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Degenerative Discs, Anyone?

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ThatFatGirl

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I saw an orthopedist Monday for the lower back pain I've been experiencing for the last few months (actually on and off for years, but really bad the last few months). I had x-rays and an examination and his diagnosis was degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. DDD is just a fancy term for wear and tear on the discs, not a real disease and it's extremely common whether you're fat or thin depending on your lifestyle (age, occupation or injury), but basically my discs are flattened out in my lower lumber area and their shock absorbing capability has gone kaputt.

His first suggestion for me was (of course) weight loss surgery to lighten the load. I told him that wasn't for me, but that I will continue my efforts to lose weight slowly on my own. He also told me to go to physical therapy three times a week for twelve weeks for back strengthening. He said I could continue on my muscle relaxer and Naproxen regimen for as long as I need to. My general practitioner prescribed a prednisone pack for me last week and with that, I had my first real pain relief. I've not had any back spasms since the prednisone. Today, I've just got a dull ache. I use the heating pad on and off all day and that helps. I move around as much as I can, walk around the apartment, etc. to avoid stiffness. I start physical therapy tomorrow and I'm dreading it. The doctor said it will hurt and it's supposed to hurt some just like any good workout, but it should improve over time and that stronger muscles in my back will pick up the slack where my discs fail.

I was wondering how other plus size people are dealing with this condition.

Does weight loss really make a significant difference in how your back feels? The doctor used the example of holding a gallon of milk out in front of you in your hand versus holding it close to your body. I get that.. but my mother-in-law has the same condition, is not fat, and it sounds like her pain is as great or greater than mine.

Did the physical therapy really work? Does the back pain ever go away completely - at least until you reach or bend wrong again...?

If you've taken prednisone for the inflammation and it worked, how long does the relief last? How frequently do you take it for pain? I know this isn't something you want to take any more than you absolutely have to, but it really was the first thing to work for me.

What over-the-counter meds help? Supplements? From what I've read online glucosamine likely won't help my back, but I've been having some knee and hip pain lately, so I'm starting on this now to try to help keep those parts working properly.

How about chiropractic care or acupuncture?

I've not been too good to my body over the years. My sedentary lifestyle, age and weight are totally catching up with me. I feel there's still time to get a handle on things and live a more healthy life, improve my mobility and hopefully experience a lot less back pain. I'd love to hear from others (heavy or not) who are dealing with similar issues and what's working for you. Thanks. :)
 

Miss Vickie

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I've been seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist for years and years and years for my low back pain, and it does help some. After my WLS and weight loss, it got much better, but due to the kind of work I do, wrangling women in labor, it started getting bad again.

So out of desperation (and because my insurance company covers it) I tried acupuncture. Well. I'll be damned if it didn't make it 99% better in just three visits.

I'm a believer, while I was definitely a skeptic. I would do that long before cortisone injections or surgery. Everyone I know who's had those has had perhaps short term improvement, followed by rapid decline.
 

ThatFatGirl

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I've been seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist for years and years and years for my low back pain, and it does help some. After my WLS and weight loss, it got much better, but due to the kind of work I do, wrangling women in labor, it started getting bad again.

So out of desperation (and because my insurance company covers it) I tried acupuncture. Well. I'll be damned if it didn't make it 99% better in just three visits.

I'm a believer, while I was definitely a skeptic. I would do that long before cortisone injections or surgery. Everyone I know who's had those has had perhaps short term improvement, followed by rapid decline.
I have such a huge fear of chiropractic care, every time I think I'm over it and ready to give it a try, I chicken out. But acupuncture I feel very good about. I'm happy to hear it worked for you for lower back pain! I think this is a route for relief I'll have to look into.

Did you lay on your back or your stomach for the acupuncture? Currently, I have a tough time doing either at doctor's offices and at PT, but I think after a few weeks of strengthening at PT, I will feel more confident about climbing on and off tables, laying down, etc.

I'm completely ignorant about the treatment, so forgive me if this is a stupid question, but do you think having lymphedema and extremely sensitive skin on my legs will be a problem? I have no idea where any of the needles are typically placed. :/
 

Jes

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What over-the-counter meds help? Supplements? From what I've read online glucosamine likely won't help my back, but I've been having some knee and hip pain lately, so I'm starting on this now to try to help keep those parts working properly.

)
Keep in mind that this stuff has lots of sodium and that can be bad in terms of blood pressure.

I can't offer you the feedback you want because I'm not in that boat, but I will suggest massage therapy if you can go that route, along with your other treatments. Some insurance plans may even cover a portion of massage which was a surprise to me, so you might look into that. I'm going to try shiatsu because, hey, 80 billion asian people can't be wrong!

Finally, you gave an example of your mother in law and how her weight affects her condition, but that's probably not the best way to think about this. Only you can know how your weight will affect you, and you can only know if weight loss would help if you lose weight. Good luck to you. Chronic pain is really depressing. There's a reason that a whole subculture of practioners and treatments has grown up around the issue!
 

ThatFatGirl

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Keep in mind that this stuff has lots of sodium and that can be bad in terms of blood pressure.

I can't offer you the feedback you want because I'm not in that boat, but I will suggest massage therapy if you can go that route, along with your other treatments. Some insurance plans may even cover a portion of massage which was a surprise to me, so you might look into that. I'm going to try shiatsu because, hey, 80 billion asian people can't be wrong!

