Not Move.

Instead, I necked maximum doses of all the painkillers I had in my armoury, (avoiding red wine, shame) and lay in an awkward but still painful position on my side with legs bent at an angle, praying through tears that the pain would subside, before finally passing out through pain and medication. Goodness knows what would have happened if I needed the loo before my meds kicked in as I would have hit anyone trying to move me.

Today I can walk, slowly, as long as it’s not far. I can’t lift anything heavier than a coffee cup, and going to the toilet remains interesting and any movement is careful and considered. I am not in work, instead I am watching The Lego Movie for the millionth time with Winter Boy while R has taken Summer Girl to by some school things.

It might have been a stupid idea to go to work with acute back pain, but at least I got my reports done by their deadline.

If you find yourself having sudden unbearable lower back pain, it can be very frightening. You need to keep as still as you can, in the most comfortable position available. If you have already had this before, you should have an emergency medicine box (if not, get one now), with Diazepam and Ibruprofen or similar NSAID medication in (if you can take NSAIDS) as your minimum medication. And don’t forget trusted paracetamol.  Take these as soon as you can, and apply heat to your back. If you don’t have anything stronger/opiate based, call your GP or other primary care provider immediately who will provide stronger medication to cope with the pain (normally codeine or similar if you can take those). You will likely be woozy with the medication so you won’t be able to do driving, chores etc (not that you can with that much pain) so try to get someone to be around to help you.

Don’t be afraid to call your local Out of Hours care providers if your GP is not available, or even 999 if your pain is unmanageable at home with maximum painkillers doses that you can safely take at home, as unmanageable pain is a medical emergency in itself.

The chances are, the cause of your lower back pain is a muscle spasm and will subside in a day or two (hopefully to more bearable levels within a couple of hours).  If however, you have red flag symptoms, specifically, but not exclusive those of Cauda Equina Syndrome, you MUST call 999 immediately, as this is a medical emergency. If you are unsure about the symptoms, don’t take any chances and call 999. The hospital will do the necessary checks to rule it out/in.

Most of all, try not to panic, as that can tense your muscles even more and increase the pain. Easier said than done I know. 

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Degenerative Disc Disease, Do you have it? (and Other Ramblings)

As a consequence of sitting for too long at my work writing an urgent report before 1pm, then driving like the wind across town to sit for too long on small school chairs for Winter Boy’s First Ever Harvest Festival Play and Summer Girl’s First Ever Speaking Part in her Harvest Festival Play (they were both amazing and brought tears to my eyes, so proud), then driving like the wind across town again to swimming lessons, then again across town via collecting R at work, and finally back home, I am Really Fucking Sore.

My back is in spasm and my entire spine is locked from lumbar to cervical. I can’t bend well, can’t sit well, can’t stand well. So, I am writing this while waiting for the trusted muscle relaxing ‘Friend‘ to do its magic. I may do the written equivalent of slurring towards the end of my post.

I had some not so great news this week at the pain clinic. The pain that I have been experiencing in my back and sciatica down my legs, and which is getting worse, is, partly the re-prolapsed L5/S1 disc, which I already knew, but mostly coming from Vertebral End Plate oedema at the same level, where there is inflammation and damage, which I believe is Degenerative Disc Disease. And thus we have come around full circle since the beginning of my blog, where I had initially had explained that my condition was DDD, then ruled out.

I have read a bit about Degenerative Disc Disease, and end plate damage, and it’s not the most mood lifting read in the world. The pain clinic answered my questions about what the future will mean due to this end plate inflammation,  with as much of a positive spin as he could, smiley faced while telling me that “yes it will get worse”, “no there is nothing that will fix it, fusion won’t help” and “you may experience increase in pain” “but we can manage this can’t we Wine?!” “stay optimist Wine!” “you are a determined woman Wine, a fighter, keep that going and you’ll be fine!” “don’t feed the pain, don’t fuel it with too much thought” etc, etc.

If anyone has experiences of end-plate oedema and degenerative disc disease, do get in touch with your advice, and links to information, and how you cope with it.

I’ve also had a blood test to rule out a spine infection due to localised large swelling in my spine at L5/S1 level (right between my Venus Dimples), painful blood/flu feeling (which I have blogged a little about before a year or two ago now), increased feeling of unwellness during a flare-up. Don’t think much will come of it, as he took the bloods after the main flare up. Also I read on Dr Google that low-grade infections don’t show in normal blood tests. But we’ll see what happens.

I have been reading some interesting articles on the Spine Health website, get sent links via Twitter and Facebook, and so I thought I you might want to read the most recent one I have been reading called Chronic Pain on the Brain – as the title suggest, it looks at the potential impact of chronic pain on the physical structures of our brains.

It’s Been a While: I’ve Had a Micro-Discectomy and Other Things.

