While perusing Facebook Monday morning, (November 1st) I noticed a post by my friend Sabrina. During the month of November she’s going to write what she’s grateful/thankful for every day of the month. Wow, that’s a great idea. I know what I should say the first day. I’m thankful my back hasn’t gone out in 20 months (I’m keeping track). That’s a new world record for me.
These chronic back issues began when we moved to Michigan almost 35 years ago. Didn’t happen often but when it did, it was debilitating. It’s always in the same spot. Lower left back, below my waistline, a patch the size of a 5 cent plain Hershey candy bar back in the 1950’s. I’d be laid up in bed for 3 or 4 days and then it would just get/be better. But I was in my mid-30’s and healed at warp speed.
One of the best deterrents for minimizing my back problem has been my faithfulness in trying to walk every morning since 1998. But I’m also 20 plus years older, 20 plus pounds heavier and realize I don’t ‘bounce back’ as fast as I used to. Since then, I’ve had this spot flare up about twice a year. I’m bending over to nab a ploujes, (slang word for a piece of lint in Dutch) dirty laundry, or pick up a pair of shoes when I suddenly feel something slip out of its normal habitat.
Just like that (snap) I can’t stand up straight. I grope for walls or furniture to get to the nearest place sit down that isn’t a straight chair. The spot immediately feels hot, swells and throbs. I don’t know if you call it a spasm but if I breathe wrong or make a move not in compliance with that candy bar sized rectangle which now rules my body, I’m in for one hellava shock. Literally.
When I barely in my teens I accidentally grabbed an electric fence while wearing wet gloves. I don’t recommend this-ever. A painful lightning bolt/jolt ripped through my body and I couldn’t seem to let go of the fence. When my back is revolting against me, this is exactly the pain I feel when I move wrong. Most often occurs when I’m trying to sit down or get back up. Ugh.
On October 28th, Hubs had minor surgery, which of course turned out to be more invasive and complicated than the surgeon predicted, so he needed to go back to have some packing removed (don’t ask). Oh alright it’s his nose/sinus. He hasn’t been able to breathe out of one nostril for 5 years. After tests a polyp or 2 were thought to be calling his right nostril home. But it wasn’t 2, more like several so his nose bled like a stuck hog and he needed some serious packing for a few days. As we were leaving after surgery, 3 different nurses specifically told me, “be sure to have him take a pain pill before he comes in on Tuesday. Removing the packing can be quite painful.”
Less than 24 hours after I foolishly tested the fickle finger of fate with my nonchalance, (November 2nd) you know what happened, right? I had showered, was dressed and killing time watering my plants, exchanging summer clothes for warmer weather duds (I hate winter) in my dresser drawers and closet while Hubs got ready for his appointment. Storing my capris/Keen sandals until May is always a downer. If I could squat more than 6 inches instead of bending completely over at my waist for everything this probably wouldn’t happen as often. But as I leaned over to pick up a stack for my bottom drawer my back slid out of place. (Why hadn’t I expressed gratitude for my healthy back in September or October? Why hadn’t I done those 2 loads of laundry sitting in the basement?) Hindsight.
I think this back hotspot has close ties with my chronic hamstring pain which started ailing in 2000. After I’d been walking daily for a couple years, the back of my left leg always felt sore and tight from the upper thigh to the back of my knee. (The tingling/swelling didn’t start for another decade). My son Josh told me to stand straight, cross my legs close together and bend over at the waist, stretching that taut muscle which usually helped. With my balance issues I could never attempt that exercise now unless a face plant was in order.
I never doctored about my back until a few years ago. Figured it just part of aging. I had some routine tests and was given a vague description of some nerve endings in my back losing their sheath lining or something. But lately I’m not getting over these back issues in a few days. The last one was a killer. In February of 2020 my back doled out (free of charge) frequent flyer spasms lasting 3 weeks. This happened about a year after my knee replacement and I swear the back/electric shocks were worse than pounding in my new joint and kneecap with a mallet.
Since I bore no fondness for the last 3 week freebie, I bit the bullet and called the doc’s office, making a virtual appointment. I was using 2 canes and still stooped over when Shannon suggested hauling out my walker (used for a few weeks after knee replacement). Walking from the parking lot to the office, sitting in the waiting room, then in a straight chair waiting for the doctor to come in was out of the question for at least a couple days and I really needed some relief.
I’m at the end of day 5 and seeing some improvement with the help of 2 prescriptions. I cooked supper for the first time since Monday. It doesn’t hurt too bad to stand so I prepped the veggies and measured the spices this afternoon. Tonight I browned crisp bacon, then hamburger, diced the redskins, sautéed the veggies, added broth and milk, simmered it, tossed in 2 cups of cheddar cheese and ta-da, Cheeseburger Soup.
I have such high expectations when I’m waking up. No pain, even when I carefully turn on my side or move my legs. I stand up fairly straight, walk gingerly-but not grasping for something to hang onto, turn up the furnace, start the coffee but it’s all downhill after that. I cannot avoid the bathroom any longer. When my back is in this shockingly super charged active mode, sitting down the first time is going to cause a spasm of shocks 95% of the time-guaranteed, no matter how slowly, carefully or where I place my seat on the seat. And I spend the rest of the day trying assuage it back to my morning high hopes, before my first formal sit-down.
Life-threatening, surgery worthy? Nah. My overall health remains good. It’s an acute reminder of how many times you bend over in a day-until you suddenly can’t. Pulling socks on, grabbing my pj’s off the floor, picking up a celery leaf on the kitchen floor, filling my drinking glass with ice (our freezer’s on the bottom) & lemon so I can gag down some water. But eventually it does get better.
Remember my 2020 walking record? Starting in early July, I walked 167 days in a row until my hamstring got the better of me in late December. After sporadic walking in Alabama, physical therapy when we got home, tests and a short jaunt using prednisone (a miracle drug but carries a whopping list of nasty side effects) I was determined to break my 167 day record. Made it to day 71 when my back decided to throw this latest shit fit. So I’ll start over as soon as I get my back under control. (And be more diligent about giving thanks for my parts that continue to work smoothly)…