We've all been there. Those of us who share this elusive diagnosis. Lying with our backs on the bed, staring at the ceiling fan wondering when this agonizing pain will subside. Taking 'as needed' pain medication, breathing slowly deeply, trying to meditate on a far away planet until we regain sanity again. But, usually we can attribute it to something. We over did it, kept going the other day with no rest or reprieve. Started lifting heavy objects while helping someone move. Or, there was an all-day family affair, and we were feeling on top of the world and just stayed too late, feeling those effects slowly creeping on us as we're saying our goodbyes.
But what if you're down flat on your back and can't move? Your mind wanders aimlessly trying to latch onto a possibility so that it doesn't happen again? And nothing comes up? Pure panic I can attest. To make things worse you can't get up to go to the bathroom? To get a drink? To make something to eat?
Well, that's a whole 'nother animal I can tell you. It descends like a plague of fear that you can't get a grip on.
Recently, I walked out to my garage. I was going to take my bike out and go for a leisurely spin. There was a candy cane on a table and part of it was touching my handlebars. It was light plastic and weighed all of 5 ounces. I moved it to the left on a table about six inches to free my bike. I didn't bend down, I didn't twist. I just moved it. All of a sudden I felt a "tinge". I've had these before. I stretch, but usually I can do a little work and then just migrate to a heating pad for a few hours. It wasn't too bad, really. I went shopping that day, and even made it to the beach on Sunday. I went to work on Monday with a heating pad and just babied that lower area being careful not to move too much. By Tuesday it felt better so I took the heating pad home. On Wednesday morning I woke up nearly pain free and went into work again without the heating pad.
For some reason by noon the right side of my back began spasming. My co-worker had one of those lay over the chair seat pad massagers that provides heat. I quickly slipped that on and laid back for a bi,t taking in deep breaths. I had to go outside to retrieve the mail. "Maybe this will loosen things up," I thought. I barely made it 200 yards before there was definitely a feel of a hot knife jabbing into my lower vertebrates along with all those back spasms. I stayed. Not a bright idea, but I just had taken off four days for a virus-type sickness. "Let me get through a couple of more hours," I prayed. I held myself up in the chair, trying to straighten my back and pasted a smile on my face.
I got home around 5 pm. I asked my youngest son to plug in the heating pad. Something was wrong I explained as this pain was from another dimension. I eased myself down, and that was it. Thirty minutes later I could not move. Not anywhere. Not rolling from left to right, not even reaching for my drink on my nightstand. My legs, though, I could prop up on a 90 degree angle to relieve some of the back spasms. Then I waited. I took medication to ease the agony, but it barely took the edge off.
Three hours later into this intense pain I had to go to the bathroom. My dear son looked up the best way to get out of bed with debilitating back pain on the Internet. "Ok, Mom, let me get an ice block. If we press on the nerve we can freeze it. You just need to roll onto your stomach, slide/crab crawl down to the edge of the bed. Then put one foot on the floor, and I will lift you up quickly but steadily," he said.
So the nightmare began. Move a few inches, place the ice block firmly in the area, wait a minute and move again. On and on we proceed for 10 minutes until my on foot is on the floor. "Ok, you ok?" he asks.
"No," I answer, but I have to go.
"Ok, take a deep breath, I'm going to put my arms under you to help support your torso and I'm ready," he responds.
Up I go, and I scream. Scream so loud because the pain is excrutiating. I can't seem to put any pressure on that disk in my back. "What can I do?" he asks.
Put your two hands out, let me place my palms in them from behind I state. And on I walk at a 120 degree angle like an old Popeye cartoon. Gasping for breath and yelling. Yes, yelling it was worse than childbirth.
He lowers me, and I can't pee. Well, pee a little I do, but how can you when you are in that much pain? I've never experienced such intensity. I quickly finish and make my way back to the bed. This only intensifies the spasms, and I must endure more pain for another 30 minutes.
Another two hours I call him with my cell phone. He is sleeping in the next room. "It's time for another round," I say. This time the pain flares for over an hour when I get back into bed.
By 4 am I grab a towel to do my business. I'm done. I'm beaten. I can't do this any longer. I feel like a broken doll. I can't move, I'm alone, and I'm scared. Worst of all, the pain is still there immobilizing me.
By the am I call my doctor and my son scours the local stores to find a bedpan with no luck. He comes back with puppy pads. "That will have to do," I say. My doctor informs me of what medications to take. No one seems concerned, they see this all the time apparently. My friends are yelling to go to the ER. "How?" I ask them. "I can't even move!"
