How did this happen? I’ve royally messed my back up at the L4-5 level as of January 15, 2011 (according to the MRI), but it has been a long time coming. As I look back on the years, there are definitely a few injuries that have contributed to where I am at today.
First, a little about me. My name is Brett and I’m a 33 year old father, husband and overlord to our cocker spaniel. I’m an avid practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga, play a great deal of ice hockey as a goaltender and really enjoy the outdoors with my young family. I’m 6′ tall, 165 pounds and in the best shape of my life. My diagnosis of Disc Degeneration at L4-5 with stenosis, really caught me out of left field. I’ve been unable to do any of the activities I love for 5 months and I’m worried about the problem degenerating further as discs are unable to repair themselves. It’s been a tough time adjusting to my new reality, but I’ve accepted the fact and have been reading a great deal online to learn about my condition.
My official diagnosis:
L4-5: There is mild disc space narrowing, desiccation and a combination of fatty and edematous endplate signal changes. No paraspinal soft tissue swelling. There may be very minimal enhancement of the disc and adjacent vertebral bodies but this is quite subtle. There is a mild disc bulge identified, eccentric to the left along with a central annular fissure. Mild to moderate degenerative facet joint changes are seen bilaterally with mild thickening of the ligamentum flavum resulting in mild acquired central spinal stenosis and left lateral recess stenosis. There is moderate left and severe right foraminal stenosis predominantly related to encroaching facet degenerative change.
After a visit to my physiotherapist, she essentially told me there was nothing I could really do but strengthen my core and pick up Thai Chi. She implied it would likely get worse and that I’m probably not a candidate for any surgeries. My GP wouldn’t even order me an MRI, called my issue mechanical and basically to suck it up. Only after a visit to an MD that I trust and who specializes in sports injuries, was I able to really get a handle on my condition. I’ve been referred to our local specialists here in Calgary at Caleo. The appointment is set for April 8th and I have no idea what they’re going to tell me.
Here is a short chronology of back injuries that have gotten me to the crippled point I’m at today.
1996 – Touch football game in college between faculties. I take down the head of the comp sci faculty and as we both fall, I end up in the monkey splits and injure my back.
2002 – I re-injure myself after gaining some significant weight and stopping sports (200 ish pounds) and packing up our apartment to move to Australia. Sciatica returns and I’m diagnosed with a bulging disc.
2003 – Injured while doing manual labour in Australia… moving booze in a warehouse. Dream job, really. 😉
2004 – Injured while riding a bike uphill in Australia (I don’t think it ever healed properly from 2002).
2007 – flare ups, but nothing too serious as I slim down to 165 pounds. Xrays show nothing out of the ordinary.
2010 – July. My cocker spaniel inadvertently trips me going down the stairs with a plate of sushi. As I writhe in pain at the base of the stairwell, I remember him polishing off my plate of sushi and licking the soy sauce off my head. My back is still bruised and L4-5 hasn’t been the same since.
2011 – the dreaded MRI, though I had stopped all sports/activity back in September.
Feb 2011 – Here I am, looking for a “cure”