A.S. Face 0285: Steve Bladon
Around the age of 22 I began getting incredible lower back pain that also shot down my leg. This was usually worse when getting up from a chair or where I had been standing in one position for some time. I visited my GP who said I had broken a small bone in my pelvis, quite common for someone my age and signed me off work for a week (what a joke). My then boss offered me a trip to an osteopath which I accepted. I ended up going to the osteopath twice weekly for 3-4 months and after having various straps, tapes, bits of foam in my shoe, bags of frozen peas on my back in the mornings and consultation with a MS specialist I was told that I am all ok now. I was shocked as I still couldn’t walk without pain and still had a lump of foam in my shoe to level my apparently wonky pelvis.
A few days after the osteopath visits stopped my back ‘fixed itself’ and the pain went away. I thought wow that guy was good. I even recommended his services to others, haha…
Over the next ten years the mostly severe back and leg pain would come and go without any warning or pattern, sometimes for the odd day sometimes for weeks, all along I assumed that I had a bad back and that was my lot from now on and just carried on with life without bothering with GP’s or osteopaths no matter how much it hurt.
I worked with different people with bad backs and my father also has back trouble, I couldn’t understand that all of their symptoms seemed to differ from mine. I always maintained that once I was up and got moving about (sometimes it took a while) my back was fine, whereas others were weary of lifting and carrying etc. Something I have always felt I could do even in some pain at times.
Also early during this period I began getting Iritis, being in my mid 20’s at the time and working in a garage I assumed I had dirt in my eye and it would clear in a few days, I just couldn’t understand the pain with light reaction. As many will know, it doesn’t clear it just keeps on hurting. Mr GP sent me to the eye hospital where Iritis was diagnosed and drugs prescribed.
After my 3rd episode of Iritis I was asked if I had a bad back, after confirming I do, the term Ankylosing Spodylitis was first heard by me. At that age I was too busy to get tested, besides I didn’t like the sound of it, so decided it wasn’t for me.
Over the next few years I seem to get the prolonged severe painful back once or twice a year generally around Feb/March time, odd shooting pains without warning (often when going up or down stairs or getting from the car) and Irits every couple of years. The rest of the time my back was stiff every day, with sudden pain should I trip or stumble on something or be poked or hugged around my now tender lower back. During the night I would constantly wake with cramp type spasms, and finding a suitable position to sleep was tough to find and to manoeuvre myself into. I often thought I had some sort of kidney problem due to the tenderness of my lower back
3 years ago was the last severe annual pain that I can remember (I now think that this is when my S.I. joint fused i.e. no movement = no pain?). Since then I have constant stiffness, sleep pain/cramp type spasms and pain on touch or jarring pain when stumbling or tripping. I seem to do that a lot, pot holes, curbs etc.
Pot holes especially hurt more while riding my motorbike to such a degree I had to swap from a sports bike to a touring style with kinder suspension and a more upright riding position. I started to wonder if I was getting older or was my back getting worse.
Within the last 12 -24 months I noticed additional symptoms creeping in, I have started to have chest pains in my sternum when coughing and sneezing that also on bad days hurts when yawning or laying down, I noticed my neck and shoulders get stiff and hurt fairly regularly and my left groin hurt if I cough and especially if I try lifting my leg while laying down or moving from a chair.
In August 2011 (last year) on my way to a camping trip I felt the Iritis returning for approximately the 8th time (lost count).
Being older and wiser (now 43) I decided that there might be something in this AS term I had heard many moons ago and had also been mentioned on other Iritis occasions so I researched the internet and found a checklist of symptoms that I related to instantly. As a result I made an appointment with my new GP. My GP was great and agreed the tests should be done and booked me in with a Rheumatologist.
I have since had my x-ray’s, MRI and blood tests done. I have also been to see a physio for exercise tuition and a BADSAI score.
So far I know I am HLAB27 positive and I have a fused S.I. joint and the front of my lower spine has calcification/fused. I shall find out more on the MRI next week.
I have been prescribed Arcoxia NSAID that seems to take away a vast amount of the stiffness and pain from the back, groin and chest. Some days I even feel almost 100% until the tablet wears off (not really sure what 100% feels like but it’s my 100% so I’ll take it).
I am still stiff but not as stiff on most days although I can feel the chest, neck and shoulder stiffness waiting in the wings.
Since my-self diagnosis and subsequent GP/Rheumatologist diagnosis I have altered a vast amount of my lifestyle, I gave up smoking instantly (6 months done) I have taken to exercise (Cycling, Gym and/or swimming 3-5 times a week) and various stretches at home.
I like to think that a bad back or as I now know AS has never prevented me from doing anything during my life (except a bungee jump), it might have slowed my down at times when running for a bus etc. and stopped me playing football a few years before I was ready. However I wish I had been tested years ago as the vast majority of the pain I have suffered would have been controlled.