Ever since the summer of 2014 I have had back problems. It started with some muscle soreness on the left side of my lower back, just above my crack. Then it was shooting pains down my left leg. Then numbness and tingling. All on my left side. My right side was perfectly fine. After a few rounds of PT and lots of stretching that didn’t really work, I went to Pitarys Chiropractic in Hanover, NH to try to get some relief. Dr. James is fantastic, and I became fast friends with he and his wife, Bryana. Even after several great sessions, though, my back wasn’t getting much better. It seems that I had
problems beyond subluxation, so I had an MRI. As you can probably tell from this image, something isn’t quite right back there. Yep. Back problems.
The lowest disk, the one between what’s called L5 and S1, is protruding beyond where it is supposed to be (see the disks above it) and is putting pressure on the nerve that runs down into my left leg. My ‘best’ option (quickest) was to have a ‘microdiscectomy” that would essentially scrape that part of the disk away, thus removing the pressure on my nerve. So that’s what we did. It was same day surgery (I went home about an hour or so after the operation), and I recovered at home for 2 weeks before returning to work.
I had it operated on in September of 2014, and had great relief for several months. Mid-winter, however, I was starting to get those same symptoms. Additionally, when I would scratch my outer-left thigh, it felt more like I was scratching it through a snowsuit (or several layers of clothing, for those of you reading in the southern US….) than actually touching my skin. Not fun.
I sought counsel with a different Dr. this time, one who specializes in neurosurgery and not orthopaedics. I know, I know. AT ANY RATE…..we did another MRI, this time with and without contrast. The contrast dye is injected IV, and is rapidly dispersed throughout blood vessels. Under MRI, areas that are ‘lit up’ indicate scar tissue (or is it the ones that don’t light up??), and I had plenty of it. According to the notes from my consult, “He has an MRI scan of the lumbar spine taken at APD on 3-27-15 with contrast, showing a large recurrent disc extrusion on the left at L5-S1 with some enhancement along with that as well. This disc extrusion is larger than the prior one before his surgery.” Good times, good times. Here is an image from that study. We elected to go ahead with another laminectomy to remove the intrusion in May of 2015.
Recovery from this operation went well; perhaps I recovered a bit TOO aggressively, but who can be sure? Anyway, in AUGUST of 2015 I ran my first race since the 2014 Vermont50. It was a local 5k trail race, and I placed 3rd in my age group! Woop woop! Just the boost of confidence I needed to get me back into running again. I decided to do more weight training this time around, and was very careful not to lift a lot of weight. Play it smart, I thought. Play it smart.
In December 2015, however, I started to notice those nagging symptoms returning. I went to see the Doc, and she suggested PT. I went to all but 2 of my appointments (scheduling conflicts). We tried all kinds of things. Traction. Heat. Cold. Ultrasound. Cupping. Deep tissue massage. Foam Rolling. Ahhh…foam rolling. I could feel a KNOT THE SIZE OF ARIZONA in my left butt cheek, deeeeeep in there. Rolling helped. My left hamstrings seemed as tight as violin strings, so I often sat with a tennis ball wedged under my leg. I could get temporary relief, but nothing lasted for more than half an hour. Pain was taking hold on me. Again.
On July 12th I had another MRI with and without contrast. When I called a few days later to see if there was anything worth mentioning, the nurse told me that the Doc (Neuro) wanted to see me ASAP to discuss. When she came into the exam room, she asked me about my symptoms. I told her my tale of woe, and how I was concerned that my issues were either due to the disk herniating again, or that it was scar tissue building up and constricting that nerve. She asked if I had seen the images, and when I said that I hadn’t, she spun her monitor around and said, “It’s a BOY!” I’m no Dr., but even I could see it. Can you?
No WONDER I am having back problems!! Holy Moly. Same disk. Dr. called it “incompetent.” Why? well, all of my other disks look great, she says, and since I haven’t had any trauma to the area, she can’t say with certainty WHY this one is acting out. So, yea. I have this herniation about the size of a
chicken nugget lima bean (?) that is pressing on the nerve that makes my left leg work and be pain free.
We’ll soon be taking care of that, though. Doc wanted me to have surgery this week, but logistically it wouldn’t work. I’ll be going under the knife on Monday the 8th to have a “PLIF and cortical screw fusion using the O-arm and neuronavigation, using autograft.” Basically they are going to remove the disk, replace it with some of my own bone material, then screw the two vertebrae together, rendering them inflexible. Since it is so low on my back (right above my tail-bone) I won’t lose much (if any) flexibility. Because I’m interested (a little) in what will be going on back there, I looked up some videos on the YouTube. This is the best one that I could find. No worries, it is animated, so there are no blood and guts. Have a look see…
Going to play this one VERY SMART so that I can recover well, not have more back problems, and be better than EV-AH. Anyone have any questions? Fire away…..