Bill's Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I Have the Back of a Sixty Year Old

The only problem with that is I am in my mid-twenties. Not good - I know.

A year and a half ago, I was up visiting my brother at college (PSU) for the weekend. We had a great time that weekend, but we also did a fair amount of walking - much more than I would normally. My lower back was hurting me more and more as the weekend progressed, but I chalked it up to the eventful weekend (I've had on and off back pain for years). On the way to fetch my car we trekked from his off-campus apartment to the public (on weekends) lots near the dorms. This included a large hill. About 1/2 up the hill, I noticed the pain in my back getting worse, then the numbness started in my toes. I made it to the top, but told my brother I needed to sit down for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes sitting, I felt fine again. We continued to my car and when no more symptoms occurred for a couple weeks, I didn't think anything of it.

Last summer, it happened to me again. And then it happened a few times over the winter. By this past spring, it was happening anytime I stood or walked for more than 20 minutes. I decided to go check with the doctor. The doctor indicated it could be a number of things, so she ordered blood work, x-rays, and physical therapy, along with samples of muscle relaxers. I tried the muscle relaxers and they didn't help - unless putting me to sleep counts. The blood work came back clean. The x-rays showed a "lessening of the vertebral spacing", which didn't clue me in much. I did the physical therapy, but that just seemed to make it worse. When I went for my follow-up with the doctor, she decided to order an MRI and send me to a specialist.

I went to the imaging clinic early one morning before work and had the MRI done. On my way back to work, it occurred to me that I had not searched about my back problems online. I spent some time that evening looking through WebMD and other medical sites. My symptoms seemed to match up with Spinal Stenosis (which is where the spinal canal narrows and pinches the spinal cord/nerves). After a few days I get the call from the doctor that the report is back on the MRI and guess what...the diagnosis is Spinal Stenosis. She said to keep the appointment with the specialist (three weeks later) and go from there.

I went to see the specialist and one of the first things he said while looking at the MRI images was "Your back is fascinating". That isn't exactly what you want to hear coming from anyone in the healthcare system describing your condition (I'd much rather be boring and easily corrected). He told me that Spinal Stenosis most often occurs in people 65 or older. We scheduled an appointment for a cortisone injection. The injection went well and it helped for a few days. Since the cortisone is a steroid, one dose is broken out into three separate injections. Yesterday, I received the second injection and hopefully within a few days, the resulting stiffness will subside (again the doctor told me I have the back of a man 50 years my senior). By next week we should know whether this injection will have any lasting effects. If the symptoms return as bad as they were, then a third shot is pointless (the three injections are supposed to last for a year) and we'll have to talk about other options.

Now it's a waiting game.

Tags: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home