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.

Blown Away by Hope and Pain.

There are two parts to this blog, as technically this computer has been confiscated by my husband so that I can listen to the audio book he has downloaded for me, and so I can fully rest my back.

Firstly, Wow. The power of Mumsnet is two fold! Not only has ‘Doogie Hower’ in disguise found the cause of my back problems but, how many people have come to check out my post! and have left me some amazing supportive messages. And yes, the more I think about it, the more I can feel the place where that oddly large and painful but quick to disappear from my memory bruise was. It was right in-between my vertebrae at the base of my spine. Now I remember, and have discussed with R, neither of us have any idea how it escaped our memories. It just demonstrates how easy it is to block very important details from our minds.

There is no doubt in my mind  now that the unfortunate event of the shower curtain caused my slipped disc. But, I know many people are thinking, as R did, ‘so what?’ and as someone commented on my last post ‘you can’t un-salt the soup’. That is true. This revelation does not fix my back. It won’t change the treatment offered. The damage is done and it is going to take a long time to fix, whatever the cause. Perhaps had I linked it at the time it might be a different story, but probably not.

What this does change is how I deal with it, emotionally, in the long-term. It gives me hope. I was told by several medical professionals that this is likely degenerative. It has happened over a period of time and the disc is disintegrating. This has put a little pressure on the discs above. And, as it is degenerative, it is likely this will progress upwards in time. This has been the source of great angst for me, as many of those who have journeyed with me over this last almost-year know. Coming to terms with the loss of so many things in my future. Having to find a way to parent so this debilitating condition does not hugely and negatively impact on my children’s upbringing. I have had so many tears of worry that this might end up crippling me. I have seen my career disappear in front of me and seen my relationship change and become damaged in front of my eyes.

This means, that maybe there is a chance that won’t happen. This means that if I can get this disc fixed, that it might not spread upwards, that it is not degenerative, that it is not inevitable that my life will be a continued cycle of pain and medication. Hope.

Alas this leads to the second part of my post. At the time I should be revelling in this fabulous news (and believe me I have been blown away by it) and seeing this as a new episode in my life, where I can go to work with little pain feeling this is actually progress that might stay, instead of walking with a swing in my step, I am in bed in pain as my back has gone again and I can’t stand or walk.

I have been throwing up since sunday, (for those who have an aversion to vomiting stories, read on, there will be no details) and now I am unable to walk for pain and muscle spasms. I have a theory about this, about the links between my pain and being sick, but that is for another time. For now, having had to crawl to the toilet on my hands and knees I am in so much pain I am going to return to the excellent audio book The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for those who want something cool to listen to.

But, this is not going to beat me now. Not anymore. I am not going to just accept my fate is out of my control, this is not my destiny to have a back problem, it is not genetic, or degenerative. So I can overcome it. After some sleep.

(ps Thank you everyone for reading my blogs and for ‘liking’ and for the lovely comments. It means a lot. Even with a little nudge from those at the top.

Too Much Information

I was going to write an informative post about what I am learning relating to employment and back problems – being recognised as having a disability at work, employment rights and the Equality Act. Seeing as I am returning to work tomorrow I felt it was an apt topic.

However, this evening, as I rocked out to Ozzfest on Guitar Hero, I felt hot and sweaty and not because I Rock. The indigestion that has plagued me all day finally got the better of me – almost immediately after I chewed two generic brand chalky tablets to alleviate it, I threw up that and the chocolate I ate after our woodland walk.

Yesterday morning I also threw up, after eating two small delicious Rachel’s Organic Yoghurt pots. Again, indigestion, followed quite quickly by me saying hello to God through the great white telephone and that time I had a lot to say to him.

Now the next bit is Too Much Information. On both occasions there were lots and lots of very small dark brown/black spots in my vomit, and I suspect it is blood. It is often described as looking like coffee grounds, but this is not entirely accurate – mine looked rather like toast flakes. And actually I have been sick a few times over the last few weeks and I always have had dark bits of toast in it, which did make me raise my eyes slightly, but as I had actually eaten toast, it seemed logical that if it looked like toast, maybe it was in fact toast. Which would be a great explanation for these flakes, except I have not eaten toast all weekend.

