Degenerative Disc Disease


Copyright: Unknown

For years, I have had back pain. I tried, successfully, to live with it, kind of like an unwanted guest that won’t go away, I have learned to compromise my life-style. I have made the best of a bad situation, adjusting my life according to how my unwanted guest would react to things that I might do. For instance, if I am going to be working outside, hand-raking leaves on our acre-plus land, I work slowly, deliberately, so I can respond to any grunts, stabbing pain or motion lock-ups the unwanted guest may send my way.

Recently, after the colonoscopy, I have been in constant pain, a pain to which I was accustomed but now, it is causing me to stop whatever I am doing, much quicker in my activities than before. I wondered what type of acrobatic positions they may have twisted my body into while performing the colonoscopy. I decided that I needed to visit my family doctor.

Yesterday’s visit went well. Dr. P. listened, felt, then asked me to stand and bend forward while he had his hands on either side of my lumbar spine.


Copyright: MMG

“Wow!” He told me that my lumbar spine was “STRAIGHT”, displaying with his hand how a normal spine should flex while bending, mine remains like a swinging gate, unflexible. He wrote out an order for x-rays, physical therapy, Flexeril (muscle relaxer), Mobic (anti-inflammatory) and Percocet (pain) and told me that we would probably end up with an MRI at some point after the P.T. started.

I stopped by the pharmacy on the way home, had lunch with my husband and Googled the exact location of the Health Plex where the x-rays would be taken. Within three hours of leaving my doctor’s office, his nurse phoned me with the x-ray results. Her voice was shaking and I knew the news was going to be bad because while sitting in the x-ray room waiting for the technicians to ‘ok’ the films, I peeked and saw what I thought was scoliosis. When I told her that I thought it was scoliosis, she told me no, but it is bad. “You have SEVERE degenerative disc disease! Your spine has been through extreme wear and tear!” Whew, I was starting to worry that it might be something serious like a growth – more cancer! This little brochure from Houston Methodist Orthopedics explains, in a nutshell, the symptoms, causes and various treatments for this condition.

Meanwhile, my shortness of breath still occurs. I have been through the CT Scan which showed no problems, visited with a cardiologist who tells me that my heart is strong and functions normally but he is waiting for the results from my sleep test which occurs tomorrow night (01/22/14). While visiting with my family doctor yesterday, he listened to my lungs and shook his head, “Your airways are VERY clear! Your breathing is strong and unobstructed!”


Copyright: MAD Magazine

So, what the heck is wrong with my breathing? Could something have happened during my bilateral mastectomy surgery? If so, why wouldn’t it show up on a CT Scan? Why have I not regained my energy, five months after my surgery? Could it be something as simple as the weight of the tissue expanders upon my chest? Or, as my doctor queried, could it be stress? Am I stressed about something?

What possibly could I be stressed over?



16 responses to “Degenerative Disc Disease

  1. Wow! Guess what? I also have degenerative disc disease!! It’s in my lower spine and neck. Some discs are completely dead (I had surgery on them at 28 when I blew three having my first baby) and the ones in my neck are half dead….I also have degenerative something or other going on in the vertebrae in my lower neck. I have been on lodine and xanaflex since 2003. What are we – twins separated at birth or what???? ☺ I had a doctor tell me “what can I say? You were put together with a really crappy spine”……oh, ok, well, thanks very much. I am going to make an appointment with an integrative md to talk about bone issues etc and this is going to also be part of the full package of all that is Laura.

    PT helps, a lot. I have been in and out of it too many times to count. But it seems as soon as I am out for a few months I am back in pain. I also get massages which tends to help some of the muscles that are constantly spazzing which, I think, holds my body upright.

    Please keep us updated on what’s going on and holler if you have any questions about anything I can help you with. I have been dealing with this (*&*%$%%&* for far too many years.

    And yes on the pressure from your expanders. I don’t think I was able to take a decent breath the entire time they were riding around on my chest. I called mine my hockey pucks. If you look back on my blog between Sept 2011 and Dec 2011 you can see if wrote anything about difficulty breathing during expansion. If you want to of course! ☺

    Laura Renegar [MC900432691[1]]
    Accounting Manager
    Primax Properties
    1100 East Morehead Street
    Charlotte, NC 28204
    704-954-7219 Direct Line
    704-975-5037 Cell
    704-374-1416 Fax


    • YOU are WONDERFUL!!! I was so very much hoping that someone could offer some of their own experiences with the same problems. I will ABSOLUTELY look for anything you wrote regarding the tissue expanders. I’ve only about 6 weeks to go before they are gone.

      I guess in the meanwhile, it’s a good thing that I’m having all of these other tests carried out and I do count myself lucky that things like my heart are good and working properly. Life could be a whole lot worse.
      Thank you so much!! 😀


  2. Hi, while I was reading your post. I remembered a poem I wrote earlier – Hope that you will like it. Stay blessed 🙂


  3. 1) Five months is not a long time. Recovery takes longer than that and you cannot hurry your body. Give yourself a break!

    2) The drugs you were taking to suppress hormones wreak havoc on any problems you had with arthritis or disk disease. I have massive spinal arthritis and spondylolithesis (etc.), not to mention a broken spinal fusion that got much much worse after the cancer. Unfortunately, stopping the medications doesn’t undo the damage. You will learn to live with it. DO NOT LET ANYONE NEAR YOU WITH A SCAPEL! The surgery is far worse than whatever is going on now. Surgeons love performing surgery, but don’t do it.

