Compression Fracture of L1 vertebrae and chronic back pain

Hello, first time posting here. Has anyone had ongoing severe chronic back pain from breaking their back? Four years ago a wave at the beach dumped me into the ground breaking my back (L1). It was classed as stable so I was put in a back brace for 5 months. It was excruciating pain. Even though my spinal cord wasn't effected it took me a long time to function on my own. I couldn't get out of bed without assistance, shower or even go to the toilet as I couldn't wipe myself (sorry if TMI)

Now four years later I'm still unable to work from my pain being so bad and need to lay down a lot as being upright is so painful. I've done everything but a spinal fusion which I've had 4 opinions from different surgeons saying they advise against it as I may end up worse.

I have done everything from Rehab, hydro pool, Physio, injections, ketamine infusions, 4 spinal cord stimulator trials - the list goes on. I'm currently seeing a chiropractor which I've always been against as I'm desperate. I'm also seeing a pain psychologist to help manage my pain. I take 90mg of slow release OxyContin, 10mg oxycodone, diazepam, cymbalta each day. As soon as I try to drop my dosage my pain levels go up.

Has anyone found any answers if they are in the same situation as me? is it time to accept this is my life like the professionals are telling me?

I have had a baby during All of this and it's the hardest most wonderful thing that's happened to me. I want to be better for my baby girl and would love another baby. I can't burden my family with that though as they have to help me with her everyday while my husband is at work.

Sorry for the long post but sometimes it's worth asking...

19 Replies

  • Welcome to Pain Concern on Health Unlocked. We have some excellent members here offering support and information and I'm sure you'll find them very helpful.

    .Best wishes


  • But as usual no one has answers along with the doctors😣

  • Hi Dan, yes I've tried lyrica and gabapentin 😞

    Have tried anything other than diazepam as my doctors haven't offered anything but them and opioids.

  • You say: "It was classed as stable so I was put in a back brace for 5 months." This looks like the possible origin of your pain. Unfortunately the solution can be quite painful.

    Muscles have nerves for contracting instructions, but no nerves to tell a muscle to uncontract. Muscles to uncontract rely on other muscles to uncontract them. Being in a back brace for 5 months has meant that many muscles in the back have contracted and have not been able to uncontract.

    The contracted muscles need to be uncontracted. This can be a slow process. I know this because I broke a bone in my wrist. The result of this was that many muscles in my forearm went into spasm. It took me several months of various exercises to get the muscles to lengthen out again. It was a painful process.

    Have a look at the above web site about the rolfing technique. My suspicion is that you need deep massage techniques to get at the shortened muscles and get them to lengthen out. Stretching contracted muscle can be quite painful. Normally I would think chiropractor. However, you are likely to have have lots of tight muscles. So any chiropractic adjustment which provides relief is unlikely to hold.

    Google "muscle trains" this will give you some useful information that you may find useful.

    Yoga is an important discipline to take up. You need to find someone who has an understanding of pain issues.

    Alexander Technique is another useful therapy which I would normally recommend. However in this case I am not sure if it would be instantly effective. It will be effective once a lot of shortened muscle has been legthened out again.

    You have several months of work ahead of you. Good luck.

    It is an unfortunate fact that the medical profession know very little about the pain and discomfort that over tight muscles cause. Trails on pain killers have been done as the pharmaceutical companies have provided lots of money. Trails on muscles have not been done because there is no money for big companies to make.

  • Hi there, I suspect John is right as you must be stiff as a board by now and there are so many pain generators in the spine when stiffness sets in. It's particularly hard for you having had a baby and not being fully able to care. I really feel for you but you must be relatively young and with physical therapy is there any further reason why you couldn't make a good recovery? The fracture must be long healed? Can you get on a program to get you moving again? There will be pain until good muscle function is restored. Not sure I'd go for Rolfing but certainly someone experienced in such things... Keep us posted. :)

  • Hi

    Normally "Rolfing" is something that I would never consider. I came across this 40 years ago. It may be totally different now compared to what it was then. So I may be very much out of date.

    I mentioned Rolfing because my understanding of it was that it was a very deep tissue massage discipline. So the practitioner would have at their finger tips the deep massage skills needed to lengthen out deep over contracted muscle.

    If I am wrong in my assumption can you let me know.

  • Hi John, I only hesitate with the rolfing as this is usually an entire body remodelling (at least it was 15 years ago when I tried it) taking up a lot of time and expense. I think if you've got a specific problem then modern therapies are probably quicker and more functional. Personally, I found Rolfing a bit flaky... it's all very well working with the fascia, unwinding years of emotional and physical unease (dis-ease) as someone pummels aberrant tissues into rebirth but you still have to get off the massage table and use yourself. Alexander better in this regard I think. :)

  • Thanks for the reply.