I have been silent. I have had writers’ block. I have had reduced pain. I buried my head in the sand and stopped wanting to talk about my bloody back pain; talk about a pain in the back. I have plodded, and managed with lower level pain. Not disappeared pain, but bearable ‘let’s pretend it’s ok’ pain. Stoic. Just waiting for a date for my L5/S1 Lumbar micro-discectomy.

I stopped taking Tramadol about a month ago. How about that? It’s been worrying me, using this drug, and I feel fine without it. Great in fact. It’s been R’s 40th birthday; we went out for wine tasting and I wore heels; we had a party/gathering and I wore Fly London Wedges. I looked fantastic that night with my new dress, new haircut (even if I say so myself, as did others), and red glowing sunburn; I drank alcohol as I had no opiates or nerve blockers in my system, and it was great as alcohol dulls pain; I got drunk; we went out for post partying breakfast and I struggled to bend down to pick something up from the floor. And that was the end of the ‘good phase’. I could not get out of the car coming back from breakfast and we holidayed in a yurt for the following five days, up a steep hill, with a LOT of painkillers and the lovely diazepam to keep me going. It was actually fab, but despite backpain (you got to just get on with these things right?).

On Tuesday, having returned from holiday to just one day’s work before going off sick again, the neurosurgeon’s secretary called me; “How would you like to have your surgery tomorrow morning?’

So, this is what happened

Tuesday 18th June in the morning, I was called by the secretary, a simple yes or no, she will call me back with details. In the afternoon I got the details of where I need to be and what time. A mad rush followed, sorting out new jimjams (didn’t bother), cleaning and drying my finest pants (I had to take em off, waste of effort) and supervising R cleaning the bedroom so it was lovely when I came home. We organised childcare etc and I spent a little bit of time trying to calm down a very worried little Summer Girl, ‘what if you sleep for too long mama? I don’t want you to go!’

On Wednesday 19th June at 6:20am I said goodbye to my tearful Summer Girl, my slightly nervous R, and a Winter Boy who wanted to wave at the mini cab taking me to the hospital – there was no point disturbing the children’s routine, and it was last minute so who could have them at that time in the morning? It wasn’t an emergency so R did school run as normal – by 6:45am I was stood in a queue of dozens of other people waiting for their ops. ‘Fucking Hell’ I thought, ‘I won’t be seen first that’s for sure.’

Wrong! At 7am I was booked in, 7:15am wristbands put on me, a million questions asked by a student nurse (including, ‘are you pregnant?’ about 10 times). At 7:25am I was seen by the Registrar who told me I would be having a bilateral micro-discectomy and I signed the consent forms. I changed into the very fetching gown and stockings provided, keeping my lovely clean M&S knickers on. At 7:45am I was seen by the anaesthetist who kindly let me know he will ensure I will be provided for drug wise when I wake up. Not reassuring, as that suggests I will be in a lot of pain! I missed seeing the Consultant as I was busy contemplating whether or not to keep my pants on as I got changed when he looked for me.

At 8:43am and having been told my neurosurgeon prefers his patients with their knickers off, I was answering the following important question in the anaesthetist’s room: What Makes a Perfect Manhattan?

Next thing I know, it was 12:30pm and I was fucking freezing lying on my side in the recovery room. Not for long, as I got warmed up by a lovely blanket thing that blew air all around me. (I need one for home, but apparently you can’t buy them).

AND NO PAIN IN MY LEGS!!!

Thursday at 3:30pm – I left the hospital, having been discharged as ready and desperate to get home, with one of my best friends in the world having brought me a proper take away coffee for the journey home.

I am still waiting for the pain to return. I have done too much today, and so am actually hurting a little, and in truth I do have a little pain in my legs, but it’s throbbing pain which I think may even be referred pain. There are no stabbing pains as I lay down or sit, so feelings that my leg will snap off, no pins and needles (a little fuzzing). There is some numbness in my toes and that might never go away, but. FUCKING YEY!

The Technical Bits

No fusion! I had a left sided decompression, instead of the anticipated bilateral decompression as the surgeon didn’t want to remove bone from both sides; he said this would leave my already unstable vertebra even more unstable and the risk of fusion would increase significantly. Apparently this means a slightly increased risk of right sided prolapse in the future and need for further surgery, but he felt that was a better risk than doing it now when right sided pain was minimal. I agree. Actually.

The incision is Tiny. Really tiny. Hardly even hurts.

I am moving! I am walking! I can’t sit for too long, or stand for too long. I have a granny seat on the loo. I am trying really hard not to do too much, but I feel…NORMAL! Apart from nagging pain, which is healing pain so it’s good pain.

A success! I do have to wait and see, as it’s still early days, but I am pleased with my microdiscectomy surgery!

The misaligned L5/S1 vertebra is a backwards misalignment and could have been caused by injury to the vertebrae.  The Clever Mumsnetter, DillyTante, uncovered the likely cause of my back trouble, especially as this is NOT degenerative in my case, and all information since continues to point toward this being right.