Has anyone experience of a weight-bearing MRI? Please help

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Hi,

To cut a very long story short I have had chronic pain (sciatica from my left buttock and into my foot) for five years now. I have had seven flat MRI scans all of which show L5/S1 and L3/4 prolapses and DD with an anular tear but no nerve root impingement.

I have been hospitalised twice last year with foot drop and for urinary issues and have had nerve conduction tests that show damage to my sciatic nerve. I was on the maximum dose of Pregabalin and was pain free but have had to reduce my dose due to problems with working as a teacher heavily medicated and weight gain.

I am seriously considering a weigh-bearing scan as the only thing I can do to relieve the pain is to lay on my right-hand side for weeks on end which suggests to me that the disc is pushing onto the nerve when standing or sitting.

I am absolutely desperate now to prove that the disc is the problem, some consultants have said as much but without the MRI I cannont be a candidate for surgery. This is ruining my life and having such a negative impact on my family. Please give me your feedback, I will have to travel to Leeds and spend around £800 for the scan so I really could do with hearing from other people .

Many thanks,

Helen

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  • Posted

    Helen,

    I had the same problem but had a discetomy that turned into a fusion I don't see why they wouldn't do this for you, but again im in the USA and been through everything under the sun before the pt blew our the disc and I lost function of my bodily functions and had that emergency surgery, long story short had fusion died came back told my story and now I've been living in pain for 19 years with a SCS spinal cord stimulator that seems to be making alot worse. I would plee for them to do something before you end up like me in pain for many years.

    Best of luck

    Cynthia (Cindy) USA

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    • Posted

      Hi Cynthia,

      That sounds like a terrible situation I really feel for you. I think that two things in particular have prevented them from going down the surgery route the main one being that the prolapse doesn't show nerve impingement on the MRI (despite all my symptoms) and that I have responded well to conservative treatment ie. the Pregabalin. I have pleaded and cried to a number of consultants I have seen a Neurosurgeon, Neurologist and Neurophysiologist and have been tested for everything from MS to Lymes Disease. Thanks for your reply and I hope that you get some pain relief.

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    • Posted

      Helen

      And I also hope you find relief and answers, I just don't want you to end up like me, went to physical therapy in the pool and that's were it all went wrong she wasn't paying attention to me put me right in front of the jet that was on high and it blew out my disc and it was a nightmare after that, emergency surgeries dr tell them I was nuts cuz when that happened the disc cut my nerves and my leg and foot felt like it was on fire it took a year for me to get the fusion and the dr tried with a ganhlionectomy to try and put nerves back together with no relief have drop foot and no sensation in left leg n foot. So I'm hoping someday someone will come up with some kind of pain relief I felt like my life and livelihood was just taken away, but I'm grateful to be able to do most things but in pain, can't walk or sit long, sleep I don't know what that is haha, but maybe someday

      Lots of luck to you in finding answers and relief I'm always on here.

      Good luck!!

      Cynthia(Cindy) across the pond as my friend Graham would say lol

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    • Posted

      Goodness Cindy, that is a horrendous story, I'll be carefull when in the hydro pool in future. I'm going back to see my doctor tomorrow to see what her opinion of an standing or sitting MRI is. Thanks for your reponses, really helpful!

      All the best

      Helen

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  • Posted

    With the evidence right there on your prior MRIS I don't know why you would need a weight bearing mri. Surgery usually does more harm than good in the lumbar area, even if the short term it works. That is probably why your doctor's have not recommended surgery at this point. Pain certainly makes you think it would be better with any surgery, but in reality the best course is to try to find any non invasive treatment possible. There may be better options in the future or in other places, but since I see thousands of people ever year with every imaginable stage of this, both with and without surgery, I can tell you that there is no cure all, and just having another MRI, whether it's flat or otherwise, will not help in the long run. Stretching, building supporting muscles, and keeping your weight low is the best non invasive thing to do. Surgery is always, ALWAYS, the very last resort. The lumbar area is a very tough area to do surgery on and not damage other nerves in the process. It's like "cut off my arm because my finger hurts". That's just my opinion and experience.

