I was born with a broken spine. The technical term is spondylolsis but it’s not something that most people have heard of unless you’re one of the 6% of the population that has it. As a young child I remember frequently having back pain. My mother was very good about listening to me and took me to see many different types of doctors. I had more x-rays than I can remember and time after time doctors would tell me I had slight scoliosis but that scoliosis wouldn’t cause the pain I was describing. Polite doctors would come up with some vague explanation like it was “growing pains” and nothing to worry about. The less polite doctors would tell my mom I was simply making it up for attention. Finally when I was 16 I went to a female rheumatologist who took me seriously. She ordered an MRI, my first of what would be many MRI’s over the years. It showed that there was an abnormality in my lower back (which happens to be the most common cause of low back pain in adolescent athletes). After years of being told the pain was all in my head I had started to believe it. I was shocked to realize that there was something seriously wrong. Something so wrong in fact that I ended up needing a spinal fusion a year later after a failed attempt at physical therapy. The fusion never fully relieved the pain and I had come to accept a certain amount of pain as my version of normal.
Ten years later the fusion degraded leaving me just as bad off as I was before the surgery. Only after trying all other possible options I agreed to have the fusion redone. The surgery caused peripheral nerve damage and what most recently was diagnosed as “failed back surgery syndrome” where my lower back hurts all the time regardless of what I do. After multiple failed treatments and being treated poorly by doctors I had to accept that the pain would never go away and would be a daily part of my life. The best I can do is live a healthy life-style and hope some day chronic pain is treated as a serious medical condition.