My back pain problems began when I was just 13 years old and I’m 21 now. It was gym class and we were vaulting. Unfortunately I didn’t realise you had to lift your hands off the gym horse and fell of backwards landing on my lower back right on the hard gym floor in the gap between two crash mats. Man did that hurt! My gym teacher didn’t think much of it though so I ended up continuing the class in a moderate amount of pain.
A few months afterwards I started to experience mild to moderate pain in my lower back every now and then which was worse when I lay down or bent over, but I just put it down to poor posture. But by the time I was 16 it had gotten so bad I decided to visit my GP. At this point I had a part time job making salads, pizzas and sandwiches in a local store, and my GP put it down to the fact I was leaning over low counters for 16 hours a week and told me to try Yoga or Pilates to build up my core muscles.
Needless to say it didn’t help one bit, nor did the sit ups which ended up making it worse rather than better, but every time I went in to see the doctor I was just fobbed off. Eventually at 18 I was able to see a different doctor who referred me up to a specialist at the local hospital, but there was a 12 month waiting list to be seen. So 12 months later I found myself waiting for x-rays and MRI scans to be carried out to see if they could see the problem. Everything came back relatively normal – just the tiniest insignificant bit of damage to one of the joints in my spine – but apparently not enough to cause the levels of pain I was experiencing.
The surgeon decided the most likely cause was unexplained inflammation around the joint and gave me a cortisone injection into the joint which was an absolute blessing. I was pain free in a matter of hours as the drug took effect, and it lasted for about 8 to 9 months before it started to wear off. I was advised to go back to the GP when it started to go and ask for another referral, but the doctor wasn’t very happy about the cortisone being used as he didn’t feel it was a long term solution.
Instead I was switched on to naproxen – an NSAID similar to, but a lot stronger than ibuprofen. I took it as prescribed for about a week, but by this time I knew something wasn’t right. I had terrible heart burn and indigestion, with severe cramps in my stomach. I stopped taking the medicine and called the doctors, but could only speak to the practice nurse who suggested I took ibuprofen instead. That didn’t seem right so I decided not to, and to try and stick it out until I could see the doctor – but that night I started with one of the ‘severe’ side effects from the naproxen and had to see an emergency doctor.
It turned out that the naproxen had severely damaged my stomach lining causing internal bleeding and all the previous side effects were the warning signs that my doctor should have picked up on. Now I can’t even take a single aspirin or ibuprofen as it was so severely damaged. So with nothing but co-codamol to take I’m feeling a little lost.
It had got to the point where I was constantly uncomfortable, but could get away with taking the meds maybe once a week, as I worry about becoming dependant on them. But in the last week it’s just flared up so badly I can barely walk. I’m now taking the full dose of co-codamol every single day which isn’t even touching it. It hurts to sit down, stand up lean over etc. Its especially bad fist thing in the morning, or if I try to touch my chin to my chest – if I do that its complete agony in fact.
I’m guessing the cortisone has now completely worn off, but I don’t remember the pain ever feeling like this – the head and neck thing is certainly a new one anyway. I’m still looking for answers on this one, but the heat packs are easing it if nothing else, and the codeine is kind of spacing me out rather than taking the pain away – but I guess that’s one way to go.
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Neuromuscular Therapist & Pain Relief Researcher
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