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    • Posted

      Hi thanks for your reply, I have tried everything over the past five years to sort the pain and problem. This happened when I was twelve weeks pregnant with my son who is now 4, it has been a long and painful road. Last year things got particularly bad with complete foot drop (I now have ann automatic car) and two episodes of bladder issues the situation seems to be getting worse. Pregabalin is the only medication that has given me any relief but with that has come significant weight gain. I work full time as a teacher and have two small children to care for, life has become so unbearable due to the pain. Not to mention the financial cost (forced to go part time due to being unable to stand or sit)

      I am considering the MRI because the argument has always been that there is no nerve root compression on the scan. I was thinking that if it shows more when weight-bearing then I may be a candidate for surgery. I am not keen to have surgery but cannont see any other option to help with this now. 

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  • Posted

    I’ve had a CT scan on my lumbar spine and a three part spine plus pelvic MRI that has not diagnosed my problem.

    I asked about a weight bearing scan and was told that I cannot have one because of my pacemaker even though it is MRI compatible. I asked osteopath about it and he said that it would not show anything that the other had not shown. 

    I started out with numbness in my left foot when walking in October 2014 that worsened in May of last year when I could no longer walk unaided. Later I developed lower back pain that at first I put down to my change of Gait. recently when standing I now get numbness in my right leg from foot to my knee.

    I have seen a podiatrist an orthopedic consultant, a neurologist and a neuro surgeon and have every possible test with only a diagnosis of idiopathic neuropathy.

    As I only get it when walking or standing for long periods I tend not to go for that theory. Latest suggestion is to see a neurologist who specialises in neuropathy and they are evidently very thin on the ground with the specialist UK one being in Bristol.

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    • Posted

      Hi,

      Thanks for your reply, I'm similar to you in that the pain is much worse after prolonged periods of standing or sitting I get some relief from the nerve pain when laying on my side. It seems logical to me that a disc that is bulging when flat may be pushing out even more into the nerve when weight-bearing. I have also been told that it will make no difference but by the same consultants who have said it's due to stress and it's all in my head. I have consistently demonstrated that it is a mechanical issue and am sick of being phobed off by the NHS.

      I hope that you  get some answers, I know how frustrating the whole situation is. Thanks for copying my post, it was initially in the Prolapse Forum but I moved it as I had no reponses.

      Good luck

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    • Posted

      Unfortunately the back/spine seems to be the most difficult part of the body to diagnose.

      A secretary where I once worked had undiagnosed back problems for many years and was in constant pain. . When the company closed she became a medical secretary at a London hospital. One day when her boss came into her office she was crying in pain. He knew that she was not a tearful person and got her story from her. He sent her to a friend of his who was a top back man. He diagnosed her problem and operated and cured her problem. We should be so lucky!

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    • Posted

      Yes I know it's a tricky one, I just don't understand how it can't be the disc when I have all the symptoms. I may have the scan anyway, may as well but it is the last port of call otherwise it's a lifetime of Pregabalin until that disc goes suffuciently to warrant surgery. Chronic pain is so exhausting and time consuming, my son has never had a fully active Mum since this happened. I'm only forty but my father has more mobility than me! I'm just so sick of everyone telling me it will get better the truth is I have had to seriously modify my life to cope at all. That's why these forums are so helpful, you guys truely understand what it's like!

      Hope we all find some kind of respite soon!

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    • Posted

      Hi Helen

      ive just read your posts and wondered if you did manage to get an upright mri?  I too am considering this as I suffer from chronic sciatica(10 years), moving from left side to right gradually over the years. I have a narrow spinal canal and while surgery is certainly my last resort, I want a doctor to see the difference in a scan whilst upright as opposed to lying down where my symptoms disappear. I'm convinced I have spinal stenosis, but still am undiagnosed. 

      Hope you have had improvements since this was posted.

      Gill. 

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    • Posted

      Hi Gill,

      Sorry for the delay, I've been off these boards for a while. I didn't have the scan last year as I rested and felt a bit better. I returned to full time work and had even managed to reduce my Pregabalin down to a low dose. Then this year the lower back pain started again, I ignored it for weeks and then bang; full on sciatica again. I have now been off work for two months and was hospitalised again with bladder issues and foot drop. The pain was so bad I couldn't speak at all. The hospital did a flat MRI (again; that must be a record seven now lol!) which showed a mild central disc herniation L/S1 interestingly these neuro-surgeons thought it worth my time getting a weight-bearing scan. Previously I had been told that it would be a complete waste of time.

