Are you suffering from chronic back pain? It could be spinal TB, also known as Pott's disease.
I was recently diagnosed with Spinal TB. I had a very severe case of infection and it had progressed to such a level that I began to have neurological side-effects. This is my experience.
The beginning: I'm an Indian in his early 30s. I started experiencing back pain when I had to relocate to a newer city for work. The company I worked for had arranged for my accommodation in the new place. I was using the bed available at the accommodation provided. I suspected that the bed I was using to be the cause of pain (it was a very soft foam bed). I started sleeping on the carpet which seemed to help. This went on for about 6 months.
The Progression: I had slowly turned lethargic and weak. I had to go out for some physical excerise to keep the back pain away. The physical exercise could be as simple as taking a 15 minute walk. I would feel good immediately after the walk.
I started using carpet instead of bed for sleeping all the time. In general, I started preferring harder surface for lying down compared to any softer ones. This went on for about 5 months.
The Final phase: It has been about 11 months since I started having back pains. I started experiencing occupational back spasm. As it was winter and the city was filled with snow, I couldn't go out for walks often.
One day, at home, I tripped over the carpet and fell. I experienced excruciating pain on my lower back. I had difficulty getting up and walking. I had to call emergency. At A&E, the doctor believed I have some kind of muscle problem. She gave me some pain killers and helped me get up and walk. I still had difficulty walking. I felt weak. But, I hoped it would get alright in couple of days time.
Two days later, when I woke-up early in the morning, I noticed that both my legs had gone numb. When I tried to extend my arm and reach for a switch I experienced a sharp pain in my chest. I had to call the emergency again.
The diagnosis: The doctor who was at A&E, ordered for an X-Ray of my lower back. They found a compression fracture at L4 and I was immediately admitted. The doctors (orthopaedics) had ordered for complete bed rest till neurosurgeons could review my case. By this time, I started loosing sensation on my right leg. The right leg had become very week compared to my left leg. I couldn't pull my feet up (I later learnt that this was called foot-drop). The doctors couldn't identify any reason why I should be experiencing chest pain. They believed I had some muscle problem which should fix itself with rest.
The neurosurgeon recommended that I undergo decompression laminectomy to relieve my spinal cord and nerves connecting legs (Sciatic nerves). He also recommended a bone biopsy as he suspected TB of spine.
Post surgery: Immediately after laminectomy, most of the sensations on my right leg returned. I slowly started regaining strength. But, it took me about 5 days to just get out of the bed and sit in a chair. My legs were so weak, I was unable to walk. It took me another ten days before I could walk with a zimmer frame.
Histology reports from biopsy suggested TB. As the culture of TB from biopsy would take more than 4 weeks, the doctors suggested I start on anti-TB medication. A month later, fully sensitive TB was cultured from my biopsy sample.
After 12 days, I was given a body brace to keep my spine straight. I was ordered to keep the brace on all the time, unless I'm on bed lying down. I was discharged.
The return to hospital: When I left hospital, I was barely walking crutches. I had another fall on the day I left hospital. This time I started experiencing extreme chest pain. I had to call emergency again. The doctor at A&E took x-ray of my thoracic spine and found a compression fracture in T4. During the fall, the body brace broke. I was ordered bed rest till the brace could be fixed.
After about 10 days, I was mobilised again by physiotherapists. The neurosurgeons recommended that conservative treatment for the chest pain I was experiencing. The 10 day rest had made me so weak, I had difficulty even getting out of bed. I started experiencing pain in my left leg and knees. The next couple of weeks were the most difficult period of my life. I had to take a cocktail of painkillers regularly to fight the pain. I was on regular doses of paracetamol, tramadol, amitriptyline and oramorph. I had to fight the pain to get out the bed and move around. But, slowly I gained strength. The more I mobilised, the better I felt the next day.
I was finally discharged from the hospital eventually. I had spent about four weeks in the hospital this time. I was still on crutches. But, I was confident I would be able to handle basic mobility.
I'm at home now, undergoing rehabilitation. The strength and sensation in my legs are slowly returning.