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Straight up - How helpful is PT for DDD? (and other questions)

Ginger2GGinger2 Posts: 16
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I was just diagnosed yesterday with multi-level DDD, so I'm still learning. I have a lot of disk dessication (lumbar) and three bulging disks. But the doc said that it's the joints that are causing me crippling pain. Enlarged joints press against nerves. To be more exact, facet hypertrophy in four places and posterior element hypertrophy in one place. I was feeling very sorry for myself since I'm only 52. But after reading more on here, I'm a heck of a lot luckier than a lot of folks, so I'll try to quit feeling sorry for myself!

Most of my pain is in my right hip and leg. A back brace has been a Godsend! But I understand that I can't wear it forever. Eventually, muscles will atrophy. I'm scheduled to start physical therapy. Frankly, I'm not real hopeful that it will provide a lot of relief, not as much as the brace is giving me. If I don't wear the back brace, I must walk bent way over. If I'm in the brace, both sitting and standing are more comfortable, but I still can't stand for long or walk very far before I need to rest. I walk with a limp. My leg feels quite weak and is numb in places.

I know that injections are an option, but it seems from what I have read here that it's something of a crap shoot as to whether they will provide relief or cause additional pain. Any thoughts on that?

Nights really suck. There is no sleeping position (including using stacks of pillows under my knees) that lasts more than a few hours. How do people here deal with sleeping?

Another question: I have been out of work for more than a year. The jobs that are available are stuff like cashiers at convenience stores, so I have concentrated on home improvements. But now I am afraid that no one will want to hire me in this condition. There is no way to hide it. Even if I were to wear the brace under a suit, I'm still pitched slightly forward and my limp is obvious. Are my fears valid?

Thanks for all the help.



  • I don't have the answers to all your questions, but just wanted to let you know that I'm in nearly the same boat...maybe paddling one right next to yours ;)

    I tried injections. They made me feel wonderful for about 2 weeks and I was doing things I have not been able to do comfortably in 5-7 years. It was amazing. And then it went away and left me with a present. 18 lbs!!! I'm a big girl already, so that was NOT what I needed. If the feeling would have lasted longer, it would have totally been worth it though, because the relief was amazing!

    As far as work...I have not worked in 4 years and am trying to get disability. I can't unload my dishwasher, let alone hold down a job.

    Best of luck to you. This forum has tons of information and lots and lots of people of all ages (30 here) that know exactly what you are going through. I hope you find the thing that works for you :)
  • I have been dealing with on and off back issues for over 9 years. PT is usually tried first as it is the most conservative treatment. I have been to PT so many times they wanted to name one of the treatment rooms after me.... =))
    The PT I did for lower back helped and I went back several times. Once PT no longer worked it was on to the injections. The do work for me on my lower back, just wish they did for my cervical spine.
    My OS said the fact that the injections work is a great sign because if it progresses to where I need surgery he knows that the surgery will relieve my pain. Since they don't work for my neck, not a very good guarantee that surgery would stop the pain only stabilize.
    Good luck with your PT, don't let them push you to pain, remember you are in charge not PT.
    Let us know how you do.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014, pseudo arthrosis suspected 2017, diagnosed  2019.  Revision C6/C7 pending. Multiple ruptured discs lumbar, l2-s1.
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  • Physical Therapy worked great for me. It took some time to build up strength and achieve pain relief. I went on two seperate occasions for six weeks each time, three times a week. After it was over, I continued to do the exercises my therapist recommended until I had another injury. I stopped doing my exercises, basically losing the strength I had achieved. I had to start all over. At least this time I had the knowledge of what exercises would help and some great tips and tricks to help deal with the pain.

    I also had some relief with the Epidural Steroid Injections. The first round (two visits and three injections) worked well. I had almost no nerve pain for about 4 months. The second round (three visits and six injections) didn't work as well. It basically only took the edge off. The doctors are leaving it up to me on if I want to give them another try.

