How a tiny spring put an end to chronic back pain

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Back pain is something I’ve put up with for years. I’m a keen gardener and years of pulling up weeds can’t have helped. But I’ve always coped by taking painkillers and keeping active – I go to pilates and enjoy walking. Then, last September, I was running for a train carrying a heavy bag when suddenly I heard a snapping noise from my back, like a bone cracking. I didn’t feel any pain at the time, but by that night I was in absolute agony and the next morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed. The pain was excruciating: on a scale of one to ten, it was definitely ten. I couldn’t turn over without crying out. My husband Terry drove me to the GP who gave me some prescription painkillers and told me to rest. He said it was too early to say what might be wrong. But the pain was still terrible. The following weekend, I went to a friend’s 60th birthday party, but could only move around with a pair of sticks because I couldn’t straighten up. The next time I saw my GP he said he could put me on a waiting list to see a specialist, but it would take about four months. In the meantime I would have to put up with the pain and I couldn’t face waiting that long. Apart from anything, I was needed at work so I asked to be referred to a private consultant as, luckily, I have medical insurance. I saw Mr Andrew Quaile a couple of days later and he arranged for me to have an MRI scan straight away. This showed I had a slipped disc in my lower back. The crack I heard at the train station was the disc popping out of my spine, and now it was digging into the nerves, trapping them and causing the terrible pain. Mr Quaile explained that my back had become weak over the years from normal wear and tear – sprinting for the train had been the last straw.

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