By the third day the spasms have subsided. I try to sit up, still unable to put any pressure on my back. It is still excruciating. My primary instructs me to call my neurologist. Five hours later his assistant calls back with instructions. "Double your muscle relaxers," she says.
"It has been three days!" I yell. "I can't go to the bathroom. Should I go the the ER?" I ask.
"Do you have feeling in your legs? Are you able to go to the bathroom?"
"Yes and yes," I reply.
"Most likely no," she says. "I got an appointment for you in four days. Hang in there," and hangs up.
I take the muscle relaxers as instructed. Six hours later I can get up with the help of a cane. By the following day I can move around a bit more and more. It takes five days of bed rest before I can attempt work. I call the assistant again, "Is this normal?" I ask. "Should I go back to work?"
"No, wait until your appointment. He'll give you a work release to go back when he sees you tomorrow," she says.
I hang up and order a bed pain on Amazon just in case this happens again. No more trying to make things worse the next time by moving I think.
During my appointment he checks me. Makes me stand. Makes me bend over, tests my reflexes and orders an MRI and an EMG. "We will have to wait and see," he says.
"Is this normal? I mean pain to migrate like that? For over a week?" I demand.
"Yes," he says.
"Just peachy," I think. "Just peachy."
But apparently this does happen. I probably could have saved myself some agony by just lying still. I wanted to share this for all the other Avenger/Ninjas who will attempt and struggle to get out of bed. Don't, just lie there till it passes. Get someone to wait on you. You won't be able to move anyway.
Here is some more points from the Illinois Back Institute:
Often, the most debilitating lower back pain, for both men and women, is the type that comes on suddenly, leaving you in significant pain with limited mobility. The severity of the pain and the suddenness can be alarming—but it’s very common. In the vast majority of cases, this back pain is not related to a serious disease or severe back problem, but could be due to something simple like muscle spasm or another musculoskeletal cause. When the exact origin of back pain isn’t clear, it’s referred to as nonspecific low back pain. This “mechanical” back pain is generally eased by lying down flat and made worse when you move your back, sneeze or cough.
The next most likely cause of sudden onset back pain is irritation to the nerve root emanating from the spinal cord, called sciatica. What makes sciatica pain distinct is that you generally also feel pain down one or both buttocks and thighs, even into the calf or foot. You may also feel pins and needles and/or numbness/weakness through the buttock, leg and on down along the entire path of the sciatic nerve. Nearly 90 percent of the time, this pain is caused by a slipped disc, also called a bulging or prolapsed disc pressing on the nearby nerve.
Disc injuries can come to light suddenly with minimal trauma--and as much as one-third of the population at any given time are walking around with disc bulges. These previously painless, silent back problems can suddenly begin to put pressure on the spinal cord nerves--when you do something as minor as bending to pick up a pen from the floor. Then the pain begins.
Less common conditions causing low back pain
Cauda equina syndrome is rare, but considered an emergency. Permanent nerve damage may result. Get medical attention immediately if you suspect cauda equina. This disorder causes pressure on nerves at the very bottom of the spinal cord with symptoms which may include:
- Lower back pain
- Bowel and bladder problems like inability to pass urine
- Numb sensation in the saddle region, below the tailbone
- Leg weakness
Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis causing spinal pain and joint inflammation in older people. Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that may strike young adults, bringing on pain and lower back stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis may affect the spine along with other joints throughout the body. Telltale signs of these arthritic conditions include:
- Pain that gets worse hours after going to bed or upon waking
- Stiffness, in addition to back pain, in the morning after rising, lasting over 30 minutes
- Pain eased (and not made worse) by activity
Rare bone disorders, tumors and infection cause less than 1 percent of sudden onset low back pain. Symptoms and signs may include:
- Onset of non-injury-related back pain in someone over 50 or under 20 years old
- History of cancer of any part of the body
- Depressed immune system
- Unexplained weight loss
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (enlargement of the abdominal artery) occurs mostly in males over 60 who smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Symptoms include:
- Pulsating feeling near the navel
- Constant pain in the abdomen/side of abdomen
- Back pain
So, if you don't fall into one of those above categories. Don't freak out. Call your doctor. If I had to do it all over again, I would have went right to the the specialist, my neurologist. I feel I would have hit the ground walking faster. I was just so emotionally immobilized, too, with fear. Which of course, doesn't help. My hopes in you reading this, you will be aware and act rationally realizing that it will pass. No, you will not be stuck in that bed forever. God Bless, and hang in there.