My achy breaky back

My lower back has been in pain since 8th grade. I have memories of standing in the layup line during basketball practice and having to lean forward to stretch out my back. The pain steadily got worse until I was probably 20 and it’s been a fairly consistent ouch since. I’ve been in to doctors and had x-rays, but nothing was revealed. I can remember three specific “incidents” when I injured my back: weight lifting (squats), playing flag football, and something the week before I got married (I can’t remember what it was, but it was morally fine and I sure was in pain the day of my wedding). But those incidents have been pretty rare. The pain has been consistent.

Luckily, the back problems haven’t caused any pain in my butt or down my legs, so nerve interference isn’t a problem. Five years ago, I went to a back specialist and got an MRI. The results came back as this: degenerative disk disease. It sounds bad, but it’s a little misleading. This page (scroll down) gives a decent description of the “disease.” The doctor basically said I had the back of a 50 year old and that there wasn’t really anything I could do. I was 25 years old. He said my L5-S1 disk was half the size it was supposed to be.

I’m 30 now and still in pain, so I decided to go in for a follow-up with a new back specialist. She looked at my 5 year old MRI before I came in and she said she’d decided I was either severely obese or a heavy smoker to have a back like that as a 30 year old. Then she met me and realized it had to be genetics. She requested another MRI, which I had at 7am this morning. The results came back as this: degenerating disk between L4 and L5 and severe degeneration of L5-S1 (see this Flash animation for a demonstration — guess I’ll be shrinking over time). Still not at the surgery stage, but that’s okay because that’s a temporary solution. I’m going in for my consultation in a few weeks to discuss what I can do. The only things I can do at this point are to basically manage the symptoms, which means take pain killers (Ibuprofen) and keep fit.

I’ve been dealing with back pain for many years now and haven’t let it slow me down too much. I played three high school sports, college intramurals, enjoy the outdoors, and still play rec league sports. But my back certainly limits what I can do. I feel it after I play!

Here’s hoping I can keep fit and teach my body how to deal with this properly.

8 thoughts on “My achy breaky back

  1. Ouch! Sorry Jess! I wish there was an easy way to aleviate the pain. I guess you’ve got as good a motive as any of us for staying fit and healthy huh! It’s just irritating that too much exercise probably makes your back hurt worse. That’s kind of a rock and a hard place type situation! Good luck with your follow up!

  2. My Dad has had problems with his back for years and I know it is hard. Hang in there! I hope when you go back in a few weeks they have some more ideas to give you that might help.

  3. I’m so sorry! There are only a few times that I have been hurt enough to remember–my back was one of them. So, I can’t imagine how it must feel to have your back hurt every day. We should have a fit club or something so we can all be healthy and fit.

  4. I’m sorry, Jess. I was hoping for something different, I guess, just for more hope in the outcome.It’s always been very impressive to me that you have never let any physical situations stop you from doing what you want. You don’t complain, either – I don’t think I’d do nearly as well.Mom

  5. Billy Rae Cyrus! Gotta love it. Sorry about your back. Maybe you and Jen will be the same height one day. Until then, way to endure! Chronic pain is not fun.

  6. As active as you are, I’d have never known! I feel for ya, man, cuz I’m right there with you in the back pain category. It’s no fun, but your positive attitude is catching.

  7. That’s crazy, Jess. I didn’t realize that you had this constant pain in your life. Hope you can someday get help with it!

  8. I have never had chronic pain like you are having but I have sprained my back which was incredibly painful. If you don’t mind some big brother advice, try swimming. It works!!! Here’s why. First, you are taking the load off of your back by being in the water. Second, your lower (and upper) back muscles will get stronger through the repetitive motions of swimming. I was not a very good swimmer when I hurt my back but taught myself to be a fairly compentent freestyle swimmer. You don’t have to be Michael Phelps to make it from one side of the pool to the other. Use a paddle board if you need to or just swim using whatever strokes you know. I used to swim about 30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week. I realize that your problem is not with the muscles but the stronger the muscles are, the less pain you will feel. I am sorry that you have to go through this. Keep taking care of yourself.

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