I was recently diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. I’m twenty-five. I have had back pain on and off since I was fifteen years old. My doctor (when I was a teenager) had no idea what could be causing me such harsh pain in my lower lumbar (lower back). Oddly, I was never asked to get any type of medical scan (CT, MRI, X-ray, etc.) as a teenager for my back. I wrote it off as stress related because every time I got stressed out about something,I felt pain in my lower back first. In my mid-teen years, I was also diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome. This means that my joints are loosely “put together” (compared to the average persons). While I am super flexible and can do “cool party tricks” it also hurts, everywhere (some spots more than other, depending on what activities I do that day).
When I sat down with my doctor to discuss my MRI (I only learned about the results specific to my back because I asked for a copy of the report from the hospital I got it done at), my doctor agreed that my back’s results in the MRI was rather rare for someone my age. We have five bones in our lumbar. Every disc between my lumbar bones (minus lumbar 1 and lumbar 2) was moderately to severely degenerated, according to the report. My doctor asked me follow up symptoms about my back and came to the conclusion that I got this likely as a result of my genetics, hypermobility syndrome, and the fact that I did horse back riding for almost a decade when I was younger (for those unaware, horse back riding is exceptionally tough on the lower back). My doctor recommended physical therapy for my back, but is unsure how much of it will actually help me since this is primarily a disc problem and not a muscle problem.
My doctor told me going forward the best thing we can do is work preventatively. This means for me to stay away from activities that are known to be rough on my lower back. Unfortunately, this means I am very limited on what I can do for horse back riding. I loved riding when I did it and have been meaning to get back into it, but I am medically advised to stay away from most types of competitive type riding. I can still ride for pleasure (not competitively) as long as I am careful and go slowly so my muscles can build up to the activities I would ask the horse to do while I ride.
My parents are in their sixties. Both of them do not have any type of chronic condition (my dad recently had knee replacement surgery but that is the closest thing). They have always given me a hard time about my chronic conditions. I don’t think it really sank in until I was in college (at least for my mother) when I called her late at night because I was crying I was in so much pain.
Now-a-days, I am living with chronic pain in my back. Some days are worse than others. Most of the time, I just tough it out, but other days I am forced to strap on my corset (I don’t mind the corset because I find it beautiful but to put it on for pain? not my cup of tea) and take one of the many levels of pain pills that I have. I was given the pain pills for my cancer diagnosis, which oddly I use more for my chronic joint conditions than I do for the cancer.
Whenever people ask me about the pain, I tell them imagine playing soccer and then a person kicks the ball and it hits their lower back. Pretty painful, right? Now, imagine living with that everyday. That is the condition my lower back is in. I am dreading my geriatric years bcause my back is already (as my doctor puts it) “an older person’s back”. I am praying that I will never have to get spinal surgery for it since any type of surgery on the back is exceptionally risky with no guaranteed results. I am praying that I won’t ever have to get shots in my back since I know those can be extremely painful.
CBD oil helps take the edge off, but it is still there. Aromatherapy helps take the edge off, but the pain is still there. The only thing (besides the pain pills) that has really given me relief was a back massage by a massage therapist that specialized in the back. My back got a 90 minute massage and the relief lasted for about a week or two.