I saw a new specialist yesterday about my back. He's the head of physical therapy at Plymouth's largest hospital, and he specializes in lower back pain.
I'm not in quite a sufficiently poor state to justify surgery at this point. Most days I can function just fine. It's really only about 1 day a fortnight when I'm genuinely unable to do basic things for myself like get dressed and wipe my ass. Most other days I have pain on and off throughout the day, but I can do the things I need to do, albeit a bit stiffly.
The problem is, I've already just about exhausted all the non-surgical options. I'm fit, healthy, strong, and flexible. Given that, there's very little I can gain from further physical therapy. There are a few things that can be worked on, some movements that I can't do, so they are giving me an NHS physio who will give me more/new excercises, etc. But The Expert said he couldn't guarantee it would have any real impact on my quality of life.
So I'm in a bit of a medical no-man's land. If I were any worse, they would operate, but I'm too healthy to benefit much from phys. Arg.
I asked about my long-term prognosis. His response? (And this is a direct quote) "You have a bad back."
The one small segment of silver lining is that if I do get any worse I'm an absolutely perfect candidate for a particular kind of back surgery that no one else had discussed with me. Instead of removing the disk and fusing the vertebrae, which I thought was the only option, they can add little rubber springs to my L4 and L5 vertebrae on either side of the damaged disk to give it more stability. It's only got a 50-70% success rate, but because I'm such a perfect candidate for it (young, healthy, fit, and with a single-level problem (ie only one affected disk)), they put me at the top end of that estimate, and maybe as high as 80%.
So in the meantime I muddle on as best I can, unlikely to get better, and waiting to get worse, so that then I can get better.