Stiff lower back every morning & a feeling like my lower back has gone with a sharp pain when I slump in a chair

by Jan
(Peterborough, UK)

Hello there and thank you very much for your time.

My problem first started at the end of January this year. I stood up quickly in the shower as I was cleaning it, twisted, and heard 3 loud cracks in my mid back and my legs gave way with each one.

I had some muscle guarding and pain but 12 weeks later I was on the mend, bit stiff first thing, but did some exercises to loosen my back off and I thought I was out of the woods!

I did go to see a chiro for this injury but she wanted to wait for my bone scan and MRI results to come through before seeing me again as I've had breast cancer.

Then came the daily 'argh that's my back' sharp nerve pains and jolts whenever I bent forward either on the edge of the bed, or the toilet. Sometimes I could get all the way downstairs and thinking 'yay, not getting one today' only to get a worse jolt when I sat (slight slump) down to eat my breakfast. Following these jolts I would have lower back pain, however I could move freely and bend and it was like I had nothing wrong with me, once the aching feeling had gone off. Then the following morning it all starts off again and I've had 3 months of this daily pattern.

Hospital in May did a bone scan as I had breast cancer 10 years ago. It was clear. Then followed an MRI in June. All fine except for some 'L5/S1 degeneration and minor bulging on right side but no focal protrusion and maintained exit foramina and central canal throughout.'
I haven't had a an X-Ray.

I am seeing a physio who has done 3 x deep tissue massages on me and says my muscles are very stiff and just they need assistance to switch off now. I decided to attend the physio as I was having muscle spasms in my neck, shoulder and back and couldn't even lift a kettle or pull open a heavyish door without getting a spasm. Scapula and pectoral stretching exercises have now sorted this out, (see below).

Every day my back is grinding and clicking but not little clicks/cracks, my whole lower spine feels very unstable and when I stand in the neutral spine position to help my lordosis (physio said I have it) it clonks.
My right shoulder is also clonking when I lift it laterally, then it inflames.

Two days ago after the 'argh that's my back sudden pain' I started getting a big clonk too. Today my mid-back is clonking every time I sit up straight.

I keep telling my doctor I think I have some facet joint trouble but she assures me this would've shown up in my MRI.

I work from home and I'm doing pelvic tilts, knee rolling, cat/cow, child's prayer and some scapular exercises with a green stretch band religiously, 3 times a day.

I'm just at a loss now what to do now. My doctor referred me back to my oncologist two days ago as all my blood tests for inflammatory diseases and Vitamin D deficiency are all negative. She has put me on Gabapentin 100mg 3 times a day so a low dose. This at least has deadened the nerve pain of the daily morning jolts and lower back pain.

I'm 54 and weigh 11 stone 9lbs. I have had a double mastectomy (2007) with a reconstruction (2010) on my left side using my left side latissimus dorsi muscle. I am also left handed.

I guess I am at a disadvantage from the offset as I am of balance.

May I please ask you what your opinion is?

Many, many thanks
Best wishes

Hello Jan,
Firstly a general comment; having had any form of cancer, even after ten years, it's vital to eat a clean and healthy diet; cut out the crap, or it will come back. In particular, do some reading on lignans; eat them daily.

I very much doubt any of this is cancer related. Clearly something is going on in your lower back. Advanced degenerative change would have been seen on the MRI, but all disease comes in mild and serious forms; a facet lock in a joint in the lower back would not draw attention on the MRI; but leave this and that facet will become arthritic. Or it could be in the SI joint, and you already know there are lumbo sacral disc problems developing.

If you sit in a normal kitchen chair, flex your head on your chest, and then hubby raises your leg parallel to the ground, first right and then left, is there pain or tightness? Repeat with a slumped back.

It's great that you are exercising; do them at least once in bed before arising.

Perhaps it's time to take your MRI back to your chiropractor who made the right decision initially; further tests were indicated.

Dr Barrie Lewis

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