      Anyway to cut a very long story short I went to London to have it privately. It was £1100 as I wanted to be scanned sitting and standing. The journey was a nightmare despite being on huge amounts of meds including Pregabalin, morphine, diazepam, diclofenac and amytriptylene. So the scans showed up more of the issues:

      DD in L3/4, L4/5 and L5/S1 with annular tears in all of these. When standing and sitting L5/S1 showing nerve impingement and the prolapse is worse. L5/S1 is badly degenerated (just a thin line when weight-bearing) and the adjacent facet joints are now showing degeneration.

      So my Doctor has now started another new referral in the NHS to see Orthopaedics (42 week wait) who will refer me to Neuro-Surgery (36 week wait). It's all a bit depressing as I have been telling anyone who'll listen that the problem is my L5/S1 disc for six years.

      I am paying privately to see a Neuro-surgeon next week at Ross Hall in Glasgow (another £250) and will see what he says. I don't know yet if surgery is an option or even whether it will work after so long.

      I am so angry with the NHS at the moment. Firstly that everytime I get referred it's a new referral even though it's the same problem. They have said that it's due to stress, that's it's not my back causing my symptoms and any amount of nonsence. Once Cauda Equina has been ruled out I've been sent home despite still wetting myself. I've had brutal physios force my leg and foot and tell me that I'm lazy. Honestly, it's all been such an ordeal even without all the waiting and travelling. (I live so far away from the hospitals)

      Anyway; I will have to throw myself on the mercy of this surgeon. I have no pain at the moment but it' not suprising due to all the mega amounts of meds the hospital put me on.

      I apologise in advance for the epic post; hope the info can help you!

      All the best

      Helen

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  • Posted

    Helen,

     I understand you have been thru many years of pain, and after reading all of the responses I feel your frustration.  If you decided to get a weight bearing MRI anyway, go as late in the day as possible.  If it truly is a 'weight bearing' issue, then after a full day on your feet it should be more evident, although I have never heard of the anatomy being quite so adaptable in such a short time, but I am not a specialist.  And take meds before your test so you don't wiggle and make the images blurry.  The nerves are very small and any blurred image would possibly mask it.  As I said before, surgery should be the very last resort, and the recovery will be very tough with small children in your home.  No matter what happens though, you will have to try to strengthen your back muscles or any treatment is useless.  I see it over and over and over.  People have back surgery, do not exercise, expect instant cure, and are disappointed because it doesn't happen.  The muscles support the spine and with strong muscles, they can keep the spine in alignment and those nerve roots where they are suppose to be.  Extra weight is extra burden for them to try to keep off the nerve roots as well.  As for healthcare in general, these days you have to be your own voice, as there are more patients to go around, and not enough specialists to keep up, no matter where you live.  As an aside, foot drop and incontinence is usually treated as a pretty serious thing, so I am not sure why they have brushed that aside, unless they didn't hear you mention it. 

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    • Posted

      I understand what you are saying, I used to be very sporty and physically active (I was in my county badminton squad) and still try to do as much as I can. Unfortunately this happened early in a pregnancy and it was agony, I couldn't put a shoe on or bear to have a sheet lay on my leg or foot. After I have my son it eased a bit (I had an epidural) but my very active job (as a practical teacher I am on my feet all day) doesn't help. I have piled on the weight since starting Pregabalin and have been on that for a year, hence that is why I am trying to come off it. Pregabalin has been helpful with my pain and foot drop so despite the horrible side effects if it wasn't for the weight, I would be staying on it.

      The two episodes of foot drop and incontinence were dealt with seriously, I was hospitalised on both occasions and then given an supine MRI which showed prolapses but no nerve impingement. This baffled the experts as they were sticking pins in my foot and I couldn't feel them. I was then tested for MS and everything else and the only thing that came back was the nerve conduction tests showed damage to my sciatic nerve.

      The second time I ended up in hospital, I started wetting myself after a particularly bad time of pain but couldn't feel anything from the waist down. They did a nerve root block injection and I could't feel anything, that really freaked me and the radiographer out (I've had these before they are quite painful and you can feel warmth down the back of your leg). I was then told after another MRI, good news it's not your disc you can go home, errrrrr but I can't feel my leg or foot and am still incontinent! I have also had an MRI of my pelvis to look at my sciatic nerve but nothing shows any nerve impingment.

      Sorry to go on but I just wanted to explain why I'm considering the upright MRI. I will plan it carefully but if my theory is right then the compression of the nerve is ongoing and has been masked by the Pregabalin. I really need a proper diagnosis as at the moment I'm constantly at risk of making the pain worse so it is for my peace of mind as much as anything!

      Apologies for the length of this! smile

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