Hi, 33 chad.
I had a virus (not sure what type of virus but it included high fever, vomiting, runny nose and lethargy/tiredness) in the beginning of 2005 and that was when my back and leg problems began. Before then I was fine. Ever since then I've never been the same. I get back pain with accompanying leg sensations (tingling, numbness in various areas, hot/cold feeling and pain at times). These pains and sensations are intermittent. I can cope but only if I don't do anything that starts it off i.e. walking distances, standing for lenths of time, sitting for too long, etc. I find that lying down is most comfortable. I now also have got bladder problems (excessive frequency and 'urge'/full bladder sensations) that I have been told could be related to my spine problem so I am not very happy that my doctors have ignored and brushed this off for so long. I'm really hoping the nerves to the bladder aren't affected as now it's been left for so long it could unfortunately be permanent from what I've read.
I am now 20 and I too have got degenerated discs that are slightly bulging.
I had an x-ray in November 2007 after waiting for three years because my doctor thought it was ust a muscle strain 'muscular' as they seem to always think.
Here is what my x-ray results say:
Loss of disc height at the L5/S1 level and probably facet joint degeneration here. Loss of disc height also at L4/L5 but less severe. Mild loss of disc height also at the other lumbar levels. Appearances are unusual for a patient of this young age. I note the previous radiograph from June 2007 demonstrating early degenerative change in the first MTPJ (big toe joint). There might be an underlying abnormal collagen variant. No evidence of malignancy. Probably large liver.
P.S: He mentions about the MTPJ (big toe) of my foot. This is because I had an x-ray of my foot in June 2007 as I couldn't walk on it due to it being extremely painful to walk on. I couldn't put it on the ground at all. I had to walk on the one foot.
My MRI results says the following:
There is disc degeneration at L2/L3 level with a Shmorl's node and annular bulging. The degeneration would appear to be Grade 3. The remaining discs appear normal. There is no evidence of facet osteoarthritis. The sacroiliac joints are normal. There is no evidence of nerve root compression and all foramina are normal. The conus is normal.
There is no evidence of an abnormality in the sacroiliac joints or in the pelvis. Both hips appear normal and the sciatic nerves are both normal. There is no abnormality in either ischial tuberosity.
I and my mom have actually got an idea that it could be something to do with that virus I had in 2005 as it seems strange that I was ok before then. Though doctors have said that it was 'just a coincidence' me and mom still don't think they are right in saying that as it is a bit too much of a coincidence being that I was ok before I had that virus. They are not really thinking of all the possible causes and putting them together. This would certainly be the only way they may actually find out.
I have also recently had a CT scan but haven't got the results yet. They did the CT scan because they think that maybe I have got a tiny fracture in my spine and the MRI might've missed it. Though I'll be very surprised if it does show anything more than the MRI.
I've seen a Consultant Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon and a Neurosurgeon. The Consultant Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon said that from the imaging techniques so far there is nothing (even though they clearly show degenerated discs at multiple levels) he can see that would be causing me the pain and sensations that I am getting. This is why he has now ordered the CT scan.
On the other hand the Neurosurgeon is more thorough in his technique. He reckons that maybe it's higher up i.e. the thoracic spine or cervical (neck) spine. He is ordering imaging tests of these areas next to rule out having a compressed nerve in those areas. He sent me for Nerve Conduction Studies but unfortunately the Neurologist he sent me to didn't do them correctly so he had to abort the test on the EMG part of it. He also didn't test the other leg that is affected, nor the arms/hands which is also, I think what my Neurosurgeon wanted too. He only tested the one leg and that was it. I think that test will have to be repeated due the Neurologist's incompetence.
I too have tried physiotherapy but to no effect, just made mine worse unfortunately.
I am now having some blood tests to find out if it is in fact some form of arthritis as my mom's grandma had Rheumatoid arthritis. It has been said that some types of arthritis and other autoimmune conditions can be started off by a virus, even a simple cold.
Basically they don't really know what is wrong with my spine either to be causing so much disability and pain/strange sensations so I think it's going to take a while just to find out and get the tests all done. So far I have no answers to what is causing my back pain or leg sensations either. Though I still think that even though the discs are not visibly compressing the nerves on the MRI scan it doesn't mean that they aren't still possibly the things that are actually causing the pain and sensations. Pain usually, but not always, means there is something wrong in the body.
It is a possibility that the nucleus/fluid that leaked out of the disc may have irritated the nerves in a chemical type of way but isn't compressing them so it wouldn't be very visible on the MRI or CT scans. I really am not entirely sure but have read that this can happen so when surgeons look at the MRI/CT scans they can't see it.
You sound like you are in a similar situation as me at the moment. There seems to be a lot of so-called health professionals that totally misunderstand spine/nerve conditions and I know exactly how you feel as I haven't got very far either as to getting an exact diagnosis and feel like I am running round in circles.
I too am worried it's going to get worse and no surgeon or doctor I've gone to can really say the truth on whether it will or won't. I have considered a disc replacement but none of the surgeons I've gone to have mentioned it, don't know why. This would possibly be one answer as to help stop any more degeneration as it'll restore natural movement as much as is possible rather than leaving the degenerated, damaged discs in, which in time, I'd have thought would've actually made all the rest of the discs degenerate unfortunately as the degenerated, damaged discs are allowing more force onto the adjecent discs resulting in them also degenerating at a much faster rate. I'd have thought that spine surgeons would've worked this theory out but unfortunately they don't seem to know this.
On any suggestions that help me in living with this chronic disease - the only thing I do to cope is not doing things that start the pain/sensations off which are things like physical activity, standing for long, sitting for long, walking for distances, etc. Basically I've limited my life to cope for the time being, hoping maybe at least one spine surgeon will be of a help in the future.
Maybe they didn't want to give you stronger pain medications because they are worried that they may do more harm than good to your body, I'm not really sure on this. Perhaps see another doctor and see if they have other ideas to help with your pain as all the doctors will have different ideas and opinions and one has got to be of help somewhere.
I have also been told that I am too young to get surgery but if it is the only thing that will help then I may well insist that they do it as now my bladder is involved I'd have thought that was a 'red flag' emergency.
Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to let you know of my background a bit more too.
Hope I could be of some help to you and good luck.