back pain questions

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New Member

Date Joined Jun 2011
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 6/13/2011 9:34 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi im Dan, a new member here and my first post.....

3 weeks ago i had an MRI done and was told i had a Bulging disc in L3/L4 and Degenarative/Detereorating disk in L4/L5, and a mild canal stenosis... This is all gibberish to me lol, ive been all over the internet looking for answers but can only get bits and pieces, currently im waiting to go to get my first cortisone shots and im pretty nervous not knowing what to expect.

My first question is about the cortisone shots.. are they painful? anything to worry about?

Second, Im young, 27 that is, too young they say for going under the knife or anything like that which im fine with! aha .. But i work in construction, heavy lifting, bending, twisting, and on my feet all day. Is it gonna be possible to continue my job the way my back is? or am i gonna defeat the purpose.

Any help from anyone would be grateful, Thanks again - Dan confused

Regular Member

Date Joined Jun 2011
Total Posts : 95
   Posted 6/13/2011 9:56 AM (GMT -6)   
Ah, you're kind of in the same boat that I am. I'm much older (42) but work in farming (which frequently requires heavy lifting), and my lower back gives me fits. I have lumbar arthritis and take a medication called tramadol, which controls the pain quite well.

My problem, like yours, is that I can't just quit working because of my back pain. Yet the work I do only aggravates my condition. I wish there was an easy solution to both of our problems, but what are we supposed to do? Go back to college and learn a trade which doesn't require doing anything that puts a strain on our backs?
I guess that's an option, but not a good one.

Even if I quit what I was doing and went back to college, what would I do for income during the years it would take me to complete whatever educational direction I decided on taking?

I really don't have the answer to your question, but just wanted to chime in with a little sympathy and let you know I'm dealing with the same conundrum.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 1230
   Posted 6/13/2011 11:13 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi and welcome!
Let me see if I can explain some of your results to we age, all of our discs will loose some of their moisture , the older we get , the more this will happen.  This is what is called disc desication or degenerative disc disease, which is a real misnomer. It is not a disease per se, but a natural part of the aging process for anyone over the age of 21 or so. People see the disc disease and automatically think that this is something to be concerned about. Normally, it is not.
A disc bulge, depending on how large it is , is also most times a normal thing on MRI. It can be positional, meaning, that you could have been not exactly straight, in the tube, which can cause the appearance of a bulge. Even if it is not related to your position, it normally is not of major concern.
Mild canal stenosis is something of a concern, and may be because of the additional stress you put on your back, being in construction and doing repeated heavy lifting. Mild indicates that it is not pinching a nerve or the spinal canal, which is a really good thing.
The steroid injections can help to reduce any inflammation that you may have, and it may be that your back pain is related to your job.
The injections can be a bit painful, depending on how they are done, but it is a very quick pain from the injections used to numb the area they are going to inject the steroids into.
However, the steroid injections can and often do, worsen pain levels for a few days after the injections. This should subside within a few days, and using ice and alternating with heat, plus any other directions given to you by the pain management doctor should take care of any increased pain levels. Remember when using ice or heat, 20 minutes on, and an hour or more don't want to burn the areas by leaving either one on too long.
Good luck and if we can answer any other questions, just ask away.

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2011
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 6/13/2011 11:28 AM (GMT -6)   
Thanks so much, and yes its hard considering the trade i have chosen for work, im an electrician, most people think of you put lights up or do receptacles. man i wish it was like that lol. Lets say after i get the cortisone shot, and it feels better (hopefully) and i return to work without restrictions, can my back get worse than what it already is. I know the shot is only gonna mask the pain per se, its not gonna FIX the issue. Is that the way you do it? just get shots when it hurts, take pain meds, and leave it how it is?... I dont know the Severity of my injury in a medical way, maybe its minor and common i dont know. I just worry about picking up that first heavy object or continuous lifting over time gonna injure myself more? ... ahh so many questions ... well i appreciate the feed back from both of you

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9661
   Posted 6/13/2011 12:38 PM (GMT -6)   
Ask your doctor some of these concerns, as they seem important to you than maybe your
doctor can better describe this to you, Straydog/Susie did a very good job of trying to
explain it, but sometimes a doctor's explanation is needed...Injections are not a cure all, no sometimes they
help other times they don't, for the first 24 hours after the injections you need to ice the
injection site and rest up, so usually it's best to take a day or two off work...
You do need to call and see if they are going to put you to sleep, if so you can't eat
or drink anything for 12 hours prior and you'll need that day off work and someone to drive you home
Also it might be good to read back thru older postings on injections or nerve blocks...
My Father was an electric engineer, so that is a tough job, doing all the wiring on a house
and up to code can be very hard work indeed...
Well wishes to you, I hope you can get some relief from the injections and keep us posted...

