Chronic Back Pain
March 15, 2014 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Chronic back pain every night with no explanation from doctors. Looking for explanation.

Hey guys how is everyone doing? So for about a few months now I have been getting chronic back pain every single night (no not exaggerating).

A little about me - Im 29 years old, slim, and eat pretty healthy. I do sports when I can and walk a lot.

So since I was 19 - 20 years old I had an onset of some excruciating pain in my leg and found out a year later that I had a pinched nerve or more commonly named sciatica. I pushed myself to do some more physical activities to try and rid the pain and it worked for the most part. I still get sciatica but usually once or twice every other month and it doesn't last long.

But then last year in november I started waking up in the morning with some back pain. Initially I thought this was stress related so I didnt think anything of it. And once I got out of bed I would walk around and the pain would vanish in a couple of mins.

Its been almost a year now and the pain gets so bad that it wakes me up almost every single night. Ive been put on gabapentin to help me sleep but even still sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night. But again once I get up and walk around for a few mins the pain vanishes.

Ive been to numerous specialists, doctors and chiropractors. Ive had multiple Xrays, MRI's and tests and everything and everyone is telling me things are normal. My chiropractor is the only one telling me that my back alignment is slightly off which could be contributing to the pain, but every doctor has told me that my back has nothing unusual about it, and that almost everyone has a slight alignment issue.

Ive been wanting to put on some weight and go to the gym. My personal trainer is telling me it would be a great benefit to me to work on strengthening my back while my chiropractor is telling me i can never go to a gym again. Doctors have said going to the gym should not be a problem at all and if my back starts to get worse to stop.

So here I am. I have absolutely no idea what is wrong with my back. Ive tried my best to pay attention to the times that it gets bad to see if I can find any patterns or anything that might set it off. But nothing. Ive been doing well as far as just putting up with it, but it would be an absolute unspeakable joy to have it rid so that I may sleep good for just one or 2 days. One thing I have noticed is that my sciatica isnt acting up like it used to, its almost non-existent which I find odd.

My question is - has anyone gone through this? Is anyone now going through this? What could it possibly be? Would love some thoughts on this...

P.S its usually mid and upper back pain never lower.
posted by red47Apple to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe too simplistic, but could you need a different mattress? Is the pain still there in different beds?
posted by cecic at 6:03 PM on March 15, 2014

A bit of a long shot, but a few years ago I was having a similar issue and it turned out to be caused by a Vitamin D deficiency. Given that this started in November (assuming you're in the northern hemisphere) and has gotten worse as the winter has gone on, it's worth looking into.
posted by lunasol at 6:04 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It is still there even with different mattress's
posted by red47Apple at 6:04 PM on March 15, 2014

I had a girlfriend with chronic back problems from a young age, including sciatica, who finally managed to overcome them with cranial sacrum therapy. As a result, she left the entertainment industry to study and eventually became a healing masseuse/bodyworker herself. The problem is finding a practitioner who really understands bodywork and doesn't just offer massage. Though this doesn't relate to your back issues, for what it's worth, the only personal experience I've had with a cranial sacrum worker is when my son broke his nose and it couldn't be reset by a physician. We took him to a cranial sacrum therapist who, over the course of many sessions, managed to realign his nose -- not perfectly, but close enough.
posted by zagyzebra at 6:20 PM on March 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to sleep on my back and found that I was getting a lot of back pain between my shoulder blades and mid back, turned out to be terrible indigestion/acidy reflux that just showed up with unusual symptoms. The pain was so bad I'd want to cry, sitting up or walking around for a few minutes usually helped me which is why I suggest it.
posted by wwax at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2014

Have you looked at the following treatment modalities:
- massage therapy with a highly trained therapist with a background in sports, orthopedics, or rehab
- physical therapy with corrective strength and stretch progeam
- personal training with kinesiologist or physical therapy delegate to introduce a functional strength program after you have done corrective/rehab exercises

You will likely have to screen several professionals in each modality until you find one you can work with.

Your chiropractor is not supporting your functional goals so I suggest you dump him. If imaging is showing nothing then it's soft tissue injury of some description, you should be able to rehab it.

You will kiss a lot of frogs when finding professionals to help you safely rehab but keep looking. You are paying these people. Quickly dump anybody that won't help you.