    3) Quite probably PT won’t help much. Stay as active as you can without straining yourself and if there’s a pool available, swim. And walk in the water (harder than it sounds). PT can do as much harm as good. Pain, in this case, is NOT gain.

    You’ll get used to the looks of appalled horror at your x-rays. I expect it. I finally found an ortho guy who doesn’t go into a fainting spell. Last time I saw him, about 6 months ago, I said “It’s much worse. It really hurts. It’s hard to do anything.”

    “Yup,” he said.

    “Is there anything you can do to make it better?”

    “No. I could perform surgery, but that would make me richer, but wouldn’t make you feel better. We can manage the pain (he was referring to corisone injections in my spine and hips), but other than that, there’s nothing to be done. It is what it is.”

    He’s the top ortho-neurology spine guy in Boston and that’s saying a lot. He’s also famous for not going straight to surgery as the solution to all problems.

    Be wary of those who say they can fix you. This kind of thing doesn’t fix. It’s just there and stays there. Usually, it reaches a plateau and stays there for a long time. The post-breast cancer drugs change the balance, but since you’re off them now, it will rebalance with time.

    And finally, breast cancer surgery, especially the good old double mastectomy, leaves pain behind. It’s 2-1/2 years and it still hurts some. I’ve been assured it probably always will, at least a little. I deal with it because I don’t have a choice. Neither do any of us. It kind of sucks, but consider the alternative.


    • Thank you Marilyn, I am so grateful for your taking the time to comment on posts of mine where I am clearly reaching out to my blogging friends. You always tell it like it is and that’s what I want!

      I decided a long time ago that I would NOT let anyone operate on my spine, we definitely share that opinion! 🙂


      • There are times when it’s necessary, but not for any of these degnerative conditions. These are just your permanent friends 🙂 It sucks, but there’s nothing to be done. If there were, I’d be doing it!


        • I just received the report from the doctor’s office. Let’s see, some of the terms used are, dextroscoliosis, rightward curvature, severe facet and moderate disc degeneration at L3-4 with a few millimeters anterollsthesis of L3 of L4… severe face and severe disc narrowing and degeneration at L4-5…

          I’m pretty sure that the whole reason to go to physical therapy is to try and reduce the stranglehold spasm in that area. Physical therapy may help the muscles spasm, but can do nothing for the discs. There is nothing they can do about those discs and I am not going to take a chance on any kind of surgery. Yes, it sucks big time! 😀


          • Things that help: A really good heating pad! Actually, it’s essential. By a soft one that you can lay on when you first go to bed. I can only stand the heat — even on low — for me than 10 minutes or so, unless the back is really spasming. But boy those minutes make a big difference.

            A REALLY comfortable bed and if you can swing it, an adjustable. It makes a monumental difference… like night and day!

            Swimming. A hot tub if you have access to one. Gentle stretching. Stress on GENTLE.

            The cortisone shots help, but only until they wear off and it’s such a tease, I won’t do it anymore unless I’m traveling and want to have a few weeks of feeling normal. Otherwise, having a month of pain free followed by the pain coming pack is worse than if it never left.

            Having a disk removed can be a pretty simple relatively safe procedure and relieve a lot of pain, as long as they don’t decide to rebuild you with nuts and bolts. That’s what they wanted to do to me and I said — and meant it — I’d rather be dead.


            • It all comes down to quality versus quantity of life and having my spine held together with hardware sounds too dangerous for me.

              I’ve got a good heating pad, a sleep number bed that I bought a few years ago because of my bad back, it was worth the investment but I still ended up with this massive spasm.

              I think I’d forego the shots, I would not like going back and forth between feeling good and then the big let down, too much of a roller coaster for me.

              Have you written about your experience with this on your blog and what would I use as search terms?

              Are you taking prescription NSAIDS or any other drugs regularly?


              • I had to construct a post because you asked the question, which is what took me so long to answer. (1) It’ll show up on my sight in the morning. The posts were buried so deep, the search on my own site couldn’t unearth them. (2) I take tylenol and demerol. Tylonel up to the limit that’s safe and demerol often in the morning when I wake up and can’t move. I have allergies and ulceration issues with most narcotics and all things aspirin related. I took vioxx for a long time and it helped, but then it started to make me sick and I had to stop. IF you can take them, they are much better than narcotics. More effective by far. (3) The shots are great when you absolutely positively NEED to be on your feet. That trip to Paris you’ve always wanted to take. Disneyworld. It’s not the same on a scooter. Thought I gotta tellya, those scooters are GREAT. Eventually I’ll give in and get one of my own. (4) A number mattress is nothing like an adjustable bed. You can get a number mattress FOR an adjustable bed. My best friend just did exactly that and she is out of pain for the first time in 20 years. She’s one of the club: asthma, back problems, and breast cancer. But she also has glaucoma and a few other things. We are so lucky, huh?


  4. My favorite thing is when a doctor–with my records screaming CANCER right in their hand–suggest or ask if I’m stressed! Ha ha.


  5. Ugh, you have about a gillion things to be stressed about, this is nuts 😦


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