Severe pain in left lower back.

by Steve
(Eddy, TX)

I've been to see numerous chiropractors, general physicians, neuro-surgeons and others. I spotted a picture online of a fellow with a "crooked back" like mine...I lean to the left though. I'm having terrible pain in my left lower back and left hip and leg.

This is probably the 10th episode I've had in the last 23 years. It began as a football injury and has progressed to a life altering problem. I'm basically at the point of complete disability of doing everyday things. Work is out of the question and keeping up with my two small boys is even further from being a possibility.

I've recently had an MRI done and was told that my problems are at L1 through L4. I feel that I've tried everything shy of surgery (chiro, therapy, bed-rest and even spinal injections to control the pain). Being uninsured, surgery seems to be out of the question. I'm just looking everywhere I can for any advice that may be able to help. I live near Waco, TX. I'd appreciate any ideas you might have.

Thanks - Steve

Hello Steve,

You have the classic "Pisa sign" - in medical language, an "antalgia". The posture the body takes to protect the nerve root from a bulging or prolapsed disc.

What part of your leg hurts the most? That will tell us which disc is probably the spanner in the works.

The fact that you lean to the left, and the pain is on the left, tells a vital part of the story. It means the disc is bulging on the medial (inner) side of the nerve root. The condition is called a "Postero-medial" herniation.

Oddly, I love to treat the PM herniation, because it gets better quickly, but get this, it comes back quickly too if you don't go through the six weeks for the disc to heal. In other words, the pain goes away, you stand up straight, faster than the actual disc heals. So, if you play silly buggers inside of that six weeks, it just herniates again. And again. And again... until you end up where you are.

Three strong recommendations: Ask your chiropractor if you have a short left leg - use a small insert in your left shoe. He'll tell you how much, probably 3-5 mm. Is so, wear it for the rest of your life. Even in your slippers, and maybe don't go barefoot if it's that bad.

Start doing a few basic - BASIC - exercises EVERY morning BEFORE getting out of bed. In bed. At go to Lower Back Exercises. Don't pull both knees together onto the chest if you have severe pain on forward flexion. In fact, when my patients are acute I have them do these exercises every half an hour.

Thirdly, start sitting a lot less. Perch on the edge of a desk, watch TV lying down on your back with pillows under your head and shoulders (do the exercises whilst you are there).

Fourthly, don't bend. Go down on ONE knee if you need to pick something off the floor.

Fifth, start icing your back for half an hour, twice a day.

Sixth, lying on your tum on a pile of cushions, ask your wife to use some cream on the back of your thigh and calf, and massage from the left achilles tendon UP towards your buttock. Daily. Not too hard in the calf muscle.

Well, that's a bit more than three! Do that for three weeks, and then report back at this site.

Take digis of your X-rays, and send them to me.

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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