Post Edited (Chartreux) : 6/14/2011 12:27:19 PM (GMT-6)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 1230
   Posted 6/13/2011 3:00 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi again Killabeez (interesting
As far as the stenosis getting worse, yes, it can, over time worsen. Usually surgeon's don't recommend surgery unless there is some risk of damage to the spinal nerves , either in the spinal cord itself or the nerve roots coming from the cord. In that case, surgery may become necessary but I don't see any of that in your report.
Stenosis is a narrowing of either the spinal canal area ( in your case in the lumbar area- the widest area of the spinal canal). and it can get worse as you get older but how quickly that may happen or not, is solely dependent on your body. No one can really give you an idea of if it will happen or when. It may not happen at all .
If you don't have an appointment with a board certified spinal neuro or ortho surgeon, I would make one if I were you, just to reassure yourself that you are in good shape overall and the surgeon can discuss what restrictions if any you should follow.
If the injections work, then they will reduce any inflammation in there and that should help pain wise. They don't always work, so you need to be aware of that as well. Some PM doctors will recommend doing them twice, because they may not get the area of inflammation with the first try. If you don't get relief after the 2nd one, you should discuss that with your PM doctor before doing a third one. You are only supposed to have three in a years time, due to the steroids and the effects it can have on your body and the bones so keep that in mind.
Hope that helps,
Motorcycle accident 1992, Back problems from 92 to 2005. August 2005- early 2006- Chiropractor care
March 2006- consult with surgeon -PLIF/TLIF L4-5, spondylolysthesis, canal and foraminal stenosis, multiple herniations
Post Op Cauda Equina Syndrome
Revision August 2007- salvage op
March 2011- 2nd onset of Cauda Equina Syndrome
Needs surgery to prevent paralysis

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 15875
   Posted 6/14/2011 10:53 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Killa and I too would like to welcome you to Healing Well's chronic pain forum. I see that you have been given some excellent info from Mrs123 about your situation. She has had back surgeries and can probably give better input than someone that has not been down that road before.

All in all, it sounds like you are not a surgical candidate and thats good. I think all of us were afraid of the injections and that is normal. I have had so many different kind over the years they all sort of run together, lol. Granted none of us are drs here we can only speak from experience and that is pretty much it.

Anytime you have an injury to an area in your body, it can leave you predisposed to further injury later on down the road. An injury is going to weaken an area somewhat. It is a possibility and no one can say for sure whether or not this will happen to you.

A very good website that you can go to to get accurate info is Spine I think when you get the time you should go there and you can read up on what you have going on.

Anyway, I wanted to pop on and tell you welcome aboard. Take care.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2011
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 2/6/2012 1:39 PM (GMT -6)   
its been a while since i posted, and just wanted to update one whats been happening since june of last year... after fighting with insurance companies and workers comp every was finally settled after december of 2011 and i could continue (or start) with treatments.

Physical therapy really doesnt help me at all, but i took the doctors recomendations and did what he thought was best.. I had my first injection done almost 2 weeks ago and well .. i actually have more pain after then i did before the shot =[ ... My pain management doctor had prescribed me tremadol which did nothing for me, and during my monthly follow ups with my Primary doctor he gave me oxycodone 10-325 and well, i have to double the dose if i wanna feel a slight pain relief. Thats the only thing thats really bothered me through this whole ordeal, it seems like there isnt any medication out there that takes away my pain, and some of the medication they want me to take (cymbalta) seem like there addicting and the horror stories i hear when people to try ween off the drugs.. Id rather have my pain then an addiction ... I dont know whats next, is getting another shot worth the trouble? .. Been out of work for 9 months now and it doesnt seem to be getting any better.