    Good luck to you in your journey to pain relief. I hope your first attempts are successful.
  • BlueSkiesBBlueSkies Posts: 58
    edited 06/26/2012 - 7:25 AM
    I am like you in that although I have problems other than the facet joint arthritis and hypertrophy, my doctor thinks most of my pain is caused by the issues in the facet joints. (I'm 47).

    I am the kind of person who responds well to just about everything. Almost everything we've tried has helped me. Physical therapy? Excellent. Epidural steroid injections for sciatica? Miraculous. TENS unit? Love it, call it "Mr. Buzzy", take it everywhere. Flector patches? Yes please. Lidocaine patches? Don't mind if I do! Meditation, massage, prayer, relaxation methods? yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    Facet joint injections? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Plus they hurt because my doctor doesn't sedate people for that, just uses a local. I had left and right done at 2 levels. It hurt like the dickens and didn't help one bit. I was so disappointed! Still, I am going to try them again. First off, just because something doesn't work once doesn't mean it won't work the second time, and everything deserves a second chance in situations like this, and secondly because I was recently informed by a person on this board that they are considered diagnostic for another procedure, RFA.

    If I can't sleep, I have Ambien, but I don't like taking it because for some reason, it makes me eat in my sleep. :) I can't tell you how many times I've woken up in the morning with food in my teeth and wondered what it was...not a fun experience!! lol

    Are your fears valid about not be employable? I can't say. I am retired (yes, I retired young...good planning!) However, I just last Friday agreed to take a position in the public schools assisting the teacher in the 3 and 4-year-old pre-K program. It's reverse mainstreaming, so there are about 5 children with disabilities (from Down's syndrome to autism to physical disabilities) and 15 children without disabilities. It's only 3 hours a day, there are 3 other aids, I won't have to lift, and I have decided that for me, it will help me more than it will hurt me. Just another step in trying to throw everything I can at this pain...I'm determined to win! :)
  • JohnJJohn Posts: 963
    edited 06/26/2012 - 10:41 AM
    I teach, any distraction from thinking of pain is a good idea and using your skills to help other benefits you as well as them. One would expect DDD to have multi-faceted origins and to that extent any intervention where pain can be managed is a subsidiary aspect of keeping active and attempting to pace under the pain.

    I would rate those aspect that do help in order of effectiveness and use the best, that openness in accepting new ideas and change will help, 3 hours is a commitment. The most successful concept is the collective of simultaneous tools used in unity rather than one magic thing. If you live with pain everyday then you are already a winner as that in itself is a bit achievement that doing things a second time is important as a solution is not an exhaustible list, it is sometimes easy to dismiss an idea as not working where given more emphasis it may do so, the key is to find what works for you as an individual based on ideas from others.

    Do everything that makes the pain less if possible and nothing to make it worse, that sounds easy it is not, a positive open to change attitude is important and I wish you well in your current objective.

    Take care, John UK.

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  • I got some relief with aquatherapy with a PT for awhile until that caused a flare up and fear of trying again and one thing i enjoy with the PT is the Inferential therapy for the lower back as it takes down inflammation on the lower back. It's quite a commitment to go for the therapy 2 or 3 times a week so get a place close to you and hopefully they have experience with the lower back.

    I'm going for facet joint injections in August and if a candidate will get Radio frequency ablation RFA done for my prominent facets and see if it will ease up the nerve pain in my lower back since all methods for pain relief have failed and I'm 52 now also after 4 pain Drs hoping this will help with my DDD and facet join issues. Daily walking with a cane and frequent sitting helps well not daily walking since it's so hard to do everyday but even 2 or 3 days a week to start with when you're able.

    I was lucky to have Long Term Disability at my job as I don't qualify for any job right now since injuring my back over 4 years ago. My sciatica in my leg has improved from walking and having one disc herniation heal on it's own. Cymbalta helps at times for a short run with a flare up and I have the Fentanyl patch which helps somewhat for lower back pain.

    Make sure with any injection they do it with fluoroscope live x-ray so the Dr. know exactly where he's putting the injection. I did get some relief from a hip and SI injections once but will not do any more steroid injections after so many. I guess many of us will try anything at the time, but I hope PT will help. John and others here have been a great support to me over the years here. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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