I personally like the treatment team approach to rehab, and I pay the big bucks for physio, kinesiologist, massage. Doc does the imaging but I hire and run the team that implements a program that supports my functional goals. I am rehabbing hip and elbow, not back, so obviously my mileage varies. Having these three pros at my disposal have drastically speeded recovery and reduced pain.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

I had a similar thing, where I would sleep for around 5 hours every night, then wake up with pain that wouldn't go away until I sat up for 30 minutes. The doctor told me to exercise, specifically by swimming. I ended up going to a gym, losing weight and strengthening my back muscles and the nightly pain went away. If you want to follow your chiropractor's advice and avoid the gym, yoga is also good for strengthening your back. I don't think going to a gym is harmful though.

I've also used the book "Back Care Basics" to learn some basic exercises. It has a nice slow ramp up and explains back pain well.
posted by nevan at 6:31 PM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

This may sound weird, but the fact that it wakes you up and goes away when you move reminds me a lot of restless leg syndrome. It can sometimes manifest itself in other parts of the body. There's no tried and true treatment for it, but you could try an iron supplement; that helps some people with RLS.

If it doesn't hurt you when you're moving on, I see no issue with going to the gym. Just start slow.
posted by metasarah at 7:28 PM on March 15, 2014

If you have pain and/or stifness particularly in the morning I'd go see a rheumatologist right away. IMNYD but this sounds like what I had when I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilitis. This is usually very difficult to diagnose and begins with pain and morning stifness that gets better as you start moving around. I remember being in so much pain that I used to cry because I couldn't get out of bed. There is a genetic test called HLAb 27 that tests whether you are carrying the AS gene. You may have AS even if you don't carry the gene and only a good rheumatologist will be able to correctly diagnose you.

Let us know how it goes. Hopefully you feel better soon. Questions - send me memail :)
posted by rippersid at 7:55 PM on March 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I still had my gallbladder, stones and all, the pain hit when I was lying down; sitting up or standing/walking relieved it. Reflux can also feel like a drill boring through your back.

I didn't know that restless legs could cause a similar condition, but there IS an amazing medicine for restless legs - it's called Requip, generic is ropinirole. It has almost no side effects and no problems with other meds, but it absolutely stops the whole impulse to kick those legs.
My pharmacist recommended it to me when a sleep study showed my legs kicking an average of 39 times an hour - one ropinirole a night and no more restless legs.

The fact that your pain only hits when you're lying down should help your doctors figure out its source, but it's possible that if they're looking for musculoskeletal pain and that's not working, your GI system might be the next stop.
posted by aryma at 10:35 PM on March 15, 2014

I think crazycanuck's idea about physical therapy is a great one - have you tried it already?

I know there are people out there who swear by chiropractors, but I want you to be aware for the purposes of this discussion that chiropractic is based on pseudoscience and that the treatments have not proven to be effective for most conditions.

I urge you not to give equal weight to the opinion of your chiropractor versus the opinions of your physicians. Especially if your chiropractor is telling you there is something healthy (exercise) that you can never do again. You mention this pain started in November of last year, so it's really only been less than 6 months since it began - don't give up yet, I have faith you can get through this!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:53 PM on March 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

I suffered a back injury last year that left me with sciatica and lower-back pain. The only thing that has reliably helped is physical therapy paired with 2x weekly clinical Pilates, with my physiotherapist as the instructor. The difference is amazing. My physio identified some weak and tight muscles, and we work together to strengthen them, as well as my core. Highly, highly recommended.

I understand the urge to work with a chiropractor — sometimes, it seems like they are the only ones that take back pain seriously. Try a physiotherapist instead; a good one will listen to your concerns and work with you until you find relief.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:42 AM on March 16, 2014

I have similar pain, mostly at night in mid back that goes away as soon as i get up. Docs say they can not see anything wrong. After many years and trying lots of diffrent specilists and stretches etc. Here is what I have come up with:
It seems I stop using part of my back muscles and they "freeze" then they hurt like crazy. The solution for me is to move.
Thai chi, massage and physical therapy have all helped. Currently I am using back care videos by Anate Baniel, her stuff is all on-line. It is a form of feldenkrais movement. I am now 90% pain free. Slow gentle easy movment has been the most effective, stength training only in small sessions. Tight muscles trigger the pain so keep them loose. Good luck!
posted by Playswithdirt at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2014

I used to work in bookstores and bad lifting habits caused sciatica. Strengthening my stomach and back muscles and learning to lift properly and use a hand truck resolved it.

Get a physical if you haven't had one in a while, just because back pain can be a symptom of other bad stuff. Pretty much everybody seems to be vitamin D deficient, so adding some is probably a good idea. I have had extremely poor results from chiropractors, and would be cautious.
posted by theora55 at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2014

« Older Please help me identify these gross things on my...   |   Question for people with OCD Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.