Monday, October 8, 2018

What's Happening In My Back

I had an MRI on my spine on Saturday. Monday I got the results just in time for my second physical therapy session. 

As I sit here typing this Monday afternoon, my back is aching, most likely because it did not like the new physical therapy exercises I got today. 

Here's what I know. I have new severe thecal sac narrowing at L 3-4 and probable compression of the bilateral transversing L4 nerve roots. That nerve compression is what is causing the pain along the side of my leg, and most of the buckling of my right leg. My right leg is also fully involved with progressive arthritis in the hip, knee, and probably the ankle, that is causing additional issues. 

There are lots of complex drawings to show what's going on, but this simple one makes sense to me. 
The pink are the discs. A bulging disc causes pressure on the thecal sac, green, that sheaths the spinal cord, and on the nerve root at the point of compression. This would be like the second pink blob up from the bottom. 

This new, severe compression is immediately above the location of my fusion surgery of four years ago. There are also some mild narrowings in several other places above and below the fusion, but they are not progressive at this point. 

The biggest problem I am experiencing is stiffness in my lower back that makes it hard to straighten up and walk. Some days I can do two miles fairly easily, but other days it is very hard work. 

My physical therapy is multifaceted, a continuation of the stretching exercises I have been doing for years for hips and knees, for arthritis, and for back and core strengthening. New are the exercises to straighten my right knee, which is eroding from arthritis, and back exercises that arch my back to relieve disc pressure. The result after the first three weeks was a lessening of the burning pain in my leg and fewer episodes of hip, knee or ankle buckling. 

The back ache is new, and not a pleasant development. 

I will be monitoring these developments with my PT therapist and my primary care doctor. My doctor is ready to refer me to the spine clinic as a next step if PT doesn't help enough. 

So now you know more than you needed to about my occasional mention of mobility problems and my references to exercises.

I am trying my best to keep going. My life style and my body are in conflict, and I am not ready to surrender.  

Soon I will be getting geared up to go to the stadium for a rare Monday night Sounders match. I plan to not be in pain and to walk upright.

We'll see. 


  1. Oh my goodness I am such a wimp, can’t imagine myself with your determination. I greatly admire you. Are they giving you any meds? On a scale of one to ten what is your most frequent pain level?

    1. Pain is not the biggest issue. I am fortunate to not have any severe pain, at least so far. It is function I am concerned about - stiffness, loss of mobility and agility, buckling that could cause falls. I am not on meds, only Naproxen as needed for pain and inflammation.

  2. I hope they can find something to alleviate your back and arthritis problems. I have the same problems in the hips. I'm not shutting down either. keep on going.

  3. IT's good that you are proactive about finding appropriate treatment. I hope you find relief!

  4. Hopefully the PT will help you to keep on keeping on.

  5. It is so disappointing and painful when the body betrays us by breaking down. Keep up the good fight.

  6. I too hope they can find something that will alleviate your pain, LInda. I know how much you love being active. You are doing all the right things, and it sounds like you are in good hands.

  7. health and mobility challenges are huge obstacles for continuing a healthy lifestyle as we age...old age is not for sisaies takes on new meaning...hope your pt helps.

  8. I'm sorry that you're in pain but am not surprised that you aren't letting it keep you from doing what you love! Keep up the fight and hopefully the medical folks can help find a better solution if what you're doing doesn't work.

  9. Sounds like you are getting excellent care and hope the new pain is just temporary. You lead such an active lifestyle and hope you can keep that up for many more years.

  10. I hope the PT will help and keep you doing all the things you love. Many years ago when I ruptured a couple of discs in my back PT helped enormously.

  11. My husbands journey with arthritis has been long and hard. Hopefully they can find something to alleviate your problems.

  12. OUch. This is somewhat common as my friends have had similar.Hoping the PT will keep it simple foryou.

  13. Oh Linda, I hate to hear that your back is hurting. I never knew about back pain until that morning I woke up and could not stand up straight. It was three herniated discs. I do hope the physical therapy helps you. I love the last sentence in your post. Love your determination! I need to be as devoted to doing my back exercises as you have been, especially strengthening core muscles. I was told also to put my hands on my hips and arch my back several times a day.

  14. I'm sorry to hear you have back/leg/knee problems. I know you've mentioned them before but I forget because I read about all the work you do in your lovely yard and assume it's not as much of a problem any more. Obviously it is. I hope PT will help.

  15. Hi Linda,
    I've been thinking about you because I am in a similar situation and I know how much it hurts. Luckily, after my MRI I was treated with an epidural which has made my back much less painful. It won't last forever but I'll try almost anything to avoid back surgery. I'm glad you have a diagnosis now and can move ahead with a treatment plan that will help you to feel better soon. We retired teachers have too much to do to be slowed down by a bad back! Hang in there,


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