Hi all- this post may be long but I want to start from the beginning so you can get the whole story.
When I was 15 years old I bent over wrong and suffered excruciating back pain and nerve pain down my leg. Since that episode 5 years ago, I've had back pain on and off. However, around April of this year, I experienced a flare up that just wouldn't go away. I'm a college student so I'm constantly sitting in class, sitting to study, sitting to drive, and walking around campus. Typically sitting for prolonged periods of time or exercising brings the pain back. I tried icing it, heating it, and my normal stretches that usually alleviate the pain in my lower back, but it still persisted. I kept pushing through the pain and ended up taking a summer job where half of the days I was on my feet all day attending to kids, and the other half I was sitting at a desk for hours at a time. The pain would be excruciating after a day sitting at the desk.
Finally, in the middle of summer, I went to physical therapy for my pain. They assessed me and said there was no need for an MRI because it was obvious that anterior pelvic tilt was causing my pain. After 3 weeks and no improvement, I was fed up and demanded a MRI. I could barely walk because of the pain in my lower back accompanied by muscle spasms. Sitting and driving was unbearable. I also would get a shooting pain down my left leg to my thigh and weakness in my right thigh upon standing for a while.
The MRI showed spondylolisthesis with pars defects of S1, a possible herniation between L4/L5, a buldging disc L3/L4, disc degeneration L3-S1, bone growth, and a few cysts. The orthopedic surgeon told me the only option is to do a L4-S1 fusion from the front and back with screws. He gave me a steroid pack and gabapentin 300mg per day. I was also given a velcro back brace and celebrex 200 mg 2x per day.
I started physical therapy a few weeks after my visit and I was seeing a lot of improvement. I was able to walk around the house (with the brace) with minimal pain and the nerve pain in my legs was decreasing. Then one day, I was standing for a few hours while company was over at my house, and that night I was in excruciating pain in my back and both legs felt so weak (like I had the flu x10). I ended up taking percocet because the pain was unbearable. After that flare up, I regressed a bit. I was feeling terrible weakness in my right thigh, even when laying down. A few weeks after that flare up, I had another one almost identical after lifting a box (I didn't even bend).
Since my initial flare up, the back pain has decreased, but the thigh weakness just won't go away. I cry almost everyday because I just can't shake the pain and I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this. I dropped out of school for the semester and I definitely won't be able to go next semester. I can't drive, I can't sit, even when I'm a passenger in a car I recline the seat all the way back. I spend most of my day laying on my back with my knees bent and walk around for a few minutes every hour. These years should be the best of my life, and instead I feel like I'm wasting away on my bed. I know eventually I will have to have the fusion-- but I really want to try to avoid it as long as possible. I know it's risky and because of the degeneration of L3/4, I may find myself in the same situation years down the line. I guess I just want to know if there is anyone out there who has spondylolisthesis and manages it, or has had the fusion and is living a normal, pain-free life. I really, really don't want to hear about anyone who had a botched fusion and lives in excruciating pain-- I've read a few posts like that and it just makes me feel hopeless and scared.
Also, I just scheduled an appointment with an acupuncturist (even though I can't lay on my stomach, so that should be interesting), and an pain management specialist. I hate the thought of going to a chiropractor but if I don't see more improvement in the next month I'll have to give in.
Sorry if this is too long or feels like I'm complaining, I am just desperate for any help/advice I can get. Thank you.