    You have more knowledge on this matter than me. One of the failings of Alexander is that it has no way of dealing with muscle which has decided to go into spasm. It can stop the spasm of muscle making things worse than need be in regard to posture. I found the McTimony chiropractic complemented the Alexander reasonably well.

    When you have lots of muscle spasms which need to be dealt with I cannot see how either Alexander or McTimony can be helpful until the number of muscles in spasm are reduced. Hence my reasoning in regard to the deep massaging of rolfing.

    Rolfing to reduce the vast numbers of muscle in spasm to a point where McTimony and Alexander become the better option.

    Your are the expert here. Is my reasoning sensible or have I missunderstood something?

    Look forward to your reply on this.

  • Hi John, no expert! Just seem to have tried most things! I see your reasoning here and you're right, muscle spasm is the wild card and I suspect we might all be a bit different here in how to break the cycle of spasms. Definitely not Rolfing - it's too aggressive. In the midst of spasm sometimes you just have to go with the flow and do nothing. Take the Valium and wait for it to pass. Some people believe you can use reciprocal muscles to break the spasms so in theory reverse curls for example would strongly engage tummy muscles and switch off back. This has never worked for me. Gentle massage has actually made me worse too so mctimoney didn't do it either. Acupuncture is supposed to be good and has got me moving again once..its supposed to work by stopping the aberrant info in the Golgi muscle bundle thingy... In my experience these spasms are a result of pushing a spinal segment beyond where it will allow. Boom! My own I think result from disc instability and arthritic joints now so it's a question of putting up with them. Alexander should negate the spasms altogether as its preventative. In reality if you've got the curse of the degenerative discs then one may well encounter episodes of instability where the ability of the disc to do what you want it to do is compromised and will stop you in your tracks! 😐

  • You say: "I suspect we might all be a bit different here in how to break the cycle of spasms."

    I have a suspicion that you are right. So the question is how does one design experiments to prove this? The medical consultants have this word they use called anecdotal. They fail to realise that they are the anecdotal ones, but how do I design the experiment to prove this. And how do I get the backing of the appropriate medical consultant to do the experiment?

    My GP has got the graphs from me demonstrating the problem of treatment regimes. There is this new thing called University public engagement. Older researchers still want to keep the public at arms length. Younger researchers like the idea of the public engaging. Opportunities for ear bending are beginning to take place.

    Any thoughts gratefully received.

  • Yes John, younger generations are more generous with their knowledge and research - open source etc.. Collaboration.... :)

    I don't know why you'd want to design a muscle experiment for muscular spasms tho as they are surely just part and parcel of the cascade of degeneration: wear and tear, inflammation, toxic chemical stimulation and nerves gone haywire.... I think research is moving forward just end focused rather than symptom based. So rather than looking at muscle spasm per se the research would look at types of collagen for example and how genes predispose some people to early breakdown...

    Best wishes 😀

  • "muscular spasms" could be a chicken and egg scenario. Which came first the chicken or the egg?

    Muscle contraction is determined by a combination of instructions from the spine and the brain. There is the possibility that the brain could give the wrong instructions to a muscle resulting in a muscle spasm. The feedback loops resulting from this can possibly lead to various forms of health disability. My experience of Alexander and McTimony chiropractic and T'ai Chi has lead me to this belief.

    I know muscle spasm can be caused by nerve electrical input. There may be other reasons for muscle spasm like a localised chemical imbalance. Or it could be a combination of both.

    My belief fits certain health disability scenarios and may be an influence in others. Belief is not proof. Hence the need for being able to engage in continual experiment.

    Had my PIP interview a short while ago (don't know the result yet). I was interviewed by an occupational therapist. I had the devil of a job explaining to the occupational therapist the concept of the human body being an engineering system which is affected by stress overload. The more things going wrong, the more the stress and the closer to overload on the brain you get. I still have the suspicion that the occupational therapist did not get what I was talking about.

  • John, as an 'expert patient' you will have a job getting the establishment on side - sadly. I have long since given up having such conversations...

    When the answers finally arrive I imagine they will come from the least expected source... there are men circling earth in space ships but we are still struggling with the mystery of the spine... :(

  • Thanks all for your responses. I am currently seeing a chiropractor that does something called Gonstead. They xrayed my whole back before they touched me and a lot of issues came up. I get huge amounts of upper back pain to the point where I can't stand up. They said when I fractured my L1 I most likely did a little damage to my T6 plus its been over compensating for the other damage in my back. They showed that it's slighted tilted and pressing a little on a disc and made promises of adjusting that area and my L1 to give me better function and pain relief. When they do the adjustment on the day I feel better for a couple of hours and then go back to how I was. Been going for a few months.

