Cyst Causing Spinal Stenosis

My story started with low back pain that went away once I was up and moving around. The pain seemed to be mostly in the morning after sleeping. After a month of adjusting and readjusting my bed, pillows and sleeping position without success, and a couple of visits to the doctor for muscle relaxants, the pain began to get worse so that I could not sleep unless my back was flat to the bed.

We built a frame to hold my legs at 90 degrees to keep my lower back flat but after a while even this wasn't enough. I would wake up in so much pain that I could not walk. I would crawl to the bathroom and lever myself up and cry and then force myself to walk for 45 minutes holding onto furniture until the pain receded.

The doctors thought it was sciatica and I requested a physical therapy consult. I do yoga 3 - 4 times a week and cardio daily and I am on the slim side with no extra weight.

After a couple of physical therapy sessions with no lasting results, the therapist said, “You are in great shape, this is not the result of poor physical conditioning or flexibility or anything physical therapy can fix. This is a physical spinal problem and you need an MRI”. She was kind enough to send a message to my doctor who scheduled the MRI.

I went to get the MRI and filled out the form with my pain issues. I walked in looking well and I could see the technician thought I had psychosomatic issues. I got myself up on the table and spent 30 minutes in the machine. When I was pulled out of the machine, the tech said that I can get up now, but I could not move.  I needed help to sit up and get down from the table and I was visibly limping from 30 minutes in one position. The tech now had a very different expression on his face.

The call came the next morning, on a Sunday! "Please go to the hospital if you lose bowel or bladder control or if the pain gets worse.  You have been scheduled for an appointment Monday morning. I knew then it was a mass of some sort causing the problem, even though the nurse could not answer my questions. The doctor apologized as soon as I walked in and said, "You never showed any of the symptoms of a spinal compression in the office; your pain tolerance is huge and I am so sorry.  Here is your referral to the surgeon”.

The diagnosis was a spinal cyst that had grown to 18mm and was no longer fluid; it was attached to the dura and had compressed the cord by 85%.  Surgery to remove the cyst (90% was successfully removed) was done that week and the pain was immediately relieved. I was out of the hospital within 24 hours. No physical therapy was needed, since I had continued to do exercise and yoga all this time.

- Robin

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