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2012
Total Posts : 21
   Posted 2/6/2012 3:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Hey Killa.  I'm Linda and brand new here.  I'm really sorry to read that with your chosen trade you are having bad back issues already at 27.  I had workers comp once (my 2nd auto accident) I'm happy for you that it was settled.  I know that they have to be certain that you were really hurt but it doesn't make it any easier that you had to wait for it.  That said, welcome back to the forum.
I'm personally against getting these injections.  I know steroids are one of those drugs that some people (asthmatics, renal patients, ect) HAVE to have in order to survive.
BUT that said, there is this "standard" of practice to help the spine patient feel better and let's face it we all want a quick fix and get on with our lives as we know it. Who has time when you have a mortgage, kids, a job and well LIFE TO LIVE!
I had 2 injections in my neck (I have both neck and low back injuries and fusions in both)  It helped me for maybe 4 or 5 days?  Then it was back to the regular thing with how I felt. 
Pain is one of those things that give you indicators and tells you something is wrong.  Unless you correct, it you'll continue having pain (yes even if it includes changing what you may do for a living) if you still have workers comp they can pay for employment education so that you can still make the same amount but learn a different trade at their expense I think it's called vocational education or vocational rehab.  Check with the lawyer that handled your case.
All this being said even doctors spine doctors know that injections of steroids into the spine can break down the surrounding tissues.  I did find a reliable source for you to read if you desire
It weakens the tendons and will break down the segments even quicker.  Why do they do it? Because as fast as we need to go to keep up with our lives we need a quick fix so we submit ourselves to this.
If your physical therapist didn't do much for you try and find another.  Ones that have OMPT or orthopedic manual physical therapy techniques I've found are the best.
I have a fusion in my low back called XLIF it's my second surgery @ L4/L5 level (the first surgery I had was just a laminectomy) But the level they worked on has scar tissue built around the nerve and it's tethering my nerve. It can't glide easily. The "stenosis" that re-occured means that I had stenosis before the surgery and while I started doing OK after surgery during the first 12 months post op a osteophyte or in laymens terms a piece of bone grew back into the same place.  
Besides having the back pain I have leg pain and possibly complex regional pain syndrome now.  It's basically kinda like my body has freak out at all the nerve damage and the leg is swelling, the muscles are contracting and I can't do much walking or anything right now. It's not a nice way to have to introduce myself but it is what it is shocked
I'm in the medical field but not a doctor.  I only wish to share why I have strong opinions against having steroid injections in the spine.
Whatever you decide make an informed decision looking at all the options. 
It's my opinion if being an electrician causes you a degenrating back you're definately young enough to maybe find a new passion.  I wish you didn't have to think looking at that, but if workers comp will pay for vocational rehab, why not take advantage of that??
I wish you well in whatever your decision yeah
BTW the billing for MD's or pain management doctors to do these injections range from state to state but in my state my doctor was paid a bit over 3,000 per injection x's 2 injections.  He had 15 people on the schedule that day.  I just thought I'd add that in too.
Neck pain for many years called arthritis in my neck & bone spurs in my 30's. Minor accident caused disk at C5/C6 to hern Fusion surg was a success. 2005 I was rearended. C5/C6 fusion damaged I had to undergo rhizotomy Now low back had issues cropped up from 2005 accident had a L4/L5 discectomy 2007. 2008 back to work.Was hit as a pedestrian 2009. Fusion @ L4/L5 DX is FBS and CRPS (maybe)

Post Edited (Friedspine) : 2/6/2012 2:37:06 PM (GMT-7)

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2012
Total Posts : 21
   Posted 2/6/2012 3:39 PM (GMT -6)   
PS wanted to add they tried me on Cymbalta and I had all the difficulties they warn of weening off the drug, 2nd if you have more of an extended release product while you're healing it may help you. I find Opana to be a terrific pain reliever. It's supposed to last 12 hours. Hope these things help and again, best wishes. Linda
Neck pain for many years called arthritis in my neck & bone spurs in my 30's. Minor accident caused disk at C5/C6 to hern Fusion surg was a success. 2005 I was rearended. C5/C6 fusion damaged I had to undergo rhizotomy Now low back had issues cropped up from 2005 accident had a L4/L5 discectomy 2007. 2008 back to work.Was hit as a pedestrian 2009. Fusion @ L4/L5 DX is FBS and CRPS (maybe)
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