    Anyway I'm 36 years old and I'm trying to more walking and not lay down so my muscles are moving. It's just so hard and painful. I'm so lucky I have my baby as she is my world even if I need so many people to help with her. I can't even put her in the car to take her to the shops or go out for a coffee. I get angry at myself that I can't be a 'normal' mother.

    Again thanks for reading and taking the time to give me advice.

  • It is really hard for you with the baby. I feel for you. I met someone like you in physio rehab many years ago when I first had my back problem. She had developed back pain during the pregnancy and was in such pain throughout that they induced the baby early but she continued to have the pain. The horrible rehab physio told her she would never hold her baby! Happily that never happened! She stopped the rehab (it was rubbish!) and I didn't see her for a while and then met on the street much breezier. She had chanced upon a mature personal trainer at the local gym who had had back surgery in the past and after some time had sorted out his own back - happily he sorted out her back too! It's hard to have faith but please try....I'm sure you will find a way forward - you are so young. Never heard of Gonstead but it sounds reasonable (from my viewpoint) what they are saying. Just a bit worried you aren't seeing much progress for the time and presumably money! May be worth while telling which part of the country you live in case someone here can recommend a good practitioner - one that can get you moving and give you specific insights into your problem not just talking! What I mean is that you may need specific exercises to do that both relieves and corrects the problem....

    I think that part of the back is a problem for most women anyway because that's where most bra straps lock up movement... Mine's sore anyway. Sorry, stopping rambling now.... big hugs to you.

  • Hello LiaG,

    I think that the advice that johnsmith gives, always has sound sense and experience behind it. I would certainly look into what he advises. I also have a very difficult situation going on with my back and legs.

    I have had xrays an MRI Scan, Physio and am trying lots of alternative therapies at the moment. I am going to try Remedial Massage Therapy starting next week. I don't know about Rolfing that johnsmith mentioned, maybe it's rather like the remedial massage. The basic principle seems to be to relax over constricted muscles. I have also started taking Turmeric capsules after weeks of research into which one was the best that I could access in the UK. I found one that came recommended called Curamed through Hadley Wood Healthcare. It's for the inflammation/pain that I want to try it.

    My heart went out to you when you said that you just wanted to be a 'normal' mother.

    I also have daughters, your little girl will love you whatever, she won't judge you. So please don't judge yourself to be inadequate ! Many of us have health problems as parents, it makes us much more sensitive to others. In many ways it makes you a better person, because you are able to face challenges that would floor other people.

    You sound like a a really nice person, please don't despair. You are still young and you will find an answer. It's a long road that we are all travelling on. The best part is meeting others along the way who understand, and the ones who by chance or design, that can make a real difference.

  • Sorry to hear that you're in so much pain and discomfort. I too have been in the same place you talk about, being unable to shower and reluctant to use the loo - it's not a nice place to be at all.

    I too have been prescribed a cocktail of meds, that don't really do what they are meant to do. I did experience a weekend on diazepam recently, it was bliss, i was able to relax, and more importantly I had some deep sleep. Unfortunately my GP won't allow me to re-visit that euphoric place again. I'm not entirely sure why, because I was given some relief.

    Earlier on in the year I had a 2 week residential stay at a rehab physio centre. Here they focussed on relaxation and brain training. Several times a day I would visit the hydro pool and then spend short periods on an anti gravity treadmill (AlterG). It may be worth your while if you could find a local facility that has this machine, (google AlterG treadmill, it really is an incredible piece of kit).

    I was also taught how to relax, it may sound silly, but now I do this by wrapping myself up in a 12 foot maternity pillow, (£25 on eBay), propped up in a slope position on the sofa, (not sitting up and not laying down - somewhere half between). I have a mini tower fan that rests on my shoulder and resonates a gentle vibration through my head, whilst blowing cool air on my face. Here I can relax and often fall asleep for short periods of time.

    As a few other posters have mentioned, keeping mobile is important. Sometimes easier said than done, I know this. I regularly take to the street in the very early hours, firstly because I can't sleep due to pain spasms, but also because no-one will see me shuffling at a snails pace. I also acquired an extendable hiking pole with an anti-shock feature, (£5 on eBay), this has been very useful.

    Yoga is fantastic. I go to a Yoga class once a week, aimed specifically at back exercises. We're not doing head stands and chanting, it's more akin to gentle stretching, balance and breathing. I repeat the exercises everyday, and have a couple of favourite poses that I actually enjoy doing and the pain relief is sometimes instant, (pigeon pose is nice).

    I think the bottom line is, nobody knows what is good for you, it's all trial and error. What I do know, for me at least, relaxation and regular movement seem to help.

    I hope you get some relief soon, best wishes.

  • Vertebroplasty

  • Vertebroplasty

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