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Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

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Old 04-03-2012, 07:17 PM   #1
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Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

Hi everyone, I was really hoping for some advise as i feel like i am at a loss. just over 5 months ago i was on my honeymoon in Hawaii (im from australia) and was dumped by a big wave at the beach, resulting in a burst compression fracture of my L1. (i think 30%) The doctors decided it was a stable fracture and therefore would not operate. Now five months down the track im still in quite a lot of pain. To be fair when it it first happened i couldnt even get out of bed without help, or shower, go to the bathroom etc. I am now doing physiotherapy and trying to do small walks each day.
My problem and what i am worried about is the pain. I have a constant ache even on my slow release morphine tablets and have to top up during the day with endones. Because of the narcotics i cant go to the toilet without laxatives. I cant do simple things like sit up for too long or do dishes. Every movement besides light walking agrivates my back. My husband thinks i have been trying to do too much and maybe im aggravating my back and i need to just let it heal. My specialist said it should be healed and from the xrays he can see its knitted back together (althought it would always be squashed) My specialists says everyone is different and he is not very helpful at all.
I am frustrated also as i read that people with the same injury are completely healed by now??? Back to work or out riding bike. I need to lay down for half an hour after washing my hair!
It would be great if there are people out there with a L1 injury that could tell me if its normal to take even up to a year to heal. I just would love to know if im going to get better......trying so hard to be patient!

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Old 04-04-2012, 07:11 PM   #2
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Re: Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

Members are not trained medical keep that in mind when reading. I also have never fractured a vertebra but do recall people on this board who have, and it does seem a bit long to still have the severe symptoms of pain after five months.

What does your physical therapist think about your situation and continuing pain? These people that work with us and see us on a regular, frequent basis sometimes have better instincts about our healing than physicians do.

Have you had MRI to check for nerve involvement? I would be concerned that maybe a nerve has become entrapped or is irritated from the injury; the fracture has healed but perhaps a nerve is now in a slightly different position or a disc is now bulging from the fracture and is irritating the nerve or pinching it.

I'm speculating here, but what your are experiencing doesn't sound like it is healing without incident.

Do you feel you are gradually getting better (making some progress), or did you kind of hit a plateau and now feel you are getting worse or ????

What a way to start your married life.

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Old 04-04-2012, 09:44 PM   #3
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Re: Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

Thanks so much for finding the time to reply. I had an MRI when I first had the accident and was told there was no nerve or disc damage. I am able to do a lot more but I'm going to give it another month and most likely change specialists. I saw mine this week and to say he has no bedside manner is putting it lightly. He says he can't tell me a thing and wants me to go to a pain management specialist and want discuss even if this is a normal situation. Just says it looks like its healing and takes my $150. Gets annoyed over the simplest questions. Fair to say I'm done with him. I have heard that it can take up to a year to be fully recovered so I'm trying to stay positive and focus on my light exercises.....sigh

Old 08-31-2012, 03:40 PM   #4
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Re: Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

I often wonder if I should have pushed for 'natural healing' with my L1 burst fracture. However, I got a fusion, L2 to T12. My doc told me constantly I would be in pain for the rest of my life....which I found disturbing while I was in the hospital but I hoped for the best. During the break evaluation, I was asked to stand to do xrays then they were compared to laying down xrays and MRI info. The shift in things indicated a fusion was better to stabilize things. They also moved the broken piece of bone back away from my spinal cord as I had 50% space reduction there.

Hearing how it went for you, I think fusion may have been better for me. They glued the vertebrae back together too.

I am almost 6 months out from the break/surgery and I do have chronic pain, oddly enough in my left hip and tailbone area. The break area aches occasionally, but nothing really significant in my opinion. The big pain is lower back far away from the identified injury.

I am sitting in my lumbar supported chair and I'm about 1.5 on the pain scale in my opinion which is ok.

I can take long walks and we spent a week in LA doing things like walking all day at Disney (with pain) and I am thankful I can do that.

I feel better up standing, walking etc than sitting. When I went through PT, the forced activity relieved the pain I might be experiencing, but 30min to 60min after PT my muscles would tighten up in my lower back causing excruciating pain.

I can only lay on my side at night to sleep though I keep trying to lay on my back. It doesn't hurt to lay on my back but I get twitches and just feel odd pressure/uncomfortableness that won't let me sleep. I do use a small pillow between my knees when sleeping on my side.

I know what you are talking about with pain/pain pills and bowels. That was awful.

I wonder in the long run if your persistence will pay off with a less painful, better long term solution.

You may want to try other pain relief. I get up to about 5 pain daily when I don't take anything. It is lower back, below injury and I get a lot of relief from an herbal pain reliever, though I was skeptical of these at first. None of the prescription pain pill problems and I am glad for that. With consistent use of the herbal pain reliever, I rarely experience more than a 2-2.5 pain level now. Usually, I feel uncomfortable stiffness or 1 level pain. I want to get off of the herbal pain reliever though.

I have 2 folks I work with who had broken backs. 1 lost a vertebrae due to a bad break and he has metal with a harms cage. He said about 2 years of lower back pain persisted before he was mostly pain free. The other guy had a bone fusion and broke that in a car accident. He has chronic pain and has had odd sounding nerve/back surgeries that made his problems worse.

I hope this gives you some insight into what could have happened with your back had you gone another route. I think you might have taken the better path. I hope it gets better.

Old 09-01-2012, 12:35 PM   #5
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Re: Advise please! Burst L1 vertabrae and healing. Is this normal??

I understand your frastration and worry; of course we want to heal fast and forget about injures and be healthy as well.
Not always works this way. Even if we brake a leg/finger, we experiencing pain for a very long time while healing and some pain remains during all our lives. Bone/joint injures are very though since they don't heal fast.
Of course all depends, you can't go by everyone else; depends on age of the person, even weight, smoking, Osteoporosis, Inflammatory diseases and other. Some may heal faster than others, for some it make take even years.
For example after my spinal surgeries some people may go to work in 6 month, but I ended up on permanent disability. You can't go by that.
My Spinal surgeon told me: injuring takes no time, healing takes years. Even if all your x-rays show all healed, you still may experiencing pain. This doesn't mean you didn't heal, it just means you may live with some level of pain. In years it may become less, you may get used to some (believe or not, we get used to some degree of pain in a while) or it may go away completely- but in time.
You have to understand that it takes a very long time for you to have less pain, meanwhile try to help yourself a little.
My surgeon gave me a wonderful book written by a DR who damaged his spinal cord and became an invalid. So he wrote how he deals with every day pain. I bought the meditation tapes, this is so great! I just put my ear plugs and go away in a total different world where no pain and all so beautiful and relaxing. Than meditation on your own every day also helps to relax. We all know that body-mind can't be healthy without each other. More relaxed we are - less pain we feel. Very important to know that. More stressed we are, depressed - our bodies hurt more.
If you can, walking in warm water swimming pools is really great exercise which works great for mind and body. Every day I try to sit in really warm water in my bath tub, helps the pain. For some people ice works better, but for me only heat (except inflammation involved).

Be well and best wishes on your recovery

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