R is not too concerned, took it as an excuse to tell me I am not eating properly, I checked on the NHS direct online and their survey said ‘straight to A&E’. Sod That. They say that to everything. ‘The Witches’ as R refers to them, they said call Out of Hours but they also said it could also be the Omeprazol turning brown in my stomach. So that is what I have decided it is, as I don’t want to go to hospital tonight only to be sent home, nor do I want to call OOH who will tell me to go see them at the hospital, and then send me home. I am seeing me good friend the GP tomorrow anyway and discuss it then.

It is what I have been half expecting having taken the NSAID Diclofenac daily since christmas, and only being put on the acid reducing Omeprazol in the last couple of months. In theory I am aware of the potential risks of taking long-term Diclofenac as it increases the production of acid in the stomach and therefore increases the risk of burning through the stomach lining, causing a stomach bleed or an ulcer. But in practice it slips my mind and I have to be honest and say I sometimes forget to take the Omeprazol. Also, due to my reduced appetite I sometimes skip breakfast which I know is a Bad Habit and makes this entire thing my Own Stupid Fault.

I know I should be more concerned than I appear to be. But, I guess there has been so much going on and so much ignored I am sceptical about putting my health in the hands of the professionals just to be sent packing yet again. And, if this is blood and if it is caused by the Diclofenac, I will probably have to come off all NSAIDS for good. Then I will be Actually Screwed. I threw up all my meds yesterday morning, and by the afternoon I started to get a stiff back and pain in my back and legs. I tried coming of Diclofenac a while ago as I don’t want to take them due to all the long-term risks, and clearly whatever is Going On Inside has not gone away as without them I cannot stand straight due to the inflammation causing back pain and sciatic pain in abundance. I guess my enthusiasm for the anti-inflammatory diet might be re-ignited very soon.

Right now I am in much less pain with my prolapsed and torn lumbar disc than I have been for a long time, yet unfortunately the side affects bring their own issues such as this, me walking into things, constant tiredness, loss of appetite. I would like to just go back to normal now please. No drugs. No pain. Just me. Thanks.

Wine Can’t Cure Back Pain…The Beginning

Wine Can’t Cure Back Pain…The Beginning


I have a Bad Back. I talk about it pretty much all the time, to pretty much anyone who will listen. I have been known to send people (my husband) to sleep with my wittering. Over the last 9 months I have been on, and I am still on, the biggest learning journey since parenthood. It seems like a good idea to rant and moan, share my pain and my fears, my difficulties with managing the children, my breakthroughs and my relapses, my learning and my ideas, my battle through the medical system, my success and my failure with medication in a Blog rather than (or, let’s be honest, as well as) with the family, friends, work colleagues and people at the bus stop who are quite clearly Fed Up of it now.

So, I have gone For It and I am excited, and nervous. I am chucking myself completely into the unknown. It is not the same as writing for others. Yes I talk a lot, mostly bollocks. And I write a lot, much of the same. What if I am Bad at It? What if no-one reads it? Worse, what if people read it and laugh? But, then I remind myself that I actually have a lot to say about back pain. Maybe people will read it. Maybe they  won’t even laugh. Maybe I can Do It.’.

But the instant I made the decision I stumbled upon the first hurdle, the first problem which almost made me shut the computer in a huff and give up. My blogname. I couldn’t think of a catchy one. I knew what I wanted, but the words were not there. Not A Good Start, Writers Block before I have even written a sentence.

 I wanted humorous, ironic maybe, not clinical and matter of fact, something that people who read this will find easily, will find funny, will understand and connect with. I knew it. I just couldn’t remember it (I will blame the meds). I spent an entire day lying down (I won’t tell the physio that) thinking, drinking coffee, watching daytime tv for inspiration. I even asked ‘the witches’ online to help me chose a name. And just when I thought it was not going to happen and contemplated drowning my sorrows in red wine and tramadol, I had an image of me propping myself up against a kitchen breakfast bar in a rented cottage one christmas, unable to sit or stand, after days of pain, and recalled some-one refilling my tightly clutched wine glass and saying to me ‘wine does not cure back pain, but it does help!’ and there it was. Right there, where it was the whole time. My blogname.

This is the start of something, I am not sure where it will go. If you have back pain and children, or just back pain, share my journey. Come back and visit me. I will try not to bore you.