Long time readers here at The Mad Reviewer are probably aware that I’ve been dealing with chronic back pain for nearly five years now. For the first time in five years, I have good news on that front.
After years of being called a liar, a drug-seeker and an attention whore by doctors I finally, finally have a diagnosis. My pain is not all in my head. Rather, I have what’s known as benign Hypermobility Syndrome (for those of you looking for more info, MedicineNet does a great job of explaining it). Now of course having loose ligaments doesn’t cause pain in and of itself but in my case Hypermobility Syndrome allowed me to bend so far backward that I actually slightly damaged the right facet on my L5 vertebra. This in turn caused the muscles of my lower back to tense up, causing the initial lower back pain. Because those muscles were tense, the muscles of my upper back also tensed up, causing additional pain to the point where everything from the small of my back to between my scapulae was in intense pain constantly. On a scale of 1-10 with ten being the worst pain imaginable, I would put my back pain at a 6-8 on an average day (slightly less painful than getting dry socket when I had my wisdom teeth out but more painful than my adult tonsillectomy).
Obviously, being in constant pain and being called a faker by literally dozens of doctors did nothing to help my situation. I became depressed and generally hopeless. I had hoped that moving to the city and getting out of my hellish small town would improve things but that seemed not to be the case. The pain kept getting worse and I was getting even more miserable.
Finally, in April 2016 I was diagnosed with benign Hypermobility Syndrome by a specialist who actually has the same condition (and passed it on to both of his daughters). He recommended physiotherapy, which I did religiously for four months with no improvements. All the while, my new family physician and I were trying different anti-inflammatories and other non-narcotic pain management drugs in an attempt to at least take the edge off for me. After my third round of physiotherapy failed and my pain became even worse, I was in a dark place mentally. Depressed, wanting the pain to just end. And finally, it did.
I have been largely pain-free since March 23, 2017 and I can’t tell you how emotional I am right now typing this sentence. For years I was called a liar and a faker and even though I had a diagnosis for almost a full year, no course of treatment seemed to be working. Until my doctor suggested yet another anti-inflammatory medication and I gave it a go. It took a week to really kick in but my daily pain levels since March 23 have been as low as zero and as high as six. That’s a far cry from a daily pain level of 6-8 with absolutely no zero days, let me tell you!
Living without pain has been an odd adjustment. I’m ridiculously relieved that I finally have a non-addictive effective treatment that takes my daily pain level down to zero. It’s hard to believe but after five years of being in constant pain I couldn’t remember what it was like to not be in pain. Even though I’d only been in pain for less than a quarter of my life, pain had robbed me of the ability to remember my normal life before my genetics and my body betrayed me. So now that I wake up without pain and go to bed with no pain, I feel very odd. When I was in pain it always occupied a corner of my mind but now that it’s gone I have to learn how to focus 100% on what I’m currently doing instead of always being aware of my back. To say these past two months have been a bit of an adjustment period is really an understatement.
I feel like I finally have my life back now. That I have the ability to be who I’ve always wanted to be. That’s why I’m still living in the city and am actually attending university this summer (and into the fall/winter terms) now in order to get a Bachelor of Kinesiology in Exercise and Sport Studies. My eventual goal is to attend medical school and become a physician so I can help patients like myself get the treatment they deserve. And if that doesn’t work out, I hope to get a Masters in Physical Therapy so I can help people cope with injuries, aging and genetic conditions like mine.
For the first time in five years, I feel like I can finally make some of my dreams come true. Being largely pain free has given me my life back and I hope to make something out of it. Not everyone with chronic pain is as lucky as I have been.