Warning: This is a large post because I've had this terrible problem for so long without any good help.
My name is Vance. I am 24 years old and I have been suffering from chronic low back pain for almost a decade now. I have seen several doctors and undergone many tests and even a spine fusion surgery, yet I am no better off than I was before and my pain has progressed to the point where I have been unable to work even part time for years. I played football my freshman year of high school, I had a part time job, and I was in the school's AFJROTC program. I was busy, I had lots of friends and I had a girlfriend. I didn't think it was great then, but now I see how good I had it.
I also suffer from depression and ADHD, so I am very forgetful. I do not remember exactly when I began to feel this back pain, nor do I know what might have caused it. As I said, I played football in high school, so I did a lot of physical activity and I did a lot of heavy weight lifting. I am asian american and medium build, and I was one of the younger freshmen in my class, so I was not very big, yet I was lifting as much or more than the juniors or seniors on deadlifts or squats. Perhaps something involving weight lifting (either the lifting itself, or the sudden stop of lifting after quitting after I started 10th grade).
Sometime between 8th grade and 10th grade, I fell off a friend's trampoline with my chest hitting the ground and one of my legs getting caught on the rail, hyperextending my spine. I remember this being extremely painful, but only for that day. I do not recall if this continued to be painful the next day or so, or even when this might have happened. So I don't know if this is the cause of my back pain. I assume it is because it's the only big traumatic event I can recall that involves my spine.
In 2007, I had a spinal fusion surgery performed because my L4-L5 disc was gone. I suppose it ruptured when I fell off the trampoline and 5-7 years of not tending to it caused it to completely leak out. Since this was the only visible problem on my spine, the surgeon and I had high hopes the surgery would cure my pain. It did not. It didn't even improve my pain levels. This leads me to believe that the fall wasn't the primary cause for my pain, or if it was, the ruptured disc wasn't causing me any pain.
I have been to more doctors than I can remember. I have seen several general/family physicians, physician's assistants, a chiropractor (what a quack he was), two orthopedic surgeons, two neurosurgeons, one neurologist, two pain management/anesthesiologists, two physical therapists, and several psychiatrists. I still do not have a diagnosis nor do I have any idea as to what kind of treatment would be beneficial for me, or might have a chance of helping.
I have tried several non-opiate pain medications, both over the counter and prescription, and they were all worthless.
I have been to a couple physical therapists, one would physically manipulate me and both of them gave me exercise routines to increase strenght and flexibility of my spine and the back/ab muscles. While I admit I have not really stuck it out with these programs, I did not notice any improvement after doing the exercises for some time. It was very discouraging, and my back would hurt even more afterwards, which discouraged me from doing them at all..
I have tried a TENS unit and heat/cold. I have tried accupressure techniques (not acupuncture, not covered by insurance) and I have had dozens of nerve block and epidural injections. I have even tried a radiofrequency neurotomy, with strange results. It hurt like heck for a week, then took away a lot of my pain for about 2 weeks, then stopped working..
I have tried several antidepressants to treat both my depression and social anxieties but nothing (except Zoloft which I have only been tkaing for a couple months) has helped with my depression OR my back pain.
I am now taking opiate painkillers but I know that they can cause as much trouble as they fix. I want to stop using them but they are the ONLY thing that consistently takes the pain away. I am not psychologically addicted to them. On the few days a treatment test has taken the pain away, I felt no need to take them and didn't take them.
I have tried several muscle relaxers such as skelaxin, but they didn't help with the pain at all. This leads me to believe that the cause of my pain is not muscle spasms because the muscle relaxers should have reduced that. However, one strange situation involved Amrix. I was given some samples to try and when I took the first dose at night and woke up the next morning, I had NO BACK PAIN! It was incredible and I thought I had found the holy grail. Unfortunately, the second day I took it, it only took away like 80% of the pain, and on the third day and every day thereafter, it didn't help at all. No one can explain why this might happen, and as far as I know Amrix is just an extended release form of a different muscle relaxant that I had already taken with no positive effects...
My dad bought me a reclining table so I can hang upside down and do traction therapy by myself but it has not helped me at all..
I have had dozens of nerve block injections but the few that did help me only helped for a day or two. Since my pain is very vague and generalized, they have to guess where to poke me. It's not a very effective way to do it, let me tell you..
I have had dozens of x-rays taken, I had many CT-scans done before and after my spine surgery, and I have had 7 MRIs. The only abnormality was the damaged L4-L5 disc, except that one of the orthopedic surgeons suggested I might have Bertolotti's Syndrome. I do have a fused sacrum on my left side, but I do not seem to exhibit the typical Bertolotti's Syndrome symptoms (reduction of articulation, one-sided pain, etc) so I am doubtful. This surgeon recommends surgery to remove the fused sacrum bone, and I may go through with it anyway in the off chance it will help.
I have had a bone scan done and the report said nothing looked too unusual, though I think I may request a copy of the scan and report to get a second opinion..
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