What can I expect to find from an xray?

Hi Guys,

I'm new to this site. I'm 35 and have been suffering with lower back pain for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I used to lie on the floor with my feed up on the windowsill while watching tv and I can remember getting 'stuck' on a regular basis. I never really made any fuss about it as at first it was the only problem I was having.

Fast forward 20 years, 2 car accidents (2002 & 2012). Before the 2012 accident, I suffered pain the lower left side of my back which radiated down my left leg - usually to my knee and occasionally to my toes. I am never, ever pain free - but for the most part, I'd say a 5 (out of 10) so nothing major although I did have to give up pilates a few years ago due to a crunching sensation. A flare up would affect my left hip, both knees and the pain would increase to a 7-8 during normal activities with anything slightly strenuous taking it to a 10.

Since the accident in August 2012, I've been experiencing these symptoms on both the left and right side, with a lot of leg pain, regularly going past my knees and regularly at a 7-8. The worst of it started settling down around 6 weeks ago and I was able to return to work 4 weeks ago but I'm really struggling to cope with work. I work 3 days a week and am on a phased return but have had to take lots of holidays as I'm really struggling with it. I can't believe how painful it is to sit at a desk and use a computer!!!!! I thought it would be easier to be at work than it is to be at home and try and keep on top of a house, husband and young child!!

I don't usually bother going to the Dr about it very much as I just keep getting told that there are no more painkillers I can take. Muscle relaxants and sleeping tablets are not prescribed on a regular basis so I have only had a 1 week course of each - so I don't see much point in going. Radiographers have refused xrays in the past as its too close to my ovaries, so I have just had my first ever x-ray last week and get the results next week.

Physiotherapists have uncovered suspected disc damage in the lower lumbar region of my spine.

The accident also left me with plantar faciitus, which combined with my back pain has rendered me inactive for months which inturn has lead to significant weight gain - which adds to the pressure on my back and so on and so forth in a vicious cycle!!

I was under the impression disc problems would not show up on an xray so what would be expected to show up? What should I do next if nothing shows?

I've been on Tramadol, Naproxen & paracetamol for the last 4 years and now have ibuprofen gel for my foot. I really want to get off all of these but am also desperate to become more active again for my child.

9 Replies

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  • Maybe you could ask about hydrotherapy where the buoyancy of the water makes movement a bit easier. I have had steriod injections in the ligament for the same foot problem as you and it has helped a lot GOOD LUCK

  • Hi Mistee

    Sorry to hear you are in so much pain.First of all, your GPS is talking rubbish if he is telling you there are no more painkillers you can take.From what you have listed, the painkillers you are on are fairly mild ones.It seems like he is reluctant to prescribe opiates for you but that is what you need for severe pain like you have.Ask him for a referral to the pain clinic.They will be able to order the tests you really need, and prescribe opiates for you.

    The x ray you have had will show boney changes to your spine but what you really need is a ct scan and an mri scan to give a full picture of your spinal problems.From your description of your symptoms, it could be a range of different problems you may have with your back and you really need a proper diagnosis to get the treatment you need .

    I would suggest you ask for a referral too the pain clinic asap , as there is a long wait for an appointment at all of these clinics ( approx 6 months ), but these are the people that will really be able to help you.Good luck.

  • My answer, as usual, is referal to the Pain Clinic.

    In spite of over worked, under funded and under staffed they do know how to help. Self management with pacing yourself, relaxation, pain killers and sometimes alternative therapy. Sounds like you need their advice. With this level of pain and 10 is far too high to be anywhere near tolerable.I doubt you will ever be drug free.

    Pat x

  • Thanks guys, I have my first appt with the pain clinic at the end of March. Im really pleased that you have all recommended going there and with what you've said they can do, I've only been able to speak to 1 person that has ever been to the clinic before and she said they were just trying to get her to cut her activities in order to come off meds so she thought it was a waste of time. And yes, all of the GP's at the doctors are very reluctant to prescribe. For my first 2 years on tramadol i was directed to take 1-2 4 times a day as required, yet only prescribed 100 tablets a month so i was always having 7-10 days without them. I eventually got a med student (its a teaching practice) who happily updated my repeat to 200. They have mentioned that morphine would be the next step medication wise but that they dint really want to move me on to that and to be honest, i don't want to, although it might help with the pain, i need to be clear headed enough to drive my daughter to and from nursery every day and to drive to and from work on the nights that i work, and of course i need to be able to look after my daughter! How much would opiates affect my ability to do these things?

  • Have you looked at how your muscles are functioning. There is often a relationship between muscle behaviour and pain.

    The Alexander Technique is a good place to help you look at this relationship.

  • I had a lot of muscle pain for the first few months after the last accident and found sleeping with an electric blanket on a moderate heat all night to very very helpful, but I've stuck rigidly to my physio regime and the muscular side of things have settled down a lot! I've almost regained a normal range of movement in my neck and arm (or at least normal for me lol!) so it seems mainly skeletal now, but I'll certainly look into that to be sure, thanks!

  • You're doing great by keeping up with the physio regime. Regular exercise can really help chronic pain, even if that seems a bit backwards.

    The comment about the lady who went to the pain clinic and was told to cut down on her activities might be more about something called "pacing". This is about knowing how long you can confortably do something for and sticking to that time limit so that you don't make your pain worse - in my case it means not doing two-hour long ironing sessions that leave me in a bad way, but shorter bouts of ironing that leave with enough energy to do something else later on, after a little rest. It doesn't mean cutting out things from your life altogether. It's quite hard to learn pacing, especially when you have kids and are used to doing everything at 90 miles an hour. But if you can use it a bit you might find you need less medication, not more, and that you will have more energy for your daughter.

    In my experience I cannot even move on tramadol, let alone drive. I have said no to any type of medication that has made me, or potentially could have made me, unable to drive or get through the day safely. (Although I did try most things suggested for at least a short period to see what the effects were, as all drugs effect everyone differently). Hopefully the pain clinic can help you find some alternatives. Medication is not the only answer to pain management.

    Hope your appointment goes well, but just remember that it might take more than that first visit to find some solutions.

  • I have the same response to tramidol. It worked but I couldn't function at all!

  • Don't worry about not being able to drive while taking opiates.I now take oxycodone in large quantities ( 20x20 mg caps per day ) This drug is twice the strength of morphine but I still manage to ride an 1800cc Harley Davidson without any problems

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