Finally, you gave an example of your mother in law and how her weight affects her condition, but that's probably not the best way to think about this. Only you can know how your weight will affect you, and you can only know if weight loss would help if you lose weight. Good luck to you. Chronic pain is really depressing. There's a reason that a whole subculture of practioners and treatments has grown up around the issue!
Yikes. I had no idea about the sodium content in glucosamine. That is definitely a concern for me. Thanks for the heads-up.

I'm also very much up for massage therapy. It sounds like I will be getting some massage in my upcoming PT sessions too. I'm excited about that. I was offered it last night, but I really don't feel stable enough to lay on the tables there. Soon, though. Hopefully.
 

Miss Vickie

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I have such a huge fear of chiropractic care, every time I think I'm over it and ready to give it a try, I chicken out. But acupuncture I feel very good about. I'm happy to hear it worked for you for lower back pain! I think this is a route for relief I'll have to look into.
I completely understand the fear of chiropractic. I think that had I not had such a positive experience as a child, I'd be in fear of it. But I'd had chronic torticollis from about four years of age, and while my pediatrician could only offer baby aspirin (!!!) and lumbar punctures and x rays, my mom's boss, a chiropractor, was able to make me well. After literally years of pain, she healed me in a matter of minutes. It was remarkable. But I've also been to bad chiropractors, charletans who wanted to make money on having me come back over and over and over again. So I can see the dilemma.

Did you lay on your back or your stomach for the acupuncture? Currently, I have a tough time doing either at doctor's offices and at PT, but I think after a few weeks of strengthening at PT, I will feel more confident about climbing on and off tables, laying down, etc.
For the first two visits, I laid on my back. Needles went into my calves and arms, and one on top of my head. He had my knees up on pillows to help my low back be comfortable, and the massage table had one of these things on it which I think did almost as much as the needling. I started to feel better just lying on the mat, and then the acupuncture just really ramped up the healing. I continue to have some shoulder and side pain from an exacerbation of my Sarcoidosis, but each time I go, I feel a lot better. (It's only later, when I go back to work, that it gets bad again).

Last week he asked if I could lay on my stomach, and so I did and he did more needles, in my shoulders and legs. It wasn't as comfortable as being on my back, but I felt a different, more intense relief.

I'm completely ignorant about the treatment, so forgive me if this is a stupid question, but do you think having lymphedema and extremely sensitive skin on my legs will be a problem? I have no idea where any of the needles are typically placed. :/
You know, I don't know about the lymphedema, but it might even help it, maybe? It would definitely be worth pursuing. If they didn't work on your legs, they can work on your arms. The meridians go everywhere, so even if your legs were off limits, others might be able to be accessed. I wonder if maybe the acupuncture could help your lymphedema. I noticed that after one of my treatments I had vastly improved circulation, and peed out about five pounds of fluid the next morning.

Oh and in my experience it doesn't hurt. They're not like needles used for injections, but rather flexible, hair-thin fibers. The point gets activated which is a momentary "zing" but I wouldn't describe it as painful.

Can you tell I'm hooked?
 

truebebeblue

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I have DD and two congenitally fused discs , did a year of PT prior to WLS. Ooo all those letters.hah
The PT helped me alot in regards to being able to stand and walk.. The weight loss helped the most honestly. I still do have painful days here and there but usually it will due to sleeping odd or a strain.
I hope you start to feel better whatever path you take... back pain is horrible
 

ThatFatGirl

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I have DD and two congenitally fused discs , did a year of PT prior to WLS. Ooo all those letters.hah
The PT helped me alot in regards to being able to stand and walk.. The weight loss helped the most honestly. I still do have painful days here and there but usually it will due to sleeping odd or a strain.
I hope you start to feel better whatever path you take... back pain is horrible
Thank you and I'm glad to hear you've got things mostly in check with your back. I can't imagine an entire year of PT!
 

Jes

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I've enjoyed the limited acupuncture I've had. the needles are soft, flexible and just lightly tapped into the skin. It's truly nothing to be afraid of, and having had it done, I can't imagine skin conditions being prohibitive to a therapeutic result.
 

BBWBecky

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BBWBecky,
I have degenerative disc disorder....was diagnoised in 2005 when I had to have my first back surgery..which was a spinal ligation of my L3 to S1 areas.I had no spinal fluid flow to the lower part of my spine....second surgery was a spinal fusion of my c5 and c6 vertebraes...and right now I have 3 herniated discs from my L3 to S2 area now...
I have yet to find anything that will help relieve the pain and muscle spasm that I have been dealing with way before I was found to have this disorder.. One this that was amazing to my...was my doctor never mentioned anything about my losing weight or havin a breast reduction I'm a 44 DD and weight 265.5 .....I guessI was lucky to find a fat friendly back doctor....
 

GrowingBoy

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About 5 years ago I had ankle and hip pain that made it difficult to walk, as well as lower back pain. The doctor diagnosed me with degenerate disk disease which he indicated was due to my weight. In addition to telling me to lose a hundred pounds, he prescribed physical therapy. After 8 months of physical therapy produced no improvements, he recommended an operation.

Fortunately for me, when I told my physical therapist about the recommendation, he confessed to me that he was concerned that I had been misdiagnosed, and urged me to get a second opinion. The second opinion was that I had a rotated pelvis that was pulling my back out of alignment, and that the ankle pain was not "referred" but was just osteo-arthritis that might be helped with Triplex Flex.

After two weeks of a custom weights program and Triple Flex my back was dramatically better and I could walk easily again. I never went back to the first doctor again.
 

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