The Sherman's Tale
I am a 40 year old male with a wife of 18 years and a 15 year old daughter. My story of AS started in 1977 with lower back and leg pain when I was 18 years old. During the summer of 1977 I started to notice pain in my lower back. I was working in the automotive field at the time and blamed it on lifting heavy objects and bending into cramped areas to work.. It did not take long until the pain grew worse and started to radiate down both legs... There were a few mornings when my dad would help me put on my work boots because I couldn't bend over far enough to get them on.. There were days I had to ride my motorcycle to work because I could not get into my car. I knew it was time to see a doctor. After an exam by my family doctor he recommended that I go for lower back x-rays.. After the x-ray technician was finished bending me every which way imaginable to get the x-rays, I could barely walk back to the dressing room. I continued working and taking aspirin (lots of it to help with the pain). In a few days the doctor got the results of the x-rays and told me that everything seemed "OK" other than a slight irregular curvature at the base of my spine. He doubted that this was causing my problem. I elected at that time to see a Chiropractor..
Both my mother and one of my older brothers had excellent results with a chiropractor...The Chiropractor had me stand during the x-rays which he said would give a better picture of my spine.. As it turned out he was right.. I had several pinched nerves at the base of my spine.. We then started Chiropractic treatments which showed excellent results with in a few weeks.. As I progressed along the treatments became less frequent..
Over a six month period I was going about 3 times a month and continued going after the pain was gone because I seemed to feel better after a treatment. I had changed jobs and started working at an Auto Parts store around August of 1978. I continued the treatments for about two years. I got married in September of 1980 to a girl I had been dating about four years. One day while I was helping a customer at the counter I had a muscle spasm which reached from my back to my chest.. I dropped to my knees in pain.. It took the breath out of me while it was happening.. I had never had anything like that before. It passed in about 5 or 6 seconds which seemed like forever... I knew this wasn't my normal back problem.. I continued working and had about three more which were becoming more frequent. I left work at 9 pm and headed home on my motorcycle. On the way home I had two more spasms. I made it half way home and had to stop at my parents house. I called my wife and then made a call to my chiropractor and told him what was going on.. He said he would meet me at his office. I told the chiropractor what had happened during the day and he tried to give me a treatment.. The minute he tried to do an adjustment I had a spasm...He asked me if I would try some muscle relaxing electrical stimulant. I said "OK", I will try anything now!
During this treatment I had two more spasms.. We both agreed that this is not working either... After some hot compresses on my back I started to feel a little better... During this time we talked about what it could be.. He said he did not know but wanted to recommend me to an Orthopedic specialist...He knew of a specialist about 35 miles from where I lived.. He called the next day and said that the earliest I could get in was three weeks away.. There was no way I could wait that long. I could hardly sleep at night and was in pain most of the time... I called the Specialist myself and could not get in any sooner. It was three weeks of pure hell.. I kept on working and putting up with the pain and spasms. Muscle relaxants helped out a little and the spasms were less frequent..
I finally got in to see the specialist.. He started out asking me what problems I was having now and in the past. The doctor took about 25 minutes to diagnose my problem. He had me do some bending and did a chest expansion measurement. He took a complete set of x-rays of my spine. After looking at the x-rays he was 99 percent positive it was AS but had to wait for the blood tests to come back. The x-rays showed that my vertebra already had bridges on them. He then gave me a rundown on AS and what it was. He also told me that my chiropractor had stated that he though it might be AS but didn't tell me because he was not sure. I knew a little about arthritis because my father had rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and feet from the time he was about 20 years old. I can not imagine the pain he must have went through. The only thing that there was back then was aspirin.
My doctor prescribed a stronger muscle relaxant until the tests came back. The test results came back positive for AS.. He started me out on Butazolidin. I did not know anything about Butazolidin. The doctor told me straight out, "take 1 or 2 a day, that is the limit.. Take 3 a day and I will send flowers to your funeral." It was almost a instant success.. In a matter of days the spasms were almost gone.. After doing some research on Butazolidin I found out that this medication was used on race horses to reduce inflammation in the joints.. After talking with my sister (she has a good knowledge of the medical field) about the meds I was taking she recommended that I talk to the doctor about possibly trying something a little less potent..
The doctor agreed and we tried different meds for about 2 months.. I tried Naprosyn, Indocin, and a host of other drugs but nothing seemed to work.. I always had to go back to Butazolidin. I spent the next 11 years on Butazolidin. Blood tests, x-rays and checkups every six months. I had a few bad times during this period. During 1992 I had to change doctors, mine had retired.. My wife was working in a doctors office.. She knew of a Rheumatologist which she had helped out in his office on different occasions... He agreed to take me as a patient...He immediately said I have to get off Butazolidin. I told him what we had tried years ago and that nothing else worked.. My blood tests showed everything was fine.. I handled the Buta with little problems.. He wanted me to try Indocin. I agreed and so far it seems to be doing the job..
The x-rays show that it has slowed down its progression considerably. I usually take 100 mg of Indocin a day. On occasion when the AS flairs up I take up to 400 mg a day. I still have a few bad days now and then. The usual stiffness and a little pain or spasm now and then, and a few sleepless nights every so often. At this point I don't seem to have any of the other problems that are associated with AS. I feel very fortunate in that respect. I cannot thank my wife enough for helping me over all of these years. I don't know if my early back problems were the onset of AS or not.. My doctor says that it might have been in the early stages.. Guess we will never know.