Over the course of the last week and a half, while I’ve gotten my official diagnosis of what makes up my back issues, one phrase stood out from at least four different health care professionals:
“You’re so young.”
Am I, though?
“spine” or “vertebra”
“slipping, sliding or movement”
From the x-rays and the MRI scan, the doctors are able to pinpoint the actual issues I have. Specifically for my lower back pain, the main culprits are:
- Disc desiccation between my L1 and S1 vertebrae, which means that the disc is dehydrated and has lost all the fluid. It’s also “protruding”, and has a tear where it is connecting both vertebrae;
- Foraminal stenosis, which means there is a narrowing of the cervical disc space
- Spondylolysis, with fractures through the pars bones (which are the soft little spiky bones on your spine), and;
- Spondylolisthesis, which is a mouthful, but means that the vertebra has slipped forward, out of place from the rest of the spine
I’m still getting used to spelling these — all I know is that there’s an ‘lol’ in both spondy words.
I’ve had a week or so to sit with this diagnosis, and the neurosurgeon’s recommendation is to get back surgery done so that it doesn’t worsen.
I’ll know when it gets worse, because I’ll lose bladder and bowel function, so that’s real comforting.
But back surgery doesn’t come with zero risks: it’s not a guarantee that it’ll improve, and there is always a chance that something else might happen and the nerves might get nicked even more.
There’s also the other matter of how young I am, apparently. I can see two schools of thought here:
- I don’t need surgery at this point, because I can build up my core (for real for real this time) and the muscles will protect the spine from deteriorating — but I probably will have to do the surgery anyway when I’m older, even if I’ve built up the strongest core in the world
- I need surgery right now, because I’m young and can withstand the recovery period than if I do it when I’m much older — but I might not fully recover; there might be complications; the recovery period is actually pretty long right now anyway (a year was what I have heard), and what if the nails fail in the next few decades?
There’s still a lot of other things to think about too, beyond the actual medical aspect, like the economics of it. It’s actually cheaper to get the surgery because I’m covered by insurance, while physio sessions are capped at $750 a year, and — I’m not even kidding — I’ll be able to get a grand total of 3.75 sessions covered.
My hope is that I’ll be able to get some quality of life with no aching and pain when I do… pretty much anything at all, but especially when I arch my back. A stretch goal (haha stretch) would be getting back to lifting and squatting with no pain and no risk of anything cracking further.
Ultimately, right now I’m still in the information-gathering stage. I’ll probably suck it up and pay massively out-of-pocket for the physio sessions, and get second+ opinions on whether surgery is needed.
Until then, I’m just going to be paranoid every time I get a twinge or numbness in my butt or thighs, because that’s when I know this is progressing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated 11 May, 2022, because I’ve been getting the same responses and questions, and thought it’ll make sense to document the responses to everyone’s concerns 💖
Q: How? What did you do?
A: I truly do not know, and neither do the doctors and physio. The best assumption is because I naturally have hyper-extended joints, this has been happening through years of living. It could be from working out as well, but I have my own doubts about it as I’m not lifting super heavy, and my form is good (and vetted by the physio!).
Q: How does it feel?
A: Thankfully, I’m not in constant pain. Instead, it’s a dull ache that I have taken as my baseline for the past three years. I mostly feel it when I stay in one position for too long. The level of achiness, from most annoying to least: laying down on my stomach, walking down stairs, sitting, standing, laying down on my back, laying down on my back with my knees tucked to my chest.
I also absolutely cannot jump or do any sort of impact activity, without feeling like something is actually shattering within me 😬