Dr Google Says I am Probably Dead Already.

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How many people with chronic back pain also have generalised  systemic pain? I do. How many of you have diagnosis for those aches and pains that has a different cause than injury or Degenerative Disc Disease? I don’t yet.

I have many aches and pains that appear to come hand in hand with chronic pain. I’ve diagnosed myself with so many conditions I Dr Google even suggests I should probably be dead by now. I don’t want to be ‘sick’. That’s not the reason for my searching.  I want a reason for being in all-over pain. I don’t want to think it’s just back pain causing it all. Because, if that’s true, it really does fucking suck.It goes without saying that my back pain is ever present. To greater and lesser degrees of intensity but a constant nevertheless.  Sometimes though, I also have whole body pain. When this happens my hands hurt; my feet hurt; my blood hurts; I feel nauseous, often I vomit. I am exhausted. Like the flu but without getting the flu. I have flare-ups of skin problems: little blister-like spots on my face; bigger ones on my ears, and on my feet. Often, a ‘flare-up’ of these symptoms would indicate a massive flare-up of back pain. In fact, in the first couple of years I could predict a flare-up of back pain by my blood hurting in my hands, feeling sick and throwing up. Now often I get these symptoms without an increase in back pain, possibly as back pain is already quite high.

Needless to say I have spent a long time trying to figure out what this might mean and how it links with my lower back problems. I have some theories, of course I do! So does my GP, and others around me.

  1. It’s intervertebral disc leakage from a tear in the disc; leaking into my bloodstream and nerves, my body reacting to the toxic gunk that comes out. The problem with this theory is that since my discectomy in June 2013, as far as I know any tears are no longer there. I personally loved this theory of mine (no evidence to back it up!). healthcare professionals didn’t have much to say about it.
  2. These flare-ups are bugs: a common cold, a virus, etc. This is my GP’s favourite theory. It goes like this:  ‘Normal’ people get colds. But Degenerative Disc Disease means I have chronic inflammation in my lumbar spine, so for example it’s at ’50’ where people without chronic inflammation have markers at 0. When people/I get a common cold, normal inflammation rises to 50, but my spinal inflammation rises to 100. Thus increasing the already present inflammation and causing even more pain. And all the other symptoms are what other people with bugs would get, but i don’t feel it as quickly/quite the same until I am proper sick, due to it all being masked by pain medication and anti inflammatory medication. It also means that I don’t respond as ‘normal’ people do when I am sick, i.e. resting, more fluids, etc, because I don’t realise I am unwell.  Then I get rundown and this causes skin infections etc. Possible. It’s probably the most plausible. But, I get these ‘bugs’ an awful lot.
  3. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis or some other Inflammatory Arthritis. I return to this one occasionally as I keep going ‘oh! I have that!’ to various symptoms etc. I’ve not specifically mentioned it to my GP but have asked if I could have inflammatory issues of some kind and he pretty much laughed. No. He doesn’t think I have any of the symptoms, but did a CRP test to shut me up. And it was ‘normal’. Although, I was not mid flare when blood was taken and he didn’t do an ESR test. Strangely though, this week, I saw a locum GP and the first thing she said was ‘have you been tested for Ankylosing Spondylitis? Do you have a family history of this?’. Then she ruled it out, saying that the surgeons would have looked for and ruled it out before surgery. Not sure if she means they would specifically rule it out or if it would have been visible on MRI. Either way,  this theory is certainly not taken seriously by my GP. Research suggests that trauma or other environmental factors can ‘trigger’ Inflammatory arthritis in those who may be pre-disposed to it, so it’s still a reserve theory.
  4. I have something wrong that is nothing to do with my back pain (like a thyroid problem), and it’s a red herring, because it’s easier, and cheaper to blame one thing and treat that, than try to find another piece of the puzzle among thousands of possible pieces.
  5. It’s a reaction to my medication. This is the overall healthcare professional’s favourite! Despite having no correlation to the dose or type of medication being changed, and flare-ups occurring when not on medication. It is, in my honest opinion, Bullshit. And as above, easy and cheap.
  6. There is nothing actually wrong with me. It’s all in my head, and I am what is medically termed a Hypochondriac. I would like to think not, as I ignore most things until I have to mention them to the GP when too much to bear. But, this does mean I go with lists as I wait, wait, wait, and then take all my (individually minor to him) problems there at once. So, I may either be one, or the GP thinks I am one.

If you have any theories to add, or any ideas on the theories I have aired about what might cause my chronic pain other than back pain, drop me a line, or link me to more blogs/websites. I’ll try to revisit these theories from time to time.

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.